Shirley Temple — iconic child movie star, diplomat — dies at 85
BY HILLEL ITALIE February 11, 2014 5:12AM
5 GREAT SHIRLEY TEMPLE FILMS
“Bright Eyes” (1934): As Temple sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop” in the aisle of an airplane, the rows of adoring men swoon at the cuteness.
“The Little Colonel” (1935): Separated by race, decades in age and several feet in height, Temple and tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson were nevertheless a perfect match, particularly in their famous staircase dance sequence.
“Curly Top” (1935): The New York Times review said Temple played her dramatic scenes “with the precision of a veteran actress.” Though a child, Temple was often the best actor in her films.
“Wee Willie Winkie” (1937): Long before John Ford teamed up with John Wayne, he directed the slightly more diminutive Temple in this film loosely based on a Rudyard Kipling short story.
“Heidi” (1937): Temple often played orphans, including in Allan Dwan’s drama about a Swiss girl kidnapped by her grandmother and taken to live richly in Germany. —Jake Coyle, AP
Updated: February 11, 2014 8:46PM
Any kid who ever tap-danced at a talent show or put on a curly wig and auditioned for “Annie” can only dream of being as beloved — or as important — as Shirley Temple.
Ms. Temple, who died Monday night at 85, sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of downcast Depression-era moviegoers and remains the ultimate child star decades later.
Dimpled, precocious and oh-so-adorable, she was America’s top box office draw during Hollywood’s golden age, and her image was free of the scandals that have plagued Miley Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan and so many other child stars — parental feuds, drugs, alcohol.
Her hit movies — which included “Bright Eyes” (1934), “Curly Top” (1935), “Dimples” (1936), “Poor Little Rich Girl” (1936) and “Heidi” (1937) — featured sentimental themes and musical subplots, with stories of resilience and optimism that a struggling American public found appealing.
She was also a tribute to the economic and inspirational power of movies, credited with helping to save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy and praised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself for lifting America’s spirits during a gloomy time.
“With Shirley, you’d just tell her once and she’d remember the rest of her life,” her frequent director Allan Dwan told Peter Bogdanovich in his book “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors.”
“Whatever it was she was supposed to do — she’d do it. ... And if one of the actors got stuck, she’d tell him what his line was — she knew it better than he did.”
Her achievements did not end with movies. Retired from acting at 21, she went on to hold several diplomatic posts in Republican administrations, including ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the sudden collapse of communism in 1989.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Black to the post in Prague, saluted her Tuesday for “her selfless service to our country” and her film career.
Ms. Temple, known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, died at her home near San Francisco. The cause of death was not disclosed.