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Award winning child star Shirley Temple Black dead at 85

Shirley Temple Black passed away Monday from natural causes, she was 85 years old. Best known for being a child star of the silver screen during the Great Depression and in her later years being appointed as an Ambassador to Ghana and Czechoslovakia. During the peak of her career, she starred and co-starred in over forty films. When her career on the big screen began to cool off, Temple made the transition to the small screen with shows such as "Shirley Temple's Storybook" and "The Shirley Temple Show". In her later years she became involved in politics as a conservative Republican and later on served on several Board of Directors for corporations such as Walt Disney Corporation, Del Monte and Firemen's Fund Insurance.

Shirley Temple Black
Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images
Shirley Temple

Born on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California. Shirley Temple's parents enrolled her Meglin's Dance School (a.k.a. Meglin Kiddies) an acting and dancing troupe. She was discovered by a talent scout and casting director for Educational Pictures. During her tenure at EP, Temple appeared in fifteen short subjects and one reelers. When the company went bankrupt she signed a contract with Fox and made films with other studios (as an actress on loan). Temple's breakout films was her small role in the musical "Stand Up and Cheer!" Her musical number stole the show with the number "Baby Takes A Bow" and helped her become a star. She began to co-star and star in films such as "Little Miss Marker", "Baby Takes a Bow" and "Now and Forever".

Due to her rising success and huge box office numbers, Fox Films decided to produce films that showcased the talents of Shirley Temple (the films were sappy, sugary sweet and very uplifting). The first of these was the film "Bright Eyes" which featured her famous musical number "On the Good Ship Lollipop" (the song was a huge success and sold a half a million copies of sheet music). In 1935, Temple was awarded with the first ever Juvenile Academy Award for child stars. When Fox Films merged with 20th Century Pictures, Temple's career continued to soar. She was the studio's biggest star and she was becoming a well paid star and made even more from merchandising and endorsements. At the peak of her career, she starred and co-starred in box office hits such as "Heidi", "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm", "Dimples", "Stowaway", "Curly Top", "Wee Willie Winkie", "The Little Colonel". "The Littlest Rebel", "Captain January" and "The Little Princess".

As she grew older, her box office appeal began to fade. She tried several comebacks as a teenage actress but her draw as a star wasn't like it used to be. After a two year hiatus from acting, Temple made a return to acting when she signed a contract with producer David O. Selznick and co-starred in the films "Since You Went Away" and "I'll Be Seeing You". She made a few more films as a star but her shine at the box office failed to meet expectations and retired from Hollywood in 1950. Eight years later she made a return to show business by hosting and starring in the television show "Shirley Temple's Storybook" which lasted for a few seasons before being cancelled. During the late sixties Temple became a conservative Republican spokesperson and unsuccessfully ran for congress in 1967 but a couple of years later was appointed by President Nixon as a representative to the 24th U.N. General Assembly. She was appointed as an Ambassador to Ghana in 1974, 18th Chief Protocol of the United States in 1976 and Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989.

Shirley Temple married twice. Her first marriage was to actor John Agar on 1945 at the age of 17. They divorced two years later. In 1950 she met and married Charles Black, a Naval Intelligence Officer. The two remained married for over fifty-four years until Mr. Black's death in 2005. Temple is survived by her three children. Shirley Temple was Hollywood's first big child star and a huge money maker for 20th Century Fox. She changed the way stars were used within the rigid Hollywood system and paved the way on how stars could make money from merchandising and endorsements. Shirley Temple was a pioneering star who's contributions to Hollywood and cheering up the nation during the Great Depression will surely be missed.

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