Remembering RoMere Darling (Part I)

Posted By BrokenClaw on February 1, 2007

Rosie Grinnell

Rose Marie Grinnell1 was born July 20, 1911, on the Potawatomie Indian Reservation in Jackson County, Kansas. Rosie was the youngest of six children of Ona Grinnell and Rosa Ann McCoonse Grinnell.

graphicOna Grinnell was an allotted member of the Prairie Band Potawatomie through his mother’s ancestry. Ona’s paternal ancestors were New England colonists. His father, Philander Grinnell, moved from Rhode Island to Colusa County, California, in the 1860s where he received two land patents. There he married Anna Rice, a Potawatomie Indian whose parents had moved to California from Kansas. Philander and Anna had four children, three of whom survived. The Grinnells rejoined Anna’s kinsman on the Potawatomie reservation near Mayetta, Kansas, sometime before 1900, where Ona met and married Rosa Ann McCoonse.

Rosa McCoonse was an allotted member of the Black River and Swan Creek Chippewa (Ojibwa). Her great-grandfather, Chief Macounce, was the powerful successor to Ojibwe Chief Nangi of the Lake St. Clair community of southeast Ontario, Canada. Macounce’s son, Esh-ton-o-quot, aka Francis McCoonse, was a signer of the 1836 Treaty with the Chippewa and became the patriarch of the Kansas Chippewa. He was the principal signer of the 1859 Treaty with the Chippewa and Munsee. Francis McCoonse had many children, one of whom was Joseph McCoonse, father of Rosa Ann. Rosa Ann McCoonse Grinnell died prematurely when Rosie and her siblings were still very young.

RoMere Darling

Eventually, Rosie moved to Phoenix, Arizona, where she won a Miss Original America contest in 1928 as a teenager. Soon thereafter, she moved to California with other members of her family. She changed her name to RoMere Darling and became a professional dancer and actress. Her name RoMere was a romantic contraction of her given names. Darling was the surname of another Potawatomie family, and RoMere was related to them by marriage. Her aunt, Mary Grinnell, was married to Edward Konkoskie, whose second wife was Annie Darling. Having lost her mother and her aunt at an early age, RoMere probably took to Annie Darling Konkoskie as the closest mother-figure she had. RoMere and her Aunt Annie remained close throughout their lives.

Hollywood Career

  • 1934 — RoMere Darling had an uncredited role as an Indian dancer in the MGM film,
    Laughing Boy, starring the Mexican actor Ramon Novarro as a Navajo. The film received mostly cool reviews of the middle-aged Novarro’s portrayal of a young native American and of the fake backdrops used in parts of the production. However, the film was also controversial and met with some resistance from the Hay’s Office, with regard to the disparaging portrayal of white man’s treatment of native Americans. In retrospect, the film is now viewed in a better light, and MGM gets credit for an early attempt to portray native Americans as complete characters.
  • 1938 — RoMere Darling and several other native American women appeared in a two-page photo layout in the November 15 edition of “PIC” magazine2. PIC was one of a multitude of folio-size entertainment magazines of that era that sold for 10 cents, filled with black and white photos and fluffy articles. Joan Crawford graced the cover of the November 15, 1938, edition and was the subject of the magazine’s feature article. Others appearing in that edition included Tyrone Power, Gary Cooper, and Gracie Allen. RoMere’s article was entitled “The Real Miss America”. It was a beauty contest of native American women, staged as a tongue-in-cheek protest of the Miss America pageant held in Atlantic City some two months earlier. RoMere was chosen the winner!

RoMere Darling RoMere Darling

  • 1942 — RoMere Darling had an uncredited role as a Polynesian native in the Twentieth-Century Fox swashbuckler, Son of Fury, starring Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney. The cast also included John Carradine and a young Roddy McDowall. The story follows an English orphan of questionable birth as he seeks his life and fortune in the tropical isles, then returns home to claim his birthright.
  • 1944 — RoMere Darling played a Brazilian nightclub dancer in the Republic Pictures film, Brazil, starring Tito Guizar and Virginia Bruce. The romantic comedy was written to feature the hit song of the same name by Ary Barroso. The screenplay follows an American writer who travels to Rio de Janeiro to do research and falls in love with a local musician. The film was nominated for three Academy Awards for its musical score.
  • 1945 — RoMere Darling appeared as a Mexican waitress in the MGM hit movie musical, Anchors Aweigh, with Frank Sinatra, Kathryn Grayson, and Gene Kelly. The movie was nominated for five Academy Awards and won the award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture. The film is probably best remembered for the dance sequence of Gene Kelly with the animated Jerry the mouse.
  • 1947 — RoMere Darling had uncredited roll as an Indian woman in Cecile B. DeMille’s historical drama, Unconquered. The film had an all-star cast that included Gary Cooper, Paulette Goddard, Howard DaSilva, and Boris Karloff (as an Indian). It is set in the 1763 events of Pontiac’s Rebellion. The film has all the grandeur of a DeMille picture, but it is often criticized for its historical inaccuracies and for its sterotypical portrayal of native Americans.
  • 1949 — RoMere Darling had another uncredited role as an Indian woman in the Gene Autry film, The Cowboy and the Indians. This film has a plot centered around a dishonest Indian Agent, and of course our hero, Autry, comes to the rescue. The film is not considered one of Autry’s best, but it is noteworthy because the cast included Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels, who went on to star together for many years as The Lone Ranger and Tonto.
  • 1949 — RoMere Darling had her only on-screen Hollywood film credit when she played the role of Mrs. Henderson in the United Artists film adaptation of Mrs. Mike, starring Dick Powell and Evelyn Keyes. The film is based on the true story of a Boston socialite who falls in love and marries a Canadian Mountie and the trials and tribulations that follow. One reviewer on the IMDb site described RoMere’s performance this way: “The gentle performance by RoMere Darling as Mrs. Henderson, the native wife of Trader Henderson, attempts to break through the pre-conceived ideas of most of the movie audience, both in the 1940′s and sadly, of many today.

RoMere also toured with Tex Ritter as an Indian dancer. She was a regular attendant at the Indian Center of Los Angeles, and some details of her later life were published in the Center’s newsletter, Talking Leaf.3 During this time she was married to Harold Rogers, a Seneca-Cayuga Indian from northeast Oklahoma. Rogers was a Technical Seargent in the US Army Air Force and was killed during World War II. RoMere traveled to Oklahoma to bury her husband. She would return to the area a few years later, remarry, and settle into life out of the spotlight.

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