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The Love Story Of Shirley Temple And Her Sergeant

Way back in 1938 Photoplay, in its May issue, published a dream drawing of Shirley Temple at sweet sixteen, receiving her first proposal. It was a darling picture, Shirley in a flouncy formal, a boy in dinner clothes and romance and luxury all over the place.

“It couldn’t have been more wrong,” laughed Shirley on an April day in this year of 1945 at the time of her seventeenth birthday. We were talking together in the exquisitely furnished drawing room of the Temple Brentwood residence, talking about her betrothal that has now come true. The young man is twenty-four, tall and handsome Sergeant John Agar of the United States Army Air Corps.

“I thought of that picture at that moment,” Shirley said. “There I was, in a parked car, out on Sunset Boulevard. Nothing was elegant and we weren’t all gussied up. Do you know where we were? Midway between Engel’s Drug Store and the Eastern Star Home, just kitty-corner from the gas station.”

We laughed together at the very thought of it. Brentwood is so very luxurious everywhere else, with its riot of movie star homes and long vistas of ocean, mountains and town, romantic in every detail and in every direction except right at that particular spot.

Shirley and I are good enough friends to be able to laugh companionably. I’ve been interviewing this wonder girl, off and on, for an unbelievable fourteen years, ever since, at about three, she trotted into the heart of the world via “Baby Take A Bow.” She was such a beautiful baby then. She’s such a beautiful young girl today, with about the most flawless skin any human being ever possessed. It will take Technicolor to do her beauty justice and let’s hope she gets a color picture soon.

Even as a tot, she had a twinkling sense of fun and quick witty answers to every question. Those are stiff her outstanding reactions today. As fame, adulation and wealth began coming her way, she commenced developing an imperturbable poise and a cool, lively intelligence, which she stiff possesses, augmented by a very sharp sense of doing things correctly.

When she chose one boy from all the adoring group who have swarmed around her in the last two years, she revealed these facets of her nature very clearly.

Consider how it is with the average seventeen-year-old girl of today. So many of them meet a boy in uniform one day and elope with him almost at once, or even some of them, poor little kids, don’t even elope but, ignoring all the admonitions of their parents, toss everything away for an immediate hysteria they call love.

Not Shirley. The only unconsidered, impulsive deed she has committed through her whole romance was her way of announcing it to the world. This came about on, April seventh, when a luncheon was being held by the senior class of the Westlake School for Girls, Los Angeles’ most correct institute of learning for such young ladies as are socially eligible to enter it.

Shirley, a senior extraordinary of this particular class, about to graduate this summer, couldn’t resist the temptation of a dramatic moment. She twisted about, on the third finger of her left hand, the pure white stone of the ring which she had, until that moment, concealed within her palm. The very square-cut, beautiful diamond flashed its unmistakable message to her forty-two classmates, a flash that a couple of hours later was going round the world.

The girls crowded around her, the youngest and most famous of their group, and the first of them to become affianced. They all babbled excitedly.

“I knew my parents intended announcing this at my birthday supper on April twenty-third,” Shirley confessed, her eyes dancing, “but, honestly, I couldn’t hold out any longer and not tell. So now I’m not going to have a birthday party. Maybe that’s just as well. Not many of the girls have their dates, here, anyway, and Mom doesn’t feel it’s quite right to give wartime parties either.”

She twinkled again. “Mom and Dad were so sweet when I came home and spilled what I’d done. We all knew the next thing we’d have to do was to tell the press. I had to have Jack present for that, naturally, so by evening, there was Mr. Selznick and the publicity people from the studio, plus thirty-five reporters and photographers, all popping questions and bulbs at us.

Right then and there I got very proud of Jack. He’d never had to go through that ordeal before, and it is an ordeal when you haven’t grown up with it, as I have. Yet he did it so well. Oh, he blushed, of course, when they started asking him silly questions and he blinked in some of the flashes and didn’t know any ‘angles’ but he looked the reporters right in the eye. That’s one of the first things I noticed and admired about Jack, that habit of his of looking directly at everything and everyone. I like that and his being so tall and having such a firm jaw.”

“What’s that appeal of a firm jaw to you?” I asked that deliberately, trusting her to give me as quick a retort as she had at about half past three, during “Baby Take A Bow” when I asked her what her next picture would be called. “Probably Baby Take A Flop,” was what she had said then.

Now she grinned and said immediately, “A firm jaw means a man gets his way. That I go for. It means, I think, that he’ll be boss. That will be good, except when I get into one of my stubborn moods.” She giggled suddenly. “Do you want to know what we did after we got finished with the press that evening? We sat here in the living room and read the National Geographic!”

The real point was why had she picked Jack out of the multitude. And multitude was the proper word, judging from a certain dress Shirley was having made up not long ago with the names of all the boys she dated embroidered thereon. The difficulty was that there just wasn’t room enough on one of her brief skirts for such a list, so she compromised by having the dress made up with all her own nicknames on it, all the way from Shirl through Butch to Baby.

“I guess Jack’s stood the test of time with me. That’s good, that and his being the type I’m used to. He is, if you can bear it, exactly a foot taller than I am, six-two to my five-two, but my brothers are that tall, so I’m used to that. And his name, or rather, his two names Jack George (she pronounced it Georrrrrrge, in that way showing it was a name that had always amused her) are my brothers’ names, too. Jack and George. I like his being older than I am—he’s seven years older—because that means there’s nothing I silly or kiddy about him.

“I originally met Joyce Agar, Jack’s sister, through my friend Ann Gallary. I’ve known Ann nine years, ever since we moved here to this house, which is next door to her mother’s, who is Zasu Pitts. Ann who went to Westlake, too, took me to Beverly Hills to meet Joyce, who was out here on a winter vacation with her mother. Ann wanted Joyce to enroll at Westlake with us, and took me along to add my arguments regarding the school. Then mother met Mrs. Agar at a tea at Zasu Pitts’s and through it all, eventually, I met Jack.

“Mother and Mrs. Agar became great friends. Now they are terrific gin rummy partners. Not too long after their meeting, and my meeting Jack, he went into the Army. He has been stationed all over the United States—until very recently, he was stationed at March Field—and is permitted sometimes to come home, that is, to Beverly Hills, for weekends.”

“What did you do on your first date out alone together?”

“We did just what we still do on almost all of them—went dancing. I love to rumba and samba. We don’t go to Mocambo or Giro’s. I’ve been to both those places, after Award parties, twice, that is, at times when I had to go, professionally, but when I’m just out for fun, I don’t like them because the dance floor is too crowded. I prefer the Grove and Freddie Martin’s orchestra, but even space can go too far. By that I mean I don’t like the Palladium, but then I don’t like to jitterbug.”

I said to Shirley, “Do you suppose, maybe, you don’t like the big night clubs because they cater to the older movie crowd? You’ve never gone much with movie people.”

“If you mean movie actors, you’re right. I have never gone out with any.”

Gertrude Temple has done a marvelous job of bringing up a prodigious child so that she isn’t spoiled or prodigious at all. She had said, while we were alone, “We couldn’t, Mr. Temple and I, be happier over the boy Shirley’s chosen. He is so clean-cut, intelligent and trustworthy. We knew from the day of their meeting that we never had to worry about Shirley when she was out with Jack. He has a sense of responsibility and he is aware of the rather unusual demands that are made on Shirley because she is who she is. I think she’s a little young to marry, but if she feels two years from now as she does today, we shall be most happy to consent to the union. The thing I always wanted for Shirley was a normal childhood. Naturally that means I want a normal womanhood for her, too, which means for her to become a wife and mother.”

“We’re not going to marry in any hurry,” Shirley said. “I know lots of girls are thinking, when they are engaged to men in uniform, that they want to be married right now, regardless. But I’m thinking of a marriage for life, so we’ll wait, to make sure that it won’t be one for just a few hours.

“Meantime I’m going on with my career and perhaps after my marriage, too.” She stood up, very slim and dainty in her custom-made gray linen dress, brightened by white hand embroidery, her net-bound page-boy bob, topped by a dignified, heavy braid across the crown of her fair head. “Let’s go see my things and discuss this, shall we?”

I knew what she meant by that, so we put on our coats and went out across the gardens, to the small house that is Shirley’s own, and a veritable museum.

Not too many people know of the existence of this playhouse, but all of Shirley’s crowd of young friends do, for here she entertains them. Its main room is quite large, probably twenty by thirty feet “done in my favorite colors, chartreuse and scarlet,” Shirley always points out.

This actually means that the walls and hangings are chartreuse and its big easy chairs are upholstered in scarlet. This main room has a stage, where plays can be put on, or movies shown, depending upon the desires of the guests, and there is an open fireplace and rugs that can be rolled up for dancing and, of course, a radio-phonograph with multitudinous records. All this adjoins an ice-cream soda bar—“Only now we can’t get soda or ice cream or chocolate,” Shirley chuckles. The house also has a kitchen and girls’ and boys’ dressing rooms, for swimming pool parties on the Temple estate, and downstairs are two very large rooms, one of which holds Shirley’s doll collection, those precious dolls that were given to her by producers, critics, friends, fans, cities and even whole groups of islands, like Hawaii. The second room contains not only every costume Shirley has ever worn in every sequence of every picture, straight from “Baby Takes A Bow” to “I’ll Be Seeing You” and her most recent one, “Kiss And Tell,” but also the shoes, purses, hats and accessories that went with the dresses. You look at these dolls and dresses (Shirley still loves “Pinky” best. “Pinky” was her first really big doll and there she sits, enthroned in pink ruffles) and you begin to understand why, at seventeen, Shirley possesses such a sense of tradition and good form. She is, indeed, a little princess, as carefully brought up, almost, as young Elizabeth of England.

Shirley reached into the first case and brought out of it the polka-dotted dress from “Baby Take A Bow.” She held it up before her, laughing as she revealed that it wasn’t long enough to make a blouse for her now. She is keen on clothes and very style conscious.

“Remember this?” she asked. For the first time she sighed. “I miss this little girl. If I have any—and I want a lot of children—I hope my daughter will like to dance.”

“Suppose she wants to become an actress? Will you let her?”

“I don’t quite know, but regardless, I’d have her learn dancing. It teaches a girl not to flop around.

“You asked me about going on with my career. I think I want to. Mr. Selznick has such wonderful things planned for me. Jack says he wouldn’t mind it. But, on the other hand, such marriages don’t work out too well, and I want my marriage to be a good one, so perhaps when the war is over, and Jack is back, we may just go wherever his work takes him, and forget all about mine. He may go back into the laboratory work in which he was engaged before he went into service, or he may return to the firm his father started, the Agar Packing Company which is in Chicago.”

“Will you want to live in Chicago?” I said. “Give up all this?”

The Temple twinkle appeared again in Shirley’s eyes. “I’m working on Jack, selling him California every minute,” she said, “but if it turns out that Chicago is to be our home, well, we’ll have plenty of meat, anyhow.”

I decided then to trap her. Very smoothly, I asked, “What did Jack say when he proposed?”

She turned away quickly. “Remember this pink dress?” she asked.

I knew enough at that point to drop the subject.

She’s had so many interviews, she’s met so many more people in her seventeen years than most people—or even whole families—meet in a lifetime that she knows how to duck the answers when she doesn’t want to give them. Besides, Shirley’s sense of decorum would not permit her to go into any lush avowals of love. She may even be a little inhibited on the subject at any time, since her earliest memories are of people gushing over her. Besides, in the last few years, from the safe shelter of her select school, she has watched too many marriages of Hollywood’s younger set begin on a note of glamorous romance and almost as soon as they have started, end on a discord of bitter divorce. Shirley, an heiress by grace of her own talent and beauty, coupled with the guidance and expert management of her parents, wants no such hectic love story as these. The marriage toward which she aspires is in the best tradition of our best American families.

Personally I think the little Temple girl will achieve it.

I doubt that any professional glamour boy could ever come along and sweep her off her dainty feet. Personally, I am convinced that when her promised two years are up, the Temple fortune will unite with the Agar fortune. Not that the latter is of any importance to Shirley except that it forever removes Jack from the suspicion of being a fortune hunter—and that might haunt a poorer boy.

If all this happens, it will be merely the beginning of the marriages that are inevitably going to come out of Hollywood in the future, the tying together of the beauty and intelligence of Hollywood with the business talent and brains from the outside.

It should produce a wonderful crop of children, too.

Why, personally, I can barely wait to interview Miss Shirley T. Agar, or even Temple Agar, the first.





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