Shirley Temple, the little star who shined brightest

February 11, 2014 



Shirley Temple wasn’t the cure for the Great Depression, but for 15 cents Americans in the mid-1930s could escape their troubles for a couple of hours. A singer, dancer and actress who was just dazzlingly cute, she topped all actors in popularity, including people like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper, during her heyday.

The curly-headed blonde also had a reputation as a nice kid held down to earth by a mother more interested in protection than exploitation. Many a child actor since has experienced grave trauma and addiction, but Shirley Temple became Shirley Temple Black, wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother – and, by the way, an ambassador appointed by several Republican presidents.

At her death at the age of 85 Monday in San Francisco, she left an admirable legacy. And for those Americans who remember still the dark days of the Depression, she was a shining and smiling light. President Franklin Roosevelt said of her, “As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”

Temple Black, who was married to her second husband for more than 50 years, didn’t regret that her acting career didn’t last forever. She got on with raising a family and developing her diplomatic career. She knew, it seemed, that just because a film career proved meteoric, there were other ways for a star to shine. She counted being a wife, mother and grandmother among her greatest roles.

“There’s nothing like real love. Nothing,” she said.

That’s the kind of thing little Shirley Temple would say to a Depression-era audience counting its blessings. And she was one of them.

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