Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shirley She'll Never Die

In today's world, an entertainer who peaks at the age of 10 has a good chance of being on the police blotter before he or she is able to legally vote.

Shirley Temple spent her childhood under hot lights, in front of cameras and in the hearts of American movie goers across the country. Yet she didn't spend her adult life in debt, on drugs or behind bars.

Shirley Temple was everyone's sweetheart. She had the entire country in the palm of her tiny hand. Her hair was more curly than a corkscrew. She had dimples as deep as the Grand Canyon, a smile as bright as all the lights on Broadway put together. 

They named a drink after her---non-alcoholic, of course. She was intoxicating all by herself.

It's almost unfathomable to imagine a girl of Shirley Temple's prepubescent age today, captivating America and being able to stay on the straight and narrow once the audiences stopped paying attention. 

Few child stars, if any, exited show business as gracefully as Shirley Temple. She retired officially in 1950, at the age of 22, and eased into private life without any drama. Her work was done, her imprint on our hearts indelible. She made a few films past adolescence, but it was clear that audiences preferred the child Shirley to the young woman Shirley. So she got out, without a hint of bitterness or resentment.

Temple even survived being married at age 17, which is another life-changing moment that many young stars today wouldn't have been able to negotiate at such a young age. But Temple managed to stay hitched to Army Air Corps sergeant John Agar for five years, even birthing a child. Her next marriage lasted 55 years.

Temple, who became known as Shirley Temple Black after her second marriage, passed away Monday at 85. It was a good life.

She got interested in politics in the 1960s, and while she wasn't able to ascend to any elected office, Temple Black did serve five total years as the United States' ambassador to Ghana (1974-76) and Czechoslovakia (1989-92). 

There were also numerous corporate boards of directors that Temple Black served on, including The Walt Disney Company, Del Monte, Bank of America and Fireman's Fund Insurance.

But while her life as a big girl was one lived in dignity and distinction, it is as a child that Shirley Temple lives forever in our minds. 

Who among us can't close our eyes and imagine Shirley belting out "On the Good Ship Lollipop," her signature song? 



Shirley Temple's obituary may say that she was 85 years old at her death, but she never grew up. To us, she'll always be that little girl with the curly, blonde hair, melting hearts left and right. 

She was the child star who kept it together. Temple saw the curtain close on her career at 22 and she simply moved on. She was a woman of many interests and of high intelligence. There was plenty more that she wanted to do, and she did it.

She moved on after show business, having had her time and secure with the realization that nothing can last forever, especially a career in movies that began at the tender age of three.

But therein lies the irony. Her career really did last forever, thanks to celluloid, reruns and our eagerness to keep her as a little girl forever in our minds.

Shirley Temple blew through movies for about six mega years like a tornado, but instead of leaving destruction in her wake, she left smiles and melted hearts.

You can put a Shirley Temple flick on today and it's impossible not to smile. 

With all due respect to her work in Ghana and Czechoslovakia, Shirley Temple was, in fact, America's Ambassador of Cuteness.

Her legacy is one not stained by eventual juvenile delinquency, immaturity or drugs and alcohol. She wasn't Judy Garland.

Shirley Temple was a star as a child, and a success as an adult. She lived the good life for 85 years.

She was one of those entertainers who won't ever truly die. Her curls and dimples simply won't allow it.

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