Baby Burlesque, And Some Other Weird Things You Didn’t Know About Shirley Temple

The former child-star died overnight aged 85, leaving us with sad hearts and a bunch of strange facts.

There are a few interesting things you’ll learn by trawling through the deluge of obituaries that have appeared this morning for the beloved former child star Shirley Temple. Temple passed away overnight aged 85, saddening everyone who had been delighted by the cuteness and charm she brought to Depression-era America, and surprising everyone else by being alive up until that point.

Did you know, for instance, that when she turned 12, Temple’s mother admitted she was actually 13, having lied about her age to make the brand more impressive?

Or that, after retiring from the screen at 21, Temple re-emerged in 1967 to unsuccessfully run for Congress, before being instated by President Nixon as a representative to the United Nations?

Or that she was the first very famous woman to speak openly about breast cancer, which she contracted in 1972 before undergoing a mastectomy — two years before becoming Ambassador to Ghana and then, 15 years later, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia?

Or that when she was four (or maybe five?) she played a sexy baby in War Babies, an exceedingly unsettling ‘Baby Burlesk’ short film about a bunch of toddlers engaged in war games and pretending to get drunk, while Temple dances not un-suggestively in the middle of the bar?

Paying for her time with the currency of candy is exactly the euphemism you think it is. And the less said about the dancing, stripping black boy, the better.


There were eight of these Baby Burlesks in total, and all of them laden with sexuality; in a negative review of Wee Willie Winkie, novelist Graham Greene decried Temple’s “mature suggestiveness” and “well-shaped and desirable little body”. He was sued by her studio for libel.

In another, the hideously racist Kid In Africa, she plays a naive missionary nicknamed ‘Madam Cradlebait’.

Watch the rest of them here.