Happy Birthday Shirley Temple
Beloved child star and diplomat Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, California.
Temple had a talent for singing, dancing, and acting from a very early age. She started going to a dance school when she was just three years old. It was here that Charles Lamont, casting director for Educational Pictures, first discovered her. Though she hid behind the school’s piano, Lamont saw something in Temple and asked her to audition for him.
Temple signed her first contract, with Educational Pictures, in 1932. She then appeared in their Baby Burlesks short films, which had young children acting out recent film and political events. Temple then appeared in the Frolics of Youth series as well as commercials, before earning her first film role, a small part in The Red-Haired Alibi. Then by chance, a Fox Film songwriter happened to see Temple dancing in the lobby of a theater where one of her Frolics of Youth pictures had just played, and invited her to do a screen test.
Temple easily won the part and got her big break in Stand Up and Cheer! She became a star as soon as it was released and soon came to symbolize wholesome family entertainment. Temple had further success in Baby Take a Bow and Little Miss Marker. Then in 1934 Temple starred in Bright Eyes, the first film created specifically for her. This film also introduced her signature song, “On the Good Ship Lollipop.” The following year she was the first child star to receive a miniature Juvenile Oscar. Also in 1935 she put her hand and foot prints in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.
Temple quickly became a beacon of positivity as America trudged through the Depression. President Roosevelt called her “Little Miss Miracle” for her positive effect on America’s morale.
By the mid-1930s, Temple was the top earner for her studio, and there was a team of 19 writers that worked to create 11 original stories and classic adaptations specifically for her. She generally did four movies a year, including the hits The Little Colonel, Our Little Girl, Curly Top, The Littlest Rebel, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Dimples, and Stowaway. In 1937 she appeared in the John Ford-directed Wee Willie Winkie alongside Victor McLaglen and Cesar Romero. The film was Temple’s favorite.
After starring in Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Little Miss Broadway, and Just Around the Corner, Temple appeared in her first color film, The Little Princess. She followed that up with Susannah of the Mounties, her last success with 20th Century Fox. Temple’s 1940 films, The Blue Bird and Young People didn’t perform well. Her parents bought out her contract and sent her to school. She was only 12 years old and had starred in 43 films.
In the early 40s Temple had a radio series, Junior Miss, and signed a contract with MGM, but her films there didn’t fare well either. It seemed that her fans could not accept their favorite child actress was growing up. Temple retired for two years to focus on her education but returned to acting once again, appearing in Kiss and Tell, The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and Fort Apache, among others. None of these movies were major successes, and she retired again in 1950. Temple made a return to entertainment in 1958 when she hosted and narrated Shirley Temple’s Storybrooke. She remained in TV for several years, making appearances on The Red Skelton Show and several others.
By the late 1960s Temple took an interest in politics. After coming in second for a seat in Congress, she was appointed a delegate to the 24th United Nations General Assembly. After this she was made US Ambassador to Ghana and later the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States. In 1989 she was made US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. In Czechoslovakia, she witnessed the end of the Communist regime and helped open diplomatic relations. She also served on several boards of directors including Walt Disney, Bank of America, and the National Wildlife Federation. Temple died in her California home on February 10, 2014.
Click here for a compilation of Temple’s most popular dance numbers.