3715_128175886429.jpg 55.13KB 0 downloadsJane Darwell
Jane Darwell was born Patti Woodward in Missouri in 1879 into a well-to-do family. Her original career aim was to be an opera singer but instead, decided to spend her youth working as an entertainer in circuses and in travelling stock companies. Because her family strongly objected to her chosen profession, she changed her name to Jane Darwell so as not to “sully” the famliy name.
Jane’s first film appearance was in 1913 and she appeared, mostly uncredited, in shorts. After a few years in silents, she decided to return to the stage but, after a 16 year absence, she resumed her film career in 1930, appearing in “Tom Sawyer.” Darwell quickly became a well known and well respected character actress and generally appeared as a kind-hearted matron or matriarch though she occasionally played against type in her roles in "Gone With The Wind," "The Ox-Bow Incident" and "Caged." She often worked with John Ford and appeared in 4 films which were nominated for Best Picture -- GWTW, "The Grapes of Wrath," "The Ox-Bow Incident" and "Mary Poppins." It was her role as Ma Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath" which won her the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1940. Jane was quoted as saying: “I’ve played Henry Fonda’s mother so often that, whenever we run into each other, I call him “Son” and he calls me “Ma,” just to save time. Jane Darwell's filmography lists 156 films but it is believed she actually appeared in well over 200 films since most of her early performances in silents were uncredited.
Beginning in 1954, Darwell often appeared on television on such shows as “Playhouse 90,“Maverick," “Shirley Temple’s Storybook,” “The Real McCoys,”“Burke’s Law” and “Wagon Train.” Though she had retired to the Motion Picture Country Home, Walt Disney prevailed upon her to appear as “The Bird Lady” in Mary Poppins. It was her final film appearance. Jane Darwell died in 1967 at the age of 87.
Coming up next . . . A Salute to John Litel.