(April 23, 1928—February 10, 2014) BACKSTORY: Shirley Temple was a ray of sunshine for a Depression-weary nation of the 1930's. Her positive personality, charms, and musical ability helped lift this country when it needed her most. She was the top box office draw of the 1930's beating out Clark Gable, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford. In her adult life, she continued to serve the United States in the political arena. I discovered her as a young tot when her movies were run on television every Sunday morning. They still bring a smile to my face. Be sure to check out my other two pages featuring Shirley including The Blue Bird and 1940-1980s.
Because of a post I had done previously on Shirley Temple's stand-in, Mary Lou Isleib, I was contacted by Amy D. about her connection to Mary Lou. Amy was kind enough to send along a family photo shot in 1934. As she recalls:
Here's the story behind the picture: in those years the Temples and the Isleibs rented houses on Balboa Island. Sometimes my parents also rented for one week, encouraged by the Isleibs who were neighbors of ours in Glendale. I believe this photo was taken on a Sunday because my brother, Tom Anderson, who was a student at Cal Tech, was there for the weekend and he took the picture you see at left.
We three little girls were playing in the water when Mrs. Temple called Shirley to get out because she was getting her hair wet. We all came up on the beach trying to persuade Shirley's mother to let her stay in. After Tom took the picture...as I heard my mother telling the story over and over to all her friends, "Shirley put on her famous pout, stamped her little foot and said 'When I'm grown up and my own boss, I'll go in the water and get my hair wet whenever I want.'"
By the way, I was amused by the article that told about Mary Lou's mother putting her hair up in pin curls every night. What a pain that was. I remember it very well. Also, her hair wasn't naturally blond and my mother was scandalized that they bleached it!
My contacts with Shirley over the years were limited to the occasions when my status as Mary Lou's best Glendale friend overlapped with her contacts with Shirley, the rare times for example when the Temples came to Glendale to visit. After Harry Isleib died, his widow, Aileen, and Mary Lou moved to Santa Monica. Mary Lou's brother, Harry Jr., must have been married by then.
The last times I saw Shirley were in connection with Mary Lou's wedding. Shirley and I were the bridesmaids. Mary Lou's sister-in-law was Matron of Honor. I was a student at UCLA and living in Westwood. There were several showers including one held at the house where Shirley and John Agar were living. It was the cottage that had been built on the Temple's property in Brentwood. It had been Shirley's playhouse and converted to a newlywed cottage for their brief marriage. I met John Agar at the rehearsal dinner.
Strangely I lost touch with Mary Lou after I was married and moved out of California for a while. We met again when my husband and I resumed the Balboa Island tradition with our own family, but regrettably I lost touch again. The only other time I saw Shirley was when she wrote her autobiography Child Star in 1989 and I went to a book signing in San Francisco (I have lived in the Bay Area 60+ years). I showed her the picture and she told me that she had just seen Mary Lou the week before. So that tells me they continued their friendship, probably for a lifetime.
I tried to call Mary Lou several years ago after finding her number on the Internet but it had been disconnected. In recent years I thought about trying to contact Shirley to find out if Mary Lou was still alive but never followed through. That was the first thing I thought of when I heard this morning that Shirley had died.
I had written to Amy that I always felt bad about Mary Lou's younger life being spent in the shadow of Shirley. Here's her response about that:
I don't think you need to feel bad for Mary Lou. Her life was surely changed by that connection but because the Temples were fairly level headed and mostly avoided the ugly side of Hollywood life, I think it was changed for the better.
I was disappointed to learn in later years that there had been a conflict about Shirley's money [Note: Shirley revealed in her autobiography that through poor investments by her father, most of her money earned as a child was gone]. Though it was meaningless to me at the time, I do remember hearing my parents talking about the huge sums the Temples were putting away for Shirley's future. Guess that didn't work out as planned, but probably better in the long run. But I do think that the relatively small amount that Mary Lou was making probably made a difference in that family. Considering the times, none of our families were suffering. Before her success, Shirley's family lived in Santa Monica, while Mary Lou and I lived in a nice neighborhood in Glendale (the Isleibs were across the street from Harry's parents.)
Even the remote and tenuous connection I had enriched my life in little and unexpected ways as was the case yesterday, when Shirley's death coincided with my 86th birthday and sparked a minor explosion on my Facebook page on what would have been a lonely and boring day because of a nasty cold.
How fantastic to have those intimate memories shared with us. Thanks so much, Amy!