Hollywood starlet and America’s darling Shirley Temple passed away today at the age of 85. Temple, who still remains the world’s first true “child star,” tap-danced her little ringlets into the hearts of every American family during some of country’s darkest years in the Great Depression.
At the age of six, Temple won an honorary Academy Award–only three years after her mother originally enrolled her in dance lessons. As a Santa Monica, Calif., native, young Temple was nearby Hollywood’s growing industry and not long after her dancing started was noticed by an agent from Educational Pictures. She was first cast in Baby Burlesks, a series of shorts that, if attempted today, would most likely get someone thrown in jail.
Temple’s career really took off in 1934 when a bit role in Baby, Take a Bow caught Fox’s eye, and the studio gave her a contract. She went on to snag roles as an adorable little nugget in Wee Willie Winkie, Susannah of the Mountains, and Little Colonel–a movie in which Temple arguably became the first white woman to affectionately hold hands with a black man on screen, as seen in her performance with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
Finished at 13?
By the age of 12 (well, actually 13 because mother Gertrude had lied about her daughter’s age so she could land more roles), young Shirley Temple was no longer the adorable little child that Fox had enlisted six years prior, and her contract was dropped. After years of wining and dining with the rich and famous, Temple was sent to a normal school with normal children who didn’t have delicious drinks named after them.
In 1941, MGM picked up where Fox had left off, signing a contract with Temple and over the next few years cast her in a few films, such as I’ll Be Seeing You, Miss Annie Rooney, and Since You Went Away. Unfortunately, Temple was now an awkward teenager, and it seemed America did not want to take her to prom. Temple wasn’t getting the same numbers as her six-year-old self did, and the Hollywood spotlight once again darkened.
Temple had two marriages, but it was the second one to a Mr. Charles Alden Black, that stole Temple’s heart away from the stage. The actress had landed roles here and there through her first marriage, but she dedicated her life to Black and her children in 1950, saying goodbye to acting. Shirley Temple Black moved to Washington with her husband, became a politically aware-wife, and only returned to show business in 1958 for a cooking show.
After her stint in Washington, Temple found herself getting involved in political and diplomatic affairs. In 1967 she ran for a seat in congress (lost, unfortunately), in 1974 she was appointed as Ambassador to Ghana, became United States Chief of Protocol in 1976, and returned to the role of Ambassador in 1979 but this time Czechoslovakia.
In spite of her many accomplishments, Shirley Temple will always be best known as America’s favorite child star, singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop.”
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Anna is a freelance writer/producer based out of San Francisco. Her writing covers several genres, but her passion lies in humor, entertainment, education and culture.