America’s original sweetheart has died at age 85. After dancing and singing her way through dozens of movies in the Depression era, Shirley Temple served our country during a second career as a U.S. ambassador. She died February 10th at her home in Woodside, California.
Shirley Temple was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California. After starting dance classes at age three, Shirley’s mother entered her in a talent competition at her school. The competition served as a springboard to a series of modeling jobs and bit parts in short films. In 1934, at age six, Shirley had already signed with a movie studio.
The movie “Bright Eyes” catapulted young Shirley to superstar status. The 1934 film featured her now legendary performance of the song “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” which was written specially for the tiny star. Her films were top box office draws through 1938, and offered a means of escape for a nation struggling through the Depression.
After she stopped making movies in 1949, Shirley continued to be a public figure. In the late 50s, she hosted and starred in a television series that showcased adaptations of popular children’s stories. After stepping away from Hollywood in the early 60s, Shirley Temple turned her attention to politics.
By the mid-60s, Shirley Temple, now known as Shirley Temple Black, was an active member of the Republican Party in California. She made an unsuccessful bid for a seat in California’s 11th Congressional district, but the loss did not deter her from pursuing a political career. Richard Nixon appointed her as Representative to the United Nations National Assembly in 1969. In 1972, she stepped away from the post to battle breast cancer. Shirley Temple Black is credited as being one of the first female celebrities to speak openly about breast cancer.
After returning to politics in 1974, she served as the US Ambassador to Ghana until 1976. She then became the first Chief Protocol of the United States. In 1989 she served as US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. Shirley was also known for her many philanthropic endeavors.
Her graceful transition from child star to political figure made Shirley somewhat of a Hollywood anomaly. She was loved the world over for her films and her service. The star passed away in her home, surrounded by friends and family.
Contributed by MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney Andrea Claus.
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