Shortly after Black's first marriage ended, the star took a trip to Hawaii with her family to clear her mind. It was there she met Charles Black, a formal naval officer whom she'd come to call her soul mate. When Charles passed away in 2005, the couple had been married 55 years. Devastated, the actress couldn't even bring herself to delete his voice from their answering machine. "I don't ever want to erase it," she said at the time.
You may have already known that Black had a mastectomy in 1972 after she found a malignant lump on her left breast. What you may not know is that her willingness to discuss it publicly bolstered the courage of women everywhere — 50,000 of whom sent Black cards and letters thanking her for her candor. At the time of her surgery, Black is quoted as saying she "reached up to feel the void. It was an amputation, and I faced it."
Black loved a good meal! She often joked of being born at 9 p.m. that it was "too late for dinner, and so I started life one meal behind." It was a deficit she sought to remedy her entire life. "Ever since, I have tried to make up for that loss," she is quoted as saying on her official website.
While many laud Black as the most famous child star of all time, she is decidedly more modest in her self-assessment. "I class myself with Rin Tin Tin," she said once in an interview. "At the end of the Depression, people were perhaps looking for something to cheer themselves up. They fell in love with a dog and a little girl. It won't happen again."
On her website, Black admitted she didn't always wanted to be an entertainer — she once wanted to be a pie salesman. "It was so intense that the studio got the prop department to make a little pie wagon and they filled it with tarts," she explained. "I wheeled it around the set and sold them to the crew. I was about eight years old. I always sold out, and I didn't have to pay for them. It was a great deal!”
Naturally, Black didn't get in too much trouble. Who could stay angry at those dimples? But she did recall to People magazine that she remembered being spanked after a barbecue given by Eleanor Roosevelt at Hyde Park. When Roosevelt bent over to put food on the grill, the then 10-year-old Shirley Temple — using a slingshot — smacked the First Lady on the tush with a pebble.
One of Black's greatest legacies is actually her diplomacy. She was the first woman to serve as a U.S. Chief of Protocol, the first ever Honorary U.S. Foreign Services Officer and Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana — the latter of which she called "the best job" she ever had. In 1975, the AP reported that she first arrived for her ambassador duties in a "Ghanaian outfit of printed cotton head scarf and gown."
Clearly, Black had a face people simply couldn't resist... and often didn't try. "You can see a glint in the eye and you know a big sloppy one is coming," Black told People. "Men say, 'I've loved you since I was seven years old,' and I say, 'Well, you never contacted me.'"
Unfortunately for Black, her father — who never finished high school — was not good with numbers, and made some bad business deals. By the time Black was in her early twenties, she had little more than $40,000 to show for the more than $3 million she made during her years working as a child star.
Although Black's mother was often unfairly portrayed as a stern stage mom, the actress asserted that was far from the truth. In reality, her mother — whom Black told People "encircled her with affection" — did her hair every single night, curling her golden locks into exactly 56 pincurls while Black's dad read from the Wizard of Oz books.
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