April 19, 2023 | Dancy Mason

The Day The Vatican Investigated Shirley Temple

Hollywood Dreams

In the 1930s, no actor was more famous than child star Shirley Temple—but the rigors of Hollywood glamour had extremely disturbing consequences for the little girl. For one, her hair routine was grueling, with Temple sitting through nightly ordeals to set her curls into impeccable ringlets. This constant perfection led people to believe she wore a wig; fans even tugged on her hair in public to make sure it was real. Sadly, though, this was just the beginning.

Because Temple grew up in the spotlight, she started to lose her baby teeth in the spotlight, too. To keep a Hollywood smile, Temple wore a dental plate when she was acting that hid her gaps. If she was out in the world, moreover, she would often distract away from her mouth by being extra cutesy. In one example, she put her bare feet in the concrete at her sidewalk ceremony in front of Grauman’s Theatre. Except this soon backfired on her.

Shirley Temple FactsGetty Images


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Growing Pains

After years with Temple at the top of the box office, nasty and powerful rumors began circulating about the developing girl...ones that went way beyond wearing wigs. Incredibly, some people began to suggest that Temple was really a 30-year-old dwarf masquerading as a child. After all, they reasoned, she never seemed to lose her teeth. This then ignited one of the most bizarre investigations in history.

For whatever reason, people in Europe were particularly susceptible to the dwarf rumor, and they found it particularly upsetting. It reached such a fever pitch, none other than the Vatican sent a priest over to America to look into it. Father Silvia Massante arrived, met with the Temple family, and concluded once and for all that Temple was, in fact, a little girl. Because ironically, no one could just take this on faith.

Sources: 1, 2

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