Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Happy 50th Birthday, Kristy McNichol

Here's a post from a few years back, slightly updated. To me, September 11th will always be remembered as Kristy McNichol's birthday. Born 50 years ago today in Los Angeles, Kristy is best known for her roles as tomboy 'Buddy' Lawrence on the ABC drama series FAMILY (1976–80) and later as tomboy-ish Barbara on the NBC sitcom EMPTY NEST.Kristy's first TV series was the CBS drama APPLE'S WAY (1974). The short-lived family series was unfortunately scheduled Sunday evenings at 7:30PM opposite the still-popular THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY on NBC.
Then came FAMILY, the highly acclaimed series for which McNichol won two Best Supporting Actress Emmy Awards. I remember watching this show with my parents, and wishing that my family was more like the Lawrences.

In 1977 and 1978 McNichol appeared on two Carpenters Christmas specials. Following in Karen and Richard's footsteps, Kristy and her brother Jimmy recorded an album, Kristy & Jimmy McNichol, and released a single covering the Chiffons 1963 hit "He's So Fine".
Also in 1978, she starred in the acclaimed NBC TV-movie SUMMER OF MY GERMAN SOLDIER and had a role in the hit Burt Reynolds comedy THE END. I still think THE END was the best film Burt ever starred in.Then came LITTLE DARLINGS. This dirty little 1980 teen comedy co-starred teen rival Tatum O'Neal. Kristy and Tatum played high school girls away at summer camp involved in a contest to lose their virginity to Matt Dillon.
I cannot tell you how much I loved this film when I saw it in high school. I so wanted to be friends with slutty girls like Kristy and Tatum...and boys like Matt.After the success of LITTLE DARLINGS, Kristy appeared with Dennis Quaid and Mark Hamill in THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT IN GEORGIA (1981), based on the wacky Vicki Lawrence song from the early 1970s. From what I recall, the film does not tell the same story as the song.
Later that year, Kristi co-starred with Marsha Mason in Neil Simon's ONLY WHEN I LAUGH and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
McNichol's next project was the ill-conceived musical THE PIRATE MOVIE, co-starring THE BLUE LAGOON's frequently naked gay icon Christopher Atkins. This film was a crazy Gilbert & Sullivan mash-up that I tried watching about a year ago and it made my head hurt.
Next up came WHITE DOG, a controversial and highly acclaimed 1982 drama directed by Samuel Fuller, based Romain Gary's 1970 novel of the same title. The film depicts the intense struggle of a dog trainer named Keys (Paul Winfield), trying to retrain a dog that is trained to attack any black person. The film carries a powerful anti-racism message, but due to its sensitive subject matter it received very minimal release. It is currently out on dvd as part of The Criterion Collection.
When McNichol stormed off the set of the film JUST THE WAY YOU ARE, rumors of alleged drug use made Kristy a tabloid darling. She was diagnosed with clinical depression, and she eventually completed the film, but her professional reputation was damaged.After taking a few years off, Kristi was ready to work again. In 1988, she was cast in EMPTY NEST, a spin-off from the huge Susan Harris hit, THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Kristi seemed happy, healthy and looked great. But unfortunately her on-set behavior soon became an issue and was she let go from the series 1992 when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She did return to the series for the final episode in 1995, which became her last screen appearance to date.Since 1995, Kristy has only taken voiceover roles. Her last public statement was in June 2001, when she said: "A lot of people have wondered what I've been up to. I retired from my career after 24 years. My feeling was that it was time to play my biggest part — MYSELF! I must say that it has been the best thing that ever happened to me. So many fans are disappointed that I'm not currently acting, however some may not realize that the process I'm in at this time is necessary and vital for my personal happiness and well-being."

Happy Birthday Kristy, this fan hopes to see you on screen again one day soon.


laura linger said...

She's struggled from hell and back with this goddamned demon I share with her, bipolar disorder. As much as I love her, and miss her, I completely understand where she is coming from by dropping out of the public eye. When she says it's for self-preservation reasons, not only do I believe her, but I have been down that road several times myself.

My shrink says that bipolar disorder is the price a lot of talented people have to pay for their gifts. Such is the case here, for certain.

Writer said...

The Pirate Movie was one of my favorite movies as a kid...I still think Christopher Atkins from that period is hot, and some of what I look for in the guys I meet - blonde, twinkie, pouty and half-naked. Second, I think I or my sister had that Kristy and Jimmy album...scary.

Tower Farm said...

I can't believe she is only 47! She must have started must younger that I realized.


Stephen Larner said...

Ironically, it's the Pirate Movie that holds up best. Gem of an old goofy movie!