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Richard Kimble

Americans and child stars

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One thing I've always found curious about American culture is the obsession with children in movies and TV shows. This is not universal -- you can watch English TV for weeks if not months and never see any kids. But they are everywhere on US TV.

 

This is not new. Jackie Coogan was a star in silent movies, and of course everyone's heard of Shirley Temple. In the '50s they went wild with dozens of smartass kids on sitcoms. Groucho Marx complained about the phenomenon in his memoirs: "7 year olds who stand around making brilliant quips Oscar Wilde would be jealous of."

 

Europeans consider America a matriarchal culture, and I wonder if that's somehow connected to the popularity of children in TV/movies. After all, children are the most visible symbol of domestic, "feminized" life.

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Shirley Temple is considered a unique phenomena, no one saw her coming.

 

Today it's got to a point, if a child star can't be found, they will literally make one. (sort of)

 

despicable-me-publicity-still.jpg

 

Footnote: If anyone calls Honey Boo Boo a "child star", I will PUKE!

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I agree that it seems Americans have an obsession with child stars. How many TV Shows can you think of that the casts are primarily made up of adults or at least teenagers but they have to include a kid (or two or more) that usually is precocious, has big ears, missing baby teeth and says funny things? Often times, when a show's child actors (and the child actors make up a predominant part of the cast) start growing up and out of the cute precious age, they'll bring in some younger cousin or new baby or something to bring the cute kid back. "The Brady Bunch" comes to mind. In their last season, Greg and Marcia were college aged (or close to it), Jan and Peter had to be getting close to their high school graduations and Cindy and Bobby were no longer the cute little kids. They had grown into the awkward early teenage years. Thus, they bring in mini-John Denver...err... Cousin Oliver. He was younger than Bobby and Cindy and he was supposed to bring back the cute. Did not work.

 

How many TV Commercials feature little kids saying funny things or cute things? The AT&T commercials come to mind. Also when I was in high school, there was this really annoying Welches grape juice girl-- that later ended up being the Cousin Oliver of the show "Step By Step."

 

In this culture, children (and marriage) are still considered the ultimate achievements any woman can have. I think all these cutesy kids, are in part, trying to perpetuate that ridiculous idea. Personally, I can think of very few shows where the little kid is a welcome addition to the show. Adding a child to "I Love Lucy" did not bother me, mostly because Little Ricky was barely in any of the shows until they aged him to a kindergartener and then he was never annoying or anything.

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There are plenty of children in some of the more notable foreign movies, too, but they're often in far more substantive roles than they are over here. Bicycle Thieves; Shoeshine; The Battle of Algiers; Open City; Germany: Year Zero; Pixote; The 400 Blows; etc., just to name a few. Very few Hollywood movies ever attempt to deal with the life of children on this level.

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hamradio said: Shirley Temple is considered a unique phenomena, no one saw her coming.

 

Yes, her becoming a star led all the other studios to build up herds of children. The problem was that that some other studios never did figure out how to use those kids as effectively. Paramount had a lot of talented kids who wound up working at other studios eventually.

 

America's use of kids in films certainly predates Shirley, though. The Our Gang and Mickey McGuire series were very popular well before Shirley entered the picture.

 

Today, we actually have two TV networks constantly on the lookout for kids to exploit, er, use on their sitcoms, Nick and Disney. They are producing shows about kids for kids, however. American kids today pretty much want to see "themselves" on screen. Look at all the "selfie" photos they take and post.

 

When MGM made THE YOUNGEST PROFESSION about autograph seekers, the star struck girl was enamored by older stars like Robert Taylor and William Powell. That same girl today would be chasing after a star her own age.

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ginnyfan wrote:

<< The problem was that that some other studios never did figure out how to use those kids as effectively. >>

 

Mostly Warner Brothers when they let a golden opportunity slipped through their fingers by bungling big time. Speaking of Sybil Jason, when I saw how great she could dance in the 2 reeler "The Changing of The Guard". If she was casted in "Poor Little Rich Girl" (1936), they wouldn't had to dubbed in extra dance steps with the "Military Man" scene. Amazingly Sybil would had been a year younger!

 

Wasn't her fault she failed, its the poor quality stuff Warner Brother gave Sybil to work with.

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I'd never heard of Sybil Jason until she got a mini-birthday tribute on TCM back in 2009, and I can't believe how Warner let her slip away. Watching her in *Little Big Shot,* she was easily Shirley Temple's equal in charm and talent - - - check out her performance in the title number and in "I'm Rolling In Money", which unfortunately got taken down from YouTube several years ago. Mostly what we get of her now are the two movies where she played Kay Francis's daughter ( *I Found Stella Parrish* and *Comet Over Broadway* ), but her roles in those two don't do her justice. Besides *Little Big Shot,* her best role is in the Guy Kibbee comic drama, *The Captain's Kid.* She's absolutely priceless in that one, but that's another film TCM seems to have let fall between the cracks.

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With the exception of "Comet Over Broadway", I have all her movies. "The Singing Kid" (1936) was the toughest to obtained, got a 2, DVD set on Ebay. Someone made it and "The Singing Fool" but Sybil is not in the latter.

 

The Singing Kid title got me mislead, I thought it was Sybil not Al Jolson who was the kid but that film had a song that stuck with me for weeks, "I Love To Singa".

 

Sybil Jason and Al Jolson were very close friends.

 

TCM aired "The Captains Kid" only once. If anyone didn't record it then than they are out of luck. I guess the too little demand is why it and others not out on video.

 

In "I Found Stella Parish", I was stunned how much it cost to send a cablegram (1930's version of text messaging. laugh.gif ), about $3.00 at a time when a cup of coffee was 5 cents.

 

"The Great O'Malley" is on video co-starring Humphrey Bogart available at Amazon.com :)

 

thegreatomalley.jpg

 

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Edited by: hamradio on Feb 9, 2014 3:53 PM

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Something interesting, found this photo on the web a few years back.

 

zina75.jpg

 

 

Is it me or is Judy Garland doing to Bonita Granville like what's happing in Star Trek TNG?

 

riker%2Bstraw%2Bin%2Bhead.JPG

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> Child worship has reached crisis level in the United States.

 

 

THANK you, Beverly!

 

Been griping about that myself for some time. In my family, it's ALWAYS been at crisis level. The kids in this family have always been put on pedestals higher than deserved. My wife's family is Latino, and from what I've witnessed there and in other Latino households is "kid worship" gone wild. Parents calling their kids "Mommy" and "Popi", terms other people reserve for their PARENTS. Lack of manners and other forms of "bratty" behavior is seen as "cute". Running through the house, screaming and fighting over some toy goes largely unnoticed. I'm largely unliked by most of the kids under 12 in my family because I refuse to put up with it. I believe in "follow through", so when a nephew of mine poked the barrel of a toy gun of his in my face, I slapped it away and told him if he did it again, I'd break the damned thing over my knee. Thinking it was funny, he did it again. So I nabbed it from him, and broke it over my knee! He ran crying to his Dad, who confronted me about it. I told him the circumstances and finished with, "It certainly isn't MY fault he never learned to listen." He insisted I pay to replace it. Since it wasn't that expensive, I didn't mind, but I did so with the warning that if "Fauntleroy dares to poke it in my face, I'll break IT, too. And NOT replace THAT one!"

 

Consequently, all the oldest generation of kids that were spoiled by my wife and the other "Aunties" now largely ignore them and have little if anything to do with them. My wife learned the heartbreaking hard way that you really CAN'T buy love.

 

Sepiatone

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LOL. This is one of my favorite curmudgeonly threads in a while.

 

And I demur about "Little Ricky" not being annoying. In particular, every time they had him sit down and play the drums I wanted to throw a brick at the TV.

 

Just for the record, I'm a year or two younger than the kid who played him, so this is based on having watched it in reruns in the 60s.

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I think I've got all of Sybil's features except for, alas, The Captain's Kid, which is second only to Little Big Shot in my book. It really steams me that it got taken down from YouTube only a few months after it was shown on TCM, where it was the one movie that evening that I didn't record.

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> Could never stand Little Ricky (LOL).

 

Little Ricky didn't bother me near as much as "Ritchie" on "The Dick VanDyke Show". At least Little Ricky had SOME kind of talent!

 

Sepiatone

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Thank you.

 

Little Ricky didn't bother me at all. He was barely in the show. He was only really a character in the last season and the episodes of "The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour" that he was in. He was a baby and toddler during seasons two through five; then in season six, they upped his age to kindergarten in order to create new plot ideas. Prior to that, he was more of a plot device, or just mentioned occasionally so that Lucy and Ricky didn't seem like negligent parents. Keith Thibodeaux, who portrayed Little Ricky, was discovered by Desi Arnaz. Desi saw him performing on a television show. He thought Thibodeaux was perfect, because he played drums (very well, especially for a six year old) and resembled Desi Arnaz.

 

Ritchie from "The Dick Van Dyke Show," on the other hand, oy vey. He was a terrible actor. I know he's just a child, but Ron Howard he isn't. He would always just yell his lines. Nothing he said ever sounded natural. He always sounded very rehearsed.

 

"The Brady Bunch's" Cousin Oliver or mini-John Denver, as I refer to him, was also awful. Not quite as bad as Ritchie. I may have really just disliked his character though because he was so annoying and so accident-prone. I'm not sure if it's the actor's fault or the writer's fault for making the character so annoying.

 

With the recent discussion about the passing of Shirley Temple on other threads, I have to admit that I'm not fond of child actors. Typically a film that prominently features a child, usually don't attract me. Nothing against Temple and since I haven't actually seen any of the films she did as a child, I can't fairly assess the quality of her acting. I'll have to check out one or two of them during the tribute next month to see what I think. Films that feature cutesy, precocious kids are usually a turn off and end up irritating me more than anything else.

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The problem that I see is that our society seems to be geared towards a child's world rather than children learning to behave in an adult's world.

 

Has anyone noticed the droopy pants, oversized shirts and worse _pajamas_ favored by 18-30 year olds making them appear as "giant toddlers"? How about the trend towards "baby" names like Snoop Dog, Buggy, Booboo, HomeyBoy along wif slurry "baby talk". And how many of us complain the theaters are full of movies geared to teen boys?

 

It used to be that kids aspired to be "grown up" because grown ups had the power to make decisions and hopefully create a decent life for themselves. Now, there is no reason to grow up since the world is geared to neverending childhood. We're now in the 3rd generation of people who think it's the government's job to support them, like perpetual infants.

 

Kids in older movies & sitcoms lived in an adult world, even those centered around child charactors like Andy Hardy or The Beaver. The goal was to get your own car, learn to talk to girls, get out of knickerbockers in short- GROW UP!

 

Ok, I know, officially a curmudgeon.

 

Not for everyone, but give Shirley Temple a try speedracer. While the plots are as formulaic & predictable as a backstage musical of the same era, her talent and screen presence is amazing. In depression America, her films encouraged such optimism on several levels. An excellent example of a kid triumphing in an adult world.

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Honey Booboo has to be the most obnoxious kid ever. TLC need to change their name - what have anyone learned from that channel during the past 15 years except to show how the human race is on a mental decline. (must be the GMO's and fluoride in the water)

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> Honey Booboo has to be the most obnoxious kid ever.

 

 

Oh Gawd YES!

 

She even makes ME long for Ritchie Petri!

 

Sepiatone

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Someone's already mentioned *Leave It to Beaver* -- kids I can relate to.

 

Some of the *Dennis the Menace* kids were OK, but I'd forgotten how sarcastic Rusty Hamer was on *Make Room for Daddy*. He was pretty brilliant -- and the writers dressed Angela Cartwright in cute dresses and bows but her character could be a devil too.

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The subject about child stars reminds me of the late Anissa Jones from "Family Affair". I watched a biography documentary about her on A&E and they worked that child to death. One scene you can see she was suffering from exhaustion. At the end (of her acting career) had too little to show for it. That and her nutjob mother were contributing factors for her to turn to drugs and OD'ed.

 

Another casualty in show business.

 

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anissaportrait.JPG

 

Edited by: hamradio on Feb 13, 2014 4:17 PM

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A former child actor, whose name I unfortunately can't remember right now, declared in 2013 that it is very frequent in Hollywood for child actors to get molested.

I fear that might be the reason why Dana Plato had such a disastrous adult life.

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Lauren Chaplin of "Father Knows Best" was molested by her father and uncle which in most part ruined her life. Lauren only in later years manage to deal with the pain.

 

Father203LaurenChapin.jpg

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Former child star PAUL PETERSON still works tirelessly to keep these sort of things from happening. He's had some success, but there's still a lot of work to do. You can kind of understand( but still not excuse) the suits for their behavior. But I can't get past the PARENTS being a large part of what goes wrong. It's as if they don't realize that NO amount of money can replace their children's LIVES.

 

Sepiatone

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