Happy Birthday to one of my favorite actresses, Shirley Temple Black, who turns 83 today! Shirley was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California to George and Gertrude Temple. It was Gertrude who encouraged Shirley to become a performer by exposing her to music and dance at an early age. She was known to advise Shirley before each of her movie scenes to “sparkle, Shirley, sparkle.” According to this preview of her biography on the Biography Channel, she didn’t really need much help as sparkling seemed to come naturally to Shirley.
Shirley Temple was discovered at the age of three by producers of a company called Educational Pictures while attending Mrs. Meglin’s Dance Studio in Los Angeles. They chose her to star in a number of short films called Baby Berlesks, which were parodies of the motion pictures of the day with casts made up entirely of children dressed up in adult costumes. I have seen a few of these films, and I have to say they made me a bit uncomfortable due to their somewhat exploitative nature. I much preferred watching her in the movies she was soon to star in.
Shirley Temple’s Feature Films
Shirley went on to star in 43 feature films, starting with the movie Stand Up and Cheer in 1934 and ending with A Kiss for Corliss in 1949, which she made when she was 21 years old. Her many famous co-stars included Lionel Barrymore, Gary Cooper, Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotten, Cary Grant, and John Wayne. Shirley had a special relationship with her most frequent co-star, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, who she appeared with in four films including The Little Colonel (1935), which featured the famous “staircase dance” scene shown to the right.
Shirley’s Life After Films
After her brief marriage to the actor John Agar ended in 1950, Shirley met and married the love of her life, Charles Black. They were married for 54 years until he sadly passed away in 2005. She has three children from her two marriages; Linda Susan Agar, Charles Black, Jr., and Lori Black. Less than a decade after her film (and brief television) career ended, she entered the world of politics, running unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1967 and serving as ambassadors to Ghana and Czechoslovakia in the 70’s and 80’s. She published her autobiography, Child Star, in 1988 and by last accounts is living a quiet life in Northern California.
If you’re a fan of Shirley Temple, check out my list of top 10 favorite Shirley Temple movies, and feel free to start a discussion about your favorite Shirley Temple movie. I’d love to hear from other Shirley Temple fans!