Passage: Shirley Temple & Sid Caesar


Left: actress, singer and dancer Shirley Temple, from the film "Little Miss Marker." Right: Comedian Sid Caesar, star of the 1950s series, "Your Show of Shows.


It happened this week . . . the saddest of news about the performer who was always the best at cheering us up.

Shirley Temple Black died Monday night at her California home.

Shirley Temple wasn't just the biggest child actress of the 1930s . . . she was the biggest star of the screen, PERIOD, appearing in almost 50 films by the time she was 10.

Often cast as an orphan or otherwise an unfortunate, Shirley was a triple-threat. She was an actress who could win over moviegoers both with tears, and with laughs:

She was a singer who could make any song her own:

Animal crackers in my soup
Monkeys and rabbits loop the loop
Gosh oh gee, but I have fun
Swallowing animals one by one
In every bowl of soup I see
Lions and tigers watching me
I make 'em jump right through a hoop
Those animal crackers in my soup

And she was a dancer, on a par with the best of them, including Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, with whom she not only tore up the dance floor, but also helped to tear DOWN Hollywood's color bar.

Click below to view a (colorized) tap dance routine featuring Temple and Robinson from "The Littlest Rebel" (1935).

Shirley Temple - The Littlest Rebel - 1935 by Damien Chemillé on YouTube

Her smile and good cheer kept up America's spirits through the worst of the Depression.  "As long as we have Shirley Temple," President Franklin Roosevelt said, "we'll be all right."

And we DID have Shirley Temple for decades to come, though obviously not always as a little girl.

Her box office appeal faded with adolescence, and she retired from films at the age of 21, devoting herself to the family she raised with her second husband, Charles Alden Black.

In later years Shirley Temple enjoyed a new career as a diplomat -- first as a delegate to the United Nations, then as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and, later, to Czechoslovakia, putting her past fame to good use:

"Little Shirley always helps me open doors," she said. "But if I don't know perform or know what to say, then the doors close."

Whether as child actress or diplomat, Shirley Temple always managed to open not just doors, but hearts.

Shirley Temple Black was 85.

Sid Caesar always knew what to say, even if the rest of us didn't know what he was saying.

His mastery of foreign-sounding gibberish helped make him one of the fathers of TV comedy in the early 1950s.

"Your Show of Shows," with co-star Imogene Coca, was appointment television every Saturday night for millions of viewers. Even Albert Einstein was a fan.

Week after week, Caesar delighted and astonished his audience with preposterous skits, such as the runaway German town clock:

The Clock (Sid Caesar) by SidCaesarCom on YouTube

And a classic takeoff on the beach scene in the film "From Here to Eternity," in which the stagehands tossing water became a little too eager.

Sid Caesar was taken off the air in 1957, his show the victim of changing audience tastes.

But in a "Sunday Morning" interview in 2001, he still vividly remembered the rush of doing live TV: "It's a wonderful feeling when the audience laughs. Ahh, that's like -- that's the payoff."

Sid Caesar died Wednesday at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 91 years old.

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