Shirley Temple was truly one-of-a-kind. It’s amazing to me that she made her last film in 1949 – yet her death is right now the #1 trending item on Facebook. That’s star power – and a lasting impact. Of course, even though she basically retired from the entertainment business in 1950 (except for a short stint on television in the late ’50’s as the host of a show bearing her name), she was definitely not out of the public eye. Her second career as a public servant – serving as an ambassador to the UN, Ghana, and Czechoslovakia, and her championing of the fight against breast cancer (she was one of the first to publicly come forward with her own battle in 1972) – kept her front and center with the American populace. But growing up and watching old movies on Saturdays (Channel 11 in St. Louis played one of her movies every Saturday afternoon), as a kid – all I knew is that she was fascinating to watch. And it didn’t matter if her movies were made 40 years earlier – there was something even then that resonated. She captured the joy of being a child – and for that, she will always be remembered.
Shirley Temple Dead: Legendary Child Star Dies at 85
UPDATE: A statement from Shirley Temple’s family read in part, “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 for fifty-five years of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black…. We ask that our family be given the opportunity at this time to grieve privately.”
Private funeral arrangements for Temple are still pending but a remembrance guest book will soon be opened at shirleytemple.com. Contributions in her memory may be made to the Commonwealth Club of California’s 2nd Century Campaign or to the Education Center at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, according to the family’s statement.
Shirley Temple, the enchanting singing and dancing child star with the glowing corkscrew curls who saved a Hollywood studio and helped yank America from the throes of the Great Depression, died Monday night. She was 85.
Temple died of natural causes at her Woodside, Calif., home surrounded by her family and caregivers, said a statement from her agent.
Temple recently had begun receiving hospice care, her nephew, Richard Black, told The Hollywood Reporter.
Making $1,250 a week at age 6, the incandescent Temple was a veteran of 46 features and one-reelers before she turned 13. A huge star in a pint-sized package, she received an average of 16,000 letters a month, and for one birthday, fans sent her 167,000 presents. She was the subject of a Salvador Dali surrealistic painting, and a non-alcoholic drink garnished with a maraschino cherry was invented and named after her so kids and adults could “imbibe” together.
A bigger box-office draw than Clark Gable (another actor with famous dimples), Temple captivated moviegoers with her furrowed brow, perplexed pouts and unrelenting cheeriness in such films as Bright Eyes (1934), in which she belted out her signature song, “The Good Ship Lollipop.”
“On the good ship Lollipop … It’s a sweet trip to a candy shop … Where bon-bons play … On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay,” she sang. The sheet music sold a half-million copies.
With the country still reeling from the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt proclaimed, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.” Her influence extended to lands far away: Looking to curry favor with America, foreign dignitaries sent her such gifts as a miniature, drivable Rolls-Royce (from the Aga Khan in the Middle East) and a kid-size jade elephant (from China).
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Temple at age 6 with the first Juvenile Academy Award “in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year 1934.” She is the youngest person ever to receive an Oscar statuette, miniature or otherwise.
Temple appeared in six other features that year, including the musical Stand Up and Cheer! She only had a small part in that movie — the plot sees the U.S. government creating a “Department of Amusement” to shake the nation from its Depression doldrums – but the picture quickly made Fox realize what a valuable asset it had on its hands.
On the verge of bankruptcy and tens of millions of dollars in debt, Fox merged with Twentieth Century Pictures in 1935, and studio chief Darryl F. Zanuck made the adorable tot his No. 1 priority. He put the finest talent on the lot to work on her pictures, and the Shirley Temple Development Division at one time employed 19 writers.
Four of Temple’s most memorable films were released in 1935, including The Little Colonel, a Civil War drama with music where she tap-danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson on a staircase in one of the most enchanting cinematic sequences of all time.
She followed up that year with Our Little Girl and Curly Top