The most famous child star of all time, Shirley Temple Black, was born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, CA. She was discovered at age three at a dance school where she shyly hid behind the piano. Shirley was asked to audition and signed a contract with Educational. She appeared in two short films for them while performing walk-on and bit player roles in various other films.
Shirley was later signed to Fox Film Corporation in 1933 after appearing in Stand Up and Cheer! with James Dunn, who she also appeared with in Bright Eyes. Her uplifting songs, “On the Good Ship Lollipop” and “Animal Crackers in my Soup” made her a household name during the grim years of the Great Depression. Temple worked for Fox until 1940 and for four years was ranked as the top-grossing film star in the U.S. She is quoted as saying,”I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph.”
Respected for her professionalism and exceptional singing, acting, and tap-dancing ability, Shirley performed in over 40 feature films throughout her childhood. She was the first recipient of the special Juvenile Performer Academy Award at the age of just six years old. Shirley Temple also promoted various social causes in her early years, such as the Red Cross.
She retired from performing in films in 1949 to raise a family. At age 17, Shirley Temple married her first husband, John Agar, a soldier-turned-actor. They had a daughter, Linda Susan Agar, in 1948 and divorced in 1950.
In the 1950’s and 60’s, Shirley hosted two television shows, both featuring adaptations of fairy tales and children’s stories. She married Charles Aldan Black, a business man and maritime issues consultant, in 1950. The couple had two children, Charles and Lori.
Shirley Temple Black went on to hold several diplomatic posts, serving as the U.S. delegate to various international conferences and summits. She served as an ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia and was the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States. She also served on the board of directors for some large enterprises and non-profit organizations. Shirley received honorary doctorates from Santa Clara University and Lehigh University as well as fellowships from the College of Notre Dame and Yale University.
Black was treated for breast cancer in 1972 and was an inspiration to many for being the first woman to say “I have breast cancer” on national television. She released an autobiography in 1988 and received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 from the Screen Actors Guild.
Shirley’s husband, Charles Aldan Black, passed away in 2005 of a bone marrow disease. Shirley has one granddaughter, Theresa Falaschia. She is currently living in northern California and working on her second autobiography.