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|Shirley Temple Black
child actress-turned diplomat
Shirley Jane Temple was born in Santa Monica, California, on April 23, 1928.
Wanting her daughter to become a professional dancer, Mrs. Temple enrolled Shirley in a dance school at the age of 3. In 1932, Shirley was spotted by an agent from Educational Pictures and chosen to appear in a string of low-budget movies called "Baby Burlesques," in which 4- and 5-year children parodied well-known adult fims like The Front Page (The Runt Page) and What Price Glory (War Babies).
"Baby Burlesques" led to a contract with the Fox Film Corporation, and Shirley made her first feature film appearance (uncredited) at the age of 6, in Carolina (1934). Her career really took off, however, when she played James Dunns daughter in the Fox fantasy Stand Up and Cheer (1934). By the end of 1934 she had also made Little Miss Marker (while on loan to Paramount) and Bright Eyes. Her rendition of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" in the latter film earned her a special Academy Award for "Outstanding Personality of 1934." By 1940 she had appeared in 43 films.
From 1935 to 1939 Shirley Temple was the most popular movie star in America, with Clark Gable a distant second. She received more mail than Greta Garbo and was photographed more often than President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Her star dimmed quickly, however, after she reached adolescence. After The Blue Bird (1940) failed at the box office, Fox chose not to renew the 12-year-old's contract. MGM signed Temple to a contract a few months later, but Temple was no longer able to draw audiences. Her appearance in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) won critical acclaim, but audiences had difficulty adjusting to a grown up Shirley Temple. She made her last major film appearance opposite John Wayne in Fort Apache (1948), and retired from the silver screen at the age of 22. She briefly returned to show business in 1958, as the host and an occasional performer on the television series Shirley Temples Storybook, an anthology of fairy-tale adaptations that ran until 1961.
On September 19, 1945, Tenple married John Agar, Jr., a 24-year-old Army Air Corps sergeant. The marriage yielded one child, a daughter named Linda Susan, before ending in divorce in December 1949.
On December 16, 1950, Temple married Charles Alden Black, then the 30-year-old assistant to the president of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company. The couple had one son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori. Their marriage lasted until his death in 2005.
By the early 1960's Shirley Temple Black was president of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and co-founder of the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies.
In 1967, Black ran for the U. S. House of Representatives seat vacated by the death of California Republican J. Arthur Younger. She hoped to emulate the successes of George Murphy, her dancing partner in Little Miss Broadway (1938), who had become a U. S. Senator, and Ronald Reagan, with whom she had appeared in That Hagen Girl (1947), who had become Governor of California, but was unsuccessful.
In 1969, President Richard Nixon appointed her to the five-member United States delegation to the 24th session of the United Nations General Assembly. During her one-year tenure she spoke out about the problems of the aged, the plight of refugees and, especially, environmental problems. She went on to win wide respect as the United States ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, President Gerald R. Fords chief of protocol in 1976 and 1977, and ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.
Shirley Temple Black died at her home in Woodside, California, on February 10, 2014.
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This page was last updated on 01/16/2019.