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Join us on Wednesday, February 17 @ 1 p.m

This month’s selection is an action film about a tiny superhero with superhuman strength and the ability to control an army of ants. View the trailer here.

 Register at the Reader's Advisory Desk or online today! 


 

  

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Join us on Saturday, February 13 @ 1 p.m.

This month’s film is a suspenseful thriller about a blind woman tormented and pursued by criminals in search of a valuable doll. View the trailer here.

Register at the Reader's Advisory Desk or online today! 

Featured Actor: Jane Darwell

 

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Actress Jane Darwell’s film career spanned from the silent era through Hollywood’s Golden Age. Her acting niche was playing maternal characters and sassy dames, two archetypes for which her full-figured presence seemed to be destined.

Darwell began film acting later in life. Her original ambition was to become an opera singer, a dream that she deferred out of respect for her prominent Missouri family’s patrician sensibilities. Darwell changed her last name to further distance her “unseemly” show business aspirations from her family.

She started out by treading the boards in live theater productions in Chicago, and in 1909, performed on Broadway in The Wedding Day. Her first film appearances were uncredited roles in silent films and small credited parts in so-called silent "shorts". In 1914, she made her full-length movie debut in Cecil B. DeMille’s Brewster’s Millions.

After appearing in William Seiter's Little Church Around the Corner in 1923, Darwell took a seven-year hiatus from Hollywood to go back to the stage. When she returned to films in 1930, as Widow Douglas in Tom Sawyer (starring Jackie Coogan as Tom), she easily transitioned to a well-regarded character actress. Among her film credits were supporting roles in six Shirley Temple movies. She also portrayed Dolly Meriweather, town gossip, in the decade’s blockbuster, Gone With the Wind.

In 1940, Darwell portrayed her best-known character, Ma Joad, in John Ford’s Grapes of Wrath. She was the embodiment of grit and steely determination in the face of brutal circumstances, and her impassioned portrayal of a Dust Bowl-era mother garnered her the 1941 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.

Another significant role for Darwell was Jenny Grier in William Wellman’s The Ox-Bow Incident. In this 1943 film, she played against her usual maternal type, portraying a hard-nosed, sarcastic frontierswoman. Darwell continued to work mostly in “B” movies, but also co-starred in memorable films such as John Ford's My Darling Clementine in 1946 and Wagon Master in 1950.

In the mid-1950s, Darwell appeared regularly on the new medium of television in programs such as The Ford Television Theatre. As her health declined, she worked less frequently. In 1958, she appeared in John Ford’s The Last Hurrah, a film that some saw as a thinly-veiled portrayal of Boston’s colorful mayor, James M. Curley.

Darwell retired to the Motion Picture Country Home in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. At the personal invitation of Walt Disney, she emerged from retirement to play a small role—the bird lady—in his 1964 production, Mary Poppins. This was Darwell’s last film.

Jane Darwell passed away at the Motion Picture Country Home in 1967 at age 87.

Check out Jane Darwell’s performances in these DVDs available at the Library:

Read more: Featured Actor: Jane Darwell

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