Judy Garland, whom he knew as a child, was one of his best friends.
Allegedly didn't enjoy working with Gene Kelly while filming Singin' in the Rain (1952), because he found him to be a bit of a tyrant on set.
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 403-405. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
Danced with Beverly Yissar (nee Scherrer) when she was 5 or 6; he, 10 or 11.
Despite failing health in 2003, he made appearances at the Roger Ebert Overlooked Film Festival and the opening of the Judy Garland Museum.
Father of Donna Gwen O'Connor (b. August 10, 1946), Alicia O'Connor (b. September 20, 1957), Donald Frederick O'Connor (b. 1960), and Kevin O'Connor (b. 1961).
From a vaudeville family act, his father John Edward "Chuck" O'Connor" was an acrobat with Ringling Brothers-Barnum and Baily Circus as a "leaper." His mother was a circus bareback rider and dancer named Effie. One of seven children, three died in infancy, but the rest were incorporated into show business. His mother kept the family going with extended family members despite many deaths (including her husband) until 1941.
Had to have three days bed rest after the "Make 'Em Laugh" sequence in Singin' in the Rain (1952).
He left Universal Pictures due to unhappiness over the studio's decision of type-casting him to the "super-polite boy" roles almost throughout his acting career, despite starring in many box office hits released by Universal. It was a bitter-sweet departure as Donald had been with Universal for most of his acting career. The studio held a small party for him and gave him a camera along with 14 films as a departure gift. Sadly, his acting career in Hollywood ended soon after his departure from Universal.
Hospitalized with pneumonia [31 January 1999]
In 1994, he and his wife, Gloria Noble, had a close brush with death. It was about four in the morning and he had just finished reading something in bed. All at once, the house started to shake (earthquake). The house started sliding off its foundation. Luckily, the house wedged up against a big tree and that kept it from crashing into a canyon.
In 1998 he signed on for The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies, a revue featuring 54-year-old + performers. He was their headliner, dancing and singing his way through eight performances a week. He closed out the season with the Palm Spring Follies, performing in the last four shows after recovering from a serious illness that stopped him from performing.
In the space of two years, he appeared in two different, unrelated adaptations of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland", playing different characters: he was the Mock Turtle in "Great Performances: Alice in Wonderland (#12.2)" (1983), and the Lory Bird in Alice in Wonderland (1985) (TV).
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004.
Made his film debut at age 12 in Melody for Two (1937) with his two brothers, Jack and Billy, doing a specialty routine. Billy died a year or two later after contracting scarlet fever.
Received the 1953 Sylvania Award for his work on TV.
Suffered a heart attack in 1971.
Was suppose to co-star with Bing Crosby in the perennial film classic White Christmas (1954) in 1954 but was sidelined with pneumonia and replaced by Danny Kaye.
While he's hesitant to select a favorite film, he's quick to single out his favorite performance: "Call Me Madam (1953) - my favorite number is in there with Vera-Ellen. It's the number I do out in the garden with her to "It's a Lovely Day Today". It's a beautiful lyrical number. I think she was the best dancer outside of Peggy Ryan I ever danced with".