Shirley Temple dies aged 85

1936 file photo of an 8-year-old Shirley Temple. Photo / AP
1936 file photo of an 8-year-old Shirley Temple. Photo / AP

Shirley Temple has died aged 85, her family have confirmed.

The actress, who rose to fame as a child star in 1930s classics such as Bright Eyes (famed for song "On The Good Ship Lollipop"), Heidi and Curly Top, passed away at her home in Woodside, California on Monday.

She is believed to have died from natural causes.

"She was surrounded by her family and caregivers," a statement from the family read.

"We salute her for a life of remarkable achievements as an actor, as a diplomat, and... our beloved mother, grandmother [and] great-grandmother."

Starting her career at the tender age of three, she won the Juvenile Academy Award in 1935. To this day, she remains the youngest person ever to have won an Oscar.

Her image inspired a various range of merchandise, including dolls and clothing in her early years, but she quit the film industry in her teens.

The American Film Institute ranks her as the 18th greatest US screen legends of all time.

Shirley Temple - Life And Career

Temple was born to a banker father and a housewife mother on 23 April 1928 in Santa Monica California, with two older siblings.

She landed a contract with Educational Pictures at just three years old, and made her acting debut in a string of low-budget movies, then dubbed 'Baby Burlesques'.

Her mother helped develop her skills in dancing too, and signed her up for lessons by the time she was four. Her father became her astute financial adviser and also her agent.

From starring in 'Baby Burlesques', she was able to score a contract with Fox Film Corporation, and by the time she was six, she had appeared in her first Hollywood feature-length, Carolina.

Temple made a further eight films with Fox, including Little Miss Marker and, thanks to her cherubic optimism and bouncing gold curls, she quickly became one of the studio's top earners.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once called Temple "Little Miss Miracle", thanks to her part in raising public morale during times of economic hardship.

"As long as our country has Shirley Temple, we will be all right," he famously said.

However, her popularity waned as she began to mature and with it left her audience. As a teenager, she starred in The Blue Bird in 1940, which bombed at the box office.

She also co-starred opposite Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer at the age of 19, and appeared opposite John Wayne in Fort Apache in 1948. But by 1950, she only made a handful of appearances on the small screen, and had all but retired from Hollywood.

But as her career in the entertainment industry drew to a close, she started afresh with a career in public service.

She ran for Congress in 1967, and from 1969 to 1970, she served as a US ambassador to the United Nations.

She was appointed the ambassador of Ghana in 1974 and, two years later, became the chief of protocol of the United States, a position she held until 1977.

Further still, she became the only person to this day to reach the rank of honorary Foreign Service officer of the United States.

Between 1989 and 1992, she served another public service role as the ambassador for Czechoslovakia.

Shirley Temple Black poses at the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in in Los Angeles, 2006 Shirley Temple Black poses at the 12th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in in Los Angeles, 2006 Her lifetime of achievements were celebrated at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C. in December 1998.

In 2005 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actors Guild.

Temple was twice married, once to John Agar in 1945 at the age of 17. She also married US Navy veteran Charles Alden Black in 1950.

She had one daughter, Linda Susan, with Agar before they divorced in 1949. She also had a son, Charles, and a daughter, Lori, with Black after they had married.

Black and Temple remained together until his death in 2005.

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 29 Dec 2014 07:46:39 Processing Time: 500ms