Freddie Bartholomew; Child Film Star
Freddie Bartholomew, child star whose portrayal of curly-haired English boys in “David Copperfield” and “Little Lord Fauntleroy” was held up as a standard of proper behavior to a generation of youngsters, has died.
Bartholomew, who never acted in films as an adult, died Thursday in Sarasota Memorial Hospital, Sarasota, Fla., of emphysema. Various reports listed his age as 67, 69 or 70.
Born in Britain, Bartholomew was taken to various film studios in England where he got bit parts, and was brought to Hollywood by the doting aunt who raised him and finally adopted him, Mylicent Mary Bartholomew.
MGM signed him when he was 10, and the title role in the studio’s “David Copperfield” made him an instant star when the film opened in 1934.
Subsequent roles as a poor Brooklyn boy who goes to England to claim his title in “Little Lord Fauntleroy,” and as Kipling’s spoiled son in “Captains Courageous” endeared him to mothers everywhere who wished that their sons looked and behaved as nicely.
When he had his golden curls cut off as “too sissified” in the late 1930s, the haircut made headlines.
Little Master Bartholomew earned up to $2,500 a week and became the highest paid child star except for Shirley Temple.
The boy’s parents, Cecil and Lillian Mae Bartholomew, went to Los Angeles Superior Court in an attempt to regain custody of the child. But they finally agreed to let his aunt retain custody, in exchange for a living allowance from his salary.
The litigation, he said years later, “drained dry” the fortune he earned.
Bartholomew’s fame withered as he reached his mid-teens. After service in World War II, he attempted to re-establish his career by performing in vaudeville, nightclub shows, and summer theater. But he never caught on as an adult entertainer.
For a time, he was host of a daytime television show, and eventually made his career with a New York advertising agency.
Bartholomew is survived by his wife, a son, daughter, stepdaughter and three grandchildren.