Jimmy Lydon

Active - 1939 - 2005  |   Born - May 30, 1923   |   Genres - Drama, Comedy, Crime, Romance

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Biography by Hal Erickson

To help support his large family, American actor Jimmy Lydon was forced along with his eight siblings to seek out work at an early age. The boy began picking up acting jobs, appearing in such plays as Western Waters and The Happiest Days. Lydon's first film was Back Door to Heaven, after which he appeared as the title character of Tom Brown's School Days (1940). The essential seriousness with which he tackled his work may have stemmed from Lydon's dislike of the demeaning audition process and the callous manner in which child actors were treated by many adult directors. When Jackie Cooper balked at continuing the role of Henry Aldrich in a series of Paramount B-pictures, Lydon was assigned to the part, ultimately appearing in nine Henry Aldrich films. The adenoidal, trouble-prone Henry was a hard image for Lydon to shake, but he did his best with polished performances in such films as Strange Illusion (1945) (a bizarre "B"-film based on Hamlet), and Life with Father (1947), in which Lydon was paired with Elizabeth Taylor. Finding film work sparse in the '50s, Lydon began doing commercial voiceovers and acting in television: he played a newlywed in the 1952 daytime serial The First Hundred Years, a benign space alien on the syndicated 1953 sci-fier Rocky Jones: Space Ranger, an actor's agent on So This is Hollywood (1955), and Anne Jeffreys' secretary in the 1958 sitcom Love That Jill. From 1956 onward, Lydon, wearying of the headaches and heartaches of an acting career (though he'd still accept a part if he liked it), began training for production work behind the cameras. He worked on the producer's staff of such series as Wagon Train and 77 Sunset Strip, and on occasion (notably the 1965 TV version of Mister Roberts) directed as well as produced. Lydon also functioned as producer on several films, such as the Sean Connery vehicle Chubasco (1968). Frequently, Lydon used his production clout to secure work for his ailing father-in-law, veteran movie villain Bernard Nedell. But while he was willing to help an older relative, James Lydon, still smarting from losing out on a normal childhood, actively discouraged his children from entering show business -- at least until they were grown up.

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