News / Arts & Entertainment

Former Child Star Shirley Temple Dies at 85

Shirley Temple Dies at 85i
X
February 11, 2014 8:56 PM
Shirley Temple Black, the former child star known as America's Sweetheart, has died in California at the age of 85. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles on the life of the childhood superstar who later served her country as a diplomat.

VIDEO: Bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star who lifted America's spirits during the Great Depression and later became a US diplomat, passed away peacefully at her California home

TEXT SIZE - +
Alex Villarreal
Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America's spirits as a bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great Depression and later became a U.S. diplomat, died late on Monday evening at the age of 85, a family spokeswoman said in a statement.
 
Temple Black, who lured millions to the movies in the 1930s, “peacefully passed away” at her California home from natural causes at 10:57 p.m. local time (0657 GMT), surrounded by her family and caregivers, the statement said on Tuesday.
 
“We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of fifty-five years,” the statement said.

  • Shirley Temple is shown in an undated photo.
  • Shirley Temple poses during the filming of the movie "The Blue Bird."
  • Shirley Temple and animal actor Big Buck feed Heidi, a seven week old fawn.
  • Shirley Temple pictured in 1946.
  • Shirley Temple Black, shown shaking hands of supporters for her candidacy for Congress, shown in 1967 in California.
  • Shirley Temple Black, a U.S. delegate to the United Nations General Assembly, is shown before a press conference at the U.N. on Sept.16, 1969.
  • Shirley Temple Black accepts the Screen Actors Guild Awards life achievement award at the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards, in Los Angeles, Jan. 29, 2006.

Boasting a dimpled smile, bouncy curls and seemingly boundless happiness, Shirley Temple helped audiences escape with songs and dances that stressed optimism in a complicated world.

"I loved everything, I loved the bumps and the falls and the hard times, but it was just the greatest life," she said.

Shirley Jane Temple was discovered at age three by a talent scout who noticed her in dancing school and cast her in a series of short films.  

Her natural ease onscreen led to her first feature film for Fox Studios, Stand Up and Cheer. The studio did everything they could to maintain her innocence.

"Winfield Sheehan who was head of Fox Studio when I was little, told my mother that I should not go to the commissary at the studio because I would no longer be a little girl, I would become a little adult," she recalled. "So he had a little bungalow built for me.  There were rabbits and chickens and roosters that drove the writers next door crazy, and a swing.  And that is where I had my lunch every day and had my studies."

Shirley Temple Black

  • Born April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California
  • Enrolled at Meglin Dance Studio in Los Angeles at 3 years old

  • Cast in 'Baby Burlesques' short films
  • Received a special juvenile Oscar at the age of 6
  • Made more than 40 movies
  • Unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1967
  • Served as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. in 1969 and 1970
  • Served as ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia

     

Temple Black astounded her colleagues with her ability to learn intricate songs and dances.  She said her favorite dance partner was Bill Bojangles Robinson, one of Broadway's biggest stars.

"We had some kind of chemistry between us," she admitted. "We were the first interracial dancing couple on the screen.  In fact, in the deep south of our country, if we were touching hands or holding hands, that would be cut out of the films for the south.

Now, they show them complete.  But he was very sensitive, he was a good friend, he was funny, he treated me like a peer, one of his peers.  And to dance with him, all I had to do was to hold hands and listen and I learned to tap by listening to this wonderful man," she added.

By 1934, Shirley Temple was the most popular movie star in the country. And an industry was born. There were Shirley Temple dolls, dishes, dresses and lunch boxes. Celebrities visiting the studio often had their pictures taken with her. Some even became her friends, including Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of then-U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt. 

She received a special Academy Award in 1935 for her "outstanding contribution to screen entertainment." 

Life after movies

Her child career came to an end at age 12. She tried a few roles as a teenager - including opposite future president Ronald Reagan in That Hagen Girl.

Temple was only 17 in 1945 when she married for the first time to John Agar, who would eventually appear with her in two movies. Their five-year marriage produced a daughter.

Temple retired from acting in 1949 at the age of 21.
 
In 1950 she wed Charles Black in a marriage that lasted until his death in 2005. She and Black had two children.
 
Black's interest in politics was sparked in the early '50s when her husband was called back into the Navy to work in Washington.
 
She did volunteer work for the Republican Party while attempting to make a comeback with two short-lived TV series, Shirley Temple's Storybook in 1959 and The Shirley Temple Theater a year later.
 
Seven years after that she ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California but stayed in politics, helping raise more than $2 million for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign.

Temple launched her second career as a diplomat in 1969, when President Richard Nixon appointed her to the U.S. delegation to the United Nations.
 
In 1974, President Gerald Ford named her Ambassador to Ghana, a job she said in her 1988 autobiography was the "best job of her life."

"It was a substantive job, I used everything I had ever learned in life in that job and the Ghanian people were very similar to we Americans," Temple Black said. "They are outgoing, they have a good sense of humor, and they are industrious.  And we just got along beautifully."

Temple Black also served as White House Chief of Protocol, and from 1989 -1992 was Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. 

As Ambassador she was soft-spoken and earnest, out to disprove concerns that her previous career made her a diplomatic lightweight.
 
“I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat here,” Black said after her appointment as U.S. ambassador to Ghana in 1974. “My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies.”
 
Sometimes the public found it hard to accept her in diplomatic roles. But in 1989 she pointed out her 20 years in public service were more than the 19 she spent in Hollywood.
 
In 1972, Black was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She publicly discussed her surgery to educate women about the disease.

In 1998 Temple Black was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, recognizing her as the most successful child entertainer of the 20th century.  And her movies live on.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters

You May Like

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

John the XXIII and John Paul II will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square on April 27 More

Thailand Reacts to Plots Targeting Israelis

Authorities hope arrest of two Lebanese suspects will disrupt plot to attack young Israeli tourists More

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

'Once Upon a Forest' takes viewers deep into heart of tropical rainforest More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Churchi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 22, 2014 4:14 PM
On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Robotic Mission Kicks Up Lunar Dust

A robotic mission to the moon was deliberately crashed onto the lunar surface late last week, but not before scientists had collected data gathered by the spacecraft which was designed to self-destruct. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports on the preliminary findings of the craft, called LADEE - an acronym for Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer.
Video

Video Boko Haram Claims Responsibility for Bombing in Nigerian Capital

The Nigerian militant group known as Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a bombing in the capital on April 14th that killed 75 people. In the video message, Abubakar Shekau, the man who says he ordered the bombing, says nothing about the mass abduction of more than 100 teenage girls, most of whom are still missing. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Abuja.
Video

Video Ukraine Developments Hang Over Obama Trip to Asia

President Barack Obama's trip to Asia this week comes as concerns over Beijing's territorial ambitions are growing in the region. Those concerns have been compounded by Russia's recent actions in Ukraine and the possibility that Chinese strategists might be looking to Crimea as a model for its territorial disputes with its neighbors. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Saxophonist Craig Handy has an exciting new band called 2nd Line Smith, which combines the organ-jazz repertoire of Jimmy Smith with the “second line” rhythms of New Orleans parade music. Craig Handy joins "Beyond Category" host Eric Felten at Washington’s Bohemian Caverns jazz club to talk about the music and perform with the band.