RIP Shirley Temple Black (April 23, 1928 – February 10, 2014)

There aren’t many left from the golden era (i.e., Depression-era) of Hollywood. And there aren’t many left from that first generation of child actors. In both categories, perhaps in every category, Little Miss Miracle stood alone.

The story of child actors is usually an unhappy one, yet Shirley Jane Temple seemed to avoid the worst of that. First appearing in film at age three, a star by age five, she dominated the screen, appearing in nearly 50 movies in just five years, and is commonly credited with saving 20th Century Fox studios from bankruptcy. She did hit the adolescent road-block common to many precocious performers: as a teenager, she just wasn’t the same sought-after commodity she’d been as a toddler. By the time she was 17, her acting career had all but petered out.

In the years following WWII she embraced a much more private role, that of wife and mother of three children. She was married twice; her second marriage, to Charles Black, lasted from 1950 to his death in 2004. She returned to acting once, in the late ’50s, narrating and occasionally performing on NBC in Shirley Temple’s Storybook. In the 1970s, though, she found what might have been her greatest calling: diplomacy and public service. She served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, was part of the American delegation to the U.N., and was the first woman to hold the office of Chief of Protocol.

The government and people of the U.S. owe her thanks and honors for her years of dedicated service, and no doubt that’s deservedly forthcoming.

But proper or not, we’ll mostly remember her for something else. We’ll remember her for dimples and dance, for singing and sunny optimism. We’ll remember that her childhood was—if not nonexistent then at least far different from most of our own, lived out largely in the public eye, in adoration, in a very successful bid to ease minds and hearts in very uncertain times. She deserves a lot of thanks for that too.

And she certainly has it. Shirley Temple Black died at home in Woodside, California of natural causes on Monday, February 10th, surrounded by family.

About editor, facilitator, decider

Doesn't know much about culture, but knows when it's going to hell in a handbasket.
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