Actress Shirley Temple Black waves as she accepts the
Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award at the Screen
Actors Guild Awards in this 2006 file photo. REUTERS/Mario
Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America's spirits as a
bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great
Depression and forged a second career as a US diplomat, has
died at the age of 85.
Black, who lured millions to the movies in the 1930s,
"peacefully passed away" at her Woodside, California, home
from natural causes surrounded by her family and caregivers,
her family said in a 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 of
fifty-five years," the statement said.
As actress Shirley Temple, she was precocious, bouncy and
adorable with a head of curly hair, tap-dancing through songs
like "On The Good Ship Lollipop."
As Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, she was soft-spoken and
earnest in postings in Czechoslovakia and Ghana, out to
disprove concerns that her previous career made her a
"I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a
diplomat here," Black said after her appointment as U.S.
ambassador to Ghana in 1974. "My only problems have been with
Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had
grown up since my movies."
Tributes to Black streamed in on Tuesday following the news
of her death.
The Czech government praised Black, saying she became one of
the symbols of the country's newly won freedom when she
served as the U.S. ambassador in Prague from 1989 until 1992.
"With her charm and openness, she greatly contributed to the
renovation of an old friendship of our countries and
nations," the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The entertainment world also mourned her death and turned to
Twitter to express their sadness.
"Little Shirley Temple raised the spirits of a nation during
the Great Depression. RIP," actress Mia Farrow tweeted.
Whoopi Goldberg referred to Black's signature song in her
tribute to the former child star on Twitter. "The Good Ship
Lollypop has sailed today with Shirley Temple aboard a true 1
of a kind," she wrote.
Actress Kristin Chenoweth praised Black as a "legendary child
star and wonderful diplomat."
Black, born on April 23, 1928, started her entertainment
career in the early 1930s and was famous by age 6. She became
a national institution, and her raging popularity spawned
look-alike dolls, dresses and dozens of other Shirley Temple
novelties as she became one of the first stars to enjoy the
fruits of the growing marketing mentality.
Shirley was 3 when her mother put her in dance school, where
a talent scout spotted her and got her in "Baby Burlesk," a
series of short movies with child actors spoofing adult
Movie studio executives took notice. In 1934 she appeared in
the film "Stand Up and Cheer!", and her song and dance number
in "Baby Take a Bow" stole the show. Other movies in that
year included "Little Miss Marker" and "Bright Eyes" - which
featured her signature song "On the Good Ship Lollipop" - and
in 1935 she received a special Oscar for her "outstanding
contribution to screen entertainment."
She made some 40 feature films, including "The Little
Colonel," "Poor Little Rich Girl," "Heidi" and "Rebecca of
Sunnybrook Farm," in 10 years, starring with big-name actors
like Randolph Scott, Lionel Barrymore and Jimmy Durante.
She was a superstar before the term was invented. Black said
she was about 8 when adoring crowds shouting their love for
her made her realize she was famous.
"I wondered why," she recalled. "I asked my mother, and she
said, 'Because your films make them happy.'"
She was such a moneymaker that her mother - who would always
tell her "Sparkle, Shirley!" before she appeared before an
audience - and studio officials shaved a year off her age to
maintain her child image.
Her child career came to an end at age 12. She tried a few
roles as a teenager - including opposite future President
Ronald Reagan in "That Hagen Girl" - but retired from the
screen in 1949 at age 21.
The Screen Actors Guild gave her its 2005 Life Achievement
Award. In her acceptance speech posted on the group's
website, she said: "I have one piece of advice for those of
you who want to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award: Start
Temple was only 17 in 1945 when she married for the first
time to John Agar, who would eventually appear with her in
two movies. Their five-year marriage produced a daughter.
In 1950, she wed Charles Black. Their marriage lasted until
his death in 2005, and they had two children.
Black's interest in politics was sparked in the early '50s
when her husband was called back into the Navy to work in
She did volunteer work for the Republican Party while trying
to make a comeback with two short-lived TV series, "Shirley
Temple's Storybook" in 1959 and "The Shirley Temple Theater"
a year later.
Seven years after that, she ran unsuccessfully for Congress
in California but stayed in politics, helping raise more than
$2 million for President Richard Nixon's 1972 re-election
She was later named to the United States' delegation to the
United Nations - and found that her childhood popularity was
an asset in her new career.
"Having been a film star can be very helpful on an
international basis," Black once said. "Many people consider
me an old friend."
Sometimes the public found it hard to accept her in
diplomatic roles. But in 1989 she pointed out her 20 years in
public service were more than the 19 she spent in Hollywood.
In 1974, President Gerald Ford appointed Black ambassador to
Ghana. Two years later, he made her chief of protocol. For
the next decade she trained newly appointment ambassadors at
the request of the State Department.
In 1989, President George H.W. Bush made Black ambassador to
Prague - a sensitive Eastern European post normally reserved
for career diplomats. Black had been in Prague in 1968,
representing a group fighting multiple sclerosis at a
conference, when Soviet-bloc tanks entered to crush an era of
liberalization known as the "Prague Spring."
President Gustav Husak did not seem daunted by the prospect
of a U.S. ambassador who had witnessed the invasion. He told
her that he had been a fan of "Shirleyka."
In 1972, Black was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent
a mastectomy. She publicly discussed her surgery to educate
women about the disease.
Black is survived by her children, Susan, Charlie Jr., and
Lori, her granddaughter Teresa and her great-granddaughters
Lily and Emma, the family statement said. It said private
funeral arrangements were pending.