I met Shirley Temple on Valentine’s Day in 1945. To this day, I’ve never forgotten it. I was in red, she was in black, and we enjoyed a wonderful dinner together. We didn’t immediately become best friends, but every winter, my husband and I would send a Christmas card to Shirley, and she and her family would send one back, so we kept in touch that way.
She was just lovely—a very, very sweet girl. My husband always had a crush on Shirley, but he ended up with me instead. It wasn’t too bad, but you have to remember, there will never be another Shirley Temple. She will always be Shirley Temple in people’s minds, and they’ll always be showing her movies, so new generations will know who she was. Sometimes people put a stamp on the world, and Shirley certainly did.
So many times, people think that child actors have a terrible life after the movies, but Shirley went on to have a wonderful life and family and career as the U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia, so it doesn’t all end tragically. It helped that we both had wonderful parents who saw that we stayed on the right path.
I’d see her at functions throughout the years, and we’d say hello and talk about our families—she had married and had started on a different career by then, so we didn’t keep in touch through the movie world. We kept in touch through the friendship world, and I’ve never forgotten our first meeting. That’s why I have always kept her in my heart on Valentine’s Day, never more so than this year.
O’Brien made her screen debut at age 4 in 1941 and went on to act in such films as Meet Me in St Louis and The Canterville Ghost