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TCM Remembers Shirley Temple
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Shirley Temple Profile

During the Depression in the 1930s, Americans turned to the motion pictures for escape and inspiration. One of the decades biggest stars was a cute little tyke with curly blonde hair and a slightly sing-song voice named Shirley Temple. It is easy to overlook just how good an actress she was, without peer in her ability to portray sentiment without losing a childlike quality. Temple could hold her own with the strongest actors and proved to be a genuine talent, one who could sing and tap dance as well as emote.

Goaded by her mother, Temple began her career at age three appearing in shorts produced by Educational Films and also became a leading figure in the Baby Burlesks, a series of slightly risque featurettes. She had small roles in "The Red-Haired Alibi" (1932) and "To the Last Man" (1933) before songwriter Jay Gorney suggested to Fox Studios that she be hired for "Stand Up and Cheer" (1934), Singing Gorney's song "Baby Take a Bow" with James Dunn proved to be the highlight of the film and catapulted the moppet to stardom. Fox immediately put her under contract and she went on to appear in several escapist entertainments, providing patriotic spirit and uplift to those suffering through the fiscal woes and unemployment of the day. "Little Miss Marker" (1934) was a Runyonesque tale that saw her cast as an IOU for a gambling debt left with Adolph Menjou, After a loan out to Paramount for "Now and Forever" (also 1934), in which she was Gary Cooper's daughter, Temple became Fox's biggest asset, earning a special juvenile Oscar® in 1934 and appearing in a string of films that showcased her singing, dancing and acting abilities and nearly single-handedly kept the studio afloat. Among the highlights were "Bright Eyes" (1934), "The Littlest Colonel" and "The Littlest Rebel" (both 1935) and "Dimples" (1936).

By 1937, Temple was the Number One star in Hollywood for three years running and that year reached her zenith in "Heidi", "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and "Wee Willie Winkie". Within three years, however, the inevitable backlash occurred. She slipped from the top spot as she aged and as efforts like "The Little Princess" (1939) and "The Blue Bird" (1940) drew less attention, the studio began to offer less support. Quarrels with the top brass at Fox led to Temple's defection to MGM. Metro, however, did not know how to utilize her and after only two films ("Kathleen" 1941 and "Miss Annie Rooney" 1942), she signed with David O. Selznick.

In "Since You Went Away" (1944), Temple was overshadowed by Claudette Colbert (as her mother) and Jennifer Jones (as her older sister). While some felt she was awkward in as Ginger Rogers' cousin in "I'll Be Seeing You" (also 1944), it was more an issue of people not wanting her to grow up. Temple remained an accomplished actress as she matured but the special qualities that made her a child star did not translate to the young adult. She proved effective opposite Cary Grant in "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer" (1947) but by 1950, her film career was effectively ended. Temple moved to the small screen to host and act in a series of 16 specials aired under the umbrella title "Shirley Temple's Storybook" (ABC, 1959), which featured familiar fairy tales and children's entertainment. In 1960, she switched networks to NBC where the series aired under the title "The Shirley Temple Show". Now married to her second husband businessman Charles Black, she retired to concentrate on raising a family.

Temple reemerged in the public arena, but this time politics was her stage. She made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for the US Congress in 1967. The following year, President Richard Nixon appointed her as US ambassador to the United Nations. In the 70s, Temple was US ambassador to Ghana and later US Chief of Protocol and continued her political career into the early 90s. The first volume of her memoirs, "Child Star" was published in 1988.

Biographical information provided by TCMdb

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