Child stars – how very delightful and precious. One of the most talented and winsome little ones dancing and singing into our hearts was the late beloved Shirley Temple Black. She defined the term “perky.”
This story is not about her, but an adorable contemporary of hers.
This peppy little fellow has jostled into my heart with his terrific performance in “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”, filmed in 1938.
Grab some popcorn and enjoy this treat with me, and focus on the mischievous little black pal of Tom Sawyer – the unforgettable “lil Jim”.
Philip Raymond Hurlic portrayed the only black character in this exceptional film based on Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.” I believe a lot of Mark Twain himself is in every boy – and man. Just ask Samuel Clemens . . .
Another favorite author of mine is Booth Tarkington, from which his story of “Penrod and Sam” was filmed. Philip brightly starred:
Philip was born in Compton, California – a suburb of Los Angeles. He was discovered and Momma-led to perform for Warner Bros Studio, at a then, in the 1930’s, astonishing $137 weekly contract.
Philip’s gleeful cavorting through his movies made us feel we were right there with him.
He could be very serious also. He has been praised for his work in “Zenobia”:
“Without any shadow of a doubt the scene steeler is Philip Hurlic reciting the Declarance of Independence speech. In a scene which spans almost two whole minutes, you cannot help but offer applause to the performance and feel just a bit overwhelmed over how amazing he delivers it.”
(Hmmm – I wonder if this site could use a proofreader.)
Imagine this little guy’s family. His earnings were turned over to his proud parents who literally lived on his income. This was not unusual back then – his pay scale was beyond the hoped-for, and he was getting paid for what he supposedly loved to do.
But did he love to perform as the only black child – the “different” one? This was in the days of Negro-only water fountains, segregated bathrooms and eating establishments. Imagine his incredible loneliness.
Yes, he was blessed with talent, and opportunity beyond his parents’ dreams. But what were his dreams?
Philip entertained us during two decades where movie making involved storytelling. “The Little Rascals”, “Spanky and Our Gang” were enlivened by his performances.
What entertained little Philip? Off the set, who were his friends? Was he secluded away from the other children, smothered in “stage mother love” and the unfortunate difference that kept him from “rubbing off his blackness” on other children?
He attended school on the set – maybe. That was one of the many laws instituted to protect child actors.
There are many questions to ask about the conditions and emotions of these talented actors and actresses. How did they themselves feel and deal with the horrible set-apartness of segregation? Was life all giggles and smiles? Heartache, loneliness and tears?
This writer has the incredible opportunity to explore these mysteries, to reach in and pull the memories threatened by Alzheimer’s - to research and come to live vicariously through this child/man.
How is this possible? Our mutual friend introduced her dear friend to me recently. Through our friendship, God has blessed me with a unique, happy and surprisingly working friendship with Philip’s charming son Michael.
We have found each other; actually God put us together to absorb and share his dad’s memories before they are lost to a cruel, unforgiving disease.
Philip still resides in Compton, California – in the home where he and his family grew together. Compton is no longer the little city that once was so family friendly to Michael’s own memories. http://www.rapdict.org/Compton#Famous_People_From_Compton
What happened after the celebrity phase? How was life treating him? How was he treating life?
I am his newest fan. Did Philip have his own fan club? Pen pals?
Michael wishes to honor his father, to ensure
that Philip does not get the short end of the stick in our too quickly forgetting hearts.
Philip, a most winsome endearing child, may have lost some love and respect in his childhood, but through the sweet Godly heart of his son, Philip shall be honored at last . . .
Thank you dear Father, for this opportunity to glorify You through the memories of “lil Jim’s” own son.
Thank you again wondrous Lord – for giving us Your testimony of Your Son, and giving to us our very breath of life, Jesus.
I find it wonderfully thrilling to embark on my first major writing assignment based on two of my favorite writers’ characters. A true honor. What I have here is just a taste of what is to come.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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