By Carla Logan


[From MOTION PICTURE, December 1969]


There were many child stars in the 30s and 40s - some grew up to face agony & despair, others found a new life. This is the story of what made them end up the way they did.

They blamed Judy Garland's early death on her early life. They said the one-night stands in vaudeville as a child, the lack of a normal life, of normal playmates, of uninterrupted schooling, combined with the pressures of too much adoration and too much hard work, eventually destroyed her.

Long before she died, E. Y. Harburg, who wrote the haunting lyrics of OVER THE RAINBOW discussed why she was never able to find hers.

"In Hollywood, Judy was a commodity, She was there for exploitation. When they saw they had a money maker, they used her to the hilt - unwisely and inhumanely with no conception of the psychological treatment of the human being. This was common in the industry. If a star was box office one year that didn't mean he would be box office the next. So the studio wanted every ounce of profit it could get."

This situation held true with all the great box-office stars of the '30s and '40s - with the Ava Gardners, Rita Hayworths, Lana Turners. But if anything, it was intensified with the "child stars," where a studio was racing not only against box-office staying power but against time. There was no way of anyone knowing whether a child star would possess the same - or even greater - magic as a teenager or adult, as was the case with Elizabeth Taylor and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Natalie Wood, or whether the appeal would fade and the talent diminish in a few short years.

Child actors have been used, abused and discarded by the dozens. Many went on to live healthy and happy adult lives outside the industry, others held on for years trying desperately to make a comeback, failing, and going on to drugs and/or alcoholism. A handful made the transition.


.....It's hard to find a common denominator - aside from their premature careers - that would fit all the child stars. Some came from broken homes, some were orphaned or half-orphaned and others had parents who stayed together to the very end. Some are still miserable today, others terribly happy. However, only a mere handful were able to stay married to their original mate, and those were the devout Catholics like Ann Blyth, and from TV, the Lennons.

We have examined the lives of several of Hollywood's great child stars. You can judge for yourself what made them what they are today.


......There is one young man who definitely does NOT look back on his child performer days as the happiest of HIS life - and that's Dean Stockwell.

Dean, the son of actor Harry Stockwell and actress Betty Veronica, was already a vet of radio's DEATH VALLEY DAYS and Broadway's INNOCENT VOYAGE when MGM brought him to Hollywood for ANCHORS AWEIGH. And he just about stole that musical from Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Kathryn Grayson. Critics and public hailed him as the most appealing child actor in a decade.

Dean was rushed from one picture to another. He was pampered and petted and there were adults all around him telling him how cute he was. But he felt lonesome and lost, and years later he was to say that the only happy moments of his life he could remember were back in New York when he was starting public school. He also was to remember that when people were fussing over him he'd think, "Those people aren't talking about me, they are talking about Dean Stockwell, child star."

Of the films he made as he was growing up - THE GREEN YEARS, BOY WITH GREEN HAIR, GENTLEMEN'S AGREEMENT - Dean has no recollection whatsoever. Of his entire early career he can only recall certain moments from DOWN TO THE SEA IN SHIPS.

At 15, Dean worked in a Joel McCrea western called CATTLE DRIVE. Then he burned his scrapbooks and vowed never to act again. A couple of years later, he entered college hoping to find a new goal and a new career, but left after his freshman year. For three years Dean roamed the country trying to find himself. Finally he returned to Hollywood and, because he was not really trained for another kind of work, Dean
resumed his career in films. He was still lonely, still moody, still confused. But the talent Dean was blessed with as a youngster didn't fail him as a young man. He scored on TV and on Broadway and in films like COMPULSION. Dean went into analysis. He fell in love with actress Millie Perkins and they were married, but the marriage didn't last.

The adult career climaxed by COMPULSION lost momentum. Dean didn't become another Jimmy Dean as many thought he would. He just became another Hollywood actor. Those few people whom he allows to be somewhat close to him today admit that Dean's still lonely, still tormented by demons he can't understand, still up-tight when people ask, "Weren't you that cute little boy with green hair?" Dean's 33 years old now. He doesn't look it. But his future is one big question mark.

-The End-