What We Talk About When We Talk About Bobby Driscoll

bobby-driscoll-peter-panBobby Driscoll was a big deal back in the day. Walt Disney saw him as the prototype for the Disney child (literally, in the case of Peter Pan, when Driscoll acted out scenes on an empty set that were filmed for the animators to reference). The star of Song of the South (best known as the “racist Disney movie” that has never been released on home video in its entirety) and Treasure Island, Driscoll also scored in tense film noir The Window, about a boy who spies his neighbors kill a sailor and tries to get anyone to believe him before the neighbors kill him. The climax of the film takes place in an abandoned building in the East Village, which would prove to be uncomfortably prescient.

Called the “Wonder Child” for his professionalism and skills, Driscoll won a Juvenile Oscar back when such things were handed out. But guess what happened to child star Driscoll? He grew up. He grew up and suffered from severe acne and all of a sudden Uncle Walt is saying things like, “Gee, he just don’t look like the hero anymore. He’s more of the bully.” At 17, he became addicted to heroin because, as he said, he could afford it.

By 1956, he had been arrested for marijuana possession and his career was basically over. By 1965, he was hanging out at The Factory, just the place for a troubled young drug addict! In 1968, his body was found in an empty East Village tenement. Without any identification, he was buried in Potter’s Field and forgotten until a fingerprint match the next year (instigated by his mother, who was hoping to reunite Driscoll with his dying father) confirmed that he was already dead. But no one made any official announcement until the re-release of Song of the South in 1971 sent enterprising reporters off to find Driscoll for interviews.

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