Appreciation: Shirley Temple, the model child star


Story highlights

Shirley Temple was a leading movie star of 1930s

She represented "the epitome of childhood goodness and sentiment," said one observer

Fame was gigantic -- there were countless Shirley Temple products

After movie career, she had successful adult life as diplomat

CNN —  

President Franklin D. Roosevelt called her “Little Miss Miracle.”

Such was the power of Shirley Temple during the Great Depression, a dark time when millions were out of work and struggling to survive. Into their midst came a little girl in curls, whose films – such as “Little Miss Marker,” “Curly Top,” “Bright Eyes” and “Captain January” – allowed them to forget, if just for a little while.

“Shirley could make people believe, if only for 90 minutes, that there were no problems in the world,” said a fellow child star, Dickie Moore.

Shirley Temple Black, perhaps the biggest child star in history, died Monday. She was 85.

There had been child stars before Shirley Temple – Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan, to name two – and there is certainly no shortage of them now, with reality TV and child-targeted cable networks minting a perky new imp every six months. But with her sparkling personality, song-and-dance talent and sheer box-office power, there has likely been no equal in history.

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“(She) represented, for many, the epitome of childhood goodness and sentiment, a beacon of hope for the future of America and the physical embodiment of the perfect child,” wrote a British sociologist, Jane Catherine O’Connor, in “The Cultural Significance of the Child Star.”

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