Top 10 Forgotten Child Stars

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Every decade Hollywood produces a new crop of child actors. Some are remembered; most are forgotten. We know the Shirley Temples, the Tatum O’Neals, the Corey Feldmans, the Dakota Fannings and the Abigail Breslins. We remember Linda Blair’s inspired (or possessed) performance in The Exorcist. Other child stars shone just as bright… just not as long.

Let’s remember the top 10 forgotten child stars throughout movie history:

10. Maia Brewton

No one can rock a Thor costume like Maia Brewton’s Sara in Adventures in Babysitting.

Co-star Keith Coogan may be grandson to silver screen child star Jackie Coogan, but Brewton steals the movie. Sara not only dresses the part of a superhero, but she acts like one, too. She’s the only one of the group who thinks riding subways with gang members, being chased by car thieves, speeding along with crazed truckers, and hanging from rafters is fun.

Maybe it’s the helmet.

You can also spot an even younger Brewton in a small role as one of Marty McFly’s young aunts, Sally Baines, in Back to the Future.

Where is she now?

Brewton graduated from Yale in 1998. She’s married to TV producer Lara Spotts and is busy raising twin sons.

9. Miko Hughes

Stephen King’s brain has given birth to many a disturbed child. Maybe you’ve blocked out the memory of little Miko Hughes slashing Herman Munster’s ankle as the resurrected demon-child in Pet Sematary. But Hughes wouldn’t be forgotten – at least not in the ’90s.

A few years later, he was the son-of-a-gynecologist who gave Schwarzenegger an anatomy lesson in Kindergarten Cop (:35 in video clip above), then the son of Tom Hanks in Apollo 13. He even had a steady gig as Michelle’s bratty friend, Aaron, on the TV show Full House.

Where is he now? Hughes’ last major film role was as a boy with autism in Mercury Rising, opposite Bruce Willis. Since then, his career has mainly consisted of TV and voice-over work, but he’s slated to appear in the upcoming movie City of Shoulders and Noses.

8. Jared Rushton

Within just three years, Jared Rushton was Tom Hanks’ best friend (Big, :41 in video clip above), Kurt Russell’s son (Overboard), and Rick Moranis’ neighbor (Honey, I Shrunk the Kids).

He was the fearless kid who never shrank from a problem, which was a good thing because he was always in the middle of one. He faced a big problem in the ’90s when cocky kids were no longer all the rage. Even a memorable appearance on ER in 1994 couldn’t revive Rushton’s dying career.

If only he’d signed on for Honey, I Blew Up the Kid… You can’t win ’em all.

Where is he now?

As of 2004, Rushton joined a band as a singer and guitarist with his brother Ryan called “Withdrawal.”

7. Peter Ostrum

Peter Ostrum’s experience in Hollywood was a lot like his journey as Charlie in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Just as Charlie clung to his morals and avoided being drowned in a chocolate river, shrunk down to miniature size, burned in an incinerator, or blown up like a giant blueberry like his selfish companions, Ostrum made it through his first and only movie relatively unscathed. His prize, like Charlie’s, was “to live happily ever after.”

Where is he now?

No, Ostrum hasn’t been hiding out in Wonka’s factory overseeing Oompa Loompas for all these years. After turning down a three-picture contract after Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Ostrum ducked out of the limelight and became a normal kid again. He now works as a veterinarian and owns a farm in New York.

6. Jeff Cohen

Sure, Sean Astin made his comeback as a hobbit in The Lord of the Rings, and Josh Brolin won acclaim in No Country for Old Men, but only one member of The Goonies could teach us “The Truffle Shuffle,” and it isn’t Corey Feldman.

Jeff Cohen only made a handful of TV appearances before landing the role of Chunk, the fat kid in the plaid pants who winds up trapped in a freezer full of ice cream – and a corpse. Cohen’s greatest moment in The Goonies is when he breaks down under the threat of torture and confesses every lie he ever told.

Where is he now?

Hopefully, Cohen is gearing up for the elusive Goonies sequel that fans have been pining for. In the meantime, he’s practicing as an entertainment lawyer in Los Angeles, California.

5. Justin Henry

Life is rough when you’re getting Dear John letters from your mother at six years old. She runs out on you and your dad can’t even make a decent plate of French toast. Justin Henry has to play through a gamut of emotions in Kramer vs. Kramer as a child of divorce. A lot of pressure for a kid actor in his first role ever.

One of the most memorable moments in Kramer vs. Kramer is the ice cream fight scene (see video) that was improvised by Dustin Hoffman and Justin Henry. Hoffman’s own daughter pulled the stunt on him and he suggested it to his young co-star.

Where is he now?

Henry reappears as Molly Ringwald’s obnoxious brother in Sixteen Candles. If you don’t blink you can catch him all grown up in guest spots on TV shows like Brothers & Sisters and ER.

4. Quinn Cummings

Quinn Cummings wasn’t the only precocious child actor to come along in the ’70s. Tatum O’Neal was smoking cigarettes and running scams with her dad in Paper Moon while Jodie Foster was playing a child prostitute in Taxi Driver. Cummings was just a regular kid making the best of life with her single mom in The Goodbye Girl, but her performance was no less brilliant. She was even nominated for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role as Lucy McFadden, but lost to Vanessa Redgrave for Julia.

Where is she now?

She didn’t go on to win any Oscars, but she did invent the HipHugger baby sling. She also released a book in 2009 called Tales from the Underwire: Adventures From My Awkward & Lovely Life, and has a blog called The QC Report.

3. George “Spanky” McFarland

It’s hard for us Our Gang fans to believe, but most people nowadays who hear ‘Little Rascals’ think of the cloying ’90s movie with its “o-tay!” catchphrase rather than the classic film shorts of the ’20s and ’30s.

Still more remember Spanky’s real-life rival Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer as the leader of the gang, but when McFarland became a “rascal,” it wasn’t long before he was running the show – along with a whole bevy of forgotten child stars who gave their childhoods over to the silver screen.

Where is he now?

McFarland died of a heart attack at 64 years old in 1993. Of his Our Gang experience, he said, “I wouldn’t take a million dollars for the experience…and I wouldn’t take a penny to do it again. As a kid I had everything I wanted, we had a good life but when it was over… it was over.”

2. Edna May Wonacott

Edna May Wonacott: not exactly a name that rolls off the tongue, but it was good enough for her film debut in Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (at 7:28), a movie filmed in her hometown of Santa Rosa, California.

Hitchcock wasn’t fond of using children in his films – in fact, he was afraid of them – but Wonacott manages to appear often and always brings a laugh with her, whether she’s making a wry comment about the adults or trying to offer a tidbit of useless information. All the intelligence of the Newton family seems to funnel through right to the brain of young Ann, who can’t wait for her age to catch up with her mind.

Where is she now?

After Shadow of a Doubt, Wonacott had a few uncredited film roles before fading out of the industry for good.

1. Patty McCormack

Platinum blond pigtails and razor-sharp eyebrows framed the decidedly un-childlike face of Rhoda Penmark (McCormack) in The Bad Seed. The scariest thing about Rhoda was that she was just a child. She wasn’t possessed. She wasn’t the ghost of some forgotten child out for revenge. She wasn’t abused or abandoned. She was just born bad. A bad seed.

Rhoda understood the necessity for playing the part of the good girl to get what she wanted. For her, emotions were tools – things to put on and take off as easily as her precious shoes. And you don’t want her to take off those shoes. Just ask Claude Dagle.

Oh, yeah, he’s dead. (

Where is she now?

McCormack has an extensive history of playing bit parts in TV shows, spanning classics like Three’s Company, Magnum P.I., and Dallas to modern favorites like The Sopranos, ER, and Desperate Housewives. She’s slated to appear in the film Soda Springs in 2011.

By Amanda Flinner

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Check out TopTenz’ YouTube playlist ‘Forgotten Child Stars‘ for additional footage.


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5 Comments

  1. Stacked Stone Bloke on

    OMG I had forgotten all about that kid in Kindergarten Cop. What ever happened to the little girl who wore overalls in that movie? So Funny!

  2. How about Lisa Gerritson who portrayed the daughter of Cloris Leachman on the TV sit-com “Phyllis”. Also Brandon de Wilde who portrayed Joey in the famous Western movie “Shane” ???

  3. A good list, but I disagree that the Little Rascals/Our Gang shorts have been forgotten–they may have been briefly upstaged by the mediocre 1990s film, but now this film is barely remembered. Spanky McFarland is actually relatively well remembered compared to most of the other child stars on this list.

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