Billy Chapin was not your typical child actor playing cutesy.
He had started acting professionally in 1951 in the Broadway stage musical “Three Wishes for Jamie.” After a year of touring, the play became a considerable success and earned him the New York Drama Critics Award as the most promising young actor of the year.
Charles Laughton personally cast the eight-year-old for the role of young John Harper in his 1955 film classic “The Night of the Hunter.” Chapin plays the dirt poor Depression-era son who must protect his younger sister and keep his dead father’s secret from the ravages of a psychotic preacher.
Chapin holds his own against an increasingly erratic Shelley Winters and looming, dangerous Robert Mitchum. He holds a certain dignity.
No small task for a small child.