Shirley Temple: actress, singer, dancer and diplomat who was Hollywood’s number one box office draw as a child actress from 1935 to 1938.

At the height of her popularity, she was often the subject of many myths and rumors propagated by the media.

Some accusers claimed she wore a wig, dyed her hair, had filed teeth, wore dentures, had no formal training, and perhaps most egregiously – had dwarfism.

This latter rumor was especially prevalent in Europe, that Shirley Temple was actually a 30 year old with dwarfism.

So prevalent in fact, that the Vatican dispatched an investigator to determine if Shirley Temple was indeed a child. Back in the day, the Vatican was often called up as a neutral third party to settle all sorts of claims.

In her autobiography, Shirley Temple wrote of the time when Father Silvio Massante came to visit her family to address the rumors.

He told the family he was there to ask about “a persistent rumor that Shirley Temple is no child at all.”

“Mother’s eyes widened in astonishment. ‘In Italy, as in some other countries in Europe, there is a persistent rumor that Shirley is no child at all, [that] Shirley is a [sic] midget.’”

Hearing this rumor for first time, Shirley said she sat still in stock while the adults absorbed what they had just heard.

“‘Obviously, she is not,’ said Father Massante,” Temple wrote.

And with the help of Father Massante and the Vatican, that was the end of at least one of the rumor’s surrounding the child star’s life.

Editorial credit: Elliott Cowand Jr /
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