Temple receives a lifetime achievement award from the
Screen Actors Guild in 2006. (AP)

Shirley Temple Black, the former child star turned international diplomat, has passed away at the age of 85. The BBC was first to report on her passing, after a statement was released by her family.

Temple signed her first film contract at the age of three, and starred in dozens of Hollywood movies before she was even a teenager, quickly becoming one of the biggest bankable box office stars of the 1930s. (In 1934, she was given the first special "juvenile" Academy Award, that was also a miniature version of the famous Oscar statue.) Temple was the most popular movie star in the States from 1935-1939, far outpacing Clark Gable. She was known as much for her trademark ringlet curls as she was for her remarkable singing and dancing, notably in the 1934 film Stand Up and Cheer! and Bright Eyes, where she debuted the hit "On the Good Ship Lollipop." She retired from show business almost completely before she was 25.

In the late 1960s, having long since retired to marry and raise a family, Temple got in to politics, running unsuccessfully for Congress. However, that effort brought her to the attention of prominent Republican Party members, including President Richard Nixon, who appointed her to be a U.N. diplomat. In 1974, she was made the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, and in 1989 she was given another ambassadorship by George H.W. Bush, this time to Czechoslovakia.

Singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye, left, is shown with U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim, right, and Shirley Temple Black, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana,, Monday, Oct. 13, 1975. (AP)

Temple publicly battled cancer in the early 1970s, addressing the press in her hospital room following a mastectomy. She broke taboos that prevented women from talking openly about breast cancer at the time and was considered a champion of that cause, urging women who had discovered lumps not to "sit home and be afraid." 

Her second marriage, to Conrad Black, a Naval officer from a prominent California family, lasted 54 years until his death in 2005.

On Twitter, celebrities and critics paid tribute to the former star: