Redrum! Redrum!

Over the past few nights I noticed a couple of my favorite movies were on TV: To Kill a Mockingbird and The Shining.  Each of them had child actors in them that didn’t pursue acting careers as an adult.  The characters of Jem, Scout and Dill from Harper Lee’s classic were played by Phillip Afford, Mary Badham and John Megna, respectively.

Mary Badham as Scout, Phillip Afford as Jem and John Megna as Dill.

A couple of years after To Kill a Mockingbird Mary Badham did a Twilight Zone episode called The Bewitchin’ Pool where she played a girl named Sport, and I am convinced they had another actress dub over her voice because she sounded nothing like she did as Scout.  Anyway, I digress….

I always wondered what the family discussions are when a child actor auditions for a scary movie and then gets it.  What do the directors do to protect the kids on the set and what do they really say to get them to scream and cry.  Danny Lloyd was six years old when he played Danny Torrence in The Shining.  It’s been stated he didn’t know it was a horror film until several years after it was shot, but his scenes were extremely convincing that he was freaked out by the Overlook Hotel.  His screams of “Redrum! Redrum!” still freak me out.

That’s how I feel Danny when you say “Redrum! Redrum!”

When I think of these child actors impactful performances I thought of other child stars that made an impression on me in some other films I love:

In 1979’s “Krammer vs. Krammer” actor Justin Henry played Billy Krammer. That face of his and his ability to cry tugged at my heart. At the age of seven he was nominated for an Academy Award as Best Supporting Actor, becoming one of the youngest actors ever nominated.

If you watch this scene in “Terms of Endearment” and don’t feel compelled to cry, I would think you don’t have a pulse. Actor Huckleberry Fox played Debra Winger’s youngest son Teddy and his waterworks were classic.

Mae Whitman and Tina Majorino played Meg Ryan’s daughters in “When a Man Loves a Woman.” This movie was six-year-old Mae’s very first role as Casey and she nailed it as the sweet precocious baby sister. The scene at the playground she has with actor Andy Garcia when he has to say goodbye to her simply melts my heart.

Four years later Mae Whitman played Bernice Pruitt – Sandra Bullock’s daughter in “Hope Floats.” Once again, a scene where her father is saying goodbye to her she has an intense moment where she is crying out “Daddy!” as his car pulls away. Tissues please.

Another example of parents allowing their child to do a scary movie: Little Heather O’Rouke (may she rest in peace) played sweet Carol Anne who told us all that “They’re here!” in the movie “Poltergeist.” When the movie came out I was convinced she was the daughter of Heather Locklear, which was impossible since Locklear didn’t have a child until almost a decade after O’Rouke’s passing.

Five-year-old Haley Joel Osment was as cute as a button when he played Tom Hank’s son Forrest Gump, Jr.

The actors who played young Forrest and Jenny (Michael Connor Humphreys and Hanna Hall) may have been just like “peas and carrots,” but with those southern accents they were also sweet as pie. {Hearing echoes of “Run Forrest, Run” in my head!}

Thora Birch as Billie Pike and Elijah Wood as Willard Young in the movie “Paradise” were a cute pairing. This was the first of two movies married couple (at the time) Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson did together.

Drew Barrymore’s Gertie telling E.T. to “Be good” and then her tearful “Goodbye” – Classic!

Dakota Fanning as Lucy in “I Am Sam.” Those eyes and she drops the line: “Nobody else’s daddy ever comes to the park.”

Natalie Portman’s first full feature film was “The Professional.” She played Mathilda and rocked this killer bob with bangs. This was such a powerful performance straight out of the gate to launch her acting career.

Anna Chlumsky got a smooch from Macaulay Culkin in the movie “My Girl.” Then, it was only fitting, that Anna’s character Vada told Culkin’s Thomas J. that she would punch him if he told anybody.

The movie “My Dog Skip” always makes me cry. The young childhood love between Frankie Muniz’s character Willie Morris and his co-star Caitlin Wachs’s Rivers Applegate was so precious. But at the end of the day the true love really went to Skip, of course!


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