Saturday, February 16, 2008

Darby Jones

Darby Jones was one of Hollywood's pioneering black actors, who was usually typecast in the usual roles given to black actors in those days. He was alternately cast as a hotel bellboy, servant, slave, and, many times, as a denizen of the "jungle" as depicted in movies with those themes (e.g., "Tarzan"-type movies - including a couple of "Tarzan" movies).

Today though, he is best remembered by fans of 1940s horror movies, as the zombie Carrefour, in Val Lewton's "I Walked With a Zombie". He repeated the zombie role a few years later in the comedy "Zombies on Broadway".

Mr. Jones was listed in the Los Angeles phone directory, and welcomed my call. He was appreciative of being remembered for his acting. We talked briefly about the treatment of blacks in Hollywood, being cast as servants, etc., and he told me he didn't mind, because it was a job and he got paid for it.

Mr. Jones was one who observed everything and everybody around him, and had some stories to tell. Sometimes while waiting to be called for his scene, he'd quietly wander around and visit other sets. He told me one amusing story about star Carole Lombard, who had a reputation for speaking her mind and using whatever words she wanted. Mr. Jones visited a set on which the crew was awaiting Lombard's arrival. When she finally showed up, the director chided her for being late. She told the director, "You can kiss my ass, you son of a bitch", turned around, and lifted her skirt to expose her bare rear!

I was unable to find any photos of Mr. Jones, as any scene stills I could locate just didn't include him. He very kindly provided me with reproductions of these two, from "Zombies on Broadway" and "I Walked With a Zombie".


Angie said...

Thank you for this article. I have the DVD with "I walked with a Zombie," and "The Body Snatchers." I was curious about who played the zombie. Also thank you for making the effort to speak to Mr Jones and get his views. I'm sure he was pleased to finally get some attention. This is one of my favorite movies from Val Lewton.

Jonah Quinn said...

i'm curious about when you interviewed darby jones--imdb has him passing away in 1986 but i haven't seen any independent confirmation of this! if you had any other notes about your conversation i would love to see them as i'm rather obsessed with his role in this film.