Joan Carroll, a former child star who held her own with some of the biggest Broadway and Hollywood stars of the 1940s, has died, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Her age was variously reported as 84 and 85.
Born in New Jersey, she made her film debut in 1937 with The First Baby, and quickly became established as the studios’ go-to pre-teen in films including Two Sisters, Walking Down Broadway, One Mile From Heaven, and Primrose Path, playing Ginger Rogers’ young sister in the last.
In 1940 Carroll made her first and only Broadway appearance in the Cole Porter musical Panama Hattie, a vehicle for its star, Ethel Merman. Merman played a Canal Zone nightclub owner who sets her cap for a wealthy naval officer. But first she needs to impress his daughter, Geraldine, played by Carroll. Carroll’s best scenes involved making fun of an outfit Hattie buys to impress her father, and a conciliatory duet with Merman, “Let’s Be Buddies.”
Brooks Atkinson in The New York Times wrote, "For sunshine and sentiment, little Joan Carroll, who is now fully eight years old, is wholly captivating. She and Miss Merman get along together beautifully, and gruff old codgers are going to choke a little this Winter when tot and temptress sing ‘Let’s Be Buddies’ and bring the house down."
Returning to Hollywood, Carroll had her biggest hit in the 1944 movie musical classic Meet Me in St. Louis, playing the supporting role of Agnes Smith, the sister of both Judy Garland and Margaret O’Brien. She had a more prominent part in the 1945 film The Bells of St. Mary’s (1945), in which she played a troubled teenager opposite Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman.
Here she is in a brief scene with Crosby:
Carroll retired from acting after the latter film, married in 1951 and raised four children. She died in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.