I wanna focus on the Our Gang kiddies, beginning with the first leading lady of the Little Rascal gang, the adorable Mary Kornman.
Mary Kornman was born December 27, 1915 in Idaho Falls, Idaho. She was the oldest child born to cameraman and still photographer, Eugene 'Gene' Kornman and his wife, Elvernia 'Verna' Betts. Younger sister, Mildred Gene was born in 1925. Mildred also worked as a child actress and would later find success working as a model under the name Ricki Van Dusen. Mildred is one of the few remaining actors from the silent film era still alive!
Time for a little detour because I find this next bit uber interesting. Verna Betts came from a family of eleven children, one of which was a younger sister named Mildred Alma. Mildred was born in 1907 and would later become a Ziegfeld Girl under the stage name Jerry/Jerie Rogers. This is where the story gets interesting. In 1933, at the age of just 26, Mildred died after falling from a hotel window. Almost from the beginning, rumors began circulating about what exactly had happened in that hotel room. Reportedly she had left a note describing how disillusioned she was with Broadway, which led people to believe she committed suicide. Some thought that she may have been intoxicated and in a horrible accident, tripped and fell out the window. One of her sisters claimed that she was pushed out of the window by a woman who accused Mildred of having an affair with her husband. The truth will probably never be known.
|Mildred Alma Betts aka Jerry/Jerie Rogers|
Anyway, back to Mary!
|Mary, Joe Cobb, and Mickey Daniels (in drag)|
Mary was spotted hanging around the studios one day and was offered a role in one of Hal Roach's shorts featuring little kids as the stars. The director was reportedly looking for a little girl to play the 'leading lady' role in the newest "Hal Roach's Rascals" short, The Champeen. Mary was deemed the perfect choice and she appeared as the love interest of Mickey Daniels and Jackie Condon, who were to duke it out in the boxing ring to see who would win Mary's affections.
"Little Mary Kornman was brought along by her dad, Gene Kornman, who is Harold Lloyd's 'still' cameraman. The first Our Gang features were devoid of feminine interest, but they wanted a little girl for The Champeen and Mary was soon adopted by the boys as one of themselves." -- Pictures and the Picturegoer, June 1924
Mary appeared in around 40 "Hal Roach's Rascals" shorts, including Derby Day (1923), Dog Days (1925), Boys Will Be Boys (1925), and Monkey Business (1926). Fans just loved Mary's blonde, curly hair and big, expressive eyes.
Like all child stars, the cuteness eventually wore off as Mary grew into a young adult. She went from appearing in popular Hal Roach shorts to being cast mainly in B movies, with the exception of appearances in 1934's Madame DuBarry starring Dolores Del Rio and 1935's The Desert Trail starring John Wayne.
Mary made her final film appearance in On the Spot (1940) which she starred in with fellow former child star, Frankie Darro.
Mary Kornman passed away on June 1, 1973 in Glendale, California after a battle with cancer. She was 57 years old.
She was buried in Linn Grove Cemetery in Greeley, Colorado.
Mary was married twice. Her first husband was cinematographer Leo Tover. The couple married in 1934, but would divorce four years later. Her second husband was animal trainer, Ralph McCutcheon, who she married in 1941. Mary and Ralph remained married until her death, and he proceeded her in death just two years later.
During her years as a child star, Mary took dance lessons from silent film actress, Katherine Grant. Pretty groovy connection!
|Mickey Daniels, Mary, Jackie Condon, Joe Cobb, and 'Farina' Hoskins|
"More than half her life has been spent in pictures and she's only ten years old. She's Mary Kornman, Mary, Queen of Tots." -- Photoplay, June 1926