Buckle up, kids; we’re firmly into “no Wikipedia page and barely any IMDb information” territory. One thing I think the years of these columns has taught us is that there are a lot of people without whom movies would be full-on unrecognizable who even today are slipping through the cracks and left unacknowledged. Writers, actors, and directors, we are used to discussing. Producers, composers, and special effects types routinely make their way into the column. But today, be prepared for a career you’ve never considered.
Today, let us discuss Marion Darlington, professional whistler. Born in 1910 in Monrovia, California. Died in 1991 in Sedona, Arizona. IMDb page guaranteed to be incomplete leaving aside that that’s pretty much all the biographical information on it. It lists her as having worked at three studios at least—MGM, RKO, and Disney. You’d even recognize some of the credits. She was in Pinocchio, Bambi, and Cinderella. Of course those made it to her page, because those are biggies. I assume that there are dozens at least that have not.
What did she, a professional whistler, do in those movies? Birds. Pretty much all of her credits are some variation on “birds, voice, uncredited.” Now, don’t get me wrong—a lot of bird noises in Hollywood films are helpfully provided by a sound library. We’ve talked before about the kookaburra, that wandering bird of film. Certainly I’m sure the studios had plenty of recordings of robins and pigeons and owls and things, ready to plug in at a moment’s notice.
However, what Darlington specifically did is make bird noises that weren’t any specific species necessarily but were a bird that communicated with a lead character. She did the whistling saw in “Give a Little Whistle,” come to that. Still, most of what she did is birds that communicate with heroines, wake up surly bears, and the like. The kind of bird that leads to the “you talk to birds?” line in Into the Woods.
These are the kinds of jobs the industry is full of that most people do not consider. There’s a reason credits are so long. I knew a guy when I was a kid who was a Best Boy. Which also made me about the only fourth-grader who knew what a Best Boy even was, clearly setting me on a path that would end up here. A path that would involve being the kind of person who would learn about a professional whistler.
And now, you know about a professional whistler, so reward me by contributing to my Patreon or Ko-fi!