Sunday, March 25, 2012

Jean Darling

Our Darling Jean was in "Our Gang" comedies produced by Hal Roach.

Jean Darling
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jean Darling

Darling in the 1920s
Born(1922-08-23) August 23, 1922 (age 89)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
OccupationActress, singer
Years active1927-present
SpouseReuben Bowen (1954-present)
Jean Darling (born August 23, 1922) is a former American child actress who was a regular in the Our Gang short subjects series from 1927 to 1929. She remains the last surviving cast member from the silent era.



Born as Dorothy Jean LeVake, Jean Darling's name was legally changed to Jean Darling when she was 5 months old, a few days after her mother and father split.  She began in movies at six months old as a freelance baby. She got her break in 1926 when she passed her screen test and was accepted for a part in Hal Roach's OUR GANG series. Darling appeared in 46 silents and 6 talkies with Our Gang" during this period.

. Darling appeared in 46 silents and 6 talkies with Our Gang" during this period.
She continued to appear in films after leaving the gang, including an appearance in Laurel & Hardy's adaptation of Babes in Toyland (uncredited) and as the young Jane in Jane Eyre, both in 1934. A round of stage and radio shows followed. Stage shows involved up to seven performances a day. It was a punishing schedule for a fourteen-year-old, and that was not taking into account her educational studies. Darling began to study singing, and in 1940 she was given a scholarship by the New York Municipal Opera Association. She turned down an offer to play alongside Mickey Rooney in one of the MGM Andy Hardy movies.[citation needed]
Instead, she went on Broadway, making her debut in the musical Count Me In in 1942. Darling's stage career hit a real high when she landed the role of Carrie Pipperidge in the original Broadway production of Carousel in 1945. She appeared in 850 consecutive performances.[1]
Her role as Carrie helped her with parts for radio and TV in the 1950s and Jean hosted her own television show for NBC in New York City, A Date with Jean Darling. Her daily TV show for women, The Singing Knit-Witch, was aired on KHJ-TV in Hollywood.

 Personal life

Jean Darling married Reuben Bowen (aka Kajar the Magician); they had one son, Roy.
Reuben Bowen died of cancer August 22, 1980. She has remained a widow, having never remarried.
Jean has outlived every original Our Gang member.

 Later years

Since 1974, Darling has been living in Dublin, Ireland, where she has written mystery stories and has had over 50 short stories published in the Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine and Whispers.
As "Aunty Poppy", she reads stories, which she wrote herself, on RTÉ radio and TV. She has also written plays for radio and has worked as a journalist.


  1. ^ Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of The Musical Theatre: An Updated Reference (1980). Da Capo Press. ISBN 0306801132. pp. 63–64.

 External links


And she's a member of the "Our Gang" group on yahoo today.

How do we know she's the real McCoy, or at least, the real Jean Darling?

"You've gotta be kidding!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I am me. How do I know?
My cat and dog both recognized me!!!!!!!!!"
-Jean Darling

"Yes I am the real Jean Darling!!
I pinched myself to make sure and it HURT!"
-Jean Darling

Jean Darling on other child stars who thought they had missed out on something as a result of their careers:

"When I was a little girl I knew Dickie Moore and Jackie Cooper. I was always sorry for them as they never got over the fact that their “childhood had been stolen” which is absolutely ridiculous.
From hangnails to stubbed toes and unwanted rain, all has been blamed on this --- a handy way to shirk responsibility for one’s actions. Sadly, many of the child “stars” have chosen to be “victims”.

Although Jackie has had a wonderful career he never was able to reach the height of acclaim he garnered as a child star. And it’s the trying to recapture this childhood adulation that is long gone with the stretching of the legs that sours memories.

From being a 6 months old freelance baby I worked in films, Vaudeville radio and stage plays --- have worked ALL my life from then till now and am pleased to report my childhood WAS NOT STOLEN --- just different and it has given me a wondrous archive of memories with which to write
my own books."

Our Gang in 1929: Joe Cobb, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Harry Spear, Jean Darling, Mary Ann Jackson, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, and Pete the Pup.

Jean Darling on OUR GANG:
"Roach did 3 kid comedies in 1919.They were not successful because of being banned for allowing a black child to play with white ones. So, the idea was abandoned. Harold Lloyd, who was in partnership with Roach, objected to his producing kid comedies and stealing Sunshine Sammy,this led to their break up. Sadly these first films were lost when the film safe combusted in 28 or
29 and a great many of Lloyd's films and negatives were also lost. The film safe was a cinder block house on the lawn outside the executive offices.It had a safe door on one side. I have a photo of me backed by the safe in which you can see this door. You can imagine the flap when Lloyd, who was retrieving his old films, discovered this terrible loss

In 22 Roach had an idea, a black servent, maid or handy man would explain a
black child, this was a success and so OUR GANG was born."

Our Gang, 1930

(L to R) Pete the pup, Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins, Jean Darling, Mary Ann Jackson, Allen "Farina" Hoskins, Harry Spear, Joe Cobb, Norman "Chubby" Chaney.

"Just thought you might like to know that there was no racial anything on the Roach lot and as far as I was concerned Farina was just a bit darker than I was. His mother was wonderful and much loved by me because she cuddled me and listened to me as though what said was important unlike Mamma who was always more interested in how I looked and how well I minded Mr. McGowan.
The only one in Allen's family I didn't like was his sister and that had nothing to do with color --- she had sharp little teeth that were always sunk into the nearest person and usually that was me! To me all the flap about any kind of difference is nonsense. Either a person is nice or not
--- it is the heart that counts."

Jean Darling's furry little friends:

Thelma Todd and Pete the Pup in publicity still.

"Pete was supposedly killed by "someone" throwing some chopped beef filled with ground glass over the"fence". As Petey was never loose except on the set it has always seemed rather far fetched to me. Petey was the dearest sweetest dog in the world and when I was punished with a switch Mamma kept in her handbag, he would come over and comfort me.

Another animal who was my friend was Josephine, a little monkey. Tony her owner was an organ grinder who loved Josephine to bits. He was a happy jolly man. They often worked at fairs and on Hollywood Blvd. Josephine was in many Hal Roach movies besides the GANG."

Josephine the monkey as Mickey Mouse in BABES IN TOYLAND

Jean Darling as "Curly Locks" in BABES IN TOYLAND.

Oliver Hardy with Jean Darling

Laurel and Hardy and the gang.

Jean Darling had a little to say about Thelma Todd:

"When I knew Thelma her favourite song was BYE-BYE BLACKBIRD!
She used to pull my curls and say, you're so pretty --- don't grow up like me!"
And I never knew what Thelma meant until long after she died.

I thought she meant to be more careful with whom I dated. And not think being pretty was the most important thing.
In the beginning Thelma had depended on her looks and it wasn't until she was older that she became a good actress as well as beautiful. She was always saying how important it was to know your trade and it worried her that so much of her career was in rushing from one bit part to another."

Jean did her part to contribute to the war effort during the second World War:
"I was the first everhospital unit (alone). Special Services gave me travel orders to return to Naples
after Eddie Foy Jr, John Garfield and the rest of the unit opted to go home. We left the States
Feb. 14, 1944, we were supposed to be overseas for six months. they all went home in April.
As far as I was concerned it was nuts to perform for troops in the war zone, they had enough to
contend with. I asked to go back to Naples to sing in the hospitals where a pretty girl from home could do more good. It was a very sad time with Cassino and the Anzio Beach Head where more were wounded than the hospitals could deal with. I stayed on till Sept. going from ward
to ward and comforting those on stretchers that over flowed into the arena at Bagnoli, the stadium built for the Olympics.

I am mentioned in the obituary of James FC Hyde, Jr. a soldier I visited every day until he was sent home. He felt my visits were instrumental in saving his life. Jim went on to work for six Presidents.

If you are interested, find someone who has my book BUTTERCAKES AND BANANA OIL, my time overseas is written there."

Jean Darling went on to further success in many fields.

Jean Darling in the Broadway hit CAROUSEL, 1945

Them horses ain't the only ones that's got legs, ya know!

We have seen before how other books about the movies have many mistakes in them. Jean Darling says the books about OUR GANG also have their share of mistakes:

"I think the nice Leonard ( Maltin ) let Bann do the GANG book. As Bann claimed to be the end-all know-all about the GANG, Leonard naturally let him take care of the information in the book.The
most charming facet of Dick Bann's character is that when you say that something in the book about you is wrong, he gets furious and insists that you don't know what you are talking about. In the second edition of theGANG BOOK called LITTLE RASCALS he still says I was in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN and was in Vaudeville with Peggy Eames, Harry Spear and Scooter Lowery. Both are WRONG. And he also says that I am touring Ireland as an Irish character called Aunty Poppy. WRONG!!!!! I am Aunty Poppy, I chose the name because the California Poppy is my State flower. I wrote and read the stories on RTE radio and television for 8 years beginning in February 1980. As for touring, I road two miles to RTE on my motorcycle! When I told him about the errors he said he has proof that everything he writes is right! Just how ridiculous is that? Like I don't know how I lived my own life."

Somebody else in the Our Gang group said that the mistakes were repeated from other sources. That's often the way it is.

And here is a message from Jean Darling about my blog:

"Dear Benny

Just to let you know errors have been copied in your blog and I'm sure you
wish it to be correct.

The photo with Mary Pickford Is NOT me it is Shirley Jean Rickhert now

She followed me in the GANG and left after 3 or 4 comedies.

My name was legally changed to my mother's middle name, Darling, when I was

5 months old, a few days after she and my father split.

My husband, Reuben Bowen aka Kajar the Magician, died of cancer August 22,

I have remained a widow, having never remarried.

I would appreciate your making these changes and I thank you for taking all
the trouble to blog me.

Bye for now,

Jean Darling"

I have made the corrections she wished. - Benny Drinnon

Our Gang club on yahoo:     

Jean Darling's site:

Jean Darling at Our Gang wikki:

Jean Darling documentary program

Jean Darling sings:


  1. Today word reached me that Jean Darling had died.

  2. and today Dickie many left from Our Gang?!