Jean Darling of Our Gang and Little Rascals
Remembering Old Hollywood Stars : Jean Darling
Jean Darling, born Dorothy Jean LeVake, was born in Santa Monica on August 23rd 1922 and was best known as a famous child actress during her time as a member of Hal Roach’s Our Gang or The Little Rascals. After going through and passing a screen test at the tender age of four, Jean Darling, with her beautiful gold curls and infectious smile starred in over thirty of Our Gang’s comedic shorts during their Silent Era.
Jean Darling's first Our Gang film, Bring Home the Turkey, showed off her exceptional child acting skills and in her first year as an Our Gang member, proceeded to act in eleven Our Gang productions, one of the most films starred by a member of Our Gang in a year. Darling continued to star in thirty five Our Gang films, her most popular being in Cat, Dog and Co. alongside other child stars Wheezer and Farina in her last year as an Our Gang member in 1929 right before the talking era of Our Gang.
Upon her completion and eventual release as an Our Gang member in late 1929, instead of quitting show business entirely like most other Our Gang child starlets, Jean Darling stayed in the industry, albeit taking on and landing lesser known roles such as on Jane Eyre and Babes in Toyland. Besides feature films, Darling also dabbled in theater arts, performing stage shows throughout the week and appearing on radio shows, which was considered an integral part of entertainment during its heyday. With her devout interest in show business, Darling went on a brief hiatus from performing when she received a scholarship from the New York Municipal Opera Association and began studying singing.
Our Gang Ladies
Jean Darling’s efforts paid off when, in 1942, landed a role on Broadway, a debut in the musical titled Count Me In. Her performances were stellar enough to warrant the main role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel, another Broadway musical in 1945 as the charming Carrie Pipperidge. In a span of two years, Darling amassed a total of 850 straight appearances in Broadway, a record for the now adult songstress. In 1954, Darling got married to magician Reuben Bowen, who was also known as Kajar, The Magician at that point of time and toured the world with her magician husband.
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Currently, Jean Darling has settled in Dublin, Ireland, where she has authored several mystery tales for the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Ellery Queen. Her talent in writing proved to be successful as she played the character of “Aunty Poppy”, where she wrote and told children’s stories on radio and television. Darling also worked as a journalist in Dublin and also dabbled in several successful radio plays. Despite her initial success as a child actress in the silent era, Darling suffered through her teenage years, where she acted on stage shows seven nights a week on top of her school commitments. Through her dedication and hard work, Darling persevered through the dark clouds of show business and made a name for herself as an author and journalist in Dublin.