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Child Actors Through The Decades


Palmerin
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Leslie Halliwell, in one of the early issues of his THE FILMGOER'S COMPANION, pointed out that, in the 1970s, child actors were poorly regarded--that even outstanding performers such as the boy who played THE GO-BETWEEN did not receive the career nourishment that built up the reputations of such as Temple and Bartholomew.

Why was that the case? Haven't child actors always been a favorite part of show business?

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... in one of the early issues of his THE FILMGOER'S COMPANION, pointed out that, in the 1970s, child actors were poorly regarded--that even outstanding performers such as the boy who played THE GO-BETWEEN

 

IIRC, he simply stated that is was currently the fashion for child actors, at least in films, to make one or two appearances and then essentially retire. He didn't really editorialize about them being "poorly regarded"

 

Haven't child actors always been a favorite part of show business?

 

They've been a major part of American show business for almost a century, at least since Coogan and The Kid.

 

I remember reading a quote from Andrew Sarris: "For most of the Great Depression, the most popular movie star in America was a child. Sociologists, to your typewriters!"

 

Why? One possible reason is that the US, at least according to most Europeans, is a matriarchal society, and women want to see children. You can watch the BBC for months and hardly see a child actor, unless it's a Dickens adaptation.

 

This brings us to TV, where all the children ended up.  In his memoirs Groucho Marx lamented the flood of smart aleck children on TV, and how it showed 9 year year olds letting loose with witticisms that would've made Oscar Wilde envious.

 

(Note to OP: If you mentioned child actors in your thread title instead Leslie Halliwell, you might get more of the kind of response you're looking for)

 

 

 

 

 

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Why? One possible reason is that the US, at least according to most Europeans, is a matriarchal society, and women want to see children. You can watch the BBC for months and hardly see a child actor, unless it's a Dickens adaptation.

 

Well, maybe BEFORE WWII "The U.S. was a matriarchal society", Doc.

 

But that certainly doesn't explain our society's tendency to play "the policeman of the world" SINCE December 7th, 1941, now does it?! ;)

 

Or, are we just "mothering" all the other countries on this planet now days?! LOL

 

(...sorry...couldn't resist...and now back to "child stars")

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(Note to OP: If you mentioned child actors in your thread title instead Leslie Halliwell, you might get more of the kind of response you're looking for)

 

 good idea. Had no idea who Halliwell was.

Thought this was another RIP post ;)

 

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IIRC, he simply stated that is was currently the fashion for child actors, at least in films, to make one or two appearances and then essentially retire. He didn't really editorialize about them being "poorly regarded"

 

 

They've been a major part of American show business for almost a century, at least since Coogan and The Kid.

 

I remember reading a quote from Andrew Sarris: "For most of the Great Depression, the most popular movie star in America was a child. Sociologists, to your typewriters!"

 

Why? One possible reason is that the US, at least according to most Europeans, is a matriarchal society, and women want to see children. You can watch the BBC for months and hardly see a child actor, unless it's a Dickens adaptation.

 

This brings us to TV, where all the children ended up.  In his memoirs Groucho Marx lamented the flood of smart aleck children on TV, and how it showed 9 year year olds letting loose with witticisms that would've made Oscar Wilde envious.

 

(Note to OP: If you mentioned child actors in your thread title instead Leslie Halliwell, you might get more of the kind of response you're looking for)

MAKE ONE OR TWO APPEARANCES AND THEN ESSENTIALLY RETIRE? Why? Was their experience of filmmaking that disheartening? That certainly was not the case with Jodie Foster.

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MAKE ONE OR TWO APPEARANCES AND THEN ESSENTIALLY RETIRE? Why? Was their experience of filmmaking that disheartening? That certainly was not the case with Jodie Foster.

 

Read the 73-4 edition of TFC, that's where he made the statement.

 

Rather than express outrage, your energy might be more usefully expended in changing the thread title

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Read the 73-4 edition of TFC, that's where he made the statement.

 

Rather than express outrage, your energy might be more usefully expended in changing the thread title

That is where I read it.

Remind me how a title is changed, please.

How about: THE FORGOTTEN CONTEMPORARIES OF JODIE FOSTER?

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That is where I read it.

Remind me how a title is changed, please.

 

Instructions in this thread:

http://forums.tcm.com/index.php?/topic/54077-ruth-gordon-cameo-in-annie-hall/

 

 

How about: THE FORGOTTEN CONTEMPORARIES OF JODIE FOSTER?

 

 

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Why the need to be so specific? Your original question referred to child actors, mentioning Temple and Bartholomew. A simple "Child actors through the years" or some such would suffice.

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OK, the question again:

what motivated Halliwell's perplexing statement about child actors in the 1970s? To mention only four, I remember Mark Lester, Fiona Fullerton, Linda Blair, and Tatum O'Neal very well.

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OK, the question again:

what motivated Halliwell's perplexing statement about child actors in the 1970s? To mention only four, I remember Mark Lester, Fiona Fullerton, Linda Blair, and Tatum O'Neal very well.

 

His statement was printed in the '73-4 edition, which probably went to press before The Exorcist's box office success and TO winning the Oscar. I would guess he had probably written it earlier, b/c IIRC (going on hazy memory here) one of his examples was the boy from The Nanny w/ Bette Davis.

 

It does seem that child stars receded somewhat in the later '60s. This may be connected to Disney's fall from box office grace after Mary Poppins -- note, neither of the kids in that film became stars -- and Walt's death.

 

But kids definitely made a comeback in the '70s: Tatum O'Neal, Kristy McNichol, Gary Coleman, Scott Baio... Studio and network execs (re)learned that kids drew a big TV audience, and also had huge appeal when it came to merchandizing.

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Could the success of child stars like Jackie Cooper, Freddie Bartholomew, Judy Garland, Margaret O'Brien, Shirley Temple, etc. be due to the studio system? During the studio system, studios were heavily invested in their stars-- doing whatever it took to keep the child happy and keep their films profitable, once their films started losing money, they'd get the heave ho.  Some child stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Garland were able to successfully transition from playing children and teenager roles into more adult roles and others were done when puberty hit-- they were no longer cute. 

 

Then there are people like Mickey Rooney who was a child actor and grew into playing teenagers and was still playing a teenager well into his 30s and never really seemed to "grow up" until he looked too old to play a teenager but didn't have the right "look" to be a leading man. 

 

After the studio system fell apart, there would be a lot more competition for roles.  Kids had to audition for roles.  There weren't movies made for them.  Hayley Mills was one of the few exceptions after the studio era after her films proved profitable for Disney with the success of Pollyanna,  which started a great partnership between Mills and Disney.  Though, once Mills was an adult, she was pretty much done. 

 

There are only a handful of child actors from the 1960s-1970s that went on to be successful as adults-- Jodie Foster and Ron Howard are two that come to mind right now.  I believe their success is due to the fact that these two actors were genuinely talented in acting and other facets of the moviemaking business.  They were able to continually evolve in Hollywood and didn't rely on a schtick, like looking cute and making funny quips (i.e. Gary Coleman) or being cute while kind of dopey (like Jerry Mathers). 

 

Also without the studio system, the child actors weren't protected by the studio when they engaged in unbecoming activities like drugs.  Look at the child actors whose careers were ruined (or heavily damaged) by their substance abuse issues: Tatum O'Neal, Linda Blair, Macaulay Culkin.  Their drug activities were heavily reported on by the media. Even though Judy Garland had many of the same problems, her problems were kept hidden from the public by MGM. 

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I like to mention a short lived child actress that had a tragic end.  Judith Barsi  (1978-1988), she appeared in several films and television.  Some may recognize her voice as Ann Marie in "All Dogs Go To Heaven" (where she is now ironically).

 

Murdered along with her mother by her good for nothing, drunk, worthless, jealous father.

 

RIP 

 

https://lightingtheirwayhome.wordpress.com/2013/11/27/judith-eva-barsi-child-star-murdered-by-her-father-cca0105-updated-11-27-2013/

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judith_Barsi

 

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judith_barsi_portrait.jpg

 

 

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It's amazing how little cute Jackie Coogan of Chaplin's "The Kid"  grew up to be the big, fat ugly Uncle Fester of the "Adams Family" .

 

I always get a charge out of that.

 

Anyway, in many cases in the past, child actors were treated horribly.  most anyway.  Some who had grit and talent(like Temple) got along better, and were treated better.  Then there's the "famous" (or infamous ) case of Jackie Cooper being told the traumatic news that his DOG died in order to get him to cry for a scene in THE CHAMP.  And when television came along, many kid actors were getting so screwed out of their rightfully earned monies and recieved other heinous treatment that once child actor PAUL PETERSON( The Donna Reed Show) made it his lifelong cause to attain better treatment and respect for child actors.  After the suicide of fellow child actor RUSTY HAMER( Make Room For Daddy)  Peterson saw the need for child actors to be given better consideration and assistance in the transition from child "star" into adult life when their appeal as a kid actor/actress wanes and diminishes.  Perhaps too, the struggle with drugs by another child "star" who "outgrew" her usefulness, ANISSA  JONES ("Buffy" in "Family Affair") and subsequent death from overdose played some part.

 

 

Sepiatone

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Then there's the "famous" (or infamous ) case of Jackie Cooper being told the traumatic news that his DOG died in order to get him to cry for a scene in THE CHAMP.

 

The "dog died" bit was done to Cooper by Norman Taurog (Cooper's real-life uncle, FWIW).

 

The Champ was directed by King Vidor.

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