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Farewell, Shirley Temple, Actress and Diplomat

so long and thanks for all the fish

Actress Shirley Temple died last night in her California home, surrounded by family. She was eighty-five.

Temple is most famous for being the prototypical child actor, for Bright Eyes (which included the song “On the Good Ship Lollipop”) and Curly Top (which included the song “Animal Crackers”). Her fame, and the simple fairy tale messages of the movies 20th Century Fox crafted especially for her, are considered to have been a great source of escapism for American audiences struggling through the Great Depression. And if anybody out there understands the value of escapism, it’s us geeks.

And while Temple has also sort of become the prototypical example of a child actor who couldn’t extend their careers into their adult years, her out of Hollywood achievements are just as impressive as her in Hollywood ones. (Related: there are probably some better and definitely more recent pictures of Temple, but how could I resist one with Eleanor Roosevelt?!) She announced her retirement from film at the age of 22, and began her second marriage, to Charles Black, which would last until his death in 2005. In 1967, she ran for a U.S. Congress seat, and though she was unsuccessful in securing the election, she would later be appointed to the UN General Assembly, and has served as the U.S. Ambassador to both Ghana and Czechoslovakia, and as the first female Chief of Protocol (a diplomatic advisory position to the president).

In 1972, she spoke publicly about her battle with breast cancer that eventually resulted in mastectomy, becoming one of the first celebrities to talk openly about breast cancer in an effort to destigmatize it. “It is my fervent hope,” she said at the time, “that women will not be afraid to go to doctors for diagnosis when they have unusual symptoms.”

“When I was 3 years old, I was delighted to be told that I was an actress, even though I didn’t know what an actress was,” she told a SAG audience upon receiving her Screen Actor’s Guild lifetime achievement award in 2006. “I have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award: Start early!” Easy enough for the youngest person to ever receive an Oscar statuette to say!

Joking aside, we know Ms. Temple’s films will continue to delight for years to come, and we wish health and healing for her family.

(via The Hollywood Reporter.)

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