Shirley Temple Black, the cherubic former child movie star credited with lifting U.S. spirits with her performances during the Great Depression, has died at 85, her agent and family said Tuesday.
She died Monday night of natural causes at her house in the San Francisco suburb of Woodside, Calif., while surrounded by family, they said.
She began her acting career at the age of 3 in 1932 and became known for her blonde ringlets, dimples, bouncy energy, and song-and-dance numbers.
One of her most famous performances was the song "On the Good Ship Lollipop" in the movie "Bright Eyes." She also starred in "Curly Top," "Heidi," "The Little Colonel," "Little Miss Marker" and "The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer."
At a time of high unemployment and long breadlines, crowds would flock to her movies for a boost, earning her the nickname "America's Little Darling" as well as acclaim from then-President Franklin Roosevelt, who said, "As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right."
She was the biggest box office earner from 1935 to 1938, beating out other stars like Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.
"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was 6," she once said. "Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph."
At the age of 5, she was awarded a special miniature Oscar for her contributions to film.
Her popularity led many girls to have their hair styled in curls, made the Shirley Temple doll a collectors item and led to a non-alcoholic cocktail to be named after her.
Her popularity receded as she grew up, and she left the film industry at 22, going on to have a diplomatic career.
Black became active in conservative politics and ran unsuccessfully as a Republican for the U.S. Congress in 1967.
She was appointed the U.S. representative to the UN General Assembly in 1969, ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976 and the ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992.
She was married twice, the first time at 17 for five years. Her second marriage, to Charles Black, lasted 54 years until his death in 2005. She had four children.
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