Shirley Temple, the actress and former curly-haired child star, has died at her home in California. She was 85. Publicist Cheryl Kagan says Shirley, known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, died Monday surrounded by family at her home near San Francisco. “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,” a family statement said.
Shirley Temple was born on 23 April 1928. Only three years later she began her career as the most famous child star of all time. She found early success with films such as Curly Top, Heidi, The Littlest Rebel and Bright Eyes. Her popularity rocketed during the 1930s when she became an iconic figure of America’s great depression, providing the people with the distraction and entertainment they so desperately needed.
In 1936 the then seven-year-old was earning up to $50,000 ($800,000 today, adjusted for inflation). Her income from her films was doubled by sales of merchandise, including Shirley Temple dolls and a host of girls’ clothes and accessories. It was during this time that a Beverly Hills barman reportedly developed the popular non-alcoholic cocktail that shared her name. The young actress was credited with saving the depression-hit Fox studios. In 1935 she was awarded a special juvenile Oscar and her foot and hand prints were added outside Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. The peak of her film career came in 1939 when The Little Princess, her first outing in Technicolor, became a critical and box office success. Her personal favorite, though, was the film Wee Willie Winkie made by famous director John Ford.
Her popularity waned as in the late 40s as Temple headed towards adolescence. She left the film business in 1949, having appeared in 44 features. In 1945 she had married John Agar, an army physical training instructor, and had a daughter but the union lasted only four years. Charles Black, a wealthy San Francisco businessman, became her second husband, and she disappeared from the limelight for nearly 20 years.
When she returned to the public eye in 1967, it was as Shirley Temple Black, Republican candidate for Congress. Following her defeat in this election, Temple Black continued to work for the party, even travelling to Europe the following year to rally support for Richard Nixon. When he became president, Nixon rewarded her with an appointment to the American delegation to the United Nations. Then, in 1974, President Ford appointed her the United States Ambassador to Ghana. In 1972 she was diagnosed with breast cancer and became one of the first high profile women to talk openly about the disease. An outspoken opponent of racial discrimination, she quickly gained popularity and a reputation for hard work, charm and an unorthodox way of working. In July 1976, she became the first woman Chief of Protocol at the White House with the rank of Ambassador, but left office six months later, when Jimmy Carter became president. She served as the United States Ambassador to Chechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992, having been appointed by President George H. W. Bush.
Though, she was very clear about the fact that her acting days were behind her, she never denied her past. In 2001 she served as a consultant on an ABC production of her autobiography, Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story. In 2005 her beloved husband Charles passed away. Yesterday, February 10 2014, Shirley passed away of natural causes surrounded by her family and caregivers.