Dickie Moore: Fared Better Than Most Child Stars

Dickie Moore with Pete the Pup

Child star Dickie Moore (1925-2015) was born this day. I say “child star”, but actually Moore worked in show business in one capacity or another for over 80 years.

Moore was not yet two years old when he made his debut in the John Barrymore silent film The Beloved Rogue (1927). The tot was employed constantly in the succeeding years. Some of his more notable earlier pictures include the 1931 remake of Cecil B. DeMille’s The Squaw Man , the all-star Union Depot (1932), Joe E. Brown’s Fireman, Save My Child (1932), the 1932 version of Edna Ferber’s So Big! with Barbara Stanwyck, the W.C. Fields comedy classic Million Dollar Legs (1932), and Blonde Venus (1932) with Marlene Dietrich.

From 1932 through 1933, he became something of an anomaly as one of the few (perhaps only) member of Hal Roach’s Our Gang series to have a substantial career outside the franchise. He only appeared in eight Our Gang shorts, but he was cast as the leader of the gang, and given the evergreen success of the series, it is ironically likely that these appearances are what he is best remembered for today.

In 1933 he starred as the title character in a version of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist, a part played by fellow child star Jackie Coogan eight years earlier. Other classics he appeared in included Little Men (1934), The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), The Life of Emile Zola (1937), Madame X (1938), Joe E. Brown’s The Gladiator (1938), The Arkansas Traveler (1938), The Blue Bird (1940), Sergeant York (1941), Miss Annie Rooney (in which he gave Shirley Temple her first onscreen kiss, 1942), Heaven Can Wait (1943), and The Song of Bernadette (1943).

By now he was a young adult, rebranded himself Dick Moore and began to appear in B movies, mostly noir and crime dramas, the better remembered of which are Out of the Past (1947) and Dangerous Years (1947). He had a bit role in The Member of the Wedding (1952), and managed to keep working in television through 1957. In 1956, he also had his first and only Broadway role as a monk in a revival of Shaw’s Saint Joan.

For the next decade he appears to have pieced together a living by teaching and writing about acting. In 1966 he launched a p.r. firm, Dick Moore and Associates, which was to flourish for 44 years. In 1984, he published the book Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star (But Don’t Have Sex or Take the Car), an expose about the lives of child actors. In 1988, he married fellow former child actor Jane Powell, his third wife.

For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.

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