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.


Naomi Johnson said...

I just saw a film featuring Driscoll, not noir or crime, but a gem all the same, "The Happy Time." I'll check out the link, thanks.

Ed Gorman said...

Bobby was my first cousin. I saw him a few times over the years and wore a lot of his clothes. As he outgrew jackets, shirts, pants and shoes I was the beneficiary. He gave me some mighty good clothes.

Jake Hinkson said...

Naomi- Thanks for the title rec. Always looking for a good movie, and I've never heard of The Happy Time.

Ed-Thanks for writing. Great detail about the spiffy hand-me down. It's funny, Vince Keenan had just told me that you were Bobby's cousin. Internet's a small place.

Drogheda said...

Hi, Robert b. Parker research brought me to your blog, glad it did. Like your work.

mhdantholz said...

"...His piece, Bobby Driscoll 1937-1968..."
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This error is generated when there was no web page with the name you specified at the web site.

"Bobby Driscoll 1937-1968"

Jake Hinkson said...

Thanks so much! I've repaired the link.

Unknown said...

I just want to say thank you to everyone who has posted information on bobby driscoll. When I was younger I always loved watching Peter Pan because of his wonderful voice. Now that I watch the movie with my son I have learned the terrible date of bobby driscoll. However I have become a huge fan of his movies and watched almost all of them.