Hol­ly­wood’s lit­tle mir­a­cle

Shirley Tem­ple black brought joy to movie­go­ers.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - OBITUARY - By ERIC M. JOHN­SON

SHIRLEY Tem­ple Black, who lifted Amer­ica’s spir­its as a bright-eyed, dim­pled child movie star dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion and forged a sec­ond ca­reer as a US diplo­mat, died late on Mon­day evening at the age of 85.

Black, who lured mil­lions to the movies in the 1930s, “peace­fully passed away” at her Wood­side, Cal­i­for­nia, home from nat­u­ral causes sur­rounded by her fam­ily and care­givers, her fam­ily said in a state­ment on Tues­day.

“We salute her for a life of re­mark­able achieve­ments as an ac­tor, as a diplo­mat, and most im­por­tantly as our beloved mother, grand­mother, great-grand­mother, and adored wife of fifty-five years,” the state­ment said.

As ac­tress Shirley Tem­ple, she was pre­co­cious, bouncy and adorable with a head of curly hair, tap­danc­ing through songs like On The Good Ship Lol­lipop. As Am­bas­sador Shirley Tem­ple Black, she was soft­spo­ken and earnest in post­ings in Cze­choslo­vakia and Ghana, out to dis­prove con­cerns that her pre­vi­ous ca­reer made her a diplo­matic light­weight.

“I have no trou­ble be­ing taken se­ri­ously as a woman and a diplo­mat here,” Black said af­ter her ap­point­ment as US am­bas­sador to Ghana in 1974. “My only prob­lems have been with Amer­i­cans who, in the be­gin­ning, re­fused to be­lieve I had grown up since my movies.”

Tributes to Black streamed in on Tues­day fol­low­ing the news of her death.

For­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush, who ap­pointed Black as am­bas­sador to the Czech and Slo­vak Fed­eral Repub­lic, said she ex­celled as both a child star and a diplo­mat.

“She cap­tured the af­fec­tions of mil­lions around the world by her en­dear­ing per­for­mances on the sil­ver screen as a young girl, but I also ad­mired Shirley for her self­less ser­vice to our coun­try later in her life,” he said in a state­ment.

The Czech gov­ern­ment praised Black, say­ing she be­came one of the sym­bols of the coun­try’s newly won free­dom when she served as the US am­bas­sador in Prague from 1989 un­til 1992.

“With her charm and open­ness, she greatly con­trib­uted to the ren­o­va­tion of an old friend­ship of our coun­tries and na­tions,“the Czech

Un­for­get­table: For­eign Min­istry said in a state­ment.

The en­ter­tain­ment world also mourned her death and turned to Twit­ter to ex­press its sad­ness.

“Lit­tle Shirley Tem­ple raised the spir­its of a na­tion dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion. RIP,” ac­tress Mia Far­row tweeted.

Whoopi Gold­berg re­ferred to Black’s sig­na­ture song in her trib­ute to the for­mer child star on Twit­ter. “The Good Ship Lol­ly­pop has sailed to­day with Shirley Tem­ple aboard a true 1 of a kind,” she wrote.

Ac­tress Kristin Chenoweth praised Black as a “leg­endary child star and won­der­ful diplo­mat.”

Black, born on April 23, 1928, started her en­ter­tain­ment ca­reer in the early 1930s and was fa­mous by age six. She be­came a na­tional in­sti­tu­tion, and her rag­ing pop­u­lar­ity spawned look-alike dolls, dresses and dozens of other Shirley Tem­ple nov­el­ties as she be­came one of the first stars to en­joy the fruits of the grow­ing mar­ket­ing men­tal­ity.

Black was three when her mother put her in dance school, where a tal­ent scout spot­ted her and got her in Baby Burlesk, a se­ries of short movies with child ac­tors spoof­ing adult movies.

Movie stu­dio ex­ec­u­tives took no­tice. In 1934 she ap­peared in the film Stand Up And Cheer!, and her song and dance num­ber in Baby Take A Bow stole the show. Other movies in that year in­cluded Lit­tle Miss Marker and Bright Eyes – which fea­tured On The Good Ship Lol­lipop – and in 1935 she re­ceived a spe­cial Os­car for her “out­stand­ing con­tri­bu­tion to screen en­ter­tain­ment”.

She made some 40 fea­ture films, in­clud­ing The Lit­tle Colonel, Poor Lit­tle Rich Girl, Heidi and Re­becca Of Sun­ny­brook Farm, in 10 years, star­ring with big-name ac­tors like Ran­dolph Scott, Lionel Barrymore and Jimmy Du­rante.

She was a su­per­star be­fore the term was in­vented. Black said she was about eight when ador­ing crowds shout­ing their love for her made her re­alise she was fa­mous.

“I won­dered why,” she re­called. “I asked my mother, and she said, ‘Be­cause your films make them happy.’”

She was such a mon­ey­maker that her mother – who would al­ways tell her “Sparkle, Shirley!” be­fore she ap­peared be­fore an au­di­ence – and stu­dio of­fi­cials shaved a year off her age to main­tain her child im­age.

Her child ca­reer came to an end at age 12. She tried a few roles as a teenager – in­clud­ing op­po­site fu­ture Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan in That Ha­gen Girl – but re­tired from the screen in 1949 at age 21.

The Screen Ac­tors Guild gave her its 2005 Life Achieve­ment Award. In her ac­cep­tance speech posted on the group’s web­site, she said: “I have one piece of ad­vice for those of you who want to re­ceive the Life­time Achieve­ment Award: Start early!”

In 1998, she was a Kennedy Center hon­oree, one of a se­lect few to re­ceive the an­nual award. – Reuters

Shirley Tem­ple black sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of de­pres­sion-era movie­go­ers and re­mains the ul­ti­mate child star decades later.

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