Darling in the 1920s
August 23, 1922 |
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
(m.1954-1980; his death)
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. Darling is one of three surviving cast members from the silent era cast of Our Gang (Lassie Lou Ahern and Dorothy Morrison are the others). Along with Baby Peggy, she is one of the last surviving actors who worked in the silent film era.
Born Dorothy Jean LeVake, her name was legally changed to Jean Darling when she was five 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 a screen test and was accepted for a part in Hal Roach's Our Gang series. Darling appeared in 46 silents and six 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.
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.
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.
Jean Darling married Reuben Bowen (aka Kajar the Magician); they had one son, Roy.
Reuben Bowen died of cancer on August 22, 1980. She has not remarried.
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.
- Villecco, Tony (2001). Silent Stars Speak: Interviews with Twelve Cinema Pioneers. Mcfarland & Co Inc Pub (January 2001). ISBN 978-0786408146.
- Green, Stanley. Encyclopedia of The Musical Theatre: An Updated Reference (1980). Da Capo Press. ISBN 0-306-80113-2. pp. 63–64.
- Jean Darling at the Internet Movie Database
- Jean Darling at the Internet Broadway Database
- Her Website