Happy 142nd Birthday Jane Darwell

Today is the 142nd birthday of the actress Jane Darwell.  Her longevity is admirable, especially in the film industry.  She did what she loved and did it as long as she could.  I admire that in a person.  She was in some of the very best films of all time, at least some of my favorite, ones I have seen multiple times.  Enough so you start to notice other aspects besides major plot points, you start to notice brilliant character actors like Jane Darwell. Also, her name change seems like a lateral move. The world is a better place because she was in it and still feels the loss that she has left.

Jane darwell 4

NAME: Jane Darwell
BIRTHDATE: October 15, 1879
BIRTHPLACE: Palmyra, Missouri, USA
DATE OF DEATH: August 13, 1967
PLACE OF DEATH: Woodland Hills, California, USA
REMAINS: Buried, Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, Glendale, CA
OSCAR for Best Supporting Actress 1941 for The Grapes of Wrath
HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME 6735 Hollywood Blvd.

BEST KNOWN FOR: An American actress of stage, film, and television. With appearances in more than one hundred major motion pictures spanning half a century, Darwell is perhaps best-remembered for her portrayal of the matriarch and leader of the Joad family in the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and her role as the Bird Woman in Disney’s musical family film, Mary Poppins.

Born Patti Woodard to William Robert Woodard, a railroad president, and Ellen Booth in Palmyra in Marion County in northeastern Missouri, she originally intended to become a circus rider, then later an opera singer. Her father objected, however, and she compromised by becoming an actress but changed her name to Darwell to avoid sullying the family name.

She took up voice culture and the piano followed by a course in dramatics. At one point, she decided to enter a convent but instead changed her mind and became an actress. Darwell began acting in theater productions in Chicago and made her first film appearance in 1913. She appeared in almost twenty films over the next two years before returning to the stage. After a 15-year absence from films, she resumed her film career in 1930 with a role in Tom Sawyer, and her career as a Hollywood character actress began. Short, stout and plain-faced she was quickly cast in a succession of films usually as the mother of one of the major characters. She was especially prevalent in Shirley Temple films; she appeared in five films with Temple, usually as the housekeeper or grandmother.

She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress as “Ma Joad” in The Grapes of Wrath (1940), a role she was given at the insistence of the film’s star, Henry Fonda. A contract player with 20th Century Fox, Darwell was memorably cast in The Ox-Bow Incident, and occasionally starred in “B” movies and played featured parts in scores of major films.

Darwell had noted appearances on the stage as well; in 1944, she was popular in the stage comedy Suds in Your Eye, in which she played an Irishwoman who had inherited a junkyard.

By the end of her career she had appeared in more than 170 films, including Huckleberry Finn (1931), Jesse James (1939),Gone with the Wind (1939), The Devil and Daniel Webster (1941), The Ox-Bow Incident (1943), and My Darling Clementine(1946).

Darwell was among the guest stars on an episode of Faye Emerson’s Wonderful Town, a variety television series which aired on CBS from 1951 to 1952 in which hostess Faye Emerson visits a different city each week to accent the local music. In 1954, Darwell appeared with Andy Clyde in the episode “Santa’s Old Suit” of the series, The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse. This same episode was re-run the following Christmas 1955 on Studio 57. In 1959, she appeared with child actor Roger Mobley in the episode “Mr. Rush’s Secretary” on the NBC western series, Buckskin, starring Tom Nolan and Sally Brophy. She guest starred on John Bromfield’s crime drama in a modern western setting, Sheriff of Cochise.

On July 27, 1961, Darwell appeared as “Grandmother McCoy” in an episode of the ABC sitcom The Real McCoys. In the story line, the series characters played by Walter Brennan, Richard Crenna, and Kathleen Nolan return to fictitious Smokey Corners, West Virginia for Grandmother McCoy’s 100th birthday gathering. Darwell was fifteen years older than “son”, Walter Brennan. Pat Buttram and Henry Jones appeared in this episode as Cousin Carl and Jed McCoy, respectively.

Darwell’s final role as the old woman feeding the birds in Mary Poppins (1964) was personally assigned to her by Walt Disney.

Mary Poppins (27-Aug-1964)
Hound-Dog Man (Nov-1959)
The Last Hurrah (24-Oct-1958) · Delia Boylan
Girls in Prison (Jul-1956)
There’s Always Tomorrow (20-Jan-1956) · Mrs. Rogers
Hit the Deck (3-Mar-1955)
The Bigamist (3-Dec-1953) · Mrs. Connelley
Affair with a Stranger (20-Jun-1953)
The Sun Shines Bright (2-May-1953)
It Happens Every Thursday (22-Apr-1953)
We’re Not Married! (11-Jul-1952) · Mrs. Bush
Journey Into Light (28-Sep-1951)
Excuse My Dust (27-Jun-1951)
Three Husbands (8-Mar-1951)
The Lemon Drop Kid (8-Mar-1951) · Nellie Thursday
The Second Face (1-Dec-1950)
Caged (19-May-1950) · Isolation Matron
Wagon Master (19-Apr-1950)
The Daughter of Rosie O’Grady (30-Mar-1950) · Mrs. Murphy
Red Canyon (1949)
3 Godfathers (1-Dec-1948) · Miss Florie
The Red Stallion (16-Aug-1947) · Mrs. Curtis
My Darling Clementine (3-Dec-1946)
Three Wise Fools (26-Sep-1946)
A Yank in London (20-Jul-1945)
Sunday Dinner for a Soldier (8-Dec-1944) · Mrs. Helen Dobson
Music in Manhattan (6-Oct-1944)
The Impatient Years (7-Sep-1944)
Tender Comrade (29-Dec-1943) · Mrs. Henderson
Stage Door Canteen (24-Jun-1943) · Herself
The Ox-Bow Incident (21-May-1943) · Jenny Grier
Highways by Night (2-Oct-1942)
It Happened in Flatbush (28-May-1942)
All Through the Night (10-Jan-1942) · Mrs. Donahue
The Devil and Daniel Webster (17-Oct-1941)
Thieves Fall Out (3-May-1941) · Grandma Allen
Chad Hanna (25-Dec-1940)
Brigham Young: Frontiersman (20-Sep-1940)
The Grapes of Wrath (15-Mar-1940) · Ma Joad
Gone with the Wind (15-Dec-1939) · Mrs. Merriwether
The Rains Came (8-Sep-1939) · Aunt Phoebe
Grand Jury Secrets (23-Jun-1939)
Jesse James (13-Jan-1939) · Mrs. Samuels
Time Out for Murder (25-Sep-1938)
Little Miss Broadway (16-Sep-1938)
Three Blind Mice (18-Jun-1938) · Mrs. Kilian
Wife, Doctor and Nurse (11-Oct-1937)
The Singing Marine (3-Jul-1937) · Ma Marine
Slave Ship (16-Jun-1937)
The Great Hospital Mystery (14-May-1937)
Nancy Steele Is Missing (12-Mar-1937)
Love Is News (26-Feb-1937)
Craig’s Wife (25-Sep-1936)
Ramona (25-Sep-1936) · Aunt Ri Hyar
Captain January (11-Sep-1936) · Eliza Croft
Poor Little Rich Girl (24-Jul-1936)
White Fang (17-Jul-1936)
Private Number (5-Jun-1936)
The Country Doctor (12-Mar-1936)
We’re Only Human (27-Dec-1935)
Paddy O’Day (29-Oct-1935) · Dora
Curly Top (2-Aug-1935) · Mrs. Henrietta Denham
Life Begins at Forty (22-Mar-1935) · Ida Harris
Bright Eyes (11-Dec-1934)
The White Parade (16-Nov-1934)
Happiness Ahead (27-Oct-1934) · Landlady
Blind Date (20-Jul-1934)
The Most Precious Thing in Life (5-Jun-1934)
Change of Heart (10-May-1934)
Design for Living (29-Dec-1933) · Housekeeper
Only Yesterday (1-Nov-1933)
One Sunday Afternoon (1-Sep-1933) · Mrs. Lind
Before Dawn (4-Aug-1933)
Child of Manhattan (11-Feb-1933)
Air Hostess (15-Jan-1933) · Ma Kearns
Hot Saturday (28-Oct-1932)
Back Street (1-Sep-1932)
Ladies of the Big House (26-Dec-1931)
Huckleberry Finn (7-Aug-1931)
Tom Sawyer (15-Nov-1930)


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