Bobby Driscoll was an American child actor known for a large body of cinema and TV performances from 1943 to 1960. He starred in some of The Walt Disney Company’s most popular live-action pictures of that period, such as Song of the South, So Dear to My Heart, and Treasure Island. He served as animation model and provided the voice for the title role in Peter Pan. In 1950, he received an Academy Juvenile Award for outstanding performance in feature films.
In the mid-1950s, Driscoll’s career began to decline, turning primarily to guest appearances on anthology TV series. He became addicted to narcotics and was sentenced to prison for drug use. After his release he focused his attention on the avant-garde art scene. In ill health from his drug use, and his funds completely depleted, he died in March 1968.
Born Robert Cletus Driscoll in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Driscoll was the only child of Cletus Driscoll, an insulation salesman, and Isabelle Kratz Driscoll, a former schoolteacher. Shortly after his birth, the family moved to Des Moines, where they stayed until early 1943. When a doctor advised the father to relocate to balmy California due to pulmonary ailments he was suffering from his work-related handling of asbestos, the family moved to Los Angeles. Driscoll’s barber urged his parents to try to get the cute child into the movies, and the man’s son, an occasional actor, got him an audition at MGM for a bit role in the 1943 family drama Lost Angel, which starred up-and-coming Margaret O’Brien. While on a tour across the studio lot, five-year-old Driscoll noticed a mock-up ship and asked where the water was. The director was impressed by the boy’s curiosity and intelligence, and chose him out of forty applicants.
Driscoll’s brief, two-minute debut helped him win the role of young Al Sullivan, the youngest of the five Sullivan brothers, in the 20th Century Fox’s 1944 World War II drama The Fighting Sullivans, opposite Thomas Mitchell and Anne Baxter. With his natural acting and talent for memorizing lines at that young age, he was soon considered a new “Wonder Child”. One major studio would recommend him to another, leading to screen portrayals as the boy who could blow his whistle while standing on his head in Sunday Dinner for a Soldier, the “child brother” of Richard Arlen in The Big Bonanza, and young Percy Maxim in So Goes My Love, with Don Ameche and Myrna Loy. In addition, he had a number of smaller roles in movies such as Identity Unknown in 1945, and Mrs Susie Slagel’s, From This Day Forward, and O.S.S. with Alan Ladd, all three of which were released in 1946.