Child star Donna Butterworth, who starred opposite Elvis, dies
Child actress Donna Butterworth, who lit up the screen in the ’60s alongside icons like Elvis Presley and Jerry Lewis, died earlier this month after a long illness. She was 62.
Butterworth’s death was first reported in an obituary in the Hawaii Tribune Herald, which said she died March 6 at the Hilo Medical Center in the Aloha State.
The actress and singer’s roots stretched far back to Hawaii, as her family picked up and moved there from Philadelphia when she was three.
It was around that same time that Butterworth discovered the ukulele, and began performing around the island with stars like Don Ho — a skill she put to good use in her most famous role.
At 10 years old, Butterworth starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1966 comedy “Paradise, Hawaiian Style.”
She earned a Golden Globe nomination for the role.
She sang three songs in the flick, including “Queen Wahine’s Papaya,” a duet with The King.
“Elvis was a fabulous professional but he was also a fabulous human being,” Butterworth said of her late co-star in a 2015 interview.
She added the pair did not stay in touch, and that she missed an opportunity for a reunion when Presley returned to Hawaii to film “Aloha from Hawaii Via Satellite” in 1973.
“I saw (his manager) walking around and I almost went up to him. I wanted to say, ‘Gee, I would love to see Elvis!’ but it just didn’t seem right. I’ve regretted it ever since,” she said.
Butterworth appeared with Jerry Lewis in “The Family Jewels” in 1965.
(Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
Presley died just four years later — news Butterworth said reduced her to tears after she first heard it on her apartment radio.
“My first instinct was to run to my closet and grab my scrapbook and open it to the page where he and I were together,” she said. “Then I just cried.”
In addition to “Paradise,” Butterworth also starred opposite Jerry Lewis in “The Family Jewels,” which earned her a Most Promising Newcomer nod at the 1966 Golden Globes.
Her final acting credit came in 1967 in two episodes of “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color.”
She is survived by her mother, brother, nieces, nephews and cousins.