EXPIRED: 06/02/10 – Dorothy DeBorba, 85, had a short career as an actress but has probably been seen by more generations of fans than any most other actors could only dream of. DeBorba, you see, was a Little Rascal.
Born to a mom and dad in the Los Angeles entertainment circuit in 1925, DeBorba started acting when she was just 5 years old. She joined director Hal Roach’s Our Gang Comedies, also known as The Little Rascals, in 1930 and was only with the group for 3 years, making just 24 movies, with the likes of Spanky, Alfalfa and Porky. She was written out when she stopped being “cute” as were many of the stars at the time.
Her first role was in a film called “A Royal Romance.” She became a hit with the public who loved her witty comebacks, elaborate hair bows and trademark hair curls that her mother spent two hours each night brushing.
That got her an audition with Hal Roach who signed her up to play a character named – wait for it – “Dorothy.” She became a key player in Little Rascal’s features like “Pups Is Pups,” “Dogs Is Dogs,” “Mush & Milk” “Teacher’s Pet,” “Free Wheeling,” “Birthday Blues” and many others.
While DeBorba cited that the best lines were given to the boy actors, she did get a few good ones over the years. She was usually cast as the kid sister of Chubby, played by Norman Chaney, and would constantly annoy him by following him around and repeating everything he’d say. (Hence her off-screen nickname, “Echo.”) Whenever Chubby would voice a complaint to his sister like “Aw, shut up” or “You make me sick,” Deborba would, of course, repeat those as well.
Perhaps DeBorba’s most memorable moment on-screen was in the 1931 short “Love Business.” Chubby has a serious crush on his school teacher Miss Crabtree, played by June Marlowe, and has purchased some love letters so he can learn some lines to use on his beloved. As he practices the lines, DeBorba repeats them, annoyingly mixing it up a bit.
Chubby: Oh, my dear, hear the pleas in my whispers.
Dorothy: Oh, my dear, hear the fleas in my whiskers.
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.
Not much is known about her life from the mid-30’s til the mid 70’s when she left her husband in Billings, Montana and moved to Livermore, California with her family. She at one time worked as a senior clerk in the school of journalism at UC-Berkeley.
Often edited to remove parts that are now considered racist or that show mistreatment of children, the originals can still be found via Netflix and on Amazon. Do yourself a favor and rent yourself a bunch. Look for Little Rascals or Our Gang Comedies.