Shirley Temple's
Teenage years
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George and Gertrude Temple sent her to the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles when Shirley was twelve. It was an exclusive day school and most of the girls were of her same social status. They did not look to be near her to help them become stars as young girls did at the studio. The termination of her Fox contract in 1940 did not end Shirley’s film career. By December of that year, Shirley had signed a contract with MGM, for a salary of $100,000. Her first picture Kathleen was to be the story of a motherless girl whose father does not have time for her. In this movie she wore her first gown. Work began when Shirley had her vacation from school and after she had her tonsils out. Shirley described it as “a wonderful vacation - no school or anything, just fun, like it used to be.” Her contract with MGM was canceled by mutual consent after the failure of Kathleen.
In Late 1941, she did four shows for Lux soap at $5,000 per show and a four part “Shirley Temple Time” for Elgin at the same salary. Shirley began a new weekly radio show of her own on March 4, 1942, called “Junior Miss.” She received $3,000 for each show. The program was renewed after the first 13 weeks.
Shirley was at Westlake enough of the time to maintain a B average. She was a snappy wartime teenager. She participated in freshman hazing and went to dances in long dresses with military academy boys. She wore an ankle bracelet and too much lipstick, except when her mother lay “in wait for me, brandishing a Kleenex,” which was most of the time.
Shirley Temple made a number of films as a teenager. Among them are Miss Annie Rooney (1942), I'll Be Seeing You (1944), Since You Went Away (1944), The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer (1947), and Fort Apache (1948). She signed with David O. Selznick (Gone With the Wind) at United Artists, in 1943, to do “Since You Went Away”, a serious war film costarring Claudette Colbert and Jennifer Jones. She turned in an outstanding performance. Despite achieving her full adult height of 5 feet two and her advanced years, age sixteen, she was still required to have three hours of school on the set and an hour of recreation while working with Selznick. She won the hearts of every teenager and serviceman from coast to coast and all over the world. Her appeal, however, had faded, and her teenage films were basically unsuccessful. She retired from acting in 1949.
Squadron 111 at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, in Southern California, adopted her as a kid sister. She visited the base, stopping to eat chocolate cake and chat with the boys, even trying on a few jackets. She was also a favorite at the Hollywood Canteen, sometimes dancing with a hundred or so fellows, often just letting them talk and giving autographs.
The involvement of the United States in World War II was of great personal concern to Shirley because her brother George enlisted in the Marines in 1940. Her older brother, Jack, married in 1942, and also entered the service. Shirley visited servicemen in the hospital and helped with bond drives. She found the servicemen treasured her visits and that because of her fame, her presence was to them a source of great comfort. She visited Canada for its Victory Loan campaign in October, 1944, speaking in Toronto in English, and in Quebec in French. She also appeared in Canada at the launching of eight ships. A C-54 transport was named "The Shirley Temple" and she was glad to pose with the huge plane. A postal worker in Hollywood reported Shirley got more mail from servicemen than that of 75% of the pin-up girls. Her weekly mail ran into the thousands, filling bag after bag at the post office. She was seen as every serviceman’s kid sister.
Shirley became engaged to Sergeant John Agar at the age of seventeen. He was handsome, six feet two and had first met Shirley in 1943 at a tea given by the Temples’ next door neighbor in Brentwood. He presented her with a two and a half carat square cut diamond, which she wore under a glove on her left hand at an April Sunday luncheon in a Beverly Hills restaurant for the forty-three members of the senior class at Westlake. She unthinkingly took off the glove, and when her schoolmates questioned her about the diamond, Shirley fled to the ladies room. All the girls followed her giggling, and very soon the whole restaurant knew what was going on.
About 10,000 fans crowded outside the church for the wedding. Shirley invited many of her friends, including prop men and other studio personnel. John was eventually released from the service when Shirley had recently completed “The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer” with Cary Grant and “That Hagen Girl” with Ronald Regan. She performed in “Fort Apache” with John Wayne, Henry Fonda, and with her husband also as a costar. Agar also appeared in a supporting role with Shirley in “Adventure in Baltimore”, which also featured Robert Young.
Shirley and John had their first baby when Shirley was nineteen and she was named Linda Susan Agar. Selznick tried to sign the baby for movies even before she was born. Shirley was determined her daughter would not be subjected to life as a child star. John Agar kept erratic hours and indulged in heavy drinking. The couple quarreled frequently. After a six day thinking period in Palm Springs, in October 1944 twenty-one year old Shirley decided to divorce Agar. She merely charged mental cruelty. He agreed to the divorce being done in a dignified manner and gave up his custody rights to Susan. In later years Shirley said of her first marriage: “My husband was twenty-four when we married and became an actor after we got married. But this turned out to be a poor decision. I would say that neither one of us was ready for marriage at that time. And so it did not work out. But the one bit of philosophy I learned then, and I still use it, is to give yourself another chance. You’ve always heard of other people giving you another break. I believe in do-it-yourself too. I was married a second time and its’s a magnificent marriage."