Shirley Temple Black: Iconic Child Star and Diplomat Dies

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Shirley Temple Black, whose dimples and curls captivated audiences for generations, died late Monday evening. The former child star and diplomat passed away due to natural causes in her California home. She was 85 years old.

Born Shirley Jane Temple on April 23, 1928 in Santa Monica, California, she began her film career when she was only three years old. That is when Temple Black began dancing at a studio run by Ethel Meglin. Meglin was a former Ziegfeld Follies girl, and her studio served as a starting point for the child actor’s career. It wasn’t long until Temple Black was discovered by Charles Lamont, who cast her in Baby Burlesks. In the Baby Burlesks series, toddlers parodied roles major stars of the day portrayed on film. Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich were such roles the young Temple Black played.

The actress rapidly became a box office smash, eventually able to command $50,000 per movie, a salary unheard of at the time. She found wild success in film during the Great Depression, and Temple Black placed herself on even-footing with the dog Rin Tin Tin. ”At the end of the Depression, people were perhaps looking for something to cheer themselves up. They fell in love with a dog and a little girl. It won’t happen again.”

In 2006, Temple Black was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Screen Actors Guild. In a press release, the President of the Guild at the time, Melissa Gilbert, said she could not think of anyone more deserving of the award. “Her contributions to the entertainment industry are without precedent; her contributions to the world are nothing short of inspirational. She has lived the most remarkable life, as the brilliant performer the world came to know when she was just a child, to the dedicated public servant who has served her country both at home and abroad for 30 years. In everything she has done and accomplished, Shirley Temple Black has demonstrated uncommon grace, talent, and determination, not to mention compassion and courage.”

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