Shirley Temple Dies

Former child star was 85

Shirley Temple

by Phil de Semlyen |
Published on

Actress, diplomat and legendary child star Shirley Temple has died at home in Woodside, California. She was 85.

Born in California on the cusp of the talkies era, Temple was only three years old when she made her first screen appearance. Scouring dance schools for talented youngsters, Educational Pictures spotted the precociously talented Temple in January 1932 and signed her up for two series of short films. Baby Burlesks and Frolics Of Youth, which exploited her cherubic charm as a young daughter of a suburban family, led to her feature film debut in the otherwise long-forgotten Red-Haired Alibi later that year.

Fame and fortune soon followed, with Hollywood majors Universal, Paramount and Warner Bros. all vying for her talents. But it was a Fox picture, Bright Eyes, that offered her first topline role in 1934. With Rags the dog in close attendance, her newly orphaned girl Shirley Blake charmed audiences and melted hearts.

Within a year the six year-old Temple had won a special juvenile Oscar – she remains the youngest Oscar winner – and been earmarked for stardom by 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck. The mogul appointed a team of 19 writers specifically to develop roles for her, often as a benevolent angel or orphan, including **Curly Top **(1935), The Littlest Rebel (1935) and **Stowaway **(1935).

Her dancing, singing and acting skills made her one of the most popular screen presences of the 1930s. With adult roles harder to come by, she retired from filmmaking aged only 22 in 1950, leaving a legacy of 43 feature-length movies and countless shorts.

Temple’s achievements extended far beyond the screen. An unsuccessful run at Congress was compensated for by appointments as the US’s ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia in a diplomatic career that lasted five years. She also served on the board of large American corporations and several charities, including UNESCO and the National Wildlife Federation.

She was married twice, once aged 17 to an airman-turned-actor called John Agar with whom she appeared in two RKO pictures, and later to Charles Alden Black. She remained with Black until his death in 2005.

In a statement, her family said that she died surrounded by loved ones and caregivers. “We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and... our beloved mother, grandmother [and] great-grandmother.”

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