The heartbreaking fate of BOBBY “Peter Pan” DRISCOLL, Disney’s FIRST child star, whose road to ruin ended with heroin.
Fatal addiction to drugs destroyed Bobby Driscoll’s brilliant career as a child star and left him for dead in an abandoned New York City tenement at age 31.
Bobby took Hollywood by storm when his parents moved there from Cedars Rapids, Iowa. After an audition with MGM he won a role in “Lost Angel” with Margaret O’Brien.
Soon, the major studios were clamoring for his talent and Walt Disney personally signed Driscoll as the first live action star to be placed under contract to the animation kingpin.
In his Disney bio, author Mark Elliot described Driscoll as Walt’s favorite "live action" child star: "Walt often referred to Driscoll with great affection as the living embodiment of his own youth.”
Walt Disney starred Bobby in the live action-animated classic “Song of the South”, “Treasure Island” as Jim Hawkins to Robert Newton’s Long John Silver, “So Near to my Heart” and “Melody Time” among others.
Bobby also voiced “Peter Pan” and did the live action reference filming for animators on the Disney feature toon classic.
Driscoll won special Academy Award for Best Performances by a Juvenile for his roles in “So Near to My Heart” and the RKO thriller “The Window”.
But by the late 1950s Driscoll had become a surly teen with acne and the juvie roles began drying up as Disney now saw him “in the role of a young bully” and his contract with WDP was terminated.
In 1956, Bobby and a pal were busted on felony narcotic charges, the beginning of his long downward spiral.
“Drugs changed him” his mother said. “He didn’t bathe, his teeth got loose. He had an extremely high IQ but the narcotics affected his brain. We didn’t know what it was. He was 19 before we knew.”
In 1959, Bobby was arrested and jailed as a heroin addict. Another arrest for assault with a deadly weapon followed in 1960.
"I was 17 when I first experimented with the stuff,” Driscoll told The Los Angeles Times in an interview.” In no time I was using whatever was available … mostly heroin, because I had the money to pay for it.
In 1961, after several arrests for check forgery and drug possession he was sentenced to six months in the Narcotics Rehab Center at Chino State Penitentiary.
After his release, Bobby drifted around, briefly hanging out at Andy Warhol’s Factory before ending up in New York’s Lower East Side – then a haven riddled with drug dealing vermin.
On March 30, 1968, two kids playing in a deserted tenement building at 371 East Tenth Street found the corpse of a homeless young man with needle marks covering both arms.
There was no ID on the corpse and cops had him buried on Hart Island, New York’s Potter’s Field.
IN 1969, about nineteen months after his death, Driscoll's mother sought the help of Disney Studio execs in finding her son in an attempt to reunite Bobby with his dying father.
A fingerprint check conducted by NYPD revealed that the unidentified body they had buried was that of Bobby Driscoll.
Driscoll's death was not reported until the re-release of his first Disney film, Song of the South, in 1971 when his mother revealed the tragic outcome.
“Peter Pan” Driscoll got his wish – he never did grow up.
“Second star to the right and straight on till morning…”