Feb 13, 2014

American Historical Figures: Shirley Temple Black

Shirley Temple Black famed child star and diplomat, died on February 10th, 2014. She was 85 years old. Surrounded by her family and friends, she passed in her Woodside, California home.
She was born on April 23rd, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, her birth name was Shirley Jane Temple, her mother, Gertrude Temple. Her father was George Temple, a banker. Shirley began her film career at age 3 in 1932. By 1934 she had gained international fame after her film Bright Eyes. In 1935 she received an outstanding contribution award for the 1934 films Curly Top and Heidi

The 1930s was the scene of a terrible economic depression that affected Europe and the United States. The Great Depression was an iconic name because it denoted not only the dismal economic situation, but the general mood of the public. Musicals were a big hit because gaiety was sorely needed, but when Shirley came upon the scene, her films stole the heart of America and Europe with her genuine child innocence. At a time when admission to a movie theatre was 15¢, entertainment was an escape from the depressing reality of life. She was also a boost for the film company she was contracted to, struggling to prevent bankruptcy in such a dire financial time. Indeed, the original film company that signed the three-year-old up for stardom had gone under, but she made money for many afterwards.
Licensed merchandise representing Shirley soon filled the shelves at stores that included dolls, dishes and clothing.
Her mother thrilled at having a daughter after bearing two sons, encouraged her infant to sing and dance as she learned to walk. Her mother styled her hair in curly ringlets and caught the eye of Charles Lamont, a casting director for Educational Pictures.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose New Deal and promises to get the nation out of depression, proclaimed:
As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.
Carole Lombard, Shirley Temple, and Gary Cooper
But Educational Pictures declared bankruptcy in 1933, so Shirley was signed with Fox Film Corporation in 1934. She appeared in bit parts with screen greats like Gary Cooper (in photo above - Now or Forever) and was loaned to Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros for other bit parts. Soon she became the symbol of family entertainment and her $150 a week salary was raised to $1,250 a week and her mother received $200 a week as her coach and hairdresser. In addition, the contract provided Shirley rights to merchandise in her name. In June of 1934 she was loaned out to Paramount who produced Little Miss Marker.
In December of 1934, Bright Eyes was released and was the first time her name appeared above the title of the film. The signature song in the film was On the Good Ship Lollipop, which sold 500,000 sheet music copies. In 1935, Shirley was presented with the first child star Juvenile Oscar award for her film accomplishments in 1934. 
Shirley Temple's growing talents became obvious and during a time when musical films were popular, she became a major part of classical films of the era performing with stars of the era who all loved working with her:

Grauman Chinese Theatre
No other child star received as much awards as she did in her career. Her foot and hand prints were added to the forecourt at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in the same year. It was also the same year that Fox Films merged with Twentieth Century Pictures to become 20th Century Fox (1934). Nineteen writers were assigned as part of the Shirley Temple Story Development team that created 11 original stories and some adaptations from the classics. Her cute innocence and bubbly personality was not just acting, she did well because of her unique personality. Coached by her mother before she could read for her lines the next day, she not only knew her own lines but knew the other actors' lines as well; correcting them if they made a mistake in her sweet and gentle way. 

She touched the hearts of millions of people during those trying depressive times, as well as softening the hearts of even cynical actors that surrounded her. She was genuine as how portrayed on film. President FDR stated:
It is a splendid thing that for just fifteen cents an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.
Shirley and her parents knew through Shirley's screen fame, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt during the Depression and in late 1935 made a trip to Washington DC for their first meeting.
Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley
The Temple family spent time at a cook-out at their home in Hyde Park, New York; where Eleanor Roosevelt, while bending over an outdoor grill, was hit in the rear by a pebble from the slingshot that Shirley carried everywhere in her lace purse. She got an old-fashioned spanking for that act, 

Yet, all through the 1930s, the Roosevelts, especially Eleanor, who adored Shirley despite the slingshot episode, would visit each other from time to time. 

Shirley's parents agreed to four films per year, one more than originally wanted, and bonuses were added to her contract. 

Duke and Shirley
 One of her favorite actors she enjoyed working with Bill Bojangles Robinson.
The films that followed were: The Little Colonel, Our Little Girl, Curly Top (Animal Crackers in My Soup song), and The Littlest Rebel in 1935. 


In 1936, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples, and Stowaway were released. 
The following is the Toy Trumpet scene ...

Shirley made a solid example of her entertaining talents in Captain January with young dancer Buddy Ebsen ...

In Dimples, Shirley was upstaged for the first time in her career by Frank Morgan who played Professor Appleby. He is mostly remembered for his performance as Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper of Emerald City, the coachman, the guard, and the "Great and Terrible" Wizard in The Wizard of Oz (1939), the first film in Technicolor. Shirley Temple was originally destined to play the role of Dorothy, but the child actress, Judy Garland got the part and the rest became history; just as W.C. Fields was supposed to get the part of the Wizard, but Frank Morgan got it because Fields kept arguing over his fee. All for the best because Fields was a drunk and hated children; and Garland had a richer singing voice than Temple. It all worked out for the best. Frank Morgan acted out the parts better than Fields could ever do.
In 1938, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Miss Broadway, and Just Around the Corner were released. The latter two films received bad reviews by critics and the Corner film was the first time a Temple film slumped in ticket sales.
In 1939, 20th Century Fox procured the rights to a children's novel entitle The Little Princess and budgeted the film at $1.5 million and was the first Temple film in the new Technicolor. The film became a critical and commercial success. Zanuck was the one who declined the MGM offer to star as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz because he had her star in Susannah of the Mounties
Caesar Romero and Shirley in "Wee Willie Winkie"
In 1940, Temple starred in two films that became flops: The Blue Bird and Young People. In that year, Shirley's parents bought the remainder of the contract and sent her to Westlake School for Girls at age 12. It would be the first time she did not attend classes with a private tutor. Temple's bungalow, where she had lived during her starring roles was removed.
One year after Shirley departed from acting for 20th Century Fox, she worked radio with four shows for Lux soap and a four-part Shirley Temple Time for Elgin Watch Company. She enjoyed radio, stating:
It's adorable. I get a big thrill out of it, and I want to do as much radio work as I can.
Since You Went Away, 1944
Shirley was to sign on with MGM to team up with child stars Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney for the Andy Hardy series, but the idea as abandoned and MGM did not use her for the musical Babes on Broadway for fear that Temple would have been upstaged. The only film Shirley performed in 1941 was Kathleen. That film was not a success because Temple portrayed an unhappy teenager and the MGM contract was canceled.
In 1942, United Artists produced Miss Annie Rooney with Shirley Temple, but that was also unsuccessful. It was not that Shirley's acting was unacceptable, the American audience could not picture or accept America's little darling growing up. For almost two years, Shirley stayed away from film making.
During the war she helped out with USO projects and supporting Americans fighting in a world war, and in 1944, David O. Selznick signed Shirley to a four-year contract which she acted in Since You Went Away and I'll Be Seeing You. She was loaned to other studios and acted in Kiss and Tell, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and Fort Apache, a few of her films that were good, but at least did not lose money. 
Story of Sea Biscuit, 1950
When Shirley lost the role of Peter Pan on Broadway in 1950, she stood back and looked at her work between 1941 and 1950 and decided to announce she was officially retiring from films. During that time Shirley made a lot of money on Temple products that were re-released by Ideal Toy Company and those childhood memories sold well.
In 1943, Shirley was 15-years-old when she met John Agar, an Army Air Corps sergeant, physical training instructor, and a member of a Chicago meat-packing family (Agar Meats). They married when she was 17 and her husband and Shirley co-starred in two films: Fort Apache and Adventure in Baltimore. They had a daughter together, Linda Susan Agar, later changed to Susan Black, surname of stepfather. Agar also did other films with John Wayne besides Fort Apache: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon and The Sands of Iwo Jima. The marriage was unsuccessful because of John's excessive drinking that caused him to be arrested for drunk driving. Shirley sued for divorce for mental cruelty in 1949. After that, Agar could only get “B” movie parts, but that did not seem to bother him because he enjoyed acting and Science Fiction was fun to portray. Shirley restored her maiden name at the divorce and total custody of their daughter.
Shirley and Charles
In January of 1950, Shirley met Charles Alden Black, a WWII US Navy intelligence officer, who received the Silver Star, and who was Assistant to the President of Hawaiian Pineapple Company.
He was the son of James B. Black, president of Pacific Gas and Electric, reputedly one of the richest young men in California.
Shirley's husband, Charles, was recalled to the Navy when the Korean War broke out, so the family relocated to Washington, DC. It was there that Shirley gave birth to their son, Charles Alden Black, Jr. on April 28th, 1952. When the war ended and Charles was discharged from the Navy, the family returned to California in 1953. Charles became a director for Stanford Research Institute and the family moved to Atherton, California.
1950s Mother
The couple remained married for 54 years until his death on August 4th, 2005 at their home in Woodside. Shirley would join him in the afterlife from their home in Woodside in 2014.
Shirley did some television work in 1958, a successful NBC fairy tale series called Shirley Temple's Storybook that she enjoyed doing. The show was reworked and shot in color in September of 1960 and became The Shirley Temple Show, but it faced competition with other successful TV shows and in the fall of 1961 it was canceled. Meanwhile, the Ideal Toy Company released a new version of the Shirley Temple doll and Random House published three fairy tale anthologies under Temple's name. It was a business success for Shirley.
The Black Family
US Ambassador speaks to USAF Officer
After her stint in television, Shirley became active in the Republican Party in California and even ran for office in 1967 in a special election fill a vacant seat in the 11th congressional district – but lost to a law professor Pete McCloskey. Shirley continued to stay involved in California politics, and in 1969 she was appointed to the United Nations Assembly by President Richard M. Nixon. She was also appointed US Ambassador to Ghana between 1974 and 1976 by President Gerald R. Ford. She became the first female Chief of Protocol of the US (1976-1977) and was in charge of the inauguration arrangements and inaugural ball for President Jimmy Carter. Shirley served as US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (1989-1992), appointed by President George H.W. Bush.
In 1972, Shirley was diagnosed with breast cancer and went public with it in an effort to encourage women to be open about such things and to encourage women to have themselves checked regularly.
Shirley served on several boards that included The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte, Bank of America and National Wildlife Federation
Hollywood could never spread any gossip, even when some tried, not just because she had remained a person of good character, and chose another avenue of life away from Hollywood as a mother, wife and a community and patriotic-minded citizen who would serve our nation in the diplomatic corps for thirty years as well as board member of prestigious companies like Disney.
She was the model mother and enjoyed being a mother, hoping for the wonderful childhood (without too much publicity) for her children as she had with her parents and friends ...
In 1972, Shirley Temple Black was interviewed by the BBC and her humor and good grace still stood out ...
Fans of Shirley Temple who remember her for her wholesomeness and never knew that she was a life-long smoker when she died. I certainly never knew. Shirley kept it a secret all that time in order to not set a bad example for her fans. Of course, Daily Mall, UK made a big deal about it saying she died because she had been a smoker, but then again, at 85 one could die from most anything even if never smoking. Does that change the fact that she was a loved child star, loving mother and a great service to her nation? Progressives make me ill. Granted, smoking increases possibility of health problems, no argument; however, it is none of the bed-wetter's business what people decide to choose in their lives. So much misery from alcoholism but see no rampage against that habit. But once again, a person's personal choice.
She is survived by her three children, as well as granddaughter and two great-grandchildren. She was 85.
At Shirley's website, her family placed a lovely remembrance page for her.
If you look at any of her pictures throughout the periods of her life, you can always see the image of the little curly-headed girl that stole the hearts of Americans from children to seniors and across the generations. She grew to be a fine adult, unlike too many child stars who suffer tragedy because her parents were loving and did not exploit her and she did not allow the tinsel of Hollywood corrupt her spirit. The following is an interview where she describes her parents, specifically her mother:

A testament to good parenting where discipline and love are mixed equally. Today's children seem not to be allowed to be just children - pushed into the reality world of adulthood so quickly.
In a testament of her good character:
Black told an audience at the Screen Actors’ Guild Awards in 2006, when she received a lifetime achievement award. “I’ve been blessed with three wonderful careers: Motion pictures and television. Wife, mother and grandmother … and diplomatic services for the United States government.”

My deepest condolence to family and those close to Shirley; I am sure she is once again singing On the Good Ship Lollipop in the afterlife. ...
 I never had a daughter, but if I did I always wished she would have the personality of Shirley.
Shirley Temple (Black): 1928-2014
She served her country as a child by gladdening the hearts of millions that spanned generations, and later in life served her country with honor and loyalty with the same smile she kept all her life. Her grace caused inspirations and her fairy-tale adventures as a child provided dreams. I hope this memorandum has performed a justice towards her memory.

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