Jean Darling, one of the last surviving original cast members of the “Our Gang” comedy short subjects who also appeared in the original Broadway production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Carousel, has died. Darling was 93 and died Friday in Rodgau, Germany, where she had lived with her son, Roy Bowen. She’s pictured above at far left with other members of Our Gang. Her friend Rene Riva, a Dutch actor and singer who directed Darling in 2013 in the short silent comedy film “The Butler’s Tale,” confirmed her death. Darling was also believed to be one of the last surviving actors who worked during the silent film era.
She was born Dorothy Jean LeVake on August 23, 1922 in Santa Monica, and her mother changed her name when she was about 5 months old — a few days after her parents split up, reportedly over her mother’s showbiz aspirations for her daughter. Darling started appearing in films a month later. When she was 4 she was accepted for a part in Hal Roach’s Our Gang series. Darling appeared in 46 silents and six talkies with Our Gang.
Darling continued to work in films, including an uncredited role in Laurel & Hardy’s Babes In Toyland and as the young Jane in Jane Eyre in the 1934 adaptation of Emily Bronte’s novel. After singing lessons she turned her attention to the stage where she made her debut in the musical Count Me In in 1942. In 1945 she originated the role of Carrie Pipperidge in Carousel, and racked up 850 consecutive performances.
That role led to parts on radio and TV during the 1950s. In New York, she hosted the TV show A Date With Jean Darling for NBC. She later had a daily TV show for women, The Singing Knit-Witch, that aired on KHJ-TV in Hollywood.
In 1974 she moved to Dublin, Ireland, where she wrote mystery stories, some 50 of which were published in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Whispers. She also appeared on Irish TV and radio as Aunty Poppy, reading children’s stories. She later moved to live with her son in Rodgau, Germany until her death.