Friday, May 31

More Child Stars: Tim, Patty, Sandy & The Foghorn

For you folks who have been around as long as I have or who have movie nostalgia in your bones, you might remember one or more of the child stars from the 1950s that we're mentioning here.  I have seen them in most of the films they made waaayyy back when and remember them today, although they are still those young children.  Only I have gotten older.

Tim Hovey

He was a cute little kid who seemed to keep his own counsel.  He may have migrated into a world of adults but to me he always seemed locked up in his own head.  He pouted and was always pissed off at someone older.  His gap-toothed look, over-sized ears and pint-size allowed him to play young kids for a longer period of time than most.  He made a mere seven films in the mid-1950s.

His picture was discovered in a photographer's window by a Hollywood agent.  His parents were uncertain of what was transpiring and almost ruined any career he had by not taking appropriate action... at first.  Soon he was working for Universal-International (as it was known in those days and Tim was the main kid featured in The Private War of Major Benson, with Charlton Heston and Julie Adams, about a military school run by nuns.

He had an important role in the comedy Toy Tiger, trying to fix up his mother Laraine Day with Jeff Chandler, and an even more important one in the George Nader drama, Man Afraid, as a kid being stalked by a man whose son was accidentally killed by Hovey's father.  Other roles were in Queen Bee, Everything but the Truth, Slim Carter and Money, Women and Guns.

In his teens he quit films or they quit him and he worked for a number of years as a recording engineer and as a road manager for The Grateful Dead.  He died in 1989 at age 44 from a reported drug overdose.

Patty McCormack

Without looking up her films, I can only recall three, one of which propelled her into the top ranks of child actors.  That film, The Bad Seed, provided McCormack with international fame and a swirl of controversy over a child that young (11) playing a murderess.  The pig-tailed picture used here is from that film.  Her heartless portrayal of a child who dispatches those around her whom she finds annoying is simply unforgettable.

She came from a normal background and due to modeling found herself in bit parts in movies and television.  She and Nancy Kelly, who played her mother in The Bad Seed, were both originally in the Broadway production.  In a role that somewhat foreshadowed Linda Blair's Regan in The Exorcist, McCormack was fortunate that her career did not take the same path as Blair's.

She went on to make the charming All Mine to Give (1957) about a group of orphans in the Old West and Kathy O (1958), a comedy costarring Dan Duryea and Jan Sterling, about a bratty child star.

McCormack was anything but a brat and didn't seem to suffer in the same way as many child stars do.  Additionally, her career did not end as a youngster.  She is not only has a large body of work as an adult but it making a film as we type.

Sandra Descher

She seemed to me to be in just about every other movie I ever saw in the fifties.  Of course that wasn't true but her doe-eyed, angelic face did seem to pop up in an awful lot of films.  She was the daughter of some big stars... Elizabeth Taylor, June Allyson, Gregory Peck, Irene Dunne and Richard Widmark in some very popular films.

She had been doing stage work since the age of three.  At age eight, she was vacationing with her family in Wyoming when director Gordon Douglas (filming The Charge at Feather River) spotted her and offered her a role.  Her parents declined his invitation at the time but later took him up on it and her career was launched.

She played the youngest daughter in It Grows on Trees (a fantasy-comedy... the it is money) and had a featured role in the sci-fi thriller Them!  She had a rather large part in The Last Time I Saw Paris where stern aunt Donna Reed attempted to keep her from Descher's alcoholic father, Van Johnson.  Descher says this is her favorite role.  She had smaller roles in The Prodigal, The Opposite Sex, The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, The Cobweb and Three Brave Men.

Descher rarely had starring roles but one of them was in A Gift for Heidi.  A very popular role came in The Space Children.  All of her film work was in the fifties.  In the sixties it was strictly guest roles on popular television series and by 1966, it was goodbye to the acting profession.

George (The Foghorn) Winslow

He must be the brother of Harvey Fierstein and the grandson of Lauren Bacall.  That voice!!!  The big raspy voice that came out of that little kid made him a bona fide child star for about 15 minutes.  He was so famous for his voice that The Foghorn was listed in the credits of his films.  His dead-pan face and expert comic timing didn't hurt either.

His entire film career was in the fifties.  He was spotted by none other than Cary Grant when George was appearing on Art Linkletter's popular television show People Are Funny.  Grant thought he would be perfect for a role in his Room for One More about a couple who adopts a gaggle of kids.  His next film, also with Grant and Ginger Rogers and Marilyn Monroe, was Monkey Business, an uproarious comedy where the kid held his own with those comedic talents.

He was in a serious drama called My Pal Gus.  He had the title role as a kid in a tug of war between divorced parents.  Richard Widmark, Joanne Dru and Audrey Totter were the stars.  Then came his most famous role, again with Monroe, in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  She read his name on a guest list and mistook him for a wealthy older man, just what she was looking for.  He accused her of having animal magnetism and we were all better off for his presence.

He was a perfect foil for Clifton Webb in the otherwise perfectly silly Mister Scoutmaster but after that, with all those changes that happen to boys, the trademark voice disappeared and so did that career.  The Foghorn retired from show biz at 12.  He became a professional photographer as an adult but out of the public eye.

Favorite Movie #11


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