Frankie Darro
(12/22/1917 - 12/25/1976)

Frankie Darro was born as Frank Johnson in 1917. 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 California, 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.

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 armed forces during World War II. 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.

Today's audiences would recognize Frankie Darro's voice as that of Lampwick in Walt Disney's Pinocchio.

Available Films

Burn 'Em Up Barnes (1934)

The Phantom Empire (1935)

Young Dynamite / Devil Diamond (1937)

Irish Luck (1939) Up in the Air (1940)