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James Darren

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James Darren
Darren in 2015
James William Ercolani

(1936-06-08) June 8, 1936 (age 88)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Years active1956–present
Known forActor, singer, director
Notable work
  • Gloria Terlitsky
    (m. 1955; div. 1958)
  • Evy Norlund
    (m. 1960)
Children3, including Jim Moret

James William Ercolani (born June 8, 1936), known by his stage name James Darren, is an American television and film actor, television director, and singer. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, he had notable starring and supporting roles in films including Gidget (1959) and its sequels, The Gene Krupa Story (1959), All the Young Men (1960), The Guns of Navarone (1961), and Diamond Head (1962). As a teen pop singer, he achieved hit singles including "Goodbye Cruel World" in 1961. He later became more active in television, starring as Dr. Anthony Newman in the science fiction series The Time Tunnel (1966–1967). He appeared in the regular role of Officer James Corrigan in the police drama T. J. Hooker (1983–1986) and in the recurring role of Vic Fontaine in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (1998–1999).

Early life[edit]

Darren was born in the Lower Moyamensing neighborhood of Philadelphia, on June 8, 1936. He is of Italian descent.

He wanted to be an actor and studied in New York City with Stella Adler for a number of years. He would also occasionally sing although he later said "I wasn't really a singer. I was a kid in Philly whose dad would take him to bars and nightclubs and I would get up and sing two songs."[1][2]


Darren was discovered by talent agent and casting director Joyce Selznick after he got some photographs taken by Maurice Seymour to show potential agents:

His secretary, a woman by the name of Yvonne Bouvier, asked me if I was interested in getting into film. I said yeah, I was. She said I know someone you should meet. She set up a meeting between me and Joyce Selznick, who worked for Screen Gems. I went down to 1650 Broadway, the Brill Building. On my way to a meeting with Joyce, we just happened to get on the elevator at the same time. She kept staring at me. I never met her. She never met me. We got off at the same floor and walked to the same office. That was our meeting. Joyce brought me over to Columbia Pictures about a week later and got me a contract there.[3]


Columbia signed Darren to a long-term contract in July 1956. A few weeks later he was filming his first film, Rumble on the Docks (1956), a low-budget "B" movie produced by Sam Katzman, where Darren played the lead.[4][5] Darren's appearance was well received and he got a lot of fan mail – second at the studio only to Kim Novak.[5]

Darren guest starred on an episode of TV's The Web ("Kill and Run") then Columbia gave him a support role in an "A" picture, the comedy Operation Mad Ball (1957), starring Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacs.

He had support roles in two films directed by Phil Karlson: The Brothers Rico (1957), a film noir, playing the brother of Richard Conte; and Gunman's Walk (1958), a Western with Van Heflin and Tab Hunter. In between he was second billed in another movie for Katzman, The Tijuana Story (1957), although his role was relatively small.

Gidget and singing[edit]

With Bob Hope and Jo Stafford, 1961
With Shelley Fabares in The Donna Reed Show, 1959
With Lee Meriwether and Robert Colbert in TV series The Time Tunnel, 1966

Darren was third billed in the surf film, Gidget (1959), starring Sandra Dee and Cliff Robertson, playing Moondoggie, essentially the film's leading man. He also sang the title track. "They were thinking about having someone do the vocal and I would lip sync", he recalled. "I told them I could do it. So we went into one of the sound stages and I sang 'Gidget'. They said, 'He sings fine,' then I did all the other songs."[1]

The film was a hit with teen audiences and so was the song. Darren wound up recording a string of pop hits for Colpix Records, the biggest of which was "Goodbye Cruel World" (#3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1961). It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc.[6] He also recorded this song in excellent Italian, as "Addio Mondo Crudele", which was very successful in Europe. His follow-ups also became hits: "Her Royal Majesty" (#6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1962) and "Conscience" (#11, 1962). He is also featured in one of the Scopitone series of pop-music video jukebox films ("Because You're Mine").

Twice, in 1959 and 1961, Darren played teen idols on episodes of The Donna Reed Show.[7][8] He did an episode of The Lineup (1959).

Darren was third billed in a series of films for Columbia: The Gene Krupa Story (1959), a biopic with Sal Mineo; All the Young Men (1960), a Korean War movie with Alan Ladd and Sidney Poitier; and Let No Man Write My Epitaph (1960) with Burl Ives and Shelley Winters, which was a sequel to Knock On Any Door (1949). He had a cameo as himself in a teen film, Because They're Young (1960), singing the title track.

Darren had a supporting role in the World War II film The Guns of Navarone (1961), a huge hit at the box office. However, Darren later said "The people handling my career at that point didn't really take advantage of it."[9] Also popular was Gidget Goes Hawaiian (1961) where Darren reprised his role as Moondoggie; he had a new Gidget (Deborah Walley) and was given top billing.

Darren had a good support role in a melodrama, Diamond Head (1962) with Charlton Heston. He played Moondoggie a third time in Gidget Goes to Rome (1962) which he later said he "hated... I didn't want to do it. I thought that I'd be doing those for the rest of my life."[9] He sang the title track for Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963).

He also did voice-over work for Screen Gems' Hanna-Barbera animation unit. He was caricatured as teen idol "Jimmy Darrock" on an episode of The Flintstones, and was the singing voice of Yogi Bear in the theatrical feature, Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! (released 1964), on the song "Ven-e, Ven-o, Ven-a".

Darren's seven-year contract with Columbia expired in 1963, and he did not renew it. His recording agreement with Colpix remained in force, and Colpix issued new records into 1965. That same year he changed labels, signing with Warner Bros. Records where he had a Top-40 hit ("All," #35, 1967).


In 1963 Darren signed a seven-picture deal with Universal, starting with The Lively Set (1963).[10] That teamed him with Pamela Tiffin, who was also in For Those Who Think Young (1964), a teen film Darren made for United Artists.

Irwin Allen[edit]

Darren guest-starred on an episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as an Android Omar, that was produced by Irwin Allen. Allen then cast Darren in the lead of a series, as impulsive scientist and adventurer Tony Newman on the science fiction series The Time Tunnel (1966–1967) with Robert Colbert and Lee Meriwether. When the series ended, Allen shot a pilot for a new series starring Darren, The Man from the 25th Century, but it was not picked up.

Darren then went to Europe to make Venus in Furs (1969) for Jess Franco then was reunited with Allen in City Beneath the Sea (1971).

TV guest star[edit]

In the 1970s, Darren performed regularly in night clubs. He focused on guest starring on TV series, such as Love, American Style; S.W.A.T.; Police Woman; Black Sheep Squadron; The Feather and Father Gang; Charlie's Angels; Police Story; Hawaii Five-O; Vegas; The Love Boat; and Fantasy Island.

He had a role in the TV movie The Lives of Jenny Dolan (1975) and the film The Boss' Son (1978).

In the early 1980s Darren appeared on Scruples (1981), and One Day at a Time.

Portrait of a Legend[edit]

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Darren was the host of Portrait of a Legend, a weekly show in which he would conduct an interview with a popular musician about their career interspersed with classic performance footage of that artist. Artists who appeared included Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Sly Stone, and Herb Alpert. The show appeared mostly on PBS.[11]

TJ Hooker and directing[edit]

Later Darren had a regular role as Officer James Corrigan on the television police drama T. J. Hooker from 1983 to 1986.

"Every career has its hills and valleys", Darren said in 1983. "The most important thing is that you are happy with you. Not anybody's career, no one that I know of, has always been climbing. It always levels out and you want to make sure you have good investments and financial security and bread on the table. If projects aren't coming to you, then you seek them out and you try to develop and put projects together."[12]

He directed some episodes and launched a career as a director, notably of action-based series, including Hunter, The A-Team, Silk Stalkings, Renegade, and Nowhere Man, as well as dramas such as Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place.[13]

He continued to act on such shows as Raven.

Deep Space Nine[edit]

In 1998, he achieved renewed popularity as a singer through his appearances on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine in the role of holographic crooner and adviser Vic Fontaine. His role in Deep Space Nine inspired his return to singing.[14] Many of his vocal performances on the show were re-recorded for the album This One's from the Heart (1999).[15] The album shows Darren, a close friend of Frank Sinatra,[16] comfortably singing in the Sinatra style. The 2001 follow-up Because of You showed similar inspiration from Tony Bennett.

Later appearances include Random Acts (2001) and Lucky (2017).

Personal life[edit]

James Darren with Gloria Terlitsky and son James Jr.
Evy Norlund and James Darren on their honeymoon in Rome in 1960

In 1955, Darren married Gloria Terlitsky, his sweetheart since 1953. Her father opposed their marriage because Terlitsky was Jewish while Darren was Catholic. Darren and Terlitsky had son James Jr. ("Jimmy"), and divorced in 1958. Jimmy was adopted by Gloria's third husband, and is now known as journalist and TV commentator Jim Moret.[17]

Two years after the divorce, Darren married Evy Norlund, Miss Denmark 1958. They had two sons, Christian (born c. 1960) and Anthony (born c. 1964).[18][19]

Selected discography[edit]


Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Peak chart positions Album
US Billboard US AC UK[20]
1958 "Mighty Pretty Territory"
b/w "There's No Such Thing"
Album No. 1
1959 "Gidget"
b/w "You" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
"Angel Face"
b/w "I Don't Wanna Lose Ya"
47 James Darren Sings for All Sizes
"I Ain't Sharin Sharon"
b/w "Love Among the Young" (from Album No. 1)
non-album track
"Teenage Tears"
b/w "Let There Be Love" (Non-album track)
James Darren Sings for All Sizes
1960 "You Are My Dream"
b/w "Your Smile"
Gidget Goes Hawaiian – James Darren Sings the Movies
"Because They're Young"
b/w "Tears in My Eyes" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
"Traveling Down a Lonely Road"
b/w "P.S. I Love You"
"All the Young Men"
b/w "How Sweet You Are" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
non-album track
"Come On My Love"
b/w "Man About Town" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
Gidget Goes Hawaiian – James Darren Sings the Movies
1961 "Goodbye My Lady Love"
b/w "Walkin' My Baby Back Home" (Non-album track)
"Gotta Have Love"
b/w "Fool's Paradise" (Non-album track)
James Darren Sings for All Sizes
"Gidget Goes Hawaiian"
b/w "Wild About That Girl"
Gidget Goes Hawaiian – James Darren Sings the Movies
"You Are My Dream"
b/w "Hand In Hand"
"Goodbye Cruel World"
b/w "Valerie"
3 28 James Darren Sings For All Sizes
1962 "Her Royal Majesty"
b/w "If I Could Only Tell You" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
6 36 Teenage Triangle
b/w "Dream Big" (from James Darren Sings for All Sizes)
11 30
"Mary's Little Lamb"
b/w "The Life of the Party"
39 Non-album tracks
"Hail to the Conquering Hero"
b/w "Too Young to Go Steady" (from Love Among the Young)
"Hear What I Wanna Hear"
b/w "I'll Be Loving You"
1963 "Pin a Medal On Joey"
b/w "Diamond Head"
"They Should Have Given You the Oscar"
b/w "Blame It On My Youth" (from Love Among the Young)
b/w "Grande Luna Italiana"
More Teenage Triangle
"Back Stage"
b/w "Under the Yum Yum Tree"
Non-album tracks
1964 "Punch and Judy"
b/w "Just Think of Tonight"
1965 "Baby, Talk to Me"
b/w "A Married Man" (Non-album track)
More Teenage Triangle
"Because You're Mine"
b/w "Millions of Roses"
30 Non-album tracks
1966 "Tom Hawk"
b/w "I Want to Be Lonely"
"Where Did We Go Wrong"
b/w "Counting the Cracks"
"Crazy Me"
b/w "They Don't Know"
"Tomorrow Tomorrow"
b/w "Love Is Where You Find It"
1967 "All"
b/w "Misty Morning Eyes" (Non-album track)
35 5 All
"Since I Don't Have You"
b/w "I Miss You So"
"Didn't We"
b/w "Counting the Cracks"
36 non-album tracks
"They Don't Know"
b/w "The House Song"
1968 "Cherie"
b/w "Wait Until Dark"
"Each and Every Part of Me"
b/w "A Little Bit of Heaven"
1970 "Wheeling, West Virginia"
b/w "That's My World"
1971 "Bring Me Down Slow"
b/w "More and More"
Mammy Blue
"Mammy Blue"
b/w "As Long As You Love Me"
1972 "Ain't Been Home In a Long Time"
b/w "I Think Somebody Loves Me"
"Brian's Song"
b/w "Thank Heaven for Little Girls"
Love Songs from the Movies
1973 "Let the Heartaches Begin"
b/w "Sad Song"
non-album tracks
b/w "Sad Eyed Romany Woman"
1975 "Love On the Screen"
b/w "Losing You"
1976 "Sleepin' in a Bed of Lies"
b/w "One Has My Name, the Other Has My Heart"
1977 "You Take My Heart Away"
b/w Disco version of A-side
1978 "Only a Dream Away"
b/w "Losing You"
"Let Me Take You in My Arms Again"
b/w "California"
"The Next Time"
b/w "Something Like Nothing Before"


  • 1960 James Darren No. 1 (reissued 2004)
  • 1961 Sings the Movies (Gidget Goes Hawaiian)
  • 1962 Love Among the Young (reissued 2004)
  • 1962 Sings for All Sizes
  • 1963 Bye Bye Birdie (with The Marcels, Paul Petersen and Shelley Fabares)
  • 1963 Teenage Triangle (with Shelley Fabares and Paul Petersen)
  • 1964 More Teenage Triangle (with Paul Petersen and Shelley Fabares)
  • 1967 All (reissued 2005)
  • 1971 Mammy Blue
  • 1972 Love Songs from the Movies
  • 1994 The Best of James Darren
  • 1999 This One's from the Heart
  • 2001 Because of You
  • 2019 Live! For The First Time

Many compilation albums also exist.


Year Title Role Notes
1956 Rumble on the Docks Jimmy Smigelski
1957 Operation Mad Ball Pvt. Widowskas
The Brothers Rico Johnny Rico
The Tijuana Story Mitch
1958 Gunman's Walk Davy Hackett
1959 Gidget Jeffrey Matthews a.k.a. Moondoggie
The Gene Krupa Story Eddie Sirota
1960 Because They're Young himself – singer
All the Young Men Pvt. Cotton
Let No Man Write My Epitaph Nick Romano
1961 The Guns of Navarone Pvt. Spyro Pappadimos
Gidget Goes Hawaiian Jeffrey Matthews a.k.a. Moondoggie
1962 Diamond Head Paul Kahana
1963 Gidget Goes to Rome Jeffrey Matthews a.k.a. Moondoggie
Under the Yum Yum Tree himself – singer behind title credits
1964 Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! Yogi Bear ('Ven-e, Ven-o, Ven-a') (singing voice)
For Those Who Think Young Gardner 'Ding' Pruitt III
The Lively Set Casey Owens
1968 The Man from the 25th Century Tomo / Robert Prentiss
1969 Venus in Furs Jimmy Logan
1978 The Boss' Son Buddy Weistein
1979 That's Life
2001 Random Acts Allen
2010 Accidental Icon: The real Gidget story himself
2017 Lucky Paulie

TV appearances[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1957 The Web Tony Roberts Episode: "Kill and Run"
1959 Kovacs on Music Various TV movie
The Lineup Vezey Episode: "Vengeful Knife"
1959–1961 The Donna Reed Show Kip Dennis / Jim Bryce / Buzz Berry 2 episodes
1965 The Flintstones Jimmy Darrock (singing voice) S5.E26 - “Surfin' Fred” aired Mar 12, 1965
1966 Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Omir Episode: "The Mechanical Man"
1966–1967 The Time Tunnel Dr. Tony Newman 30 episodes
1971 City Beneath the Sea Dr. Talty TV movie
Love, American Style Roger Barnes (segment "Love and the Monsters") Episode: "Love and the Anniversary Crisis/Love and the Conjugal Visit/Love and the Dream Burglar/Love and the Hotel Caper/Love and the Monsters"
1975 The Lives of Jenny Dolan Orlando TV movie
1976 S.W.A.T. Joey Wade Episodes: "The Running Man: Part 1" and "The Running Man: Part 2"
Police Woman Rick Matteo Episodes: "The Task Force" (2 Parts)
1977 Baa Baa Black Sheep Lt. Col. Rod Towers Episode: "The War Biz Warrior"
The Feather and Father Gang Praeger Episode: "For the Love of Sheila"
Charlie's Angels David Barzak Episode: "Circus of Terror"
Police Story Roger Lewis Episode: "Stigma"
1978–1979 Hawaii Five-O Johnny Munroe Episode: "Number One with a Bullet Part 1 and 2"
1980 Vegas Paul Bracken Episode: "Consortium"
Turnover Smith Georgie Green TV movie
1981 The Love Boat Tony Steeter Episode: "Lose One, Win One/The $10,000 Lover/Mind My Wife"
Scruples Vito TV movie
1979–1982 Fantasy Island Claude Duvalle / Brian Holmes / Michael Duvall 3 episodes
1983 One Day at a Time Roger Alexander Episode: "The Cruise"
1982–1985 T. J. Hooker Dan Danko

Officer Jim Corrigan

S2/E2: "King of the Hill"

66 episodes

1992 Raven Billy Sharp Episode: "Is Someone Crazy in Here or Is It Me"
Renegade Lou Delgado Episode: "Second Chance"
1994 Silk Stalkings Episode: "Natural Selection: Part 1"
1997 Diagnosis: Murder Councilman Matthew Watson Episode: "Murder Blues"
1999 Melrose Place Tony Marlin 5 episodes
1998–1999 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Vic Fontaine 8 episodes


  1. ^ a b King, Susan (July 25, 2004). "Memories of Moondoggie; James Darren, once Gidget's guy, still croons tunes". Los Angeles Times. p. E3.
  2. ^ Smyth, Mitchell (September 22, 1991). "'Moondoggie' is a TV director". Toronto Star. p. D5.
  3. ^ "Gary James' Interview With James Darren". classicbands.com
  4. ^ Purcelli, Marion (December 9, 1967). "From streetcorner to stardom in one easy elevator ride". Chicago Tribune. p. E3.
  5. ^ a b Scott, John L. (April 27, 1958). "James Darren well on way to hitting jackpot of stardom: Fair-haired boy Darren getting big buildup". The Los Angeles Times. p. E1.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 133. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ "The Donna Reed Show: April Fool". TV.com. Archived from the original on April 19, 2019. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  8. ^ "The Donna Reed Show: One Starry Night". TV.com. Retrieved June 22, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Todd Doogan interviews actor James Darren (2001).
  10. ^ "Darren signed at Universal". The Los Angeles Times. December 13, 1963. p. D17.
  11. ^ "Portrait of a Legend - Tv Series - 16 DVDS - Rare Collection!".
  12. ^ Bykofsky, Stuart D. (June 23, 1983). "James Darren remembers his roots". Philadelphia Daily News. p. 42.
  13. ^ Martino, Alison (August 10, 2015). "Time Tunneling with James Darren". Los Angeles. Retrieved April 3, 2016.
  14. ^ This One's from the Heart (booklet). James Darren. Concord Records. 1999.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  15. ^ "Forever Fontaine – An interview with DS9's James Darren". StarTrek.com. July 13, 2011.
  16. ^ "James Darren – actor/singer". www.famousinterview.ca. Retrieved July 5, 2021.
  17. ^ Moret, Jim (July 2010). The Last Day of My Life. Incognito Books. p. 168. ISBN 978-0-9827876-0-1.
  18. ^ Lisanti, Thomas (August 24, 2012). Hollywood Surf and Beach Movies: The first wave, 1959–1969. McFarland. p. 362. ISBN 978-1-4766-0142-7.
  19. ^ Adelson, Suzanne (December 5, 1983). "Goodbye Gidget, Hello Heather: James Darren catches a new wave of fans on T.J. Hooker". People. Vol. 20, no. 23.
  20. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London, UK: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 141. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.

External links[edit]