Before Darla, Our Gang Had Mary Kornman

Ingenue Mary Kornman (1915-1973) was born December 27. Like many of the earliest kids hired for Hal Roach’s Our Gang series of comedy film shorts, Mary was initially hired because she was THERE. Her father Eugene Kornman was the Roach studio’s staff still photographer. When Peggy Cartwright, the first girl member of the cast, dropped out after only five films, Mary was rapidly drafted. She appeared in over 40 shorts between 1922 and 1926. When sound came in, the entire silent cast was dropped. But this was far from the end for Mary Kornman!

From 1926 through 1930 she toured vaudeville in an act with fellow Our Gang alum Johnny Downs.

In 1930, she was hired for a new series of talkie shorts produced by Hal Roach called The Boyfriends, about a lovable group of teenagers. In addition to Mary, the cast included Our Gang alum Mickey Daniels, as well as Grady Sutton and Dorothy Granger, among others.

with Wayne in “The Desert Trail”

When this series ended in 1932, Kornman continued mostly in B pictures (and bit parts in some major ones) through 1940. She started out strong by being cast in the ensemble picture College Humor (1933) with Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, Jack Oakie, Jimmy Conlin, and others. She has a bit part in Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, appears opposite John Wayne in The Desert Trail (1935), has the starring role in Queen of the Jungle (1935), and is a walk-on in Zenobia (1939) with Oliver Hardy and Harry Langdon. These are just a handful of the films she appeared in during these years. Her last movie was On the Spot (1940) with Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland.

Kornman retired in 1941 to marry horse trainer Ralph McCutcheon. Mary had appeared in many B movie westerns in the 30s; it was their mutual love of horses that brought the couple together. They acquired a ranch in McCutcheon’s native Colorado which, he named Rancho Maria after his wife. McCutcheon was Kornman’s second husband, her first had been camera man Leo Tover, to whom she was married from 1934 through 1938.

Mary’s younger sister Mildred Kornman (b. 1925) was also a child actress in silent films and an extra in the Our Gang series. She later became better known as model Ricki VanDusen.

Mary Kornman died of cancer in 1973 at the young age of 57.

For more on Our Gang, please check out my 100th anniversary podcast episode here.

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