Monday, December 5, 2016
The Sad Passing Of Billy Chapin!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
On Friday, December 2, after a long illness, child actor Billy Chapin passed away at 72, after what was described as "a long illness."
If "The Night Of The Hunter" had been the only thing he ever did, I would still be writing this blog post. Even though his career was eclipsed by his sister, Lauren Chapin, in her iconic TV role, as Kathy "Kitten" Anderson, on "Father Knows Best," with---who could forget????--Robert Young, and Jane Wyatt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I just read Davis Grubb's original novel this year. Laughton's film is a visually engaging, yet straightforward adaptation, the terror of which is felt almost entirely through Chapin's performance, as John Harper. True, Sally Jane Bruce is along for the ride as Pearl, and she does a superb job of being annoying; which I think she was directed to do. Her appearance is definitely that of a child of the Depression era, not the Fifties, and her manner would consist with a child of that era. I somehow got the impression that Pearl, while not Special Needs, was not the brightest student in the class. No Advanced Place biology for her.
Chapin's performance will always be riveting, one of the many ingredients making this tale one of the most disturbing narrative films, ever made.
But it wasn't all Billy did.
I did not know he began as a child on the Broadway stage, in the 1951 show, "Three Wishes For Jamie." In addition to 'Hunter,' I had no idea he was in "The Kid From Left Field," which I never saw, but two that I did--the sci-fi film, "Tobor The Great," and the Ethel Merman film musical "There's No Business Like Show Business.
Billy and Lauren did not have easy lives growing up, as Lauren recounted in her book, "Father Really Does Know Best." But their work will be their legacy.
Rest In Peace. Next time you watch "The Night Of The Hunter"--if your nerves can stand it--think what inspired work this young man did.