Child Star Shirley Temple Dead At 85

Movies & TV

Shirley Temple, one of the world’s most famous actresses before she was legal to drive a car, has died at the age of 85.

Surrounded by family at her home in Woodside, California, near San Francisco, the child star’s passing was confirmed by publicist Cheryl Kagan. Known in her private life as Shirley Temple Black, the Santa Monica, California born talent got her start in show business by performing in a series of one-reel feature film spoofs called “Baby Burlesks” for $10 per day.

She received international fame in Bright Eyes, a feature film designed specifically for her talents. In 1935, she received a special Juvenile Academy Award for her outstanding contributions as a performer to motion pictures. Licensed merchandise was sold around the globe that capitalized on her wholesome image, which included dolls, dishes, and clothing. 20th Century Fox signed Temple to a seven-year contract that paid her $150 per week. With such a dynamo on their roster, the studio racked up hits such as Stand Up and Cheer!, Baby Take A Bow, and Poor Little Rich Girl. By the end of the year, Temple was America’s top box-office draw, being paid more than $1,250 per week, and was credited with saving the studio from bankruptcy. Super fans of her work used to attempt to count how many curls were in her hair. As her popularity waned as she reached adolescence, she appeared in a few films during her mid-to-late teens, eventually retiring all together from films in 1950 at the ripe old age of 22.

Throughout her career she developed into a force as a film and television actress, singer, dancer, but after the spotlight faded she went into politics.

She served as a U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia, the latter during the country’s historic collapse of communism in 1989. She also served as Chief of Protocol of the United States, 1976-1977. Later on she raised a family and commented that her greatest roles were as “wife, mother and grandmother.” Her husband of more than 50 years, Charles Black, passed away in 2006.

In 2006 she was honored by the Screen Actors Guild with a lifetime achievement award, her advice to other talented individuals who hoped to be in her shoes, “Start early.”

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.

“With Shirley, you’d just tell her once and she’d remember the rest of her life,” said director Allan Dwan, who helmed Heidi and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. “Whatever it was she was supposed to do — she’d do it. … And if one of the actors got stuck, she’d tell him what his line was — she knew it better than he did.”

Watch one of her most legendary performances below:

Props: Reuters