Shirley Temple was born on 23 April 1928, in Santa Monica, California. Her parents were George Francis Temple, a bank employee, and Gertrude Amelia Temple, a homemaker. George and Gertrude were married in 1914 and had three children – Jack, George Jr, and Shirley Jane.
From an early age, Shirley loved to sing and dance, and when she was only three years old, her mother began taking her to dancing classes at the Ethel Meglin Dance Studios in Hollywood, where she was spotted by two talent scouts from a minor studio named Educational Films.
Soon after, she landed a contract with Educational Pictures who cast her in their “Baby Burlesks” short films. She was later contracted by the Fox Film Corporation at a salary of $150 per week and soon she appeared in her first Hollywood feature film, Carolina.
However, her breakthrough movie was Stand Up and Cheer. The movie was a big hit, and everyone loved the young actress, singer, and dancer with the bouncing golden corkscrew curls. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences even awarded her with a special miniature Oscar. She was the youngest actor to win an Academy Award.
She became extremely popular, and President Franklin Roosevelt even credited her for helping the United States through the bleak years of the Great Depression. As reported by the Daily Mail he proclaimed: “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”
When Shirley was only 12 years old, she had already appeared in more than 40 films. Everyone thought that she would continue her success as a teenage actress, but she didn’t. She appeared in The Blue Bird and Young People in 1940, but without success since both of the films were flops. It seemed like no one was prepared to face the fact that the adorable girl was already a grown up actress and her career as a popular film star had ended too early.
She married John Agar on September 19, 1945 when she was 17 years old. The couple divorced four years later, and Temple was awarded custody of their daughter, Linda Susan. In 1950, she married the successful California businessman Charles Black.
In the 1960s, she focused her efforts on a career in public service and in 1967 she ran for Congress against California Representative Pete McCloskey but was defeated. Two years later, she was appointed to serve as a representative to the United Nations.
In 1974, she was appointed an ambassador to Ghana, and from 1989 to 1992 she went on to serve as the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
In 1998, she was a recipient of the esteemed Kennedy Center Honors, held at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington DC.
In 2006, Temple received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award for having “lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years.”
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Shirley Temple died in San Francisco on 10 February 2014, at the age of 85.