I am watching a delightful A&E documentary on Shirley Temple. What a fascinating lady! And the wonderful child star of the 1930’s turned 80 this year!

Shirley Jane Temple (born April 23, 1928) is an Academy Award-winning actress and tap dancer, most famous for being an iconic American child actress of the 1930s, who enjoyed a notable career as a diplomat as an adult. After rising to fame at the age of six with her breakthrough performance in Bright Eyes in 1934, she starred in a series of highly successful films which won her widespread public adulation and saw her become the top grossing star at the American box-office during the height of the Great Depression. She went on to star in films as a young adult in the 1940s. In later life, she became a United States ambassador and diplomat.

Family

Temple was born to George Francis Temple (1888–1980), a businessman and banker, and Gertrude Amelia Krieger (1893–1977) in Santa Monica, California. She has two brothers, Jack (b. 1915) and George, Jr. (b. 1919). Her mother loved dancing and this directed Temple towards performing. Gertrude was a constant presence on the lot during Temple’s childhood acting years, helping her learn her lines, and controlled her wardrobe. Biographer Anne Edwards said Temple’s famous hair style, known as the “Shirley Temple Curls,” was also under the control of Gertrude, who ensured there were exactly 52 ringlets in her hair for each take.

At the age of 17, Temple was married to soldier-turned-actor John Agar (1921–2002) on September 19, 1945. They had one daughter, Linda Susan Agar (later known as Susan Falaschi), born on January 30, 1948. Temple filed for divorce in late 1949, with the divorce becoming final on December 5, 1950. In early 1950, while vacationing in Hawaii, Temple met and fell in love with California businessman Charles Alden Black (1919–2005). They married on December 16 that year. Together, they had two children: Charles Alden Black Jr., born April 29, 1952, and Lori Black, born April 9, 1954. They remained married until Charles’s death from myelodysplastic syndrome (a bone marrow disease), at age 86, on August 4, 2005.

Temple has one granddaughter, Teresa Caltabiano (b. 1980), Susan’s daughter. She also has one great granddaughter, Lily Jane Caltabiano.

Movie career

In Temple’s earliest films, she danced and was able to handle complex tap choreography. She was teamed with famed dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Just Around the Corner. Robinson coached and developed her choreography for many of her other films. Because Robinson was African-American, the scenes of him holding hands with Temple were cut in many cities in the South, as a consequence of the segregationism common at the time. Shirley Temple once tap danced all the way down a staircase singing a line of her song on every single one of the 45 steps.

Temple made pictures with Carole Lombard, Gary Cooper, Adolphe Menjou and many others. Arthur Treacher appeared as a kindly butler in several of Temple’s films.

At the age of three, Temple began dance classes at Meglin’s Dance School in Los Angeles California. Her film career began when Charles Lamont, a casting director from Educational Pictures, visited her class. Although Temple hid behind a piano in the studio, she was chosen by Lamont, invited to audition, and eventually signed to a contract with Educational.

Temple worked at Educational from 1931 to 1934,[2] [1] and appeared in two series of short subjects for the studio. Her first series, Baby Burlesks, satirized recent motion pictures and politics. In the series, Temple would dress up in a diaper, but would otherwise wear adult clothes. Because of its depiction of young children in adult situations the series was considered controversial by some viewers. Her second series at Educational, Frolics of Youth, was a bit more acceptable, and cast her as a bratty younger sister in a contemporary suburban family.

While working for Educational Pictures, Temple performed many walk-on and bit player roles in various films at other studios. She was reported to have auditioned for a lead role in Hal Roach‘s Our Gang comedies (later known as The Little Rascals) in the early 1930s, although various reasons are given for her not having been cast in the role. Roach stated that Temple and her mother were unable to make it through the red tape of the audition process, while Our Gang producer/director Robert F. McGowan recalls the studio wanted to cast Temple, but they refused to give in to Temple’s mother’s demands that Temple receive special star billing. Temple, in her autobiography Child Star, denies auditioning for Our Gang at all.[

20th Century Fox

After appearing in Stand Up and Cheer! with James Dunn, Temple was signed to Fox Film Corporation (which later merged with 20th Century Pictures to become 20th Century Fox) in late 1933. Later, she was paired with Dunn in several films, notably her breakthrough film Bright Eyes, produced by Sol M. Wurtzel. This was the film that saved Fox from near bankruptcy in 1934 at the height of the Great Depression. It was in Bright Eyes that Temple first performed the song that would become one of her trademarks, “On the Good Ship Lollipop“. This was closely followed by the film Curly Top, in which she first sang another trademarked song, “Animal Crackers in My Soup“. In 1936, Temple was paid an unprecedented amount of money for her work on Poor Little Rich Girl: $15,000 per week. It was during this period, in the depth of the Depression, when her films were seen as bringing hope and optimism, that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is reported to have proclaimed that “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”

In 16 of the 20 films Temple made for Fox, she played characters with at least one dead parent. This was part of the formula for her films, which encouraged the adults in the audience to take on the role of her parent.

Temple became Fox’s most lucrative player. Her contract was amended several times between 1933 and 1935, and she was loaned to Paramount for a pair of successful films in 1934. For four years, she was the top-grossing box-office star in America. Shirley’s birth certificate was altered to prolong her babyhood; her birth year was advanced from 1928 to 1929. She was not told her real age until her “twelfth” (actually her thirteenth) birthday.

Temple’s films were not always seen in a positive light. The novelist Graham Greene wrote in a review for the magazine Night and Day of her appearance in Wee Willie Winkie:

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.

Temple, via her studio, was the successful plaintiff in a British libel case in 1938 against Greene’s review. The damages awarded were enough to close the magazine.

In 1940, Temple left Fox. Working steadily, she juggled classes at Westlake School for Girls with films for various other studios, including MGM and Paramount. Her most successful pictures of the time included Since You Went Away with Claudette Colbert, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Cary Grant, and Fort Apache with John Wayne. She retired from motion pictures in 1949.

Film career highlights

Temple was the first recipient of the special Juvenile Performer Academy Award in 1935 for recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment in 1934. Six-year-old Temple was and is the youngest performer ever to receive this honor, or any Oscar. She is also the youngest actress to add foot and hand prints to the forecourt at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz was originally meant for Judy Garland. However, MGM executives were concerned with Garland’s box office appeal. Temple was considered for the role, although she was unable to appear in the film when a trade between Fox and MGM fell through. However, Terry, who played Temple’s beloved dog Rags in Bright Eyes, was cast in The Wizard of Oz as Toto. In 1940, Temple starred in The Blue Bird, another fairy story with plot similarities to The Wizard of Oz. It was her first box-office flop. Temple was also rumored to be the inspiration for Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone with the Wind and was one of the early contenders for the role in the motion picture, but was too old by the time the film went into production.

Temple appeared in her first Technicolor film, The Little Princess, produced by Fox in 1939, near the end of her contract with them.

Temple returned to show business with the television series Shirley Temple’s Storybook, which premiered on NBC on January 12, 1958 and last aired December 1, 1959. Shirley Temple Theatre (also known as The Shirley Temple Show) premiered on NBC on September 11, 1960 and last aired September 10, 1961. Both shows featured adaptations of fairy tales and other family oriented stories. Shirley Temple was the hostess and occasional narrator/actress in both series.

In later years, Temple made occasional appearances on television talk shows, especially when she promoted her memoirs.

Political, business and diplomatic career

Temple ran unsuccessfully for Congress against retired Korean War veteran Pete McCloskey in 1967. She ran on a platform supporting America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.

Temple went on to hold several diplomatic posts, serving as the U.S. delegate to many international conferences and summits. She was appointed a delegate to the United Nations by President Richard M. Nixon in 1969. She was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (1974–76). She became the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States in 1976, which put in her charge of all State Department ceremonies, visits, gifts to foreign leaders and co-ordination of protocol issues with all U.S. embassies and consulates. She was United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989–92) and witnessed the Velvet Revolution. She commented, about her Ambassadorship, “That was the best job I ever had.” She was designated the first Honorary Foreign Service Officer in U.S. history by then U.S. Secretary of State, George Shultz in 1987.

Temple served on the board of directors of some large enterprises including The Walt Disney Company (1974–75), Del Monte, Bancal Tri-State, and Fireman’s Fund Insurance. Her non-profit board appointments included the Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Council of American Ambassadors, the World Affairs Council, the United States Commission for UNESCO, the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations, the United Nations Association, and the U.S. Citizen’s Space TaskForce.

Temple received honorary doctorates from Santa Clara University and Lehigh University, a Fellowship from College of Notre Dame, and a Chubb Fellowship from Yale University. Temple now lives in Woodside, California.

Breast cancer

Temple is often remembered as the first celebrity to publicly discuss her involvement with this form of cancer. In an interview published on the web page of the American Cancer Society, actress Barbara Barrie is quoted as saying:

Shirley Temple Black was the first person who said, on national television, ‘I have breast cancer.’ It wasn’t Betty Ford, it was Shirley Temple, child star. One of the greatest stars of the world ever. And, she was so brave to say that, because first of all, people never said “cancer” and they never said “breast”, not in public. She said it and she set the whole ball rolling. People don’t remember that, but she did it.[8]

Temple appeared on the cover of People magazine in 1999 with the title “Picture Perfect” and again later that year as part of their special report, “Surviving Breast Cancer”. She appeared at the 70th Academy Awards and also in that same year received Kennedy Center Honors.

[edit] Recent activity

In 1999, Temple hosted the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars awards show on CBS, a special list from the American Film Institute and part of the AFI 100 Years… series. She was also ranked #18 in the list.

In 2001, Temple served as a consultant on the ABC Television Network production of Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story, based on part one of her autobiography.

In 2004, Temple teamed with Legend Films to restore, colorize and release her earliest black and white films, as well as episodes of her 1960 television series (originally shot on color videotape), The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection.

On September 12, 2005, Screen Actors Guild president Melissa Gilbert announced that Temple would receive the Guild’s most prestigious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. Gilbert said:

I can think of no one more deserving of this year’s SAG Life Achievement award than Shirley Temple Black. Her contributions to the entertainment industry are without precedent; her contributions to the world are nothing short of inspirational. She has lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child, to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years. In everything she has done and accomplished, Shirley Temple Black has demonstrated uncommon grace, talent and determination, not to mention compassion and courage. As a child, I was thrilled to dance and sing to her films and more recently as Guild president I have been proud to work alongside her, as her friend and colleague, in service to our union. She has been an indelible influence on my life. She was my idol when I was a girl and remains my idol today.

In April 2008, Shirley Temple Black broke her arm just before her 80th birthday in a fall at her suburban San Francisco home of Woodside.

References in popular culture

  • In 1965-1966, a popular main character named Curley Dimples (Gael Dixon), was a regular in the Australian children’s TV show, Magic Circle Club. Curley’s appearance and voice spoofed the iconic young Shirley Temple.
  • On The Jacksons Variety Show, Janet Jackson did a skit with brother Randy to “On the Good Ship Lollipop“.
  • New York band Interpol mention Temple by name in their song ‘The Specialist’ with the line, “put a lid on Shirley Temple.”
  • Temple was mentioned in Weird Al Yankovic‘s song “Confessions Part III”, in which the singer/comedian states that “in private, I really like to dress up as Shirley Temple and spank myself with a hockey stick.”
  • Carol Burnett occasionally performed an impression of “On the Good Ship Lollipop”, exaggerating the concentration in Temple’s face to look angry or scowling.
  • Towards the end of the Phish song “The Wolfman’s Brother,” the name “Shirley Temple” can be heard numerous times.
  • In the episode, “Last Tap Dance in Springfield,” of the animated television series, The Simpsons, a former child-star turned tap-instructor, ‘Little’ Vicki Valentine, is featured. This former-child star appears to be modeled after Temple. Also in another episode of The Simpsons entitled, “Treehouse of Horror III,” King Kong (portrayed by Homer Simpson) eats a child actress similar to Temple.
  • On the animated television show Family Guy, Stewie Griffin sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to get the attention of airport security when his backpack full of concealed weapons goes through the x-ray.
  • When Temple first ran for public office, a poster was published showing her in one of her earliest movies; a caption read, “Vote for Me or I’ll Hold My Breath.”
  • “Shirl” has been the nickname of two famous blond, curly-headed Australian males: Mike Williams, the (often on-screen) floor manager of the The Mike Walsh Show daytime television variety program, and rock singer Graeme Strachan of the band Skyhooks, who later became the TV host of the children’s TV show Shirl’s Neighbourhood.
  • In the animated feature film Shrek the Third, the Gingerbread Man sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to himself after seeing his life flash before his eyes.
  • Temple is the only person, besides The Beatles themselves, who appears more than once on the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover. She appears as a cut-out in the last row and a Shirley Temple doll is featured on the right side, wearing a shirt saying “Welcome The Rolling Stones“.
  • The African-American stereotypes in some of Temple’s films has been parodied on MADtv; specifically the scene from The Littlest Rebel when Bill Robinson teaches her to dance up and down the steps.
  • There is a non-alcoholic drink named after Temple. It consists of ginger ale or lemon-lime soda with grenadine (pomegranate syrup) and a whole cherry added. Consequently, a similar drink substituting cola for the ginger ale (usually referred to as a Roy Rogers) is known as a “Shirley Temple Black” in some regions.
  • In the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation entitled The Arsenal of Freedom, Riker says during his interrogation that he serves aboard the USS Lollipop, stating that “it’s a good ship.”
  • Temple is one of the celebrities caricatured in Donald Duck‘s The Autograph Hound.
  • Temple is mentioned on the song “(The legend of) Miss Baltimore Crabs” from the musical Hairspray, on the line “Childhood dreams/for me were cracked/ when that damn Shirley Temple/ stole my frickin’ act.”
  • In the 1997 movie Cats Don’t Dance, Darla Dimple is a spoof of Temple; her name was also taken from another child star of the thirties, Darla Hood.
  • In the 1997 movie Tower of Terror, Sally Shine, a child movie star, is killed in the elevator in 1939 along with four others. With her curly blonde mop, sweet demeanor, and short, flouncy dress, (and her own doll modeled after her), she appears to be modeled after Temple.
  • In the Gilmore Girls Episode Rory’s Birthday Parties, Lorelai is drinking a Shirley Temple Black and references the Good Ship Lollipop
Lorelai: (sighs, hands Rory a drink) Here.
Rory: What is it?
Lorelai: A Shirley Temple.
Rory: What are you drinking?
Lorelai: A Shirley Temple Black.
Rory: (sniffs at it) Wow.
Lorelai: I got your Good Ship Lollipop right here, mister.
  • In an episode of the hit TV show Full House, Jesse and Joey dress up as, what appears to be, Shirley Temple, and they sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” together at the end of the episode.
  • In the episode called the snooper star from the Brady Bunch Cindy believes that she is going to become the next Shirley Temple and sings one of her songs in front of one of Mikes clients.
  • In the Pilot Episode of Mork&Mindy, Mork temporarily performs an impersonation of Shirley Temple, using “Good Ship Lollipop” as an example.
  • In Toni Morrison’s famous book (set in Lorain, Ohio, 1941), The Bluest Eye, Shirley temple was the primary evidence used to show that the ideal beauty was a blue eyed white girl.
  • In an episode of That 70s Show, Hyde, Jackie, Eric, and Donna sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop” to cover the sound of Fez peeing in a mobile home bathroom.

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