Biography

To call child actor Spec O'Donnell homely, a critic once wrote, "would imply that your home was in grave need of repair." Alarmingly freckled and having beady little eyes, O'Donnell (real name Walter) was Hollywood's premiere enfant terrible in the 1920s. Although he bravely defended Mary Pickford's honor in Little Annie Rooney (1925), he was decidedly up to no good in her 1927 release Sparrows. As the spoiled son of baby mill owners, Spec is all but irredeemable in that classic melodrama, but offscreen Pickford and husband Douglas Fairbanks were his biggest boosters, the latter once calling him "the greatest child star" of the day. The boy Spec grew into a gawky young man who would play innumerable elevator boys, call boys, telegram boys, and so on. He remained homely, though, as attested by the description of his role in Life Begins in College (1937), which simply, and rather brutally, read: Ugly Student. O'Donnell's career, one of the longest in Hollywood, lasted at least until 1978, when he played a bit in the action comedy-drama Convoy. He passed away at the Motion Picture Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, CA. ~ Hans J. Wollstein, Rovi