Celebrities across Hollywood react to Shirley Temple’s death
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The praises of Shirley Temple are being sung by celebrities across Hollywood who remembered her as America’s prolific little darling.
For the fifth time in its history, the Chinese Theatre planned to dim the lights in its famous forecourt, which features Temple’s little hand- and footprints, in tribute to the star of such films as “Curly Top,” ”Heidi” and “The Little Colonel.”
Temple, known in her other life as Shirley Temple Black, died Monday night at her home near San Francisco at age 85. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Margaret O’Brien, a fellow child star during the same era, reminisced about her unique bond with Black. The “Meet Me in St. Louis” actress said she and Black were able to communicate about an experience “that we couldn’t share with others.”
“Although there were periods of time that we would not be able to speak, we exchanged Christmas cards every year and tried to keep in touch,” said O’Brien. “It has hit me hard to think that she isn’t going to be available to call on for advice or a cheerful word. I, as so many others, will miss her.”
“Lassie” and “Lost in Space” actress June Lockhart recalled when Black first came to her high school as a freshman after years of being tutored on the Fox lot. There was a uniform dress code and no lipstick was allowed. Black joined the drill team, and Lockhart was the captain.
“We became friends and she was great fun,” said Lockhart. “While we were at Westlake, we did the film ‘Miss Annie Rooney,’ and Shirley had her first screen kiss on screen. She was one of a kind and will be missed.”
Kevin Costner, while promoting his film “3 Days to Kill,” reminisced about watching Black’s films from a Time-Life collection.
“I remember when they came on, you watched them,” said Costner. “You watched her, and those stories always had a high level of meaning when you were very, very young, to see a child so gifted and really cute.”
George Clooney, while promoting his film “The Monuments Men” in London, remarked on Black’s indelible legacy.
“It was really fun to see all those clips of her and remember how long ago she was such a big part of our industry,” Clooney said. “She has a great legacy, and she lived a wonderful life, so it’s sad that she’s gone but she sure has a great legacy for it.”
Bob Balaban, Clooney’s “Monuments Men” co-star, ruminated on the “Wee Willie Winkie” star’s scandal-free image.
“You would think she would have grown up into a monster,” he remarked. “As far as I could see she had no trauma about it, she just launched herself into the adult world and went into politics. That’s amazing. That doesn’t happen that much.”
Decades after she left Hollywood, her interest in politics brought her back into the spotlight. Retired from acting at 21, she went on to hold several diplomatic posts in Republican administrations.
Black made an unsuccessful bid for Congress as a Republican in 1967. After Richard Nixon became president in 1969, he appointed her a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. General Assembly. In the 1970s, she was U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later U.S. chief of protocol.
A few months after she began serving as the ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, communist rule was overthrown as the Iron Curtain collapsed across Eastern Europe.
Former President George H.W. Bush, who appointed Black to the post in Czechoslovakia, saluted her Tuesday for “her selfless service to our country” and her film career.
“In both roles, she truly lifted people up and earned not only a place in our hearts, but also our enduring respect,” Bush said.
Marc Grossman, press secretary and speechwriter for Cesar Chavez, recounted how Black inspired one of the legendary farm-worker rights advocate’s most popular speeches, his introspective address to the Commonwealth Club in 1984.
“Cesar and Mrs. Black had lunch together on the days before the speech and got along like old friends,” said Grossman. “They shared common interests in gardening and vegetarianism. Mrs. Black related how she had been a member of the Screen Actors Guild as a child actor and maintained her membership in the union over the years so as to support other young actors.”
Nancy Reagan, who knew Black from both Hollywood and her political work, remembered her simply as “truly an American icon.”