The world has lost perhaps its greatest and most-loved child star, the beautiful, curly-haired Shirley Temple. The adored young actress of the 1930’s, who brought joy to film viewers the world over, has passed away today at the age of 85.
It’s hard not to miss the impact this ‘bright-eyed’ little girl had on the world. During the Great Depression, the films and acting of Shirley Temple were a source of happiness and arguably escape from the bleak state of America. From making her acting debut in 1932 and following on in a series of shorts, the ‘little princess’ swiftly moved on to feature films, dazzling the world with her performing talents and sweet charm. Her first breakthrough performance came in 1933 in the film Stand Up and Cheer during the musical number “Baby Take a Bow” in which she stole the scene with her performance:
A whole range of merchandise was swiftly launched, including dolls which looked just like her. The epitome of childhood sweetness and purity, mothers went so far as to dress their little girls just like her in an attempt to replicate that image. Temple was even the first white girl to dance hand in hand with an African American man on film, a scene which caused controversy in a racially divided America and was cut out before distribution in Southern America.
It wasn’t long before Temple was the winner of a special juvenile Academy Award for her ‘Outstanding Contribution to Screen Entertainment’ in the previous year. At the peak of popularity, she was suggested for the role of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but Fox turned it down and the role went to Judy Garland. Temple instead was cast in Susannah of the Mounties, but the film lacked the appeal that audiences craved, and unfortunately Temple’s two following films in 1940 were not successful either. It seemed that Temple’s childhood star of the 1930’s had fizzled out and her parents sent her to an exclusive girls school.
Temple attempted a comeback in 1941 which unfortunately failed, and her two following films with David O’Selznick did not bring her the acting development she required. The image of Temple’s sweet child star was glued firmly in the minds of the audiences and therefore Temple’s transformation into an adolescent was unsuccessful on film. Disappearing from the limelight altogether, Temple made an outstanding comeback in 1967 as Shirley Temple Black, Republican candidate for Congress.
Temple acknowledged the ways in which people remembered her, stating “some people are stuck on this image of a little girl. That’s not me”. The child star had grown out of her frilly dresses and 56 ringletted hair, always styled during her childhood films by her mother in the same way.
According to Sky News, her family stated – “we salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of 55 years.”
Shirley Temple left her mark on the world, and she will not be forgotten.