Shirley Temple was one of the most popular stars in the movies during the Depression era. She was a bigger draw than Clark Gable, Bing Crosby and Gary Cooper. There was a time when people mired in the financial disaster that was the Depression turned to a child of nine to cheer them up, and she responded in a series of films that remain popular to this day.
Temple was born in Santa Monica, California, in 1928. She was a talented dancer at a local dance school and was signed to a motion picture deal with Educational Pictures after they did a talent sweep. Educational Pictures went bankrupt and Temple signed with Fox Film Corporation in 1934. She made appearances in several motion pictures in small bit parts and was even loaned out to other movie studios for a time. Then came her breakthrough film, Stand Up and Cheer.
The movie was a hit and so was Temple. Her salary was increased to $1,250 a week, which was a huge sum for the 1930s. By her side this entire time was her mother, who also was reportedly responsible for putting Temple’s hair into her trademark curls.
After that, hit after hit followed during the 1930s. She also introduced a number of songs that have entered the American lexicon: Animal Crackers in My Soup and The Good Ship Lollipop among them.
During the Depression Temple was even admired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who famously stated, “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.”
Temple eventually left movies in her early 20s. She made some appearances on television in the 50s, but largely retired from acting to enter the political arena. She made an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1967, but was then named by President Nixon as a member of the U.S. delegation to the UN. She later became ambassador to Ghana and then became the U.S. chief of protocol. She was later appointed as ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the time the country was overthrowing communism.
Black reportedly passed away on Monday night, February 10, 2014. She was reportedly surrounded by family members and caregivers.