[EDITORS NOTE: Some celebrities that leave us haven’t had much of an imprint on nerdom, but sometimes their status in pop culture trumps what’s nerdy. Their presence and influence need to be saluted.]
Perhaps the most successful and ubiquitous child star of all time, Shirley Temple passed away Monday night, February 10, 2014. She died of natural causes at her home in Woodside, CA, a suburb of San Francisco.
Temple was one of the most successful actors of her time. She appeared in dozens of films in the 1930s and 40s, served as a United States ambassador, hosted a television series and penned a best-selling autobiography, Child Star, in 1988.
Temple’s acting career, which would earn her two lifetime achievement awards, began when she was just three years old. She appeared in about a dozen Baby Burlesks shorts before breaking out in her first feature film, Stand Up And Cheer! in 1934. Her first headlining role would come later that year in Bright Eyes, the film that included the song “On The Good Ship Lollipop“, Temple’s signature number.
From 1935 through 1938, Temple was the nation’s number one box office draw. Among those she topped were Clark Gable, Bing Crosby and Gary Cooper. It is widely believed her success saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy. Temple even had a very popular cocktail named after her. Enjoyed by children (and adults) even today, the drink consists of ginger ale, grenadine and a maraschino cherry.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt even named Temple in a speech during the Great Depression, claiming “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right. When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”
After starring in dozens of films, Shirley Temple retired from acting in 1952 at the age of 22. Having married Charles Black, she became known as Shirley Temple Black in her private life. That marriage would last over fifty years until Charles Black died in 2005.
Temple returned to the entertainment industry in 1958, hosting and narrating over forty episodes of Shirley Temple’s Storybook, a television series that would run for two seasons.
Leaving show business behind for a second time, Temple became active in US politics. She launched an unsuccessful Congressional bid, but became a popular US diplomat. She was a United Nations delegate for five years, an ambassador to Ghana and an ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. In these positions, she was primarily an advocate for human rights.
Her family released a statement, saying “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.”
Temple is survived by three grown children and many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
A remembrance guest book will be set up online at shirleytemple.com