< Return to Adherents.com's Guide to Movies
    < Return to Religion of the AFI's Top 50 Screen Legends
< Return to Famous Presbyterians
< Return to Famous Episcopalians

The Religious Affiliation of
Shirley Temple
popular American child star and later a U.S. ambassador

Shirley Temple was born into a Protestant family. She was raised as a Protestant and was a Protestant as an adult. Her maternal grandmother was a staunch Lutheran. Temple began starring in movies at such an early age, that film acting as largely the only culture and religion she knew while she knew until she was an adult.

Although Shirley Temple's mother identified their family's denomination as Presbyterian, it seems that as both a child and an adult, Shirley Temple had far more experiences with Episcopalian churches. As an adult she frequently went to St. Alban's Episcopal Church in Los Angeles.

Notes below are from Shirley Temple's autobiography: Shirley Temple Black, Child Star: An Autobiography, Mcgraw-Hill (1988).

Child Star, page 183: Father Silvio Massante, OSJ, was dispatched by the Catholic Church to investigate allegations rampant in Europe that Shirley Temple was not a child, but was actually a 37-year-old midget. The priest interviewed Shirley Temple and her mother for an hour. The priest asked what denomination they belonged to. Shirley Temple's mother explained that they were Presbyterian, but "in Santa Monica it was easier to go to a nearby Episcopal church." Sometimes they also went to a small village church, and Shirley Temple's mother was somewhat flustered when she could not answer what denomination that church was affiliated with. The priest asked the mother what Shirley Temple was taught, and her mother explained that she was taught about God and the Bible.

Shirley Temple Black noted that as a child star it was difficult for her to attend group religious services because whenever she went to church, her fame and popularity would inevitably attract attention away from everything else. She states that the worshipful attitude that people had toward her when she went to church removed much of the power of mystery in religion for her. (Child Star, page 405). Nevertheless, religion and spirituality was important to her.

Shirley Temple became engaged at the age of seventeen to Jack Agar, Jr. She wanted the wedding to take place at "the familiar St. Alban's Church near home" (Child Star, page 380). But David O. Selznick, the producer of the studio for which Shirley Temple worked, wanted her to get married at a much larger location. He arranged and paid for an elaborate wedding at the Wilshire Methodist Church (Child Star, page 381).

Shirley Temple was a virgin until her wedding night. After consumating the marriage, her new husband complained that he thought she seemed like she was not a virgin, as she had claimed. She explained that proof of her virginity had been surgically removed during a minor pre-marital surgical procedure performed by her doctor, Dr. Lawrence Davidson, three days prior to the wedding. Apparently this was a routine practice. (Child Star, pages 380-381, 385).

Shirley Temple's first marriage to Jack Agar, Jr. lasted from 19 September 1945 until 1950. Later Shirley Temple met Charlie Black, a man who had been raised in a boarding school with extremely restrictive practices limiting exposure to films and even radio. Charlie was completely unaware of her fame and had never seen any of her movies. They soon fell in love. They wanted to get married in Charlie's family's church: St. John's Chapel in Del Monte (also an Episcopal church). They visited the church and met with Reverend Theodore Bell. When the reverend found out that Shirley Temple had been married before and was divorced, he explained that he couldn't officially marry them. Nevertheless, the reverend performed what was apparently an impromptu wedding ceremony for them. (Child Star, pages 471-472).

On 16 December 1950, Charlie Black and Shirley Temple later were married to each other a "second time" by a local justice of the peace. It was a small occasion with just a few friends and family members present. (Child Star, pages 473-475).

As an adult, Temple noted how she "still spent time in contemplative communion at St. Alban's Church." A devout Christian Scientist friend (the May Queen) encouraged Shirley Temple Black to join the Christian Science Church. She was intrigued by the teachings of Christian Science and by their holy book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, but she did not convert (Child Star, pages 421-422).

Her autobiography describes another occasion when she was at St. Alban's Church for "prayer and contemplation," when her visit helped her immensely in her personal life (pages 445-446).

From: "Shirley Temple Personal Data" (URL: http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Hills/8038/personal.htm, viewed 5 May 2005):

John Agar (1920-2002) 1945-1949, Actor
- married Sept 19th at Methodist Church, Wilshire

Charles Alden Black (1919), 1950-Present, Entrepreneur
- married Dec 16th at Black parents home, Monterey

From: "The Extraordinary Career of John Agar" (http://www.classicimages.com/1998/april98/johnagar.html):
It is hard to exaggerate the notoriety which followed John Agar through his courtship, marriage, and, ultimately, his divorce from Shirley Temple... Even in this pre-television era, media frenzy attended their wedding. Governor Earl Warren of California joined film moguls Darryl Zanuck and David Selznick at the Wilshire Methodist Church for the wedding... In September of 1945, three to four thousand adoring fans gathered in front of the church and waited for hours for the young couple to appear.

Search Adherents.com

Custom Search
comments powered by Disqus

Webpage created 21 June 2005. Last modified 16 May 2006.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: webmaster@adherents.com.