Henry Darrow – A Remembrance
By Dr. Frank Javier García Berumen
Henry Darrow, veteran Latino actor of stage, film, and television; as well as
social activist passed away on March 14th, in Wilmington, North Carolina, at the age of 87.
He was born Enrique Tomás Delgado Jiménez in New York City on September 15, 1933, at the height of the Great Depression. He was the son of Gloria and Enrique Pio Delgado, who were employed in the clothing and restaurant business. Both of his parents had emigrated from Puerto Rico to New York at the beginning of the 1930s.
He would later recall that, that he was bitten by the acting bug, when at the age of 8, he played a woodcutter in a school play; and from then on, he knew his future would be as an actor. At the age of 13, his parents moved back to Puerto Rico; and he became aware of his ethnic roots and the rich culture of his people.
He attended the University of Puerto Rico, where he studied political science and acting. Soon thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles; and enrolled in the Pasadena Playhouse. There, he met his first wife, Lucy and the union produced two children, Denise and Tom. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in the field of theater arts.
Soon thereafter, he made his film debut in a bit part in Curse of the Undead
(1959), and bigger film parts followed. His debut on television came in the series
Wagon Train, in 1959. His talent earned him numerous roles in other top-rated
television shows, including: Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Wild Wild West, The Big
Valley, Mission Impossible, Daniel Boone, Hawaii Five-O, Kojak, Harry O, Kung Fu, The Streets of San Francisco, McMillan and Wife, Wonder Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Magnum, P.I., among others.
By 1965, he had already had 12 film and 75 credits. At that point he decided to
change his name to Henry Darrow in order to avoid playing the demeaning
stereotypes of Mexicans and other Latinos, that were prevalent in both film and
television. During this time, he won a role in the play The Wonderful Ice Cream
Suit. Darrow’s performance brought him to the attention of television producer
David Dortort (who had brought the popular Bonanza series to the small screen); and who soon thereafter, cast him in The High Chaparral.
His signature role on television became Manolito, the easy going and amiable vaquero in the television series The High Chaparral, which ran from 1967 to 1971 (98 episodes). It was set in a ranch in the southern Arizona in the 1870s, which was owned by Mexican landlord Victoria Cannon (played by the Argentinean-born (Linda Cristal) and her husband Big John Cannon (Leif Erickson). It was the first television series to feature a Mexican family. It was also a ground-breaking series, that provided numerous Mexican and Native American characters in nonstereotypical roles.
Darrow loved his character or Manolito. He would recall later, “I based him after two Shakespearean characters I played: Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, which added a comedic touch, and Iago from Othello, which mixed a little darkness to the character. He was a free spirit!” Darrow went on to win the Bambi Award, Germany’s equivalent of the Emmys, for his role in The High Chaparral.
In between, his prolific career, Darrow became a social activist in order to increase the presence of Latino performers and talent in film and television; and to eradicate the demeaning stereotypes. In 1970, he co-founded (along with Ricardo Montalban, Richard Hernandez, Rodolfo Hoyos, Jr., Valentine De Vargas, Carlos Rivas, and Tony De Marco), an advocacy group for better opportunities for Latino performers.
In 1972, Darrow co-founded the Screen Actors Guild Ethnic Minority Committee, along with actors Ricardo Montalban, Carmen Zapata, and Edith Diaz. He also served in the Advisory Committee of Bilingual Children’s Television. Other highlights of his long career included the role of Don Erasmo, who initially allows Euro-Americans into Tejas in Jesús Treviño’s Seguín (1982). He played Don Diego/Zorro in The New Adventures of Zorro (1981) television series; Don Diego and Zorro, Sr. in Zorro and Son (1983) television series; and Don
Nick Thomas. “A ‘High Chaparral’ Thanksgiving with Henry Darrow.” The Spectrum, November 19, 2015.
Alejandro de la Vega in another rendition of the Zorro saga entitled Zorro (1990- 1993) television series. Darrow also had another notable role, that of Rafael Castillo in Santa Barbara (1989-1992), a daytime television series. In 1990, he was honored with the Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Supporting Actor for this series.
Henry Darrow had a long and distinguished career, which spanned 148 credits in film and television. He was an inspiration to the Latino community; and he was also highly respected and honored by the television and film community. In 2012, he was honored with the Ricardo Montalban Lifetime Achievement Award by the ALMA Awards.
Darrow wrote his autobiography in 2012 (with Jan Pippins) Henry Darrow: Lightening in a Bottle.
He was married to Louise DePuy (from 1956 and divorced in 1979); and to Lauren Levinson (1982 to the time of his passing).
Thank you, Mr. Darrow, for decades of being a positive role model; for illuminating us with your fine acting; and your heartwarming smile.
Copyrighted 2021 by Frank Javier Garcia Berumen. All rights reserved. Dr. Berumen’s books include: Latino Image Makers of Hollywood (McFarland & Co., Inc.); Edward R. Roybal: The Mexican American Struggle for Political Empowerment (Bilingual Educational Services, Inc.); and American Indian Image Makers of Hollywood (McFarland & Co., Inc.). Photos of Darrow in Seguín copyrighted by George Rodriguez and used with his permission. Other photos are in the public domain.