1. Shirley Temple was a child actor who was phenomenally popular in the 1930s. She was born in Santa Monica, California, on 23rd April, 1928. She had two older brothers. Her mother realised that little Shirley was a gifted dancer, and enrolled her in dance classes at the age of three.
2. She appeared in a series of short, low budget films called Baby Burlesks, which were parodies of famous film stars or current events. She was noticed by Fox Studio, and was offered a contract. She was not yet six. Her parents were instrumental in her success. Her father acted as her agent, and her mother was responsible for her perfect ringlets, modelled on the hairstyle of Mary Pickford, who was a leading silent-era film star.
3. Shirley Temple was at the pinnacle of stardom from 1934 to 1938. This coincided with the Great Depression, and Shirley’s performances were just what people needed to cheer them up. President Franklin D. Roosevelt remarked that as long as America had Shirley, they would be alright. In 1934, she made 7 movies. She received a special Oscar for her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment in 1934.
4. Her song, On the Good Ship Lollipop, from the movie Bright Eyes,(1934) was an astounding success, and the sheet music sold half a million copies. The movie Curly Top, (1935) was set in an orphanage, and Shirley plays a never-say- die orphan, who cheers up her mates with the song Animal Crackers In My Soup. This song was also immensely popular.
5. When Fox Studios merged with 20th Century Pictures, Daryl Zanuck realised what an asset Shirley was, and appointed a team called the Shirley Temple Development Division to work on material especially for her.
6. In 1937, she starred in Wee Willie Winkie. Graham Greene, the famous author, reviewed it for an English publication, and made some observations which deemed Temple’s performance seductive. He implied that she was feigning innocence. This caused a furore. Fox Studios sued for libel, and won. Greene left Britain and the publication had to settle for a sum of 3,500 Pounds.
7. MGM wanted Temple to play Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but Fox Studios did not agree. Fox positioned their film The Bluebird as competition for The Wizard of Oz, but it was not well-received by the public. Instead, it marked the decline of Temple’s popularity.
8. Shirley Temple acted in a few films when she was older. Some of these got critical acclaim, but were not commercially successful. She then embarked on a political career. She ran unsuccessfully for Congress, in 1967. From 1969 to 1970, she was the US Ambassador to the United Nations. In 1974, she was US Ambassador to Ghana, and in 1976, served as Chief of Protocol. From 1989 to 1992, she was Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She was one of the first celebrities to speak publicly about having breast cancer and going through mastectomy.
9. Temple’s first marriage took place in 1945. She married actor John Agar, and had a daughter, Linda. She filed for divorce in 1949. In 1950, just after her divorce, she met and married Charles Black. They had a son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori. She now added her husband’s surname to her famous appellation, and was thereafter known as Shirley Temple Black. Charles Black died in 2005, and Shirley Temple Black died of natural causes on 10th February, 2014.
10. Shirley Temple Black published a book about her remarkable life called Child Star. Not surprisingly, it was a best-seller. She was honoured by the Kennedy Centre for Performing Arts in 1998, and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors’ Guild. No other child star received the fame and adulation that she had, and her screen performances continue to delight audiences around the world.