TODAY   |  February 11, 2014

Shirley Temple Black is dead at 85

The icon of American movies and the nation’s first child star, with her trademark curls and infectious cheeriness, passed away at her San Francisco home. She made more than 40 films before she was a teenager. NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>>> word that shirley temple has died at her home in san francisco . as a child, she became one of hollywood's most famous and beloved stars of all time. and later in life, she went on to become a u.s. diplomat. here is nbc's miguel almaguer. on the good ship lollipop it's a --

>> shirley temple was a mere 6 years old when this became her signature song . on the good ship lollipop

>> reporter: shirley was born to perform on april 23rd , 1928 in santa monica , california. dancing almost as soon as she could walk. she made her on-screen debut at 4.

>> i'm so tired of it all.

>> reporter: she had made more than 40 films, most before she was a teenager. shirley 's favorite costar was billy beau jangles robinson at a time when segregation was the norm. but as with many child stars , shirley 's career waned as she matured.

>> i'm 15.

>> i'm 17.

>> that's okay. i like older women.

>> after a failed first marriage, shirley wed charles black , it lasted 55 years until his death. in 1967 , she shifted focus to politics.

>> i will campaign for the congressional seat.

>> reporter: a republican supporting the vietnam war , she lost the northern california congressional race.

>> i'm dedicating my life and my energies to public service .

>> reporter: and in 1969 , president nixon appointed temple-black as a delegate to the united nations .

>> very relieved. very grateful.

>> reporter: in 1972 , at the age of 44, temple-black stunned the nation bravely revealing her breast cancer as well as her mastectomy. she's remained largely out of the limelight since the 1980s .

>> when i grow up --

>> reporter: from dimpled darling to u.s. diplomat, shirley temple -black was an american original.

>> i'd been blessed with three wonderful careers. i have one piece of advice for those of you who want to receive the lifetime achievement award . start early. have you heard

>> for "today," miguel almaguer, nbc news, los angeles .

>> you know, there's probably an entire generation of people living in the country who don't know much about shirley temple . but suffice it to say, she lived an extraordinary life.

>> but we had a couple young people on our staff this morning said, of course we know who shirley temple is when i asked them.

>> she lit up the screen like no one else.

>> she'll be missed.