by Dick Moore, published in 1984.
This book is about the life of child stars in
the 'Golden Days' of Hollywood.
Quote from Darryl
Hickman: "We were all afraid - afraid of being what we were. We all
played a role. You [Dickie Moore] played a role, I played a role, Roddy
[McDowall] played a role. Roddy's still doing what he thinks he's supposed to
do. I'm still trying to deal with what I think I'm supposed to do. We all are
- Jane Powell, Jane Withers, Dean Stockwell. Dean wasn't doing what he WAS.
Dean was doing something he needed to because he thought he was supposed
Dean Stockwell? No! I had seen Dean a few days
earlier. He seemed angry, but in touch with his feelings. He revealed to me
that despite his huge success in many films, including KIM, THE BOY WITH
GREEN HAIR, GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT, people had always told him, "You look
like Dickie Moore."
"It used to piss me off," Dean
confessed. I reported this to Darryl, who told me that this happened to him
Ann Rutherford, Jackie Cooper, Mickey Rooney,
Margaret O'Brien, Jane Powell, Darryl Hickman, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean
Stockwell, Freddie Bartholomew, and Judy Garland were some of the youngsters
under contract to MGM. A common misperception is that they all were close
friends. Not true. Margaret O'Brien's experience was typical. "I really
didn't know anybody when I came to the studio, because they were teenagers
when I was little. Elizabeth Taylor was older and dating and Jane Powell was
already engaged. Natalie Wood was in another studio, so I didn't know her
until we were teenagers. Roddy was older. Dean Stockwell and I were the same
age and we would play on the set of SECRET GARDEN. I really liked Dean, but
he didn't want to play with girls. Darryl Hickman was a little older, so he
didn't want to bother with me."
For me, Hollywood was not an industry. There
was no relationship in my mind between the pictures I did and box office
receipts, no equation of a film's success with personal achievement, wealth,
or fame. I knew only that an especially good performance (free,
letter-perfect, and without problems) brought approval from the people I most
wanted to please. Dean Stockwell had
a sense of the larger view. When, at twelve, in 1948, he was filming THE BOY
WITH GREEN HAIR, whose theme music, "Nature Boy," became his
favorite song, Dean knew that it "had an important, universal, and
politically loaded antiwar theme, and that the boy with the green hair was in
reality a symbol that there shouldn't be any more war."
MGM's Little Red Schoolhouse was the most
renowned of the Hollywood studio schools. Its distinguished graduates
included Jane Powell, Judy Garland, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Dean
Stockwell, Margaret O'Brien, and many other stars and featured players. High School graduation at the Little Red
Schoolhouse was duly recorded for the movie magazines. Hymie Fink was there.
So was Dean Stockwell, who shared his memories of that day with me:
"When we graduated from MGM, we had to do
a magazine layout of a graduation party: Rusty Tamblyn, me, Claude Jarman,
Jr., Elizabeth Taylor, and Jane Powell. They wanted a photo with all of us
outside in the front of the schoolhouse. Elizabeth was so happy she threw her
books in the air, and Miss McDonald [the teacher] came running out, screaming
at the photographers, 'Don't have her throw her books like that.'
"Mary McDonald intimidated me. She didn't
have the most beautiful visage in the world. She didn't teach me shit. But in
retrospect, I love her because I feel she was intent upon educating us. In
some way - a way she didn't realize consciously - she sensed that she was
dealing with kids that were out of place in time and ties and culture. I tend
to revere her."
"There were uglies and there were
beauties. For me, Errol Flynn was the best," Dean Stockwell asserted.
Dean thought of Flynn the way I thought of Gary Cooper. "He was the
ultimate father figure for me."
"I'm not saying I'd recommend him for the
rest of society. It just so happened that at that time of my life - I was twelve
or something – he was what he was: a truly profound, non-superficial sex
symbol. He was THE fucking male.
"Okay, so I'm going to play this little
Indian kid in Rudyard Kipling's tale of KIM and Errol Flynn is going to play
the other guy. While they're building the sets, I come onto the sound stage
with my mother and the studio teacher, the perfect Norman Rockwell portrait
of middle America - sixty-three years old, sweet, giving, a long-suffering
spinster with the rimless glasses and high lace collar. She was terrific with
her rosy cheeks. Didn't even have to blue her hair, she had her own natural
white hair. She and my mother were flanking me.
"Errol Flynn came up to me. Somebody
said, 'This is Dean Stockwell.' Of course, he's bigger than me, and with this
gleam in his eye, he looked down at me. He stuck out his hand and said, 'Hi.
Have you had your first fuck yet?'
"There was a moment, it lasted an
eternity, where both my mother and the teacher were going 'Brrrr,' like
pigeons with a gnat up their ass, blushing and doing everything but bleeding
on either side of me. Flynn is still staring at me, waiting for me to answer
him, but I didn't know what the word meant. I'm just looking at this guy,
thinking, I finally found a friend, a father.
"Obviously, he knew I hadn't had my first
fuck yet, or he figured that out right after he asked me. Still, he gave me
one of the special lapel buttons he'd had made. It had beautiful hand-carved
wings. In the center were three F's interlocked. It was 'Flynn's Flying
Fucker' club, and the part that went into your lapel was a huge erect cock
and balls to hold it in. I had it hidden in my top drawer for four years. My
mother finally found it. She didn't tell me until two years after she threw
it out. "I had a hell of a good
time shooting that picture.
"Errol Flynn came onto the set one
morning a little blurry-eyed, and told me about picking up a girl the night
before, a waitress. He really liked waitresses and working girls -
secretaries. "So he took this waitress to his place. Next morning, he
said, 'You know what she did? As I'm fucking her, she said, 'Oh, fuck me,
Errol Flynn! Fuck me, Errol Flynn.' I mean, that really tells you where it's
at. 'Fuck me, Errol Flynn.' Not 'Fuck me, Errol.' '
"Flynn was a maniac practical joker. I
had a horror looming up, one of those crying scenes - a real toughy - with
Paul Lukas. He's a dying lama. The scene is a master shot inside a tent in
India and I'm there with the lama and Flynn comes through the tent flaps and
gives me food for the lama in a rice bowl, and I'm supposed to be - as the
character Kim - on the job and I can't let the lama eat maggots. So I check
the bowl. Flynn has a line and leaves. Then I have this big crying scene with
"So we rehearse and do a take. I'm
talking to the lama and in comes Flynn and hands me the bowl, piled high with
fresh camel dung, still steaming. Now I'm supposed to look at it and say, 'Is
this okay for the lama to eat?' And he's supposed to say, 'Yes, of course. I
promise it's good.'
I looked at the mess and said my line and he
backed out. I played the rest of the scene and it cost Flynn five hundred
dollars. He had bet everyone on the crew that he would break me up."
Dean Stockwell was seven when he first became
aware of sexual feelings. The experience made a deep and lasting impression
on him. It was during Dean's first movie, ANCHORS AWEIGH, in which he played
Kathryn Grayson's nephew. Dean remembers vividly:
"Kathryn Grayson was gorgeous and sang
like a lark. I remember her long black curls and the song she sang with an
accent, 'Pennsylvania Polka.' "She had the most beautiful, fine,
filamenty blond hairs on her bosom. These tiny hairs would catch the light
bouncing off the makeup on her skin. Then, just before they called, 'Roll
'em!' I would lay my pancake-laden face on her bosom. It was unreal because
the hairs were so fine and so downy and yet the skin was covered with the
fucking body makeup; and the secret beneath the bodice was super naked then
For most of us, the Awkward Age was
frightening. For Dean Stockwell, it was Nirvana. "When the Awkward Age
arrived, I would no longer be a child star, right? So I would get the fuck
out of it! I couldn't wait to get pimples. I couldn't wait to get awkward. I
ruined my posture. I did everything, just to get out of it."
When Dean Stockwell was subject to the draft,
we were fighting in Korea, but from sixteen to twenty-one, Dean dropped
out. "I shaved all my hair. I
was bald. I just disappeared. First I went to college - Cal-Berk - for a
semester and a half. I didn't want to join the army because I didn't believe
in the war. I also knew that I couldn't possibly endure taking orders. So I
dodged the draft. I took drugs, pretended I was a fag. I stayed up three days
and nights before I went for my physical and I never looked anyone in the
"As a result, the psychiatrist wrote:
'Shouldn't ever be in service.' "Then I dropped out of Berkeley and
traversed the country, worked on a railroad, drove spikes on an electric
gang, picked fruit, worked in a cannery, then as a mail-boy for Standard
Plumbing in New York, got promoted to the export department and decided that
was it. I called an agent in New York and said 'My name is Dean Stockwell. I
did all this acting once and I want to do it again.' Eventually, I got a TV
part that paid my fare back to L.A."