Charles Alden Black Jr., Shirley Temple, an actress with curls, dimples and a legendary smile who was known to many as Mrs. Charles Alden Black and an American diplomat of considerable acclaim, died Monday at night at her Woodside home.
Known in private life as Shirley Temple Black, she was surrounded by family members and caregivers when she died of natural causes, according to publicist Cheryl Kagan. She was 85. “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.
Temple had lived in Woodside for 46 years.
During her diplomatic career, she was delegate to the United Nations, White House chief of protocol, ambassador to Ghana and ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
As a child, however, she was so endearing as a 4-year-old movie star during the Great Depression that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was moved to remark:
“It is a splendid thing that for just 15 cents, an American can go to a movie and look at the smiling face of a baby and forget his troubles.”
Black always said her Hollywood career lasted 19 years, into the 1950s, her 20s. For many of her real fans, however, she was never older than 10, and the movies that made her famous were produced from 1932 to 1939. A half-century later, her autobiography recognized that. Her book-signing tour for “Child Star” drew thousands across the country in 1988.
In Campbell, after Shirley Temple Black quit signing, with many of her 2,000 fans who showed up still waiting in line, she did not sneak out of the PruneYard. She was “classy” enough, as one observer put it, to face her fans and thank them as she walked out the front door. “I’m not the back-door type,” she told a Mercury News interviewer.
Black’s star was still so bright in 1989, when she was 61, that the autobiography rose to No. 4 on the best-seller list in four weeks. Moreover, it covered only her acting years. She indicated that she would record the rest of her life, her matronly years and her diplomatic years, but she died before she could publish her side of that period.
Black identified her “discoverer” as Jay Gorney, a songwriter for Fox Film’s “Stand Up and Cheer.”