John Orson Whitaker, Jr. (born December 13, 1959) is an American actor notable for several performances for film and television during his childhood. The redheaded Whitaker played Jody Davis on Family Affair from 1966 to 1971. He also originated the role of Scotty Baldwin on General Hospital in 1965, played the lead in Hallmark's 1969 The Littlest Angel, and portrayed the title character in the 1973 musical version of Tom Sawyer.
Johnny Whitaker, c. 1972.
John Orson Whitaker, Jr.
December 13, 1959
Van Nuys, California, U.S.
|Alma mater||Brigham Young University|
|Years active||1965–77, 1997–present|
|Spouse(s)||Symbria Wright (1984–1988)|
Whitaker began his professional acting career at the age of three by appearing in a television commercial for a local used car dealer. He went on to appear in ads for Mattel Toymakers, for such toys as Larry the Lion and Crackers the Parrot in their Animal Yackers series. In 1965, Whitaker originated the character of the young Scotty Baldwin in the soap opera General Hospital. In 1966, he acted in a major feature film, The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming, which also starred Brian Keith, the actor who would later play Whitaker's uncle in the television series Family Affair.
Family Affair aired from 1966 to 1971. It co-starred Whitaker playing the role of an orphaned boy named Jody Davis, living in a high-rise apartment in New York City with his twin sister Buffy (Anissa Jones) and older sister Cissy (Kathy Garver), his bachelor uncle Bill Davis (Brian Keith), and Bill's gentleman's gentleman, Mr. French (Sebastian Cabot). While a regular on the show, Whitaker also starred in the Hallmark Hall of Fame production The Littlest Angel and an episode of the long-running western The Virginian in 1969.
Also, in 1969, Whitaker was a guest-star playing Jack in the S06E01 episode of Bewitched titled "Samantha and the Beanstalk". In 1970, Whitaker played Dinky Watson in an episode of Green Acres. Later, he played the part of Willie in a Green Acres episode titled "The Confrontation".
After Family Affair, he appeared in a two-part episode of Gunsmoke in 1971. Whitaker went on to star in the 1973 Sid and Marty Krofft Saturday morning children's series Sigmund and the Sea Monsters alongside Billy Barty and Scott Kolden, as well as appeared in feature films, including Disney's Snowball Express (1972), The Biscuit Eater (1972), Napoleon and Samantha (1972), and The Magic Pony (1977). His most prominent feature film role during this period was the lead in the musical version of Tom Sawyer (1973).
In an interview with Tom Snyder on The Late Late Show, Whitaker said he briefly worked as a computer consultant at CBS. He later joined a Los Angeles talent agency, Whitaker Entertainment, owned by his sister. Whitaker also was Dana Plato's manager.
In 1999, Whitaker received the Young Artist Former Child Star Lifetime Achievement Award at the 20th Youth in Film Awards.
In 2016, Whitaker gave a guest star cameo appearance in Amazon's reboot of Sigmund and the Sea Monsters. In the premiere episode, he played the part of a heckling boat owner Zach, against David Arquette's salty sea captain character, Captain Barnabas. The episode had a similar cameo appearance by original show creators, Sid and Marty Kroftt.
Whitaker struggled as an adult with an addiction to drugs and alcohol until his family held an intervention and threatened to cut off contact with him unless he got help. He agreed and joined a twelve-step program; later becoming a certified drug counselor and founder of a nonprofit organization for Spanish-speaking addicts. In 2011, he said he had been clean and sober for 13 years.
- "Here's Johnny". JohnnyWhitaker.com. Archived from the original on May 6, 2012. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "Hallmark Hall of Fame: The Littlest Angel (TV)". Paley Center for Media. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Fisher, Luchina; Marikar, Sheila (May 13, 2010). "Growing Pains: The Trials and Tribulations of 1980s TV Child Stars". ABC News. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- "20th Annual Youth in Film Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on September 7, 2013. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
- Sigmund and the Sea Monsters.
- Modesti, Kevin (February 2, 2011). "Former 'Family Affair' child actor Johnny Whitaker now has the role of a lifetime". Los Angeles Daily News. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
- Mullen, Rodger (September 29, 2014). "Child star Johnny Whitaker, now all grown up, takes Sandhills stage". Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved October 22, 2015.
- Goldrup, Tom and Jim (2002). Growing Up on the Set: Interviews with 39 Former Child Actors of Film and Television. McFarland & Co. pp. 324–333. ISBN 1476613702.
- Holmstrom, John (1996). The Moving Picture Boy: An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995. Norwich: Michael Russell, p. 329.
- Dye, David (1988). Child and Youth Actors: Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., p. 239.
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