Nightly News   |  February 11, 2014

Remembering Shirley Temple, the Girl Who Made America Smile

As a child actress Shirley Temple lifted spirits with her sunny personality, and later created a successful career in public service.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> big loss today and perhaps the best way to put it is this. somewhere right now someone is ordering a shirley temple . we learned today that shirley temple has died at the age of 85. she was america's favorite movie star during the depression years of the 1930s about a little girl who gave her country a big lift when it really needed it. she was congratulated by the president for it. in later years, she became shirley temple black and became a public servant and pioneer. we get a look back tonight from nbc's kate snow . i'm the good ship lollipop it's a sweet trip to a candy shop

>> reporter: it's that one song we all think of, among so many. animal crackers in my soup

>> reporter: 59 motion pictures in all, most before she was just 12. everybody wants to know is that great big handsome romeo

>> reporter: shirley temple was the anti-dote to depressing times giving america a reason to smile. look at the funnycide and have your fun

>> here came this cheerful irresistible little girl who could do everything it seemed. she made people feel good, she lifted their spirits.

>> reporter: she was precocious.

>> thank you very much. may i go home now.

>> reporter: often playing the little girl who seemed wiser at that point grown-ups around her.

>> a little girl shouldn't be raised in this kind of environment.

>> reporter: at a time when segregation was still the norm, she shared the screen with bill "bojangles" robinson and called him her favorite star. as she grew up, her movie career faded setting the stage for a remarkable second act. president nixon made her his u.n. representative. in 1972 , she spoke bluntly about her own breast cancer .

>> the recommendation was that the entire breast should be removed, which is called a simple mastectomy.

>> reporter: from her hospital bed she encouraged women to have a mammogram.

>> don't be afraid to go to the doctor.

>> reporter: she was ambassador to ghana and later chezechoslovakczechoslo vak. a public servant and married for 50 years.

>> stardom is stardom, and star quality is timeless, and that's what she is, she's timeless.

>> reporter: and the most famous child actress of all time. kate snow , nbc news, new york.