Child Actors: D

Figure 1.--Frankie Darro was a popular American child star in the silent era of the 1920s. Thus his pictures as a boy are little known. Because of his mall stature and youthful experience he made quite a number of films in teenage roles during the 1930s and early-40s.

Information about chilod 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.

Daniels, Mickey - (US, 1914-70)

Mickey was born in Rock Soprings, Wyoming (1914). His father was actor Richard Daniels His aunt was actress Bebe Daniels. Hal Roach seeing all those freckles signed him up (1923). And he was soon a regular in the early Our Gang films. Mickey was commnly grouped with fat Joe Cobb, scruffy Jackie Condon, pretty Mary Kornman, and smiling "Sunshine Sammy" (Ernie Morrison). Mickey of course stood out because of freckled face and toothy grin. He often quickly turned that toothy grin into a frown as needed. Many of the films were shot around Mickey competing for the affections of Mary. He and Mary made many public appearances. While a major Our Gag star, he is less well know to modern audiences because they were silents that were not shown on TV like the talkies that Stimie, Alfalfa, and Buckweat made. Roach was impressed enough with Mickey to cast him in "The Boy Friends" series. This was a not very successful attemp to capture the Our Gang magic with a grop of teensagers. After this Daniels had a variety of bit parts in both feature films and asorted shorts. He was often cast as a newsboy. His last appearance was in 1946 except for several well publicized Our Gang reunions. He became a construction worker. He died from liver disease in a lonely hotel room (1970).

Darro, Frankie (US, 1917-76)

Frank Johnson was born into a show-business family in Chicago, Illinois (1917). His parents were circus aerialists and he picked some of their skills as a boy. He acquired the stage name of Frankie Darro. He became an imoprtant child star during the silent era of the 1920s. He appeared in his first film at age 6 years. Due to his small stature (only 5 feet 3 inches as an adult) he not only played child roles, butvteenagfe roles well into his twenties. From the beginning he was a rather physical performer. He usually did his own stunts, often out of necessity because for legal reasoins there were not any child stuntmen. Riding was one of his skills and he did several westerns as well as playing jockies. And hechad some kleading roles in early talkies. Perhaps the most important was 'Wild Boys on the Open Road', a realistic look at youth and the Depression (1933). As he got older, leading oles dried up. His short stature as a disadvantage. He continued active in show businnes thriugh biut oarts, stunt assignments, as vioice overs. His most importannt voice over was his role as Lampwick, the unhappy boy who was turned into a donkey in Walt Disney's second animated feature -- 'Pinocchio' (1940). He had an importanny sify role--Robby the Rebiot, but of course no one knew who he was. He was Michael Anthony of TVs popular "Millionaire" show (1955-60).

Davies, John Howard - (UK, 1939-2011)

John was born in London, the son of British screenwriter Jack Davies. He was the most important British child star of the late-40s and early-50s, a particularly important period for British film. He appeared in only a few films all in a narrow 3-year pperiod, but gave particularly riviting performnances. John stared in several distinguished British films: 'Oliver Twist' (1948), 'The Rocking Horse Winner' (1949), 'Tom Brown's School Days' (1951), and 'The Magic Box'. He played both Oliver and Tom. 'The Rocking Horse Winner' was probably his most impressive performance. He had only a small role in 'The Magic Box'. It is especially notable for the extensive appearance of John, carrying the whole film. He wears short pants and sandals. He appeared in only four films, but was a very competent little actor and had the lead role in each when he was 9-12 years of age. We are not sure why he was not in more films, but it was not for a lack of box office appeal. He became a TV director for BBC shows, including the famous 'Monty Python's Flying Circus'. Davis died aged 72 from cancer (2011).

Figure 2.--Brandon is pictured here as John Thomas, the bespectecled younger brother in "Member of the Wedding".

De Wilde, Brandon - (US, 1942-72)

Born April 9, 1942 in Brooklyn New York. Died in 1972. The son of a stage manager and an actress. He made his broadway debut at seven in "Member of the Wedding" (1951?) to great critical acclaim. He played again played the part of John Henry, the bespectacled bratty--overly imaginative 7-year old, in the film version (1952). (The producers originally wanted Tommy Rettig.) He was the first child actor ever to win the Donaldson Award for an outstanding stage performance. He also played Howey in the popular Broadway play, Mrs. McThing (1952). He became internationally famous the following year in the Western classic, "Shane" (1953?) for which he received an Oscar nomination. His line, "Come back, Shane!" is one of the most famous movie lines of all history. One reviewer wrote, "It is Master DeWilde with his bright face, his clear voice, and his resolute boyish ways who steals the affection of the audience and clinches "Shane" as a most unusual film." He had a TV series, "Jamie" (1953), an unpretentious show which Brandon later recalled with affection. Brandon looked far younger than he was, but made few pictures as a teenager. The movie makers did not quite know what to do with him. He appeared in a variety of films and TV shows, but without any further memorable performances. He died at only 30 years of age due to injuries suffered in a car crash.

Detlef Sierck, Klaus - (Germany, 1925-44)

Klaus-Detlef Sierck was a well known German child and youth actor in the 1930s and early 40s. He was the son of Detlef Sierck who was to become a very successful Director in the United States under the the name of Douglas Sirk. Douglas Sirk divorced Klaus-Detlef’s mother and as the political situation in Germany became ever worse he emigrated to the United States with his second wife, who was Jewish.. Klaus Detlef stayed on in Germany with his mother. He made his debut in 1937 in “ Streit um den Knaben Jo ” (1937) which was followed by other successfull productions such as “ Serenade ” (1937), " Verwehte Spuren " (1938), " Aus erster Ehe " (1940) and " Kadetten " (1942). His last film was " Der Grosse König " (1942) after which he was drafted and fell in 1944, barely 19 years of age, on the Russian front.

Figure 3.--Ted Donaldson was an important Hollywood child star in the 1940s, but is today little recognized. His first movie was Once Upon a Time (1944) when he was 10 years old.

Donaldson, Ted - (US, 1933- )

Ted Donaldson was an important Hollywood child star in the 1940s, but is today little recognized. Ted was born in New York City on August 20, 1933 at the height of the Depression. His show business career began when he was 4 years old in 1937 on the popular media at the time--radio. He then moved on to stage productions when he was 7 years old. His first movie was Once Upon a Time (1944) when he was 10 years old. His performancec was noted and he won the critics choice award for his role in that film. He was also named one of the top ten child performers of 1944. This was followed byba series of important child roles. Like many child stars, his career declined after 1949 when he could no longer play boyish roles.

Dow, Tony - (US, 1945?- )

Tony played Wally, the Beaver's brother in Leave It to Beaver (1957-63). He began as a sparling little chap about 11 and quickly grew into a rather uncharismatic teenager. Of course he always wore long pants, except for one episode in which he appeared in a short pants Scout uniform. As far as we know, he did not continue his sjow business career after thr TV series.

Driscoll, Bobby - (US, 1937-68)

Born March/May? 3, 1937 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Hollywood child star in the 1940s and early 50s. His parents moved to Los angeles in 1943 and a local barber insisted that Bobby should audition for the movies. As a result Bobby landed a small role in "Lost Angel" opposite child star Margaret O'Brien. A hard worker and natural actor, he soon had offers from different studios. Unlike some of the sickingly-sweet 1930s child actors, Bobby delivered a sweet, but believable performance. He played in "So Goes My Love" with Myrna Loy and Don Amechee. Loy remarked, "He has so much charm, if Don Amechee and myself aren't on our toes all the time, we know that the audience would be looking at the youngster and ignoring us." Amechee said, "He has talent and I've worked with a lot of child actors in my time, but none of them bore the talent that seems apparent in young Driscoll." Bobby became the first human actor to sign a long-term contract with Walt Disney in 1946. He stared in Song of the South (1946) wearing a velvet suit and lace collar, "So Dear to My Heart" (1948), and "Treasure Island" (1950). It is "Song of the South" that I best remember him. He sang in "Song of the South", including the popular "Zip-a-dee-Doo-Dah". The movie which combined animation and live actors was a big success. Another success was "So Dear to My Heart". The New York Times saluted the way Bobby filled the movie "with the eager charm of an idealized childhood." Bobby apparently was a real trooper and carefully supervised by the Disney people. His mother recalled, "People weren't ever allowed to use a swear word in front of him. He had a great deal of love for Walt Disney. And he always did what ever the director told him to do." She explained that during the filming of "Miss Susie Slagle's" (1946) when he was about 7, he caught his foot and wound up hanging from a box. He cried his eyes out, but didn't make a sound until he was discovered because the director told him that noise costs money. That same year while filming "O.S.S." (1946) he was sent to the basement for a sack of coal. "Stay there until we need you," the director told him. When the broke for lunch no one remembered Bobby, he remained quietly in the basement. He was also memorable in Ted Tezlaff's thriller "The Window" (1949) in which he played a boy who cried wolf once to often. The New York Times exclaimed, "The striking force and terrifying impact of this ROK melodrama is chiefly do to Bobby's brilliant acting." As a result he won an Oscar for the outstanding juvenile actor in 1949. He played an engaging Jim Hawkins in Disney's "Treasure Island" (1950). Of all the film versions of "Treasure Island," it is Bobby's performance that really makes Jim Hawkins come to life. His career faltered when he reached his teens. An acne-faced teenager, Bobby had increasing difficulty obtaining roles. He was the voice and model for Disney's "Peter Pan" (1953). One source says that he was abused by his strict parents. Even at a fairly young age (14) he was experimenting with drugs. As he matured his problems multiplied and he was unable to adjust. His drug problem became increasingly severe. He was arrested several times for a variety of matters and lived as a vagrant in and out of jails, emaciated and sick. He was finally found dead in an abandoned tenement. It was not until a year after his burial that he was identified as a result of his finger prints. Surely one of the saddest stories of any child actor, especially distressing when you see the lovely little boy in his films. I will never forget that charming little boy in "song of the South" with the beautiful smile dresses in the velvet suit and lace collar.

Durand, David - (US, 1920-98)

David Durand was born in Cleveland, Ohio (1920). His real name was David Parker Grey. His mother was Odette Durand, a well-known writer and poet. David became a child prodigy at the age of 2 years as radio's 'Little Boy Blue'. This led to film offers. He was a staple playing various boy and teenage roles during the 1920s-30s. He had 52 film appearances, many uncredited especially as a younger boy. He is one of those period child actors that is familiar to movie buffs because he appeared in so many films, but few people can name. His first film was the short 'The Big Town' (1925). He was one of the peripheral 'Our Gang' kids during the 20s. Then as a teenager he appeared in 'Viva Villa!' (1934) in which he played the buggle boy. Other films included: 'Angels with Dirty Faces' as boy in pool room (1938), "Scout to the Rescue as 'Rip' Dawson (1939), 'Mitt You' (1940) and 'Glove Affair' (1941). He replaced Noah Beery, Jr. in Columbia's 'Glove Slingers' boxing short subjects series (1940). He left the series to replace Bobby Jordan, who was drafted. in the East Side Kids film series shot by Monogram. He played Danny in several of the East Side Kids films. His last film was the World War II film 'Follow the Leader' (1944). Like many child actors, he was unable to make the transition to adult roles.

Durkin, Junior - (US, 1915-35)

Born James Durkin in 1915 in New York City. He was the son of Florence Edwards. He made his stage debut at 2 1/2 playing cupid in the musical comedy "Some Night." He later appeared in many plays and musicals, notably in 'Poppy' with W.C. Fields. In the early 1930s he played juveniles in Hollywood films, memorably as Huck Finn in 'Tom Sawyer' (1930) and 'Huckleberry Finn'. He died in a car crash in 1935, the only survivor was fellow child star Jackie Coogan.


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Created: October 17, 2000
Last updated: 6:15 PM 8/23/2018