James Darren


Actor
James Darren

About

Also Known As
James William Ercolani
Birth Place
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
Born
June 08, 1936

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 east...

Photos & Videos

Rumble on the Docks - Movie Poster
The Guns of Navarone - Movie Poster
Gidget - Movie Posters

Family & Companions

Gloria Darren
Wife
Married in 1955; divorced in 1959; remarried; husband adopted son James.
Evy Darren
Wife
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.

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).

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 "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.

Life Events

1956

Feature acting debut, "Rumble on the Docks"

1959

Portrayed Eddie Sirota in "The Gene Krupa Story"; sang "Let There Be Love" in film

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"

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

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

Acted in Wendkos' "Gidget Goes Hawaiian", this time opposite Deborah Walley

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"

1986

Made directorial debut with an episode of "T.J. Hooker" (CBS) near the end of its final season

1988

Helmed "Gladiator School" (ABC), a "Police Story" TV-movie

1997

Received star on the Philadelphia Walk of Fame (September 25)

1999

Released 13th album, "This One's From the Heart"

Photo Collections

Rumble on the Docks - Movie Poster
Rumble on the Docks - Movie Poster
The Guns of Navarone - Movie Poster
Here is the American one-sheet movie poster for Fox's The Guns of Navarone (1961), starring Gregory Peck, David Niven, and Anthony Quinn. One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters.
Gidget - Movie Posters
Here are two one-sheet movie posters for Gidget (1959). One-sheets measured 27x41 inches, and were the poster style most commonly used in theaters. Aside from the regular release poster, an advance one-sheet featuring Dick Clark is on view.

Videos

Movie Clip

Gunman's Walk (1958) - Yes, Big Brother Handsome opening by director Phil Karlson, photographed by Charles “Buddy” Lawton, introducing James Darren as voluble Davy, and avid horseman Tab Hunter as elder brother Ed, taciturn by comparison, and whistling, in the Columbia Technicolor Western, from a story by Ric Hardman and screenplay by Frank Nugent, Gunman’s Walk, 1958, starring Van Heflin.
All The Young Men (1950) - October 11, 1950 Wholly factual framing by writer-producer-director Hall Bartlett, for his fictional story and USMC unit, introducing top-billed Sidney Poitier and (co-producer) Alan Ladd, along wtih Charles Quinlivan, boxer Ingemar Johansson, comic Mort Sahl et al, camera by Daniel Fapp on location at Glacier National Park, opening All The Young Men, 1960.
All The Young Men (1960) - I'm A Madman Heavyweight champ Ingemar Johansson (as "Torgil") with a Swedish folk song, standup pioneer Mort Sahl (as "Crane") with a routine he must have written, bivouacked in a farmhouse with comrades (James Darren, Paul Richards, Glenn Corbett), in the Korean War drama All The Young Men, 1960.
All The Young Men (1960) - He's In Command Lt. Toland (Charles Quinlivan) about to expire, carried back by Sgt. Towler (Sidney Poitier), who he gives command over Sgt. Kincaid (co-producer Alan Ladd), southerner Bracken (Paul Richards) objecting, in the Korean War drama All The Young Men, 1960.
Gunman's Walk (1958) - Habit Is A Strong Thing Van Heflin as titanic rancher father Lee Hackett is angry with son Davy (James Darren), for being unwilling to wear his gun, and shooting poorly when he does, offering instruction when they’re joined by more dangerous brother Ed (Tab Hunter), in a striking bit of Western macho family dynamics, in Gunman’s Walk, 1958, from a Rick Hardman story and Frank Nugent screenplay.
Operation Mad Ball (1957) - You Rhumba, Lieutenant? Privates Hogan (Jack Lemmon) and Widowskas (pre-Moondoggie James Darren) on patrol, Captain Lock (Ernie Kovacs) escorting fetching new nurse Bixby (Kathryn Grant), opening director Richard Quine's post-war comedy Operation Mad Ball, 1958.
Operation Mad Ball (1957) - I Never Saw The Picture In post-WWII France, Private Hogan (Jack Lemmon) is enjoying a fancy meal in anticipation of a Court Martial, conspiring with buddies being prevented from seeing their nurse sweethearts, Roger Smith as Berryman, William Leslie as Grimes, Paul PIcerni as Bullard, James Darren as “Widow” and William Hickey as Sampson, in Operation Mad Ball, 1957.
Gidget Goes To Rome (1963) - I'll Hit 'Em With Rome! Starting in Malibu, Cindy Carol introduced in the title role (the 3rd, after Sandra Dee and Deborah Walley), with girlfriends Libby and Lucy (Trudi Ames, Noreen Corcoran), then James Darren as Jeff (a.k.a. “Moondoggie”), with pals Joby Baker and Peter Brooks, in Gidget Goes To Rome, 1963.
Gidget Goes To Rome (1963) - Any Reference To My Age Just landed in Rome, James Darren as Jeff, (a.k.a. Moondoggie), with Peter Brooks and Joby Baker, greeting Jessie Royce Landis, his aunt and their chaperone, and the gals (Cindy Carol as Gidget, with Trudi Ames and Noreen Corcoran) playing along, in Gidget Goes To Rome, 1963.
Gidget Goes To Rome (1963) - Big Italian Moon On location in Rome, James Darren as Jeff (whom she still calls “Moondoggie”) and Cindy Carol (title character), on their vacation from California, musing about the eternal city with an original song by George David Weiss and Al Kasha, in Columbia’s Gidget Goes To Rome, 1963.
Gidget (1959) - Before You Melt Moondoggie (James Darren), the Kahoona (Cliff Robertson) and the gang enjoy the first successful surf ride by Francie (Sandra Dee), who then exchanges snark with Joanne (Shari Layne) in Gidget, 1959.
Gidget (1959) - Moondoggie Having blown off her boy-crazy peers on the beach, and before she gets nicknamed for being a girl-midget, teenage Francie (Frances Dee) gets stuck in a bed of kelp and is rescued by surfer Moondoggie (James Darren), in Gidget, 1959.

Trailer

Family

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

Companions

Gloria Darren
Wife
Married in 1955; divorced in 1959; remarried; husband adopted son James.
Evy Darren
Wife
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.

Bibliography

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.