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Shirley Temple Dies at 85

American film icon, child star, and diplomat dies in California home of natural causes.
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 2/11/2014, 3:05 PM

Shirley Temple (file)
Shirley Temple (file)
Reuters

American film icon Shirley Temple Black died Monday night at the age of 85.

Temple died of "natural causes" in her Woodside, California home, according to the New York Times; she was surrounded by family members and caretakers. Temple is survived by a son, Charlie Jr.; two daughters, Lori and Susan; a granddaughter and two great-granddaughters.

Temple, born in 1928, was known as a world-famous child star in the 1930s, lifting struggling 20th Century Fox out of bankruptcy and stealing the hearts of the Western world during the Great Depression.

The wide-eyed, curly-haired, tap-dancing toddler debuted on the big screen by age 3, set world records when she made over 3 million dollars before hitting puberty - a value of over 50 million dollars by 2014 inflation rates.  

The Los Angeles Times notes that Temple was the most popular movie star in America from 1935-1939. Notable movie roles include Shirley in Baby, Take a Bow (1934), Heidi in Heidi (1937), and Sarah in The Little Princess (1939).  

Hollywood lost interest in Temple by the time she reached age 22; however, Temple - unlike some contemporary child stars - aged gracefully and had a successful second career, becoming an advocate for the Republican party in the 1950s after she married Republican Charles Alden Black. 

Temple later became a diplomat. In 1969, she was appointed as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly by President Richard M. Nixon. She later garnered deep respect as the US ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, was President Gerald R. Ford’s chief of protocol in 1976 and 1977, and became President George H. W. Bush’s ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1989, during the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe.

She is also credited with bringing breast cancer treatment to the public eye. In 1972, she held a news conference in her hospital room after a mastectomy and encouraged women to get tested for cancer, not to "sit at home and be afraid." Cancer treatments at the time were shrouded in secrecy, and Temple is often heralded as the first public figure to speak out about breast cancer.