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Shirley Temple: The Roles That Made Her An Icon

Hollywood lost one of its most beloved child stars Monday. We look at the actress' most memorable roles.
Posted at 10:31 AM, Feb 11, 2014

Hollywood lost one of its most beloved child stars Monday night when Shirley Temple died at age 85. But she left behind a legacy in the film world that will never be forgotten.

She made more than 40 movies before she turned 12 years old and is credited with saving what became 20th Century Fox studios from bankruptcy. (Via Wikimedia Commons / Library of Congress)

It all started in 1932, when Temple landed a role in her very first film. "Runt Page" was the first installment in the eight-part "Baby Burlesks" series, which were satires on major films, celebrities and current events. (Via Universal Studios / "Runt Page")

A young Temple acted in several more short films after that. But it wasn't until 1934 that her stardom really took off.

She sang and danced her way into the limelight with her adorable performance of "On the Good Ship Lollipop" in December 1934's "Bright Eyes." (Via Fox Film Corporation / "Bright Eyes")

The song became an instant hit. And, as a result, the studio founded Shirley Temple Development Unit, a department dedicated to writing cheerful, happy-go-lucky scripts featuring the pint-sized actress.

As The Guardian points out, Temple gained popularity in the middle of the Great Depression, and "Temple's films were designed to lift the nation's spirits."

Temple became America's sweetheart and a star beyond anyone's wildest dreams. Between 1935 and 1938, the dimpled actress starred in the best movies of her career and melted the hearts of Americans everywhere.

In 1935's "Curly Top," she played an orphan who charms a wealthy man into adopting her. (Via Fox Film Corporation / "Curly Top")

And she was a charming orphan once again in 1937's instant classic "Heidi." (Via 20th Century Fox Film Corporation / "Heidi")

But perhaps her most memorable performances were her films with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who she later said was her favorite co-star. (Via 20th Century Fox Film Corportation / "The Littlest Rebel")

According to The Washington Post, by 1935, Shirley Temple dolls, clothing, cereal boxes and even dish soaps were flying off the shelves around the nation.

And even bartenders apparently joined in the Shirley Temple craze. Although the origin of the nonalcoholic Shirley Temple has been debated over the years, the actress told the Los Angeles Times in 1985 that the Brown Derby restaurant in Hollywood named the cherry drink after her.

All the fame got to be too much for Temple after awhile, and she left the film industry to go to school in 1949. But her impact on cinema history has never been forgotten. 

She was a Kennedy Center Honors recipient in 1998, and she was included on the American Film Institute's list of 50 greatest screen legends the year after.

According to a family statement released Tuesday, Temple died of natural causes surrounded by her loved ones and caretakers. Her survivors include her three children, granddaughter and two great-granddaughters.