Sharyn Moffett, Young Actress in ‘Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House’ and ‘The Body Snatcher,’ Dies at 85

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Sharyn Moffett, the charming child actress of the 1940s who starred alongside Cary Grant and Myrna Loy in Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House and with Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in The Body Snatcher, has died. She was 85.

Moffett died Dec. 23 of natural causes in a hospital in Pittsburgh, her brother Gregory Moffett, who also acted as a youngster, told The Hollywood Reporter.

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Sharyn Moffett appeared in just 12 features during her career — all from 1944-51, ages 8 to 15 — while being paired with pooches in My Pal Wolf (1944), A Boy, a Girl and a Dog (1946) and Rusty Leads the Way (1948).

A contract player at RKO Radio Pictures, Moffett tugged at the heartstrings when she portrayed a kid devastated by the breakup of her parents (Regis Toomey, Madge Meredith) in Child of Divorce (1946), the first feature directed by Richard Fleischer.

In Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), Moffett played the younger daughter of Grant and Loy’s characters, who buy a dilapidated 200-year-old farmhouse — the film was remade as The Money Pit in 1986 and Are We Done Yet? in 2007 — and was a girl who needs an operation to remedy her paralysis in the horror film The Body Snatcher (1945).

Patricia Sharyn Moffett was born on Sept. 12, 1936, in Alameda, Calif. Her mother, Gladyce Roberts, danced in the Dolores del Rio-starring RKO musical Flying Down to Rio (1933), and her father, Bob, sang in a traveling show fronted by Billie Burke (The Wizard of Oz) and later was honored by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America.

The family settled in Beverly Hills when she was a toddler, and she appeared in the 1942 Three Stooges horse-racing short Even as IOU. In 1944, she signed with RKO and made her feature debut in My Pal Wolf, sharing scenes with a German shepherd.

Sharyn Moffett with Boris Karloff in 1945’s The Body Snatcher - Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection
Sharyn Moffett with Boris Karloff in 1945’s The Body Snatcher - Credit: Courtesy Everett Collection

Courtesy Everett Collection

Moffett’s film résumé also included The Falcon in San Francisco (1945), starring Tom Conway as the private detective; The Locket (1946), where she played Laraine Day’s character as a child; Banjo (1947), also directed by Fleischer; The Judge Steps Out (1948), starring Ann Sothern; and Her First Romance (1951), featuring fellow child star Margaret O’Brien.

Soon after moving to New York and making her last onscreen appearance on NBC’s Fireside Theatre in 1955, Moffett married James Forrest, and the couple spent 50-plus years as church ministers. As a grandmother, she earned her master’s in church history from the Trinity School for Ministry in Pittsburgh.

Moffett also served as a top executive with the youth-mentoring Big Sisters organization.

Her brother Gregory appeared with her in The Judge Steps Out. He also played Betty Hutton’s son in the Technicolor musical Let’s Dance (1950) and was in Robot Monster (1953) — considered one of the worst movies ever made — and TV’s Adventures of Superman.

In addition to Gregory, survivors include brother Robert and sisters Heidi and Annalisa; children Gillian, Jonathan and Jennifer; grandchildren Kati, Becca, Dan, Melissa, Mike, Joshua, Lydia, Peter, Zach and Jake; and great-grandchildren Bobby, Connor, Anneliese and Nathan. Her husband died in 2011.

Donations in her name may be made to the Church of the Ascension in Pittsburgh.

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