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Tragic Tale: Inside Shirley Temple's Secret Life Of Torment

Jul. 26 2017, Published 9:37 a.m. ET

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Darling dimpled Shirley Temple hid a slew of shocking secrets behind her megawatt smile.

Now, RadarOnline reveals how Shirley withstood years of abuse from studio honchos — not to mention her own father and her first husband.

"She was extraordinary!" gushes her son Charles Black Jr.

After getting her start in 1932 at the tender age of three, Shirley endured the rigors of Tinseltown's twisted system for $25 a day.

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Back then, entire movies were shot in two days, and there was no room for mistakes. If Shirley messed up or misbehaved, she was sent to the "punishment box," a dark, tiny room containing a block of ice.

"The poor kid used to have nightmares about it," one Hollywood old-timer reveals, noting Shirley once had to work the day after surgery for a pierced eardrum and another time had to dance on an injured foot.

Yet the child star showed up, eyes sparkling — and her son knows why. "She was the most optimistic person you can imagine," Charles says wistfully.

The talented tyke's positivity paid off. For five years, she was the top box-office draw in the world. But it all began to crumble in 1939 when Shirley (by then earning a whopping $300,000 per film) made the Technicolor fantasy "The Blue Bird" to rival "The Wizard of Oz" — but the flick was a flop. It was her biggest regret: Studio bosses prevented her from taking the role that made Judy Garland a cinematic icon.

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Then, as her star continued to fall during her teenage years, Shirley faced new problems­ — the unsolicited advances of sleazy sickos!

Studio boss David O. Selznick chased her around his desk in an attempt to get her in bed. And she had to knee comedian George Jessel in the groin when he tried to force himself on her.

"Shirley never got over the trauma of these bigwigs trying to grope her," says the source. To deter dirtbags, at 17 Shirley married actor John Agar. The union resulted in their daughter, Susan, but John turned out to be a hard-drinking philanderer who beat Shirley! "He would leave her crying night after night," an insider says. "It got to the point that Shirley thought about killing herself.

After one violent fight, she jumped in her car and considered driving over a cliff!"

Instead, Shirley called it quits — on her sinking career and her wreck of a marriage. She left the movies, divorced her husband at age 22 — and learned her father, George, had squandered her fortune. Of the $3.2 million she'd made, just $30,000 remained!

Luckily, Shirley's upbeat attitude prevailed. She wed businessman Charles Black, the love of her life for the next 55 years! They had two children, Charles Jr. and Lori.

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"As a mother, she was devoted and generous," Susan says. "Family was really important. She was all about her children and her husband." Shirley was a wonderful cook and hostess as well. "She would say, 'Come by my house and I'll make you leg of lamb,''' Susan recalls.

In fact it was at a party in 1967, when Henry Kissinger overheard her speaking about Africa, that Shirley's life as a diplomat began. She served as a representative to the U.N. General Assembly and as an ambassador.

"That was a very nice period," Charles tells Radar. "She was quite active." Yet all was not perfect. Shirley was crushed when younger daughter Lori became a heroin addict and was arrested for drug possession in 1993. "Lori had a difficult relationship with her mother growing up," says the insider. "But Shirley was there for her when the chips were down, putting Lori in rehab and supporting her recovery wholeheartedly. She saved her daughter's life."

Charles says Shirley kept busy until dying in 2014 at age 85. "Before her death she had completed the second volume of her autobiography," Charles says. "It should be out next year."

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