During the ’40s and ’50s Gigi Perreau, a moppet with dark, sad eyes who cried on cue, mesmerized moviegoers in such tearjerkers as Enchantment and My Foolish Heart. On personal appearances, Gigi traveled by private railroad car accompanied by her mother, her teacher and a hairdresser. J. Edgar Hoover personally showed her around the FBI. There was even a Gigi Perreau doll.
She started her career as baby Eve Curie in Madame Curie when she was 2. By the time she was 10, Gigi had appeared in over 20 films. But as a teenager her career began to falter. Ultimately, she opted for marriage (at 19) and a family.
Now 34 and the mother of four, she and her second husband, Gene deRuelle, a TV production manager, and Gina, 12, Tony, 10, Danielle, 5, and Keith, 3, live in a modest three-bedroom house in Studio City.
Like many suburban mothers, she spends her time “doing nice things for my children and the community, which is part of just being a woman.” She came out of virtual retirement to join the Theater Arts Program of Los Angeles—a federally funded experiment. The repertory group performs free at schools, senior-citizen centers, hospitals and churches in the Los Angeles area. “The concept of a free theater program is very exciting,” says Gigi. “We’re taking live theater to people who don’t otherwise see it.”
She is one of the few child stars who emerged without scars or scandal. The reason, she says, is simple: “I had a happy childhood. My parents never pushed me. Sometimes I’d get hoity-toity and try to get out of doing the dishes because I had lines to learn. But my father would tell me acting was just my job, like any other job—a plumber or pipe fitter.” Between pictures Gigi attended parochial school and even turned down a part because she didn’t want to miss her confirmation.
With the exception of a dozen photographs of co-stars on one wall, the artifacts of Gigi’s klieg-lit days are packed away in closet cartons. Of her life as Gigi Perreau, Mrs. deRuelle says, “I’m glad I had it and grateful for the opportunities I enjoyed, but the life of a child star is not something an adult misses.”