Welcome back to Pop Culture Curmudguin. As I write this article, news passed hours ago that Kevin Corcoran has passed to that great rookery in the sky. What’s that? You have no freaking idea who Kevin Corcoran is? Well, actually that is not that big of a shock as long as you are not a big pre-Eisner Disney fan. Kevin was a child actor who appeared in many Disney productions in the 1950s and early 1960’s. Was he any good? Wellllllllllllllllll…
…Let’s just say he has more to be penitent for in purgatory than Jake Lloyd does, but he did have his highlights. While he did do other work, here are the products I watched. It has been 25-30 years since I’ve watched most of these (damn, this penguin’s getting old) but I can give you the jist of it
==Mickey Mouse Club==
No, I am not talking about the 1990’s version…I mean the original 1950s version with Annette and company that my Mom watched when she was a kid. No, he wasn’t a Mouseketeer, but some of the serials that would sometimes play as filler for the episodes he would play the little kid brother, often called the name “Moochie”. Yeah, you kinda already have an idea what you can expect with that name. Still he wasn’t a main focus, and in the later serials where he was a focus, he was OK for a child actor. Some of serials in their full length got made as a movie and are available on Youtube.
When people mention classic Disney movies, this film is often brought up, especially for its ending. Garfield the Cat once said he loved the film because he likes movies with happy endings (consider the source if you’ve seen the movie). Kevin played the younger brother to the lead character, who gains a beloved dog while his father is away on a cattle drive, making him the man of the house and his little brother an irritant, as most little brothers are (and speaking as a big brother myself).
It was a rite of childhood to watch this movie, and has even been satirized by a Animaniacs cartoon featuring Slappy the Squirrel. If you love dogs, watch it but bring the tissues. I don’t give a damn how manly you are, you get tissues, napkins, handkerchiefs, and maybe even some beach towels handy.
There was a sequel to this movie called Savage Sam, which has the same actors playing the same roles years afterward, but I never watched, but reportedly it’s not too good.
Kevin had a knack for playing the dumbass kid…watch the following clip
==The Shaggy Dog==
A few weeks ago I talked about the passing of Dean Jones, who was in the sequel The Shaggy D.A., and now we talk about an actor from the original dying. This is also somewhat of a Disney classic, but much less so than Old Yeller. Kevin played the little brother but like other Disney mainstay Annette Funicello, they are both rather superfluous to the overall plot of a boy sometimes turning to a dog because he was initially a dumbass for reading a magical curse.
This was his first starring role, and the only film where he was the main character that was theatrically released, as he plays a runaway who joins the circus, and in ten weeks he finds stardom, thanks to a monkey that is sometimes his friend and sometimes his worst enemy.
In his starring roles he is far more likable, but far too cute for most audiences nowadays. He is reckless and a little dumb, but at least he isn’t risking people’s lives like in Old Yeller. That’s a plus, right?
We are definitely seeing a lot of Kevin in his childhood, which is just as well as he seldom acted as an adult. In Pollyanna he is once again a lesser character, a friend of Pollyanna’s. Pollyanna is a story of a girl who is the eternal optimist, no matter what, and brightens up a town that is rather somber due to her aunt’s control of most everyone’s purse strings. However, once again Kevin’s character gets someone in trouble, in fact hurt, as because of him Pollyanna gets injured and loses her optimism, whch the town has to try to bring back to her. What a dumbass kid.
==Swiss Family Robinson==
To people who like to crap on Jake Lloyd in The Phantom Menace, all I’ll say is watch this film, particularly Kevin’s character, and you will begin to say “You know, Jake’s not that bad”. Kevin’s character keeps putting people in mortal danger, starting with encouraging the watchdogs to almost drown, and putting the family in danger by rescuing them, to creating coconut bombs, to actually on purpose letting the pirates know where they hell they were towards the end of the film. He also gives his mother a nervous breakdown on Christmas by suggesting his brothers may have been eaten by some animal. The kid is TOTALLY OBLIVIOUS TO THE HARM HE’S DOING!!!
In the clip above, you can see that it does not take long for the brat to put his family in danger. If it’s any consolation, Kevin was almost killed in the production of this movie in a future scene, as while he was in the water an elephant stepped on his head and the buoyancy of the water was the only thing that saved him. Sheesh.
==Babes in Toyland==
Kevin plays Little Boy Blue in a movie set where nursery rhyme characters live. He may be a named character, but he is not that important. This is Annette’s movie, and she’s a much bigger deal then and now than he was, as Annette plays Mary Quite Contrary (althro she was not contrary at the least, but cute enough that even 50 years later males can understand the crushes boys had on her at the time), who seeks to marry the love of her life, only for an evil villain to try to force her to marry him so that he can cheat her out of an inheritance.
It is hard enough to find clips with Kevin in them as it is, with his smaller role in this film I did not even try to find a clip for him here.
Here’s the last of the theatrically-released films I’ve watched of his. Here he plays the youngest child of a family from, of all places, Terre Haute, Indiana (where I had an apartment for almost 3 years) who are finally getting to go on a cruise to Europe.
Like I said, it is hard to find clips that feature Kevin. And yes, there is a lot in that clip that is sooooo early-1960s.
Kevin’s a mischievous boy (again), but at least he isn’t putting his family in mortal peril. There is not going to be too many readers of this website who will appreciate this film, but being a geographer that once had a chance to go to Europe in high school and skipped it (I got my first computer instead; no regrets, as it led me to my D&D and Magic: the Gathering interests, as well as my first girlfriend, but still), it allows me to daydream. It might be my favorite film on this list, but Swiss Family Robinson is up there too, and Babes in Toyland is not too far behind.
When I was compiling a list of movies I have watched from the 1960s, particularly the Disney ones (the vast majority on that list was either Disney and Elvis…I regret nothing) I noticed that what I thought were Disney films I saw back when Disney Channel was good were actually episodes of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color that was spliced together to make one solid, cohesive film. Here’s one such splice. In the story Kevin’s character is based on the real life of Johnny Clem, who as a boy ran from home to join the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War. The real life Clem served as a drummer boy while he served in the War, and then as an adult went back into the service and eventually retired as a Brigadier General, and after a year in retirement was made a Major General.
All the films I watched of Kevin Corcoran was before he turned 14 years old. He didn’t do much acting after that. According to IMDB he did four more movies in the 1960s, and then the only other film he was in was in 2009, a span of 41 years between the last two films he acted in. But he did do a lot of assistant directing and producer work as an adult, which is better than a lot of kid actors did. He was also married in 1972 and stayed married to the same lady until the day he died, so maybe being a “bad” kid in the movies kept him as a good adult in real life. Nice to think so, anyways.
He would die of colorectal cancer on October 6, 2015, destined to be remembered as a kid by the majority of people who have heard of him. Considering what he might have looked like in his sixties and suffering from cancer for 10 years, that is probably not a bad thing.
As for his movies to recommend, Babes in Toyland is a great pic to watch during the Christmas season. Those who liked Europe might like Bon Voyage, and those who enjoy studying the War of Northern Aggression will want to watch Johnny Shiloh. The best overall film is probably Swiss Family Robinson, if you can withstand his obnoxiousness…there is quite a bit of fun action and drama in the film, and you might find unintentionally funny some of the special effects (just remember these effects are 55 years old).
Quoth the Penguin…evermore.
My pop culture specialties are Star Wars, Transformers, Wizards of the Coast games, and the 1980s.My scholarly specialties are history, geography, and travel.
Join me every Friday for the Pop Culture Curmudguin.
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