Shirley Temple is famously known as a singing and dancing child star in the 1930’s, but she was also a Republican activist for most of her life.
She was born in 1928 in Santa Monica, California and began her film career at age three after she was spotted by a casting director at a dance school. Her first films “Baby Burlesks” were one reel shorts satirizing film and political events of the day. Other two-reel short film series “Frolics of Youth” followed. In 1932, Shirley had a small role in her first feature film “Red-Haired Alibi”. When the production company went bankrupt, her father bought out her contract.
A Fox Film songwriter saw Shirley Temple dancing in the lobby of the theater after the showing of her last “Frolics of Youth” film where he recognized her from the movie. He arranged for her to try out for “Stand Up and Cheer!” and she won the part. It was the beginning of a very successful film career for Shirley Temple. She gained international fame with the film “Bright Eyes” with the song “On the Good Ship Lollipop”. In 1935, she was awarded a special Juvenile Academy Award for her contribution to the film industry. She became the number one box office star from 1935 to 1938 and the studio’s most valuable asset.
Ultimately Shirley Temple made 14 short films, 43 feature films and over 25 storybook films during her career. She retired from the film industry at the tender age of 22.
Shirley Temple married John Agar an Army Air Corp sergeant at the age of 17 with whom she had a daughter. That marriage became troubled and lasted only four years. After her divorce, she met Charles Alden Black, a former USN intelligence officer who was Assistant to the President of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company and considered one of the wealthiest young men in California at the time. They married in December 1950 at his parents’ home in Del Monte, California. They had two children and were married for 54 years until Charles passed away in 2005.
Shirley Temple began her political career as a Republican activist in 1967. She unsuccessfully ran as a conservative for the 11th Congressional District. After her unsuccessful congressional run, she began her foreign service as the US Representative to the UN Assembly after Henry Kissinger overheard her speaking about Namibia at a party. She was subsequently appointed as Ambassador to Ghana. She was appointed at the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States and was in charge of President Carter’s inauguration and ball. President Bush later appointed her Ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She witnessed the country’s fight against communism. She was in Prague when the Soviet tanks rolled down the streets, eye witnessing an unarmed woman shot by the Soviet troops. She helped hasten the end of communism in that country by openly sympathizing with the anti-communist movement. She became ambassador during the Velvet Revolution which saw the fall of the communist regime. She hastened the recognition of the new government of Vaclav Havel. She took the step of personally accompanying Havel on his first visit to Washington DC.
Shirley Temple is an American film icon, but more importantly, she was a great American patriot.