He was born on September 25, 1943, in Los Angeles, where his mother owned a dance studio. On TV almost from infancy, he started appearing in non-credited film bits at the age of eight in such classics as The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) and High Noon (1952). He quickly moved to featured status before year's end. He showed promise as the kidnapped Indian "Red Chief" in a segment of the film O. Henry's Full House (1952) and another kidnap victim as the son of scientist Gene Barry in Atomic City (1952). From there he co-starred in the John Wayne western classic "Hondo" (1953) as the inquisitive blond son of homesteader Geraldine Page, and appeared to good advantage in other movies such as the film noir thriller Jeopardy (1953) with Barbara Stanwyck, the horse opera drama Arena (1953) with Gig Young and the comedies Mister Scoutmaster (1953) with Clifton Webb and Ricochet Romance (1954) with Marjorie Main.

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