Born in Santa Monica, CA in 1928, Temple made her big screen debut at age three; after winning a talent contest, she appeared in a series of short films called Baby Burlesks. After a series of small roles, Temple hit big in 1934 with Little Miss Marker and Bright Eyes; the latter featured Temple singing “On the Good Ship Lollipop,” a massive hit and arguably her most iconic musical number.
Despite her young age, Temple was an astonishingly assured performer; she could sing, she could dance, she had expert comic timing, and she radiated an ineffable sense of warmth that resonated with Depression-era moviegoers. From 1935 to 1938, Temple was Hollywood’s biggest box office draw; films like The Littlest Rebel (1935), Heidi (1937), and A Little Princess (1939) also won her a measure of critical respect. She earned the first Academy Juvenile Award, a special Oscar awarded to actors under 18, in 1935.
By 1940, however, Temple was growing up, and her days as a star were numbered; though she appeared in a few well-regarded films during the decade (including John Ford’s 1948 classic Fort Apache), she retired from films in 1950 and married Naval officer and businessman Charles Black. Subsequently, Temple had a second career as an international diplomat. She served as the U.S. delegate to the United Nations from 1969 to 1974. She was appointed by Richard Nixon to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana from 1974 to 1976, and later served as the U.S. ambassador to Czechoslovakia from 1989 to 1992 under George H.W. Bush. She is survived by three daughters, a granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters.