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Legendary singing-and-dancing child star Shirley Temple died Monday night of natural causes in her Woodside, Calif., home, surrounded by her family and caregivers.
Temple, who later spent time as a U.N. delegate and ambassador, was best-known for her early roles in movies like Bright Eyes, in which she performed her signature song, “Good Ship Lollipop,” The Little Colonel and Curly Top, which featured her classic rendition of “Animal Crackers in My Soup.”
Temple’s Bright Eyes co-star Jane Withers was shocked and distraught when she learned of Temple’s death, telling The Hollywood Reporter she was just thinking the other day that she should call Temple.
Although Withers and Temple were rivals in the 1934 film, they later became friends and Withers told THR she would call Temple on her birthday every year since the film and after introducing herself with her Bright Eyes character name, Joy Smythe, Withers would sing “Happy Birthday,” replacing the last line with “You know I love you,” and the two would then laugh and talk.
Withers said she credits her big break to Temple, “If it hadn’t been for Shirley Temple being the cutest most adorable little girl in the world, and they needed an opposite — and boy I sure was it — in Bright Eyes, I might’ve ended up selling hats in Atlanta, Georgia, my hometown, or something else,” she told THR. “I have always been so grateful to her for being the most precious child in the world and having the opportunity to work with her, and we didn’t get to know each other when we were children but later on, I did get to know her very well and we became friends, and I never missed a birthday calling her, wishing her a happy birthday…I can’t say enough good things about her, and I was so proud of her when she was ambassador for the United States in Ghana and she did so many wonderful, wonderful things…I have prayed every day for Shirley Temple, since I worked with her in Bright Eyes to have a happy, healthy, loving life because she did so much for the world. I’ll never forget her as long as I live, and she’ll always be in my heart with love and appreciation.”
Temple received the Screen Actors Guild’s Life Achievement Award in 2006 but stayed out of public life in her later years.
SAG-AFTRA president Ken Howard released the following statement about Temple’s death: “Shirley was a terrific actor whose vibrancy and brilliance set audiences on fire at a crucial time in our nation’s history. More important, she was a conscientious and caring citizen whose work on behalf of her union and her country exemplified true service. She’ll be greatly missed by so many, but never forgotten. She was a true icon of the entertainment industry and beloved by her colleagues in the acting profession. Shirley simply epitomized the word ‘star.’ There are few more deserving of her accolades, and I am personally so pleased that she was a recipient of our Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award.”
Temple spent most of her film career making movies for Fox. The studio’s current CEO Jim Gianopulos released a statement addressing her legacy.
“Today as the world mourns the loss of ‘America’s Little Darling,’ we remember not only one of the most prolific child stars to ever grace our screens, but also a woman whose achievements reached far beyond her Hollywood career,” Gianopulos said. “Shirley Temple Black remains an integral part of Twentieth Century Fox’s heritage and the bronze sculpture of her that flanks the Shirley Temple Black Child Development Center on the Fox lot serves as reminder of her enduring legacy and her ability to unite and entertain both young and old. She was an extraordinary talent and on behalf of all of us at Fox, I wish to extend our deepest sympathies to her family.”
Actress June Lockhart remembered when Temple joined the Westlake School for Girls in Holmby Hills as a freshman after she parted ways with Fox. It was “her first experience with other students, as she was tutored at the studio earlier,” Lockhart said. “We became friends, and she was great fun.
“It was Shirley’s first time with a uniform dress code, and no lipstick was allowed. She joined the drill team, and I was the captain. While we were at Westlake, we did the film Miss Annie Rooney, and Shirley had her first screen kiss onscreen.
“She was one of a kind and will be missed.”
Temple’s death was a hot topic on Tuesday’s The View, with Whoopi Goldberg, who previously tweeted her thoughts about Temple, revealing that she has a flipbook of Shirley Temple that she keeps on her desk at home.
Barbara Walters also recalled idolizing Temple.
“I grew up on Shirley Temple. I mean she was older than I, I’m happy to say,” Walters said. “And I loved and hated her. I mean, she was my idol with the little curls, and we all had to wear little curls, and I wore little curls.”
She even did a quick rendition of “The Good Ship Lollipop”
Others took to Twitter and Instagram to mourn the former child star with Mia Farrow, Kristin Chenoweth and Miley Cyrus among those who shared their remembrances.
Check out what Hollywood said about Temple on social media:
Rest in peace Shirley Temple. The world is so much brighter because you were in it… pic.twitter.com/d7eQTbuPhy
— oliviamunn (@oliviamunn) February 11, 2014
Little Shirley Temple raised the spirits of a nation during the Great Depression. RIP pic.twitter.com/yzoyw6xpML
— mia farrow (@MiaFarrow) February 11, 2014
The Good Ship Lollypop has sailed today with Shirley Temple aboard a true 1 of a kind. If you don’t know her.. google or YouTube her. R.I.P.
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) February 11, 2014
RIP SHIRLEY TEMPLE …a legendary child star and wonderful diplomat.
— Kristin Chenoweth (@KChenoweth) February 11, 2014
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) February 11, 2014
— Jim Brickman (@JimBrickman) February 11, 2014
RIP Shirley Temple Black. Thank you for the smiles, laughs, and happy memories.
— Bethenny Frankel (@Bethenny) February 11, 2014
— Miley Ray Cyrus (@MileyCyrus) February 11, 2014
RIP #ShirleyTemple. One of the last true Hollywood legends.
— Josh Gad (@joshgad) February 11, 2014
My first acting inspiration. Shirley Temple. Rest in peace.
— Emmy Rossum (@emmyrossum) February 11, 2014
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