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Shirley Temple Black: legendary child star dies at 85

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Shirley Temple Black: legendary child star dies at 85

By Lorna Cooper

Shirley Temple Black, one of the biggest child stars Hollywood has ever seen, has passed away at the age of 85.

Shirley Temple Black, who dominated Hollywood as no other child star has done since, has died at the age of 85. Gifted with an extraordinary talent, she captivated audiences all over the word in the 1930s and early 1940s.

Born Shirley Jane Temple in Santa Monica, California, on April 23 1928, she was only three when her parents had her enrolled at a dance studio in Los Angeles. Discovered by talent scouts, her Hollywood career took off soon after that; she made her screen debut in 1932 in Hollywood movie What’s to Do.

Two years later, she starred in 10 motion pictures, including Stand Up and Cheer, Little Miss Marker, Baby Take a Bow and Bright Eyes - the film which introduced her signature song: On the Good Ship Lollipop.

Shirley Temple sang, tap-danced and acted her way into the hearts of millions on both sides of the Atlantic; the golden-haired wonder was honoured at the age of six with an unprecedented Juvenile Academy Award in 1935. She remains the youngest actor ever to receive an Oscar.

As Hollywood’s number one box office draw from 1935 to 1938, she headlined the likes of Curly Top, Captain January, Poor Little Rich Girl, Stowaway, Heidi and Little Miss Broadway and was credited with saving Hollywood studio Fox from financial ruin. As the decade closed, she made The Little Princess, Susannah of the Mounties and her last film as a child actress, The Blue Bird.

Shirley Temple was one of the first stars to be inspire an industry; dolls and collectibles bearing her image were sold all around the world. Before hitting her teen years, she’d starred in more than 40 major movies and raised the spirits of nations struggling with the Great Depression. She charmed politicians (President Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed: "As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right.") and royalty (young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were avid fans).

In addition, she held her own opposite actors of renown including Lionel Barrymore (the grand-uncle of Hollywood star Drew), Jimmy Durante and Gary Cooper. Arguably, she’s also best remembered for dances with Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson in movies The Little Colonel, The Littlest Rebel, Just Around the Corner and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.

In 1941, Shirley made Kathleen for MGM, but her transition to teenage and young adult roles wasn’t easy – the public was still in love with the curly-haired little girl. During a seven-year contract with David O. Selznick, she made such films as I’ll Be Seeing You, Since You Went Away, That Hagen Girl (opposite Ronald Reagan), The Bachelor and The Bobby Soxer (opposite Cary Grant) and Fort Apache (opposite John Wayne, Henry Fonda and her first husband, John Agar).

The end of her child star era
She made her last features, A Kiss for Corliss and The Story of Seabiscuit, in 1949, then retired from acting until 1958, when, among her more than 50 major television appearances, she hosted and starred in two bearing her name: Shirley Temple’s Storybook and The Shirley Temple Show.

In 1945, at the age of 17, she married actor John Agar. Their daughter Linda Susan was born in 1948, but the marriage fell apart. In 1950, she met and fell in love with businessman Charles Alden Black who was nine years her senior. They remained married until his death.

With the end of her acting career, she took on a new role - a diplomat. Active on the local and national boards of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, she co-founded the International Federation of Multiple Sclerosis Societies and ran for Congress in 1967, but was not elected.

In 1969, she served in an official capacity when President Nixon appointed her United States Delegate to the 24th United Nations General Assembly.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972, she underwent a mastectomy and became one of the first Hollywood stars to go public with an illness. Two years later, President Gerald Ford appointed her US Ambassador to the Republic of Ghana and she was named White House Chief of Protocol by President Ford in 1976, the first woman to hold that post.

From 1981 to 1988, during President Ronald Reagan’s administration, Ambassador Black served as a Foreign Affairs Officer at the US Department of State.

In 1989, President George Bush appointed her US Ambassador to the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic. She served as Ambassador from 1989 to 1992.

Married to marine entrepreneur and maritime issues expert Charles Black from December 1950 until his death in 2005, Shirley Temple Black had two more children: son Charles Jr. (born in 1952) and daughter Lori (born 1954). The remarkable life of Shirley Temple Black is straight out of Hollywood; we will never see her like again.

How will you remember Shirley Temple Black? Have your say by leaving a comment
Shirley Temple Black (April 23 1928 - February 11 2014)

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