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James Darren

James Darren

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Also Known As: James William Ercolani Died:
Born: June 8, 1936 Cause of Death:
Birth Place: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA Profession: actor, director, singer

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Born Jimmy Ercolini and raised on 10th Street between Ritner and Porter in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood that produced Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon, James Darren grew into a tall, dark and handsome Italian heartthrob who would also enjoy a run as a teenage singing sensation. While studying acting with Stella Adler in NYC, a chance meeting with Columbia Pictures eastern talent scout Joyce Selznick opened the door to a screen career, and he joined the studio's stable of fine young actors, delivering a standout performance in his feature debut as the juvenile gang leader and star of "Rumble on the Docks" (1956). Darren continued to impress in subsequent outings but really came into his own as Jeff 'Moondoggie' Matthews opposite Sandra Dee's "Gidget" (1959). Especially effective as the young man torn between the carefree surfing life and the responsibilities of growing up, he also displayed a pleasant singing voice on the film's title song and the even better "The Next Best Thing to Love", launching a recording career that boasted five Top 10 singles during the early 60s, including the Grammy-nominated "Goodbye Cruel World" (1961), which peaked at Number Three. Darren reprised his...

Born Jimmy Ercolini and raised on 10th Street between Ritner and Porter in the same South Philadelphia neighborhood that produced Fabian, Bobby Rydell and Frankie Avalon, James Darren grew into a tall, dark and handsome Italian heartthrob who would also enjoy a run as a teenage singing sensation. While studying acting with Stella Adler in NYC, a chance meeting with Columbia Pictures eastern talent scout Joyce Selznick opened the door to a screen career, and he joined the studio's stable of fine young actors, delivering a standout performance in his feature debut as the juvenile gang leader and star of "Rumble on the Docks" (1956). Darren continued to impress in subsequent outings but really came into his own as Jeff 'Moondoggie' Matthews opposite Sandra Dee's "Gidget" (1959). Especially effective as the young man torn between the carefree surfing life and the responsibilities of growing up, he also displayed a pleasant singing voice on the film's title song and the even better "The Next Best Thing to Love", launching a recording career that boasted five Top 10 singles during the early 60s, including the Grammy-nominated "Goodbye Cruel World" (1961), which peaked at Number Three.

Darren reprised his "Gidget" persona twice, contributing his ingratiating talent to "Gidget Goes Hawaiian" (1961) and "Gidget Goes to Rome" (1963), both a little lackluster compared to the original. Still, in some filmgoers' minds, he was forever established as Moondoggie, despite his acclaimed work as best friend Eddie Sirota in "The Gene Krupa Story" (1959), as the slum kid who perseveres to become a concert pianist in "Let No Man Write My Epitaph" (1960), and as an underutilized member of the all-star gang of saboteurs in J Lee Thompson's "The Guns of Navarone" (1961). Still, compared with his Philadelphian brethren Fabian, Rydell and Avalon, who all took their cracks in teen movies, Darren exhibited more staying power, segueing to a successful career as a TV actor after his pop-star status waned. His first role as a series regular came as time-traveling scientist Tony Newman in the ABC series "Time Tunnel" (1966-67), and he later spent three seasons as veteran patrolman Jim Corrigan, partnered with Heather Locklear's Stacy Sheridan, on "T.J. Hooker" (ABC, 1983-85; CBS, 1985-86). When Darren made his directing debut with an episode near the end of that show's final season, people liked what they saw, and he started to receive offers to direct for other series.

Darren began working exclusively behind the scenes, helming episodes of "Hunter" and "Stingray" (both NBC) and "Werewolf" (Fox), among others. "I figured this [directing] was a good way to stay in the business, and I didn't have to worry about how I looked. I didn't have to shave every morning. I would get up, shower, comb my hair back, put on a baseball cap and go to work." (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, September 27, 1999) He reteamed with Locklear, directing episodes of Fox's "Melrose Place" from 1995-97, and eventually acted opposite her as the sleazy Tony Marlin during that show's final season (1998-99), but only after creating the part of Vic Fontaine in the syndicated "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Calling his holographic Las Vegas lounge singer a "combination of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and myself," Darren appeared in ten episodes (including the series finale) and revitalized his singing career. Never considered much of a pop-rock vocalist in his heyday, he released his 13th album, "This One's From the Heart" (1999), which featured songs he had performed on the series, and garnered his first real critical acclaim as a crooner, having finally found himself in the idiom of Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Sammy Cahn and the like.

VIEW THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Filmographyclose complete filmography

DIRECTOR:

1.
  Gladiator School (1988) Director

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Blood Sport (1986) Jim Corrigan
2.
 Scruples (1981) Vito Orsini
3.
 Turnover Smith (1980) Georgie Green
4.
 Boss' Son, The (1978) Buddy
5.
 Lives Of Jenny Dolan, The (1975) Oriando
6.
 City Beneath The Sea (1971) Dr Talty
7.
 Venus in Furs (1969) Jimmy Logan
8.
 The Lively Set (1964) Casey Owens
9.
 For Those Who Think Young (1964) Gardner "Ding" Pruitt III
10.
 Diamond Head (1963) Paul Kahana
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

:
Born and raised in South Philadelphia
:
Commuted to NYC from Philadelphia to study acting with Stella Adler
:
On way to appointment with Columbia Pictures eastern talent scout Joyce Selznick in NYC's Brill Building met Selznick in elevator; not knowing who he was, she was impressed with his look and presence and suggested he meet with her; signed to contract with Columbia
1956:
Feature acting debut, "Rumble on the Docks"
1959:
Played Jeff 'Moondoggie' Matthews opposite Sandra Dee's "Gidget"; first of four films with director Paul Wendkos (a fellow Philadelphian); sang the songs "Gidget" and "The Next Best Thing To Love"
1959:
Portrayed Eddie Sirota in "The Gene Krupa Story"; sang "Let There Be Love" in film
1960:
Reteamed with Wendkos for "Because They're Young", starring Dick Clark as an understanding, do-good teacher
1960:
Registered impressively as slum kid who keeps his head high and becomes a concert pianist in "Let No Man Write My Epitaph"
1961:
Acted in Wendkos' "Gidget Goes Hawaiian", this time opposite Deborah Walley
1961:
Joined all-star saboteur gang of Gregory Peck, Anthony Quayle, David Niven, Anthony Quinn and Stanley Baker in J Lee Thompson's "The Guns of Navarone"
1961:
Received Grammy Award nomination (Best Rock and Roll Recording) for "Goodbye Cruel World"
1962:
Played native Hawaiian in love with Yvette Mimieux in "Diamond Head"; when her irate father, bigoted pineapple baron Charles Heston, "accidentally" kills Darren, she then takes up with his brother (George Chakiris)
1963:
Final turn as 'Moondoggie' (opposite Cindy Carol) in Wendkos' "Gidget Goes to Rome"
1966:
Starred with Robert Colbert as time-travelling scientists in the ABC series "The Time Tunnel"
1967:
Reached the Top 40 with "All"
1977:
Made the charts again with "You Take My Heart Away"
1978:
Last feature to date, Bobby Roth's engaging independent "The Boss' Son"
:
Portrayed veteran patrolman Jim Corrigan, Heather Locklear's partner, on "T.J. Hooker"; when ABC cancelled series in the spring of 1985, CBS picked it up for its final season
1986:
Made directorial debut with an episode of "T.J. Hooker" (CBS) near the end of its final season
:
Began working exclusively as a director, helming episodes of series like "Hunter", "The A-Team", "Stingray", "Hard Ball" (all NBC), "Werewolf" (Fox), "Raven" and "Walker: Texas Ranger" (both CBS)
1988:
Helmed "Gladiator School" (ABC), a "Police Story" TV-movie
:
Directed episodes of Fox's "Beverly Hills, 90210"
:
Reteamed with Locklear, directing her in episodes of Fox's "Melrose Place"
1997:
Received star on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame (September 25)
:
Recurring role as hologramic Vegas lounge singer Vic Fontaine in ten episodes of the syndicated "Ster Trek: Deep Space Nine" revived singing carreer
:
Returned to "Melrose Place", this time acting the role of villain Tony Marlin
1999:
Released 13th album, "This One's From the Heart"
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Education

Southern High School: Philadelphia , Pennsylvania -

Notes

Took his name from the popular Kaiser Darrin sports car of the 1950s.

Darren and his wife are godparents to Frank Sinatra's first grandchild, Angela Jennifer Lambert (Nancy's daughter).

On how he ended up acting on "Melrose Place": "Actually, I was called one evening by Anson Willimas who had directed me in an episode of 'Deep Space Nine'. He was then doing, or preparing to do, 'Melrose Place' and said there was a part that was perfect for me. However, after reading it, I didn't agree with him. But the producers were quite convincing and asked if I would play the character of Tony Marlin, who I thought was a total jerk ... But you know, a job is a job. And I must say that I loved working with the cast. I had directed them many times before, so it was nice seeing them again." --James Darren quoted at www.startrek.com (September 1999).

"I started singing long before I became an actor. My father would take me to dives and strip joints in South Philly--anywhere that would allow a 14-year-old kid to sing in those days. And I truly loved it. I mean, I'd be singing and they'd be sitting out there in the dark, talking, smoking and drinking, and not hearing a word I was singing. And that was OK, because I learned to just sing for myself. Sometimes I was lucky to have a trio of musicians behind me, sometimes just a sax player. It was great.

"I was in Atlantic city in April with an 18-piece orchestra and it was incredible. Both the return to acting and singing were like a dream to me. I never imagined I'd get in front of a camera again . . . And I never dreamed I'd sing publicly again. I'm also doing these big symphony dates. I performed with the symphony in San Francisco. When you're standing in front of 60 to 70 world-class musicians, it's the greatest feeling for a singer." --Darren quoted in Chicago Sun-Times, September 27, 1999.

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Gloria Darren. Married in 1955; divorced in 1959; remarried; husband adopted son James.
wife:
Evy Darren. Model, actor. Married on February 6, 1960; former Miss Denmark of 1958; appeared in "The Flying Fontaines" (1959); mother of Darren's two younger children.

Family close complete family listing

son:
Jim Moret. Newscaster, lawyer. Adopted stepfather's name; former entertainmnet lawyer joined CNN in 1992 as correspondent on "Showbiz Today" (later co-hosted); mother, Gloria Darren.
son:
Christian Darren. Screenwriter. Mother, Evy Norlund.
son:
Anthony Darren. Musician. Mother, Evy Norlund.

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