Shirley Temple Former Child Star Dead at 85

Shirley Temple

The family of the famed 1930s former child star, Shirley Temple Black, has released the news of her death at 85 years of age. Temple Black died on Monday, however her family did not wish to disclose the cause of death.

Born on April 23, 1928, in Santa Monica, California, Shirley Temple began dancing at age 3 after her mother enrolled her in dance classes. Shortly afterward, she was discovered and became the adorable little girl that sang and tap danced her way from the silver screen into the hearts of millions of Americans during the years of the Great Depression. No other child star has reached a level of fame anywhere akin to hers; at the height of her fame, she was being photographed more often than the president.

Her first film was 1934’s Stand Up and Cheer!, which had in it the musical number that decided her career, Baby Take a Bow. Fox quickly signed her to a contract, paying her $150 per week, and her mother $25. Her roles in films almost always featured her bringing peace and solving problems through song and dance, and it was a massive hit.

She earned an Academy Award at age 6, and before she had even hit puberty, her bank account was already $3 million strong. However, when Temple grew into a teenager, the audience quickly began losing interest. She retired from being an actor around the age of 21. The image of the curly-haired blonde girl with big dimples and a smile that lit up the room as she danced and sang never left the hearts and minds of many Americans.

Rather than letting the fall from Hollywood stardom discourage her and cause her to take the route of self-destructive behaviour that so many child stars that came after her would take, Temple married Charles Alden Black in 1950, becoming Shirley Temple Black. After starting a family with her husband, Temple Black became involved in politics, and became a fund raiser for the republican party.

Her political interests quickly led her to become a prominent world diplomat. In 1969 Richard Nixon assigned her to be a delegate at the United Nations General Assembly. She became a very well-respected politician in her next position as the US Ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976. President Gerald Ford took her on as his Chief of Protocol from 1976 to 1977. Later, in 1989, she served as the US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia as communism was losing its grip on eastern Europe. With the announcement of her death at 85 years old, the world mourns not only the loss of Shirley Temple the child star, but Shirley Temple Black, the renowned diplomat.

In 2006, the Screen Actor’s Guild honored Shirley Temple Black with the lifetime achievement award. However, among all her great achievements in both the realm of film and politics, she still considered her greatest pride to be her family.

She is often credited with bringing awareness to the importance of speaking out about breast cancer, as she held a press conference in her hospital room after having a mastectomy to remove a tumor in her left breast in 1972. At the time, it breast cancer was a shameful topic, and many women would refuse to see a doctor even after finding the tell-tale lump.

Her family released the statement saluting her for her “remarkable achievements” in both acting and diplomacy, but placing emphasis on her importance to the family as a mother and wife.

For nearly a century, Shirley Temple has been a beloved figure both in and out of film. Dolls in her likeness were the most popular toys when she was young, and are worth hundreds of dollars today. At 85 years of age, Shirley Temple, former child star and successful, respected diplomat has died, but her legacy will surely live on.

By Robin Syrenne

NY Times

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