Old School Americana & Nostalgia


Shirley Temple Survived an Assassination Attempt at 11 Years Old

Shirley Temple Survived an Assassination Attempt at 11 Years Old

Old Hollywood icon Shirley Temple survived an assassination attempt when she was only 11. While the story has somehow been lost in time, the actress-turned-humanitarian detailed the harrowing events in her 1988 autobiography, Child Star

Temple is perhaps one of the most infamous child actors in history. The curly-haired girl broke into the industry when she was four, and her bubbly charm, wholesome smile, and quick wit made the world fall in love. So it seems nearly unbelievable that anyone could hate her enough to plan a murder. However, in 1929, that’s exactly what happened.

In her memoir, the starlet documented the events, which took place on Christmas Eve in 1939. Shirley Temple sang Silent Night with Nelson Eddy that day to promote The Blue Bird. And a madwoman with a gun was in the audience. 

Shirley Temple first saw the woman while looking out the window of her dressing room. Her mother was helping her get ready, and Temple noticed “a scruffily dressed woman carrying a large handbag.” The assailant was looking through windows, clearly searching for someone or something, which gave Temple pause. 

“When she saw me, her face lit up with recognition,” she wrote. “Scowling, she raised her fist and shouted something unintelligible.”

Worried, Temple alerted her mother, who closed the blinds and acted as though it was nothing serious. But her mother did think the woman was a threat. And she told the theater officials to look into the situation. The officials called the police, and the police called the FBI. 

Mad Woman Accused Shirley Temple of ‘Stealing Her Daughter’s Soul’

The show went on as planned, and when Temple took the stage, she noticed the woman in the crowd. 

“I swept the applauding audience with my warmest smile. Suddenly, there she was,” she continued. “The same frumpy, angry-eyed woman was seated in the front row directly beneath me, hardly an epitome of Yuletide spirit.”

The young entertainer did her best to perform as she watched two men slowly walk through the theater, suspiciously glancing at the audience members. Temple then saw the woman reach into her purse and pull out a gun. 

“Slowly, the woman rose, like one transfixed, raising her gun until it pointed directly at me,” she remembered. 

The men also saw the woman, and they pushed through the crowd to tackle her. The woman had enough time to shoot, but she paused.

“Why the woman did not pull the trigger before being roughly seized by the two men is hers to answer and mine to bless,” added Temple.

The next day, the FBI called Temple’s mother and explained what happened. The woman gave birth the same day Shirley Temple was born, but her baby died shortly after. She believed the actress had stolen “her daughter’s soul.” The woman’s gun was loaded, and she intended to kill Shirley Temple. Interestingly, Temple’s birthday was fabricated for animosity. She didn’t even share an exact birthday with the late child. 

“In truth, [my birthday] was off by one year,” she wrote. “So somebody else had stolen the soul.”