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Classic Child Actors


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While looking at character actors, I found that some of the child stars could be considered character actors, too. But, they are usually not as stage-trained as their grown-up counterparts, and I think they are a different category altogether.

 

In this thread, I would like to look at classic film work by performers that ranged in age from zero to seventeen. (We know that some of them have, or will, become adult movie stars.)

 

The focus will not be on child stars, per se, because not every child working in Hollywood was or is a star, but many of these young budding talents have turned in memorable performances and should be recognized.

 

This survey should go as far back as the silent film era and it should come up to the present. So, yes, expect a post about Haley Joel Osment!

 

Lastly, the format will be different than the other actor threads. It will be as visual as possible, meaning hardly any text. Just two photos of different films in which they appeared with their name in between.

 

Now, which child actor is your favorite? I have two favorites. Mine are Virginia Weidler and Gary Coleman.

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I guess there is no one who reads this forum who doesn't know who my favorite is. And since she's also one of yours, I'll assume she'll get her due.

 

I also liked two different girls from MEET ME IN ST LOUIS, Margaret O'Brien and Joan Carroll. O'Brien gets a lot of credit, but I don't think Carroll should be overlooked either. O'Brien's star faded as she aged, but Carroll just disappeared at the age of 14.

 

 

I thought Billy Chapin was really good in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER, but in most of his other roles he was little more than background.

 

Somewhere along the way, the clever, wise kid-the type Weidler played-was transformed into the smartalecky, defiant, disrespectful kids we see on TV and in movies today. At that point, I stopped liking kids in movies very much.

 

One relatively modern (35 years ago) kid performance I did enjoy was that of Quinn Cummings in THE GOODBYE GIRL, the film that makes many on this board cringe. I thought her performance was "Weidleresque". She also has a wonderful take on child acting. She wrote recently, "...it was a highly pleasant thing to do but, in the aggregate, is slightly less interesting and revealing than picking out bathroom colors."

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I think you have something there, comparing Weidler to Quinn Cummings. I completely agree.

 

Interesting you mentioned Chapin as I just watched NIGHT OF THE HUNTER last night. I thought the girl who played his sister Pearl was very good also.

 

Today I profiled Mary Badham in the Wanted thread. She only made three films, that's it, then retired from acting. She was from a show biz family, but I guess she wanted to pursue other interests (probably boys and college).

 

I like O'Brien, and as you stated, she does get a lot of attention. I also like Dean Stockwell as a child performer and Roddy McDowall as a child in films. Some of them make such strong impressions!

 

There are a lot of other lesser-known and forgotten child actors from yesteryear that I hope people will learn about through this thread and seek out their films where available.

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Stockwell was always good and has been a solid adult actor. McDowell seemed so real and mature as a child, but always struck me as a complete cartoon character as an adult.

 

Small shameless plug-I'm going to have more on Cummings in my thread later.

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I would like to add the name of Sylvia Arslan. She is the uncredited actress who plays young Fanny in Mr. Skeffington. She brought me to tears during the restaurant scene where she begs Job to take her to Europe with him. She also plays young Gina in Humouresque, also uncredited. In fact, she made a total of 8 films, 5 of which are uncredited (who was her agent?). Fortunately, she is still with us. I would love to have RO interview her.

 

Next I have to bring up my favorite child actress and adult star, Natalie Wood. Her performances as a child rival her adult ones (and I know her mother was on the set threatening to pull the wings off butterflies and such), but as an example, the scene in Tomorrow is Forever where she is frightened by the firecrackers and Orson Welles calms her fears, her range of emotions are incredible for a child of that age. In fact, Orson Welles stated that she was so good, she frightened him...........

 

Edited by: Geminigirl on Jun 7, 2012 11:29 AM

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Wood had so much impact as an adult that many of us, read that as "I", tend to forget about her child actress beginnings.

 

You are, of course, absolutely right.

 

I'm no expert on billing, but it seems that some really good actors made a career out of being uncredited back then.

 

Edited by: ginnyfan on Jun 7, 2012 11:35 AM

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I recently found an old VHS copy of *Paper Moon* in a thrift shop, and since my copy is MIA, I bought it. It reminded me of how good TATUM O'NEAL was in that movie. And still somewhat good in *Bad News Bears* .

 

 

Then there was O'brien, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney.

 

 

Did somebody forget about FREDDY BARTHALOMEW?

 

 

And I agree, Cummings was good, too.

 

 

And we can't neglect to mention America's "sweetheart", SHIRLEY TEMPLE. EVRYbody's got a favorite Temple movie. Mine was, oh, WHAT was the name of it? YOU know...the one where she's an ORPHAN! ;)

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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I like that..."confused him with an ATM...". Because of most child actor's parents doing likewise, and studio heads treating them like cheap cattle, it's no wonder the child actors who grow into adult actors with a level of success are far and few between.

 

 

I wonder. You failed to mention if Quinn ever joined with former child actor PAUL PETERSON in his long going crusade to protect the interests of child actors. Or does she just sit around and blog?

 

 

And what's going on with *Mara Wilson* ?

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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Sepiatone,

 

I just discovered Quinn's blog last night. I haven't found any evidence that she does anything but write books and blog. She doesn't think of herself as a former child actor. It was just something she did that was fun when she was a kid. I doubt she's a crusader like Peterson, who I greatly admire BTW.

 

Her current crusade is home schooling. That's the subject of her new book.

 

As I said in my Weidler entry last night, I like her ability to both write and think and she really gave me a new perspective on the whole former child actor thing with her I'm Still Here post.

 

Mara Wilson is a whole other story. She's been hating on her old life for three years or more.

 

If I post any more in this thread, do I owe TB rent?

 

Edited by: ginnyfan on Jun 7, 2012 12:12 PM because I keep having one more thought

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Well if one wants to talk about memorable *performances*, nothing stands out like that scene in "Little big Shot" (1935).

 

Its when near the end where the gangsters kidnapped Sybil Jason from the orphange. During that hotel scene, one of them walked into the bedroom where Sybil was being held. She let out a scream but that look on her face floored me.

 

Never before has I ever seen such a petrified, absolute sheer terror written on someones face, especially at that age of only 7! They say the eyes are the window to the soul and she really was terrorized. How did someone at that age pulled that off, most *adults* can't act that well? She could not have been more frightened if the unmasked Predator walked into the room.

 

About Haley Joel Osment, I mostly would have not took much notice if he didn't create one of the memorable one liners I see dead people. in "The Sixth Sense: (1999). Worthy of a "Scary Movie" satire, LOL!

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I'm replying to myself because I broke one of the rules I mentioned on my Weidler thread as one I try to follow. I took a shot at Mara Wilson over the out of context quotes from her on the gossip sites instead of looking her up directly.

 

I since looked up HER blog and found her explanation of quitting acting to be perfectly reasonable. I apologize for the hating comment.

 

Now I'd like to add Deanna Durbin to the list. As Marcus would tell you, she was one of the best emoting actresses. Something Weidler and many others couldn't quite pull off. When she cried, she really cried.

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Sepiatone wrote:

<< And we can't neglect to mention America's "sweetheart", SHIRLEY TEMPLE. EVRYbody's got a favorite Temple movie. Mine was, oh, WHAT was the name of it? YOU know...the one where she's an ORPHAN >>

 

I think you're referring to "Curly Top" (1935) Well the orphanage scene is OK and she does have a couple of good songs in it but most is boring. To me its second from "Our Little Girl" (1935) as being her most boring movie, also not being Joel McCrea's shining moment either in OLG.

 

After getting to know what Shirley Temple said about her past as an adult, I got to appreciate her 2 lesser liked movies "Just Around the Corner" (1938) and "The Bluebird" (1940). JATC showed her actual *true* tomboy nature by which the studio supressed big time. Shirley said that was her in reality. (rough and tumble)

 

In "The Bluebird", she was a spoiled brat by which the public hated big time. Doesn't she represents quite a number of our youth in that film? This was the reason for movies failure at the box office and also people took "The Bluebird" movie literally! That one was all *symbolic* in nature with a "Happiness is found in your own backyard, not in fantasy land" moral ending. Is that one ever relevant TODAY!!

 

Trivia: In "Captain January" (1936) the scene with Shirley hula dancing was DELETED after it shocked test audiences.

 

179792210094057165_LhUZrFfz_b.jpg

 

Edited by: hamradio on Jun 7, 2012 1:14 PM

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I have Sybil Jason on my list, and I will feature her in a post. Also, I will make sure to include Tatum O'Neal.

 

I wanted to mention something about the age range I described yesterday (from zero to seventeen). In some cases, we do have young-looking 20-year-olds playing a teenager part. As long as they can convincingly portray a character who is in high school, would that still count? I don't know...

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}I have Sybil Jason on my list, and I will feature her in a post. Also, I will make sure to include Tatum O'Neal.

>

> I wanted to mention something about the age range I described yesterday (from zero to seventeen). In some cases, we do have young-looking 20-year-olds playing a teenager part. As long as they can convincingly portray a character who is in high school, would that still count? I don't know...

>

Durbin is one of those questionable ones. I figured since she did make an impact at 15 or so, she counted.

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How about Ron Howard? Gotta love Opie, lol. and Ritchie Cunningham.

Although I guess he might not count here because he was on television shows. But he was in "The Shootist." A child actor turned director, even....he has always impressed me as just a good, down-to-earth, great person.

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Marlon, don't forget little "Opie's" turn in *The Courtship of Eddie's Father* , a movie, not a TV show. So yeah, Ron Howard surely DOES count!

 

 

I've never heard of this Sybil girl that's been mentioned. "REAL TERROR"? I have to shudder to think how the director got that out of her, considering the too cruel way they got Jackie Cooper to cry for *The Champ* .

 

 

To clear something up...it's been a long running joke of mine to claim that my favorite Shirley Temple movie is the one where she's an orphan. Put all her movies on a dartboard, throw a dart and chances are good you'll hit one that qualifies!

 

 

The legend goes that she was wanted as Dorothy for *The Wizard of Oz* , but studio haggling for it to happen went wonky. So the studio she worked for put out *The Bluebird* later on as an "Oz" type vehicle for Temple, in hopes of topping it at the box office. Didn't pan out that way.

 

 

Speaking of "Eddie's Father", the TV show, whatever became of BRANDON CRUZ, the cute kid who played Eddie? The last thing I recall him doing was *The Bad News Bears* .

 

 

Sepiatone

 

 

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> {quote:title=Sepiatone wrote:}{quote}

>

>

> Speaking of "Eddie's Father", the TV show, whatever became of BRANDON CRUZ, the cute kid who played Eddie? The last thing I recall him doing was *The Bad News Bears* .

>

>

> Sepiatone

>

Sepiatone,

 

Cruz is an actor who was involved in Paul Peterson's group and now works in drug and alcohol recovery programs, according to Wikipedia.

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Sybil Jason was honored a few years ago for her 80th birthday. She was the first child star signed by Warners in the mid-30s, the studio's answer to Shirley Temple. She's very good, but she did not make a dent at the box office the way Jack Warner had hoped, so she was eventually let go. Ironically, she ended up playing supporting roles to Shirley Temple. They costarred together in THE LITTLE PRINCESS and THE BLUE BIRD.

 

Sybil passed away last August. Up until her death, she would post to fans on Facebook.

 

I think my favorite film of hers is LITTLE BIG SHOT, which seems like a reworking of LITTLE MISS MARKER. She is also excellent as Kay Francis' daughter in the tearjerker I FOUND STELLA PARISH. Both these films, plus THE CAPTAIN'S KID (with Guy Kibbee) and THE GREAT O'MALLEY (with Pat O'Brien) appeared on TCM for her tribute.

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> {quote:title=TopBilled wrote:}{quote}

> Sybil passed away last August. Up until her death, she would post to fans on Facebook.

>

She was someone I looked up to contact recently, and that's when I learned of her death.

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I like to add one to the list, Kate Maberly a British born actress in "The Secret Garden" (1993). Very nice dramatic acting, lot of pent-up anger in the Mary (quite contrary) charactor role.

 

5648009_ori.jpg

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