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Posted by Faye Bell on August 12, 2011 at 17:48:31:


By Amy Saltzman/
Marblehead Reporter
Posted Aug 10, 2011 @ 04:26 PM
Last update Aug 10, 2011 @ 05:32 PM

Marblehead, MA — By the time Mickey Kuhn was 7 years old, starring alongside Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh as Beau Wilkes in “Gone with the Wind,” he already had a half-dozen movies under his belt.

As a child star in Hollywood during the 1930s and ’40s, Kuhn grew up alongside some of the most well-known actors of all time, appearing in some of the most beloved movies ever made.

Naturally, there’s a glimmer in Mickey Kuhn’s eyes when he recalls moments from this period in his life, like when he drew down on John Wayne — one of the only people to ever do that and “live to tell about it,” Kuhn said. Kuhn was just 16 when he starred alongside “The Duke” in “Red River.”

“He did smack me around a bit and took my gun away,” Kuhn recalled.

Or the time Vivien Leigh sat him down at the age of 18 to grill him about his life aspirations.

Good on horseback, Kuhn went on to star in other Westerns — “Broken Arrow,” with Jimmy Stewart, “The Last Frontier” and “Beneath Western Skies,” to name just a few.

But it was “Gone with the Wind,” in which he had one of his first emotional scenes, that fed his love of acting.

“When it came time to do the scene with Leslie Howard, he said, ‘How do we make the kid cry?’” recalled Kuhn. “[Director Victor Fleming] said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll take care of it.’ So he took me around the corner and painted a very sad picture for me, ‘Your mother’s died, your dog’s died.’ And I started crying. And he went out and handed me to Leslie Howard, and we shot the scene in one take. Leslie then looked around and said, ‘Now what?’ So Victor took me back and calmed me down and asked, ‘Would you like to hit me?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and I threw a punch with my left hand, and a photographer snapped a picture.”

The sense of community and his reoccurring roles alongside Hollywood’s finest helped Kuhn adapt to child stardom. And his mother was right by his side, making sure he did his work and was home from school on time.

“With the kids, they worked us to death because they could,” said Kuhn. “We could only work four hours a day; we had to go to school for four hours. In the hours we worked, we worked very, very hard. They squeezed five to six hours in four hours.”

Kuhn added, “But as far as growing up in the business, it was fun, but unrewarding and tough ’cause we had no social life. We had to live by a strict code, led by our parents. … It was trying and tough. I was diagnosed with ulcers, and my doctor said I had them since I was 14 years old.”

With all that hard work, though, Kuhn was able to contribute significantly to the family income. In his role as the Crown Prince Augustin Itrubide in “Juarez,” starring alongside Bette Davis and Paul Muni, he was paid $100 a week for six weeks. He was just 6 years old.

“During that time, in 1938, that was a great contribution in the household,” said Kuhn.


Kuhn was born in Waukegan, Ill., where his mother grew up, but the family moved out to Hollywood after the first year of Mickey’s life. His father was a meat cutter at the Safeway Stores for 30 years.

An aspiring actress with a limp, Kuhn’s mother had fallen from a tree at age 12, breaking her hip. It was set incorrectly, and she never walked the same again. And for reasons unknown to Kuhn, her aspirations for stardom never came to fruition, so she lived vicariously through her son.

It was Kuhn’s good looks, even as a baby, and his mother’s love affair with Hollywood, that led him into acting. And one fateful day, his career began.

“My mother and I were shopping at Sears in Hollywood and a lady came up and said, ‘Your little boy and my little girl look enough alike to be twins. [Film company] 20th Century is looking for twins for a movie,’” said Kuhn. “So my mom, being a frustrated little actress, said, ‘Sure.’ So we’re sitting in the casting office, and the director John Blystone stopped in front of her, picked me up and said, ‘This is the baby I want,’ and carried me away.”

Kuhn worked a lot, appearing in more than 30 movies between 1934 and 1962, before he quit acting.

He left the business in part because he couldn’t wrap his head around what he thought was a temporary fixation on a new medium: television.

“I really enjoyed my job. But this other medium came along while I was in the military, and it was kind of a blow to the ego. I was a movie actor, not a TV actor,” explained Kuhn. “I knew nothing about it. How wrong and stupid I was! I did several Westerns; I was a good rider and an adequate shooter. So I would have done well with Westerns on TV at the time. But my mom was against it, and I wanted to please her.”

Kuhn was in the Navy, where for four years he served as an aircraft electrician on patrol bombers during the Korean conflict.

Soon thereafter, he began working for American Airlines, where he was an administrator on the management team for 30 years, retiring in 1995.

In 1984, he moved to Marblehead full-time with his wife, Barbara, to whom he has been married for 25 years. He has two children from a previous marriage: his son, Mick, 53, and “baby girl,” Trish, 50. Kuhn now lives in Naples, Fla., most of the year, but still gets his “Marblehead fix,” June through October, when he resides at Glover Landing for the summer.

Copyright 2011 Marblehead Reporter. Some rights reserved

Read more: ‘Wind’ propelled Marblehead summer resident Kuhn far - Marblehead, MA - Marblehead Reporter

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