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Actor-producer James "Jimmy" Lydon (1923-2022)


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James "Jimmy" Lydon, whose long show business career featured him as the teen hero of the "Henry Aldrich" film series and in romantic roles opposite Elizabeth Taylor in two of her last parts as an ingenue, has died at the age of 98.

His daughter Julie Lydon Cornell announced that the actor and producer died peacefully on March 9 at his home in San Diego. The cause of death was not disclosed.

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Lydon was born and reared in New Jersey. His first stint as an actor was in 1937 in the Broadway play "Western Waters." Written and staged by the actor Richard Carlson, the production only ran for seven performances. He eventually embarked on a prodigious career in films.

Jimmy Lydon: Movies, TV, and Bio
 

One of Lydon's early movies was "Tom Brown's School Days" (1940), which co-starred him with Freddie Bartholomew. Directed by Robert Stevenson, the film was based on Thomas Hughes' 1857 novel about an English public school in the early 19th century. Lydon played the title character in the production, which also starred Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Josephine Hutchinson, Billy Halop and Gale Storm.

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Also in 1940, Lydon co-starred with Kay Francis (as Jo March) in a film adaptation of "Little Men," author Louisa May Alcott's sequel to "Little Women." Directed by Norman Z. McLeod, the picture also starred Jack Oakie, George Bancroft, Ann Gillis and Carl Esmond. 

Little Men (1941) - Turner Classic Movies

In 1941, Lydon took over the screen role of the clean-cut teenager Henry Aldrich in the Paramount Pictures series begun two years earlier. Jackie Cooper starred as the character in the films "What a Life" (1939) and "Life with Henry" (1940). Lydon's debut focused on Henry's decision to run for student body president at Centerville High School. He would headline eight other Aldrich films: "Henry Aldrich, Editor" (1942), "Henry and Dizzy" (1942), "Henry Aldrich Swings It" (1943), "Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour" (1943), "Henry Aldrich Haunts a House" (1943), "Henry Aldrich, Boy Scout" (1944), "Henry Aldrich Plays Cupid (1944)" and "Henry Aldrich's Little Secret" (1944).

Henry Aldrich for President (Paramount, 1941). Half Sheet (22" X | Lot  #54217 | Heritage Auctions

In Michael Curtiz's 1947 comedy "Life with Father," Lydon starred as Clarence Day, Jr. -- the eldest son of characters played by William Powell and Irene Dunne.  Set in the 1880s, the film was based on the popular 1938 stage play by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse -- who adapted real-life stories by author Clarence Day, Jr.  Powell received his last of three Academy Award nominations for Best Actor for his portrayal of Day, Sr., a strait-laced New York City stockbroker with high standards for his family. Lydon's love interest was played by Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor in Life with father 1947 | Classic hollywood movie stars,  Good movies, Movie stars

Released two weeks after "Life with Father," the comedy/drama "Cynthia" also paired Lydon and Taylor in one of her final ingenue roles. He gave her a first onscreen kiss in the film. Two years later, she played a full-fledged woman opposite Robert Taylor in  the thriller "Conspirator." Directed by Robert Z. Leonard, "Cynthia," based on the play "The Rich, Full Life" by Viña Delmar, starred Mary Astor and George Murphy as Taylor's parents.

Cynthia (1947) - The Vintage Cameo

Lydon and actress Olive Stacey played a married couple on the CBS daytime drama "The First Hundred Years," which aired from December 4, 1950 to June 27, 1952. The show, considered one of the first television soaps, also was the first program to use a Teleprompter. It was replaced in the CBS daytime lineup by "The Guiding Light," which ran for 57 years.

Jimmy_Lydon_Olive_Stacey_First_Hundred_Years_1951.JPG?1647778051922

During the 1963-64 television season, Lydon was an associate producer for ABC's "77 Sunset Strip," the long-running detective drama starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. This was at a time when Zimbalist became the solo star of the program.

77 Sunset Strip - ALLEN GLOVER

Also during the 1963-64 television season, Lydon was one of the producers for the NBC series "Temple Houston," based on the life and career of the attorney, politician, sharpshooter and son of Texas legend Sam Houston. Set in the 1880s, the drama starred Jeffrey Hunter as the title character and Jack Elam as his sometimes friend and sometimes adversary, George Taggart.

Temple Houston (1963) | MUBI

Lydon also was an associate producer for Gordon Parks Sr.'s 1969 coming-of-age drama "The Learning Tree." The Warner Bros./Seven Arts release was an historically significant motion picture as it was the first film written, produced and directed for a major studio by a Black filmmaker. The renowned photographer Parks went on to direct the first two installments of the "Shaft" detective trilogy of the 1970s. Set in 1920s Kansas, "The Learning Tree" starred Kyle Johnson (pictured below) -- the son of the actress Nichelle Nichols.

WarnerBros.com | 50 Years of Gordon Parks's "The Learning Tree" | Articles

 

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1 hour ago, Ray Faiola said:

The Aldrich features were an excellent series of B's from Paramount (whose entire B output has been missing in action for decades!).

I've occasionally found a Henry Aldrich film here or there on the internet but the quality of the prints is pretty grim. The Paramount series was blissfully free of the moralizing and occasional sanctimony that could affect the Andy Hardy films at MGM.

It seems to me that Henry Aldrich Haunts A House came on TV quite a lot when I was a kid, with Charles Smith as Henry's best friend "Dizzy" supplying a lot of the laughs whenever he was scared. This particular entry can be found on the Internet Archive.

"Henreee . . . Henry Aldrich!"

"Coming mother."

Henry Aldrich Haunts a House (1943) — The Movie Database (TMDB)

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Dang!  I remember seeing those Henry Aldrich flicks on Sat. matinee shows on TV as a kid.  

More of my childhood going away, eh?   Bummer.  But he almost made the century mark, so a great run too.

Rest In Peace Jimmy.

Sepiatone

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And to think the Henry Aldrich series of 11 films all began with the hit Broadway play "What a Life" in 1938.  Even though Lydon didn't star in the movie version,  he was cast as Henry in nine of the film series from "Henry Aldrich for President" to "Henry Aldrich's Little Secret."   I, too, would love to see all of them on TCM.  

Rest in peace, rest in paradise, Jimmy Lydon. 

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4 hours ago, TomJH said:

I've occasionally found a Henry Aldrich film here or there on the internet but the quality of the prints is pretty grim. The Paramount series was blissfully free of the moralizing and occasional sanctimony that could affect the Andy Hardy films at MGM.

It seems to me that Henry Aldrich Haunts A House came on TV quite a lot when I was a kid, with Charles Smith as Henry's best friend "Dizzy" supplying a lot of the laughs whenever he was scared. This particular entry can be found on the Internet Archive.

"Henreee . . . Henry Aldrich!"

"Coming mother."

Henry Aldrich Haunts a House (1943) — The Movie Database (TMDB)

Henry Aldrich had quite a run in the late 30s and early 40s.  The character started out as a minor one in a Broadway play, and became what's known today as a breakout character.  Rudy Vallee asked the playwright to adapt the character for sketches on his radio show.  That was followed by a 9 month run as sketches on Kate Smith's show, which is where the catchphrase originated.  Henry was then spun off to its own radio show in 1939, which ran more or less continuously as a sponsored program (mostly by Jell-O) until 1952, when it became a sustaining program (unsponsored) for another season.

The film adaptations started shortly after the first radio appearances.

One of the radio Henrys was Norman Tokar.  You may not recognize the name, but you've probably seen it a thousand times in credit rolls.  He was the director on many Leave it to Beaver episodes, and directed many live action Disney films in the 60s and 70s.

The "coming mother" catchphrase also spilled over into many WB cartoons.

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32 minutes ago, txfilmfan said:

Henry Aldrich had quite a run in the late 30s and early 40s.  The character started out as a minor one in a Broadway play, and became what's known today as a breakout character.  Rudy Vallee asked the playwright to adapt the character for sketches on his radio show.  That was followed by a 9 month run as sketches on Kate Smith's show, which is where the catchphrase originated.  Henry was then spun off to its own radio show in 1939, which ran more or less continuously as a sponsored program (mostly by Jell-O) until 1952, when it became a sustaining program (unsponsored) for another season.

The film adaptations started shortly after the first radio appearances.

One of the radio Henrys was Norman Tokar.  You may not recognize the name, but you've probably seen it a thousand times in credit rolls.  He was the director on many Leave it to Beaver episodes, and directed many live action Disney films in the 60s and 70s.

The "coming mother" catchphrase also spilled over into many WB cartoons.

 

41 minutes ago, filmnoirguy said:

And to think the Henry Aldrich series of 11 films all began with the hit Broadway play "What a Life" in 1938. 

I did not know that, about the play. Just looked it up. Ezra Stone played Henry. The cast also included Eddie Bracken and Butterfly McQueen. Produced and directed by George Abbott, the veteran Broadway director, producer, actor, book writer  who lived to age 107. 

 

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Life with Father has him knocking 14 year old Elizabeth Taylor off his lap. whatta putz being possessed by his father's old pants.

why won't tcm show the 1951 version of Tom Brown's Schooldays which is better than the 1940 one?

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