Happy Birthday

Shirley Temple, Shirley Temple child
Associated Press

Happy Birthday, Shirley Temple Black, Child Star and Diplomat

April 23, 2010
by Kate Davey
As a child, Shirley Temple was a celebrated film star who sang, danced and acted in more than forty movies. As an adult, Shirley Temple Black embarked upon a distinguished career in public service, working as a diplomat in four presidential administrations.

Shirley Temple’s Early Days

Shirley Jane Temple was born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, California, to banker George Temple and Gertrude Krieger Temple. Temple started acting at the age of 4 in “War Babies,” a parody of popular movies with toddlers acting out movie scenes. She was known for her dimpled cheeks and tight, blond curls, which her mother pin-rolled each night.

Temple Black’s Notable Accomplishments

By 1934, Shirley Temple had become a child acting sensation with the movies “Stand Up and Cheer,” “Little Miss Marker” and “Bright Eyes,” in which Temple sings “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” a song that eventually sold more than 500,000 copies.

Temple received a special Oscar (later known as the Juvenile Award) from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 1934. She starred in dozens of movies during the next 15 years, including “Curly Top,” “Wee Willie Winkie,” “The Little Colonel” and “The Little Princess.”

Endlessly photographed, Temple was America’s top movie star until she was 10, but by the age of 13, she was considered a “has-been.” Meanwhile, she had earned $3 million from acting, singing and charming America.

At 17, she married John Agar, an Army Air Forces sergeant, and the couple had a daughter two years later. But after four years of marriage, Temple divorced Agar, charging him with cruelty; she told a gossip columnist that her husband’s drinking had ruined their relationship.

By 1950, Shirley Temple had met and married her “true soulmate,” Charles Black; the couple remained together until his death in 2005. Black was a businessman from California and a former Naval officer. Together, he and Shirley had two children, Charlie Jr. and Lori. The couple also raised Linda Agar, Shirley’s daughter from her first marriage.

Shirley Temple Black’s accomplishments did not end when she stopped being a child star. Inspired by her brother George, who had multiple sclerosis, she co-founded the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies.

She went on to a distinguished career in public service, acting as the U.S. representative to the United Nations in 1969, ambassador to Ghana, the first female White House chief of protocol during the Ford presidency, and ambassador to Czechoslovakia in President George H. Bush’s administration.

At the time of her appointment to that latter post, Black told The New York Times that she was fully aware how her child-star fame had fueled her diplomatic career: “Shirley Temple opens doors for Shirley Temple Black.”

The Rest of the Story

Shirley Temple Black received the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Life Achievement Award “for career achievement and humanitarian accomplishment” in 2006. In announcing the award, SAG President Melissa Gilbert expressed her admiration for Black: “She has lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child, to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years.”

Most Recent Features