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Sep-25-2011 14:11printcomments

Children of Hollywood Featured in New Book

“Raised by the Stars” is published by McFarland and contains 50 photos.

Raised by the Stars
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(HOLLYWOOD, Calif.) - In the new book, “Raised by the Stars,” author Nick Thomas talks to the children of actors from cinema’s Golden Era about the joys and difficulties of growing up in the shadow of the Hollywood spotlight.

Among those interviewed are the children of leading actors Errol Flynn, Jimmy Stewart, Gary Cooper, Rosalind Russell, Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, and Rex Harrison, as well as many supporting and character actors who were popular in the 40s, 50s, and beyond.

Given the hectic lifestyle of living in the celebrity bubble, it’s not surprising that relationships between parent and child could sometimes be difficult.

“The lack of privacy due to constant media and fan attention, and the busy shooting and travel schedules could be tough on family life and sometimes left children feeling neglected or abandoned,” said Thomas, “I’m sure that’s still true today.”

The author, who grew up in Tasmania and now lives in the U.S., admits Flynn is one of his favorite actors, and as a child lived close to the old Flynn family home in the city of Hobart.

“I remember my mother telling me in the early 60s about a famous actor who used to live nearby,” said Thomas. “Of course, by then, Flynn was dead and his family had long since moved away from the area. It wasn’t until I was older that I really appreciated who Errol Flynn was.”

In 2009, Thomas wrote a feature for the Washington Post and interviewed actors who had worked with Flynn, as well as his family members including daughter, Rory. “That’s when I thought a collection of interviews with children of these great stars from the past might be appreciated by film fans,” said Thomas.

So he prepared a list of his top 100 favorite actors from Hollywood’s Golden Age, then attempted to track down the children. But it wasn’t always easy, or possible.

“Some of actors never married, while others had no kids or their children had passed away,” he explained. “Obviously, those that I did locate were not ‘kids’ any longer, and many were in their 70s and 80s. Some were in poor health or, for various reasons, did not want to be interviewed. Others, I just couldn’t locate. But those who agreed to talk were enthusiastic, especially if their parent was a lesser known supporting actor.”

Included in that category were the children of Jack Elam, Forrest Tucker, Jesse White, Jack Gilford, Billy Barty, Gene Lockhart, and others. “Those names may only be familiar to classic film buffs, but anyone who has watched movies from the 40s and 50s will recognize their faces,” said Thomas.

For instance, Gene Lockhart played Bob Cratchit in the 1938 version of the holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol. “What’s interesting about this film is that the actress who played his wife, was Lockhart’s real wife. And one of his children in the film was his real daughter, June,” said Thomas.

June Lockart was a fixture on 50s and 60s TV, and is best known for playing the mother in Lassie and Lost in Space.

“The Lockhart clan is quite remarkable,” said Thomas. “There are five generations of entertainers in the family. June is now 86, still active, and provided a very complete biography of her father. In fact, many of the supporting actors included in the book have never had detailed biographies written about them either, so I think fans of classic film will really enjoy those first-hand accounts.”

While June Lockhart followed her dad with a successful acting career, only a few of the other children interviewed became actors, although many entered the world of arts or entertainment: Walter Matthau’s son became a director, Buddy Ebsen’s daughter is a singer, Rex Harrison’s son is a writer, and Red Skelton’s daughter paints.

“Some just didn’t have acting genes in them,” said Thomas. “Jimmy Stewart’s daughter became an anthropologist and spent years living with gorillas in Rwanda, while Yvonne De Carlo’s son was a lifeguard who saved over 500 lives.”

Thanks largely to cable channels such as Turner Classic Movies, Thomas says new generations will continue to enjoy classic films.

“It’s amazing how many younger people know these movies,” he says. “There’s still a lot of interest in this era of Hollywood and these great actors who created early movie magic.”

“Raised by the Stars” is published by McFarland and contains 50 photos. More information at the website:

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