Dorothy de Borba, a former child actress who
played Dorothy in the "Our Gang" comedies in the early 1930s, has died.
She was 85. De Borba, whose married name was Haberreiter, died of
emphysema Wednesday at a hospital in Walnut Creek, Calif., said her
daughter, Janet Moorehead.
The daughter of a singer-dancer-actress and a drummer for the Paul
Whiteman band, De Borba was 5 years old when she began appearing in the
popular "Our Gang" series of comedy shorts produced at the Hal Roach
Studios in Culver City. She reportedly got the job after impressing
Roach, who launched "Our Gang" in 1922, with her ability to cry on cue.
Beginning with "Pups Is Pups" in 1930 and ending with "Mush and Milk" in
1933, De Borba appeared in 24 "Our Gang" comedies alongside the gang's
more famous stars, including Jackie Cooper, George "Spanky" McFarland,
Matthew "Stymie" Beard and Bobby "Wheezer" Hutchins.
Known for her light-brown hair that was typically done up in ringlet curls
topped with a big bow, she was described in Leonard Maltin and Richard
Bann's 1977 book "Our Gang: The Life and Times of the Little Rascals" as a
"little bundle of curls, pep, and mischief."
At the Roach Studios, she was quickly dubbed "Echo," although the name was
never used on-screen. She earned the nickname after being cast as
Norman "Chubby" Chaney's sister in three of her earliest "Our Gang"
shorts. As Chubby's sister, she had what Maltin and Bann described as a
"smart-alecky compulsion to repeat as best she could whatever he'd say."
De Borba had fond memories of working on the Roach lot, which also was the
home of Laurel and Hardy, who occasionally would show up on the "Our Gang"
sets to watch the young actors perform. "It was like we had the
biggest playhouse in the world," she told the St. Petersburg Times in
1993. "We were always playing when we weren't working or going to school.
'Uncle' Bob McGowan [the director] had a real terrific way with children."
She enjoyed the close-knit atmosphere of the studio, she told The Times
during a celebration in Culver City in honor of Roach's 100th birthday in
1992. She said Roach, who died later that year, held family-style
Christmas parties and one of the classrooms for the young actors was above
his office. "I always thought a lot of [Roach] and I still do," she
said. "He was big and burly but he didn't growl. And he never talked down
to us as little kids."
De Borba, who was born March 28, 1925, in Los Angeles, ended her acting
career not long after leaving "Our Gang." After graduating from Van
Nuys High School, she held a number of jobs at Republic Pictures,
including working as a secretary. A brief first marriage ended when
her husband died. A second marriage ended in divorce in 1959, and she
later worked as a senior clerk in the Graduate School of Journalism at UC
Beginning in 1980, she was a regular guest at chapter meetings and
conventions of the Sons of the Desert, the international Laurel and Hardy
appreciation organization. "People still like 'Our Gang' because we
did all the things that kids can still see themselves doing," she told an
audience gathered in 1997 for "An Evening With Our Gang and Laurel &
Hardy" sponsored by the Chicago chapter of the Sons of the Desert.
"The children," she said, "are still laughing."
In addition to her daughter Janet, she is survived by her son, Richard