Shirley Temple has died in California at the age of 85. She was known as America’s little darling after she appeared in her first film at the age of three. Later in life she moved into politics, running for Congress and joining the diplomatic corps. Henry Kissinger, she said, was surprised she knew where Ghana was, but she became ambassador to Ghana and later to Czechoslovakia.

As for her films, Graham Greene, reviewing Shirley Temple’s latest performance in August 1936, was rather shocked:

Captain January, the latest Shirley Temple picture, is sentimental, a little depraved, with an appeal interestingly decadent… Shirley Temple acts and dances with immense vigour and assurance, but some of her popularity seems to rest on a coquetry quite as mature as Miss Colbert’s, and on an oddly precocious body as voluptuous in grey-flannel trousers as Miss Dietrich’s.

Her precocious body perhaps seemed a little more suitable when she was 18 and appeared in The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, alongside Carey Grant. Virginia Graham was impressed, despite herself.

It will come as a great shock to those people who, like myself, were under the impression that Shirley Temple was eight, to find that she is now eighteen, married and a mother. Strangely enough the years, while heightening her stature and rounding her figure, have made no sort or kind of impression on her face, which has remained congealed in the same merry mould of dimpled immaturity that was the delight, or alternatively the despair, of the cinema-going public… In spite of this facial petrifaction Miss Temple gives a lively intelligent interpretation of a bobby-soxer in the throes of her first love affair with a man much older than herself. The part is thoroughly inane, and she copes with it in a masterly fashion.

When she ran for Congress 1967, Christopher Hollis reported her plans in rhyme:

Shirley Temple is running as a Republican candidate for Congress on a platform which promises her constituents ‘a happier time for all through moral revolution.’

Says Shirley Temple—Mrs Black— I think that I will have a crack

At moral revolution.

The plank on which I choose to run

Is everything for everyone— An admirable solution.

Since peace is pleasanter than war

And being rich than being poor,

My special contribution

Is, as I think you will agree,

That everyone should vote for me

And save the constitution.

Tags: America, Cinema, From the archive, Henry Kissinger, Hollywood, Shirley Temple, The Spectator