Delmar Watson, a child actor who appeared in hundreds of movies and later became a photographer who snapped gritty crimes scenes and Hollywood stars, died Oct. 26 in Glendale from complications of prostate cancer. He was 82.
David Delmar Watson was 6 months old when he appeared in his first film in 1926. The nine Watson children lived near Mack Sennett Studios in Los Angeles, and “when they needed a kid, they knew where to go,” said his nephew Daniel Watson.
Delmar Watson appeared in more than 300 films, playing Peter the goat boy in 1937’s “Heidi” and Jimmie Hopper in 1939’s “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”
His family also had a long history in news photography. His grandfather shot pictures of Buffalo Bill riding up the street in Los Angeles in 1902, Daniel Watson said.
Delmar Watson and three of his brothers were Coast Guard photographers in World War II. After the war, Watson and his six brothers all worked as photographers for newspapers, television or newsreels.
“He was what I call an old-fashioned news photographer. He was a reporter with a camera,” said his nephew, who manages the Watson Family Photographic Archive in Glendale.
Delmar Watson joined the Los Angeles Mirror in 1948 and for many years worked the night shift for the tabloid, which ran large photographs of crime scenes.
They were the kind of photographs “where you walked in the blood,” his nephew said.
Watson frequently complained that photography had moved away from everyday hard news in favor of puffery and managed or staged events.
After a decade with the Mirror, Delmar Watson went into commercial photography with his brothers, often shooting Hollywood celebrities for publicity shots. He photographed the famous dog Lassie wearing sunglasses and posing with its paws on the seat of a director’s chair.
Watson started his own photo studio in 1967.
“He was a walking encyclopedia of visual information. If the eyes are the windows, then his eyes were the camera that captured the life and times of some of the halcyon days of Hollywood,” said John McCoy, a Los Angeles Daily News photographer and president of the Press Photographers Association of Greater Los Angeles.
Watson also had a reputation as a prankster.
“He was known to throw pies during award ceremonies,” McCoy said.
Watson is survived by his wife, Antoinette; three brothers and a sister.