Love The O'Connor

As the name implies, I love Donald O'Connor--his dancing, singing, acting, standing, walking, sitting, talking...everything. This blog is devoted to his awesomeness.

kasinski:

Donald O´Connor brought his mother, Effie, along for the handprint ceremony. February, 1953

kasinski:

Donald O´Connor brought his mother, Effie, along for the handprint ceremony. February, 1953

Part 6 from Modern Screen magazine, April 1944:

The law was one reason John O’Connor and his “royal family” seldom hit the Big City, New York. they played the cider circuit because New York was the home of the Gerry Society, and that was the same thing as the Big Bad Wolf to show people who used their small kids in their acts. The Gerry Society sleuths searched high and low for vaudeville folks who violated the child labor laws, and when they caught them, it was a big fine or a revoke of their license or worse. As a kid, to Don O’Connor the heavy of heavies was a Gerry official. He always walked furtively off the stage his first night in a strange town expecting to see the wagon backed up to the steps, ready to haul him and his folks to the cooler. Don got wise and tough and wary in young life. He had to. He was one of the men of the family—he and his big brothers Jack and Billy. Because Don doesn’t remember his dad at all. When Don was hardly a year old, Effie O’Connor was left a widow.

The other O’Connor kids remembered that year of sadness well for a long time, and the tragedy of it seeped into the early awareness of Donnie.

It started, the run of bad luck, when the family tried out in New York for a booking on the big time. In the middle of the tryout Billy slipped from a handstand and snapped his arm like a matchstick. That ruined the tryout, and the engagement went glimmering. The O’Connors had staked about everything on getting that play run—even the trip to New York, which they couldn’t afford, and the risk of tangling with the Gerry Society. When it fizzled out, they found themselves broke in the big city. They didn’t have a speck of work for nine weeks and not a penny to eat on. Show business friends fed the O’Connors, with the big heart that show people always have and the spare bit of emergency cash most of them keep tucked away in an old shoe or somewhere. Rescue came at last with a four week engagement at good pay. Things looked rosy.

Then tragedy struck again. And this time Donald O’Connor’s brilliant future almost died aborning. He missed being killed by the merest chance.

The engagement started at Hartford, Conn., at the Capitol, and things went  fine for part of the first week. Then one day, Arlene, six years old, took Donald out for an airing in his baby buggy. There was a candy store across the street from the Capitol, and Arlene had a sweet tooth. She started to push Don’s buggy across the rough cobblestones, neighbors said, but decided it wsa too big a job. So she left him parked on the sidewalk and dashed across to the candy store alone.

Effie O’Connor was ironing out some of Don’s baby things in her dressing room when she heard the scream and the screech of brakes. When she ran out, she found her daughter pinned under an automobile. Arlene was killed instantly.

(More to come…)

Part 5 from Modern Screen magazine, April 1944:
John O’Connor had rigged up an old Reo Speedwagon for the family to tour in. It had bunks and lockers, lanterns, tables, a tiny stove, blankets, cupboards and even closets. That was the first home Donald O’Connor knew. In his infant memory the world jounced and rumbled by and curious people looked inside. The kaleidoscope of his baby mind whirred with images of gas flares and clowns and hoochy ladies and red show banner with gilt lettering. With long all-night trips between towns, and dawn breaking through the dusty windows of the Reo as it parked beside a country road, busted down, or out of gas or just stopped for the night because a hotel was too far away or wouldn’t take in “show people.” Or because John O’Connor and his wife were temporarily “out of funds.”
One time when he was a tiny tot, the gypsy-like O’Connors were headed across the Northern prairies hastening to meet a booking in a Wisconsin town. The sky was tattletale gray, and it turned swiftly to downright black. A snowstorm sifted down on them and the flakes were whirling fast. Effie wanted to turn back, but Jack, always confident, and not to have his Irish bluffed by any storm, kept driving on. Little Donnie swung from his hammock rolled in wool blankets. The snowstorm turned to a blizzard, though, and the thermometer plummeted. The road piled high with blinding scooting flakes, and the Reo ran up to its radiator in a drift. The O’Connors hugged each other to keep from freezing, and took turns holding the shivering little Donnie inside their coats. There wasn’t anything to do, and it looked like a tragic headline for the morning paper in Milwaukee.
Then they heard a strange whirring, sucking sound, and a snow plow broke through the drifts on the road ahead of them. Two giant men, swathed in mufflers and bearskin coats leaped down, with icicles in their whiskers. They came up to the Reo, peered in and saw Effie huddling her brood.
"Lady," exploded one, "what the hell are you doing with them kids out in this blizzard?"
Jack popped his big Irish head out. He explained they had to make it to So-and-So. It was their living. The family went as one, and it one made it, all did—or vice-versa. But the man still boiled. “Don’t you know you might have frozen with them kids? Say,” he said, “what’s your name, anyway?” The tone suggested he was all set to run them into the local law.
"O’Connor."
"Huh?" said the man. He breathed deep. Then he turned to his partner in the snow-plow cab.
"Hey, Finnegan!" he yelled. "Come on, let’s get these dam’ Swedes out of this snow!" So he pulled them out, took them to a train, and the O’Connors made their play date.
(More to come…)

Part 5 from Modern Screen magazine, April 1944:

John O’Connor had rigged up an old Reo Speedwagon for the family to tour in. It had bunks and lockers, lanterns, tables, a tiny stove, blankets, cupboards and even closets. That was the first home Donald O’Connor knew. In his infant memory the world jounced and rumbled by and curious people looked inside. The kaleidoscope of his baby mind whirred with images of gas flares and clowns and hoochy ladies and red show banner with gilt lettering. With long all-night trips between towns, and dawn breaking through the dusty windows of the Reo as it parked beside a country road, busted down, or out of gas or just stopped for the night because a hotel was too far away or wouldn’t take in “show people.” Or because John O’Connor and his wife were temporarily “out of funds.”

One time when he was a tiny tot, the gypsy-like O’Connors were headed across the Northern prairies hastening to meet a booking in a Wisconsin town. The sky was tattletale gray, and it turned swiftly to downright black. A snowstorm sifted down on them and the flakes were whirling fast. Effie wanted to turn back, but Jack, always confident, and not to have his Irish bluffed by any storm, kept driving on. Little Donnie swung from his hammock rolled in wool blankets. The snowstorm turned to a blizzard, though, and the thermometer plummeted. The road piled high with blinding scooting flakes, and the Reo ran up to its radiator in a drift. The O’Connors hugged each other to keep from freezing, and took turns holding the shivering little Donnie inside their coats. There wasn’t anything to do, and it looked like a tragic headline for the morning paper in Milwaukee.

Then they heard a strange whirring, sucking sound, and a snow plow broke through the drifts on the road ahead of them. Two giant men, swathed in mufflers and bearskin coats leaped down, with icicles in their whiskers. They came up to the Reo, peered in and saw Effie huddling her brood.

"Lady," exploded one, "what the hell are you doing with them kids out in this blizzard?"

Jack popped his big Irish head out. He explained they had to make it to So-and-So. It was their living. The family went as one, and it one made it, all did—or vice-versa. But the man still boiled. “Don’t you know you might have frozen with them kids? Say,” he said, “what’s your name, anyway?” The tone suggested he was all set to run them into the local law.

"O’Connor."

"Huh?" said the man. He breathed deep. Then he turned to his partner in the snow-plow cab.

"Hey, Finnegan!" he yelled. "Come on, let’s get these dam’ Swedes out of this snow!" So he pulled them out, took them to a train, and the O’Connors made their play date.

(More to come…)