From 'Bright Eyes' to 'Fort Apache': Films that turned Shirley Temple into an icon

Jean Hersholt and Shirley Temple in 1937's "Heidi." 20th Century Fox Licensing/Merch
Jean Hersholt and Shirley Temple in 1937's "Heidi."

Shirley Temple was the very definition of a child star. The legendary actress, who died Monday at 85, was dimpled, curly-headed, precocious, talented and just plain adorable. She started in movies while still a toddler, and ruled the box office for years in the 1930s.

Here are just a few of the roles that made her an icon:

'Bright Eyes' (1934)
By the time Temple made "Bright Eyes," she was already a veteran of more than two dozen shorts and feature-length films ... and she was barely 6-years-old. The story set up a familiar theme for Temple's character: orphan taken in by grown-ups who could use a little good cheer. The film was tailored for her particular talents, and featured the memorable tune "On the Good Ship Lollipop." Temple won a special Juvenile Academy Award in 1935 for her contributions to film. (She appeared in no fewer than 10 features and shorts in 1934 alone.)

'Curly Top' (1935)
Temple plays a young girl living in — of course — an orphanage, and is eventually taken under a trustee's wing in "Curly Top." It was one of four movies originally made by early film star Mary Pickford that Temple remade. The film included two songs that became big hits: "When I Grow Up" and "Animal Crackers in My Soup." The New York Times noted in its review that Temple showed an "increased maturity of technique" and had a "remarkable sense of timing."

'The Littlest Rebel' (1935)
"The Littlest Rebel," one of multiple films in which Temple was referred to as "Little" or "Littlest," is a product of its times. Temple plays an enthusiastic young Southern girl whose sixth birthday party is interrupted by the opening salvos of the Civil War. Legendary dancer Bill "Bojangles" Robinson paired up with Temple on this and several other films, with the two often dancing delightfully side-by-side. Robinson's "happy slave" character is a movie trope that is rarely seen on screen these days.

'Heidi' (1937)
While at the peak of her popularity, Temple played another orphan, this time being raised happily by her grandfather in the Swiss Alps before she is whisked away to be a companion for a disabled girl. The movie was based on the classic children's book "Heidi," an 1880 novel by Swiss author Johanna Spyri. Temple noted in her autobiography that she had a few difficulties with some of her co-stars — goats. Milking one proved to be a major undertaking, and she had to be specially padded to avoid injury when one had to butt her. After repeated buttings, her mother stepped in and a boy was substituted to take over as a stunt double.

'The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer' (1947)
Temple's Hollywood career flagged as she matured, though she was cast as the titular "Bobby-Soxer," a teen who has a crush on an older single man played by Cary Grant. The film did well, and The New York Times said Temple had "a full chance to show her natural charm as a clear-eyed, imaginative, persistent and overpowering 17-year-old."

'Fort Apache' (1948)
One of Temple's final films was also her most grown-up, and she starred in the post-Civil War drama "Fort Apache" alongside John Wayne and Henry Fonda in the John Ford-directed Western. But Temple was becoming more of a side note in other people's films, and audiences were not necessarily seeing her charms as a grown-up in the way they did when she was a dimple-faced youngster.

In her heyday, Temple entertained millions, and in the process became a legend. That her career went elsewhere in her adult years never seemed to bother her. When accepting the Screen Actors Guild life achievement award in 2006, she noted that in her life she'd had "three wonderful careers": motion pictures and TV, a nearly 30-year honorary job with the foreign service, and as "wife, mother and grandmother."

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    Shirley Temple Black: 1928 – 2014

    A look at the life and work of the iconic child star.

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    Shirley Temple -

    Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America's spirits as a bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great Depression and later became a U.S. diplomat, died on Feb. 10, 2014, at age 85.

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    'Stowaway' -

    Shirley Temple with actor Robert Young in the 1936 Hollywood film "Stowaway." Temple, who was born in 1928, began acting at the age of 3. She received an honorary Academy Award in 1934 for her contributions as a child film star.

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    'Captain January' -

    Actor, dancer and singer Shirley Temple wears a sailor's uniform and cap for her 1936 film "Captain January." The actress plays a little girl who goes to live with a lighthouse keeper after her parents die.

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    'Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm' -

    Shirley Temple plays talented orphan Rebecca in the 1938 film "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm."

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    'The Littlest Rebel' -

    Shirley Temple and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson dance together in the 1935 film "The Littlest Rebel," about a plantation-owning family during the Civil War. Robinson played the family's slave.

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    Halloween -

    Shirley Temple, age 6, poses with a jack-o'-lantern in front of a scary shadow, circa 1935.

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    Beach baby -

    Shirley Temple poses in a bathing costume, circa 1935.

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    'Poor Little Rich Girl' -

    Shirley Temple sits sulking at the table as a butler tries to tempt her with pudding in a scene from the 1936 film "Poor Little Rich Girl."

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    'Wee Willie Winkie' -

    Actress Shirley Temple plays little Priscilla Williams, who moves to a military outpost in India with her mother, in the 1937 film "Wee Willie Winkie."

    AP
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    'Heidi' -

    Temple played the title role in 1937's "Heidi," about an orphan girl who is taken away from her grandfather (played by Jean Hersholt) to live with an injured girl.

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    Little doll -

    Temple poses in a floral kimono for a studio portrait, circa 1940.

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    Big night -

    Shirley Temple arrives at her first premiere for the film "Wee Willie Winkie" in Hollywood on June 26, 1937.

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    'Kathleen' -

    Shirley Temple played the title role in 1941's "Kathleen," about a 12-year-old girl who wishes she had a normal family. Nella Walker played her governess, Mrs. Farrell.

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    Young woman -

    Shirley Temple in 1945.

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    Poised -

    Shirley Temple in a posed portrait from 1948.

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    Young mom -

    Married American actors Shirley Temple and John Agar pose with their 3-month-old baby daughter, Linda Susan, in 1948.

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    Musical mother -

    Shirley Temple at the piano with her son Charles Black Jr. and daughter Lori Black at home in 1957.

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    Ambassador -

    Former child star Shirley Temple during her time as a United States ambassador. Her 1934 honorary Academy Awards are on the piano behind her.

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    Celebrating her work -

    Shirley Temple Black celebrates receiving the Screen Actors Guild's life achievement award at the 12th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 29, 2006.

    Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
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