She was the world’s most iconic child actress, a singer, and a dancer. Her famous curly hair and cheeky, yet lovable, demeanor caused her to melt the hearts of even the grumpiest people. One of America’s brightest stars in the 1930s, Shirley Temple, passed away on February 10, 2014. She left a wonderful and fascinating legacy. Her presence on the big screen entertained children worldwide and she also brought a sense of joy and lightness to those enduring America’s Great Depression.
Shirley’s film career started in 1932 at the age of three. Two years later, she became an international star with the 1934 hit movie, Bright Eyes, which featured her singing On the Good Ship Lollipop. She also won a juvenile Oscar Award that year, making her the first child star to receive the honor. Throughout the 1930s, Shirley continued to star in comedy-drama films involving singing and dancing including Curly Top (which featured the song Animal Crackers in My Soup), as well as Heidi and The Little Princess. It was her performance in The Little Princess that made audiences believe that her career as a movie star would continue to flourish as she transitioned into her teenage years. However, although she was up for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, she was instead cast in Susannah of the Mounties. (The role of Dorothy, of course, went to Judy Garland). After that film, Shirley’s ratings dropped significantly. She went on to make a small handful of unsuccessful movies before retiring from acting in 1950.
Although the golden age of Shirley’s acting career was over before she was an adult, she went on to have an active life. The substantial amount she made off royalties from Shirley Temple toys and merchandise allowed her to explore other interests and build a family. She married John Agar at 17, gave birth to her daughter (actress Linda Susan Agar), and divorced five years later. She married Charles Alden Black in 1950 and the couple were together until he died in 2005. They had two children together.
By 1969, Shirley was married with three children. She was appointed by President Nixon as the United Nations General Assembly Representative, as well as the Ambassador to Ghana from 1974-1976 by President Ford. She was an active member of the Republican Party in California, put in charge of President Carter’s inauguration and ball, and appointed by President H.W. Bush as the Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989-1992. She also served on the board of directors for companies including Bank of America, Disney, the United Nations, and the National Wildlife Federation. In addition, she was one of the first women to speak out about breast cancer after she became a breast cancer survivor in 1972.
Although the Baby Boomer generation only knew her through black and white films on television, they still appreciate her talent. The films were feel-good charmers and she was a ray of light when people were going through very dark times. It is interesting to note what an effect she was able to make on the world as a child, and wonderful knowing that she did not stop trying to make a positive impact or stop connecting people with her witty personality throughout her life.
“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
“The petticoats are in the garbage can, where they belong in the modern world; and I detest censorship.”
“I class myself with Rin Tin Tin. People in the Depression wanted something to cheer them up, and they fell in love with a dog and a little girl.”
“When I was 14, I was the oldest I ever was. I’ve been getting younger ever since.”
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