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Kristy McNichol is an Emmy award-winning actress and singer, active on film and television during the 1970s-1980s.
Kristy McNichol - Full Biography (45:21)
Kristy McNichol - Teen Star (1:01)
Kristy McNichol - Family (1:10)
She first captured hearts as a fresh-faced teen actress in the TV drama Family, a role for which she earned two Emmy Awards. Inside, though, Kristy McNichol was battling a debilitating bipolar disorder.
Kristy McNichol was a teen idol and superstar back in the late 70's. Here, look at her life when the cameras were off.
Kristy McNichol's ABC television show "Family" was a huge hit and its release on DVD enabled a new generation to enjoy Kristy as the spunky tomboy, Letiticia "Buddy" Lawrence.
Growing up, Kristy McNichol wasn't alway the happiest little girl.
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Around the same time Family ended in 1980, McNichol took her film career to another level, co-starring with fellow child actress Tatum O'Neal in Little Darlings. The plot revolved around a bet between their two characters about who could lose their virginity first while at summer camp. Their love interests were played by Matt Dillon and Armand Assante. While the film received mixed reviews,
McNichol won praise for her portrayal of Angel, a tomboy from the wrong side of tracks.
The following year, McNichol had two major film roles. She co-starred with Dennis Quaid as a sister-and-brother musical duo in The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981). The summertime drama was met with lukewarm reviews, but her next effort brought her strong praise. McNichol starred in Neil Simon's dramatic comedy Only When I Laugh (1981), as Marsha Mason's daughter. Critic Robert Ebert said that she turned in a "wonderful performance."
Unfortunately, her next film project turned out to be a critical and box-office dud. The Pirate Movie (1982) was a somewhat modernized take on the musical The Pirates of Penzance by W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. In a review in The New York Times, McNichol was singled out as the best performer in the film, but she was "still not in good form." Her co-star Christopher Atkins fared much worse as he was described as "someone reciting in a school play."
Also during this time period, McNichol made one film that was not even released in the United States. White Dog (1982) was an unusual drama about a dog trained to attack people with black skin, and the efforts made to break its racist programming. After so many years of success, McNichol had her confidence shaken by this latest losing streak. But she continued on, traveling to France to film Just the Way You Are. In the movie, McNichol starred as a talented flute player with a lame leg. Hiding her physical handicap by wearing a fake cast, her character falls for a photographer while in Europe. McNichol was struggling to hold herself together during filming. "I hardly slept ... I was crying all the time ... It was the hardest thing I've ever done to try and get through that film," she told People magazine.
Near the end of filming, the cast and crew took a two-week break for the Christmas holiday. McNichol returned to California and decided not to go back to France. Soon rumors began to circulate about a possible substance abuse problem. The studio released a statement about McNichol having a "chemical imbalance," which only fueled more speculation about her. In reality, she was experiencing some type of nervous breakdown. McNichol had been working steadily since she was a child, and all of the pressures and stress related to her career may have finally caught up with her.
To help her through this difficult time, McNichol underwent extensive psychotherapy. Her brother, Jimmy, went with her to provide additional support. Some reports indicate that she was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression
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