Shirley Temple (1928-2014)

Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple in Glad Rags To Ritches (1933)

Born in Santa Monica, California, to George Francis Temple and Gertrude Amelia Krieger on April 23, 1928, Shirley Temple rose to fame as a result of her innate ability to sing, dance and act, in addition to her vivacious personality. Her mother recognized her daughter’s talents and directed her towards a career in dance and film. 

Her breakthrough came at age six, when she debuted in Stand Up and Cheer, as well as Bright Eyes,in 1934, followed shortly after by a series of highly successful films including The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Just Around the Corner.  All of these films won her widespread public adulation, allowing her to become the top grossing star at the American box-office during the height of the Great Depression. 

She became equally as famous for her hairstyle, which is today referred to as  “Shirley Temple Curls.” Shirley’s mother and stylist ensured that she had exactly 52 ringlets in her hair for every take in each movie that she filmed.   Her name also entered the language as a non-alcoholic drink for children, usually served in a cocktail glass with fruit to resemble an adult cocktail.

Shirley Temple worked very hard as a child, making some forty films and fifty television programs before retiring at age 17.   She married actor John Agar and had her first child, Linda Susan Agar, on January 30, 1948.  One year later, she filed for a divorce and married California businessman Charles Alden Black, whom she met on a vacation in Hawaii.  Charles and Shirley had two children, Charles Alden Black Jr., born in 1952 and Lori Black, born in 1954. 

In her later life, Shirley Temple Black became deeply involved in Republican politics. In 1967 she ran for Congress against California Representative Pete McCloskey, on a platform of defending America’s involvement in the Vietnam War.  She lost but was appointed by Republicans to numerous political posts. 

In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed her as a delegate to the United Nations, and in 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed her as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana.  In 1976, the last year of the Ford administration, she became the first female Chief of Protocol, which put her in charge of coordination of protocol issues with all U.S. embassies and consulates.  She served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the administration of George H.W. Bush.

She published two autobiographies, My Young Life (1945) and Child Star (1988). Shirley Temple Black passed away at the age of 85.

Taken from Young and Brave: Girls Changing History

Works Cited:

  • Hammontree, Patsy Guy. Shirley Temple Black : a bio-bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1998.
  • Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. “Shirley Temple Black,” in Doris Weatherford, ed., A History of Women in the United States:  A State-by-State Reference (Scholastic/Grolier, 2003), Volume 1, p. 180.
  • Temple Black, Shirley. Child Star: an Autobiography. New York, NY: Grand Central, 1989.
  • Windeler, Robert. The Films of Shirley Temple. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1978.