Child Star Shirley Temple Dies At 85

Shirley Temple

Shirley Temple, who became famous as a child star at the age of three. Photograph: Bettmann/Corbis

[TheGuardian] Shirley Temple, the actor, singer, dancer and politician, who became famous as a child star, has died aged 85, according to her family.

Temple began her career at the age of three, becoming one of the most famous child stars of all time. She found early success with films such as Curly Top, Heidi and Bright Eyes – the film that featured one of Temple’s best known performances, a rendition of Richard A. Whiting and Sidney Clare’s On the Good Ship Lollipop.

Temple left the film business in 1950. She returned for a brief stint in television, before developing a career in international politics. She was US representative to the UN General Assembly during late 1969 and went on to hold two US ambassador positions – as ambassador to Ghana from 1974-77 (under Gerald R. Ford) and to the then Czechoslovakia under George H.W. Bush from 1989-92.

As a child Temple’s popularity rocketed during the 1930s when she became a iconic figure of America’s great depression. Her roles as a cherubic tomboy were hugely popular with audiences and the young actor was credited with saving the depression-hit Fox studios. In 1936 the then seven-year-old was earning up to $50,000 ($800,000 today, adjusted for inflation), while a Beverly Hills barman reportedly developed the popular non-alcoholic cocktail that shared her name.

Her popularity waned as in the late 40s as Temple headed towards adolescence. When she left the film business she had appeared in 44 features. She returned birefly to show business in the late 50s with a childrens’ television series, Shirley Temple’s Storybook and The Shirley Temple Show, a short-running variety show that was cancelled in 1961.

Shirley Temple in 2006

Shirley Temple in 2006 Photograph: Kazen/REX

She became active in politics in the late 60s, taking the name Shirley Temple Black, after marrying US Navy veteran Charles Alden Black. She sided with the Republican party in an unsuccessful bid to join the Californian congress in 1967, but was beaten by Pete McCloskey, a fellow Republican who was an opponent of the Vietnam war, which Temple supported.

Temple was married twice – to John Agar in 1945 (when she was 17) and to Black in 1950. Temple and Agar had a daughter, Linda, before their divorce in 1949. She married Black the next year. They were married for 54 years until Black’s death in 2005. They had a son in 1952 and a daughter, Lori, in 1954, who grew up to be the one-time bass player with the American punk band, The Melvins.