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Jon Provost, Who Played Little Timmy in 'Lassie', Was 'Lucky' to Escape the Child Star Curse — He Is 71 Now

Busayo Ogunjimi
Mar 04, 2022
09:40 P.M.
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Unlike other child actors who had their parents pick roles for them, Jon Provost was allowed to do whatever he wanted, and this helped the actor avoid the child star curse most Hollywood child stars suffered. 

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American actor Jon Provost rose to worldwide fame when he portrayed seven-year-old Timmy in "Lassie." The TV series, which is currently being shown in over 50 countries, started when television series became appealing to people.

At that time, not even the actor or the show producers could have predicted how impactful it would be. Now, decades after its debut, the show is still making waves worldwide. 

Lassie and actor Jon Provost as a child actor [left], Jon Provost attends 2016 Chiller Theatre Expo Day 1 at Parsippany Hilton on October 28, 2016.[Rigthy] | Source: Getty Images

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HIS JOURNEY TO STARRING IN "LASSIE" 

Jon Provost was just two years old when he started his acting career. Unlike most child stars who already had parents in Hollywood, the actor's father was an aeronautical engineer from Alabama, while his mother was a seamstress from Texas. 

They were living in Pasadena, California, when his mother, while reading The Los Angeles Times, saw an advertisement that Warner Bros. was looking for a blonde boy of Provost's age to star in a movie alongside Jane Wyman. 

Lassie and actor Jon Provost participate in The Hollywood Show held at Westin LAX Hotel on July 13, 2013. | Source: Getty Images

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Wyman was his mother's idol, and when the seamstress realized this might present her the opportunity to get the actress's autograph, she took the little boy to the audition. 

Against expectations, out of about 200 little boys and girls who came for the audition with their parents, Provost, who did not even have an agent at the time, was picked for the role. 

Afterward, the child actor got an agent, which led to roles in about 12 movies, including "The Country Girl" alongside Bing Crosby. 

Jon Provost at The Hollywood Museum on August 18, 2016 | Source: Getty Images

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The TV series "Lassie" was already on air when Provost worked on movies. But, the producers started looking for a child actor to take the lead role after the previous actor Tommy Rettig who had been on the show for three years prior, outgrew the part. 

Provost's name came up when the wife of the movie producer he was working with on  "Escapade in Japan" at the time mentioned him while having lunch with the wife of one of the producers working on "Lassie." 

After the actor returned from Japan, where he had gone to film the movie, he met up with the writers and producers of "Lassie," who told him he was perfect for the role. 

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Actor Jon Provost participates at an event. | Photo: Getty Images

JON'S CLOSE BOND WITH "LASSIE" DOG

After the producers of "Lassie" noted Provost was perfect as a character for the show, which is about the friendship between a young kid and his dog, they had to ensure he would also get along with the titular character a canine dog. 

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It was important for the pair to develop a relationship which they would transfer to the screen, so in an attempt to build that connection, Provost had to stay with Rudd Weatherwax, the dog owner, for two to three days. 

Fortunately, the young kid grew up with farm animals and dogs, so it was pretty easy for him to understand the dog. Provost worked with three different dogs during his stint in the series, which lasted seven years and 249 episodes. 

Jon Provost attends 2016 Chiller Theatre Expo Day 1 at Parsippany Hilton on October 28, 2016. | Photo: Getty Images

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The actor explained that the last "Lassie" dog he worked with was his favorite because the pair worked together for five years. He said

"That dog, I loved that dog, and he loved me."

He further disclosed that he and the particular dog grew up together, and for five years, they saw each other for five days every week. 

Lassie and Jon Provost during CBS at 75 at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on November 02, 2003. | Source: Getty Images

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Although Provost and the dog bonded, the canine refused to obey the actor's commands and only listened to his trainer and the assistants. Sometimes the actor would even go to the dog owner's ranch in the San Fernando Valley on the weekends whenever he wanted to get out of Los Angeles. 

Although the "Lassie" dog portrayed in the book, which producers adapted into a movie, was a female dog, all the dogs used in the film were male dogs. 

Also, because most of the dogs used in the series had very long hair, most fans couldn't tell if they were using a male or female dog. 

Lassie, Jon Provost and June Lockhart during CBS at 75 at Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City on November 02, 2003. | Source: Getty Images

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The producers made sure to pick one episode every year in the "Lassie" series where they would have a litter of puppies around the titular dog, so everybody always believed the dog was a female. 

ESCAPING THE CHILD ACTOR CURSE 

Provost was 14 years old when he decided to leave the "Lassie" series, even though the producers wanted him to stay for three more years. 

The actor was seven when he started the show, and after spending the next seven years of his life working on the series, he was already going through puberty and was no longer the kid they initially signed for the show. 

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Jon Provost attends a preview of The Hollywood Museum's "Child Stars - Then And Now" exhibit at The Hollywood Museum on August 18, 2016 | Source:

Everyone, including the girls, thought of Provost as the little Timmy character he portrayed, and he was tired of being seen in that light and wanted to move on. 

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There were times the actor hid his identity, not wanting anybody to know that he was Timmy from "Lassie" to blend in. He had spent a lot of time working with dogs, and at age 14, Provost was getting interested in girls. He declared

“I didn't want to be Timmy until I was 17 or 18.”

Jon Provost and Lassie | Source: Getty Images

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His parents supported his decision to leave the series, and when they asked what he would like to do next, the actor declared he loved acting and would continue to take on roles, but he was just tired of working on "Lassie."

After leaving "Lassie," Provost appeared in movies like "This Property Is Condemned" alongside Natalie Wood in 1966, as well as "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes" in 1969 and "The Secret of the Sacred Forest" in 1970. 

Speaking on how he avoided the child star curse, Provost disclosed that his parents allowed him to do pretty much anything he wanted.

Actor Jon Provost attends 'A Mother's Day Salute to TV Moms' at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on May 6, 2008 | Source: Getty Images

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They did not force him to take a movie role like other parents who quit their jobs when their kids became stars and lived on their success. 

Even after becoming a TV star, the actor's father was still designing airplanes and did not care about TV, so when Provost left Hollywood, his parents had no adverse reactions.

Actor Jon Provost attends 'A Mother's Day Salute to TV Moms' at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences on May 6, 2008 | Source: Getty Images

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THE ACTOR'S CURRENT LIFE

Provost, now aged 71, currently lives in Northern California after moving there to attend college and study psychology when he stopped making movies during his twenties.

He returned to making movies in 1989 after he appeared in "The New Lassie," a story he wrote focusing on the inhumane treatment of research animals. It earned him a Genesis Award for Outstanding Television in a Family Series. 

The actor, who has also done some voice-over work, disclosed that people worldwide are still watching "Lassie," and they regularly send him positive letters. 

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Jon Provost during CBS at 75 at Hammerstein Ballroom | Source: Getty Images

He also released his autobiography "Timmy's in the Well: The Jon Provost Story" in 2007, reflecting on his Hollywood journey. 

Provost explained he chose the title because everyone falls in wells, and they either get pulled out or do not. The book was a lot of fun to write, and he learned more about himself than he knew.

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