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Shirley Temple Black, Who Delighted Audiences as a Curly-Haired Child Star, Dies at Age 85

The young Hollywood icon Shirley Temple lit up American movie houses during the Great Depression. logo
Shirley Temple Black, child film star of the 1930s, died of natural causes on February 10 at the age of 85 in her California home.

Shirley Temple Black, the dimpled child star of the 1930s who tapped and sang American moviegoers through the Great Depression, died of natural causes on Monday, February 10, at her home in Woodside, California. She was 85.

Born Shirley Jane Temple, Black's film career began in 1932 at the age of three. She launched to stardom in 1934 with Bright Eyes, a feature film written and developed specifically for her talents. The film, which afforded the young star her first above-the-title credit, featured the musical number "On the Good Ship Lollipop," a song that would become one of the trademarks of her young career.

In 1935, Shirley Temple became the first child star to receive a miniature Juvenile Oscar for 1934 film work, which also included featured roles in Stand Up and Cheer!, Little Miss Marker, Now I'll Tell, Baby Take a Bow, and Now and Forever. A symbol of wholesome family entertainment, she went on to star in a number of film hits through the Great Depression years of the 1930s including Curly Top, The Littlest Rebel, and Heidi. She was named the top box office draw four years in a row from 1935-38 in a Motion Picture Herald poll.

Temple continued making films into early adulthood, appearing in the wartime hits Since You Went Away and I'll Be Seeing You as well as popular films Kiss and Tell (a film adaptation of the Broadway play), The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer, and Fort Apache, which she made with her first husband, John Agar. Interest in her films waned, and she announced her official retirement from the film industry in 1950, the year she married her second husband, Charles Alden Black. Following her Hollywood career, Black became active in the Republican Party in California. She was appointed Representative to the 24th United Nations General Assembly by President Richard Nixon, a post she maintained from September-December 1969, and was later appointed United States Ambassador to Ghana by President Gerald Ford, serving in the position from December 1974-July 1976. She then became the first female Chief of Protocol of the United States, managing the arrangements for President Jimmy Carter's inauguration and inaugural ball, and from August 1989-July 1992, served as Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, following an appointment by President George H.W. Bush.

In addition to her political contributions, Black also became a spokesperson for breast cancer survivors, and was one of the first public figures to speak openly about her own diagnosis and subsequent mastectomy in 1972.

Black is survived by her three children — Susan Agar, Lori Black, and Charles Alden Black Jr. — as well as a number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her family released the following statement: "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 for fifty-five years of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black."