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Frankie Darro (December 22, 1917 – December 25, 1976) was an Americanmarker voice-over artist, character actor and, initially, a well-known child actor.

Early life

Darro was born as Frank Johnson in Chicago, Illinoismarker. His parents were The Flying Johnsons, a Flying Circus act with the Sells Floto Circus. It was a profession that his father attempted to train him in as well but Frank's fear of heights became a problem.

In 1922, while the circus was in Californiamarker, his parents separated. Their circus act ended with their marriage. The growing film industry, however, found a use for a small child who could do his own stunts and, renamed Frankie Darro, he appeared in his first film at the age of six.

Acting career

As a child actor he appeared in many silent adventure, western, and serial pictures of the 1920s, and became a very prolific actor as an adolescent. His convincing delivery of dialogue and his obvious comfort before the cameras kept him steadily employed. His most important role of the 1930s was the lead in Wild Boys of the Road, director William Wellman's indictment of aimless teens vagabonding across America during the Depression. Darro remained popular in serials, and co-starred with Gene Autry in Autry's first starring film, The Phantom Empire.

Darro's wiry, athletic frame often typecast him as jockeys. He plays crooked riders in Charlie Chan at the Race Track and A Day at the Races.

In 1938 Darro joined Monogram Pictures to star in a series of action melodramas. Darro's flair for comedy gradually increased the laugh content in these films, and by 1940 Mantan Moreland was hired to play his sidekick. The Frankie Darro series was so successful that Monogram used it as a haven for performers whose own series had been discontinued: Jackie Moran, Marcia Mae Jones, and Keye Luke joined Darro and Moreland in 1940, and Gale Storm would be added in 1941.

Darro served in the US Navy Hospital Corps during World War II where he contracted malaria. Upon his return, Monogram welcomed him back and cast the perennially youthful Darro in its "Teen Agers" campus comedies. When that series lapsed, the studio gave Darro featured roles in its popular Bowery Boys comedies.

Darro was an accomplished athlete and performed stunts for other actors. He appeared on the Red Skelton TV show several times, and hid inside "Robby the Robot" for the science-fiction film Forbidden Planet.

Later life

As film roles became fewer for Darro, he opened his own tavern (called "Try Later" after the reply he was given most often when he was asking Central Casting for work) with ex-Hollywood agent Lee Carroll on Santa Monica Boulevard. This proved unwise, as Darro became a victim of alcoholism, bringing his long screen career to a close.

He died of a heart attack on Christmas Day in 1976 while visiting friends in Huntington Beachmarker, Californiamarker.

Selected filmography


  1. Frankie Darro biography at (re)Search my Trash, retrieved 28th May 2007
  2. Frankie Darro biography, retrieved 28th May 2007

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