Charles Herbert, prolific child actor of the 1950s and ’60s most remembered for his frightened performances in chiller pics like 1958’s The Fly and ’60’s 13 Ghosts, died of a heart attack October 31 in Las Vegas. He was 66.
Herbert, whose career evaporated by the late ’60s and who spent decades battling alcoholism and addiction, had been living on a modest Screen Actors Guild pension, according to his friend (and fellow former child star) Paul Petersen, founder of A Minor Consideration. In a Facebook post, Petersen wrote, “My friend died sober, looking forward to the future.”
Herbert’s busy if not long-lasting career began with an uncredited role in the Lucille Ball-Desi Arnaz vehicle The Long, Long Trailer, then continued through numerous guest appearances on TV shows like The Bob Cummings Show, Playhouse 90 and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. He appeared in the pilot episode of The Patty Duke Show as Patty’s kid brother Ross, but was replaced for the series by Paul O’Keefe.
He had better luck on The Twilight Zone, costarring in 1962’s “I Sing the Body Electric” as a little boy with a robot granny. The episode is generally considered one of the series’ best, and typically airs during various Twilight Zone TV marathons.
But Herbert is best remembered for the classic B-movie chillers The Fly (with Vincent Price) and 13 Ghosts. In his Facebook tribute, Petersen, who costarred with Herbert in 1958’s Houseboat starring Cary Grant and Sophia Loren, wrote that Herbert was “looking forward to his next Sci-Fi convention,” and that the two actors had plans for a dinner date in two weeks.
“Charlie was a poster child for the Kid Actor Syndrome,” writes Petersen. “He supported his entire family from Age Four…and then his career came to an emphatic end. His take? $1,700 when he became an adult. Damaged goods? I’ll say.”
“Charlie Herbert,” writes Petersen, “was a good man who gave far more than he got.”