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'Bright Eyes' Star Shirley Temple Got Only $44,000 of the $3.2M She Earned Due to Bank Clerk Dad

Busayo Ogunjimi
Jan 19, 2022
11:00 A.M.
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Shirley Temple, a TV legend who made acting enjoyable during the Great Depression and beyond, earned an overwhelming sum worth millions of dollars but retired with only $44,000 following her dad's mismanagement.


It would not be overreaching to describe the "Bright Eyes" star as one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. Shirley Temple was born with the gift of entertainment and began performing before she was old enough for school.

While Temple's big start premiered at her toddler years, it did not continue forever. The former child actress, who was a triple threat – a skillful dancer, singer, and actress, constantly delivering breathtaking performances – swung to politics during her adult years.

Shirley Temple sitting on couch, ca. 1935 [left] Shirley Temple starring in "Captain January" circa 1936 [right]. | Photo: Getty Images


Having established an eternal legacy with her string of talent, including appearing in forty feature films and earning prestigious awards, one would have expected her to retire to affluence (her fortune amounted to $3.2millilon).

Shockingly, in adulthood, the actress's earnings were estimated at $44,000 because her bank clerk dad performed poorly managing the funds. 

Picture of Shirley Temple circa 1934 | Photo: Getty Images



Life behind the camera began rather early for the 3-year-old star. At that age, she already burned with the desire to harness her skills, and her parents enrolled her in a dance school.  

On one occasion, some producers from Educational Films Corporation that planned on featuring kids in low-budget films discovered the young talent and contracted her to work on satirical adult roles.

American actor Shirley Temple wears a fairy godmother costume, which includes a magic wand and a tiara, in a promotional portrait for her television series of dramatized fairy tales, 'Shirley Temple's Storybook' circa 1958 | Photo: Getty Images


From then on, a mini-megastar came to life. Temple won the hearts of many with her bright eyes, infectious smile, innocent yet endearing beauty, and cheerful demeanor, ever ready to deliver according to the scripts. Indeed, she was a perfect child who displaced adult magnates.

The young blood always understood how best to carry out the assignments, whether it involved acting, singing as she did in "Bright Eyes," or dancing in "The Little Colonel."

In no time, Fox signed her and the studios paid Temple's mother, Gertrude, $250. Gertrude served as her daughter's hairstylist, and she never missed the signature hairstyle — she attached 56 pins to the star's golden curls, giving it the exact style for every movie.


Picture of child star and actress, Shirley Temple, circa 1944 | Photo: Getty Images

Fox made a fortune from their young Hollywood powerhouse and wanted to monopolize their money, so they refused to release Temple to work with other companies like MGM that had produced hits like "Oz."


The studios had allowed Paramount Pictures to use her in two of their blockbusters and decided to keep her out of reach. From 1935 to 1939, she topped the list of box office stars.

At age 6, the young actress received the first Juvenile Academy Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. More awards, including being one of the Greatest Screen Legends and a Lifetime Achievement Award, were presented to the iconic star.

Studio portrait of American actress Shirley Temple ,circa 1945 | Photo: Getty Images


Temple's peak was between ages 3 to 8; before she clocked 10, her stardom light became dim, but it did not prevent her from featuring in admirable works like "Since You Went Away," and "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer."

By the 1950s, she did not have much of an acting career, but the actress moved on to politics. Again, she excelled, shining her infectious light, brightening the darkest room with national decision-makers.

Shirley Temple Black on a visit to London on March 15,1965. | Photo: Getty Images



While the world would remember Temple for her charms and immense contributions to the entertainment industry, as well as serving her nation as an ambassador under different administrations, she is also a woman who faced challenges as she grew up.

Having experienced fame so young, becoming an adult without one was slightly frustrating. Apart from the dwindling career, she also witnessed a failed marriage. 

Temple married John Agar at age 17, and they shared a daughter named Linda. However, the union only lasted for four years. After one failed marriage, the young mom met business tycoon Charles Black, who proposed to her immediately after the divorce was finalized.


Shirley Temple and John Agar pose with their three-month baby daughter, January 1948 | Photo: Getty Images

From then onwards, Black spent the remainder of his life with the actress with whom he welcomed two children, Charles Jr., and Lori Black.


An incredibly shocking part of Temple's adulthood was discovering that all she worked for, her earning estimated $29million in today's world, with three percent belonging to her, had been reduced to $44,000 – all because her father made unimpressive financial decisions.

Headshot studio portrait of American actor Shirley Temple, in front of a green backdrop, wearing a short sleeve white blouse with a colored bows pattern and a pearl necklace. circa 1955 | Photo: Getty Images



Temple faced many disappointing moments as an adult. First, she found it challenging getting roles after she auditioned for a lead role in a Broadway adaptation of "Peter Pan." The "Bright Eyes" alum never got a callback, culminating in her retirement decision.

Her marital issues with Agar also consumed her, the man became an alcohol addict, and he was arrested countless times. When she decided to file for divorce, citing mental and emotional abuse, the media did not make it easy, and stories of her failed marriage and career made the headlines.

This did not affect her, as she gave her heart to Black shortly after their first meeting. The former child star possessed an optimistic mindset and did not wallow in her sad stories. Instead, she took hold of her love for the country, worked as a diplomat, and also created a peaceful ambiance for her family.


Actress Shirley Temple Black attends the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center January 29, 2006 in Los Angeles, California | Photo: Getty Images

While recounting Temple as a mother, her children explained that she was an excellent parent who loved and adored the family. The mother of three was noted for putting the family first and upholding traditions that taught her offspring unity.


The "Bright Eyes" alum was attentive to their needs but did not withhold her disciplinarian qualities whenever she thought it was due.

The doting mother had an estranged relationship with Lori, who battled addiction. However, before she died in 2014, the mother of three helped her daughter to become sober and repaired the broken relationship.

Shirley Temple Black during 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards - Rehearsal at Shrine Expo Hall in Los Angeles, California, United States | Photo: Getty Images


The Black and Agar siblings continue to remember their mother as a devoted family woman who blessed them with support. Lori inherited her mother's music genes, and she worked with her mother as a bassist in the rock band "The Melvin."

Not much is known about Temple's other kids, as they have shielded their privacy from the spotlight. However, Charles has been confirmed as a real estate agent.