Just thought that you might enjoy hearing about a couple of things I remember from my OUR GANG years.
Like about the room full of toys that were ignored in favor of balsa wood and the bead box in the wardrobe department.
Balsa topped the list because it could be nailed, chewed and floated on the Roach studio's artificial lake -- until it became waterlogged and sank.
As one of the Prop men had to fish out these small disasters, my efforts were soon limited to nailing and chewing, by the powers that be.
I also came a cropper with the bead box. One day having strung a very long necklace on heavy twine, I took it over to our set where the giant was
perched on a too small chair waiting to be called for the next shot. Putting the beads around his neck, I asked hiim to stand up.
As the young man both liked and trusted me, he rose. But not before my hands were firmly wound in the string of beads. So there he stood with a thrity-six
pound, three foot tall blonde bouncing against his stomach. Our director, Robert McGowan, had the bead box locked away until further notice.
As for dolls, only one was ever able to find her way into my heart. She was a Bilo baby whose eyes opened and shut and her name was Emmylou. But the best thing was her mouth which was open
just wide enough for me to stuff in milk-softened cracker crumbs. After a while I could always find her by scent which made Emmylou even more attractive -- to me, if not to Mamma.
Unable to stand being in the same room, let alone the same house with my little love, Mamma shipped her off to the doll hospital to be refurbished and deoderised.
Although recognisable on her return, the sanitised Emmylou seemed remote and unfriendly, a fact that was underlined by the message inked by hand on her cotton back.
Right there, under her dress, it read: "Restored for Jean Darling by Mme. Anastasia. Dolls name: Emmylou".
For the next couple of years she languished unloved. But when I left the GANG to headline Vaudeville in a 12 minute single act of song, dance and patter, Mamma decided to put all publicity from my years
with OUR GANG in storage. A friend offered us her garage as a safe place. So, four braodsheet clipping books, three huge still books as well as a box of loose stills, with just enough room at the top for Emmylou, were stacked in a corner.
Some months later, while I was playing the State Lake Theatre in Chicago, a telegram arrived saying that everything has been destroyed in a garage fire.
Now, to skip ahead a few years to when I was playing on Broadway. A number of fans followed me from one show to another to gather at the stagedoor waiting for me to come out.
Most were girls and one of them was particularly endearing, Laura's dark hair was long and her big brown eyes were frindged with lashes to die for. She was there on every matinee day when Carousel first opened. Then,
without any warning Laura was gone. I missed her, of course, but there was little time to dwell on anyhting except three singing lessons and eigth shows a week, plus all te various events arranged by the Theatre Guild's publicity department to keep me out of mischief.
Almost a year passed before i found out the reason for Laura's absence. It was a Saturday after the matinee and I was having a sandwich in the dressing room between shows. John, the stage doorman, came in and said a man had brought a package but he wanted to give it to me himself.
I said it was okay and a middleaged gentleman of medium height entered carrying a box tied with purple ribbon. He introduced himself as Laura's father and at my invitation sat down. When I asked about his daughter, he looked unbearably sad and his eyes filled with tears.
After a moment he said I should open the box. I did, a Bilo Baby doll lay in a nest of tissue paper. "Lift up her dress and look at the back", following his advice, I read ""Restored for Jean Darling by Mme. Anastasia. Dolls name: Emmylou".
The doll had been bought in an auction as a gift for Laura's fourteenth birthday and her last wish had been for it to be returned to me. My dear little fan Laura has died from Leukemia.
"Restored for Jean Darling by Mme. Anastasia. Dolls name: Emmylou"
That was the first inkling I had that the 'fire' has occured only on a sheet of yellow Western Union paper. Further evidence came when fans began sending me pieces cut from the pages of the "incinerated" press books which were clearly identifiable as mine becuase of Mamma's unique handwriting scrawled all over everything.
But these costly treasures are not for me to keep. They are sent for me to autograph and return. As a result of the false fire, I ended up with only a handful of stills from my years with OUR GANG.
So, now that I have at last gathered you together, I would like to thank all of you who, upon hearing of my plight, have so generously sent stills that I do not have for me to keep. I really appreciate having them and I treasure your kindness to me.
Bye for now -- stay well, keep happy.
This is a photograph of me and Emmylou that my Mother had taken to be used for a Christmas card when I was with the gang. This is one of the supposedly "incinerated" stills and my mothers writing is clearly visible on the front.
I have some souvenirs, Jean Darling autographed greeting cards, and autographed pictures, and my book and cassette of children's stories for sale if you would like to see details, please check below.