Christmas movies often feature the telltale adorable child star, and- just like your own kids- they grow up so fast! From “It’s a Wonderful Life’s” ZuZu Bailey to the precocious Kevin McCallister from “Home Alone,” here’s an all- grown-up update on some of the top Christmas movie child stars of all time.
Peter Billingsley (Ralphie- “A Christmas Story,” 1983). Who can forget this kid’s big blue eyes and impish smile when he starred as the hapless Ralphie Parker in the 1983 movie, “A Christmas Story”? Young Peter Billingsley was brilliant as the kid who was hell-bent on getting a Red Ryder bb gun for Christmas. Billingsley grew up to become an Emmy nominated TV and movie producer, working on projects like “The Break Up” and “Iron Man.” In recent years he appeared onscreen in the 2008 movie “Four Christmases” and also appeared briefly in 2003’s “Elf” (he must like Christmas movies!). And- ready to feel old? Billingsley turns 40 in 2011.
Karolyn Grimes (ZuZu Bailey- “It’s a Wonderful Life,” 1946). Her iconic film-ending line (“Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings”) rings in the hearts of millions every Christmas season. 1940’s child actress Karolyn Grimes was just a wee tot back in her “IAWL” days. She endured tragedy throughout her life, with the deaths of both of her parents when she was a teenager and the untimely deaths of both her first and second husbands as well as her youngest son, who committed suicide in 1989. Despite all of the tragedy in her life, in a 2009 interview with The Telegraph , Grimes said, ” I am so glad I have put some happiness into the world. There have been adverse things happen in my own life, but there are balances out there.” These days the 70 year old (and author of the cookbook “ZuZu’s Recipes for It’s a Wonderful Life”) still makes appearances at ” IAWL”-related meet and greet events.
Natalie Wood (Susan, “Miracle on 34th Street,” 1947). Natalie Wood worked as an actress for most of her life. As a child she starred in the 1947 classic movie about a precocious little girl who doesn’t quite believe in Santa. In her teens she played opposite James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause.” And as an adult, Natalie Wood continued her acting career in such big name films as “West Side Story” and “From Here to Eternity.” But in 1981, after a night of drinking, Wood was found drowned after a mysterious freak accident on a yacht. Wood’s death has been shrouded in controversy for nearly 30 years, but according to CNN , in 2010 Wood’s sister Lana asked for the case to be reopened.
Macaulay Culkin (Kevin McCallister, “Home Alone,” 1990). He was adorable in the “Home Alone” movie series, but off camera this child star had some growing pains, including a short-lived teen marriage and a 2004 drug possession arrest. While he still works as an actor, these days Culkin chooses more quirky roles, like in 2003’s “Party Monster” and the 2007 indie film “Sex and Breakfast.”
Glyn Dearman ( Tiny Tim, “Scrooge”/”A Christmas Carol,” 1951). There are many movie versions of the Charles Dickens classic, but the 1951 Alastair Sims version is among the most well known. Twelve year old Glyn Dearman played Tiny Tim in this version of movie. After his “Scrooge” fame, the child star continued to act into his twenties, until switching gears and working as a BBC a radio director. He died in 1997 at the age of 57 after a fall at his London flat.
Peter Robins (Charlie Brown, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” 1966). Not a movie but a classic Christmas special nonetheless, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been a holiday staple for decades. Child voice-actor Peter Robbins starred as Chuck in this and several other “Charlie Brown” specials, but according to an article on NPR he lost the role in the late 1960s thanks to puberty. Today Robbins works in real estate and has a dog named…..Snoopy.
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