Child Stars from the ‘70s All Grown Up
Child stars lead amazing lives when they’re young, but they don’t always carry their love of Hollywood into adulthood. Many made the most of their early success and used their name recognition to build successful adult careers, but others left the limelight behind to live entirely different — dare we say "normal" — lives.
Let's take a quick trip back in time to find out what some of the most famous kids from the '70s are up to these days. You won’t believe how dramatically some of them changed once they grew up!
Kim Fields became famous at the tender age of 10 when she was cast as Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey on the sitcom The Facts of Life. She had acted in a single commercial and had a small role on Good Times before launching into stardom with the beloved sitcom about an all-girls boarding girl.
Melissa Gilbert is still recognized today for her role as Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie. At the time of her casting, she was only nine years old. Before landing the massive part, her only acting work was in commercials, including one for Alpo dog food.
Lance Kerwin was more of a teenage star than a child star. His first notable role — John Curtis in The Loneliest Runner — aired when he was 16 years old. He went on to become a household name as the star of James at 15 in 1977, and he was a supporting actor in the 1979 miniseries Salem's Lot.
Ricky Schroder's big debut came in 1979 when he was only nine years old. One of the last child actors to rocket to stardom before the end of the 1970s, he's also one of the youngest celebrities on this list.
When Quinn Cummings was 10 years old, her life changed forever with her casting as Lucy McFadden in the 1977 film The Goodbye Girl. The film was a hit, earning more than $100 million and blasting the tiny young actress into the national spotlight. Only a year later, she was cast as Annie Cooper on the television comedy/drama Family.
Most Americans with a television set would recognize Christopher Knight. Even children born in the 1990s recognize Peter Brady of The Brady Bunch fame. Knight began playing the male middle child when he was 12, and he reprised the role more than once before the 1990’s The Brady's show.
Ike Eisenmann got his start starring in Green Giant commercials at the age of 10. He became internationally famous when he was 13, thanks to his role as Tony in the children's mystery/thriller Escape to Witch Mountain. He reprised the role three years later for the less successful sequel.
Jodie Foster was born to be in the limelight. Her first role came at the age of three when she played the Coppertone girl for a sunscreen commercial. She soon landed parts in popular shows such as Mayberry R.F.D. and The Courtship of Eddie's Father.
Donny Osmond is part of the beloved Osmond family, and although he is better known for his music career, he has also starred in more than a few television shows and films. He made his debut at the age of five, singing "You Are My Sunshine" on The Andy Williams Show.
Maureen McCormick is still known as Marcia Brady, the eldest and most popular of the Brady girls. Her role as a confident, beauty-conscious teenager began when she was 13. Due to the show’s massive popularity, she went on to reprise the role in different productions for 24 years.
Lisa Whelchel was snapped up by Disney agents at the tender age of 12 to join The New Mickey Mouse Club. After filming wrapped for that project, she landed her most pivotal role, preppy Blair Warner on The Facts of Life. It ended up being the role of a lifetime, keeping Whelchel on the air for nine amazing years.
Mackenzie Phillips was famous from the moment she was born. As the daughter of John Phillips — lead singer of The Mamas & the Papas — she was born into a world of excess. Yearning for a chance to step into the limelight herself, she secured her first role at age 12 in George Lucas' American Graffiti.
Diff'rent Strokes is one of the most popular, most beloved television series of all time. Child actor Gary Coleman became a household name thanks to the program, as did Todd Bridges. While Bridges wasn't nearly as young as Coleman when the show began shooting — he was 13 — he was still just a kid.
Eve Plumb was once a member of the famous Brady Bunch as well, but before she found fame with her television family, she acted in commercials. By age 11, she was recognizable almost everywhere. Like her fictional brothers and sisters, she continued to play the middle sister in the Brady family for several decades.
Although many fans remember Noah Hathaway for his role as Atreyu in 1984's The NeverEnding Story, he started acting way back in 1974 with a few commercials. Without that experience, he might not have landed a spot on Battlestar Galactica in 1978.
Eric Scott found fame and fortune playing Ben Walton on The Waltons, a family television show that lasted nearly a decade and still has a loyal fan following. People across the country watched Scott grow from a 14-year-old boy into a man of 23. That's a unique relationship that most child actors and fans don't get the opportunity to enjoy.
Kramer vs. Kramer is a classic film that is still enjoyed by new audiences every year. It also happens to be the film that rocketed Justin Henry to childhood stardom at the age of eight. He nearly won an Academy Award for his performance as little Billy Kramer.
Because The Brady Bunch was hugely popular and starred six children, it produced more than its fair share of child stars from the 1970s. Susan Olsen played the youngest of the Brady girls, Cindy. She was barely eight years old when the show started.
Robby Benson's film debut came at age 11 with an uncredited role in the 1967 film Wait Until Dark. A few years later, he landed a role in the Broadway musical The Rothschilds. Around that time, he also starred in a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercial.
Scott Baio is one of the most recognizable actors from the 1970s, and that probably played a part in his continued success. He made his film debut at age 16 in Bugsy Malone, working alongside fellow child actor Jodie Foster.
Johnny Whitaker had a face that could sell things, even at the age of three. From toy commercials to a spot on General Hospital at age six, this kid started his climb to stardom before he even finished kindergarten. By age seven, he was playing Jonathan Joshua "Jody" Patterson Davis on Family Affair, a role that lasted until 1971.
The other half of Donny & Marie is, of course, Marie Osmond. Born into the showbiz-loving Osmond family, Marie hardly had any other options than to become a famous singer and performer. She sang with her musical brothers for the first time on television when she was just four years old.
Linda Blair started her career at age five as a child model. She appeared in Macy's and Sears catalogs across the country before appearing in nearly a hundred commercials. However, it wasn’t until 1973, when she was 13, that she became a household name.
Tatum O'Neal is still the youngest person to win a competitive Academy Award. At age 10, she bested the Hollywood elite with her performance as Addie Loggins in Paper Moon. Where do you go when you've won that much prestige at such a young age? For O'Neal, the only answer was the lighter side of acting.
Many teenage girls had their hearts stolen by The Partridge Family's David Cassidy. Although the young man looked about 15 or 16 when the musically-inclined show began, he was already about 20 years old.
Erin Murphy got her start on television before she was even fully potty trained. She was only two years old when she was cast as Tabitha Stephens on the magical sitcom Bewitched. She was nearly 10 when the show ended, leaving her open to pursue many more roles.
At age 13, Kathy Coleman got her first taste of Hollywood stardom when she landed the role of Holly Marshall in the adventure show Land of the Lost. The show only lasted for two years, but it made a lasting impression on the public and pop culture. Unfortunately, Coleman didn't secure many roles after that one.
Kristy McNichol had a huge advantage over other child stars of the time — her family was friends with Desi Arnaz. Not only did she earn a few spots in commercials, but she also appeared in Starsky & Hutch, The Bionic Woman, The Love Boat and Love, American Style — all before age 10!
Like Jodie Foster, Helen Hunt became famous at a young age and stayed that way for her entire life. It probably helped that both of her parents were involved in photography, cinematography and acting. In 1973, at age 10, she played a character named Sarah in Pioneer Woman. It was her first real role.
Most people probably know Clint Howard from his roles in various comedies, including The Waterboy, the Austin Powers movies and Little Nicky, but this child actor's filmography extends way beyond those more recent hits. It started back in 1962 when he was only two years old. Apparently, being Ron Howard's little brother came with some advantages.