She wasn't Hollywood's first child star, but Shirley Temple, who died Monday night at age 85, became the one to which all others would forever be compared. A cinematic elixir during the depths of the Depression, from 1935 to 1938 Temple was the nation's top box-office draw.

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It all began with her mother, like someone out of Central Casting. Gertrude Temple, a housewife in Santa Monica, Calif., already the mother of two sons ages 9 and 13, couldn't escape the thought that if she just had a daughter, she could make her a movie star. She persuaded her husband, banker George Temple, to roll the dice, and on April 23, 1928, Shirley Temple was born.

From her earliest days in the crib, the infant was taught to sing, sway to music and mimic voices. Gertrude curled the girl's hair in the style of a young Mary Pickford, and enrolled her at age 3 in Ethel Meglin's celebrated dance school (9-year-old Frances Gumm, the future Judy Garland, was a student there). Then she started making the rounds of casting directors.

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Rejected for a spot in the popular Our Gang comedies, Shirley was cast in a series of shorts called Baby Burlesks, which were meant to compete with Our Gang, but never did.

Two years of bit parts (and one year shaved off her age) later, her mother secured a contract (as well as one for herself as Shirley's "coach") with 20th Century Fox, then trying to bolster its star roster to compete against MGM and Warner Bros.

Shirley filmed some small roles, then was loaned out to Paramount for her first starring role in Little Miss Marker. But before that movie came out, Fox's Stand Up & Cheer was released, in which the 5 (really 6)-year-old triple threat stole the show.

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That year - 1934 - things really took off. Temple filmed nine shorts and three features (Including Bright Eyes, where she sang On the Good Ship Lollipop), appeared on 14 magazine covers and was the subject of dozens of articles. By the end of the year, merchandise in the form of Shirley Temple dolls, books, dishes, clothes, etc. was flying off the shelves. By then she had difficulty going out in public, for fear of being mobbed or kidnapped.

Shirley worked six days a week, and when not filming she had endless photo shoots and costume fittings, greeted famous visitors and fit in her schoolwork. Her mother supervised everything, helped her memorize her lines and sat next to the director on set, calling out, "Sparkle, Shirley, sparkle!" when filming would begin. The studio built Shirley a bungalow with furniture scaled to her size to accommodate her long days.

Gertrude kept tight control over everything, keeping Shirley away from fellow child actors (and most other children, too) and oblivious to much of the world beyond what was right in front of her.

Just a year later, Hollywood expressed its gratitude to her by awarding her the first Juvenile Academy Award in 1935.

Shirley's distinctive curls, pout and precocious manner and the feel-good, tried-and-true plot lines brought moviegoers to the theaters in droves. Her movies followed a formula: Shirley almost always played an orphan whose adorability melts the heart of a crotchety old man. In her films, goodness (in the form of Shirley's character) always triumphs over evil, and in the end all is right with the world.

As biographer Anne Edwards summed it up, "Her success [was] the combination of her own charm, Gertrude's ambition, the world's condition, good exposure and film stories that had accidentally placed the child in a position of being 'Little Miss Fix-It' in the lives of adults."

In 1935's The Little ColonelLionel Barrymore plays the gruff older man, but the film is best known for the "stair dance" she performed with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. He would co-star in three more of her films: The Littlest Rebel, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Just Around the Corner.

Shirley was among the very highest paid actors in 1937, at $307,000; she made 15 times that in endorsements and licensing that year.

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