Last night I was struggling to come up with a topic for this week's Thursday Thirteen. When I sat on my couch, I noticed that my copy of the Leonard Maltin/Richard W. Bann book The Little Rascals was laying on the coffee table. Since we often hear the sad stories of youthful stars who have problems maintaining their success once they are old enough to vote, I thought I'd stay positive and focus on some of the ones who were able to sustain their careers into adulthood.
Below are 13 performers who not only had success as child stars, but were able to make the transition into roles once they reached adulthood. Since this is the Thursday Thirteen, the list below isn't meant to be comprehensive... just a sampling. Having said that, feel free to comment on the 13 performers below or any others who didn't make my list.
1. Robert Blake- As a child star, Blake first gained fame as "Mickey" in the "Our Gang" comedies. Although he's had more than his share of personal troubles throughout his life, Blake maintained a successful film and TV career as an adult. In addition to appearing in such films as In Cold Blood and Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here, Blake starred in the ABC detective drama Baretta from 1975-1978 (winning an Emmy for his portrayal in the process).
2. Jackie Cooper- Cooper is another "Gang" alum, appearing in the series of comedies from 1929-1931. As an adult, Cooper has had success both in front of and behind the camera. Along with such roles as Perry White in the Superman films, Cooper also won Emmys for directing such series as M*A*S*H and The White Shadow.
3. Patty Duke- Patty first dazzled audiences for her role as Helen Keller in both the stage and big screen versions of The Miracle Worker (winning an Oscar for her performance in the film) and later on as the star of her successful self-titled sitcom. As an adult, Patty has been a mainstay on the TV-movie circuit and even wrote a best-selling autobiography "Call Me Anna".
4. Jodie Foster- Jodie cut her teeth as a child actress by guest starring in such TV series as Kung Fu, The Partridge Family, and The Courtship of Eddie's Father. Ever since her career-changing role in the 1976 film Taxi Driver, Foster has been a mainstay on the big screen (winning two Best Actress Oscars in the process).
5. Melissa Gilbert- From her days as Laura Ingalls on Little House On the Prairie, Gilbert has gone on to become one of the queens of the TV-movie. In addition to being the President of the Screen Actors Guild from 2001-2005, Gilbert is currently starring as Ma in a musical adaptation of the series that made her famous.
6. Mark Paul Gosselaar- Mark has been quite a surprise to me. I don't know about any of you, but I never expected the actor who gained fame as Zack on the Saved By the Bell series to go on to such success in series like N.Y.P.D. Blue and the new TNT drama Raising the Bar.
7. Neil Patrick Harris- The actor once known as Doogie Howser, M.D. has carved out quite a career as a comedic actor as an adult. In addition to spoofing his image in the Harold and Kumar films, Neil currently steals every scene he's in as one of the stars of the hilarious sitcom How I Met Your Mother.
8. Ron Howard- As one of the best child actors ever, Ron first gained fame as Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show. After leaving the highly successful series Happy Days, Ron has gone on to become one of Hollywood's most acclaimed directors (winning the Academy Award in 2001 for helming A Beautiful Mind).
9. Janet Jackson- After getting her first taste of fame while appearing with her older siblings onstage and on their self-titled variety series, Janet went on to the role of child abuse victim Penny Gordon on Good Times. Janet has been a double threat as an adult, becoming one of the biggest stars in music as well as maintaining her acting career (appearing in such films as Poetic Justice and Why Did I Get Married).
10. Regina King- One thing that pisses me off is that Regina King is usually overlooked when people discuss 80s child stars who went on to have success in the movies. As a teen, she first gained attention as Brenda on the long-running sitcom 227. Since making the transition to adult roles, Regina has been one of the most reliable supporting players on the big screen. Boyz In the Hood, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Jerry Maguire, Ray, and This Christmas are just a handful of the films in which she's appeared.
11. Mickey Rooney- Mickey first made a name for himself in the "Mickey McGuire" films in the 1920s and later became the ultimate teenager in the "Andy Hardy" movie series. As an adult, Mickey has been quite successful on stage, in the movies, and on TV. His one-man performance in the Twilight Zone episode "Last Night of A Jockey", his role in the play Sugar Babies, and his award-winning turn in the TV movie Bill are just a few of his achievements since reaching adulthood.
12. Elizabeth Taylor- As a 12 yr old, young Liz became a star in the family film classic National Velvet. As an adult, Elizabeth remained one of the busiest actresses in Hollywood. Along with her Oscar-winning roles in Butterfield 8 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Liz has also had success on the small screen (appearing on the soap General Hospital and in such TV-movies as Malice In Wonderland and These Old Broads).
13. Natalie Wood- The late Natalie Wood was one of the most successful child stars of the 1940s and 1950s, appearing in such films as Tomorrow Is Forever, Miracle On 34th Street, and The Star. Along with her performances in movies such as Splendor In the Grass, West Side Story, and This Property Is Condemned, Natalie also had success on the small screen (winning a Golden Globe for her work in the 1979 miniseries From Here To Eternity).
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