Friday, October 9

RIP: Moochie

I can't believe he's passed away.  I can oh so easily close my eyes and see the little tyke throwing rocks at his brother Travis and screaming it's my dog.  Kevin Corcoran is gone?  He was 66?    Where did all the time go?

When people pass away who were indelibly etched in your childhood, it's tough.  Never mind that I didn't actually know him.  I saw him more often than I did some of my relatives.  And I know I liked him a whole lot more.  And of course when folks pass away who are younger, it gives some pause too.

Kevin Corcoran was part of a showbiz family.  There were eight kids in all... he was number five.  His brothers, Brian, Hugh, William and Kelly did not work as much as Kevin nor did his sister Kerry.  But two sisters should be known to those of a certain age or film/TV buffs.  Donna was a child performer in a number of films.  I specifically remember Young Bess (1952) and Million Dollar Mermaid (1953) and especially her lead role in the equine epic, Gypsy Colt (1954).  I first paid attention to all little people named Corcoran because of her.  Sister Noreen costarred with John Forsythe on television's Bachelor Father.  To me they all were similar looking and I could spot one in a movie easy as pie.

None of the kids seemed to suffer the fate of so many child stars.  There was not a whisper of trouble that I can recall and when their acting careers faded, they appear to have managed the transition to a more normal life without mishap or at least public mishap.  Good parenting may be the culprit.  Dad was for years a cop and then the director of maintenance at MGM.

Due to the family name it wasn't difficult for Kevin to ease into movies.  He had uncredited roles in four films between 1954-56... The Glenn Miller Story, Untamed, Violent Saturday and The Birds and the Bees.  Then Walt Disney entered his life.

While Kevin was never a Mousketeer, he was almost an honorary one as you can see.  Uncle Walt did employ him in several of his serials that were part of The Mickey Mouse Club.  A funny thing is that he played several unrelated characters named Moochie beginning with the serial Adventure in Dairyland.  He then sequed into The Adventures of Spin and Marty... and then The Further Adventures of... and then New Adventures of and well, those of us who faithfully watched it were in kiddie paradise.  Moochie was everywhere and we young fans knew him well.  He could wear my gun and holster anytime he wanted and he always had access to my horse, as long as my mama wasn't sweeping the floor with it.

After a couple more uncredited roles in Written on the Wind and Gun for a Coward, he would take on the part for which he would become world-famous to children of all ages, Arliss Coates in the Disney classic, Old Yeller (1957).  (OMG, I can't believe my eyes are getting misty.)  Obviously I was already aware of who Kevin Corcoran was, as I was of Tommy Kirk, who would play his older brother in seven films, and Dorothy McGuire (the quintessential Disney mother) and Fess Parker.  The only one I didn't know was the dog and it didn't take long to change that.  It instantly became a favorite film but then you knew that.

I would love to have Tommy Kirk say something about his long association with Kevin.  They apparently were friends all through their years of working together.  I see David Stollery, Marty of Spin and Marty, had some nice things to say about working with Kevin.

Kevin and Tommy were at it again (Kevin was another Moochie) as Fred MacMurray's sons in the popular The Shaggy Dog (1959).  That same year he also had a good role away from Disney as Ernest Borgnine's son in the family drama, The Rabbit Trap.  It was rare for Disney's young stars to work at other studios.

The year 1960 was a good one for Kevin.  He had his only starring role in Toby Tyler as a young boy who runs away to the circus.  He was never showcased better than in this film.  He had a small role as a friend to Pollyanna and then back with Kirk and Dorothy McGuire in the immensely popular Swiss Family Robinson.  I remember  a time when I saw Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson on a double-bill.  Life didn't get any better than that.

In the early 60s, he appeared in Babes in Toyland, Bon Voyage and Savage Sam, again playing the character Arliss Coates in which he and his brother Travis are captured by Indians with Old Yeller's son, Sam, on the trail.   It was, of course, not as successful as its predecessor but warm and welcoming to this fan.  His final film for Disney was 1964s A Tiger Walks, costarring with Brian Keith, who appeared with him in Savage Sam.

As he approached 30 it was apparent the movie roles were drying up and he began to consider other options.  He attended college, attaining a theater arts degree.  He wanted to stay in the business.  He worked for years as an assistant director (with one shot as a director of a Murder, She Wrote episode) and as a unit production manager.  He has also served as a producer on a number of projects, including the more recent The Shield and Sons of Anarchy.

I am guessing that for little more than a lark he appeared as a bartender in a 2009 comedy-horror film, It Starts with Murder.

By all accounts, he was a regular guy.  He was married to his wife Laura for 43 years.

I have always remembered him as the rambunctious, mischievous, all-American boy in every film I saw him in.  He had that down pat.  He died Tuesday of colorectal cancer, after a five-year battle with the disease.

I feel a part of my childhood has chipped away. 

Hey, Moochie, say hi to Yeller.

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