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1930s & Earlier / Our Gang - Jean Darling
Jean Darling was one of the last Our Gang alumni to have any connection with the silent film era. Born Dorothy Jean LeVake in 1922, Darling got her big break at age four when she was accepted for a part in Hal Roach's Our Gang series. (By that time her name had been changed to Jean Darling.) Darling appeared in 35 Our Gang films. She essentially replaced Mary Kornman as the troupe's pretty blonde, a role she held through 1929. Darling's stint in the Our Gang cast ended at age seven, but she continued to appear in films, including an uncredited appearance in Laurel and Hardy's adaptation of Babes in Toyland (1934), and as the young Jane in Jane Eyre (1934). A round of stage and radio shows followed. Darling began to study singing. 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 its apex when she landed the role of Carrie Pipperidge in the original Broadway production of Carousel in 1945. She appeared in 850 consecutive performances of the play. Her role as Carrie helped her win parts for radio and TV in the 1950s. She hosted her own television show for NBC in New York City titled A Date with Jean Darling. Her daily TV show for women, The Singing Knit-Witch, aired on KHJ-TV in Hollywood. Later in life Darling began penning short mystery stories. She had more than 50 published. Darling resided in Ireland for many years, but died in Germany in 2015 at the age of 93.