Al Jolson Home Page|His Works|Films|The Jolson Story|Scotty Beckett's Story

Alas, Poor Winky: A Beckett Tragedy

By Erich Mees

Atlanta Bureau Chief

There are few things more pathetic than the spectacle of a former child star trying to adjust to adulthood. Oh, of course, there are exceptions, but for every Jodie Foster who makes it there's a Jay North who vanishes into obscurity, or even worse. Do the names Todd Bridges, Dana Plato and Danny Bonaduce mean anything to you?

Now almost forgotten, Scotty Beckett was one of the unlucky ones who didn't make it. Born in 1929, Beckett began his film career at the age of three, as one of "Our Gang" (the future Little Rascals). A cute, adorable toddler, Beckett became one of Hollywood's most popular child stars, appearing in many major motion pictures. He played the title character as a boy in the Oscar-winning Anthony Adverse (1936), the son of Greta Garbo and Charles Boyer in Conquest (1937), and the prince in Marie Antoinette (1938). His screen career continued into adolescence, but not long afterwards. His last major film role was the part of the teenaged Al Jolson in The Jolson Story (1946).

Perhaps traumatized by his early success and unable to cope with his waning career, Scotty Beckett, like many child stars, ran afoul of the law. He racked up a startling rap sheet: drunk driving (1948), carrying a concealed weapon (1954), drug possession (1957), and, worst of all, assaulting his stepdaughter with a crutch (1960).

In between his legal troubles, Beckett kept plugging away at his acting work. In 1953, he was desperate enough to accept the part of Winky, the bone-headed sidekick of the Rocky Jones, Space Ranger TV series. By this time, sadly, his youthful charm had declined into a Pauly Shore-like goofiness. Rocky Jones was to be the last steady assignment of Scotty Beckett's career.

His acting days finally over, Scotty Beckett made his first suicide attempt in 1962. Recovering, he decided to move into another line of work as a car salesman. Unfortunately, Beckett was unable to escape his inner demons. In 1968, at the age of 38, Scotty Beckett took his own life with an overdose of sleeping pills.

Knowing the sad facts of Scotty Beckett's life, those silly escapades of Rocky Jones' second banana take on a bitter note of poignancy. So, next time you see a Rocky Jones epic on MST 3K, or watch The Jolson Story, please ... shed a tear for Winky.

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Updated 27 May 01

Thanks to the Crow's Nest for this feature!