News World Shirley Temple dies aged 85

Shirley Temple dies aged 85

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Shirley Temple, the curly-haired US child star who put smiles on the faces of Depression-era moviegoers, has died.

She was 85.

Publicist Cheryl Kagan says Temple, known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, died surrounded by family at her home near San Francisco.

A talented singer, dancer and actress, Shirley Temple was America’s top box-office draw from 1935 – the year she turned 7 – until 1938.

Shirley Temple started performing in films at three years of age.

Shirley Temple (right) with Beryl Mercer in the 1939 production of The Little Princess. Credit: AAP

She was credited with helping save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy with films such as Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel.

Temple blossomed into a pretty young woman, but audiences lost interest, and she retired from films at 21.

She raised a family and later became active in politics and held diplomatic posts in Republican administrations, including ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the collapse of communism in 1989.

“I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award: start early,” she quipped in 2006 as she was honoured by the Screen Actors Guild.

But she also said that evening that her greatest roles were as wife, mother and grandmother. “There’s nothing like real love. Nothing.” Her husband of more than 50 years, Charles Black, had died just a few months earlier.

Temple’s singing and tap-dancing in the 1934 feature Stand Up and Cheer! first gained her wide notice. Also in 1934, Temple starred in Bright Eyes, where she introduced the song On The Good Ship Lollipop.

She became a nationwide sensation. Mothers dressed their little girls like her, and a line of dolls was launched that are now highly sought-after collectables. Her immense popularity prompted President Franklin D. Roosevelt to say that “as long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right”.

Getty Images
Shirley Temple with controversial FBI boss J Edgar Hoover, pictured in 1937. Credit: Getty Images

She won a special Academy Award in early 1935 for her “outstanding contribution to screen entertainment” in the previous year.

“She is a legacy of a different time in motion pictures. She caught the imagination of the entire country in a way that no one had before,” actor Martin Landau said when the two were honoured at the Academy Awards in 1998.

Although by the early 1960s she was retired from the entertainment industry, her interest in politics soon brought her back into the spotlight.

She made an unsuccessful bid as a Republican candidate for Congress in 1967. President Richard Nixon appointed her as a member of the US delegation to the United Nations General Assembly. In the 1970s, she was US ambassador to Ghana and later US chief of protocol.

She then served as ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the administration of the first President Bush. A few months after she arrived in Prague in mid-1989, communist rule was overthrown in Czechoslovakia as the Iron Curtain collapsed across Eastern Europe.


Born in Santa Monica to an accountant and his wife, Temple was little more than three years old when she made her film debut in 1932 in a series of shorts called the Baby Burlesks.

She had married Army Air Corps private John Agar in 1945. They had a daughter, Susan, in 1948, but she filed for divorce the following year.

She married Black in 1950, and they had two more children, Lori and Charles. That marriage lasted until his death in 2005 at age 86.

In 1972, she underwent successful surgery for breast cancer. She issued a statement urging other women to get checked by their doctors and vowed, “I have much more to accomplish before I am through.”

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