I was working on a different topic for my Abba Blog, and then I heard the news that former child star, Shirley Temple had died at the age of 85. It must be the feature writer in me, but I found myself going on to the internet to learn a little more about her.
Like everyone, I've seen those old classic black and white films when they've been repeated on the TV, and remember her as the bright, bouncy, cute little toddler with masses of curly hair, a dimpled smile and a charming child-like voice with perfect pitch. I even remember that when I was at primary school, we had a skipping rhyme that was. "Shirley Temple is a star, S.T.A.R."
Born in 1928 Shirley Temple was undoubtedly the most famous of child stars, able to sing, dance and act by the time she was five. She began her film career at the age of three and by the time she was seven she had become the youngest person to have ever won an Oscar, having received the Juvenile Academy Award in 1935.
Her very early days of showbiz were far from idyllic however, and had talked openly about child exploitation. I came across this interesting story of her early acting jobs if you would like to read more about her life when only three or four years old.
Nevertheless, once she had been talent spotted and brought to the attention of the big movie makers, she brought tremendous joy to the cinema-going audiences of Americans in the Great Depression years; and of course her fame spread throughout the world.
One of her most famous films was Bright Eyes in which she performed what was to become her signature tune, On the Good Ship Lollipop – a song written by Sidney Clare, a New Yorker born in 1892 in the early days of Tin Pan Alley.
She was a Godsend to the film makers, becoming a top box-office attraction from 1935-1938, out-selling those other top stars at the time such as Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford. It's reported that her films took in $20 million and saved 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.
Her film career ending in 1949 but she went on to work in television as well as involving herself in Republican politics. As Shirley Temple Black she served as White House chief of Protocol during General Ford's administration. She was also a delegate to the United Nations and and ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia.
Love her films or hate them, like her politics or not, she was one shining light for women of her time and a great role model, proving that it's possible to excel in more than one career.
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