Shirley Temple (1928-2014)
When I was growing up, there was a local TV station that aired Shirley Temple movies on Sunday mornings. It was there that I first saw her in Heidi and The Little Colonel and The Little Princess. I liked the movies, but I can truly say that I didn’t appreciate the little girl’s talent until I was older.
Shirley became a star while still a toddler. She made her big screen debut in 1932 in short films (such as Pardon My Pups and War Babies) featuring children singing and dancing and acting in silly comedy skits. By the age of 6, she had moved from short films to major motion pictures – and stealing scenes from seasoned veterans. By the time she was 8 years old, she was the top box office star in the country. In 1934, she received an honorary juvenile Oscar.
And who could blame people for loving her? Shirley was the all-American kid. Her roles depended on her singing and dancing talents, but her characters were kids first, playing games and being mischievous and sometimes disobedient. But she had charm and during the Depression of the 1930s, she allowed moviegoers to forget their troubles for a while. There were little girls named for her. There were dolls of her likeness and toys with her image. At age 10, she was the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade. She worked with some of the biggest names in movies, but probably her most outstanding co-star was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Shirley and Robinson did four movies together, creating some of the most memorable dance numbers in Hollywood history.
As she grew older, roles became fewer. Shirley became the all-American teenager in the 1940s in movies like Since You Went Away, I’ll Be Seeing You, and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer. She even transitioned into more mature roles in Fort Apache and The Story of Seabiscuit. But by the 1950s, she retired from movies. Though Shirley later had a TV series, her showbiz career was over by the early 60s.
However, she did stay busy. President Richard Nixon appointed her as Representative to the United Nations. President Gerald Ford chose Shirley as Ambassador to Ghana. President George H.W. Bush made her Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. And in 2005, the Screen Actors Guild honored her with their Life Achievement Award.
Shirley Temple passed away on February 10 at the age of 85. Even though she had not made a movie since 1949, there is no doubt that she left her mark in Hollywood history.