JOHN ANTHONY MEGNA was an American actor, director and teacher born today (d: 1995). His best known role is that of “Dill” in the film To Kill a Mockingbird.
Megna was born in Ozone Park, Queens, New York to Ralph W. Megna, a pharmacist, and Eleanor McGinley, a one-time nightclub singer. He was a half-brother of Connie Stevens and an ex-brother-in-law of Eddie Fisher. He attended Holy Cross High School in Flushing, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York as a performing arts major.
At age 6, Megna made his acting debut in Frank Loesser’s Broadway musical Greenwillow. At 7, he starred in All the Way Home, an adaptation of James Agee’s novel about the effect of a father’s death on his family. This led to his being cast as Charles Baker “Dill” Harris, the toothy young summer visitor in the 1962 film To Kill a Mockingbird. The character was based on writer Truman Capote, a childhood friend and later associate of Harper Lee, the author of the original novel.
Megna appeared in many television programs throughout the 1960s and 1970s; he portrayed a near-blind child in the Naked City episode “A Horse Has a Big Head – Let Him Worry!”, one of the “Onlies” in the “Miri” episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, Stephan in I Spy (1967), and Little Adam in the NASA-produced animated shorts The Big World of Little Adam.
His other film appearances include Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte (1964), The Godfather: Part II (1974), The Boy in the Plastic Bubble with John Travolta, and Go Tell the Spartans with Burt Lancaster. He also acted in two car-chase films starring Burt Reynolds and directed by Hal Needham – Smokey and the Bandit II and The Cannonball Run.
As an adult, he turned to directing plays. He was the founding director of L.A. Arts, a nonprofit theater group in Los Angeles. He later became a high school English teacher, and last taught at James Monroe High School in North Hills, California. He also taught Honors English at Hollenbeck Jr High in Boyle Heights.
John Megna died from AIDS-related complications in September 1995 at Midway Hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 42.