I was too young to be a fan of Shirley Temple when she first hit the scene. She left show business in 1965, which is the year I was born. She was 37, well after her time as a child star…and her icon status.
But more often than you’d expect, when I visited my grandparents, the television would have a rerun of a Shirley Temple movie. Good Ship Lollipop and Animal Crackers were two songs that reverberated through my head, half because Shirley Temple sang them, and half because my grandmother sang right along with her.
I have to admit, they weren’t my favorites. Whenever possible I’d find a way to get them to switch to Wide World of Sports, or (get this)…Soul Train.
True story! My father’s parents used to have that on all the time too!
But I digress. She was a gorgeous kid and a talented young performer.
And Shirley Temple came up at a time long before children were objectified and sexualized the way they are now.
I did a little reading on her today to get ready for this blog post. I honestly didn’t know much beyond what made it into the news. She performed until the public lost interest in her as a kid. That act only goes so far for so long.
I also knew she became a political figure, though mostly as an ambassador.
And I know she became Shirley Temple Black. Talk about a last name that was the opposite of a reputation!
I found out a few things I hadn’t known. Like…
* Her mother was her first coach and hairdresser. She was fiercely protective of her innocence. Shirley said she was about 8 when adoring crowds shouting their love for her made her realize she was famous. “I wondered why,” she recalled. “I asked my mother, and she said, ‘Because your films make them happy.'”
* Her biographer, Ann Edwards, quoting an unnamed filmographer said, “She assaults, penetrates, and opens [the flinty characters] making it possible for them to give of themselves. All of this returns upon her at times forcing her into situations where she must decide who needs her most. It is her agony, her Calvary, and it brings her to her most despairing moments … Shirley’s capacity for love … was indiscriminate, extending to pinched misers or to common hobos, it was a social, even a political, force on a par with democracy or the Constitution.”
* She was appointed Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly by President Richard M. Nixon (September – December 1969), and was appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana (December 6, 1974 – July 13, 1976) by President Gerald R. Ford. She was appointed first female Chief of Protocol of the United States (July 1, 1976 – January 21, 1977), and was in charge of arrangements for President Jimmy Carter’s inauguration and inaugural ball. She served as the United States Ambassador to Czechoslovakia (August 23, 1989 – July 12, 1992), having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush. (info above courtesy of Wikipedia)
* In 1972, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. She publicly discussed her surgery to educate women about the disease.
In other words, Shirley Temple Black lived a full, meaningful life of contribution and service…in many different areas.
All of this is profound, and it makes me wonder about how we value the youngest and most promising among us today.
Sure, you can look at Justin Bieber, Amanda Bynes and some of the others who seemed to be put through the ringer of fame, only to wind up being victims of it.
You can also look at Hilary Duff, who went through the same process. By all accounts she is a happy wife, mother, actress and business woman.
Since very few of us will be celebrities, I wonder how WE do when we’re exposed to a smaller version of what Shirley Temple went through.
Moving into a world we don’t understand, with people who have an agenda for us that isn’t necessarily in our best interest.
Leaving one world, but taking the lessons we learned and using them in the next.
Leaving everyone and everything around you better than when you entered it.
That is a triumph of innocence.
Don’t worry about the celebrities. That’s out of your control. Focus on what’s in your own world.
But take a moment to appreciate what Shirley Temple did to move so many others.
Got any memories of Shirley Temple? Anything else to sound off about? Please comment and share below. We’d love to hear from you!