Thursday, July 7, 2011

Mad for Chad!

The brothers Chad Lowe and Rob Lowe played their fair amount of teenage roles throughout the 1980's. Rob Lowe was the bigger heartthrob of the two and a posterboy of that decade. One of his earliest roles included The Hallmark Hall of Fame movie Thursday's Child, a drama about a teenager with a bad heart that needs a transplant. He was also in two ABC Afterschool Specials. Schoolboy Father (1980) stars Rob and is about a teenager's reaction after he finds out a girl he has slept with over the summer is going to have his baby. He also made an appearance in the special from 1981 entitled A Matter of Time. Probably his most well known teenage role was that of Skip, in Francis Ford Coppola's classic adaptation of SE Hinton's unforgettable young adult novel The Outsiders (1983). Yet, for most, Rob is remembered for his youthful roles as a college prep and waspy 20-something in films such as Oxford Blues, St. Elmo's Fire, Class and Youngblood.

But enough about Rob! Chad, the younger of the two, born in 1968, has a more boyish appearance and played the role of a teenager up until he was twenty and beyond. One of his first films, and a personal favorite of mine, was the 1984 made-for-tv movie Silence of The Heart. In it Chad plays Skip Lewis, a suburban 16 year old with both academic and social problems. After giving several of his friends clues that he might be considering suicide, Skip ends up driving off a cliff, plunging to his death. The rest of the movie relates the after effects this has on his family and friends. His sister was played by Dana Hill (another Afterschool Special alumni) and a young Charlie Sheen. There is something relatable and sensitive in Chad's acting here and the viewer can't help but sympathize with the confused character of Skip, even though he goes over the edge.

The same year, Chad landed the starring role in his own TV series Spencer that ran from 1984-1985. Due to contract and creative differences, Chad only appeared in the first 5 episodes before his role was recast with Rossie Harris and the show was retitled Under One Roof. The show was a High School comedy, but I know little else about it besides this video:

Chad Lowe also played beside Dana Barron (who would later appear on the TV show Beverly Hills 90210) in the CBS Schoolbreak Special No Means No (1988). This particular special dealt with date rape in a High School setting as seen through the eyes of a high school girl and her older brother. In this way, the story is presented from both a male and female perspective as both brother and sister are in relationships where they have to make difficult decisions.
In 1990, Chad also starred in a feature movie that played into the crossdressing craze of 80's cinema that followed Tootsie (1982) and included the likes of Just One of the Guys (1985). In Nobody's Perfect (1990), Chad plays Steve, a college freshman who dresses as a girl in order to join the women's tennis team and get closer to the girl he has a crush on. The movie is a ridiculous farce, less subtle than it's predecessors, but nevertheless a staple of late-night television viewing when I myself was a teenager.

The TV series that Chad is most remembered is Life Goes On (1989-1993) in which he played the older brother Jesse in 35 episodes. The story was about the Thatcher family and was notable for it featured Chris Burke, an actor with Down Syndrome, who played Corky, a teenager with this disorder who is mainstreamed into an ordinary school.
In addition to appearing as a character in 8 episodes of the Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff Melrose Place (1997 season), Chad also appeared in one of the final ABC Afterschool Specials, Me and My Hormones (1996). One of the final coming-of-age roles Chad would play was in Floating (1999) a feature film written and directed by William Roth. This is also one of Chad's best roles and his character Doug is a believable gay teenager, even though Chad is already in his twenties at this point . This character-driven drama costars Norman Reedus and deals with two good friends engaging in a crime spree over a summer in a lakeside town.

Chad would continue to play teenage roles, in a sense, without the camera. He has read for several Young Adult audiobooks where the story is told from a teenager's first person perspective. Probably the most well known of these is Hoot, by Carl Hiaasen, which was later made into a feature film. The one I prefer however is Pool Boy by Michael Simmons. I love Chad's reading of this character and for fans of his acting, it's almost like getting a one-person stage performance. Here is a brief summary of the book:
Brett had it made with his good looks, his winning personality, and, most importantly, a lot of money. But when the police bust down his door and take his dad to prison, everything changes. Not only is Brett's family forced to move out of their house; Brett has to get a job as well. And flipping burgers isn't doing much for his social life.When he gets a job with Alfie Moore cleaning pools, he is humiliated. He even has to go clean out the pool at his old house where the present owner doesn't recognize him and calls him by the name "Pool Boy". However, through his surprising friendship with Alfie, Brett stubbornly comes to terms with himself and the hatred he feels towards his Dad.

Chad Lowe often gets overshadowed by his older brother's fame, but I think he is one of the most underrated teen actors of the 1980's. He continues to act and direct to this day.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! I never even knew Rob Lowe had a brother.