Shirley Temple Dead at 85 (VIDEOS)

Shirley Temple Black, child actress and later, foreign diplomat has died at 85.  Via CNN

Shirley Temple Black, who rose to fame as arguably the most popular child star in Hollywood history, died late Monday night, her publicist said.

She was 85.

Temple Black, who also enjoyed a long career as a diplomat, died of natural causes at her Woodside, California, home. She was surrounded by family and caregivers, a statement from Cheryl Kagan said.

She began acting at age 3 and became a massive box-office draw before turning 10, commanding a then-unheard of salary of $50,000 per movie.

Her first film of notice was in 1932 when she played in “War Babies,” part of the “Baby Burlesks” series of short films.

For about 18 years, she sang, tap-danced and acted her way into the hearts of millions. Her corkscrew curls were popular with little girls from the 1930s through the 1970s.

She embarked on a new career as a foreign diplomat: She served in the U.S. delegation to the United Nations from 1969 to 1974 was U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, and U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.

“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 of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black,” a statement said.

I watched her films as a kid and was really disappointed to find out she was actually a grownup! Her movies have endured over generations, which is impressive, considering her career was mostly confined to the 1930s. Poor Shirley was almost always an orphan, or motherless/fatherless. In the end, she’d always find a happy ending.

Check out a few of Shirley Temple Black’s iconic film clips below:

Here she is tap dancing with the legendary hoofer, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. From the 1935 film, The Little Colonel

Block out the racist overtones, which was typical of the time, and check out Robinson’s dancing. It’s amazing.

Dancing with Buddy Ebsen (yes, from the Beverly Hillbillies in the 1935 film, At The Codfish Ball

And of course…The Good Ship Lollipop from the 1934 film, Bright Eyes.

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  • Montavilla

    She lived a good, long life and brightened the world while doing so. Rest in peace.

  • Ricky T

    What a great life! A national treasure

  • Incipit

    Sad news today. RIP, Shirley Temple.

    Shirley Temple was talented, no question, and always fun to watch – no matter how cheesy the plot. Audiences of the 30’s and early 40’s loved her character of the little girl with the indomitable spirit and sunny personality, it was an antidote to the realities of the times. The career she built after the movies in the Diplomatic service has sometimes made me wonder if she called on those traits to inspire people in what seems a different line of work… and maybe it wasn’t so different. She’s got a legacy in both fields.

    But I had to chuckle at this – it’s so true –

    “Her corkscrew curls were popular with little girls from the 1930s through the 1970s.”

    Those corkscrew curls were the bane of many a young girl’s childhood in that era, as their Moms patiently put their hair into rag curlers every night…

  • Sassycatz

    I have naturally curly hair, so all my grandmother had to do was stick a comb in a glass of water and twirl a lock of my hair around to make a curl. And there ya go, instant Shirley … without the talent! (My kindergarten picture is a hoot. The hair is just like Shirley’s)

  • H.A.

    My hair is naturally curly too and my mom did the exact same thing every morning. lol.

  • H.A.

    This is a sad day. Just a few weeks ago I was flipping through the channels and came across one of her movies. I said “what the heck” I haven’t seen a Shirley Temple movie since I was a child. Watching it brought back so much memories growing up. My favorites were The Little Colonel, Heidi, A Little Princess.

    RIP Shirley Temple, who paved the way for hundreds of other child stars, except for the part where she grew up and had a normal happy life.

  • Sassycatz

    Shirley Temple had long left the movie business by the time I was born, but my mother was a huge fan. Her movies were on TV constantly. In fact, there was something called Shirley Temple theater, that I believe aired on Saturday mornings or afternoons in the Philadelphia area. They would show her movies over and over and over. The one I remember liking the best was Curly Top from 1935. She did one number in the movie that was quite remarkable for such a little girl since it required singing, acting (while singing) dancing … and then throw in a jump rope! Here it is:

    When I Grow Up

    When Shirley actually did grow up, I don’t think she was as accepted by audiences who wanted that cute kid. However, she was in a number of movies that I really enjoyed. One of my absolute favorites was The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer from 1947. It co-starred Cary Grant and Myrna Loy and is very funny — especially the dinner-date scene at the night club. I can’t find a video of that but this scene gives you a flavor of the movie, with the three principal actors:

    You remind me of a man….

    Finally, another favorite of mine, was the first movie of John Ford’s Cavalry Trilogy from 1948, Fort Apache. Shirley plays Henry Fonda’s daughter as they head out west to take over command of a Fort in “Indian country.” The movie also co-starred John Wayne … and another fella who played Shirley’s love interest — John Agar. What’s interesting about that is John Agar was Shirley’s actual husband who got in the business based on his relationship with her. They married when she was only 17, a couple of years earlier. The marriage lasted four years. I can’t find a scene with them interacting much except this one, where someone else is singing and they’re “making eyes” at one another.

    My cousin is also a huge fan of Shirley’s. Maybe I should phone her up and offer my condolences. ;-)

  • Miz

    Sassy, we were probably watching those old movies at the same time! I grew up 2 hours NW from Philly and we got the Philly, Harrisburgh, and WIlkes Barre stations … and inexplicably, some Canadian station.

    Thanks for those clips of her ‘grown up’ movies. Some newscaster said her acting career ended when she was 12. Another day of yelling at the TV for misinformation.

  • Miz

    I blame Shirley Temple’s curls for my Aunt sneakily giving my normally wavy hair a Toni perm. It took forever for that atrocity to grow out.

  • Miz

    Shirley Temple will long have a place in my heart. We spent many a weekend watching her old movies on TV when I was growing up. My Mom still has Shirley Temple memorabilia from her childhood.

    Besides her movie career and work as an Ambassador, she was also responsible for making it OK to openly talk about breast cancer and other women’s health issues.


  • girlygirl

    I loved her movies when I was a kid. They hold up pretty well as entertainment. She really is one of the top child stars ever. #RIP

  • LeahKittyS

    I’ve only seen one of her movies in full, but it was one of my favorites: “The Bluebird.” She was adorable as an actress, but I’m more impressed with her work as an ambassador. #RIP

  • Carriefan1

    My favorite movie of hers was “The Littlest Rebel”. Here is one of her most classic scenes. (Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is tomorrow as well.)

  • Sassycatz

    According to this article from, Shirley left the movies in 1950 at age 22. It also says, in the late 50’s, she tried her hand as a host on TV, but only stayed with it for a few years. She basically spent the rest of her life in politics and diplomacy.

  • mjsbigblog

    My favorite was “The Little Princess” Totally overdramatic ending! Don’t watch if you don’t want to be spoiled.

  • Eilonwy_has_an_emu

    Shirley left the movies in 1950 at age 22

    My mom just emailed me to point out that Temple mostly left show biz at 22 instead of resorting to scandalous behavior to make her image “more adult.” I thought it a good point. (Not that all child stars should quit, but that deliberate time off is a viable option.)

  • mjsbigblog

    In fact, there was something called Shirley Temple theater, that I believe aired on Saturday mornings or afternoons in the Philadelphia area.

    That aired in Pittsburgh too, where I grew up. I’ll bet it was syndicated. Maybe by Group W, or another broadcast group. I watched Shirley Temple movies religiously as a kid.

  • gem2477

    RIP to Shirley Temple. I remember watching her at my Grandma’s house.

  • Sassycatz

    Interesting article published in The Washington Post in 1995 about Shirley, her acting career, and how it set her up to be the diplomat she would later become.

    “Dimply the best: Shirley Temple charmed a depressed nation, and it wasn’t just another song and dance”

  • fuzzywuzzy

    Such fond memories of your movies, and such a great contribution as a diplomat. RIP, Shirley “One Take” Temple.

  • Decan

    End of an era. She even has a drink named after her!

    Did you know she turned down the part of Dorothy in The Wizard Of Oz?

  • Pippygirl

    I don’t think that is true. I just read that the head of her studio would not loan her out.

    I don’t remember her movies as a child but I watched them with my daughter who loved them. The things she did as a very young girl were amazing.
    Most important in my opinion, is she lived a good, happy life as an adult.

  • Birdiex

    A huge loss- there are not too many left from the “Golden Age of Hollywood.” Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Maureen O’Hara are the few still with us.

  • Lisanne

    I was always a big fan of her “grown up” films. She was wonderful in “Since You Went Away” and the others mentioned above.
    At one point, she was the 4th highest paid actor in films.

  • HKfan

    Was just listening to skynews, and they said she was offered the part but her studio wouldn’t release her…

  • Sassycatz

    I don’t think she was ever really offered the part, although there was definite interest. Garland’s just a much better singer.

  • breakdown

    This has been quite the week of memories.

  • iluvai

    She was beautiful and mega talented. And I just have to say that my oldest daughter was a dead ringer for her in voice and looks when she was 3 years old. Not in the dancing though. :) It is so awesome that Ms. Temple went on to have a successful life after being a child star.