Classic Movie Travels: Dorothy DeBorba

Classic Movie Travels: Dorothy DeBorba

Dorothy DeBorba
Dorothy DeBorba

Dorothy Adelle DeBorba was born on March 28, 1925, in Los Angeles, California, to Raymond and Lillian DeBorba. Her mother had a background as a singer, dancer, and actress, while her father played the drums in Paul Whiteman’s orchestra. Raymond and Lillian’s relationship was tumultuous, with the couple marrying and divorcing three times in Dorothy’s life.

DeBorba became a beloved child star of Portuguese Azorean descent in Hal Roach’s Our Gang series. She was raised in Livermore, California, and at age five was already a regular on screen. In particular, she impressed Roach with her ability to cry on cue, securing her role as Dorothy “Echo” DeBorba in Our Gang. She made her debut in the series as Jackie Cooper’s sister in Pups is Pups (1930). By 1931, she would essentially replace series regular Mary Ann Jackson.

DeBorba sported trademark curls and large hair bows handmade by her mother. Each evening, DeBorba’s mother brushed and set DeBorba’s hair into curls—a process that took roughly two hours. Despite her composed on-screen persona, DeBorba was a tom-boy off-screen. She especially enjoyed getting messy in Pups is Pups, jumping in the mud and having to be cleaned and redressed over the course of thirty-seven takes.

Dorothy DeBorba Little Rascals
Dorothy DeBorba, The Little Rascals

As three years went by, DeBorba grew and was phased out of the series. Her final Our Gang role was in Mush and Milk (1933). DeBorba made a brief appearance alongside Jean Harlow in Bombshell (1933), which would be her final screen credit as an actress.

DeBorba graduated from Van Nuys High School, later working at Republic Pictures as a secretary. She went on to be a senior clerk at the University of California—Berkeley School of Journalism.

DeBorba married twice. Her first marriage was brief and sadly ended with her as a widow. Her next marriage was to Max Ferdinand Haberreiter, with whom she had two children: Richard and Janet. They settled in Northern California until the marriage ended in divorce.

DeBorba was readily available for interviews regarding her time in Our Gang. She became a member of the Sons of the Desert in 1980 and frequently attended their conventions until her health prevented her from further travel.

She passed away from emphysema on June 2, 2010, at age 85 in Walnut Creek, California. There was no service for her.

Today, there are still some points of interest in connection with DeBorba that exist.

In the 1930s, she lived at 1368 N. St Andrews Pl., Los Angeles, California, with her mother. This home no longer stands. By 1940, they lived at 2708 E. 14th Ave., in Oakland, California. At this point, her mother was working as a florist. The home stands today.

2708 E. 14th Ave., in Oakland, California
2708 E. 14th Ave., Oakland, California

By 1941, DeBorba was attending Van Nuys High School, which also stands.

Van Nuys High School
Van Nuys High School

In 1950, DeBorba lived at 114 Coral Way, Apt. 3, in Redondo Beach, California. She was widowed at this point and working as a salesperson at a five-and-dime store. By 1952, she was married to Haberreiter and residing at 129 N. Pacific Coast Hwy. 1, Redondo Beach, California. Both of these homes have since been razed.

In the 1990s, she lived at 1810 Montecito Circle in Livermore, California.

1810 Montecito Circle in Livermore, California
1810 Montecito Circle, Livermore, California

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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