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Shirley Temple dies in California at 85

Shirley Temple, the dimpled, curly-haired child star who sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of Depression-era moviegoers, has died, according to publicist. She was 85.

Temple, known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, died Monday night at about 11 p.m. local time at her home near San Francisco. She was surrounded by family members and caregivers, publicist Cheryl Kagan said.

"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," a family statement said.

A talented and ultra-adorable entertainer, Shirley Temple was America's top box-office draw from 1935 to 1938, a record no other child star has come near. She beat out such grown-ups as Clark Gable, Bing Crosby, Robert Taylor, Gary Cooper and Joan Crawford.

In 1999, the American Film Institute ranking of the top 50 screen legends ranked Temple at No. 18 among the 25 actresses. She appeared in scores of movies and kept children singing "On the Good Ship Lollipop" for generations.

Temple was credited with helping save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy with films such as "Curly Top" and "The Littlest Rebel." She even had a drink named after her, an appropriately sweet and innocent cocktail of ginger ale and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry.

Temple blossomed into a pretty young woman, but audiences lost interest, and she retired from films at 21. She raised a family and later became active in politics and held several diplomatic posts in Republican administrations, including ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the historic collapse of communism in 1989.

"I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award. Start early," she quipped in 2006 as she was honoured by the Screen Actors Guild.

But she also said that evening that her greatest roles were as wife, mother and grandmother. "There's nothing like real love. Nothing." Her husband of more than 50 years, Charles Black, had died just a few months earlier.

They lived for many years in the San Francisco suburb of Woodside.

Her young life was free of the scandals that plagued so many other child stars — parental feuds, drug and alcohol addiction — but Temple at times hinted at a childhood she may have missed out on.

She stopped believing in Santa Claus at age 6, she once said, when "Mother took me to see him in a department store and he asked for my autograph."

In 1972, she underwent successful surgery for breast cancer. She issued a statement urging other women to get checked by their doctors and vowed, "I have much more to accomplish before I am through."

During a 1996 interview, she said she loved both politics and show business.

"It's certainly two different career tracks," she said, "both completely different but both very rewarding, personally."

The Canadian Press

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