Skip to main content

Young Hollywood

June 2024
1min read


Along with his brothers and sister, Leon Fichman got into movies on the ground floor. “By 1923 there were about forty kids registered at Central Casting, and we were called to work in all the studios in Hollywood,” he writes. These two photographs show young Leon on the sets of two pioneering silent movies. In Hollywood’s first big Western, The Covered Wagon (1923), at top, he stands second from the left. “I was supposed to shoot an Indian warrior attacking our wagon to save my father. I couldn’t pull the trigger on an old frontier gun, so they had to get an older kid.” Below he is the third from the left among cast members of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic of 1927, The King of Kings . “All the kids were street urchins in Bethlehem,” he writes. “I remember burning my bare feet on the cobblestones during the summer shooting.”

Eventually the movie actor wanted out: “When I went into tenth grade, my mom let me quit so I could play football. That led to a scholarship to the University of Alabama. After service in World War II, I made first string with the Detroit Lions, then taught school in California for thirty-five years, and am now a youth worker.” It has been, Fichman concludes, “a great life.”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate