At the age of five, Shirley Temple became the world’s most famous and acclaimed child—the most talented, beautiful child performer ever to capture the public’s imagination. By the time she was ten, she had either met or had received words of admiration from almost everyone of distinction. Nine-tenths of the world could recognize her on sight. She single-handedly cheered an entire nation caught in the firm grip of a depression. Her films saved a major studio from bankruptcy. She earned more than the President of the United States and lived in her own junior-sized San Simeon. As lionized, idolized and protected as royalty, Shirley Temple was the one and only American Princess.
Shirley Temple is brought into focus in this definitive, intimate portrait of her as a child and as the woman that child became: a woman forced to live her entire life in the shadow of her own past glory. We follow the tumultuous events and disappointments that marked Shirley Temple’s meteoric rise to unprecedented fame as a child star, her fall as an adolescent who had outgrown her appeal, and her surprising ascent into a word figure as ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of Protocol for the United States, and Ambassador to Ghana; her “princess in the tower” upbringing that isolated her from friends and real child’s play and from studio co-workers as well; her obsessive relationship with her mother, Gertrude, who lived her life through her famous daughter; her power over one of Hollywood’s greatest despots—Darryl Zanuck; her fairy-tale marriage to John Agar that became a nightmare filled with flaunted infidelities and alcoholism; her romance with Charles Black and her transformation from film start to society matron, television tycoon, to American diplomat; her courageous battle with cancer; and her ever-present realization that “little Shirley Temple’s” greatness would always exceed that of the grown woman.
Shirley Temple’s most notable diplomatic achievement was her appointment by President H.W. Bush as the first and only female ambassador to Czechoslovakia. She was present during the Velvet Revolution, which brought about the end of Communism in the country, and she played a critical role in hastening the end of the Communist regime by openly sympathizing with anti-Communist dissidents and later establishing formal diplomatic relations with the newly elected government led by Václav Havel. She took the unusual step of personally accompanying Havel on his first official visit to Washington, riding along on the same plane.
Anne Edwards has had the cooperation of those who have been closest to Shirley Temple in all stages of her unique life. She has written a book that does not spare the truth, and is as glittering an expose of Hollywood and its power brokers as any bestselling novel of that genre. Shirley Temple: American Princess is a moving and inspirational story that gives great insight into the privileged corridors of fame and glory where only the legendary figures of our times have walked.