Temple was the No. 1 box-office draw of the late '30s, beating out every adult star in the game

By Nate Jones
Updated February 11, 2014 10:00 AM
Credit: Everett

Shirley Temple Black, who died Monday night at the age of 85, was the most famous child actor of her era, a successful politician, and the inspiration for a delicious drink to boot. But for those who weren’t around during her heyday, what’s most surprising may be exactly how big Temple was at her peak: She was Hollywood’s No. 1 box-office draw from 1935 to 1938, beating out every adult star in the business, according to Quigley’s annual Top Ten Moneymakers Poll.

Below, relive the highlights of these legends from the Golden Age of Hollywood, all of whom were less popular than a little girl from Santa Monica.

Clark Gable

The future Rhett Butler was the second-biggest star in Hollywood during Temple’s tenure, and he knew it. “I’m afraid of Shirley Temple,” he joked to a fan magazine in 1937. “She haunts me. I can see her sitting up there, shaking her curls and twinkling her eyes at me.”

Bing Crosby

The crooner was America’s top singer of the ’30s, but his film career was slower to take off. Crosby’s popularity as an actor didn’t peak until 10 years after Temple’s did; he took over her position atop the Quigley’s star charts from ’44 to ’49.

Gary Cooper

The cowboy actor starred with Temple in her early film Now and Forever, but though his career would outlast hers by decades, he was never Hollywood’s No. 1 draw.

Joan Crawford

With an image nearly the polar opposite of Temple’s squeaky-clean goodness, the delightfully devilish Crawford thrilled audiences throughout the ’30s – just not as much as the curly-haired tyke did.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers

They may have been slightly better dancers than Temple, but the ballroom duo couldn’t compete with the pint-sized star at the box-office; like Gable, they were stuck behind her at the height of her popularity.

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