At the height of her popularity, Shirley Temple was often the subject of myths and rumors, some propagated by 20th Century Fox/Fox Films. Fox also publicized her as a natural talent with no formal acting or dance training. As a way of explaining how she knew stylized buck and weave dancing, she was enrolled for two weeks in the Elisa Ryan School of Dancing.
One persistent rumor was especially prevalent in Europe; fake news circulated that Shirley was not a child but a 30-year-old dwarf due in part to her stocky body type. The rumor was so prevalent that the Vatican dispatched Father Silvio Massante to investigate if she were indeed a child. The fact that she never seemed to miss any teeth led some people to conclude that she had all her adult teeth. Temple was actually losing her teeth regularly through her days with 20th Century Fox, most notably during the sidewalk ceremony in front of Grauman's Theatre, where she took off her shoes and placed her bare feet in the cement to take attention away from her face. When acting, she wore dental plates and caps to hide the gaps in her teeth. Another rumor pertaining to her teeth was the idea that they were filed to make them appear like baby teeth.
Shirley's biggest trademark was her hair, which was also the subject of rumors. A rumor circulated that she wore a wig. More than once, fans yanked her hair to test the theory. She later said she wished all she had to do was wear a wig. The nightly process she went through in the setting of her curls was tedious and grueling, with once a week vinegar rinses burning her eyes. Rumors also spread about her hair color, namely that she wasn't a natural blonde. During the making of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, news spread that she was going to do extended scenes without her trademark curls. During production, she also caught a cold, which caused her to miss a couple of days. As a result, a false report originated in Britain that all of her hair was cut off.
Physical Characteristics: At age 44 in 1972, Temple was diagnosed with breast cancer. The tumor was removed and a modified radical mastectomy performed. She announced the results of the operation on radio and television and in a February 1973 article for the magazine McCall's.