Walt Disney World (WDW) News Discuss Voice of Peter Pan story in the News & Rumors forums; This article appeared in th NY Daily News today, it was interesting stuff that was unknown to me...Sort of depressing as well.
BY DAVID J. KRAJICEK
SPECIAL TO ...
Voice of Peter Pan story
This article appeared in th NY Daily News today, it was interesting stuff that was unknown to me...Sort of depressing as well.
BY DAVID J. KRAJICEK
SPECIAL TO THE NEWS
Two boys were playing where they shouldn't have been in the spring of 1968 when they stumbled over a corpse in a stinking derelict tenement on Avenue A near Tompkins Square Park.
The corpse was that of a scrawny chap, with a junkie's funky teeth. His body was scarred from both needle pricks and disfiguring acne. An autopsy pegged the death to arteriosclerosis and heart failure brought on by years of speed and heroin abuse.
The body carried no wallet or identification, and cops found no match among missing persons. Taxpayers bestowed another John Doe with 21 square feet of New York real estate: a pauper's grave on Hart Island in the Bronx.
The city shrugged. Another habitue of Needle Park - a nobody - got his comeuppance.
But everybody is somebody.
A year later, a California man named Cletus Driscoll was in the final stages of terminal illness. His wife, Isabelle, wanted desperately to reunite him one last time with their son Robert, with whom they had fallen out of touch.
Isabelle Driscoll made a difficult call to old friends at Walt Disney Studios. Her missing son, Bobby Driscoll, had once been Disney's brightest child-acting star.
Long before, she had been forced to confront the fact that Bobby had lost himself in the nether world of narcotics after - as he often claimed - a bad case of teen acne made it impossible for him to find film work.
Now Isabelle Driscoll asked Disney's help in finding her boy, who was last known to be living in New York.
The studio pulled strings with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, which asked New York police to check its fingerprint files for a match with those taken in California of Robert Driscoll.
The NYPD lab promptly provided bad news for Isabelle Driscoll: The drugged-out John Doe from the lower East Side tenement had been her beloved Bobby.
In scarcely a decade, he had gone from being one of the film world's most familiar figures to an unrecognizable shell of a human being.
Even his mother could not comprehend how it had happened.
"He was such a fine boy," Isabelle Driscoll told reporters. "Please tell people that no woman ever had a finer, more generous son."
Dreamy first act
Bobby Driscoll was born March 3, 1937, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A few years later, his parents joined the national stampede to sunny California.
The boy was getting a haircut one day when a chatty barber insisted to his father that the cutie-pie kid should get a screen test. He auditioned at MGM, and just months later Bobby Driscoll appeared in his first film, "Lost Angel," with another child star, Margaret O'Brien.
He worked steadily throughout the 1940s in such films as "The Sullivans," "The Big Bonanza," "Miss Susie Slagle's" and "So Goes My Love," alongside the likes of Lillian Gish, Alan Ladd, Myrna Loy, Charles Boyer and Joan Fontaine.
In 1946, Walt Disney made Bobby Driscoll that studio's first contract player. He got roles in five Disney films, including "Song of the South" and "Treasure Island."
But his finest work came in a 1949 RKO film noir thriller, "The Window," in which he played a boy who witnessed a murder - eerily enough, in a seedy lower East Side tenement.
A gushing review in The New York Times began: "The mounting terror of a young boy who lives in mortal fear of his life is projected with remarkable verisimilitude by 12-year-old Bobby Driscoll in 'The Window,' which opened on Saturday at the Victoria. The striking force and terrifying impact of this RKO melodrama is chiefly due to Bobby's brilliant acting."
Driscoll was awarded a special Oscar for juvenile acting. He followed that in 1953 with acclaimed work as the voice of Peter Pan in the Disney classic.
But by the time "Peter Pan" was released, when Driscoll was 16, acne brought on by the hormonal changes of puberty had stalled his film career.
He worked regularly in television throughout the 1950s, but always with a thick layer of makeup to cover his blemishes.
"I was carried on a satin cushion and then dropped into the garbage can," Driscoll said.
Descent into narcotics
Perhaps acne was an excuse. Fame had come early and easily, and Driscoll did not buck up well to adversity.
He was involved in narcotics by age 19 in 1956, when he married Marilyn Rush. That same year, police raided Driscoll's pricey Pacific Palisades home and charged him with felony drug possession.
His mother lamented, "Drugs changed him. He didn't bathe, his teeth got loose. ... Narcotics affected his brain."
Driscoll swore off drugs and began raising a family with his new wife. Paramount took a chance by casting him in 1958's "The Party Crashers," a comeback film for the famously lobotomized actress Frances Farmer.
But a year later he was arrested for carrying a junkie's kit,and by 1961 he had racked up collars for assault, robbery, forgery and drugs.
He stood before a California judge and spoke a line worthy of Raymond Chandler.
"I had everything," he said. "Then I started putting all my spare time in my arm."
Driscoll served prison time in California, then headed to New York - to find work as a stage and television actor, he told his mother.
But his persistent jones eventually dashed any hopes of working under a spotlight.
His final acting job came in1965 in "Dirt," a 12-minute short film by Piero Heliczer. The film, whose cast included Andy Warhol, is considered an underground classic. Its plot: "Two nuns take a bath, then meet a sailor on the Staten Island ferry."
Driscoll spent the final few years of his life living downtown in flops or abandoned tenements. He sometimes worked temporary jobs as a laborer or clerk. He rarely let on that he used to be somebody. In the end, his life's work included 19 films and one brokenhearted mother.
Originally published on May 7, 2006
Last edited by sparky; 05-07-2006 at 10:52 PM.
I'll never watch Peter Pan without thinking of this guy again. a terrible tragedy. bad to read, but good to know. thanks for sharing.
If we can dream it, we can do it
I thought this article would intrigue some people, it was very intereesting to me
It is amazing how people's lives can change from good to bad.
I agree. Thank you sharing...
Originally Posted by SnwhtNdwrfs
wow, a tragic story. Very interesting.
I am in need of some Disney magic!!
Yup, I haven't been able to watch Treasure Island or Song of the South without thinking of how the poor child ended up. It's easier to watch Peter since I don't have to actually see him. The first time I read this was in a TIDBITS paper a few years ago. Very sad indeed.
"What ARRRRGH you doing?"
"What are you
"No, What ARRRRGH
"I'll try anything once or twice, that's the kind of mouse I am"
Cap'n Jack lives again!
Great article... And he was born in Iowa!! What a great state!! Thanks for the cool Article Sean!! Have a great night
WHAFTFCOL now who wants a cookie!?!
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SITTM... We have an App for that!
Yeah, I like Ninja Rubber Duckies FCOL!
Wow, I never realized this. Yeah, I'll join the rest of you in not being able to watch these movies without thinking about this story.