Saturday, April 10, 2010
Lost Boy: The Sad End of Bobby Driscoll
I'm in the process of writing an essay for the Noir City Sentinel about the peculiar role of children in film noir, and as a result, I've spent the last week or so revisiting some notable performances. I knew going into this project that I'd need to look at Bobby Driscoll, one of the most popular child stars of the 1940s. The star of Treasure Island and the voice of Peter Pan for the classic Disney film, he also starred in a very good film noir called The Window. A thriller about a little boy who can't convince the adults around him that he's witnessed a murder, the film was based on a Cornell Woolrich story and directed by the veteran cinematographer Ted Tezlaff. It's a well-oiled crime picture, and it's grounded by a spot-on performance by the 12-year old Driscoll. He pulls off the feat of being engaging and sympathetic without being cute or coy.
Unfortunately, the talented young actor was soon to become the very model of the screwed-up child star. His story--a harrowing testimony to viscous indifference of the Hollywood star machine--has been told several places, but my research led me to a blog by a writer named Don Brockway called Isn't Life Terrible. His piece, Bobby Driscoll 1937-1968, is largely a reprint of an article by Florence Epstein which first appeared in Movie Digest in 1972. Give it a look. The tragedy of this forgotten actor makes for compelling--if heartbreaking--reading.