Top 10 fates of the first child stars in cinema history

There are many child actors who have become overnight stars, and some have met very bad endings. When we talk about child actors, we mostly think of the stars of the 90’s movies, but these kids would never have become famous without the very first child actors who changed the laws. At the very beginning of silent cinema, the roles of children were played by adults to make it easier, but little by little talented children found their way into the world of cinema.

1. René Dary, the little French genius

René Dary is one of the first film stars in France, but also in the world. The little French boy got his first role in 1908 at the age of 3 to play the main character in a series. Baby Abelard, which will become very popular. He shoots about 80 episodes in three years, but his contract ends when he is 8 years old because his salary is too high. After the war, René Dary returned to the cinema at the age of 25 and everyone loved him.

After a career in silent films as a child, he was a hit in talkies as an adult with around fifty films.

2. Bobby Connelly, the one who worked tirelessly

Before Bobby Connelly we had never seen such a determined and passionate child actor. The young American started filming in 1912 at the age of 3 and never stopped. He gets the first role in a series of short episodes, portraying the main character “Sonny Jim” at just 5 years old. After that, he acted in about thirty films in six years; He doesn’t even stop filming after discovering he has endocarditis, a serious heart condition. In 1922 he fell ill and died of bronchitis at the age of 13 without ever having interrupted his career.

3. Gordon Griffith, the very first Tarzan

Gordon Griffith is one of the first American child actors to become a real star. He got his first role in 1914 at the age of 7 and then worked in the film industry for over 50 years. As a child he was the very first actor ever Tom Sawyer and Tarzan on video. He also acted with Charlie Chaplin and witnessed the seamless transition from silent to talkie. As an adult, he became an assistant director and then executive producer at Columbia Pictures. The former child actor continued working until his death in 1958.

Photo Credits (Public Domain): Movie screenshot (Famous Players-Lasky Corporation / Paramount)

4. B. Reeves Eason Jr., the little cowboy who left way too soon

B. Reeves Eason Jr. is an American boy known as “Universals Littlest Cowboy”. His father was a western director and the child acted in adventure films, dramas and westerns from the age of 2.

B. Reeves Eason Jr. didn’t have time to become a real star as he was hit by a truck and died at the age of 6 in front of his parents’ house. He is one of the first actors ever to be buried in Hollywood Cemetery, right next to the film studios.

5. Jackie Coogan, the most famous child in the world

Jackie Coogan is the first child ever to become world famous thanks to a movie, and it’s not just any movie. The child has been acting in the cinema since his first birthday, but only at the age of 7 he became famous thanks to his role in The child next to Charlie Chaplin. His touching and confident performance quickly landed him in new roles such as Oliver Twist and is loved by film fans. Merchandise featuring his face, from action figures to peanut butter jars, flooded the market and the kid made between $3 million and $4 million in his early years.

While he was the youngest person in history to earn a million dollars, his mother and stepfather squandered his entire fortune. It is his story that will lead to the creation of a new law, the Coogan Act, to protect child performers, their jobs and their income.

6. Baby Peggy, the toddler everyone wants

Real name Peggy Montgomery, Baby Peggy, is an American child who became one of the most famous little girls of the ’20s. She wasn’t even 2 years old when she landed her first role in 1920, and three years later there’s a collection of derivative objects in his name, including a baby Peggy doll. Between 1921 and 1924, Peggy starred in 150 short films, received millions of fan letters, and earned $1.5 million a year.

She ended her career at the age of 8 and found it difficult to break away from her image as a child actress. As an adult she writes books about the film industry and the living conditions of child actors. She has long fought for child stars to be better protected.

7. Jackie Cooper, the abandoned star

Jackie Cooper is a young boy who becomes a real star in the 1930s and starts acting in the series when he is 7 years old The little rascals and became famous thanks to his role in the film Skippy in 1931. He was then the very first child to be nominated for an Oscar for best actor. As he becomes a teenager, he becomes less and less publicly interested, and when he returns from World War II, no one wants to hire him anymore. He then turned to television for many years, finally returning to stardom in 1978 by playing Perry White in the saga superman.

8. Shirley Temple, Hollywood sweetheart

Shirley Temple isn’t just any child star: she’s the first-ever child star to be idolized around the world. In the 1930s and 1940s, Shirley was iconic to little girls: there was a children’s magazine about her life and hundreds of derivative objects featuring her picture. To give you an idea of ​​her fame, tell yourself that (at the age of 9) she was invited to come and cut the birthday cake of the President of the United States. Unlike many child stars of the 1930s, Shirley did not become addicted to drugs or alcohol and decided to end her film career around the age of 20. She then became involved in politics and was appointed the United States Delegate to the United Nations. The incredible Shirley also practices prevention without fear of controversy: she’s the first woman to speak openly about breast cancer.

Image Credits (CC0 1.0): Harry Warnecke, 1900 – 1984; Lee Elkins, active 1930s-1950s
Photo Credits (Public Domain): Walter Lang, Director; 20th Century Fox film. Screenshot of 808 Starfire.

9. Judy Garland, the studio-devastated teen

Judy Garland is a child actress and singer who rose to worldwide fame at the age of 16 thanks to her performance in The Wizard of Oz in 1939. She, like many other child actors, had sat down on the benches at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer a few years earlier and became a star of the studios. The young actress then chained successful films and was mistreated by producers for years. They put her on a drastic diet, cigarettes to curb her appetite and even amphetamines to keep her in shape during the endless shooting. Judy Garland then becomes addicted to drugs.

Despite her failing health, she continued shooting, but in 1950 MGM terminated her contract. The 28-year-old actress starred in other films but died of an overdose 20 years later.

10. Mickey Rooney, who played for 90 years

Mickey Rooney won his first role at the age of 6 in 1926 when he starred in a series, but it wasn’t until he was a teenager that he became a star thanks to his interpretation of the character Andy Hardy. It was around this time that he formed a successful duo with his girlfriend, young actress Judy Garland.

After the war he struggled to regain the success of his youth but nevertheless became a major actor in American cinema and continued to act until his death (he even acted in ” Night at the museum 3 at the age of 95).

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