The life of Shirley Temple is as American as apple pie. Born on April 23, 1928, this tiny titan of show business would become an icon of the ages. The youngest of three children, her dimples and mess of curly hair lightened the hearts of men, women and children through some of toughest economic times the country has ever been through.
At the prompting of her mother, this tomboy of a little girl began dancing at Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio in Los Angeles at the age of 3. Discovered by Jack Hays and Charles Lamont, two producers from Educational Films Corporation, Shirley Temple began show business in a series of short films called Baby Burlesks. At $10 a day, these shorts spoofed famous films of the day using all child casts.
Each film Shirley made after the Baby Burlesks led to better reviews. Her precociousness and performing abilities wowed all who saw her. In 1934, the film Bright Eyes, which was written specifically for her, sent the youngster blasting into super stardom. She received a special Academy Award for the part and cemented her in the minds of millions of down-hearted Americans in the midst of the Great Depression. Her salary was raised to the enormous sum of $1,250 a week. Of that, $150 went to her mother who worked as her hairdresser and coach.
Shirley Temple went on to make a total of 43 feature length films, 25 storybook movies, and 14 short films in a career that lasted into the 1960’s. She’s received several honors for her show business career such as adding her hand and footprints to the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
As she became an adolescent, it became harder to find work. She was too old to be cast in the roles that had endeared her to so many, but she wasn’t yet believable in more adult roles.
In 1943, Shirley Temple met a sergeant and physical training instructor in the Army Air Corp by the name of John George Agar. The two married in 1945 when Shirley was 17 years old at Wilshire Methodist Church. In January of 1948, their daughter, Linda Susan, was born. The couple made two films together but their relationship soon ended in divorce in December of 1949. The divorce wouldn’t be finalized until a year later.
During the time her divorce was being finalized, Temple met Charles Alden Black. A WWII veteran and United States Navy Silver Star hero, Black was also one of the most affluent young men in California. The two were married in December of 1950 in his parents’ home before a small group of family and friends.
By 1954 Shirley bore two more children, Charles Alden Black, Jr. and their daughter Lori. They had also moved first to Washington, DC, back to Los Angeles, and then to Atherton, California following jobs Charles, Sr. was given. The couple was married 54 years before Charles died in 2005 from complications from a bone marrow disease.
Temple stayed busy also filling a variety of political positions. She became active in the Republican Party and ran for the US House of Representatives in 1967 in which she was defeated. She was then appointed to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations by Richard Nixon and then went on to be the ambassador to the African nation of Ghana. After that she became the Chief of Protocol of the United States where she prepared the arrangements for Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and ball. After that she served as the ambassador to Czechoslovakia. During this time she also became one of the first women to speak publically about breast cancer after having undergone a radical mastectomy.
Shirley Temple Black now leads a relatively quiet life in Northern California. When asked about her life she’s said, “If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”
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