Not many child actors are role models, or handle adulthood very well. Kevin Corcoran, who died the other day, was one of the elite few. For a few years (1957-1964) he was arguably the best kid at playing a kid in movies.
Kevin's nearest competition, at least for being a little kid other little kids could identify with, probably came from television. Despite the regional accent, Ronny Howard's "Opie" on Andy Griffith's show was also a nice looking, average All American Boy. You might add Billy Mumy, although he played average kids in less than average situations, both in "Twilight Zone" episodes and "Lost in Space." You can add Micky Dolenz as "Circus Boy," in a role similar to Corcoran's "Toby Tyler."
If there was a defining thread to Kevin's roles, it was that he tended to play smallish kids trying to be noticed in the adult world, or accepted by their older and bigger peers. One of his first key roles was in "Old Yeller," (1957), which was either about a dog that was colored yellow, or one that barked a lot. It's been a long time since I saw it. Three years later he had a hit with another canine film, "The Shaggy Dog." For some reason, many of the characters he played in his Disney movies were nicknamed "Moochie." That would include "Moochie of the Little League," a 1959 effort about a kid who longs to be the catcher on his team. It co-starred Lee Aaker (a kid actor best known for the "Rin Tin Tin" TV show). Among the goofy adults were Stu Erwin and Alan Hale Jr., and it was directed by the venerable "One Shot" Beaudine. It was a different age...meaning, hardly anybody watches those somewhat maudlin and corny All-American films anymore. They were great at the time. It would be nice if more eight or ten-year-olds would stop fingering their iPads and go play baseball instead, like the mythical Moochie.
Trivia fans probably know that Corcoran came from a big family of kid actors, including his sister Noreen, who was the teen star on John Forsythe's "Bachelor Father" sitcom, another vintage item reflecting a very bygone lifestyle. A smart kid, Kevin gave up acting to attend school. Very few (Ronny Howard comes to mind again, along with Richard Crenna) made any kind of transition from child star to acceptable teen and adult in front of the camera. After graduating college Kevin returned to Disney for behind-the-scenes work as an assistant director. He was soon directing and producing a variety of things, from kiddie fare ("Return from Witch Mountain" and "Herbie Goes Bananas") to adult television ("Quantum Leap" and "Murder she Wrote.")
The long career of Kevin Corcoran (June 10, 1949 – October 6, 2015) ended a bit prematurely, due to colorectal cancer. In many cases, that's a form of cancer that can be rectified (pardon the pun) if caught in time. He's survived by his wife Laura, whom he married in1972.
Kevin Corcoran calls out and Jerome Courtland sings about... OLD YELLER