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Tania is currently the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of The Hudsucker, and Senior Editor at the Nashville, Tennessee based PopCulture.com. With past writing and editing credits with Womanista, Quietly, the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) and NBC Newsvine, she is currently a member of Indianapolis based, Society of Professional Journalists — one of the oldest organizations in the U.S. that promotes and represents journalists. She is an avid Indianapolis Colts, Elvis Presley and baseball fan as well as a lover of pancakes and fine cheeses, film, and music. Tania is a Hoosier at heart with a passionate wanderlust for always traveling and giving back to those in her community. She is currently studying at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Follow Tania on Twitter: @westlifebunny.

Baby Take A Bow: Remembering Shirley Temple Black

Shirley Temple: “Some people are stuck on this image of the little girl. She is not me. We shouldn’t live in the past; my life is now.” // Image Credit: Fine Art America

Growing up is one of life’s inescapable destinies. While this truth can sometimes be troublesome to child stars in the growing entertainment industry, it’s not particularly the case for one such actress whose performances and life brightened up a generation of movie-goers. From her smile to her dimples, to her infectious giggles and golden curls, Shirley Temple Black was an iconic star many adored and loved throughout the years. Temple, who rose to superstardom in the early 1930s, and later left the film industry to lead a prominent life in US diplomacy, passed away in her home at the age of 85 with family and caregivers late Monday night, according to a statement released by her agent.

Dubbed “Little Miss Miracle” by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for her raising public morale during times of economic hardships in the Great Depression, Temple was one of the greatest, most iconic child stars of them all. Beginning her career in the early 1930s at the tender age of just three years old, Temple went on to become a bona-fide star by the age of 6, serving as a rare source of hope and inspiration for many in need. As she danced across the silver screen in more than two dozen movies before the 1940s, the curly-haired little girl became a part of a healing nation’s heart and soul.

Born Shirley Jane Temple on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, Temple was the dimpled, adorable and precocious symbol of Hollywood’s golden age. Between 1935 and 1938, Temple’s films brought in more box office revenue than films with any other actor. It was phenomenal to see someone as young as her draw in more crowds than Clark Gable, Joan Crawford or Gary Cooper at the movie theater; get more mail than Greta Garbo every week; and single-handedly save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy. Temple found hits in films like Bright Eyes (1934), Stand Up and Cheer (1934), Curly Top (1935), Dimples (1936), and Heidi (1937), earning $1,000 a week by the age of 7. Every film she starred in as a child star found the little girl singing and dancing alongside touching themes that built hope and faith for a devastated society. Many of the films featured tales of resilience and determination for a struggling America that many identified with and still remember today.

She became one of the earliest stars to convert big-screen success into a gold mine for merchandising. In addition to the creation of jobs from such a venture, there was a top-selling doll, clothing line, and even a non-alcoholic drink named after her that’s still very popular today. Temple was presented with the Academy’s first juvenile award in 1934–an honorary Oscar at the age of 6 for her “Outstanding Contribution to Screen Entertainment”. Temple was the youngest recipient ever to be honored by the Academy, and this is a distinction she still holds to this day.

Temple was everyone’s darling entertainer, leading a bright career free of scandals. In today’s age, child star and scandal are synonymous but that wasn’t the case for her even though she suggested throughout the years that she grew up way too soon, saying once, “When I was 14, I was the oldest I ever was. I’ve been getting younger ever since.” Temple knew when to stop, unlike many of those who followed in her footsteps to start early on in the film industry. 

Image Credit: Art Posters

As Temple grew older and blossomed into a dignified and well rounded woman, she went on to star in films that showcased her young, bright-eyed, teenage charm. She found successes in films like That Hagan Girl with future President Ronald Reagan, Fort Apache with John Wayne, and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer with Cary Grant and Myrna Loy; a film the New York Times praised. During the filming of Fort Apache, 18 year-old Temple met her first husband, John Agar and the two married in 1945. It was a wonderful time for Temple but not the case for her films as the box office punch she once held began to fade. It was a sad realization that as time went on, audiences began losing interest in her. Temple, with all her fame and fortune knew it was best to retire from films at the age of 21 in 1949, and gave birth to her first child. While Temple transitioned into a new chapter of her domesticated life, her marriage became troubled. Temple divorced Agar at the end of 1949 and received custody of their daughter, Linda Susan Agar.

A year later Temple would meet Charles Alden Black, a WWII US Navy Intelligence officer and Silver Star recipient. The two would marry on December 16, 1950 before their family and friends, later relocating to Washington, D.C., where Black was recalled to the Navy at the brink of the Korean War. In that time, Temple would give birth to the couple’s first son together and travel back to California by war’s end in 1953. A year later, Temple would give birth to another daughter. Temple and Black remained married for 54 years until his death in August 4 of 2005, passing from complications of a bone marrow disease.

Though she returned to television very briefly in 1958, narrating a television series called Shirley Temple’s Storybook that was later reworked into The Shirley Temple Show, being someone with an important voice meant everything to Temple. The next step she would take in her life would bring her much esteem and reinforce her as a prominent figure in our modern culture. In the 1960s, Temple entered international politics after a failed attempt at running for Congress in California’s 11th congressional district, going on to hold several diplomatic posts during four Republican administrations.

In 1969, Temple became a UN delegate by President Richard Nixon to the United Nations General Assembly. In 1974, she was named U.S. Ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976; and later served as U.S Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992. She would become an important figure in Republican fundraising, supporting the Vietnam War and bridging international relations through effective diplomacy. Temple told the Associated Press in 1999 that her background in entertainment surely served as an asset to her political career. “Politicians are actors too, don’t you think? Usually if you like people and you’re outgoing, not a shy little thing, you can do pretty well in politics,” she said.

It was in 1972 that Temple was diagnosed with a cancerous left breast. The tumor was removed as she underwent a radical mastectomy but made it clear she wasn’t done making a difference. Following the operation, Temple announced to the world via television, radio and magazines a call to action for the discussion of breast cancer, urging women to not “sit home and be afraid.” She has been credited as one of the very first advocates for the national dialogue for breast cancer, fostering the essential discussion at a time when such operations were held in secrecy, ultimately improving communication and awareness on the disease. In addition to her advocacy for cancer, Temple was known for helping to raise funds in 1949 for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as her brother had the illness.

Temple at the Screen Actors Guild Awards in 2006. // Image Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment

In 1988, Temple released her autobiography “Child Star“, which went on to become a New York Times Bestseller. In the book, Temple clarified the many long-standing myths, including the one that stated the young starlet made a significant amount of money from her films. Temple revealed that much had been lost due to poor financial advice her father had received.

It was ten years later that the American Film Institute ranked Temple at No. 18 as one of the Top 50 Screen Legends among the 25 actresses included. A few years prior to the AFI honor, Temple shared how she loved both politics and show business. “It’s certainly two different career tracks, both completely different but both very rewarding, personally.”

In 2006, Temple was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild. She shared advice with her fellow actors and quipped, “I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award: start early.” 

Shirley Temple Black lived a remarkably fascinating and inspirational life. Throughout the years, she demonstrated an uncommon talent, grace and determination, not to mention compassion and courage. She will always be remembered, and very much missed by her many adoring fans, supporters and friends. She is survived by her three grown children, Susan, Charlie Jr., and Lori, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

As someone who grew up on her films and admired her innocence and charm, I will never forget her. Upon hearing the news this morning all I could do was break down and cry. Of course death is inevitable and inescapable, but when you grow up watching someone you adore and love throughout your own formative years while finding them to be of comfort to you–well that’s hard to part from. I remember watching Shirley Temple movies when I was Temple’s age, dancing and giggling along with her. I remember asking my parents to take me to the video-store so I could watch all of her movies. I remember telling my teachers how much I loved her and they were just happy to hear it. Shirley Temple made me feel like I could be anything or do anything–though more importantly, smile while doing it because as she showed many during her time, a smile is not just a curve that sets things right, it makes the world brighter with one.

“There’s nothing like real love. Nothing.”

Shirley Temple Black
April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014

Join Turner Classic Movies on March 9 to honor the late Shirley Temple. The beloved channel will be showcasing eight of Temple’s films from 1934 to 1947, starting with Heidi at 4:30 PM and ending off with That Hagen Girl at 4:15 AM.

What are some of your favorite Shirley Temple films? Share with us in the comments below.

Connect with Tania Hussain on Twitter and Google+!
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  1. Baby Take A Bow: Remembering Shirley Temple Black | westlifebunny - February 11, 2014

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