Jean Darling

Dorothy Jean LeVake, or Jean Darling (born August 23, 1922) was an American child actress who was a regular in the Our Gang short subjects series from 1927 to 1929.


In 1926, Darling got her break when she passed her screen test and was accepted for a part in the Hal Roach Our Gang series. By that stage her name had been changed to Jean Darling. Darling appeared in 35 Our Gang films during this period.

Darling 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, setting a record for a singer.[citation needed]

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

Darling married Reuben Bowen (whose stage name was Kajer the Magician). They had one son, Roy.

Since 1974, Darling had 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 read stories, which she wrote herself, on RTÉ radio and TV. She had also written plays for radio and had worked as a journalist.

Prior to her death, she was one of four surviving cast members from the silent era cast of Our Gang (Lassie Lou Ahern, Mildred Kornman and Dorothy Morrison being the others). At the time of her death in 2015, Darling was, along with Baby Peggy, one of the last surviving actors who worked in the silent film era.


She died at a nursing home in Rödermark on September 4, 2015, after a sudden illness, aged 93. Her death was reported two days later.


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