October 1, 1922
|Died||September 22, 2008
Seal Beach, California
|Cause of death||Congestive heart failure|
|Other names||Buddy, Bud|
Thomas "Buddy"/"Bud" McDonald (October 1, 1922 – September 22, 2008) was an American child actor. He is perhaps best known as one of the Our Gang kids of the early sound period, and McDonald is prominently featured in the Our Gang shorts Teacher's Pet and School's Out. He appeared in several of the Our Gang comedies, and also appeared in a scene (later deleted) with Laurel & Hardy in Pardon Us.
McDonald was discovered when his mother wrote a letter, dictated from his father to Hal Roach Studios in Culver City, in which they enclosed a newspaper article of Buddy's local spelling bee win. They received a phone call from the studio that same week.
The studio gave him a screen test and called Buddy to work on his first picture, Pups is Pups. From there, he worked on various bit parts with Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. In addition, he sang on Juvenile review, a weekend radio program on KFWB in Los Angeles. He attended grammar school on the studio lot with fellow Our Gang actors Donald Haines and Mary Ann Jackson. Additionally, he did scenes with Thelma Todd, Zasu Pitts and Laurel and Hardy.
Growing up in Bell, California, McDonald had a difficult upbringing; his parents were both alcoholics, and after they divorced in 1933, he and his mother went to live with his aunt in Oregon. There he slept in a tent and picked fruit. Within a year, his family had made enough money to move back to their old house in Bell.
While he and his mother were living in Oregon, his father told him that the studio had called asking for Buddy to do more work in the pictures. However, by that time the calls had already stopped, thus ending his childhood "career" in acting.
After Our Gang
During Prohibition, his father owned a cafe on Florence Avenue in Bell and after Prohibition was repealed, he turned it into a bar.
Buddy became famous in the community, as he was the only person living there at the time that was in pictures. As a teenager, he encountered his own problems with alcohol. McDonald was expelled from Bell High School and later attended Jacob August Riis High School in Los Angeles, a reform school for boys.
In later years, McDonald joined the United States Marine Corps, where he served in Guadalcanal during World War II. After a run-in with the law that landed him in San Quentin prison,he was exposed to an AA panel. Upon his release in March, 1953 Buddy joined Alcoholics Anonymous and stayed sober until the end of his life. After more than 10 years of being sober, he and a friend started what they named the "Dana" School (Drugs, Alcohol, Narcotics, Awareness) in Downey, California. In 1972 they formed the Southern California Alcohol and Drug Program (formerly the Southwest Council) and in 1975 opened their first recovery house, the Cider House in Norwalk, California. In 1985, they established an additional recovery house for women and their children,Foley House in Whittier, California. This was the first place where addicted women could keep their children with them in a supportive controlled environment while getting clean and sober. This model for women's recovery has been used many times and is now considered the best practices method. Women who were separated from their children and labeled "unfit mothers", due to their substance abuse problems now had a chance to succeed and keep their families together. They added parenting classes and work training in their attempt to allow the women to succeed once they left Foley House.
Bud married twice, his first at 19, which resulted in a daughter on Sep 8, 1942, Sharon Lee McDonald who became a successful attorney and predeceased him on July 18, 2005. He later married Marcie, with whom he had a son and a daughter. His wife was supportive and loving, helping him in hostessing groups in their home and out in order to effectively help change how we treat our society members with substance abuse issues, but also in helping the women of Foley House learn how to cook, sew, and feel successful. She both taught and modeled these activities for women that may never have had such experiences from their own homes.
Buddy McDonald lived in the retirement community of Leisure World, California in Seal Beach. He served as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the Southern California Drug and Alcohol Abuse Center and remained active in helping recovering alcoholics.
McDonald suffered from congestive heart failure and died in his home on September 22, 2008.