The 1950s are a big time for movies and television. Many of the most popular series and films from the decade feature child actors performing in iconic roles. Leave It to Beaver and films such as Walt Disney’s Swiss Family Robinson. There are numerous memorable child characters portrayed on the screen during the decade. When they got older, some of these child stars moved on to other things outside of the entertainment industry. However, a few stayed in the industry until their deaths or are still currently in it. Join Facts Verse as we take a look at how child stars from the 1950s grow up – some of whom end up completely unrecognizable.
Richard Keith started playing drums in a professional capacity when he was only three years old. He notices for his skills and hires by the Horace Heidt Orchestra to play the drums for $500 a week. Keep in mind that this is a time when $500 can get you a bit more than it can now!
Richard’s musical talents make him the perfect child actor to portray the character of Little Ricky in I Love Lucy. Richard was hired in 1955 and played the character until the show’s conclusion. Richard also would show up in episodes of The Andy Griffith Show around the same time.
After Richard’s days as a child star ends, he turns to his musical talents to pay the bills. In 1969, he joined a band by the name of David and the Giants. Nowadays, Richard works as the director of a ballet company that his wife started. Richard became the company’s director in 1990, and the company has recently opened up a new branch in Brazil!
In 1955, Johnny Crawford became one of the first Mouseketeers in Walt Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club. Same time, the child actor can portray the character of Lucas McCain in the Western television series The Rifleman. Lucas was the son of the show’s titular character, giving Johnny a pretty big role.
Johnny’s work on The Rifleman saw him receive a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the Emmy Awards. The actor was just 13 years old at the time. Following his time in the shows, Johnny follows the same path as Richard Keith and decides to venture into music. Sadly, Johnny’s time as a recording artist was brief, and he later returned to acting as an adult.
In more recent years, Johnny returned to music to lead the Johnny Crawford Orchestra, which was a vintage dance orchestra. Johnny loved playing music up until his death. The actor passed away just recently, on April 29, 2021.
In 1956, Patty McCormack lit up the big screen with her performance in the dramatic feature The Bad Seed. A performance that features wisdom beyond her years, the young star nominates for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Patty continues acting after achieving this notoriety at an early age, with her more recent roles being in television series. Over the decades, Patty has appeared in series as varied as Dallas, Murder, She Wrote, and The Sopranos.
After her performance in The Bad Seed, Patty gives her very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. When it occurred, Patty was only 14 years old. This makes her the youngest person that has ever received a star.
Kevin Corcoran was a child actor that was best known for his performances in various Disney productions. In the Mickey Mouse Club, Kevin can be in the features The Rabbit Trap, Old Yeller, and The Shaggy Dog. When Kevin came of age, he decided that he wanted to pursue an education. However, this education merely led him back to Hollywood in a different capacity.
Kevin ended up graduating from California State University after studying theater arts. Afterward, his Disney ties allowed him to get work with the company as both an assistant director and a producer. These new entertainment industry roles defined Kevin up until his death in 2015.
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Tony Dow achieves popularity as a child actor thanks to Wally Cleaver on the hit sitcom Leave It to Beaver. He performed on that beloved show for over half of a decade before it eventually came to an end in 1963.
After Leave It to Beaver came to an end, Tony took middling roles in other shows before eventually serving in the National Guard. After his time in service, Tony came back to the entertainment industry and continued acting for a while as an adult. In addition, he worked a construction job and studied both filmmaking and journalism. Nowadays, Tony likes to spend his time sculpting. The former child actor has become a fairly skilled sculptor, and he even has a few works that are on display in various parts of the world!
Jon Provost began his career in the entertainment industry at the age of just four years old. Some of the many films that the young actor could be seen in included Escapade in Japan, Back from Eternity, and The Country Girl. However, he became best known for the television role that he began occupying in 1957, which was that of Timmy Martin on the hit series Lassie. Over the course of the show’s run, Timmy would gradually become the focal point of the series.
In 1964, Jon left Lassie and continued acting in other capacities for a short period of time before eventually deciding to pursue an education at Sonoma State University. Since his graduation, the former child actor has made a living for himself in the field of real estate.
Bobby Driscoll appeared in many Disney features during his youth, including in the notorious live-action/animation hybrid Song of the South. Besides that rarely seen feature, Bobby also appeared in Treasure Island and So Dear to My Heart. Bobby continued working with the company for some time into his adulthood, lending his voice to the role of Peter Pan in Disney’s 1953 animated film of the same name.
Around the same time that Bobby offered his voice to the animated character of Peter Pan, he began appearing in various live-action anthology television series. However, his career as an adult suffered due to a number of personal and legal troubles that the former child star had become embroiled in. In 1968, Bobby tragically passed away.
Kathryn Beaumont is another former child star that worked with Disney during her youth, and she also coincidentally voiced one of the characters in Peter Pan. Kathryn’s first role with the company was to voice the character of Alice in their animated adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and she subsequently voiced the character of Wendy in Peter Pan. In addition to lending her voice to the roles, Kathryn was also used as a model for the animators on both films. All of this work led to the actress receiving a Disney Legend award.
Soon after voicing the character of Wendy in Peter Pan, Kathryn left the entertainment industry behind to pursue an education. After graduating from the University of Southern California, she became a teacher at an elementary school. Kathryn taught for almost four decades, and is now retired.
In addition to appearing in The Hardy Boys, Tommy Kirk could also be seen in such Disney productions as Old Yeller and Swiss Family Robinson during his days as a child star. Tommy’s career in the entertainment industry came to an end in the 1960s, and the former child star subsequently opened up a carpet cleaning business. Sadly, Tommy also passed away just recently, on September 28, 2021.
Jerry Mathers is the actor that played the titular character on the sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Of course, that titular character was none other than Theodore Cleaver, also known by his nickname “Beaver”. After coming of age, Jerry joined the United States Air Force Reserve. As an adult, he received an education at the University of California, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Since this accomplishment, Jerry has stepped back into the entertainment industry. He continues to pop up sporadically on television and in films, as well as on Broadway.
Jay North is another former child star best known for playing a titular role, with his titular performance being on the series Dennis the Menace. After his time on that hit sitcom, Jay could be seen in a few MGM films, including Maya and Zebra in the Kitchen. However, the majority of the actor’s work as an adult has been in voiceover acting. Some of the many cartoon series that Jay has offered his voice to over the years include The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show, as well as The Banana Splits Adventure Hour. While the voice acting has helped pay the bills, Jay has also become a passionate mentor to young children that are first starting out in the entertainment industry.
All of the aforementioned child stars from the 1950s went on to become drastically different than they were as children. Whether they stayed in the entertainment industry or not, all of these stars changed a great deal after taking on their most iconic roles. Comment down below to share if you think there’s anyone that we should’ve included on this list but didn’t, or if you were surprised to learn about the adult years of any of these former child stars. As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!