St. Petersburg Times: Weekend
St. Petersburg Times: Weekend

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Rewind: When America's little girl got married

By STEVE PERSALL, Times Film Critic

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 19, 2002

[AP photo]
Newlyweds Shirley Temple and Sgt. John Agar Jr. cut their wedding cake on Sept. 19, 1945.

Americans knew their little girl had grown up on this date in 1945 when Shirley Temple got married. The world's most popular child star was 17 years old when she walked down the aisle with a relatively unknown 24-year-old actor named John Agar, not long after she starred in Honeymoon.

Publicity surrounding the marriage led to Agar's signing a movie contract with producer David O. Selznick, a move that branded Agar as an opportunist in some gossip circles. He became a favorite player in director John Ford's acting troupe while Temple moved into grown-up roles.

The marriage ended in divorce in 1950, when Temple left Hollywood and stopped making movies. She married San Francisco businessman Charles Black just a few months later. Perhaps his admission that he had never seen any of her films had something to do with the choice. Temple got a fresh start on a career that, except for a brief foray into television, rarely dealt with show business again. Politics, including U.S. ambassador positions in Ghana and Czechoslovakia, became her life.

We remember Temple's first marriage today with films she made between 1945 and 1950, plus a few Agar appearances from that time span:

Fort Apache (1948) -- One of two films in which Temple and Agar appeared together, a U.S. Cavalry adventure directed by Ford. Temple played the ingenue daughter of John Wayne's determined officer while Agar played his lieutenant. The other collaboration, Adventure in Baltimore (1949), is rarely seen anywhere.

The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) -- Playing a character her own age, the teen Temple had a schoolgirl crush on a playboy (Cary Grant), who responds with a screwball impersonation of youth.

That Hagen Girl (1947) -- A small-town college student (Temple) has heard rumors all her life about the identity of her father. Maybe it's the lawyer (Ronald Reagan) who just returned to town. Not available on home video, but it occasionally shows up on TV.

Mr. Belvedere Goes to College (1949) -- Another one you'll need to seek on television. Clifton Webb's trademark stuffiness was punctured by Temple's co-ed charm.

The Story of Seabiscuit (1949) -- Temple adopted an Irish brogue to play a nurse who doesn't like horse racing after the death of her jockey brother. That's before she meets Seabiscuit, a future Triple Crown winner. Barry Fitzgerald co-stars as the kindly old trainer in a hugely fictionalized "biography."

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) -- Agar again as a U.S. Cavalry lieutenant, again for John Ford alongside John Wayne.

Sands of Iwo Jima (1949) -- The quintessential World War II drama from that era stars Wayne as a father figure in foxholes. Agar had his meatiest role ever as an enlisted man bristling at that guidance.

Breakthrough (1950) -- Same war, same Agar toughness. He leads a U.S. infantry platoon from basic training through European duty. Agar's next battlefield was divorce court.

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