Starting in the 1930’s O’Connor was a dancer and actor, and acted with Bing Crosby in Sing, You Sinners. I hear he was very funny. In 1942 O’Connor joined Universal Pictures’ troupe of talented teenagers. He received gradually larger roles in four of the studio’s Gloria Jean musicals, and achieved stardom at 17 with Mister Big (1943), co-starring Gloria Jean and comic dancer Peggy Ryan. O’Connor and Ryan’s energetic routines invited comparisons with M-G-M’s pairing of Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. (from wikipedia)
He served in the army, starred as Francis (remember the mule?) and sadly got sick from the mule and didn’t get to be in White Christmas. I am not kidding. Later, his big break, Singin’ in the Rain would earn him a Golden Globe award. He did some TV (Colgate Hour) and hosted the oscars and did the film Ragtime. Donald O’Connor’s last feature film was the Jack Lemmon-Walter Matthau comedy Out to Sea, in which he played a dance host on a cruise ship. O’Connor was still making public appearances well into 2003. He died that year.
Why am I telling you this?
Every once in a while, Andrew and I will make a reference to someone so famous that OF COURSE the kids have heard of him – say, David Cassidy (the new show is starting this week) or even Farrah Fawcett or Punky Brewster or (and I swear this happened the other day) Elizabeth Taylor.
I mean, can you imagine not knowing who Elizabeth Taylor is?
Well, that’s how my grandparents felt about Donald O’Connor. So when they saw him in an elevator on August 12, 1985 and starstruck asked for his autograph for me, they were over the moon.
And I had no idea who he was. But I thought it was really sweet.
And I’ve kept it among my prize possessions ever since.