A Blog to Keep the Lizards Away. It's about posting and sharing the things I'm into. Hope you enjoy the show!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Brandon De Wilde - Not Forgotten

Brandon De Wilde - a magnetic, riveting child prodigy

April 9, 1942, Brandon De Wilde was born into a theatrical family in Brooklyn. Debuting on Broadway at the age of 7, Brandon became a national phenomenon, completing 492 performances of The Member of the Wedding and was considered by experts as a true child prodigy. He later starred in the film version of this play in 1952 and won the Donaldson Award - a special Golden Globe Award for Best Juvenile Talent.

 The first child actor awarded the Donaldson Award

Hedda Hopper dubbed Brandon The King of Child Actors. His most memorable film role was as young Joey Starrett in the film Shane [1953] where he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor [he lost to Frank Sinatra in "From Here To Eternity"]. As Shane, with his blonde hair and piercing blue eyes, and playing opposite the strange surly gunman [Alan Ladd], he stole the show.

Brandon appeared on the front cover of Life Magazine on March 10, 1952, for his Broadway play Mrs McThing, and had his own sitcom television series Jamie on ABC [1953-1954]

 "Small for his age and a bit too pretty".

Brandon's most challenging "adult" role was as Paul Newman's 17 year old nephew Lonnie in the Western Hud [1963]. In this story of alienated youth, Brandon holds his own opposite a ruthless Hud Bannon [Newman] who is out for kicks with no consequences. And both actors are well supported by co-star Patricia Neal who won an Academy Best Actress Award for her role.

Critics say Paul Newman's Hud was one of his better performances [along with Cool Hand Luke], but Brandon De Wilde is amazing in this film. His scenes with Newman are magnetic and definitely a match for the charismatic Hud. Brandon's quietly spoken Southern drawl and riveting eye contact, compete for attention in every frame.

During this time, Brandon had become interested in launching a music career. He was in the Bahamas in February 1965, at the same time The Beatles were filming Help! and hung out with the band, who got stoned on the pot De Wilde provided. Brandon sang a few demos and by all accounts was quite good, but a music career never eventuated.

Unfortunately for Brandon, being small for his age and a bit too pretty worked against him in later life. Overlooked for many movie roles he turned to television. Although he had regular work it was not the same. He even spoke of giving up acting and coming back when he was 40 years old, so people would regard him as an adult.

But he did not get the chance. Tragically, on July 6th 1972, while returning from Denver, Colorado where he had visited his wife who was recovering in hospital, Brandon, aged 30, was killed in an automobile accident at Lakewood, a suburb of Denver. Driving a camper van he crashed into a parked construction truck and died of multiple injuries. He was in the Denver area to co-star in a local production of the play "Butterflies are Free". He left behind a small son, Jessie.

The day after his death the New York Times wrote, "The professionals he worked with praised him for an unpretentiousness that many found a surprising quality in one so celebrated from his earliest years".

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