It’s been one year since the world mourned the loss of Shirley Temple, the quintessential and iconic child star, with the curly top hair and cute dimpled smile, who won the hearts of millions at such a young age. Today Shirley remains the brightest and most renowned child star to ever grace the silver screen
Shirley Temple made her star studded debut in this world on April 23rd, 1928, in Santa Monica, California, to parents Gertrude Amelia Temple, who at the time of Shirley’s birth was a proficient home maker, and George Francis Temple, a qualified bank employee. Shirley was the youngest child. She had two older brothers, George Francis Jr, and John Stanley.
When Shirley was a few years old, her mother noticed her daughters prodigious talent, so she encouraged Shirley’s abilities in singing, dancing and acting. In September 1931, Shirley was enrolled at Meglin’s Dance School.
After a few months at Meglin’s, Shirley began to shine. She was spotted by Charles Lamont, a casting director for Educational Pictures. He recognized Shirley’s incredible talent, and knew that this bright eyed little youngster will one day succeed. Realizing that she had a gift, Charles invited her to audition. In 1932, Educational Pictures signed Shirley Temple to a contract. They were about to launch their Baby Burlesks, which was a series of short films that required pre-school children in every role. Shirley Temple was the perfect candidate. When Educational Pictures went bust, Shirley and her fellow child co-stars appeared in a few commercials for breakfast cereals, and other products. In 1932, she was loaned to Tower Productions, where she made her debut in feature film, and landed a small part in “Red-Haired Alibi”. Even though her role was small, she was still a sensation, and Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. began calling her for various bit parts.
Educational Pictures finally declared bankruptcy in 1933. After appearing in several bit parts, Shirley signed a contract with Twentieth Century Fox in 1934. In April that year, she made her breakthrough role in “Stand Up And Cheer”. After the release of her first film Shirley’s fame escalated to great heights. With a raise in her salary, Shirley Temple was now on her way. With the success of her first picture, she was loaned out to Paramount in June 1934 for “Little Miss Marker”.
Both films were highly achieved at the box office. Shirley then went on to portray the role of Shirley Blake in “Bright Eyes”. They wanted this vehicle especially for Temple, so “Bright Eyes” became the first film written and developed specifically to suit her talents. It was in this movie where she sang her signature song “On The Good Ship Lollipop”. “Bright Eyes” was released on December 28th, 1934. The film was widely acclaimed, and was a triumph. Shirley was now a household name. People would flock to the cinemas especially to see Shirley. Audiences couldn’t get enough of Shirley Temple. She was the definition of wholesome family entertainment.
In February 1935, Shirley became the first star to be honored with a Juvenile Oscar. A month later she put her hands and footprints in the cement at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. She was now the studios greatest asset, and the Shirley Temple Development team were now hard at work creating eleven original stories especially for her.
At the time the USA were facing a depression. Hollywood and the movie studios were ominous, and the rest of the country were grim with many in despair. However people looked up to Shirley Temple for hope. In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated “It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”
At the end of the depression, Temple appeared in several more successful films, and managed to retain her superstar status. In 1939, it was in talks that Shirley was to play the role of Dorothy in the upcoming film “The Wizard Of Oz”, but Fox wouldn’t let her out of her contract, and the role as Dorothy went to Judy Garland, who was the original choice for the part.
On September 19th, 1945, Shirley married John Agar. The couple had their first child in 1948, a baby girl who they called Linda Susan. Appearing in two films together, their marriage became rocky, and they divorced in 1949. Temple married Charles Alden Black in 1950. It was with Charles that she gave birth to two other children, Charles Alden Black Jr, and Lori. The couple lived contentedly until Charles’s death in 2002.
With a career transformation, she became an eminent politician and diplomat. She was the 27th United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, and became active in the Republican Party Of California.
Shirley was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972, and underwent a radical mastectomy. Following the operation she became the first prominent woman to speak openly about breast cancer.
Sadly Shirley Temple passed away on February 10th, 2014 at the age of 85, at her home in Woodside California. She is survived by her three children.
Shirley will forever be remembered as the cute little child star with the curly top hair, adorned in ringlets, and dimpled smile, who captivated the hearts of millions worldwide.
Rest In Peace Dear Shirley. Thank you for a lifetime of endless entertainment, joy and laughter.
Written by Crystal Kalyana.