Thursday, June 3, 2010

R.I.P, Dorothy DeBorba

Writer-producer Paul E. Giurecki (The Forgotten Films of Fatty Arbuckle) reports on Facebook that Dorothy Adelle “Echo” DeBorba passed on yesterday at the age of 85 after a long bout with emphysema and lung disease (I couldn’t locate an official obituary online but will do so when one goes up). The former child actress who appeared in films like A Royal Romance (1930) and Bombshell (1933) was best known as a member of Our Gang (also known as The Little Rascals), having appeared in twenty-four of the two-reel comedies between 1930 and 1933. (Update: The Los Angeles Times has weighed in with a very nice send-off here.)

In the early Our Gang shorts, DeBorba was nicknamed “Echo” thanks to her falling-down funny performance in the classic short Love Business (1931), in which she attempts to repeat verbatim the “love lines” uttered by Norman “Chubby” Chaney, who was cast as her brother in many of the comedies:

CHUBBY: Oh, my dear…hear the pleas in my whispers...

DOROTHY: Oh, my dear…hear the fleas in my whiskers...

CHUBBY: If love is like a rose...I will nip my rose in the bud...

DOROTHY: If love is like a rose...I will stick my nose in the mud...

CHUBBY: My heart is filled with joy…I want to trip and dance...

DOROTHY: My heart is filled with joy…I want to rip my pants...

DeBorba was one of several child actors in the Our Gang series who successfully made the transition to talkies, and she appeared in such classics as Teacher's Pet (1930), School's Out (1930), Shiver My Timbers (1931), Dogs Is Dogs (1931) and the politically-incorrect-but-oh-so-hysterically-funny The Kid from Borneo (1933). She dropped out of movies the same year as Borneo, and later (according to an interview with The San Francisco Examiner in 1975) became a senior clerk in the school of journalism at UC-Berkeley.

DeBorba was also one of the few members of the Our Gang troupe still with us today—the remaining members are Jackie Cooper, Dickie Moore, Mickey Gubitosi (Robert Blake), Jean Darling, Mildred Kornman, Jerry Tucker, Jackie Lynn Taylor, Marianne Edwards and Leonard Landy (thanks to Paul and Brent Walker for this list, btw). So a fond fare-thee-well to a performer who provided me with many hours of enjoyment as a TV-obsessed kid…she will indeed be missed.

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