Her earliest encounter with the entertainment world would certainly raise concern by 2014 standards. Temple got her start at age three acting in “Baby Burlesks,” which today's New York Times describes as "a series of sexually suggestive one-reel shorts in which children played all the roles." When kids on set misbehaved, they were sent to a black sound booth where they'd sit on a block of ice. “So far as I can tell, the black box did no lasting damage to my psyche,” she would later write.
In the years after those shorts, she would rise to international fame in films like Little Miss Marker, Heidi, and The Little Princess. She was beloved, but not everyone felt comfortable with the way Hollywood capitalized on her youth. Graham Greene would flee the country after a libel suit followed his critical review of Wee Willie Winkie:
The owners of a child star are like leaseholders--their property diminishes in value every year. Time's chariot is at their back; before them acres of anonymity. Miss Shirley Temple's case, though, has a peculiar interest: infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult. [...] Her admirers--middle-aged men and clergymen--respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.
Of course in the years since, similar complaints have arisen from pop culture's treatment of child stars, though that treatment these days comes in the more overtly provocative form of magazine photo shoots and racy film scenes.
But stardom threatened Temple in other ways. In 1939, a woman who thought Temple had stolen her daughter's soul tried to assassinate her during a radio performance. "The tale seemed understandable to me,” Temple wrote of the incident in Child Star. As Matt Weinstock pointed out last year for The New Yorker, that's a shockingly level-headed response in the annals of celebrity brushes with the deranged: "In 1981, Jodie Foster would respond to the Hinckley incident by sinking into depression, demanding to read all her hate mail, and ironically hanging an enormous photo of Reagan getting shot in her kitchen."
At 12 years old, Temple had already started to age out of commercial viability. After the box-office failure of one movie in 1940, Fox dropped her contract. Eight months later, MGM signed her, but the movies she'd make with them were not hits. And there were other indignities: "On her first visit to MGM, Mrs. Black wrote in her autobiography, the producer Arthur Freed unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her," reports the Times. "Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office."
She also faced the still-common pitfalls of being managed by one's parents. As Weinstock put it, "her father hemorrhaged all but eighty-nine thousand dollars of her fortune, but Temple describes his financial ineptitude with total dispassion. ('For reasons some may find inexplicable,' she writes, almost apologetically, “I felt neither disappointment nor anger.')"