Darryl Hickman, ‘Leave Her to Heaven’ Child Actor, Dies a @ 92

May 24, 2024

Darryl Hickman, a versatile child actor renowned for his dramatic and comedic abilities who appeared in the classics The Grapes of Wrath and Leave Her to Heaven 80 years ago, has died.

Hickman's ill-fated Leave Her to Heaven character (Image via 20th Century Fox)

Hickman died at 92 on May 22.

Born in Hollywood on July 28, 1931, he was recruited by Paramount in 1937, a situation made easier by the fact that his mother was desperate to be an actress herself. In 2006, he said on TCM that he was only too happy to provide his mom with wish-fulfillment.

Though uncredited, Hickman's first screen gig was in 1937's The Prisoner of Zenda.

After working with Bing Crosby in The Star Maker (1939) — his credited debut — he was cast as Winfield Joad, the youngest son in the 1939 movie classic The Grapes of Wrath, about a family struggling through the Great Depression. It has endured as one of the most beloved films in history.

It was a case of sink or swim. (Image via 20th Century Fox)

Still, Hickman's biggest hit arrived when he played polio-stricken Danny Harland in 1945's Leave Her to Heaven with Gene Tierney and Cornel Wilde. The film, 20th Century' Fox's biggest hit of the decade, is a noir melodrama starring Tierney as a socialite who becomes pathologically jealous of her new husband, played by Wilde.

His brother, played by Hickman, is encouraged by Tierney's character to exit a rowboat and swim in a lake. Overcome by exhaustion, he drowns as she watched without pity.

In 2018, the dark film was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress for its "cultural, historical, or aesthetic" significance.

Hickman acted in dozens of films as a juvenile, notably The Farmer's Daughter (1940), The Way of All Flesh (1940), Men of Boys Town (1941), the Our Gang short Going to Press (1942), Keeper of the Flame (1942), The Human Comedy (1943), the Judy Garland classic Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), Henry Aldrich, Boy Scout (1944), The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and Dangerous Years (1947).

Later, he acted in the controversial Tea and Sympathy (1956), about an effeminate schoolboy who is bullied and seeks refuge in his friendship with a female teacher, and in colorful director William Castle's low-budget horror thriller The Tingler (1959). During the shooting of the latter, he met his future wife, the late actress Pamela Lincoln.

Darryl (L) & Dwayne (R) on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (Image via video still)

The older brother of teen idol Dwayne Hickman (who died in 2022), he guested on his sibling's hit TV series The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1960), as well as on the series Perry Mason (1957) and Gunsmoke (1959).

Broadway baby (Image via NYPL)

Hickman acted on Broadway in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (1963), replacing Robert Morse, then took a took hiatus from business.

In the '60s, he wrote scripts for The Loretta Young Show. In the '70s, he was a producer of the soap Love of Life in the '70s.

In Faye Dunaway's eyeline in Network (Image via MGM)

Hickman returned to movie acting in the Oscar-winning Best Picture Network (1976), the prescient sci-fi flick Looker (1981) and the Burt Reynolds action drama Sharky's Machine (1981).

He had it all, he had it made in Looker (Image via video still)

In 2007, he wrote the book The Unconscious Actor: Out of Control, in Full Command.

Hickman was preceded in death by one of his sons with Lincoln, and is survived by their other son.

At TCM Film Fest in 2016 (Image via Twitter)

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