Margaret O’Brien and the Case of the Stolen Oscar

April 24, 2022

Back in the Golden Age of Hollywood, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences thought it would be cute to award child actors and actresses diminutive “Junior Oscars”, officially called Academy Juvenile Awards, to honor their performances. Only a dozen child stars earned a Junior Oscar, beginning with Shirley Temple in 1934 and ending 26 years later after Hayley Mills was awarded her pint-sized statuette in 1960. 

Bob Hope presents Margaret O'Brien with the Academy's first "Oscarette" for best performance of a child actress in 1944 in this colorized photograph. (GettyImages)

In between, young actress Margaret O’Brien was awarded her Academy Juvenile Award. The year was 1944 and the six-year-old actress was presented the award for her role as Tootie, the younger sister of Judy Garland’s character in Meet Me in St. Louis. But ten years later, the Junior Oscar was stolen from O’Brien’s house. In this series of colorized photographs, we will look at the career of Margaret O’Brien, the theft of her Junior Oscar, and the happy ending that took place 50 years later. 

Who Was Margaret O'Brien?

Actually, the header should read "Who Is Margaret O'Brien?" as the actress is very much alive. (

A talented child actress, Margaret O’Brien was just four years old when she made her film debut in the 1941 classic, Babes on Broadway. Her appearance in this movie led to a major role in Journey for Margaret in 1942 when she was five years old. She played the daughter of James Cagney and Ann Sothern in You, John Jones, a war bond short film. The precocious seven-year-old recited the “Gettysburg Address” in this appearance. O’Brien’s most memorable movie role, however, was in Meet Me in St. Louis. She played the part of Tootie, the feisty little sister of Judy Garland’s character. It was for this role that Margaret O’Brien earned her Academy Juvenile Award at the Oscar Ceremony in 1944.