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Beloved US child star Shirley Temple dies at 85

Shirley Temple, who sang, danced, sobbed and grinned her way into the hearts of Depression-era moviegoers and remains the ultimate child star decades later, died Monday night at 85.

Other pre-teens, from Macaulay Culkin to Miley Cyrus, have been as famous in their time. But none of them helped shape their time the way Temple did.

Dimpled, precocious and adorable, she was America's top box office star during Hollywood's golden age and such an enduring symbol of innocence that kids still know the drink named for her: a sweet, nonalcoholic cocktail of ginger ale and grenadine, topped with a maraschino cherry.

Her movies — which included “Bright Eyes” (1934), “Curly Top” (1935), “Dimples” (1936) and “Heidi” (1937) — featured sentimental themes and musical subplots, with stories of resilience that a struggling American public strongly identified with.

Her early life was free of the scandals that have plagued Cyrus, Lindsay Lohan and so many other child stars — parental feuds, or drug and alcohol addiction.

She was a tribute to the economic and inspirational power of movies, credited with helping to save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy and praised by President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself as a bright spirit during a gloomy time.

She was “just absolutely marvelous, greatest in the world,” director Allan Dwan told filmmaker-author Peter Bogdanovich in his book “Who the Devil Made It: Conversations With Legendary Film Directors.”

“With Shirley, you'd just tell her once and she'd remember the rest of her life,” said Dwan, who directed her in “Heidi” and “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” “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.”

Her achievements did not end with movies. Retired from acting at 21, she went on to hold several diplomatic posts in Republican administrations, including ambassador to Czechoslovakia during the sudden collapse of communism in 1989.

Temple, known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, died at her home near San Francisco. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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In this 1933 photo, child actress Shirley Temple is seen in her role as “Little Miss Marker.”

(AP)

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