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Heidi actresses The changing faces of a timeless Swiss icon

It’s not easy being a child actor. The pressure of growing up on screen can be too much for some, while others manage the transition to successful careers in acting or something else. What became of some of the dozens of young girls who played Heidi?

The story of the outgoing orphan has appealed to audiences – and therefore producers – for almost 100 years. From Switzerland and Japan to Hollywood and Bollywood, the combination of glorious scenery, cute girl and happy ending have guaranteed box office success (give or take a few miscalculations).

How did author Johanna Spyri see her heroine? She doesn’t give a detailed physical description but writes about “a little maiden, whose cheeks glowed as if a ruddy flame were under her dark brown skin […] she could not have been five years old”. Later on, Klara asks Heidi whether she has always had “such short frizzy hair”.

For practical reasons, producers and directors gave Heidi a few years, with most actresses being around ten. Many of the American Heidis sported blonde pigtails, with the notable exception of Shirley Temple and her trademark corkscrew curls. But perhaps the closest to Spyri’s description is Katia Polletin, although Anuk Steffen in the latest version certainly looks the part once her hair is cropped. How did you picture Heidi when you read the book? (Text: Thomas Stephens, swissinfo.ch)

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