Support for LAist comes from
We Explain L.A.
Stay Connected

Share This

This is an archival story that predates current editorial management.

This archival content was written, edited, and published prior to LAist's acquisition by its current owner, Southern California Public Radio ("SCPR"). Content, such as language choice and subject matter, in archival articles therefore may not align with SCPR's current editorial standards. To learn more about those standards and why we make this distinction, please click here.

Arts and Entertainment

Shirley Temple Dies At Age 85

Before you
Dear reader, we're asking you to help us keep local news available for all. Your financial support keeps our stories free to read, instead of hidden behind paywalls. We believe when reliable local reporting is widely available, the entire community benefits. Thank you for investing in your neighborhood.

Shirley Temple Black—one of the most famous child stars—has died at the age of 85. Her publicist, Cheryl Kagan, confirmed her death, which occurred at her home in Woodside, California. Her family has released this 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 for fifty-five years of the late and much missed Charles Alden Black.”

Temple, with her trademark dimples and (56!) ringlets of hair, was introduced to the nation during the Depression, and topped the box office from 1935 through 1938, according to the LA Times. Her first hit was Little Miss Marker, when co-star Adolphe Menjou coined her as “an Ethel Barrymore at 6." An age that she was also awarded with a special juvenile Oscar.

Support for LAist comes from

When she was 8, Temple realized she was famous when she saw the screaming crowds of fans, "I wondered why. I asked my mother and she said, 'Because your films make them happy.'" And she was a real pro—Sands of Iwo Jima director Allan Dwan, who worked with her on Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Heidi, said she was "just absolutely marvelous, greatest in the world. With Shirley, you'd just tell her once and she'd remember the rest of her life. Whatever it was she was supposed to do, she'd do it... And if one of the actors got stuck, she'd tell him what his line was—she knew it better than he did."

When she was 12, Temple was dropped from 20th Century Fox and later signed to MGM. The NY Times obituary notes, "[T]he little girl was now entering adolescence. On her first visit to MGM, Mrs. Black wrote in her autobiography, the producer Arthur Freed unzipped his trousers and exposed himself to her. Being innocent of male anatomy, she responded by giggling, and he threw her out of his office."

The actress was in a number of movies through 1949, when she was around 21 years old. From 1945 to 1950 she was married to actor John Agar. Following her second marriage—to Charles Alden Black in 1950—she made a huge career change, becoming a Republican fundraiser and making an unsuccessful 1967 run for a Congressional seat in San Francisco (she also supported the Vietnam War). Temple was eventually appointed a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly by President Richard Nixon in 1969. She served as Ambassador to Ghana under President Gerald Ford and Ambassador to Czechoslovakia under President George H.W. Bush.

She did return to the screen until 1958 with Shirley Temple's Storybook, a children's anthology series which she hosted and narrated. The program ran through 1961.

In the 1970s, she fought and won her battle with breast cancer, and following a mastectomy she spoke out, becoming an important voice that made it acceptable to talk about breast cancer, and operations that were previously not very openly discussed.

In the late 1980s, she published her autobiography, Child Star, and according to her website she was "finishing up volume 2."

Temple is said to have died from natural causes. Funeral arrangements are pending.