Clothing and Costumes Worn by Child Actors: B


Figure 1.--The parents and guardians of some child stars liked to dress their them in juvenile fashions so as to prolong their child movie careers. This 1930s picture of Freddie Bartholemew show him dressed in a juvenile Eton suit for a dance.

Information about child actors also provodes a great deal of fashion information. Both clothes these children wore as well as the costumes they wore in their films and shows provide much valuable information. These childrens often dressed very fashionably so information about them provides insights into contemprary fashions. The costumes they wore in films also provides useful information--although it must be treated more cautiously. HBC is preparing an alphabetical listing of child actors in movies, plays, and television.

Baby Peggy - (US, 1918 - )

A decade before Shirley Temple captured the hearts of American movie goers America, another little girl briefly dominted American movie theaters -- Baby Peggy. She along with Jackie Coogan were the two dominant child stars of the Silent Era. Baby Peggy first appered in Hollywood films at age 20 months (1920). Her real name was Peggy-Jean Montgomery. She soon commanded an amazing $1 million a picture from Universal -- some $14 million in modern dollars. She lived to be the last silent film star. One film historian writes, "Child stars were important in those days. And Baby Peggy made a pretty good dent in people's lives." Americans bought Baby Peggy dolls, jewelry, sheet music, even brands of milk. [Gardner] This was all before the endorsement game was fully understood. She did over 150 shorts over a three years span. Shorts were brief films that went alone with a feature movie and newsreels. PabyPeggy soon became known as Hollywood's 'Million Dollar Baby'. The Democrats at their 1924 presidential convention appounted her the party's official mascot. Unlike Shirley, however, her career was over at age 6 years. The roles begn the disppear. Principal Pictures, run by legendary silent producer Sol Lesser, decided to let her go as a result of a dispute with her father, Her parents went on to squandered her substantial fortune. They kept spebding even when the earnings delined. She lived to a ripe old age and rembered Baby Peggy with affection.

Baio, Scott - (US)

Probably best known for his role as Chachi on Happy Days. I never cared to much for his acting, as he always played such precocious roles. Mugsy Malone (1976), The Truth About Alex.

Barnes, Chris - (US)

Some of his better known films were Bad News Bears, Bad News Bears Breaking Training, and Thru the Magic Pyramid. The Bears films provided excellent insights into American boys' clothing during the 1970s.

Bartholomew, Freddie - (UK,1924- )

Born Frederick Llewelyn on March 24, 1924 in London. The curly-haired, dimpled, angelic boy star was destined to make a real mark in Hollywood. Handsome, impressive and very English, well-bred Freddie was a sensitive, royal figure among the children of the sound stages. His brief, but stellar reign lasted only about 7 years, before audiences lost interest in him as he grew up. His father was a professional soldier. He was raised by his grandparents and an aunt from whom he borrowed his surname. He called her Aunt Cissy and she became his stage mother. She emersed him in dramatic training and rushed him on the London stage. He first appeared on the London stage at 3 years of age. and later in a few British films. Aunt Cissy brought him to New York, supposedly on a vacation in 1935. A talent agent advised Aunt Cissy to have him try for David O. Selznick's "David Copperfield." She rushed him to Culver City California, dressed him as David, and took him to Selznick. "I am David Copperfield, sir," announced the very proper Freddie when he entered Selznick's MGM office. "Right you are," replied the director. Freddie was a hard working actor, he was given a real whipping by Basil Rathbone during the shooting of David Copperfield (1935)." Apparently Rathbone was concerned that the scenes where he beats Freddie would destroy his career. He made friends with the boy and made sure the studio publicized pictures of the two having fun together. He also played an angelic role as ???, Anna's darling son in Garbo's Anna Kerenina (1935). Freddie stayed in Hollywood to become one of the most popular child stars of the 1930s. Refined and gentle mannered despite a humble background, he used his good breeding and excellent diction to advantage in playing boy heros in Hollywood adaptations of adventure classics. He is most readily remembered for his sissy role in Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936), although the costumes were very disappointing. Only the sailor suit was of any great interest. He was in a movie, The Devil Is a Sissy (1936), in which he wears short pants and gets teased about it. He was involved in court fights during 1937. In one his parents were trying to wrest him from his aunt's guardianship. His aunt tried to have him released from his MGM contract. Both attempts failed. Two of his best films were Captains Courageous (1937) and Tom Brown's Schooldays (1940). He wears nice short pants suits in Captains Courageous even though he was 13. He also seems to have worn shorts as part of his ordinary dress, as I have seen pictures of him showing up in shorts for one of the LB Meyer MGM birthday bashes, although I'm not sure about the year. After his acting career faded, he became an advertising executive. He never was able to make the transition to teenage/adult roles. Some speculate that he was just too pretty of a boy to be believable. It was just right for little boy roles, but not sufficiently masculine for more mature ones.

Bartlett, Bennie (US, 1927)

We note child actor call Bennie Bartlett who was born in Independence, Kansas during 1927. We do not know much about him. He was also known as Benny. He was not only an actor, but was a musician, singer and music composer, as well. He had 15 songs published by the age of 9 years, quite an accomplishment. He film career included 32 movies between 1935 and 1942. We note him in the film "Three Married Men" (US, 1936). Other roles were "The Great Man Votes" (US, 1939) and "Thank Your Lucky Srars" (US, 1942). He played "Butch" in the Bowery Boys movies. He retired from show biz to work in the insurance industry in Santa Barbara, California. He reportedly died December 26, 1999, in Redding, California.

Bateman, Jason - (US, )

Boy television actor, played Derecke in "Silver Spoons" and in, and David in "Valerie". He played a thoroughly obnoxious kid opposite Rickie in "Silver Spoons". Apparently he and Ricky had a falling out, although I don't know the details. He also played an obnoxious kid in " ". In Valerie he plays a very "knowing" teenager, but does it rather nicely. In 1986 he appeared on the Johnny Carson show. He complained that his parents had grounded him. He and a friend had gone on a fishing trip and both had promised to call home that night. Jason did not, he explained that they got home very late and thought that calling would have disturbed them. When he got home, however, his father was furious and exposed a 2 week restriction. It was lovely to watch Jason wine and complain about being treated so strictly. He didn't think that at (17 3/4) he should be subjected to such a childish punishment. Carson laughed as did his audience.


Figure 2.--Scotty Beckett appears here in the 1940 Shirly Temple vehicle, "The Blue Bird". This was susposed to be an answer to Judy Garland's "Wizard of Oz", but did not prove very popular.

Beckett, Scotty - (US, 1929-1968)

Scotty Beckett is best remembered for his appearances in the Our Gang comedy shorts. His appearances were, however, rather limited--only about 15 shows. Many Our Gang fans rank Scotty as the shoertest of all the kids. He was usually paired with his pal Spanky. He was born in Oakland, California during 1929. He was about 4 years old when he made the first Our Gang short. Along with a very young Spanky, the two were forever out-witting the big kids. His trade mark was a big cap worn sideways (never backwards) and much too large sloppy sweater. This was a few years before Porky and Buckwheat were paired as the little kids. Scotty actually returned to the Gang in 1939. He played Alfalfa's nerdy "Cousin Wilbur" in two of the 1939 MGM shorts. He was then a well-establisherd Hollywood actor. He often played the main character of the film as a chiod. Two of his major films were "The Blue Bird" (1940) and "Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves" (1944). "The Blue Bird" was a Shirley Temple Vehicle". At the peak of his career in 1939, he appeared in about 10 films. Comics fan will remember him as Corky in "Gasoline Alley". He appeared in many feature roles. One of his more interesting costume that he wore was a classic sailor suit with flat cap in "Heaven Can Wait" (1943). He was about 13 years old, but play a younger boy. He also did a World war II film, "Boy from Stalingrad" (1943). By the time he was 14, he could still do child parts as he looked so young, and had worked in about 75 different frature films and shorts. As an older teenager and early twenties he became something of a Hollywood heartthrob. He appeared in films with Cary Grant and Spencer Tracy. Perhaps his most memorable role was the young Al Jolson "The Al Jolson Story" (1946). Scotty unfortunately would up like many child stars, living a sad life of depression, becoming adicted to drugs. He died in Hollywood in 1968.


Figure 3.--Jaimie Bell's first film is a huge hit. Like the boy he plays, he is captivated by dance, but has to hide it from his mates.

Bell, Jamie - (England, 1986?- )

Jamie Bell at 14 is just another kid from a small town in England. So is the boy in Billy Elliot, one of the most aclaimed movie of 2000. Jamie plays Billy to rave reviews. Jamie loves ballet, but for years hid his talent from friends because he feared their reaction. Elliot inthe film faced the same dilemma with his family. Jamie persevered, and has been rewarded with a starring role in a title film that's drawing crowds and acclaim. The role has transformed a once-anonymous young dancer into a celebrity, someone who leapt into a high-profile role with hardly any acting experience. Critics adore "Billy Elliot," and it's showing to full houses. Some people have even mentioned the film and Oscar in the same breath--breathtaking stuff, to be sure, though Bell seems unfazed by all the hoopla. Life, he said, is about school, not awards--for now, at least. Jamie began dancing at 6 years of age. He didn't tell his friends what he was doing. "Well, I just didn't tell them, ... and when they used to say, "Are you coming out to play tonight?" I'd say, "No, I am going to the doctors" or, "I have to visit my nana (grandmother) in the hospital," or something. So they didn't know where I was going." When asked how id friend reacted when they found out, he said, "Well, most of my closest friends were fine, but it was mostly the kids that I didn't really know that ... said "girlie boy" or "ballerina boy." But most of that gave me more determination to do it, because I wanted to prove to them that (ballet) wasn't just for girls; it was for boys as well. Jamie remembers how he got involved in ballet, "I've got a sister, and she used to dance as well. She is five years older than me, so when she was 10 she used to go all around the country doing her dancing, and I used to get dragged along with her. ... So I sort of got used to it--being around the girls and seeing how the teachers teach the class. ... I used to stand outside the door and try to copy what the girls were doing inside, and could never do it. Once, I got dragged to this competition, and there was this girl dancing on the stage, and she was out of time (rhythm). And I said to my mom, "I could do better than that." And she said, "Well, fine, I'll get you tap shoes and you can go on Saturday." So it was really my family that got me into it. Whennasked if he is reallyblike Billy, he says, "I'd say his personality is a lot like me. He's a very mature character; I like to think of myself as a mature person. He's very open; he's got a lot of responsibility; he has to look after his nana; and he's got a friend who is deciding which way he is turning (coming to terms with his homosexuality). So he is going through a hard time, but he is embracing it." Her is quite surprised about all the attention he is gettig. "... when we were filming it ... we were really filming it for ourselves. ... We are just very pleased that everyone seems to like it." His favorite part of the film is one of the dancing scenes. "Doing a pirouette and actually falling headfirst into a bath (was) probably the most exciting part of the whole thing. He says girls are beginning to follow him around. "A bit, yeah. ... I just kind of send them away and say I've already got one. ... But I haven't; I just say I have." For now Jamie saysd he has very important examinations to study for.

Benoit, Ferreux - (France, 1955?- )

Ferreux Benoit played in "Murmer of the Heart" (1971) directed by Louis Malle. He gave an excellent performance in the film. I do not know, hoever, of any other films he made, perhaps because I am not that familiar with French films. Perhaps our French readers will provide more information about his film carer. He was probably about 16 years old. A photograph shows him with Malle, I think on the set of "Murmer of the Heat". Ferreux is smocking. He was probably old enough to legally smoke but the shorts make him look juvenile.

Berle, Milton - (US, 1909?- )

Milton's mother was determined to get him into show business and was a real stage mother. His father was a never-do-well and Milton's earnings helped keep the family going. He appeared in many movies as a boy. His first was the "Perils of Pauline" series. Chaplin saw him and sent for him to come to hollywood for Tillie's Punctured Romance. He appeared in Mary Pickford's Little Lord Fauntleroy. When asked about his mother, Berle said, "Oh boy! She made Gypsy Rose Lee's look like Mary Poppins!" You wonder if she kept him dressed in little boy outfits, given the importance of his income to the family, but I have no information. Milton claims he was the original model for the famous Buster Brown shoe commercial in which he wore an adorable Buster Brown suit. As a young man, his mother did her best to keep him from getting serious with girls. "... Mama found some way to break it up. She didn't want to lose me. She worried how late I came home. We had adjoining rooms. It was a steel-cord story. Umbilical. Couldn't cut it. .... It was Milton and his mother." It is interesting to note that Berle was well know throughout his career for appearing in ladies clothes as a comedic device..

Beckham, Brice - (US, 1976?- )

Plays the mischievous Wesley on Mr. Belvedere. Typical obnoxious TV kid sitcom role. Brice reportedly enter show business doing commercials at three. He has taken piano, violin, tap, and ballet lessons. I'd like to know more about his ballet lessons.

Benson, Robbie - (US, 1956- )

Born on January 21, 1956 in Dallas, Texas. He got his start, I think, on a 1969 commercial with Josephine, COMET cleanser's lady plumber, played memorably by Jane Withers. Robbie, 13 at the time, observes as Josephine makes short work of a greasy sink. Sensitive young leading man in 1970s films. He looked young and played teenage parts even when he got older. Unfortunately he didn't get a movie part until 1973 when he played in Jory, Jeremy". It is too bad he didn't have any childhood roles. The only film that I know of that is interesting is All the Kind Strangers (1974).

Betty, William Henry - (England, 1791-1874)

An English readers mentions a child actor at the turn of the 19th century, William Henry Betty. William began acting in Belfast when he was 12 years old. He was an instant success. He was extrodinarily gifted and had a progigal memory. He reprtedly memorized the role of Hamlet in only 3 hours. Contemprary accounts describe him as one of the most respected Shakesperian actor of the age. He was enormously popular. He had the status of a modern rock star. His performances created public sensations. At one performance in Convent Garden, toops reportedly had to be deployed to control the crowds who came to see him at the theatre. This performances were so admired that he became known as "the young Roscius". Roscius was one of the most famed actor of ancient Rome. William was one of the most important actors of his day. He retired from the stage in 1808 as an older teenager.


Figure 4.--Peter Billingsley is seen here in his trade-mark glasess. This is a still from his film "Ruskies".

Billingsley, Peter - (US, 1973?- )

Quite a competent little actor. I rather liked his glasses. His best role was the innocent kid who wanted a bb gun in A Christmas Story (1983). The film is a very accurate piece on boys clothing during the late 1930s/early 1940s. The poor kid had to wear a pink bunny suit in the film and hated it. This beutiful film is the most accurate, if somewhat tounge-in cheeck depiction of American boyhood ever made. Peter does his part beautifully, although much of the dialog is overshadowed by the voice over. The costunmeing is marvelously accurate. He also appeared in The Dirt Bike Kid (1985) and Russkies (1987). Peter in Ruskies plays Adam, the boy who firsr befriends the sranded Russian sailor Mischa. None of these films appraiched A Christmas Story. Strangely I knopw nothing about his show business carreer or home life. I don't know what happened to him afterwards, his parents must have decided to end his career.

Blake, Robert ("Bobby") - (US, 1933- )

Bobert Blake was born Mickey Gubitosi. He was born Michael Gubitosi in Nutley, N.J. on September 18, 1933. His parents were Vaudevillians and he soon joined their act, the Hillbillies. He and his sister got jobs as extras in Our Gang" as he progressed to speaking parts. The Our Gang series is a wonderful source of information on 1930s clothing. He got small parts in various movies and then made it big as "Little Beaver." He after some personal difficulties made the transition to adult roles. I found him obnoxious in tough guy roles like Baretta and In Cold Blood, but little Bobby was cute as a button as little Beaver in the 1940s The Red Ryder cowboy series. He was a popular member of Our Gang during its last movie days, an idol of the Saturday matinee set as Little Beaver and a sweet addition to such 1940s films as Woman in the Window, Humoresque, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. He also starred in the western series done as a short subject in the late 1940s--The "Red Rider" series. His work as a child star is panned by critics such as Leonard Maltin, but he's given much more favorable marks by some as an adult star. His most dressed up role is a very brief, uncredited role in Woman in the Window (1945), starring Edward G. Robinson and Constance Bennett. Bobby who was about 12 years old at the timr waits with his mom and sister for the train to take them off on summer holiday as Edward G. sees them off. Bobby is dressed in a dark peaked cap, dark short pants suit, necktie, and knee socks. Perhaps he didn't like these clothes because he carries a light colored overcoat, which alomost shields his short-pants. Given his later tough-guy personality he probably didn't care much for his outfit. By 1945 it was not common for 12-year olds tomwear short pants suits with kneesocks, but some boys, usually from wealthy families stillmdis. This scene is just a few minutes into the film. Looking back on his child career, he insists, "I wasn't a child star, I was a child laborer." He didn't care at all for his acting. He said the only star who acted like a "human being" toward him was John Garfield whom he played with in Humoresque. At 16 his child acting career was washed up. He enlisted in the Army and spent time in the stockade. After he got out of the Army he got into all kinds of trouble with alcohol and dope. He finally pulled his life together and became an adult star. He often appeared on guest shows like the Johnny Carson show where another guest, policeman--author Joseph Wambaugh, surprised him by announcing that he had met him before. Wambaugh, who used to be a policeman, once approached Blake on suspicion of committing a crime. He recognized Blake and returned to tell his partner that he was letting him go. "No one is going to bust `Little Beaver'" he explained.

Bonaduce, Danny - (US)

Played the wise cracking Danny on the "Partridge Family (197?-74)." Danny's role was a pint-size financial wizard with an impish grin. He was a short fat kid with red hair and freckles. Unlike many other child stars he does not blame his current problems on his child acting experience. In fact, he remembers his child star period as being rather nice. He took his entire high school cheerleading squad to the senior prom. Among his many experiences he puts high on the list as seeing Bianca Jagger's breasts. He had many problems after TV including grugs. He currently works as a disc jockey. His adult personality is just as yoy would have expected given his TV persona.

Bonsall, Brian (US, 1981- )

Brian Bonsall at age 4 years played Andy, the little brother of Alex Keaton (Michale J. Fox) on Family Ties' (1982-89). It was a hit sitcom for several years during the 1980s. Andy idealized Alex and watched 'Wall Street Week' with him as well as talking Republican politics. He had other Hollywood roles. He played Preston Waters, a 11-year old who got hold of a million dollars thanks to a crook, in the movie "Blank Check". Bonsall lives in Boulder, Colorado now. He is a musician and does work with his band, but boy he certainly doesn't look like what he used to be like. He now has tatoos on his neck and all that. He has since gotten himself in (legal) trouble more than just a few times, for domestic violence against his girlfriend, and then assault with a bar stool against another friend. He is now serving a 2 year probation. He didn't get sent to jail or anything, but what a far cry from the adorable 5 year old he portrayed on "Family Ties" - how sad. Seems like a lot of child stars end up in legal trouble or in prison as they grow older and leave the TV entertainment industry.


Figure 5.--Bobby Breen appeared on American radio shows. This is, however, a sceen from "Rainbow on the River" (1936) which recreated a studio scene.

Breen, Bobby - (US,1927?- )

Bobby was born in Canada. A nightclub singer from the age of 7, he was introduced to American audiences on the radio "Eddie Cantor Show" in 1936. He was also signed by RKO in 1936 and became their leading child star. He appeared in several films until his voice began to change: "Let's Sing Again" (1936), "Rainbow on the River" (1936), "Make a Wish" (1937), "Breakin the Ice" (1938), "Hawaii Calls" (1938), "Fisherman's Wharf" (1939), "Escape to Paradise" (1939), "Way Down South" (1939), and "Johnny Doughboy" (1942). He had a wonderful singing voice and his films were set around his singing. At one time he was considered the boy equivalent to Shirley Temple, but the lack of a big-budget studio never lifted his films above the Saturday matinee level. Some of the films have been lost and other exist only in poor copies. He wears longs in most of the stills I've seen of his films.

Bridges, Todd - (US,1966?- )

Played the older brother (Willis) in "Diff'rent Strokes". He was quite a cute little guy when the show began. I remember that he and his brother were once decked out in a proper school boy uniform (including cap, blazer, shorts, and knee socks) when they were to be sent to their adopted father's ritzy private school. He was arrested in February 1989 at 23 after shooting someone five times. He was apparently heavily into cocaine. He was unable to post bond and attempted to kill himself after entering jail. He reportedly fell apart in jail. He cried and screamed that his life was through and apparently was going through withdrawal pains. He repeatedly smashed his head into the wall and began choking himself with his shirt. Four deputies had to subdue him, he struggled and kicked, attempting to subdue him. They finally got him down and put him in restraints. He was twice put into a padded cell and strapped down motionless, his arms fastened to his sides for three whole days while a psychiatrist examined him. He spent those three days in "tie down", tied to his bed -his arms strapped to his side, his legs strapped to the bed. Said one guard, "When you are in tie down, you just can't move." The other inmates taunted him when he returned him to his cell. "Rich boy, rich boy, what good's your money doing you now?" When "Diff'rent Strokes" came on TV, they'd hoot at his TV image and say, "Hey, why hasn't Arnold come to visit you?" Doesn't he like you? Why doesn't he come get you out of jail?"

Broderick, Mathew - (US, )

Movies include "Brighton Beach Memoirs" and "Ferris Butler's Day Off".

Bupp, Tommy - (US, 1927?-83)

Tommy Bupp was borm in Norfolk, Virginia (1927). (Some sources say 1924.) His full name was Edmond Thomas Bupp Tommy had three siblings which also acted: Sonny, June, and Ann. He was one of the most active child actors of the 1930s. This is surpridsing because he was not a very well known child actor. Many novie goers might recognize him, but few could name him. This was because he commonly played very small parts in the films. He was in a lot of B Westerns. He appearing in Westerns with Dick Foran, Tim McCoy, Reb Russell, He commonly played the male lead in a few briefly chilhood scenes at the beginning of a film. He began making films as an infant. He worked steadily, especially in Westerns, throughout the 1930s. His worked was not alwa\ys credited, but he was in more than 100 films. He very briefly worked with Hal Roach's "Our Gang" series. Several appearances stand out. His three best known films are probably: "Conflict", "Reformatory", and "Hittin' the Trail" (1937). One movie buff recalls Tommy playing a spoiled brat in "Nancy Drew, Reporter" (1939). . While Tommy did many B movies, he alson appeared in more importsnt Hollywood films, including "SanFrancisco" and It's a Gift". Tommy was the first American child actor to travel to England to make a movie, ""Hey! Hey! USA" (1938) with Edgar Kennedy and England's Will Hay and at the time an unknown Roddy McDowall. After his Hollywood carreer, Tommy narried and had had four sons. He worked in the wholesale electrical business. He died in 1983 at Santa Ana, California.

Bupp, Sonny - (US, 19??-2007)

Sonny Bupp was the younger brother of Tommy Bupp. He played Jimmy the Crippled Kid in the Three Stooges short "Cash and Carry" (1937) Sonny most notanly played Orson Welles' son in "Citizen Kane" (1941). He also played in "Angels with Dirty Faces" Sonny's nickname was 'Mac'. After his motion picture career he became an executive with the Ford Motor Company. He also appeared in a few Westerns like his older brother.

Sources

Gardner, Chri. "The Last Living Silent Star: Child Actress Baby Peggy Made the Equivalent of $14M a Movie and Lost It All," The Hollywood Reporter.







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Created: October 17, 2000
Last updated: 11:20 PM 4/8/2016