Winning awards when they could hardly remember it and earning millions before they could spend a penny of it, often to find the vaults empty when they reach adulthood, lives of children acting in Hollywood are always controversial and frequently tragic. Here are nine superstars who lived genuine sadness behind the image of glitz, success and wealth.
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1. Shirley Temple
Curly hair was one of the trademarks of the most popular child actor ever. This came at the price of spending entire nights putting in curlers and pins in order to have her locks for the following day. Temple explained how people often thought her curls to be a wig, but this came at a great price: she would have to rinse her hair with vinegar, causing her eyes to burn.
2. Gary Coleman
The Illinois-born child star had a kidney condition wherein he was diagnosed with congenital autoimmune which resulted in his tiny stature. Coleman was subjected to daily doses of dialysis and shockingly, received two kidney transplants and he was frequently in and out of hospital. Apart from the medical condition, Coleman’s adoptive parents also spent large chunks of his wealth.
3. Ricky Nelson
Ricky Nelson was a teen sensation whose life was influenced by his overpowering and perfection-savvy parents. Legendary entertainer Red Skelton described him as the ugly duckling of his family while Skelton’s producer John Guedel said Ricky was “an odd little kid,” likable, shy, introspective, mysterious, and inscrutable. Nelson’s medical conditions also took a turn, when he was diagnosed as an asthmatic and suffered severe breathing issues.
4. Patty Duke
Duke, who won an Academy Award age 16 for her role in The Miracle Worker was diagnosed with a bipolar disorder in 1982. Although she used her condition as inspiration in some of her work, from that point on she mainly focused on advocating for and educating the public on mental health issues.
5. Maureen McCormick
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Maureen suffered tragedy early on when her ailing grandmother passed away after being admitted to a mental asylum and her grandfather subsequently committed suicide. The Californian star suffered from depression and in one famous instance, she couldn’t hide her sadness on the set of The Brady Bunch where she played Marcia, actually crying in front of the live audience.
6. Natalie Wood
Many believe Natalie’s success to be driven by her Russian-born mother Maria’s unfulfilled ambition of becoming an actress or a ballet dancer. Natalie (born Natalia Zakharenko) starred in legendary films such as Miracle on 34th Street and Rebel Without A Cause, but according to some rumors, her mother would make the young actress get into relationships with men much older than her in order to keep her in the limelight.
7. Jackie Coogan
Jackie was the child sensation in The Kid, which starred Charlie Chaplin as well as other similar projects which made him a millionaire before he was in his teens. Another child actor whose money has been spent by his greedy parents, the California Legislature passed the Coogan Act in 1939 which protected young stars’ assets from such activities as a result.
8. Margaret O’Brien
Margaret started acting aged four, and by the time she was 7 she had already been honored with a Juvenile Academy Award. Roughly at the same time, her mother passed away of a heart attack and one of her maids stole Margaret’s Oscar statuette. Initially given a replacement, Margaret was given her Academy Award back more than forty years later when the prize was spotted at a flea market.
9. Jackie Cooper
The star of Our Gang, Jackie Cooper, was abandoned by his father when he was just two. He was adopted by his uncle, director Norman Taurog and was nominated for an Oscar when he was nine years old. He never forgave his uncle for once pretended to shoot Jackie’s dog behind the scenes, resulting in genuine tears and contempt on Jackie’s side even long after he discovered the animal was fine.