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Billy Chapin, Child Actor in ‘Night of the Hunter,’ Dies at 72

Billy Chapin, a child actor known for his roles in “The Kid from Left Field” and “The Night of the Hunter” has died. He was 72.

Chapin’s sister and fellow former child actor, Lauren, announced the news on Facebook Saturday. She wrote that Billy had died Friday night “after a long illness.”

“Billy was a wonderful brother to both Michael and me,” Lauren wrote. “And he made us proud of all the great films he was in… He will be greatly missed.”

Billy, Lauren and their brother, Michael, were all successful child actors during the 1940s and ’50s. Billy, born “William McClellan Chapin” is the middle of the three siblings who were all born in Los Angeles.

Apart from several stage appearances as a newborn, Billy got his start in 1951 in the Broadway production of “Three Wishes for Jamie.” His first big on-screen role was as the “Diaper Manager” Christie Cooper in the 1953 baseball film “The Kid from Left Field.” The family film also starred Dan Dailey, Anne Bancroft and Lloyd Bridges.

Billy’s most recognizable role came in 1955 in the film noir film “Night of the Hunter” directed by Charles Laughton and starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters and Lillian Gish. Although it was considered a critical and commercial failure at the time, in 1992, the United States Library of Congress selected the picture for preservation in the National Film Registry, forever preserving its legacy.

After “Night of the Hunter,” his film career declined, then his television roles wrapped as well until his career in Hollywood ended in 1959.

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