Among the top child stars of the 1930s and 1940s was a former stable boy from southern India, the only star with a single name - Sabu. Born Selar Shaik in 1924, he vaulted to stardom in his first film, a British production entitled Elephant Boy (1937). For the next decade he either starred or was featured in several finely crafted adventure films, including the fantasy favorite The Thief of Bagdad (1940) and the definitive version of Rudyard Kipling's perennially popular Jungle Book (1942). Adapting to modern western ways proved remarkably easy due to his above average intelligence and innate charm.
After moving to America, the popular performer became a U.S. citizen in 1944, and did his bit for the war effort as a belly gunner, seeing action in the Pacific theater. In the post-war years Sabu's career began its inevitable decline. Fantasy and exotic adventure films were not as popular as during the war, and Hollywood studios found the dark-skinned actor difficult to cast.
In the early 1950s he journeyed to Europe, appearing in a pair of Italian films and two circuses. Sabu next made a triumphant return to his homeland where he acted in one film and tested for another. Returning to America, the still young actor was seen in some minor films and one final foreign film made in Germany.
After appearing in a Disney film, India's first and most enduring international movie star passed away suddenly of a heart attack in December 1963, leaving behind an exceptional legacy of memorable motion pictures and an image of radiant youthfulness.