People die the way they live. In Shirley Temple’s case it was with a rare touch of Hollywood Class.
(The following excerpt from Shirley Temple Black, Screen Star, Dies At 85 by Aljean Harmetz was recently posted on nytimes.com. To view it in its entirety click on the link below.)
Shirley Temple Black, who as a dimpled, precocious and determined little girl in the 1930s sang and tap-danced her way to a height of Hollywood stardom and worldwide fame that no other child has reached, died on Monday night at her home in Woodside, Calif. She was 85.
The little girl with 56 perfect blonde ringlets and an air of relentless determination was so precocious that the usually unflappable Adolphe Menjou, her co-star in her first big hit, “Little Miss Marker,” described her as “an Ethel Barrymore at 6” and said she was “making a stooge out of me.”
When she turned from a magical child into a teenager, audience interest slackened, and she retired from the screen at 22. But instead of retreating into nostalgia, she created a successful second career for herself.
Mrs. Black had become interested in politics when she lived in Washington. In 1967 she ran for Congress to fill a seat left vacant by the death of the Republican J. Arthur Younger. She hoped to emulate the California political successes of George Murphy, her dancing partner in “Little Miss Broadway,” who had become a United States senator, and Ronald Reagan, her co-star in “That Hagen Girl,” who had become governor.
When she was appointed ambassador to Ghana in 1974, some career diplomats were outraged, but State Department officials later conceded that her performance was outstanding.
Mrs. Black succeeded beyond almost everyone’s expectations, winning praise during her three years in Prague from, among others, Henry Kissinger, who called her “very intelligent, very tough-minded, very disciplined.” Although she may always be best remembered as America’s sweetheart, the woman who left the screen at 22 saying she had “had enough of pretend” ended up leaving a considerable mark on the real world.