Find Out What Happened To The Most Iconic Child Stars Of The 50s And 60s

A few decades after Shirley Temple rose to child stardom, increasingly more child actors started to make their claim to fame through movies and television. During this time, baby boomers were the largest generation and weren’t quite teenagers yet. So mainstream media started to include actors of a similar age.

Some of the child stars were able to stay in the spotlight well into adulthood, while others simply aged out of Hollywood. See what happened to the most well-known child actors from the 1950s and 1960s.

Jerry Mathers As the Beaver

jerry mathers black and white portrait
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Gerald “Jerry” Patrick Mathers was born on June 2, 1948 in Sioux City, Iowa. He moved around a bit with his three siblings before the family finally settled in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. His career in the entertainment industry began when he booked a modeling gig for a department store at the age of two.

He soon appeared in a few movies before his audition for Leave It to Beaver. The show’s producers chose him for the role after telling them that he’d rather be at a Cub Scout meeting. Mathers played the title role of Beaver Clever and appeared in all 234 episodes.

Jerry Mathers Switches Gears Away from Acting

jerry mathers posing on a red carpet event
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

After Leave It to Beaver Mathers focused his attention on school. While in high school he joined the United States Air Force Reserve and remained in the service until college. He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in philosophy.

Through the years he’s appeared on TV reprising his role in various spin-offs and revivals but has mainly managed to stay out of the limelight. Mathers has been married a few times with three children. After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes he ended up becoming Jenny Craig’s first male spokesperson after losing a significant amount of weight.

Lauren Chapin Brings Her Charm to TV

lauren chapin black and white portrait
Kathy Ludwig/Pinterest
Kathy Ludwig/Pinterest

This young smiling girl is best remembered for her role on a show called Father Knows Best. Lauren Chapin played the youngest child Kathy Anderson from 1954 to 1960. She had two older brothers named Billy and Michael who also were mildly famous back in the 1950s.

Chapin appeared in the majority of Father Knows Best episodes and soon became a household name. Her work earned her a total of five Junior Emmy awards for Best Child Actress.

Lauren Chapin’s Secret Past Revealed

lauren chapin sitting in a church with a mural behind her
Alkeraza Tv/YouTube
Alkeraza Tv/YouTube

Something that many of Chapin’s fans didn’t know was that her childhood was anything but what it seemed on television. Her father and his friend severely mistreated her and caused her deep emotional and physical trauma.

It was very difficult for her to book gigs after the show ended because she was always typecast. She also got married at 16 and divorced two years later. She took a break from acting and worked as a flight attendant, dog groomer, insurance claims examiner, carhop, cocktail waitress, and childbirth teacher. Now, Chapin is back to her roots and performs a Father Knows Best live show on top of being a licensed and ordained evangelist.

Ron Howard Took Hollywood By Storm

ron howard sitting in a director's chair as a child
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Fans of The Andy Griffith Show would best remember Ron Howard as Andy’s young son Opie Taylor from 1960 to 1968. Howard came to Hollywood from Duncan, Oklahoma when his father was serving three years in the United States Air Force.

He was aware of show business from an early age because his mother was an actress and his father worked as a writer, director, and actor. Toward the end of his teenage years, he got a lead part on the hit show Happy Days, which followed his significant role in George Lucas’ film American Graffiti.

Ron Howard Continues the Legacy

ron howard at a red carpet event as an adult
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images
Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Howard soon followed in his father’s footsteps by shifting gears toward directing. Before Happy Days he made his directorial debut with 1977’s Grand Theft Auto, but that was only the start. He has since directed numerous box office hits such as Apollo 13, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

On top of directing he is the co-chairman of a production company with Brian Grazer called Imagine Entertainment where he produces many popular films and TV shows. Howard married in 1975 and has four children, one of which being actress Bryce Dallas Howard.

Erin and Diane Murphy Learning to Share

erin and diane murphy sitting in a director's chair on the set of bewitched
Bettmann/Getty Images
Bettmann/Getty Images

Similar to the Olsen twins on Full House, Erin and Diane Murphy shared the role of Samantha’s daughter Tabatha on Bewitched. It’s very common to have young twins share a role in Hollywood because of strict child labor laws that restrict the number of hours kids can be on set.

It may be hard to tell from the photo, but the pair are actually fraternal twins with clear physical differences such as face shape and height. They only shared the role for the first season– from then on Erin took over and played Tabatha on her own.

Erin and Diane Murphy Led Separate Lives

erin and diane murphy as adults holding a black and white photo of them as kids
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images
Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

Although they looked quite similar as children, it’s definitely hard to tell they are twin sisters now. After Bewitched Erin did more acting jobs for TV and commercials and was a swimsuit model. She later went on to host reality TV, do motivational speaking, became a fashion, beauty, and a lifestyle magazine writer.

It seemed like Erin was the twin who was more comfortable in the spotlight because her sister Diane left the entertainment industry at 13-years-old. Diane had to leave Bewitched because she and Erin started looking less like each other as time went on.

Jay North Went Through a Lot of Changes

jay north taking a bite of an apple
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

Jay Waverly North was born on August 3, 1951, and was already acting by the age of six. His claim to fame was playing the sincere, but rambunctious title role in Dennis the Menace from 1959 to 1963. He had to bleach his naturally strawberry red hair to platinum blonde and say he was a year younger than he actually was to ensure his role on the show.

Dennis the Menace quickly became one of TV’s top shows and part of the 50s and 60s pop culture. After four seasons North started to age out of the role and much to his relief the low ratings led to its cancellation.

Jay North Recalls a Troubled Past

jay north as an adult with glasses
producedinLA/YouTube
producedinLA/YouTube

When Dennis the Menace ended North landed roles in numerous movies including Zebra in the Kitchen and Maya. As an adult North took on some voice actor roles in shows such as Arabian Knights, The Banana Splits Adventure Hour, and The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show.

In 1977 he enlisted in the U.S. Navy but left after a couple of years of service. After coming to terms with the physical and emotional abuse he suffered as a child actor he decided to become a correctional officer in Florida’s juvenile justice system in the late 1990s. Now, he’s only seen in Hollywood making casual cameos in films and TV shows.

Everyone Wants to Work with Angela Cartwright

angela cartwright in the sound of music
Robert Wise Productions
Robert Wise Productions

At the age when most of us were learning our ABCs, Angela Cartwright was appearing opposite Paul Newman in 1956’s Somebody Up There Likes Me. The year after she was already working with Hollywood’s most elite including Rock Hudson and Sidney Poitier. Although not bad to start with, Cartwright is mainly known for her TV roles in The Danny Thomas Show and Lost in Space.

Fans may also recognize this photo from her part as Brigitta von Trapp in The Sound of Music. The film earned many distinguished awards including the Best Picture Oscar.

Angela Cartwright Shines in a New Career

angela cartwright on the red carpet as an adult
Rachel Murray/Getty Images
Rachel Murray/Getty Images

Cartwright knew she had a knack for photography early in her teen years. After she started her family with her husband she found herself going back to her true passion. It’s been over three decades, but Cartwright is still practicing photography and her work can be found in her studio in Studio City, California.

When looking back on her life as a child actor she’s still surprised she was able to have the career she did because she considers herself to be a pretty private person. Her most recent credits include guest spots on TV or reunion shows where she opens up about her past roles.

Why Johnny Crawford Needed to Leave Disney

johnny crawford black and white portrait in cowboy hat
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images
Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images

The hit TV series Rifleman wouldn’t have been the same without Johnny Crawford. He played the iconic role of Mark McCain, the son of lead actor Chuck Connors, starting at just 12-years-old. Before Rifleman Crawford was one of the original Mouseketeers, but his contract was cut short after Disney axed half of them at the end of the first season.

His performance on Rifleman earned him an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor, which gave him more opportunities to be on other shows such as Mister Ed and Hawaii Five-O. Crawford also had a popular music career with a few singles that made it onto the Billboard Top 40 list.

Johnny Crawford is Living Life to the Fullest

johnny crawford dressed in a cowboy outfit as an adult
Tasia Wells/Getty Images
Tasia Wells/Getty Images

As Crawford started to age out of Hollywood he decided to replace acting with dance and music. In the early 1990s, he started a vintage dance orchestra that performs at special events. He also was able to reconnect with his high school sweetheart and they’ve been married since 1995.

After an almost two-decades-long hiatus from acting, he went back to his Western roots to star in 2019’s Bill Tilghman and the Outlaws. It was also reported by Cowboys & Indians magazine that Crawford was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Lisa Loring Becomes a TV Icon

lisa loring as wednesday addams
Horror31/Twitter
Horror31/Twitter

Lisa Loring was born on February 16, 1958, to parents who were serving in the United States Navy, but divorced shortly after she was born. As a kid, she moved from Hawaii to Los Angeles to pursue acting. By age six she was cast in The Addams Family as Wednesday Addams.

Similar to the fate of other child actors Loring didn’t have too much luck after her time on The Addams Family. Her only other roles as a child actor were one-episode stints on The Phyllis Diller Show and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

How Child Stardom Led to Lisa Loring’s Troubled Future

lisa loring posing for the camera with glasses on her head
Bobby Bank/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/Getty Images

When Loring stepped away from acting, her personal life only started to get more interesting. She married for the first time at age 15 and had her first child a year later. She’s been married a total of four times with her third being the most scandalous due to his involvement with the adult film industry.

In her early 30s, Loring also developed a hard drug addiction and was able to successfully complete treatment within the next year. She isn’t acting much anymore, but her most recent credit is from a 2015 low-budget film called Doctor Spine.

Jon Provost Steps into the Spotlight

jon provost as a child holding a copy of the lassie book with the lassie dog
Pictorial Parade/Getty Images
Pictorial Parade/Getty Images

Not many toddlers have the opportunity to star in box office hits. By age four Jon Provost was appearing alongside famous Hollywood actors including Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly. A few years later he was cast as the lovable Timmy Martin on Lassie just as its fourth season was about to air.

After one of the lead actors passed away and the others left the show during the middle of the season, Provost became the new lead. He played the role of Timmy until his early teen years and later did a couple of movies before heading to college.

What Lassie Meant to Jon Provost

jon provost as an adult posing for the camera
Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images
Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images

Jon Provost mainly left Hollywood when he attended Sonoma State University and ended up staying there for a while to sell real estate and do charity work. In the late 80s and early 90s, he joined the cast of The New Lassie to play a recurring character because the original show was so close to his heart.

In 1994 Provost earned a coveted star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and in the mid-2000s he released a couple of memoirs that dealt with his life as a child actor. He still continues to attend celebrity conventions and autograph shows.

Hayley Mills Gets a Little Help from Her Father

hayley mills as a kid sitting in a chair
Walt Disney Productions
Walt Disney Productions

It can be difficult to break into the entertainment industry, but familial connections often help. Hayley Mills was discovered at the ripe age of 12 when her veteran actor father recommended her to star beside him in the film Tiger Bay. A producer from Disney saw her in the movie and that led to her popular roles in films such as Pollyanna and The Parent Trap.

Her work in Pollyanna even earned her a special Academy Award, making her the last child actor to earn a Juvenile Oscar. She remained with Disney for six years and was arguably the most popular child actor of the 1960s.

Hayley Mills’ Alternative View on Life

hayley mills posing on a red carpet as an adult
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Santiago Felipe/Getty Images

Mills didn’t let the idea of child stardom slow her down from acting and she continued to spend her adult years working on various film and TV projects. When she was 20 she met her first husband, Roy Boulting, 33 years her senior. Her current partner, Firdous Bamji, is 20 years her junior.

In 2008 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, but was able to fully recover within four years thanks in part to alternative treatments. As of 2019 she is starring in the British TV series Pitching In.