Scotty Beckett

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Scotty Beckett
Scotty Beckett.jpg
Scotty Beckett
BornScott Hastings Beckett
(1929-10-04)October 4, 1929
Oakland, California, U.S.
DiedMay 10, 1968(1968-05-10) (aged 38)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Barbiturate overdose
Resting place
San Fernando Mission Cemetery
EducationLos Angeles High School
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
OccupationActor
Years active1933-1957
Spouse(s)Beverly Baker (m. 1949; div. 1950)
Sunny Vickers (m. 1951; div. 1957)
Margaret Sabo (m. 1961–68)
Children1
 
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Scotty Beckett
Scotty Beckett.jpg
Scotty Beckett
BornScott Hastings Beckett
(1929-10-04)October 4, 1929
Oakland, California, U.S.
DiedMay 10, 1968(1968-05-10) (aged 38)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Barbiturate overdose
Resting place
San Fernando Mission Cemetery
EducationLos Angeles High School
Alma materUniversity of Southern California
OccupationActor
Years active1933-1957
Spouse(s)Beverly Baker (m. 1949; div. 1950)
Sunny Vickers (m. 1951; div. 1957)
Margaret Sabo (m. 1961–68)
Children1

Scott Hastings "Scotty" Beckett (October 4, 1929 – May 10, 1968) was an American actor. Beckett began his career as a child actor in the Our Gang shorts and later co-starred on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger.

Early life and career[edit]

Born in Oakland, California, Beckett got his start in show business at age 3 when the family moved to Los Angeles and a casting director heard him singing by chance. Beckett was at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital visiting his father, who was recovering from an illness, and was entertaining him by singing songs in Pig Latin. Nurses heard him singing and carried him from room to room on every visit to sing for other patients. One day, a studio casting director who happened to be nearby noticed the child and told his parents he had movie potential. Beckett auditioned, and landed a part in Gallant Lady (1933), alongside Dickie Moore. The same year, his father died. In 1934, Beckett joined Our Gang, in which Moore had appeared from 1932 to 1933.

Our Gang[edit]

Beckett appeared as a regular in the Our Gang short subjects series from 1934 to 1935. In the gang, Beckett played George "Spanky" McFarland's best friend and partner in mischief. His trademark look was a crooked baseball cap and an oversized sweater exposing one shoulder. His role was taken over by Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer in 1935, and Beckett left the series for features after that year.

Beckett became a prolific child and young adult actor from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. In 1939, he returned to Our Gang briefly as Alfalfa's cousin Wilbur in Cousin Wilbur and Dog Daze. He appeared as one of the unborn children in Shirley Temple's The Blue Bird (1940). He played Al Jolson as a teenager in The Jolson Story (1946), with his singing voice provided by Rudy Wissler. His performance as Jolson was described as "touching, enchanting, and to all indications, accurate".[1]

Post Our Gang career[edit]

After his Our Gang days were over, Beckett won increasingly prominent roles in major Hollywood films, usually playing the star's son or the hero as a boy. Among his major credits are Dante's Inferno with Spencer Tracy, Anthony Adverse with Fredric March, The Charge of the Light Brigade with Errol Flynn, Conquest with Greta Garbo, Marie Antoinette with Norma Shearer; Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, where he played Jon Hall's character as a child and Kings Row, where he played Robert Cummings's character as a child. In 1940, he played Tim in My Favorite Wife, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne, the title character. He also had a central role in the wartime propaganda film The Boy from Stalingrad (1943).

Beckett attended Los Angeles High School and took time off from filming to try his luck on the stage. Adolescence didn't seem to hamper his career, as he won such important roles as that of young Al Jolson in The Jolson Story and Junior in the long-running radio show The Life of Riley. In 1947, he appeared alongside Dickie Moore and Marilyn Monroe in Dangerous Years.

Scotty Beckett was signed by MGM with his first role under contract as Will Parker in Cynthia. He gained the role of Oogie Pringle in A Date with Judy, the film adaptation of the long-running radio series of the same name, opposite Jane Powell as Judy Foster. In 1949, the actor was featured in the war drama Battleground and the following year he starred as the fast-talking Tennessee Shad in the MGM comedy The Happy Years. By 1950, the success of those three films, resulted in expectations that Beckett's career would rise, but it did not. While other actors his age moved into leading roles, his career declined, as evidenced by his small role in Nancy Goes to Rio, again with Jane Powell.

He attended the University of Southern California, but dropped out when the combined workload of school and movies became too great. Although he was working steadily at MGM, his life grew increasingly tumultuous in the late 1940s and early 1950s. In 1948, he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving.

In 1954, Beckett's career took an upward turn when he was cast as Winky, the comic sidekick in the popular TV show Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. Beckett was fired from the series after he was arrested on a concealed weapons charge and for passing a bad check. According to actor Jimmy Lydon, who appeared with Beckett in the Gasoline Alley films and also replaced Beckett after he was fired from Rocky Jones, Beckett earned a bad reputation due to his excessive drinking. Lydon also claimed that Beckett made many enemies because he gambled frequently but refused to pay his gambling debts or repay money that was loaned to him.[2] After being fired from Rocky Jones, Beckett made only a few subsequent TV and film appearances, some uncredited bit parts, before leaving show business forever.

Post-acting life[edit]

After more or less giving up show business, Beckett tried selling real estate, then cars, and twice enrolled at universities with the intention of becoming a medical doctor. He was also arrested several times for drunkenness, drunk driving, drug possession and passing bad checks. His first arrest for drunk driving came in 1948 followed by a second arrest in March 1959.[3] In February 1957, Beckett was arrested after attempting to cross the Mexican border with 250 "stimulant pills".[4] On August 14, 1959, Beckett was arrested for possessing four Benzedrine pills. He was released after twelve hours after the county prosecutor refused to press charges. Four days later, he sustained a broken hip and a skull fracture after crashing his car into a tree while driving in West Los Angeles.[3] Actor Jimmy Lydon claimed that the accident left Beckett severely disabled and had to utilize a wheelchair and crutches for the remainder of his life.[5] In 1960, Beckett was arrested after assaulting his teenage stepdaughter. He reportedly hit the girl over the head with one of his crutches. Beckett was given a 180 day suspended jail sentence.[6] In 1962, he attempted suicide after a heavy drinking binge.[4]

Personal life[edit]

Beckett was married three times and had one child. His first marriage was to professional tennis player Beverly Baker whom he married on September 28, 1949 in Las Vegas.[7] Baker was granted a divorce in June 1950.[8] His second marriage was to model and actress Sunny Vickers. They married in 1951 and had one son, Scott, Jr., before divorcing in 1957. In 1961, Beckett married Margaret C. Sabo; she would remain with him until his death.

Death[edit]

On May 8, 1968, Beckett checked into a Los Angeles nursing home to seek medical attention after suffering a serious beating (the circumstances surrounding the beating were never made clear). Beckett was found dead in the bed of his room on May 10. He was 38 years old. A note and pills were found, but the Los Angeles County coroner stated that an exact cause of death was unknown despite the fact that an autopsy had been performed.[9][10] While no official cause of death has been listed, various media reports state that Beckett either overdosed on barbiturates or alcohol,[11][4] or died as a result of the beating.[12]

Beckett is buried at San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, Los Angeles.[13]

Filmography[edit]

Short subjects[edit]

Features[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Blackface to blacklist: Al Jolson, Larry Parks, and The Jolson story Doug McClelland. Scarecrow Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8108-3530-4, ISBN 978-0-8108-3530-6, p. 161.
  2. ^ Weaver, Tom (2009). I Talked with a Zombie: Interviews with 23 Veterans of Horror and Sci-fi Films and Television. McFarland. p. 172. ISBN 0-786-45268-4. 
  3. ^ a b "Car Injury Adds To Scotty's Woes". The Miami News. August 18, 1959. p. 5B. 
  4. ^ a b c "Former Child Actor Found Dead at 38". Eugene Register-Guard. May 14, 1968. p. 7A. 
  5. ^ Weaver 2009 p.173
  6. ^ Frasier, David K. (2002). Suicide in the Entertainment Industry: An Encyclopedia of 840 Twentieth Century Cases. McFarland & Company Incorporated Pub. p. 28. ISBN 0-786-41038-8. 
  7. ^ "Pick Parents' Date!". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. December 27, 1949. p. 16. 
  8. ^ "This N' That". The Evening Independent. June 2, 1950. p. 12. 
  9. ^ "Comedy Star Scotty Beckett Dead at 38". The Spokesman-Review. May 15, 1968. p. 3. 
  10. ^ Roberts, Jerry (2012). The Hollywood Scandal Almanac: 12 Months of Sinister, Salacious and Senseless History!. The History Press. p. 142. ISBN 1-609-49702-3. 
  11. ^ Actress' Death One of Series of Hollywood Tragedies Vernon Scott. Reading Eagle - August 11, 1969.
  12. ^ "Children of the Screen". The Milwaukee Journal. July 17, 1973. p. 3. 
  13. ^ Keister, Douglas (2010). Forever L.A.: A Field Guide To Los Angeles Area Cemeteries & Their Residents. Gibbs Smith. p. 155. ISBN 1-423-61653-7. 

External links[edit]