Child actor in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was 98 – The Hollywood Reporter



Billy Watson, a former child actor from a famous Hollywood family of child actors who appeared in classic films such as Show boat, In old Chicago and Mr. Smith goes to Washington, is dead. He was 98 years old.

Watson died Feb. 17 of natural causes at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane, Washington, his family announcement.

Watson was one of nine children, and by the late 1930s he and his siblings had appeared in hundreds of films. His family is the only one to have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, earning their spot on Hollywood Boulevard in 1999.

In Old Chicago (1938), Watson portrayed the character Don Ameche as a boy, then was one of the sons of Governor Hopper (Guy Kibbee), the man who appoints Jimmy Stewart’s Jefferson Smith to the Senate, in Mr. Smith goes to Washington (1939). His real-life brothers Delmar, Harry, and Garry were also his brothers in the film.

In the big movie year of 1939, Watson also appeared in Young Mr. Lincoln with Henry Fonda, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn with Mickey Rooney and in Stanley and Livingstone with Spencer Tracy.

The sixth of nine children – six sons and three daughters – William Richard Watson was born in 1923 on Christmas Day in Los Angeles.

His mother, Golda, washed and ironed actors’ costumes, and his father, Coy Watson Sr., was a cowboy stuntman who created the piano wire special effects used for Douglas Fairbanks’ flying carpet in Raoul Walsh. The Thief of Baghdad (1924).

Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios were located very close to the Edendale family home in what is now Echo Park. When a director came to see Watson’s father and said, “I need a kid for a movie. Do you have one?” he would reply, “What size and what sex?”

(The eldest, Coy Watson Jr., appeared in so many of Sennett’s Keystone Cops comedies that he was nicknamed “The Keystone Kid.” Meanwhile, Delmar was Shirley Temple’s goat-herding friend in 1937. Heidiand his brother Bobs Watson played Pee Wee in 1938 town of boys.)

In 1928, Billy Watson embarked on his first two films, the silent feature films Taxi 13 and take a chancethen appeared in To love, to live and to laugh (1929), starring George Jessel.

His film resume also included cannonball express (1932), Death on the Diamond (1934), Will Rogers Life begins at 40 (1935), Katharine Hepburn Mary of Scotland (1936), Kidnapped (1938) and I take this woman (1940), his final screen credit, according to IMDb.

After attending Belmont High School, Watson served in the U.S. Coast Guard during World War II, became a commercial photographer in the Los Angeles area – many of his brothers were in the guard and also worked as photographers – and played in local theater groups.

Survivors include her children, Bill, Dennis and Rod; 10 grandchildren; 13 great-grandchildren; and his brother Garry, now 93. His wife of 62 years, Sue, died in 2008.

A donation in his memory can be made to The Salvation Army.

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