When I heard that Shirley Temple passed away this past Tuesday, I had to wipe away a tear. As most of us who grew up watching her on Sunday afternoon movies, we remembered her with love. My grandmother and I watched every Shirley Temple movie together, Sundays at 1:00, with the family channel on, I'd dance and sing, imitating Shirley's steps up and down the staircase, while my grandmother clapped and made me feel I was that little girl dancing on the screen. So far reaching and international was the charm of Shirley Temple, that when my grandmother lived in Colombia, South America, she dressed my sister in puffy sleeved dresses and combed her hair in ringlets and entered her in a Shirley Temple lookalike contest. She took first place.
People are posting their favorite Shirley Temple movies online, but for me, it was her role in The Little Princess that was the showcase of her magic on screen. Watching her in her role as Sarah Crewe was akin to being in the movie myself and for the first time I remember crying tears for someone else. When little Sarah Crewe is told her father has died, my grandmother almost had to pick me up off the floor, such was my love for Shirley Temple. I suffered along with Shirley Temple as the cruel headmistress Miss Minchin reduced Sarah Crewe to servant girl and I felt the sting of joyous tears when Sarah's father, Captain Crewe, returns from Africa to reclaim her.
She was America's top box-office draw during the 1930's, outranking Clark Gable, and receiving more fan mail than Greta Garbo. As a child star she was amazing, and to those that say she had lost her draw as she grew up, I suggest they watch The Bachelor and The Bobby-Soxer, where she is beautiful and charming and sizzles like a firecracker alongside Cary Grant. Even with such a magnificent screen career, she emerged graceful from a stagelife that left A-class actors behind. She retired from acting at age twenty-two only to begin the second act of her life in the satisfying role of activist, humanitarian, and diplomat, impacting the world once again and earning the respect of world leaders and colleagues.
To say I wish there were more child stars whose stories grew into lives like Ms. Temple Black's is an understatement. I only wish Miley Cyrus and Lyndsey Lohan a second half to their careers as glorious as Shirley Temple Black.
This Sunday, I plan on a Shirley Temple marathon but it won't be the same without either my grandmother, or Shirley Temple, at my side.