Entertainment News

  • 12 February 2014, 9:45

Shirley Temple Dies: Tributes For Child Star

Former child star Shirley Temple - a box office sensation in the 1930s - has died at the age of 85.

Her family said in a statement: "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 55 years."

Her films, such as Curly Top and The Littlest Rebel, have been credited with saving 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy during the Great Depression.

President Franklin D Roosevelt said at the time: "When the spirit of the people is lower than at any other time during this Depression, it is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles."

Mothers dressed their little girls like her, and a line of dolls was launched.

She went on to star in dozens of films including The Little Colonel and The Littlest Rebel, both in 1935.

In these she lined up alongside the black dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson - a pairing that was to create history.

She became the first white girl to appear on film dancing hand-in-hand with an African-American man.

The scene caused controversy in a divided US and was cut out before distribution in the racially segregated South.

Temple won a special Academy Award in early 1935 for her "outstanding contribution to screen entertainment" in the previous year.

"She is a legacy of a different time in motion pictures," actor Martin Landau said when the two were honoured at the Academy Awards in 1998.

"She caught the imagination of the entire country in a way that no one had before."

After retiring from movies at the age of 21, she became involved in politics in the 1950s after marrying her second husband Charles Black.

She held a number of diplomatic posts including ambassador to Czechoslovakia in the late 1980s.

In 1966 Shirley Temple Black, as she became known, ran unsuccessfully for Congress in California but stayed in politics, helping raise more than $2m for Richard Nixon's re-election campaign.

She was later named in the US team to the UN and found her childhood popularity was an asset in her new career.

"Having been a film star can be very helpful on an international basis. Many people consider me an old friend."

After her appointment as US ambassador to Ghana in 1974, she said: "I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat here.

"My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies."

Following this posting she became chief of protocol and spent 10 years training newly appointment ambassadors at the request of the State Department.

In 1989, President George H W Bush made Black ambassador to Prague - a sensitive post normally reserved for career diplomats.

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