LESLIE CRISS: As a child and adult, Shirley Temple Black lived life well

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.”

John Connolly

“Good luck needs no explanation.”

Shirley Temple

“Sunnybrook Farm is now a parking lot; the petticoats are in the garbage can, where they belong in the modern world; and I detest censorship.”

Shirley Temple Black




When I was a kid, many of my Saturday afternoons were spent with a dimpled, curly-haired girl named Shirley Temple.

All the hours I spent with her, I lived vicariously through this adorable child whose life took her on often amazing adventures that seemed other-worldly to this young Mississippi girl.

Back then it didn’t even bother me that in a large majority of the young actress’ movies she was an orphan. But there were always loving folks who magically appeared who wanted to take care of her.

In “Susannah of the Mounties,” her parents had been killed in an Indian attack. In “Heidi,” her grandfather took care of the parentless child.

In “Bright Eyes,” Temple’s character is able to sing “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” despite the fact her father has died in a plane crash and her mother gets hit by a car, leaving the young girl and orphan. In “Captain January,” her parents have drowned and the character Temple plays is rescued by a lighthouse keeper.

A tough childhood, even in the movies.

Temple tore through racial barriers when she became, quite possibly, the first white actor to be allowed to reach out and hold hands affectionately with an African-American actor when she and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson did their now-famous tap dance on the steps in “The Little Colonel.”

Even in those childhood years, I remember Temple’s movies made me laugh, and they made me cry. When that little girl turned on the tears, this little girl’s heart broke and I’d sob right along with her.

I have an actor friend who knows an actress who worked alongside Temple in several of her movies when both were under contract with 20th Century Fox. She told my friend Temple’s mother always was only three feet away from the camera, watching. She said Mrs. Temple also required the director to allow all children on the movie set to go outside for 45 minutes every day to just play.

When Temple retired from acting at 22, she became active in politics, helping raise funds for her Republican party. Later, she would become a delegate to the United Nations, and then an ambassador to Ghana in the ‘70s and Czechoslovakia in the late ‘80s.

In 1972, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Temple gave an interview from her hospital bed encouraging women to be brave and not be afraid to talk about this kind of cancer.

She was an amazing human being who made a difference – as a child and throughout her life.

When I heard Monday she had died at the age of 85, I imagined what a role model she could have been for so many of today’s child stars who’ve not made the transition easily into adulthood.

RIP Shirley Temple Black.

Job well done.


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