For countless women who were giddy little girls, the death of Shirley Temple brings happy memories and heavy hearts. The woman who was an American icon by the age of 5-years-old died Monday night, of natural causes, at the age of 85 surrounded by family and caregivers at her Woodside, California home.
Born April 23, 1928, Shirley Temple began acting at the age of 3. Her first film of merit was War Babies (1932). She went on to earn the then excessive amount of $50,000 per movie by the time she was 10. The mold and model of many childhood stars, Temple’s signature curls and vibrant personality saw her singing and tap dancing her way through the hearts and minds of little girls across four generations.
Hit films included Little Miss Marker (1934), Curly Top (1935), The Littlest Rebel (1935), and The Little Princess (1939). Her star was at its brightest from 1935 to 1938. She became less popular as a box office draw when she reached her teens. And 20th Century Fox terminated her contract early in 1940.
Temple retired from making movies at the age 22. But her unique and fruitful life was only just beginning. She went on to change her name to Temple Black after marrying Charles Black. Her career as a foreign diplomat marked the next phase of her career where Temple served in the U.S. delegation to the United Nations from 1969 to 1974. She was U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, and U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992. On the personal side, Temple battled and defeated breast cancer in 1972.
"We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and most importantly as our beloved mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and adored wife of fifty-five years of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black," a statement said.
Remaining a mainstay for most American girls through the 80's, Temple’s black and white films were introduced to a new generation of precocious little ladies by way of Saturday afternoon television, 40 years after she appeared in her last film.
In 1958, Temple made a comeback as an entertainer, this time on television, in an hour-long show, Shirley Temple's Storybook. Watch the video below of her performing with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in 1935’s The Little Colonel. The film made Bojangles the first black man to dance with a white child on film.