Jean Darling, ‘Our Gang’ star, dies at 93

8 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

End of an era: Silent film actress Jean Darling, star of Our Gang comedies, dies in Germany aged 93.

A four-year-old Darling began appearing in the shorts in 1926, and appeared in 46 shorts and four ‘talkies’ about the childhood pals, reports Deadline. Darling got her start in the acting business at the age of 4, joining Our Gang in the early 1920s. (She played Jean.) She went on to appear in dozens of silent films (Our Gang itself didn’t add sound until seven years after its 1922 debut), and as an adult, she originated the role of Carrie Pipperidge in Broadway’s Carousel when the show first debuted in 1945. Darling moved to Dublin in the 1970s and began writing mystery and horror stories for magazines, and last appeared in a short silent film titled The Butler’s Tale in 2013. Born Dorothy Jean LaVake in Santa Monica, Darling was spotted by an assistant of Our Gang producer Hal Roach and made her first appearance as the tyke named Jean in the 1927 silent Bring Home the Turkey.

Before her death, she was one of the few remaining stars from the silent film era — which ended in the late 1920s when talkies entered the scene — still alive. Her character often was the object of the boys’ affections. “The crossover to talkies was just idiocy on the part of the producers,” Darling said in Tony Villecco’s 2001 book Silent Stars Speak: Interviews With Twelve Cinema Pioneers. “Instead of thinking a star could go on and have some voice coaching, they would immediately drop anyone on the first squawk.

Darling, who starred in Our Gang starting at age 4 in 1926, quit just as sound was starting to be introduced to films, but participated in six “talkies” with the series before her exit, according to Deadline. After making her Broadway debut in Count Me In opposite Jean Arthur in 1942, Darling portrayed Julie Jordan’s pal Carrie in the original cast of 1945’s Carousel, working 850 consecutive performances at one point. American children’s film comedy group Our Gang starred (left to right) Wheezer, Jean Darling, Farina, Joe Cobb (1917 – 2002), Harry Spear, Mary Ann Jackson and Patsy the dog.

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