Bobby Driscoll Biography
Died At Age: 31
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Robert Cletus Bobby Driscoll, Robert Cletus Driscoll
Born in: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Famous as: Actor
Spouse/Ex-: Marilyn Jean Rush (m. 1956 - div. 1957 - m. 1957 - div. 1960)
father: Cletus Driscoll
mother: Isabelle Kratz Driscoll
place of death: East Village, New York City, New York
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
U.S. State: Iowa
Robert Cletus ‘Bobby’ Driscoll was an American child artist, known for his work in popular Walt Disney pictures, including ‘So Dear to My Heart,’ ‘Treasure Island,’ and ‘Song of the South.’ Born in Iowa, his family later moved to California. An audition got him a minor acting role at the age of 5. Other such smaller roles led to a contract from Walt Disney. He essayed main roles in a number of Disney movies, and earned a special ‘Juvenile Academy Award for Outstanding Juvenile Actor of 1949.’ Under the contract, Driscoll was occasionally loaned to other studios, but he largely remained a ‘Disney Star.’ He became famous as the voice of ‘Peter Pan,’ and also modeled as a reference for this hit Disney movie. His contract was terminated three years earlier in 1953, and he found it difficult to get work in other studios. Later, he worked mainly in TV series and radio shows. As a result of his narcotics addiction, he was sent to ‘Narcotics Rehabilitation Center.’ Later, Driscoll tried to revive his artistic skills at Andy Warhol’s ‘The Factory,’ but went underground in a pauper state. In 1968, his body was found in a desolate building, just after his 31st birthday.
- Driscoll was born on March 3, 1937, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Isabelle (née Kratz), a former school teacher, and Cletus, an insulation salesman. The only child of his parents, he initially grew up in Des Moines, and in 1943, because of his father’s work-related ailment, the family moved to Altadena, California.
- An acquaintance helped the 5 year-old Driscoll with an audition at ‘MGM’ for a minor role in 1943’s ‘Lost Angel.’ He overcame 40 aspirants to bag the role.
- After making his screen debut, he got a role in a ‘20th Century Fox’ war film, ‘The Fighting Sullivans’ (1944), wherein he essayed the youngest of 5 brothers, ‘Al Sullivan.’ In ‘Sunday Dinner for a Soldier’ (1944), he played the boy who could blow his whistle while standing on head, and in the same year he played young brother of Richard Arlen in ‘The Big Bonanza.’
- In 1946, Driscoll portrayed ‘Percy Maxim’ in ‘So Goes My Love.’ The other movies in which he played small parts, included ‘Identify Unknown,’ ‘From This Day Forward,’ ‘O.S.S.,’ and ‘Miss Susie Slagle’s.’
- Driscoll was one of the first two actors to sign contract with ‘Walt Disney.’ The first live-action/animated film of ‘Disney,’ ‘Song of the South’ (1946), had Driscoll as its lead actor. He and his co-star Luana Patten became child-stars and the media dubbed them as ‘Walt Disney’s Sweetheart Team.’
- Driscoll and Patten once again worked together in Disney’s first all-live-action film, ‘So Dear to My Heart.’ In ‘RKO Studios’ (Disney’s co-producers) 1948 musical comedy, ‘If You Knew Susie,’ he played the part of Eddie Cantor’s son. The teaser of the ‘Pecos Bill’ section of Disney’s 1948 cartoon collection ‘Melody Time’ featured Driscoll and Patten.
- Driscoll was loaned to ‘RKO Studios’ for the 1949 suspense film, ‘The Window.’ The film became a hit and Driscoll’s work was applauded.
- On March 23, 1950, Driscoll won a ‘Special Juvenile Academy Award as the Outstanding Juvenile Actor of 1949’ for his performances in ‘So Dear to My Heart,’ and ‘The Window.’
- In ‘Walt Disney’s’ all-live-action picture ‘Treasure Island’ (based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel), Driscoll played ‘Jim Hawkins.’
- 'Treasure Island’ became a worldwide hit and many new projects were planned with Driscoll as the lead, but somehow they didn’t work-out.
- Driscoll was loaned to ‘Horizon Pictures’ for ‘When I Grow Up’ (1951) in which he played the double role of ‘Danny/Josh Reed.’ He made a brief appearance in ‘Disney’s’ first TV Christmas show, ‘One Hour in Wonderland’ (1950). He lent his voice to ‘Goofy Jr.’s’ character in ‘Disney’s’ ‘Fathers are People’ (1951)’ and ‘Father’s Lion’ (1952).
- In the 1952 comedy, ‘The Happy Time,’ based on a ‘Broadway’ play, Driscoll played the role of ‘Robert ‘Bibi’ Bonnard.’ In ‘Walt Disney’s’ animated ‘Peter Pan,’ he lent his voice to ‘Peter Pan’ and worked as reference model for close-ups. The film and his voice became a big hit.
- His weekly payment at ‘Disney Studios’ was raised to $1,750. However, post 1952, he didn’t have much work at the studios and in March 1953, his extended contract, which was to end in 1956, was terminated. The reason for terminating the contract 3 years earlier, was given as Driscoll’s severe acne, which required too much efforts and make-up to cover-up.
- Driscoll found it difficult to get work, because all other studios considered him a ‘Disney kid.’ From 1953, he mostly worked on TV in ‘Front Row Center,’ ‘Climax!,’ ‘Navy Log,’ ‘Fireside Theater,’ ‘Ford Theater,’ ‘Dragnet,’ ‘Studio One,’ ‘Men of Annapolis,’ ‘Medic,’ among others. He also worked on radio shows, including special broadcast versions of ‘Treasure Island’ (1951), and ‘Peter Pan’ (1953). For his TV and radio work, he earned a ‘Milky Way Gold Star Award’ in 1954.
- After the termination of Disney contract, Driscoll was taken out of ‘Hollywood Professional School,’ and was sent to the ‘University High School,’ where he was not accepted by other students. His grades dropped and he began taking drugs. His parents again sent him to his earlier school, where he completed his graduation in 1955.
- By the age of 17, he began taking drugs regularly. In 1956, he was arrested for possessing marijuana, but the charges were later dropped. He tried to seek serious acting roles. Driscoll appeared in ‘The Scarlet Coat’ in 1955, and then ‘The Party Crashers’ (1958). He was last seen in small roles in TV series ‘The Best of the Post’ and the crime series, ‘The Brothers Brannagan,’ in 1960.
- He was awarded Star on the ‘Hollywood Walk of Fame’ at 1560 Vine Street, in 1960.
- Driscoll was convicted for drug addiction and was sent to ‘Narcotic Rehabilitation Center,’ at Chino, California. After leaving the center in 1962, he tried in vain to search for work. One year after his parole got over, he moved to New York in 1965, where he tried but didn’t find work in ‘Broadway.’ He began working at Andy Warhol’s ‘The Factory.’ Some of his art was displayed at the ‘Santa Monica Museum of Art.’ His last film performance was in the 1965 movie ‘Dirt’ by Piero Heliczer.
- Between 1967 and the beginning of 1968, Driscoll left ‘The Factory’ in a miserable state. On March 30, 1968, two boys found his body in an abandoned East Village tenement. The cause of the death was determined as heart failure due to advanced hardening of arteries, resulted from long-term drug abuse. The body remained unidentified and unclaimed, so it was buried in an unmarked grave in New York City’s Potter’s Field, on Hart Island.
- In 1969, Driscoll’s mother tried to search for him, as his father was nearing death. She asked for help from ‘Disney Studio’ officials and a fingerprint match led to Driscoll’s grave on Hart Island.
- The first Disney film, ‘Song of the South,’ was re-released in 1971-1972. When media tried to find the film’s main cast, they came to know about his death from his mother.
- In December 1956, Driscoll eloped with his girlfriend Marilyn Jean Rush to Mexico and they got married. They re-wed in March 1957, in Los Angeles, and divorced in 1960. The couple had two daughters and a son.
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