The Everett Collection

Rusty Hamer was a child star who felt disrespected by adults during his time on The Danny Thomas Show

Rusty Hamer became a television acting veteran during his 11-season run on The Danny Thomas Show, also known as Make Room for Daddy, from 1953 to 1965.

Being a star on one of the most popular television series of the decade is already a huge accomplishment for any actor, but Hamer did it all before he even turned 17.

The star started acting in local theater productions when he was only 4. By the time he was 6, Hamer was acting alongside Danny Thomas, attending Hollywood premieres, and doing interviews with countless publications across the country. 

Growing up in the entertainment industry has proven to be difficult for many child stars, no matter the decade or generation, but Hamer had one of the best father-like figures to help him get through it all: Danny Thomas.

During his time on The Danny Thomas Show, Hamer started to learn what to avoid, what to celebrate, his likes and dislikes as an actor, and how to navigate his busy lifestyle. But if there was one complaint Hamer had about being a child star, it was working with the grown-ups.

"When a young actor gives a good performance, people are likely to say, 'That was sure terrific — for a kid,'" Hamer said in a 1961 interview with The South Bend Tribune. "That's what burns me up. Why can't they treat a child actor as a real professional?"

Hamer wanted adults to give young professionals the credit they deserved. He didn't want to feel less than because of his age. Where most adults would call him "cute," Thomas was a grown-up who had deep respect for the kid.

Thomas was one of the few adults that Hamer trusted and understood. Part of that bond stemmed from the death of Hamer's real father, who passed away during the first few months of filming the series. He even started to call Thomas "dad" as the bond became closer. 

"Another thing," Hamer started. "Many performers don't like to work with child actors. A lot of the kids bring it on themselves by acting too cute and trying to steal the scene. It makes it just that much harder for those of us who are trying to be something more than cute."

Hamer said many parents would storm into offices across Los Angeles and try to strike a deal that'd get their kids on television. This led to an overcrowded field where even the best young talent seemed to go unnoticed.

Almost all the child actors had tremendous talent and luckily, Hamer had that and Thomas, too. Hamer said the general run of child stars usually had more training and experience than many adult actors.

"A lot of the new cowboy stars never did a show in their lives before TV," Hamer said. "I guess they worked in a store or something — and all of a sudden they get their own series. But a kid can't get a foot in the door unless he's had dramatic training and plenty of practical experience."

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