Shirley Temple has died at the age of 85. She was the original child star, and she was famous forever. I mean, literally, forever. She went on to have a life that did not resemble that of your garden variety Mileys or Britneys or even your Shias and your Drake Bells. She did have one thing in common with the modern Disney Channel stars--she was an early, and wildly inappropriate, sex symbol.
Graham Greene famously had a hand in revealing why so many sweaty, nervous clergymen loved her::
In 1937 Greene was a film reviewer for Night and Day magazine. In a review of the Shirley Temple vehicle Wee Willie Winkie, he wrote: "Her admirers – middle-aged men and clergymen – respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."
Twentieth Century Fox sued on behalf of Temple, then aged eight, on the grounds that Greene had implied she played deliberately to "a public of licentious old men, ready to enjoy the fine flavour of such an unripe, charming little creature", Cavalcanti wrote. He added: "Thanks to vigilant, quick-witted friends, Graham was warned that the Americans producing the film had introduced a writ of libel against him, meaning that not only would the backers of Night and Day pay a large fine, but he, Graham himself, faced a prison sentence. The only solution was to find a country without extradition. They chose Mexico and our poor Graham went away very quickly indeed. Very likely Shirley Temple never learned that it was partly thanks to her that, during his exile, Graham Greene wrote one of his best books."
The trial was held on 22 March 1938. Greene had left for Mexico on 29 January and did not return to Britain until May. The judge, who fined the magazine a crippling £3,500, lamented it was a shame Greene was out of the court's reach, said Cavalcanti.
Greene's career was not destroyed, but Temple's film career eventually fell apart when she got older and stopped trying to find quality material. She knew what it was like to go from world adulation to a relative normal life with children and tremendous personal accomplishments. She was the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and then to Czecheslovakia and was a Republican who gained enormous benefit from being associated with California politics and Ronald Reagan.
Shirley Temple was one of the most famous people in the world during the 1930s and 40s. Fame did not destroy her.