This blog post i’ve been cooking up for a while. Quite excited actually!
The Golden Age of Hollywood: the children.
Ever since I was small, i’ve always loved old films and music. Growing up on classics will do that to you. Being a wide-eyed seven-year old, it’s harder to relate to Marmie March than Beth or Aunty Em than Dorothy. You see, some of the child stars of the 1940s, were true actors and masters of their crafts. Even now, I watch the films and marvel at their comic timing, emotion and dramatic flair.
Of course, many of the true Hollywood stars of the 1940s and beyond began their careers as children. Off the top of my head (naturally) Judy Garland comes to mind, as well as Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Deanna Durbin and of course, the wonderful Elizabeth Taylor who starred in the enchanting ‘National Velvet’ (by then a seasoned pro).
Growing up on the MGM or Warner Brothers lot can’t have been easy and after reading many, many accounts of life making movies, it seems understandable to me that so many stars of their generation had severe emotional problems. Back in the 1930s and 40s, the child labour laws were yet to be introduced, so children as young as nine or ten were working 10 to 12 hour days, making eight, nine or ten movies every single year, year on year. Of course back then, if you were lucky enough to be offered a contract by MGM for example, you didn’t just sign away that week, month or year with the company – you signed away your childhood. Was fame and fortune worth it? It depends on your point of view. I however, tend to think not.
Now, you mention Hollywood child stars of the 1930s and 40s and often the sugary-sweet sounds of ‘Good Ship Lollypop’ spring to mind. As cute and renowned as Miss Temple was, often being noted as the most famous child star Hollywood has ever produced, I will always award my gold star to the unbelievable Margaret O’ Brian.
She started out her career playing little bit parts in the early 1940s, however at the age of six she starred as Adele in Jane Eyre, and a year after that came her big break – playing Tootie Smith opposite Judy Garland in Meet Me In St Louis (my all time favourite film. Ever!) Remember ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?’ She’s in shot. After this performance, the roles for Margaret came thick and fast and although in her later years the ‘cute factor’ wore off considerably, the odd nude photo shoot surely didn’t harm her career, I expect!
Anyway, enough gushing from me. Fancy hearing from Margaret herself?
Below is a link to a great clip with interviews from the actress, as well as a few of her most memorable on-screen moments. Unfortunately, the clip won’t play directly, but if you click on the link you can watch it just fine on Youtube – it’s definitely worth it!