Child Stars of the 70s

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Pre-pubescent and pubescent years are the most awkward stages of growing up. As if it weren’t difficult enough, former child stars in the 1970s spent those stages in the spotlight. We take a look at the former child stars of the 1970s and see how they have been doing after their peak years in show business.

Shields entered show business by starting out as a model when she was still a baby, and continued as a successful child model. In 1978, when she was 12 years old, Shields landed her first major film role as a child prostitute in Pretty Baby, where controversial scenes of her nude body led the film to be banned in many countries. Despite (or because) of the controversy, Shield’s acting was recognized and praised.

The beauty continued to model and went on to star in other movies such as The Blue Lagoon but she chose to put show business on hold to study at Princeton University. In the 1990s, Shields returned to acting, and enjoyed a somewhat successful TV career particularly via her sitcom Suddenly Susan. Since that time, she has appeared in minor roles in both film and television.

The New York-born Brisebois first gained wide recognition for her role as Stephanie Mills in the long-running sitcom All in the Family. She also starred in the show’s spin-off sitcom Archie’s Bunker Place where she received a Golden Globe nomination.

Apart from her promising future in acting, Brisebois also began a singing career. In the 1990s she released two solo albums, and had been a member of the New Radicals. Since then Brisebois has been more focused on her singing and songwriting career more than her acting career. Her latest notable achievement was her Oscar nomination (together with writing partner Gregg Alexander) for Best Original Song, “Lost Stars” from the movie, “Begin Again”.

Foster launched her career when she was three years old in one of Coppertone’s iconic commercials. When she reached 12, Foster landed her first major role as a child prostitute in the 1977 film Taxi Driver, which she earned her first Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actress). She didn’t win, but Foster more than made up for the loss by winning two Best Actress Oscars for roles in The Accused and The Silence of the Lambs, the latter being her most defining role.

She also went on to direct films, making her debut in the 1991 film Little Man Tate. She is an award-winning actress indeed, having achieved trophies from BAFTA, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild Award and Cecile B. DeMille Award, aside from her Oscars.

Long before her most recent fame in the reality show The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Richards was a hugely successful child star in the 1970s. Starting her career as a commercial model when she was just a baby, Richards landed her first big role when she was about four years old in Nanny and the Professor, as Prudence. She got her first major film role in Escape to Witch Mountain in 1975. She also starred in the film The Car, alongside her actress sister Kyle.

By the mid-80s, Richards’ career slowed down, and she eventually went out of the spotlight in order to focus on raising her family. She returned to acting in the mid-2000’s, and made a big splash once again when she became part of the Housewives cast, alongside sister Kyle. She has been in the show up to the present.

Kerwin’s parents were involved in the entertainment industry, so little wonder he entered the same line early in his life. He made his first major television appearance in 1976 in the made-for-TV film The Loneliest Runner (based on the life of Bonanza star Michael Landon, who also wrote and directed). Kerwin also starred in the drama series James at 15 which ran from October 1977 to June 1978. He acted mostly on television, appearing in several shows such as the small-screen adaptation of Stephen King’s bestseller Salem’s Lot.

Kerwin eventually dropped off the radar in the 1990s, and has not been in showbiz ever since. He is now a businessman and resides in Hawaii.

Michael Jackson was clearly a musical prodigy with his extraordinary singing and dancing talents. He soon became the dominant voice of the popular pop group the Jackson 5, an act he formed along with his older brothers Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, and Marlon.

Concurrently, while still a member of the Jackson 5, young Michael also launched his own solo career in the early 1970s. He scored memorable pop hits such as “Got to Be There,” “Ben,” “Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough” and “Rock with You.” We may have all known that in the 1980s Jackson’s career exploded in all angles, with his album Thriller becoming the best-selling album of all time. But fame and fortune had a price, and every move by Jackson, off the stage, came under heavy scrutiny by the press and the public. Jackson died in 2009, triggering shock and grief from his fans all over the world. But the King of Pop’s music and legacy will live on forever.

Peter Ostrum has had only one role in his acting career, as Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Talent agents discovered Ostrum while the sixth grader was performing at the Cleveland Play House’s children’s theater, and tapped him for the film. Though he enjoyed the experienced of working in the movie, he chose to turn down a three-picture deal when filming was over, before drifting into obscurity.

Upon returning home after the Wonka filming, his family acquired a horse. The animal’s veterinarian left a lasting impression on him. Ostrum later took a job grooming horses and worked at the Delaware Equine Center in Pennsylvania. Although he briefly considered returning to Hollywood, Ostrum ultimately decided to take up veterinary medicine instead. He later received a doctorate from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. Ostrum now lives in rural New York with his wife and their two children. As of 2012, Ostrum practices his profession in Lowville, New York. Recently, he used his past acting experience by taking part in the video series Veterinarians on Call, which was sponsored by Pfizer.

Former child actress Quinn Cummings received widespread recognition for her role as the precocious Lucy in the hit 1977 film The Goodbye Girl, where she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. She also did recurring roles as Annie Cooper on the TV series Family. Her films roles began to taper, as she increasingly grew uncomfortable about growing up under the spotlight, and left acting altogether during the 1990s.

Cummings is also an entrepreneur, being the inventor of the sling-type baby carrier called the HipHugger. She came up with the device as she was inspired by the birth of her first (and only) child in 2000. Cummings is also an author.

Blond-haired Ricky Schroder debuted in the 1979 remake of the movie The Champ. Schroder’s role there as the son of the titular character earned the nine-year-old a Golden Globe trophy for “Best New Male Star of the Year in a Motion Picture.” The particular scene of the film where the boy cries beside the lifeless body of “The Champ” recently earned the film the reputation as the “saddest movie ever.” During the 1980s Schroder became also a part of the cast of the NBC sitcom Silver Spoons.

Schroder has been having a quite steady acting career since, appearing in numerous TV series and films that include Lonesome Dove, NYPD Blue, Scrubs and 24, where he is known for his role as Mike Doyle.

The son of an actor, Knight is best remembered for his role as fictional son Peter Brady in the wildly popular sitcom in the 1970s, The Brady Bunch. He could have had a promising future in acting, but he instead opted to pursue a career in the computer and IT industry. Being the geek that he is, Knight also helped create a computer game based on The Brady Bunch series. Knight also continued his acting career, which mostly consists of guesting on several television shows.

While still being part of the singing group The Osmonds along with his brothers, Osmond rose to fame in his own right as a teen idol in the early 1970s. He used to grace the cover of the popular teen magazine Tiger Beat, along with teen pop stars Bobby Sherman and David Cassidy. His biggest hits during that period include “Sweet and Innocent,” “Go Away Little Girl,” “Hey Girl,” “Puppy Love,” “The Twelfth of Never,” and some other chart smashes.

He is also known for his act along with sister Marie, simply named Donny & Marie. They starred in their own variety series on ABC The Donny & Marie Show, which became popular and ran from 1976-1979. After his career stagnated in the 1980s, Osmond made a successful comeback in the 1990s, where he and Marie made a return to television with Donny & Marie, but this time the show ran in a talk show format.

Osmond has continued to host both on radio and television, and has appeared in films and on stage.

Plumb started her showbiz career as a child model, appearing mostly on television commercials during the mid-1960s. She moved on to acting, appearing mostly on several television series. Plumb received widespread recognition for her role as the daughter Jan Brady in The Brady Bunch, her most famous role.

After the end of the popular series, Plumb moved on to acting in other projects, such as the made-for-TV movie Dawn: Portrait of a Teenage Runaway, and guest-starring in other shows such as All My Children, That 70s Show and Law and Order: SVU. Plumb also starred on other Brady shows, like the TV movie The Brady Girls Get Married and the variety series The Brady Brunch Hour. Aside from being an actress, Plumb is also a successful painter.

Everyone who has seen The Omen will always remember the main antagonist: the little boy named Damien, who is the Antichrist and the Son of the Devil. Damien was portrayed by British actor Harvey Stephens, who was all of four years old when he portrayed one of the most terrifying horror film characters. He had his natural blond hair dyed black just for the role.

After his most famous lead role, Stephens practically fell off the radar. At one time, he worked at a London stock market and has been engaged in real estate. Harvey has also started appearing at horror conventions and autograph signings with his own tricycle. Apart from a small role in a TV movie in 1980 and a brief cameo in the film’s 2006 remake, nothing much can be said about his acting career. But his only major film role in The Omen definitely made a significant mark in the horror films genre.

Haley got his showbiz start at six years old by appearing on television commercials. He then moved on to guest-starring roles on shows such as The Partridge Family before landing his first major break as the troublemaker Kelly Leak in the Bad News Bear franchise.

He continued working in films and television until his acting career became dormant in the 1990s and early 2000s, when he moved to San Antonio, Texas to focus on directing. He returned to acting and appeared in the screen once again. In 2006, he essayed the role of a pedophile in the 2006 film Little Children from which he garnered his first Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actor). He later appeared in several hit films such as Lincoln and the 2014 remake of Robocop.

Like her brothers, Janet Jackson had an experience in the spotlight at a young age. Despite having other ambitions such as a horse racing jockey or an entertainment lawyer, but she was just meant to be in show business like her siblings. When she was just seven, Jackson performed at the MGM Casino on the Las Vegas strip. During the 1970s Jackson was chosen to play the role of Penny Gordon Woods in the hit long-running sitcom Good Times. She also acted in other TV shows such as Diff’rent Strokes, the short-lived A New Kind of Family, and another hit series Fame.

Michael Jackson’s little sister entered the recording business in the 1980s. After her first two moderately successful albums, Jackson’s third album Control was a multi-platinum seller, spawning hits such as “Nasty,” “Control,” and “Let’s Wait Awhile.” Jackson’s crossover appeal and her socially conscious lyrics led her to be looked upon as a role model, especially for teenage girls.

She went on to release several albums and embarked on successful tours (including her triumphant debut tour Rhythm Nation 1814 Tour). Jackson is one of the most successful and best-selling female artists in the US, and the third most awarded musician of all time, according to the cable channel Fuse.

At age 12, Whelchel first gained recognition as a Mouseketeer in The New Mickey Mouse Club, where she stayed from 1977 to 1978. She went on to play one of her most memorable characters in her acting career as Blair Warner on the long-running hit sitcom The Facts of Life.

Whelchel also embarked on a recording career, specifically in contemporary Christian music. Her Christian album All Because of You garnered a Grammy nomination in 1984. Whelchel’s strong Christian faith paved her way to become an inspirational speaker at churches and conferences nationwide, as well as to become an author.

Whelchel’s most notable recent appearance is her stint on the 2012 edition of the reality show Survivor as Survivor: Philippines. She ended up tying for second place with fellow contestant Michael Skupin.

Who could ever forget Maureen McCormick as  a 70s kid? They practically grew up with McCormick’s Marcia Brady on the hit sitcom The Brady Bunch. Although she was idolized by many, McCormick had a rough time trying to duplicate her success after her Brady Bunch years. The actress also hit rock-bottom in her personal life, getting hooked on cocaine and Quaaludes and suffered disorders such as bulimia, depression, and paranoia — far from the squeaky-clean Marcia Brady. She was so addicted to drugs that she came to the lowest point of her life where she traded her body for drugs.

She met her future husband Michael Cummings at a church event in the early 80s. They later married in 1985. Fortunately, she managed to kick her drug habit and started taking anti-depressants. She gave birth to daughter Natalie in 1989. The family now lives in northwestern Los Angeles.

McCormick is still active although most of her stints these days consist of guesting roles, in TV movies and cameos. She also took part on the reality show Celebrity Fit Club in 2007.

Susan Olsen

Susan Olsen is best known for her role as Cindy Brady in the 1970s television series The Brady Bunch. She was only eight years old at the time when she was cast as “the youngest one in curls” on the popular TV show. She played the role of Cindy Brady, the youngest of the six Brady siblings in the sitcom for the full run of the show, from 1969 to 1974. She appeared in every other “Brady” property, except for “A Very Brady Christmas” in 1988, because it was shot when she was on her honeymoon.

 After her stint at the Brady Bunch, Olsen acted sporadically and worked as a voice-over artist in the radio industry. She also co-hosted a radio show, “Two Chicks Talkin’ Politics,” until 2016, when she was fired due to a feud with gay actor Leon Acord-Whiting, who accused her of homophobia.

Tatum O’Neal

Tatum O’Neal was the youngest person ever to win an Academy Award. She got the award at age 10 for her performance in the 1973 film “Paper Moon” as Addie Loggins opposite her father, Ryan O’Neal. O’Neal went on to have a successful acting career throughout the 1970s and 1980s, appearing in films such as “The Bad News Bears,” “Nickelodeon” and “Little Darlings.” She also appeared in guest roles in Sex and the CityLaw & Order: Criminal Intent and 8 Simple Rules.

However, after her early success as a child star, her adult life became addled by drugs, alcohol, bitter divorce, and family acrimony. She had a stormy marriage to tennis legend John McEnroe that ended in divorce after six years of marriage. After the divorce, her drug problems reemerged and led to heroin addiction, which made McEnroe gain custody of their three children. Nonetheless, she later moved on with her life and even attempted to gain reconciliation with her estranged father in 2011.

Valerie Bertinelli

Valerie Bertinelli was 15 years old when the sitcom One Day at a Time premiered in 1975. She played Barbara Cooper Royer in the sitcom for nine years, for which she won two Golden Globe Awards for Best Supporting Actress. As an adult, she gained stardom as Gloria on the religious drama series Touched by an Angel and as Melanie Moretti in Hot in Cleveland.

Bertinelli married musician Eddie Van Halen in 1981 when she was 21. They had a son named Wolfgang together. They divorced in 2011, and Bertinelli got married again in 2011 to Tom Vitale. She got divorced in 2022. She now hosts two cooking shows on the Food Network: Valerie’s Home Cooking and Kids Baking Championship.

Leif Garrett

Leif Garret was a teen idol when he starred in the movie Three for the Road when he was 14 years old. He started as a child actor; then, in the 70s to 80s, he was famous for being a music teen idol/ Despite having no musical training, he released his first album in 1977. His immense popularity helped propel his music career. He released four more albums until 1981 before returning to acting in 80s classic movies, like Thunder Alley and The Outsiders.  

But just as quickly as he achieved fame, Garret endured a devastating fall from grace and ultimately battled drug addictions for years. He has been arrested multiple times throughout his career. He has become sober in the past years and released his memoir, “Idol Truth” in 2019.

Danny Bonaduce

Danny Bonaduce was a famous child actor of the 70s, thanks to his breakout role as the middle child Danny Partridge in The Patridge Family. He appeared on the show for all of its four seasons until 1974, then four years later, he starred alongside Mark Hamill in Corvette Summer. Bonaduce had a head start on Hollywood, as his father, Joseph, was a veteran TV writer and producer. His father was a writer in sitcoms like One Day at a Time and The Dick Van Dyke Show. According to Danny, his father was emotionally and physically abusive.

Danny is best known as a TV and radio personality. As an adult, he starred in a VH1 show about his life entitled Breaking Bonaduce from 2005 to 2006. The show depicted his marriage slowly breaking down, his descent to trying performance-enhancing drugs after years of drug abuse, and an off-screen suicide attempt.

Mike Lookinland

The second-youngest Brady from The Brady Bunch, Mike Lookinland, was America’s favorite little brother, Bobby Brady. He was only nine years old when the show premiered. He remained on the show until it ended and appeared in the various TV movies, specials, and spin-offs inspired by The Brady Bunch.

He did not stay long in show business and also struggled to find normalcy after the TV show ended. He struggled with alcoholism in adulthood, and in 2013, he said in an interview that everything in the entertainment industry is fake. He started his own concrete business instead and made concrete countertops for a living. He was last seen on TV in 2019 for “A Very Brady Renovation,” which focused on the on-screen siblings and HGTV personalities renovating the house that was shown on every episode of The Brady Bunch.

Conclusion

The 1970s was a decade that produced many talented child stars who went on to have successful careers in the entertainment industry. From Jodie Foster to Gary Coleman, these actors captured the hearts of audiences with their talent and innocence and remain beloved figures today. While some of these actors went on to have successful careers in the entertainment industry, others struggled with the challenges of growing up in the public eye. Nevertheless, their performances continue to captivate audiences, and they remain some of the most beloved child stars of all time.

 

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