Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Exceptional People: Kathy Garver

“When I cry, do you want the tears to run all the way or shall I stop halfway down?” 
--Margaret O’Brien. at age 6 

While most of us spent our earliest years concerned about spelling tests and math homework, and preoccupied with when, where, with whom, and with what we can play, some children have tasks that most adults couldn’t master—memorizing scripts, dealing with fans and learning how to be the best in the business.

We’ve all heard about those child actors whose adult lives have been just the opposite of the happy endings their characters enjoyed. For each of those tragic stories, there are dozens more of young entertainers who have been afforded content and fulfilling lives. One such story is that of Kathy Garver.

Maybe her name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, but I’d wager if I said, “Cissy” from “Family Affair,” you’d know her at once. Pretty, sweet, intelligent and loyal, Cissy was the big sister everyone wanted. Though most of us will always think of Miss Garver as “Cissy,” that’s not where her career ended…or even started.

The California native always exhibited exceptional behavior and an impressive talent. She caught the eye of the great Cecil B. DeMille who initially had contracted the child actress for a minor part in his “The Ten Commandments.” So impressed by Miss Garver’s performance, the legendary director ordered new scenes to the film to showcase his find. But, by this point, Kathy was already a pro. She’d already been featured in the classic, celebrated film, “The Night of the Hunter,” under the direction of Academy Award winner, Charles Laughton. 

As a freshman at UCLA, Miss Garver was the obvious choice for the role of “Cissy” in a new CBS sitcom, “Family Affair,” joining film-star Brian Keith as “Uncle Bill” and classically-trained Sebastian Cabot as “Mr. French.” The series lasted five years and allowed America to watch Miss Garver grow into a beautiful woman alongside her on-screen siblings: Anissa Jones as “Buffy” and Johnny Whitaker as “Jody.”

Miss Garver remembers the years she spent on “Family Affair” to be exciting and happy. She brightly recalls, “Brian Keith only worked for about half the production schedule so the rest of us would have to film scenes from as many as six different episodes in one day.” Furthermore, the laws concerning young child actors dictated that the smallest cast members could only work certain hours. Kathy reminisces, “I actually had to do most of my close ups opposite the assistant director, a paunchy middle aged man glued to a cigar. I had to use a lot of imagination to see him as my six year old sister, Buffy!”

After “Family Affair,” wrapped production, the world stage beckoned to Kathy Garver. In what had to have been a true adventure, Miss Garver starred in an Israeli musical stage version of the TV series. I’d love to have seen that. Miss Garver learned Hebrew phonetically for her role.

This would be followed by a turn at London’s esteemed Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, and a continuation of her dramatic studied. There, Miss Garver starred in productions of “Romeo and Juliet” and other classical works which served to hone her already sharp performing skills.

A return to the U.S. brought starring roles in productions of “My Fair Lady,” “Sunday in New York,” “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” and the “Trojan Women.” With these triumphs to her credit, Miss Garver returned to her alma mater, UCLA, where she earned a Master’s Degree in Theater Arts. 

The recipient of countless honors, Miss Garver is the recipient of “The Family Television Award, “The Golden Halo Award,” and the “Emerald Award” a lifetime of outstanding achievements in the entertainment world including not only her roles in motion pictures, television, and on the stage, but also her work in radio, voice-over animation, and audio book narration. 

Now, Miss Garver uses her talents to inspire and motivate people, as well as to educate them through a series of motivational workshops, Keynote speeches and presentations designed to demonstrate and encourage a healthy lifestyle for a woman managing family, success and relationships. And, somehow, she still manages to find the time to act! In recent years, Miss Garver has been featured in films such as “ Sweet November,” and “The Princess Diaries,” in addition to a number of television appearances.

Like others before her who have transitioned from child star to functional adult, Miss Garver also seeks to encourage young actors. To that end, Kathy has served on the board of the Young People's Committee of the Screen Actors Guild, has volunteered to assist new, young actors in the business. Miss Garver also lends her talents to such charities as Child Help (which aids abused children), Rose Resnick Light House for the Blind, and The Make a Wish Foundation. 

To be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on about the many other projects which this talented individual has launched and is currently in the process of developing. To learn more about Miss Garver, you can visit her website.

We spend so much time, as a culture, dwelling on the tragic, we often forget that not all young actors meet sad ends. Miss Garver, like Margaret O’Brien before her, has shown that a person’s life can take a successful and joyful direction regardless of a childhood spent in front of a camera or bathed in stage lights. It’s Miss Garver’s past, yes, which is fascinating, but it’s her future which makes her truly exceptional. 


Dashwood said...

Thank you. It's always interesting to see how people that we measure from the iceberg's tip of their careers have made really meaningful contributions to their art in life long accomplishment.

Darcy said...

They've been showing "Family Affair" on MeTv and Kathy Garver has been doing some of the intros for them. It's nice to see her all grown up .
I'm glad she's had such a successful and fulfilling career.