Kevin Corcoran, the Youngest Son in 'Old Yeller,' Dies at 66

Kevin Corcoran in a scene from the 1957 Disney classic 'Old Yeller'
Courtesy of Disney

The former Disney child star most recently worked as a producer on the FX dramas 'The Shield' and 'Sons of Anarchy.'

Kevin Corcoran, who played the youngest son in the 1957 Disney kids classic Old Yeller, then became a producer on such TV series as The Shield and Sons of Anarchy, has died. He was 66.

Corcoran, who worked on many Disney movies and TV shows behind and in front of the camera, died Tuesday at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank after a five-year battle with colorectal cancer, his wife, Laura, told The Hollywood Reporter.

Corcoran portrayed Arliss Coates, the youngest son of Jim (Fess Parker) and Katie (Dorothy McGuire) and the brother of Travis (Tommy Kirk), in the post-Civil War tear-jerker Old Yeller, which revolved around the family’s heroic mastiff.

He and Kirk returned for the 1963 sequel Savage Sam, a tale about another courageous dog — Old Yeller’s son.

Corcoran and Kirk made quite the team, also playing brothers in The Shaggy Dog (1959), Swiss Family Robinson (1960) and Bon Voyage! (1962), all at Disney. And he appeared in the studio's Pollyanna (1960) and Babes in Toyland (1961).

He also had the lead as a kid who runs away from home in Toby Tyler, or Ten Weeks with a Circus (1960).

 

A native of Santa Monica, Corcoran was one of eight children, all of whom acted in the 1950s and '60s. One of his sisters, Noreen Corcoran, played the niece of John Forsythe’s character on the 1950s CBS-NBC series Bachelor Father.

Kevin made his movie debut in Anthony Mann’s The Glenn Miller Story (1954), then played Moochie, an irrepressible sort who hates being treated like a little kid, on a pair of Spin and Marty TV series and on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.

Shortly after appearing in Blue (1968), Corcoran went in for an interview for another film, he recalled in a 2012 interview with the San Francisco Chronicle.

"Usually they would give you pages from the script, let you know what the character is like," he said. "But this director and producer said they wanted to hear about my version of the character. I said, 'Well, what is this character about?' And they fumbled around because they didn’t know.

"Then it hit me. You know what? I know more about making movies than the guy making this picture. I’m done acting. I left that meeting and called my agent. I said, 'Thanks a lot, but no more auditions. I’m done.' "

After attending Cal State Northridge, Corcoran landed his first producing job on the 1978 Disney film Return From Witch Mountain and worked in that capacity for the studio on The North Avenue Irregulars (1979) and Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) and on the 1982 CBS show Herbie The Love Bug.

He produced the 1983 pilot episode of CBS’ Scarecrow and Mrs. King and went on to serve as a second assistant director on that series as well as on other hourlong shows like Simon & Simon, Baywatch, Quantum Leap, Murder, She Wrote and Providence.

Corcoran was a co-producer on nine episodes of The Shield and on 14 installments of another FX drama, Sons of Anarchy, created by Kurt Sutter.

Corcoran was "a delightful person and producer, including on The Shield," that series’ creator, Shawn Ryan, said on Twitter.

Twitter: @mikebarnes4

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