PROBABLY many people today have never seen a Shirley Temple movie, but the curly-haired child star was praised by a president, and “Santa Claus” asked for her autograph.
The little girl with the sunny, positive disposition was a bright spot during the Great Depression.
She was so popular that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said that “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.
“When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”
Her fame, however, led to her disbelief in Santa.
Temple said that she stopped believing in that jolly old gentleman at the age of 6 when a department store Santa asked for her autograph.
The little girl was the most popular movie star in the nation from 1935-39 with Harrison County native Clark Gable a distant second.
In later life, she often commented on her early success as a box-office attraction. “People in the Depression wanted something to cheer them up, and they fell in love with a dog, Rin Tin Tin, and a little girl,” she said.
HER MOVIES as a teenager didn’t measure up to her former popularity, and she retired from the screen at the age of 22 although she later was on television for a time.
The child who made “Animal Crackers in My Soup” and “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” popular sailed away to other successes as an adult, serving at times as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, as U.S. ambassador to Ghana, U.S. chief of protocol and ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
She had successful surgery for breast cancer in 1972 and issued a statement urging other women to get checked by their doctors. She also was active in the fight against multiple sclerosis from which her brother suffered.
The movie legend’s common sense prevalent in her early movies was present in real life.
Married for more than 50 years to Charles Black, she said that her greatest roles were as a wife, mother and grandmother, adding, “There’s nothing like real love. Nothing.”