RIP, Shirley Temple Black

posted at 8:01 am on February 11, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

She lifted the hearts of an entire nation when it was at one of its lowest points in history. She later went on to serve her country in diplomacy abroad. She was, really, the first woman who could claim to have been America’s Sweetheart, and she claimed that title with her singing, dancing, and acting before most children would finished the first grade. Her staying power lasted at least long enough for our family to grow up on her films, 40 years after they were made.

And now Shirley Temple Black belongs to the ages:

From 1935 through 1938, the curly-haired moppet billed as Shirley Temple was the top box-office draw in the nation. She saved what became 20th Century Fox studios from bankruptcy and made more than 40 movies before she turned 12.

Hollywood recognized the enchanting, dimpled scene-stealer’s importance to the industry with a “special award” – a miniature Oscar – at the Academy Awards for 1934, the year she sang and danced her way into America’s collective heart.

After she sang “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in “Bright Eyes,” the song became a hit and the studio set up Shirley Temple Development, a department dedicated to churning out formulaic scripts that usually featured the cheerful, poised Shirley as the accidental Little Miss Fix-It who could charm any problem away.

Her most memorable performances included four films she made with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a black dancer 50 years her senior and a favorite co-star, she later said.

They were first paired as foils for cantankerous Lionel Barrymore in 1935’s “The Little Colonel,” in which 7-year-old Shirley tap dances up and down the staircase, remarkably matching the veteran Robinson step for step.

Here she is in Bright Eyes performing her signature song:

Normally the passing of a film star of that era of natural causes would not be news, but this was no ordinary film star, either. Shirley Temple became an icon during the Depression of hope and optimism, and her cultural impact during that period and for decades afterward cannot be overestimated. She had a remarkably long career for a child star in an era when they were even more disposable than today. One of my favorite performances of hers came in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer when Temple was nearly 20, playing the starry-eyed teen who becomes infatuated with Cary Grant — a marvelous screwball comedy that also starred Myrna Loy, and well worth the time to track it down.

Shortly afterward, Temple left acting behind for marriage and family life. The LA Times article has all of the details of her post-celebrity life, the highlight of which for her was her three years as US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989-1992. She was there for the collapse of the Soviet Union and the fall of the Iron Curtain across eastern Europe.

Temple never seemed at ease with her former life, but never seemed to need to reference it, either. The fortune she made as a little girl had disappeared before she got out of acting, but as the Times notes, she never seemed to resent it. She had moved on to live a full life, even while the rest of America remained in love with our national sweetheart — generation after generation.

Rest in peace, Shirley, and Godspeed. Thank you for all the lovely memories and your service to the country.


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Thanks verby.

NOMOBO on February 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM

I agree.

Brat on February 11, 2014 at 12:12 PM

She was a class act. Of course, entertainment for the most part was a lot classier then than it is today.

scalleywag on February 11, 2014 at 12:21 PM

If she is singing and dancing up there you can bet it doesn’t involve twerking and hanging her tongue out.

scalleywag on February 11, 2014 at 12:23 PM

I can’t imagine a childhood without some Shirley Temple in it, ave atque vale.

Knott Buyinit on February 11, 2014 at 12:28 PM

Re: rickv404

You know a person has a dark, inhumane soul when they can’t keep their mouth shut when a person like Shirley Temple dies and feels the need to disparage her memory and to troll her fans. It’s the classic case of someone who is so profoundly unhappy, so monumentally damaged, that they must throw their shadow on everything and anything that shines some light or brings happiness. There is a book written about such a person by the late M. Scott Peck, called “People of the Lie” which is an exploration into the nature of evil.

factsonlypls on February 11, 2014 at 1:04 PM

Would seem to be a life fully lived. My Mother was upset by the news. For two reasons. The obvious of course and the fact that she (my Mother) is out living all she ever knew.

RIP

Bmore on February 11, 2014 at 1:06 PM

She was ok. Cuteness was all she had. She was a terrible singer.
rickv404 on February 11, 2014 at 8:29 AM

Cuteness was not all she had. You obviously know nothing about dancing skills. As someone who does know tap as well as other dance I can tell you that she had tons of talent. Her ability at such a young age to complete those routines and steps is nothing short of remarkable. If you don’t believe me go to a dance recital of pre-schoolers and learn just how great her talent was.
As for her singing, much of it was the recording methods available at the time. If you ever listen to an old recording of Caruso you’ll know what I’m talking about. Well maybe you would, you’d have to know who Caruso was though.

RIP Shirley

Deanna on February 11, 2014 at 1:16 PM

According to the L.A. Times she learned her and her co-stars lines. Truly a professional at such a young age. I’m sure she also prepared for her foreign service by learning the language (or at least enough to show respect to that nations dignitaries) and reading up on the culture and politics of the country she served in, before accepting the job. Thank you for the gamut of emotions, especially the laughter and feelings of hope, Mrs. Black.

31giddyup on February 11, 2014 at 1:21 PM

BTW, it’s nice to see that verbaluce actually does have something intelligent to say once in a while. His comments on this thread have reminded me that liberal progressives are also human beings–misguided human beings, but human beings nonetheless. Thanks verby.

NOMOBO on February 11, 2014 at 12:00 PM

Um…thank you?
But I give props to Shirley Temple.
Her charm moots the usual friction.

verbaluce on February 11, 2014 at 1:23 PM

If you’re younger than 40, you have no idea what’s been stolen from you.

Cleombrotus on February 11, 2014 at 9:25 AM

Nor are they cognizant of the fact that what they call “modern entertainment” is a reeking pile of filth that has adversely altered their brain chemistry and damaged their souls — to the extent that only a miracle from God could ever heal them. Most no longer even have enough will-power to turn away from it. They are slaves to it, and they will argue that Charlie Sheen is somehow…”funny”. Their folly will finally be made known to them, but only after it is too late for many of them.

My collie says:

Okay, now get off the lawn!

CyberCipher on February 11, 2014 at 1:25 PM

Let’s hope she’s having a great time on the “Good Ship Lolly Pop!”

Twana on February 11, 2014 at 2:06 PM

My dad had told me that when he was young my grandmother would always take her children to see Shirley Temple movies. She was part of growing up during the Depression.

When I was little it was always a treat whenever one of her movies was shown on television.

RIP, Shirley Temple Black. Thanks for the good memories.

INC on February 11, 2014 at 2:36 PM

BTW, has anyone yet mentioned that she was a Republican?

I believe when she was an ambassador to Ghana, she was on a visit within the country and dancing was done in welcome. She immediately picked up the steps and danced them. I’ve looked for a video of that on YouTube, but I haven’t been able to find it.

INC on February 11, 2014 at 2:51 PM

http://www.shirleytemple.com/

the official web page…
with the familys note on her passing..
national treasure to be sure..
perhaps the most famous America woman in the last 100years..
prayers for here family..

going2mars on February 11, 2014 at 3:13 PM

RIP Shirley Temple.

Texyank on February 11, 2014 at 3:57 PM

Very sad. Rest in Peace.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 11, 2014 at 4:10 PM

Sorry but that video is creeeeepy, where are the women? It’s all dudes and a little girl

jephthah on February 11, 2014 at 8:07 AM

Shame on you…you…democrat.

timberline on February 11, 2014 at 4:42 PM

INC on February 11, 2014 at 2:51 PM

Hi INC

Here’s how lefty twitterers treat deceased Republicans. Predictable and pathetic.

http://twitchy.com/2014/02/11/fck-shirley-temple-lefties-bash-late-republican-star-smear-her-as-roaring-racist/

And the San Fran Chronicle editors did not feel the need to put icon or legend in their headline.

http://sfist.com/2014/02/11/shirley_temple_neither_icon_nor_leg.php

Brat on February 11, 2014 at 4:52 PM

She was ok. Cuteness was all she had. She was a terrible singer. The only movie of hers I was ever able to sit through was “The Little Princess”. There was no music in that.

rickv404 on February 11, 2014 at 8:29 AM

How many films have you starred in? And what talent did you bring to the role?

Such a petty person you are. She probably accomplished more before her fifth birthday than you will in the entirety of your miserable life.

Maddie on February 11, 2014 at 5:49 PM

Hi INC

Here’s how lefty twitterers treat deceased Republicans. Predictable and pathetic.

http://twitchy.com/2014/02/11/fck-shirley-temple-lefties-bash-late-republican-star-smear-her-as-roaring-racist/

And the San Fran Chronicle editors did not feel the need to put icon or legend in their headline.

http://sfist.com/2014/02/11/shirley_temple_neither_icon_nor_leg.php

Brat on February 11, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Good. I’m sure the Lefties won’t mind if, when BO finally passes away, we refer to him as the ba$tard offspring of a wh0re mother who tried to turn our once-beautiful country into a Socialist hellhole.

Maddie on February 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Good. I’m sure the Lefties won’t mind if, when BO finally passes away, we refer to him as the ba$tard offspring of a wh0re mother who tried to turn our once-beautiful country into a Socialist hellhole.

Maddie on February 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

They have, zero class.

hawkdriver on February 11, 2014 at 6:37 PM

Would seem to be a life fully lived. My Mother was upset by the news. For two reasons. The obvious of course and the fact that she (my Mother) is out living all she ever knew.

RIP

Bmore on February 11, 2014 at 1:06 PM

Mine too, Bmore… sad, very sad.

vamp57mw on February 11, 2014 at 7:18 PM

She was one for the many. Genuine child star and now a star in heaven.

God speed Shirley Black – keep the dancing going up there.

OneConservative on February 11, 2014 at 10:49 PM

What a wonderful example for kids. Too bad kids nowdays just have rappadapdap and Freddy the F****t to learn from. The Beatles started entertainment’s downslide and its full speed ahead. Sad. RIP CurlyTop!

AReadyRepub on February 11, 2014 at 11:23 PM

Brat on February 11, 2014 at 4:52 PM

Hey! Thanks for the info. You’d think that even if they disagreed with her politics they could recognize her contribution to film and to the country during the Depression. The Left is simply full of hate.

INC on February 11, 2014 at 11:32 PM

“She slipped the surly bonds of Earth to touch the face of God”.
Ronald Reagan…paraphrased.

*clink* my Shirley Temple

AppraisHer on February 12, 2014 at 2:45 AM

I have yet to see a Shirley Temple film, but she seemed like a true class act. Godspeed.

iceybloop on February 12, 2014 at 5:41 AM

Good. I’m sure the Lefties won’t mind if, when BO finally passes away, we refer to him as the ba$tard offspring of a wh0re mother who tried to turn our once-beautiful country into a Socialist hellhole.

Maddie on February 11, 2014 at 5:57 PM

Hell, why wait till he’s dead. That could take years and, the truth is the truth.

Mr. Grump on February 12, 2014 at 9:20 AM

She was unimaginably adorable.

Watch some of her work on YouTube.

Then watch Miley Cyrus at that music show. Twerking.

It’s like comparing Elizabeth II to a $5 street swallower.

This society is doomed.

thejackal on February 12, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Doomed. DOOMED, I TELL YOU!

Sorry. Getting my Mallory Archer on.

thejackal on February 12, 2014 at 10:48 AM

I loved Shirley Temple movies. Little Princess is one of my favorites. That she was a Republican was just icing on the cake. God Bless you Shirley and God comfort her family. Hers was a life fully lived.

neyney on February 12, 2014 at 12:04 PM

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