There are a few notable child actors of the 1920s and 30s who are still with us – Diana Serra Cary (“Baby Peggy”), Mickey Rooney, Gene Reynolds, Dickie Moore, Jane Withers, Bobby Breen – but no little star shone quite as brightly as Shirley Temple. Her effervescence and plucky spirit buoyed American moviegoers during the Great Depression, singing and dancing her way into millions upon millions of hearts. She was and still remains an icon of the 1930s. Her name has endured.
In a film career spanning 1932 to 1949 and in TV work done in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Hollywood watched Temple grow up. Early films like Little Miss Marker (1934) and Bright Eyes (1934) and adaptations of classic children’s literature like Heidi (1937) and The Little Princess (1939) may be Temple’s best-remembered films, but as an adolescent she continued to entertain audiences with roles in such varied films as Since You Went Away (1944), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer (1947) and Fort Apache (1948). A later career in international diplomacy led to Temple’s positions as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and to Czechoslovakia. She led a truly fascinating life, one which she chronicled in great detail in her memoir, Child Star (1988), which I highly recommend.
For many years, Danny Stiles used Temple’s recording of “Goodnight My Love” (from 1936’s Stowaway) as the sendoff on his “Music Museum” radio hour on WNYC AM 820. I like to remember Temple best with that song.
“God bless you, pleasant dreams, sweetheart.” Goodnight, Shirley.