Freddie Bartholomew: Complete Biography of the 1930′s MGM Child Star
By Cliff Aliperti, 8/18/2012, immortalephemera.com
If Harry Potter Were a Hufflepuff
I mean no disrespect to Hufflepuff or Freddie Bartholomew, I just think the kid had more hard work, sweetness, and gardening in him than swashbuckling and rule-breaking.
Freddie Bartholomew was a natural actor, most often cast in period dramas that called for poised, articulate, polite, real boys. Rich boys, but real boys. He generally played the upper-class child who had fallen on hard times or bad circumstances who is tested and ultimately wins -- if not his rightful place, then a valuable life lesson. I loved his shock of thick curly hair, the way he looked bullies right in the eye while saying sissy things all Received-Pronunciation-y, like, "I'd like to get by, please." Like a slightly older, slightly butcher Roddy McDowall, he was always so enjoyable and interesting to watch.
This sweet boy's upbringing was troubled and, frankly, a little mysterious. His two older sisters stayed with his parents while Freddie was raised by his father's sister, Millicent, from the time he was a baby. As far as I can tell, his birth parents had very little to do with him until after the success of David Copperfield (1935), when they showed up in Hollywood to claim custody of him -- and his earnings. Much of those earnings were eaten up by the long, drawn out legal battle that ensued, then by the settlement, in which Freddie remained with his aunt, but his money went to his parents and siblings for their upkeep.
By the time the dust settled, Freddie had grown out of the youngster roles and tried to make the transition to more adult parts without much success. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1943 and served the war as a mechanic until a back injury forced him out of the service. He never regained a film career, but turned instead to advertising, eventually become a television producer and director through the agency Benton & Bowles.
Freddie Bartholomew died of emphysema and heart failure in Florida on January 23, 1992 at the age of 67.
Thankfully, his pictures are readily available in several formats. Little Lord Fauntleroy's copyright expired and is now in the public domain, so you can watch it right now if you like:
I'm going to make my kid start calling me "Dearest," but only when he wants something. Like an American.