About Shirley Jane Black (Temple)
Academy Award-winning actress and tap dancer Shirley Temple is an iconic American child actress of the 1930s who enjoyed a notable career as a diplomat as an adult. After rising to an amazing burst of fame at the age of six with her breakthrough performance in Bright Eyes in 1934, she starred in a series of highly successful films which won her widespread public adulation and saw her become the top grossing star at the American box-office during the height of the Great Depression. In later life, she became a United States ambassador and diplomat.
Shirley Jane Temple was born on April 23, 1928 to George Francis Temple, a businessman and banker, and Gertrude Amelia Krieger in Santa Monica, California. She has two brothers, Jack and George, Jr. Her mother loved dancing and this directed Temple towards performing. Gertrude was a constant presence on the lot during Temple's childhood acting years, helping her learn her lines, and controlled her wardrobe. Biographer Ann said Temple's famous hair style, known as the "Shirley Temple Curls," was also under the control of Gertrude, who ensured there were exactly 52 ringlets in her hair for each take.
Temple's first contract was with Educational Pictures Inc., for whom she worked in 1932 and 1933. She appeared in a short movie entitled Baby Burlesks, followed by a two-reeler, Frolics of Youth, that would lead to her being contracted by the Fox Film Corporation at a salary of $150 per week. The first full-length feature that she appeared in for Fox was Carolina (1934). It was another Fox release of that year that made her a star: Stand Up and Cheer. She appeared in eight other full-length films that year, including Little Miss Marker and Bright Eyes. The first of these is especially notable because it was her first starring role. In 1934 the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences awarded her with a special miniature Oscar "in grateful recognition of her outstanding contribution to screen entertainment during the year, 1934."
By 1937, Temple was the Number One star in Hollywood for three years running and that year reached her zenith in "Heidi", "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and "Wee Willie Winkie". Within three years, however, the inevitable backlash occurred. She slipped from the top spot as she aged and as efforts like "The Little Princess" (1939) and "The Blue Bird" (1940) drew less attention, the studio began to offer less support. Quarrels with the top brass at Fox led to Temple's defection to MGM. Metro, however, did not know how to utilize her and after only two films ("Kathleen" 1941 and "Miss Annie Rooney" 1942), she signed with David O Selznick.
In "Since You Went Away" (1944), Temple was overshadowed by Claudette Colbert (as her mother) and Jennifer Jones (as her older sister). While some felt she was awkward in as Ginger Rogers' cousin in "I'll Be Seeing You" (also 1944), it was more an issue of people not wanting her to grow up. Temple remained an accomplished actress as she matured but the special qualities that made her a child star did not translate to the young adult. She proved effective opposite Cary Grant in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) but by 1950, her film career was effectively ended. Temple moved to the small screen to host and act in a series of 16 specials aired under the umbrella title "Shirley Temple's Storybook" (ABC, 1959), which featured familiar fairy tales and children's entertainment. In 1960, she switched networks to NBC where the series aired under the title "The Shirley Temple Show". Now married to her second husband businessman Charles Black, she retired to concentrate on raising a family.
Her concern over domestic social problems caused her to realize that life as a private citizen could not satisfy her desire to make the world a better place. She ran for Congress in 1967 and was defeated. This was only the beginning of her involvement in public service, however. In 1969 she was appointed to serve as a representative to the United Nations (UN), a multinational organization aimed at world peace. Her work at the United Nations led to a second career for Shirley Temple Black. In 1972 she was appointed representative to the UN Conference on the Human Environment and also served as a representative on the Joint Committee for the USSR-USA Environmental Treaty. The next year she served as a U.S. commissioner for the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
She overcame a great challenge in 1972 when she successfully battled breast cancer. When she publicly disclosed that she had had a mastectomy (the surgical removal of a breast), she gave courage to millions of women. Two years later she was appointed ambassador to Ghana, where the people of that nation warmly received her. In all of her various diplomatic functions, Temple's intelligence and spirit contributed greatly to her country's reputation and furthered its world position. Democratic President Jimmy Carter (1924–) paid tribute to her tact and flawless taste when he chose her to make the arrangements for his inauguration (swearing in as president) and inaugural ball in 1977.
By 1981 she was such an established pillar of the public service community that she became one of the founding members of the American Academy of Diplomacy. In 1988 she was appointed Honorary Foreign Service Officer of the United States, the only person with that rank. She went on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia (today known as the Czech Republic and Slovakia) from 1989 until 1992. Such honors are ultimately the true measure of her career's meaning.
Latter-day film industry recognition such as the Life Achievement Award of the American Center of Films for Children or the full-sized Oscar that Black was given in 1985 were echoes of a past that, while still meaningful for "Shirley Temple," were not quite relevant for Shirley Temple Black. According to the child star, her more than twenty-five years of social service have been just as enjoyable as her years in Hollywood.
She has demonstrated through her lifetime of service in the arts and public life, that spirit of self-sacrifice and hard work that Americans have aspired to for generations. She is regarded as a true American heroine. Her lifetime achievements were duly honored on December 6, 2001, when she was honored in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.
In 2004, Temple teamed with Legend Films to restore, colorize and release her earliest black and white films, as well as episodes of her 1960 television series (originally shot on color videotape), The Shirley Temple Storybook Collection.
The Screen Actors Guild awarded Temple with the Guild's most prestigious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Temple received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.
At the age of 17, Temple was married to soldier-turned-actor John Agar on September 19, 1945. They had one daughter, Linda Susan Agar (later known as Susan Falaschi), born on January 30, 1948. Temple filed for divorce in late 1949, with the divorce becoming final on December 5, 1950. In early 1950, while vacationing in Hawaii, Temple met and fell in love with California businessman Charles Alden Black. They married on December 16 that year. Together, they had two children: Charles Alden Black Jr., born April 29, 1952, and Lori Black, born April 9, 1954. They remained married until Charles's death from myelodysplastic syndrome (a bone marrow disease), at age 86, on August 4, 2005. Temple has two granddaughters, Teresa (Falaschi) Caltabiano (b. 1980), Susan's daughter and Lily Jane Caltabiano (b. 2007).
There were many Temple-based products manufactured and released during the 1930s. Ideal's Temple dolls, first made in 1934, dressed in costumes from the movies, were top sellers. Original Shirley Temple dolls bring in hundreds of dollars on the secondary market today. Other successful Temple items included a line of girls' dresses, hairbows, bracelets and handkerchiefs. A popular breakfast set, consisting of a mug, pitcher and cereal bowl in cobalt blue and featuring a decal of Temple, was given away as a premium with Wheaties and Bisquick. Several of Temple's film songs, including "On the Good Ship Lollipop"(from Bright Eyes), "Animal Crackers in My Soup" (from Curly Top) and "Goodnight My Love" (from Stowaway) were popular radio hits. She frequently lent her likeness and talent to promoting various social causes, including the Red Cross.