Little Richard Headrick’s golden curls and beyond-his-years acting ability began winning over filmmakers and just the age of 2. Although he quickly became a fan favorite and fan magazine darling, in just six years, he gave up the world of film for a greater cause.
Richard Throop Headrick was born April 19, 1917 to Edward and Hazel Headrick in Chico, California. The story does that little “Itchie” (as he called himself) took to swimming almost immediately, performing the backstroke at just 6 months old. By the age of 2, filmmakers began showing interest in him, largely due to his swimming ability, and he made his film debut in 1919 in “Should a Woman Tell?” He quickly found regular work as a juvenile actor and made a major name for himself at the age of 3, due to his performance in “The Woman in His House.” The production was a Mildred Harris vehicle (who was, at the time, married to Charlie Chaplin), but Headrick’s performance led him to be billed above Harris in several markets and theaters.
By the age of 5, fan magazines were enamored with him and his fellow child stars, including Baby Peggy (born in 1918) and Jackie Coogan (born in 1914). Picture Play even went so far as to declare “[t]he light of little Richard Headrick doubtless is destined for the earliest and longest shine in the cinematic heavens.” The public was just as curious about his life behind the scenes, and Picture Play undoubtedly put many mothers’ and fathers’ concerns to rest with a profile on Headrick, assuring fans that he was “unspoiled” and well taken care of. Headrick’s contract guaranteed he would get a nap every afternoon, filming schedules that wouldn’t interfere with his regular meals or sleep, and forbid him from spending extra time in the studio around older actors and executives when it wasn't necessary. His parents also ensured that he had plenty of time to play in his own backyard with the children in his neighborhood.
Headrick’s onscreen certainly life didn’t interfere with his other hobbies, either. He continued to swim, winning cups and medals from swimming and diving competitions, and he took up the violin and quickly showed incredible mastery of it. Indeed, at the age of 5, he was regarded as “the most talented player of his years and as a remarkable child athlete,” so when his next endeavor was announced, it was met with surprise.
At the age of 8 became an evangelist and began to hold revival meetings in the western states. Although Headrick’s new career wasn’t exactly a surprise (his parents were also evangelists), the fact that he took it up at such a young age was. As late as 1931, he was still listed as a juvenile film player, but he was better known as “The Boy Evangelist” and “The Little Minister” than “Itchie.” Local newspapers raved about his sermons, saying he was well spoken and that his sermons were instructive and helpful and inspired listeners to live more deeply Christian lives.
Richard Headrick in "Hearts Aflame"
He took up aviation at the age of 16, and reportedly became friends with Orville Wright. He would later use these skills when he enlisted in the Air Force during World War II.
Richard Headrick in "Rich Men's Wives"
Although he was in the limelight from an early age, Headrick would spend the rest of his life largely out of the spotlight, touring the country and giving sermons just as his parents had. He died on November 19, 2001 in Chico.
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