The Good Ship Lollypop sailed today with a new passenger aboard. Former child star Shirley Temple Black has passed away at the age of 85.
Temple’s death was announced by her family this morning, and later confirmed by her agent in a press release. She died of natural causes in her Woodside, CA home.
The actress, singer, and dancer was one of the best-known child stars of a generation. Starting dance classes at the age of four, she caught the eye of well-connected film and television producers who found themselves captivated by her talent. After featuring in many smaller film and television productions, she found international success after starring in the 1934 film Bright Eyes, which was written specifically to showcase her talents. She was a hit with audiences of all ages and became an iconic figure during America’s Great Depression. She is even credited with saving Fox Studios, who were struggling to get depression-affected audiences into theaters to see their films.
Temple went on to star in many other hit films, including Curly Top (1935) and Heidi (1937) before retiring from the film industry in 1950, at the age of 22.
Though Temple returned to the industry on a few occasions, her post-acting life is best remembered for her success in politics and business.
She sat on the Board of Directors of many large corporations, including The Walt Disney Company and Bank of America. After establishing herself in business, Temple was successful in pursuing her political ambitions. She was appointed the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana in 1974, became the first female Chief Protocol (special adviser reporting directly to President Gerald Ford) in 1976, and served as the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.
Her exploits broke down barriers for women everywhere. She was the first female included in many of the directorships she held, and the first female in every political appointment she held. Also, she became one of the first woman to advocate for breast cancer testing after being diagnosed with breast cancer in 1972. After undergoing a double mastectomy, she announced it on radio and television, and urged women everywhere to get tested.
She was married twice; to John Agar in 1945 and Charles Alden Black in 1950. She is survived by her children Linda Agar, Charles Black, Jr., and Lori Black.
Watch a clip of Temple dancing with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in ‘The Little Colonel’ (1935) below: