‘Peter Pan’ Star Bobby Driscoll Died Homeless and Broke After Years of Drug Abuse: ‘Nobody Came to His Rescue’

From rising to the top to falling from grace, actor Bobby Driscoll experienced all the highs and lows of showbiz. Driscoll was born in Iowa on March 3, 1937. He was his parents’ only child, the apple of their eye. In 1943, the Driscoll family left the Midwest and moved out to Los Angeles, California. The year Bobby Driscoll turned six is when his acting career began. Driscoll would soon become a rising child actor. However, Driscoll’s rise to fame would ultimately lead him down a dark path. Read on to learn more about the rise and fall of Bobby Driscoll. 

Bobby Driscoll looking up at Arthur Kennedy in a scene from the film 'The Window' in black and white
Bobby Driscoll and Arthur Kennedy | RKO Radio Pictures/Getty Images

How old was Bobby Driscoll in Peter Pan?

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Bobby Driscoll was just six-years-old when his acting career began. By the age of nine, Driscoll had already become a household name with his starring role in Disney’s Song of the South, according to Entertainment Weekly. Bobby Driscoll and Luana Patten were the first two actors that Walt Disney ever placed under contract. The future was looking bright for Bobby Driscoll, and his growing fame reached new heights after landing a voice acting gig as Peter Pan. 

In 1953, at the age of sixteen, Driscoll began starring as Peter Pan as a voice actor and close-up model. Driscoll’s roles in Peter Pan, Treasure Island, and So Dear to My Heart earned him the Juvenile Academy Award, according to the Walk of Fame. Despite his acting success, by the mid-1950s, Bobby Driscoll was losing his boyish charm. In his teen years, Driscoll developed a bad case of acne and was ultimately dropped from his contract with Disney Studios. After losing his acting contract, Driscoll fell in with the wrong crowd. 

What happened to Bobby Driscoll? 

While working as a child actor, Driscoll attended the Hollywood Professional School, according to IMDb. After losing his contract with Disney Studios, Driscoll’s parents pulled him out of the school. Driscoll was then sent to West Los Angeles University High School. Driscoll was teased and bullied at the public school for his previous film career. Not only did Driscoll’s grades begin to drop, but he began to hang around the wrong crowd. 

It was at West Los Angeles University High School that Bobby Driscoll’s troubling drug addiction began. After his parents began to understand what was going on, they pulled him out of the public high school, sending him back to Hollywood Professional School. Driscoll would graduate from the private school in 1955. However, Driscoll’s drug abuse only increased. One year after his high school graduation, Driscoll received his first drug possession charge. 

When did Bobby Driscoll die?

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While Bobby Driscoll tried to launch an acting career after high school, none of his endeavors took off how he had hoped. In December 1956, Driscoll eloped with his longtime girlfriend, Marilyn Jean Rush. The couple had two daughters and a son. However, the relationship would not last long. Bobby and Marilyn divorced in 1960, and Driscoll’s criminal record began to grow. In 1961, Driscoll was sentenced as a drug addict and was sent to the Narcotic Rehabilitation Center in Chino, California. He was released in 1962. After trying to obtain new acting gigs in Hollywood to no avail, Driscoll relocated to New York City in 1965. 

Bobby Driscoll had hopes of making it big on Broadway, but the cards would never fall in Driscoll’s favor again. Driscoll would die of heart failure in an abandoned apartment building in the East Village. Two boys playing in the building would stumble upon the 31-year-old’s lifeless body on March 30, 1968, reports Entertainment Weekly. Photos were shown around the neighborhood, but no positive identification was made. Driscoll’s unclaimed body was buried in an unmarked grave on Hart Island. In 1969, Driscoll’s mother began to search for her son’s whereabouts. This search resulted in a fingerprint match at the New York City Police Department. More than a year after his death, Bobby Driscoll’s family finally learned of his tragic fate.