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Hollywood icon, diplomat Shirley Temple dies at 85

 

Ben Brumfield

(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 home in Woodside, Calif. She was surrounded by family and caregivers, a family spokesman said in a statement.

Shirley Temple 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.

She was the top box-office star four years in a row, from 1935 to 1938, as 20th Century Fox cranked out a series of feature films with the adorable, talented little girl. Her hits included Little Miss Marker (1934), Curly Top (1935) and The Littlest Rebel (1935).

Her career was at its peak as the country was suffering the effects of the Great Depression, and her films offered uplifting moments. As she got older, the pace of movie roles slowed and by 1939 her popularity was fading. She and 20th Century Fox terminated her contract early in 1940, just before she reached her teenage years.

She retired from filmmaking at 22 and married Charles Black, changing her name to Temple Black. But she did not fade from the public eye, eventually embarking on a new career as a foreign diplomat. She served in the U.S. delegation to the United Nations from 1969 to 1974, as U.S. ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, and as U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.

In 1972, she successfully battled breast cancer and used her fame to help increase awareness of the disease. She received the Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Achievement in the performing arts in 1995 and in 2006 received the Screen Actors Guild’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

"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," the family statement said.

Funeral arrangements are pending. A remembrance guest book will be set up online at shirleytemple.com.
 

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