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Forever Starlet
Celebrating young actresses of yesterday and today
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Film: Junior Miss (1945). Young Actresses: Mona Freeman, 18, Peggy Ann Garner, 13, and Barbara Whiting, 13.

If you're a fan of young actresses – and you must be, if you're visiting this blog – then you've probably seen Margaret O'Brien's delightful, juvenile-Oscar-winning performance as Tootie in the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis. That film has a few elements in common with Junior Miss. They were both adapted from short stories by The New Yorker writer Sally Benson, and Margaret's Tootie and Peggy's Judy are both based on Benson herself as a child.

Peggy and Mona on the cover of Junior Miss, and Peggy on the July 1945 issue of Life Magazine.

Of course, things don't always work out in real life like they do in movies. In reality, Benson's family had to move away from St. Louis and miss the World's Fair (the opposite of what happens at the end of Louis), which is why in Junior, we find a family with Missouri roots, the Graves, living in New York City. The Graves have two daughters, boy-crazy high-schooler Lois (Mona) and her scheming little sister Judy (Peggy), about 12.

After a slow beginning, the movie picks up when Judy sees her father (Allyn Joslyn) comforting a female coworker, Ellen (Faye Marlowe), who's being bullied by their boss. With her overactive imagination, Judy misreads it as her father and Ellen having an affair, and she determines to end it by setting Ellen up with her handsome bachelor uncle Willis (Stephen Dunne). Several humorous misadventures follow: her father gets is fired from his job, and although he gets rehired, there's a brief threat of Lois and Judy having to move to Missouri to live with their grandparents if he can't find a new job. (It's ironic after you've seen Louis, which treats moving to New York as the worst fate possible.) The movie as a whole is watchable but average and typical of screwball comedies of the era. It doesn't have Louis's witty dialogue, elaborate sets, or excellent adult cast. The real reason to watch it is Peggy, and she certainly does make it worth watching.

Christmas Morning: "It's perfectly silly to think Judy could wear a junior miss coat!"

Released only four months after her drama A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, for which she received a juvenile Oscar, Peggy was at the height of her child stardom here, and it shows in her large amounts of screentime and dialogue. This isn't the common child-role of reacting to what the adults do; Judy is the catalyst for almost everything that happens in Junior, and it's the adults who react to her. There's a perfect, realistic mix of childhood and adolescense in Judy. (The movie is titled after one of her greatest ambitions: to go clothes-shopping in the junior miss department, rather than the children's department.) Like Tootie in Louis, she's overdramatic and forgets her roller-skates on the stairs, but she's also mature enough to understand the very real problems that her family faces after her father loses his job. At Christmas, she's given both a doll and her first pair of high heels. Judy immediately tries on the high heels, but she puts the doll back under the tree and laughs, "Perhaps I can find some child to give it to." But later, when her family isn't watching, she sneaks the doll out from under the tree and plays with it, and it's one of the most touching scenes of the movie. The scene has no dialogue, but Peggy's acting is strong enough that she doesn't need it.

I've compared Junior Miss to Meet Me in St. Louis a lot in this review, but it also has a few things in common with Atonement (2007). Judy is at that same in-between age as Saoirse Ronan's Briony, and both girls misinterpret the adult situations and think that they're more grown-up than they really are. Certainly Peggy was as talented an actress as Saoirse is. As for the other two young actresses in this, Mona is decent as Judy's sister Lois, and Barbara, as Judy's best friend Fuffy, is an impressive young character actress who stands out even when she shares every scene with Peggy.

Other reviews of Peggy's films: Jane Eyre (1944).
20th-Jun-2016 06:10 pm - Remembering Anton Yelchin
Actor Anton Yelchin died on July 19, 2016, in a freak car accident in the driveway of his home in Studio City, California. He was only 27. Born in Russia in 1989, Anton was a prominent child actor of the early '00s who worked with several young actresses of the era, including Mika Boorem in his biggest childhood role, Hearts in Atlantis (2001). As an adult, he was best known for his role as Pavel Chekov in JJ Abrahm's Star Trek films.

Camilla Belle, 29, wrote on Instagram, "Absolutely heartbroken. I grew up seeing him at auditions, admiring his work in films. What a terrible and shocking loss. We will miss seeing the characters you brought to life Anton Yelchin. My heart goes out to his family and loved ones." Lindsay Lohan, also 29, wrote a bit more bizarre message: "This is the result of #hollywood a beautiful life has come to an end. A brilliant actor and a loving friend. Surround your life with good people and know who your #true #friends are my prayers and love goes out to anton's family #anton соболезнование семье и близким this breaks my heart. He was my friend I am so sorry to Anton's father."

Many of the former starlets who remembered Anton on social media were also contemporaries of him.

Like everyone else, young actresses were horrified by the mass shooting at an Orlando gay nightclub, Pulse, on the night of Saturday, July 11, which left 49 people dead. Here are just a few of their reactions.

After so many tweets about praying for Orlando, Rowan Blanchard's words were a breath of fresh air:

On June 12, the day after the shooting, Hailee Steinfeld, 19, participated with several other celebrities at the annual LA Pride parade in West Hollywood. She performed her hits "Love Myself" and "Rock Bottom" on the parade stage, as well as a cover of Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself."

Hailee tweeted after the event: "There is no better reminder that love conquers all than joining the LGBTQ community at LA Pride tonight. I could have danced all night in celebration of our freedom and equality. In memory of the victims this weekend, we stand with you and your families.'

But perhaps the most surprising reaction in the wake of the Orlando shooting came from Mara Wilson, 28, who decided to show her support by coming out as bisexual herself. She started by tweeting an old photo of herself in a gay nightclub at age 18:

She went on to say: "I haven't been to one since college, except once when a friend brought me along. I didn't feel like I belonged there. But the LGBTQ community has always felt like home, especially a few years later when I, uh, learned something about myself." When asked by one fan if she identified as bisexual, she responded by deeming herself a 2 on the Kinsey scale. The Kinsey scale ranges from exclusively heterosexual (0) to exclusively homosexual (6). Mara tweeted to another fan: "I used to identify as mostly straight. I've embraced the Bi/Queer label lately."

A few days later, after the news of a former child star coming out made the media rounds, Mara tweeted: "I appreciate your support, but there's more important stuff happening than me also liking ladies. Also, I'm a relatively fortunate cis white lady, there's very little risk in me coming out. LGBT minorities are more at risk. Maybe focus on them instead?" But not all of the responses that she got were positive. Mara also said, "Apparently, admitting to something personal in a reply on my own Twitter makes me an 'attention whore' 'co-opting a tragedy.'"

But there's more going on with Mara than her coming out. She's recently written a book, Where am I Now?, a series of essays about growing up on film sets. She also appears in a new online video series, Swapped, which reenacts classic movie scenes, but with the genders swapped. Mara has a role in the first video, taken from American Psycho; she plays Paula Allen, the female equivalent to Jared Leto's Paul Allen.
14th-Jun-2016 11:31 am - The 2016 Tony Awards
The 70th Annual Tony Awards
Held June 12, 2016, at Beacon Theatre in New York City. Hosted by James Corden.

Lilla Crawford, 15, who's performed in several plays on and off-Broadway and a few films, attended to support host James Corden, her costar from Into the Woods.

Saoirse Ronan, 22, and Andrew Rannells presented the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Play to Reed Birney for The Humans. Saoirse's Broadway debut The Crucible (in which she has the lead as Abigail Williams, a young woman accused of witchcraft in 1700's New England), began a limited 20-week run in March. The Crucible had four Tony nominations.

Claire Danes, 37 (with her husband Hugh Dancy), presented the Tony for Best Play to The Humans. Claire's play Dry Powder began its run at the Public Theater in March and has been receiving mixed reviews.

Diane Lane, 51 (wearing an awful zebra-print pantsuit), presented the Tony for Best Revival of a Play to A View from the Bridge. This fall, Diane will return to Broadway in a revival of The Cherry Orchard, a play that she first appeared in nearly forty years ago. As a child actress in the '70s, Diane had an uncredited role as a peasant girl in The Cherry Orchard; this time, she will be playing the lead. She also starred in an off-Broadway play, The Mystery of Love and Sex, last year.

Previous posts on the Tony Awards: 2015.
Another Disney summer movie, and another crowd of current and former young actresses who turned out for the premiere. Here are the girls who were at the premiere of Disney-Pixar's Finding Dory, held on June 8 at El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Aubrey Anderson-Emmons turned 9 on June 6, two days before the premiere. She just keeps getting cuter! I see her aging well.

Marsai Martin, 11, nodded to the movie's underwater theme with a tiny seahorse necklace.

Madison Pettis, 17, celebrated on offscreen milestone last month: graduating from high school!

DeVore Ledridge, 15, and Katherine McNamara, 20

Raini Rodriguez, 22, and her real-life brother's TV costar Sarah Hyland, 25

Beverley Mitchell, now 35, who grew up on 7th Heaven, was recently announced in a TV miniseries Hollywood Darlings, costarring two other ex-sitcom kids: Jodie Sweetin, 34, of Full House and Christine Lakin, 37, of Step By Step. The series is centered around three lifelong friends who grew up acting and are now trying to make it as wives, moms, and businesswomen.
Film: Brooklyn (2015). Young Actress: Saoirse Ronan, age 20.

It's hard to speak highly enough of Saoirse's gorgeous lead performance in Brooklyn, just as it's hard to find anything bad to say about the film as a whole. It's also hard to remember when I've ever seen a former child actress make such a perfect transition into adult material. Yes, The Transition has been done before – by Natalie Wood, Jodie Foster, and Natalie Portman, just to name a few – but none of them made it look as easy or as natural as Saoirse does in Brooklyn. In her New Hollywood Award acceptance speech, she said, "Brooklyn came along right when I needed it to," and watching the movie, you can see how true that is. Solid lead roles for women have become so scarce, and most young actresses Saoirse's age would love to have a character who's seen and treated completely as an adult. She was lucky to actually get one
In Brooklyn, set in 1952, Saoirse stars as Eilis, a young woman – not a girl, but a woman – who immigrates alone from the small Irish town where she's lived all her life to New York City. The film delves a lot into her homesickness and identity crisis, although she does come to enjoy her new American life, especially after falling in love. When she returns to her hometown, everyone in it expects her to stay, and she must decide for herself where she really belongs. There's a lot to enjoy in this movie, like the gorgeous scenery of both the rugged Irish countryside and the parks and department stores of New York City. There's the treat of Saoirse's natural Irish accent, which is so delightful to hear and which she rarely gets to use in her movies. There's the fact that Eilis is never gratuitously sexualized. There's the way that each character is treated not as good or bad, but as a real person. And of course, there's Saoirse's performance.

Eilis visits the Coney Island beach with her American boyfriend Tony (Emory Cohen)

Saoirse herself was raised in both the Bronx and Dublin; she talked in some interviews about how strongly she identified with Eilis, and you can see that come through. Even if you've never immigrated to another country like Eilis does, if you've ever moved out of your parents' house, then you can identify with her, especially since Saoirse makes her so real and vulnerable. In two scenes that are almost hard to watch, Eilis is violently sick her first night onboard the ship crossing the Atlantic, and she breaks down in tears when she gets her first letter from her sister (Fiona Glascott) back home.

Eilis on a beach in Ireland with her friend Jim (Domhnall Gleeson) during her trip back to her hometown

Saoirse turned 20 during filming, and her performance reminded me very much of Kate Winslet or Jennifer Lawrence at the same age. Remember that excited feeling you got when you watched their early roles and realized that you were seeing the emergence of a great actress? You get that feeling in every scene of Brooklyn. Even with all the excellent acting that Saoirse has done since she was a kid, she still carries this film with a strength that I never knew she had.

Other reviews of Saoirse's films: The Lovely Bones (2009), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014).

Academy Awards: Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse), and Best Adapted Screenplay
Critics Choice Awards: Nominated for Best Picture, Best Actress (Saoirse), and Best Adapted Screenplay
Hollywood Film Awards: Won New Hollywood Award (Saoirse)
Screen Actors Guild: Nominated for Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Saoirse)
It can be so difficult for a former child star to move into a successful second career as an adult, but Alisan Porter, now 34, recently made it happen in a big way, when she was crowned as winner of the singing competition show The Voice. Born in 1981, Alisan did several films and TV appearances in the late '80s and early '90s, reaching the height of her child stardom as the title character in John Hughes's Curly Sue (1991). But her road to The Voice was a long, hard one. Sadly, like so many former child stars, Alisan struggled with addiction as an adult; in 2014, she told Inside Edition, "I did cocaine, I smoked pot, I drank, I took whatever pill people were taking at the time. I was going through a hard time in life. I actually got sober nearly eight years ago."

After getting sober, getting married (she wed former child actor Brian Autenrieth in 2012), and having two children, Alisan decided to pursue her longtime dream of a singing career. Her blind audition for The Voice wowed this season's judges Christina Aguilera, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Pharrell Williams. She quickly emerged as a frontrunner to win, and when her child-star past came up, she told reporters in February, "I was an actress when I was very young. It's not my passion. This is my passion."

In an interview after her win, Alisan was a bit more blunt: "I have retired Curly Sue, she is dead! I am now the girl who won The Voice. I would like you all to know. I've waited 30 something years for that! She's dead! It's so cool that's how my career started and I'm honored to have had a great career when I was young. It's been years, decades since that was over and since I've been wanting this."

Another former child star who's been pursuing a second career lately is Melissa Gilbert, now 52, who grew up on TV series Little House on the Prairie. Melissa has long admired Shirley Temple (whom she called "my childhood idol" when she died in 2014) and like Shirley, she's been trying to move into a political career as an adult. But in late May (the same week that Alisan won The Voice, in fact), Melissa had to drop out of a race for a congressional seat in Michigan, citing health concerns.

Melissa at a signing of her children's book Daisy & Josephine, New York City, January 2014

"While I have received the best treatment and therapy I could have asked for, those injuries have only gotten worse," Melissa said in a statement to Detroit Free Press. "As much as it breaks my heart to say this, my doctors have told me I am physically unable to continue my run for Congress." She went on to say that she will need surgery for injuries she suffered to her head and neck in accidents that have worsened; one of the accidents was a concussion and whiplash that she sustained after a fall on Dancing With the Stars in 2012.

Melissa, who's also served as president of the Screen Actors Guild, was running as a Democrat in Michigan's eighth Congressional district. In her statement, she didn't rule out a possible future run, saying, "I'm too engaged at this point. I know too much, and there is so much that needs to be done in this district and this state and this country. That's why I jumped into the race in the first place."
Disney's live-action fairy-tale films always draw a pretty big crowd of young actresses out to their premieres. See previously, the Maleficent premiere in 2014 and the Cinderella premiere last year. Here's who attended the premiere of Disney's latest, Alice Through the Looking Glass, held on May 23 at El Capitan Theatre.

Trinitee Stokes, 10, from Disney Channel's KC Undercover

Madison Hu and Olivia Rodrigo, from Disney Channel's Bizaardvark

Sabrina Carpenter, who just turned 17 on May 11, from Disney Channel's Girl Meets World

Katherine McNamara, 20, from Freeform's Shadowhunters

The film's stars, former young actresses Mia Wasikowska (Alice), 26, and Anne Hathaway (The White Queen), 33
Film: Southpaw (2015). Young Actress: Oona Laurence, age 11.

Billy Hope (Jake Gyllenhaal, Brothers) is a professional boxer who has it all: a mansion, championship career, a loving wife who's always supportive and wears a lot of tight clothes (Rachel McAdams, The Time Traveler's Wife), and an adorable daughter (Oona, who was 11-12 during filming but looks younger). But after his wife suddenly dies, Billy makes a string of bad decisions, including driving drunk and crashing into a tree. His newly-motherless daughter Leila finds him unconscious and bleeding and calls 911. Billy hits rock-bottom, losing his house and custody of Leila, and has to fight his way back to the top.

That plot should sound pretty by-the-numbers, and the movie is, too. In its attempt to be gritty and realistic, the script runs into a lot of cliches and over-the-top angst. Billy's wife bleeds to death in his arms from a gunshot wound, while he frantically pleads, "Look into my eyes, baby, just look into my eyes." Later, Leila yells at him that he should've died, instead of her mom. There are also too many long, technical boxing scenes that offer nothing to viewers who aren't fans of the sport.

A tearful, triumphant Billy carries Leila out of the locker room after winning his last fight.
Who didn't see this ending coming?

Probably Oona's longest scene is of Leila at Billy's big finale fight. She begs him to take her along, and he eventually relents. (His wife never let Leila come to the fights because they were too violent.) The fighting is interspersed with cuts of Leila watching it on TV in Billy's dressing room, cheering him on when he does well, or wincing and crying for him when he gets knocked down. But in all likelihood, the fight hadn't been filmed yet, and Oona was just reacting to descriptions of it from the director. That's difficult for actors of any age, and I think the difficulty shows.

For more about Rachel McAdams's role in Southpaw, see Why Rachel McAdams Never Became a Movie Star.
Here's Lana, Sophie, and Jennifer at a global fan screening of X-Men: Apocalypse, held on May 9 in London. The film is set for American release on May 27.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the very first acting gig for young Vietnamese-American Lana Condor, who plays the mutant Jubilee. She had these candid words about her character and minorities in film: "She's just so cool, way cooler than I am. I was having this discussion with Bryan, our director, about how she represents Asians in general. X-Men have always been outsiders – minority groups, gays and lesbians. It's like the outsiders banding together to be one. So they never really had another Asian, except for Blink, so Jubilee gets to represent the Asian outsiders who haven't really had the easiest time fitting into society. And that's cool. A lot of my followers are Asian or Hispanic. People are excited: 'A real Asian is in the film?' It's funny but it's kind of true."

X-Men: Apocalypse is the first major film role for British TV starlet Sophie Turner, 20, who has been working on HBO's Game of Thrones since age 14. She said that she was a fan of the X-Men franchise before being cast as the telepathic young mutant Jean Grey: "I was a big fan. I've watched all the movies. I read a couple of the comics when I was younger as well. I just really wanted to do it. Also the cast is a big draw. People would kill to work with that cast and Bryan [Singer], who I think is amazing. I saw The Usual Suspects a few years ago and was like, 'Who is this director? He's amazing.' And then I found out he did all the X-Men and I thought, 'Wow. Amazing! I have to do it.'"

And Apocalypse is the last X-Men film for Jennifer Lawrence, 25, who reprises her role as the shape-shifting mutant Mystique for the third and final time in this installment. During filming, she cited the body suit and blue paint that she wears for Mystique as part of her reason for leaving: "I love working with Bryan, and I love these movies. It's just the paint. Fumes and toxins. Now I'm almost 25 and I'm like, 'I can't even pronounce this and that's going in my nose? I'm breathing that?'
I can't sit down, so I have to pee out of like a funnel, and I just can never get it right. There is no way to do it and not drip on yourself."
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