|This biographical article relies too much on references to primary sources. (June 2008)|
|Born||James F. Hawkins
November 13, 1941
Los Angeles, California, USA
|Occupation||Actor, film producer|
James F. Hawkins (born November 13, 1941), known as Jimmy Hawkins, and later, Jim Hawkins, is an American actor and film producer whose career began as a child actor to such Hollywood stars as Lana Turner, Spencer Tracy, James Stewart, and Donna Reed. His acting career spans the time frame from 1944–1974, after which he devoted his energies to the production of films and later to his construction/contracting business. Hawkins had starring roles in several television series: The Ruggles (1949–1952), Annie Oakley (1954–1957, syndicated), The Donna Reed Show (1958–1966, ABC), and Petticoat Junction (the first four seasons, 1963–1967, CBS). He also had recurring roles as (1) a friend of the Nelson brothers on ABC's The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and (2) as Jonathan Baylor on CBS's Ichabod and Me sitcom with Robert Sterling and George Chandler in the 1961–1962 season. He guest starred in many other programs during his childhood and young adult years, such as the CBS sitcom, Dennis the Menace.
Hawkins was born in Los Angeles to Thomas J. Hawkins (1913–1993) and Bette C. Hawkins (born c. 1916). His first roles—as a two-year-old—were uncredited – Spencer Tracy's The Seventh Cross and Lana Turner's Marriage Is a Private Affair at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios. His mother was the force behind his early childhood acting. He graduated from the Roman Catholic-affiliated Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Los Angeles.
Hawkins and Donna Reed
Hawkins starred in December 1946 as four-year-old Tommy Bailey, the son of George and Mary Bailey, in the nostalgic blockbuster It's a Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart and Donna Reed, an actress for whom young Hawkins developed a lifelong admiration. In 1958, he worked again with Reed in her sitcom, having portrayed Scotty, a persistent and loyal boyfriend of Donna's television daughter Mary Stone, played by Shelley Fabares. He became personally close to Fabares and Paul Petersen, who played Reed's son, Jeff Stone, on the series.
Hawkins recalls having visited Reed for the last time at Christmas 1985, just days before her death of cancer: "I really loved that woman . . .[There is a scene in It’s A Wonderful Life] where she touched my cheek. Well, flashback to the eighties, Donna was really ill, it was around Christmas time, and I went to visit her at her home, I brought her an "It's A Wonderful Life" Christmas ornament for her tree. She asked me to put it on her tree, and we visited, but it was hard for her to expend any energy; so I wished her a Merry Christmas and told her I had to go, and then she reached her hand up to touch my cheek just like she did when I was in that scene with her when she drew me in, and in just two weeks, she died."
Hawkins is a mainstay of the Donna Reed Foundation. Each June, he, Shelley Fabares, and Paul Petersen travel to Denison, Iowa (Reed's hometown), for an annual celebration. During the week, classes in theatre arts are taught by professionals from Hollywood and New York City.
Hawkins and Jimmy Stewart
Hawkins was also close to It's a Wonderful Life star Jimmy Stewart, who signed for various charities six copies of a commemorative 50th anniversary book on the classic film. Hawkins picked up the books at Stewart's Beverly Hills home on July 3, 1997, the day after Stewart's death at the age of eighty-nine.
Hawkins also worked with Stewart again in the 1950 film Winchester '73, which was partially filmed at Old Tucson Studios in Tucson, Arizona. And Stewart wrote the foreword to Hawkins' previous It's a Wonderful Life Trivia Book. Hawkins said that Stewart's willingness to sign the books showed that the veteran star was "giving to the end."
Hawkins added that Stewart's public image as a friendly, caring man was indeed an accurate characterization: "He was just as people thought he was. He was a gentleman. He was a gentle man."
Other acting roles
From 1949–1952, Hawkins was cast as young Donald Ruggles in the early ABC sitcom, The Ruggles. Hawkins’ other film roles included Caught (February 17, 1949), Love That Brute (May 26, 1950), The Blue Veil (October 26, 1951), and two films with Elvis Presley: Girl Happy (April 7, 1965) and Spinout (October 17, 1966).
On Annie Oakley, he portrayed Tagg Oakley, the younger brother of a fictionalized Annie Oakley in the ABC Western of the same name, a Gene Autry production. In one episode, however, the part of Tagg was played by Billy Gray, who then was cast as James "Bud" Anderson, Jr., in the sitcom Father Knows Best. Hawkins' costars were Gail Davis (1925–1997) as Annie and Brad Johnson (1924–1981) as Deputy Lofty Craig. Hawkins starred in all but one of the eighty-one episodes of the series, now available on DVD and a favorite of western television buffs. In the series, Hawkins rode a Pinto pony called Pixie and often used the childhood expression "Holy Toledo".
Jimmy starred in various TV pilots and won the role of Andy Hardy in the MGM/NBC pilot. He went on to star in the MGM/NBC pilot See Here, Private Hargrove, also based on an MGM motion picture.
Hawkins guest starred in many series, particularly comedies, including Margie with Cynthia Pepper, Leave It to Beaver with Jerry Mathers, My Three Sons with Fred MacMurray, Bachelor Father with John Forsythe and Noreen Corcoran, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The Fugitive with David Janssen. His last role on television was on November 1, 1974, as Father James Jay Remy on NBC's Kolchak: The Night Stalker starring Darren McGavin.
After his acting career, Hawkins produced films, a number for ABC Theatre Productions, including Evel Knievel, based on motorcycle daredevil, and Don't Look Back: The Life of Satchel Paige (1981), starring Lou Gossett, Jr., as the legendary African American baseball pitcher Leroy "Satchel" Paige. He also produced Gary Coleman in Scout's Honor, the idea he developed from a 1952 film Mister Scoutmaster in which Hawkins, as an eleven-year-old, had starred. He produced a Walt Disney film, Love Leads the Way, based on the first seeing-eye dog trained in Morristown, New Jersey. He produced an updated version of The Little Rascals for the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York City.
In 1961, Hawkins was voted into the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In the fall of 1968, Hawkins entertained American troops in South Vietnam in a 22-day United Service Organization tour.
It's still a wonderful life
In 1994, Hawkins was honored by the Young Artist Foundation with its Former Child Star "Lifetime Achievement" Award for his role as little "Tommy Bailey" in the 1946 classic, It's a Wonderful Life, and during the Christmas season of 1997, he produced a holiday special for the Public Broadcasting Service. During the late 1990s, as It's a Wonderful Life enjoyed a revival of interest nationally, Hawkins and Paul Peterson wrote the "It's a Wonderful Life Trivia Book". Hawkins explains the durability of It's a Wonderful Life:
"Well, the reason it caught on was that the film fell into public domain. Somebody at the studio let the copyright go, and television stations all over the country could pick it up and show it for free. They took full advantage of that. It kind of caught on with people . . . More and more stations picked up on it. It was shown hundreds and hundreds of times at stations all across the country. I remember back in the early 1990s it was played fourteen times in Los Angeles between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Fourteen times!”
Hawkins still finds time to promote his show business interests, particularly It's a Wonderful Life. He has written five popular-selling books on the classic film.
- Social Security Death Index Interactive Search
- Jimmy Hawkins interview
- 'Wonderful Life's' star and author Jimmy Hawkins wishes all to remember 'no man is a failure who has friends'
- Jimmy Hawkins
- Interview with Friends of Jimmy Stewart
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- Jimmy Hawkins – TV.com
- Jimmy Hawkins
- "15th Annual Youth in Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Retrieved March 31, 2011.
- Greg Burchall (December 19, 2008). "A wonderful, everlasting life". TheAge.com.au.
- EXCLUSIVE: Jimmy Hawkins Goes Back to It's a Wonderful Life