By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor March 16, 1946 p. 22
ON WE, THE PEOPLE last Sunday night and Jack Smith's program Wednesday night, seven-year-old Frankie (Sugar Chile) Robinson asked Caledonia in no uncertain terms, What Makes [sic] your big head so hard while he beat out his own accompaniment on the piano using fingers, fist, elbow and forearm to get the desired effects. If you think "Sugar Chile's" boogie-woogie is beat or weak, or that his speech is that of a timid, ungroomed child, then get set for a more pleasant surprise. For this youngster has poise, a quick, agile mind, a manner of speech which indicates an on-a-par without being disrespectful attitude, and his diction is good and he has excellent vocal projection.
Early stories that were circulated about this tiny boy wonder, gave you the feeling that the poverty of his home would automatically produce an undernourished child both physically and mentally. Coming of a family of many children, "Sugar Chile" was said to have sung on the street corners and played the piano in any spot he happened to wander. If this is true, (and we have no way of knowing. Some publicist says his home is in Chicago others say it is Detroit) then "Sugar Chile" can certainly be likened to such people as the late Governor Al Smith, Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson and many others who arose from the ranks of the streets of the tenement sections of New York's lower East Side.
"Sugar Chile", has just returned from Hollywood where he made a picture for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer where he is signed for a long term contract. He is currently appearing at the Regal Theatre in Chicago.
These are all pretty wonderful things to have happen to your youngster at the tender age of five and certainly, the lad swells your chest with pride when you listen to his intelligent manner of speech which falls from his lips as naturally as water rippling over stones in a brook, and yet, you must wonder what the future with its cobweb of complexities, holds for this child.
Of course we know the law requires that all children must have a permit to work professionally, but they must be given a schooling commensurate with a public school eduction either in a professional school or by private tutors. They must also be under the constant supervision of a guardian. These are requirements of the law and by virtue of this law, many abuses of professional children are a thing of the past. But it is not the minimum needs we are so much concerned with at this point. Rather, we are attempting to delve into the ability of "Sugar Chile's" parents, managers and the long list of folks who are responsible for the boy and his career, to handle the child's normal growth.
It is not an easy matter to cope with the many complex problems that come with having the spotlight suddenly turned on you or yours. Particularly is this true when you have spent half your life scuffling to get the mere necessities. In such cases and among us, this is certainly the rule rather than the exception. There has not been time nor have we had the finance to avail ourselves of the knowledge it takes to play the behind-the-scenes game, both commercial and psychological.
One of the saddest cases concerning a child star is that of Jackie Coogan. More than a million dollars Jackie earned as a child. Today he is broke and can't get a break. He had the great misfortune to have the kind of parents who, by their mishandling of him as a human being, and the money he earned, made of him a misfit for the rest of his life. He, no doubt, never had a normal, healthy outlet as a child. At a tender age he became the breadwinner of his household.
Little English, Freddie Bartholomew made a brilliant start as a child actor under the careful and understanding guidance of an aunt. But the more successful Freddie became on the screen, the more a jealous, discontented wave of family disputes enveloped him. Parents who had been content to leave his welfare and incidentally his expenses to his aunt, suddenly found themselves to be parents of a highly talented and successful child actor.
The court battles for possession of his earnings wrecked his chances for a normal life and robbed him of a career in pictures. Today, you never hear the name Freddie Bartholomew. He is a very young man and had he had just half a chance to be a child doing all of the things other normal children do, it is probable he would be approaching his career now fully equipped to charter his own course with some degree of lasting success.
These are sad cases, for both these boys were robbed of their right to be children in the same sense that other kids are allowed to be children--developing stage by stage as the laws of nature intended.
"Sugar Child" [sic] is going to have a tough time thinking, acting and developing like boys of his age and it will be wise parents who will learn fast the rules of the shrewd game their child has now become a part of. To allow this child to learn of his importance and become saturated in the publicity--some good, some phony--will only mean a mal-adjusted child with talent.
He has talent, he is intelligent and he has great promise but for him to develop properly, he must not be saddled with or be conscious of, a fame which is hard even for adults to take in stride. With fame comes a grave responsibility. Let us hope that Frankie's parents understand this in every sense of the word.