vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Hey, LeRoy (oh, baby)!

Q. Who's the youngest star Carole Lombard ever worked with?

A. If you define "worked with" strictly as "acted in a film with," Shirley Temple, shown above with Lombard in "Now And Forever," would be the answer; Shirley was all of six years old when she and Carole made that film in mid-1934. But if "worked with" is defined in a looser sense, then the answer is someone else -- a person who, where age is concerned, made Shirley look like a grizzled veteran.

He was known as Baby LeRoy, and he was born Ronald Le Roy Overacker in May 1932. He made his film debut at the age of six months, and soon became the youngest performer ever to get star billing. While he and Carole never appeared on film together, both were on Paramount's roster, so they teamed up in advertisements and on magazine covers:

That's Lombard and LeRoy, first in an Portuguese ad for Phillips toothpaste, then on the cover of the June 1934 issue of Screen Book. (Note that one of the articles inside is "'Clark Gable Is No Hero,' Says Mrs. Gable." That was probably a piece on how the off-screen Clark was different from the dashing on-screen characters he played. A few years later, when Gable was trying to win his freedom so he could marry Lombard, she might have elaborated on the phrase "Clark Gable is no hero" somewhat differently.)

Baby LeRoy appeared in only nine feature films, but they include several hits: "Torch Singer," arguably Claudette Colbert's most overlooked pre-Code movie, the 1933 Charlotte Henry "Alice In Wonderland," and several films with W.C. Fields, including "It's A Gift" and "The Old-Fashioned Way." (Legend has it that Fields once spiked his milk with gin.)

LeRoy's last film was "It's A Great Life" in 1935, but it wasn't that he had retired from acting. In fact, he was set to make a comeback of sorts in 1939, at the ripe old age of 7 1/2, when he got the lead role in "The Biscuit Eater." However, on the first day of filming in Albany, Ga., he ran into misfortune. According to the Internet Movie Database,

"The scene called for Baby LeRoy to swing across a lake holding a rope, but he lost his grip and fell into the lake as the cameras rolled. This happened both times that the scene was attempted. As a result, Baby LeRoy became ill with a very bad cold. By the next day he had lost his voice."

Paramount sent another child actor on its roster, Billy Lee, to replace him; LeRoy was promised another starring role, but it never materialized. That was essentially it for LeRoy, whose only subsequent appearance before the cameras came on two episodes of "To Tell The Truth." He died in July 2001 at age 69, a fascinating footnote to Hollywood history.

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