Arthur Carrington Obituary


Arthur Carrington, former child star who appeared twice with Bette Davis, dies at 76

Arthur Carrington

By Allan R. Ellenberger

Arthur Carrington, a one-time child actor who appeared twice with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937) and The Corn is Green, died on Wednesday morning of bladder cancer.


In the Bette Davis film, That Certain Woman (1937) co-starring Henry Fonda, Davis has a child who appears at two different ages over the course of the film. The elder child was played by Dwayne Day (his only film according to imdb), however Jackie Merrick as an infant was played by one year-old Arthur Carrington.

Arthur Carrington is probably not a name that film historians can rattle off a bio for, however in his own small way, he contributed to film history.

Carrington was born to Hiram and Pearl Carrington on April 20, 1936 in Willow Brook (near Compton), California. He began appearing in films through his cousin Dawn Bender, who, the same year he appeared in That Certain Woman, was cast as the infant daughter of Kay Francis in the Warner Bros. film, Confession (1937). Bender later appeared in small roles in such films as Till We Meet Again (1944), A Song to Remember (1945) and The Actress (1953). Her last film was the classic, Teenagers From Outer Space (1959). However, she is probably best known for her appearances on radio, specifically for the role of Margaret Barbour on the radio drama, One Man’s Family.

Other family members also had bits in films. His sister Marilyn had a small role in the classic, The Grapes of Wrath (1940). Two other cousins, Bill and Carol Roush also appeared in films.

Arthur Carrington and Bette Davis

One year-old Arthur Carrington with Bette Davis in That Certain Woman (1937)

Carrington received the role as the infant Jackie Merrick in That Certain Woman when a casting call went out and he was placed in a line-up with several other babies. Director Edmund Goulding, walking back and forth, finally proclaimed him as the “most beautiful” of the bunch and a career was born.


Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington


Of course Carrington remembered nothing about the film or of Bette Davis. However, his mother told him that Davis came to her and asked if she would consider letting her adopt Arthur. Mrs. Carrington, who politely turned her down, felt that Davis evidently fell in love with Arthur and thought the family was poor and could use the money. That wasn’t the case.


Bette Davis and Arthur Carrington


There were some films he appeared in that he remembers nothing about. There are memories of meeting the Lone Ranger and getting to hold his gun. At some point he must have appeared in a Randolph Scott film because his mother had some harsh words about the actor. “She said that Randolph Scott was the biggest idiot and never knew his lines,” Carrington recalled. He didn’t know why she felt so strongly.


A year following his stint in That Certain Woman, Carrington was set to appear in a Clark Gable film – presumably Test Pilot (1938) with Myrna Loy. Gable wanted to make sure that Arthur would feel comfortable and carried him around the set and showed him the planes. Little Art clearly embarrassed his mother at one point when the two year-old complained about Gables bad breath.


Regardless, things didn’t quite work out when Arthur came down with Scarlet Fever and the set had to be shut down until it was determined the illness did not spread. Carrington recovered but lost the part.


Carrington was unimpressed with his film appearances as a child. When asked about it, he remembered very little until  his memory was jogged and then would get some nuggets. His mother Pearl, who died in 1998, had all the stories. “My mother was the one you should have talked to,” Carrington said. “She was very much a people person and enjoyed meeting all the actors that I worked with.”


The Corn is Green


He recalled that his mother was not a typical “stage mother” and never pushed him to do anything. This point was proven when he appeared in one of his last films, The Corn is Green (1945), once again with Bette Davis. As an eight year-old playing one of the many students, director Irving Rapper wanted to give Arthur a line.


So his mother took him aside and asked: “Do you think you’d like to say a line?”


“No, I don’t think I would,” Arthur replied. So that was the end of it. He said a ‘stage mother’ would have went berserk.


Summing up his career Carrington said: “Working as a child in films was a great opportunity if you had the talent. I just wasn’t that interested.”


As a teenager, he sometimes tried to impress his friends with his former career. “I once told a buddy that I was in The Corn is Green with Bette Davis,” Carrington recalled. “Evidently he didn’t believe me or wasn’t that impressed because he just rolled his eyes and said, ‘Yeah the corn sure is green.’”


Arthur and Willeta Carrington and Shotzie

Art Carrington with his wife Willeta and their dog Shotsie


Carrington worked as a Long Beach postal worker and in his retirement, spent much of his time traveling across the country with his wife, visiting celebrity graves. Carrington is survived by his wife Willeta, his two children, Debra and Arthur, Jr. and two grandchildren.


Correction 0n the burial location: It will be held Wednesday, November 21 @ 12:30pm at Cypress Forest Lawn Cemetery, 4471 Lincoln Avenue, Cypress, CA 90630.



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9 Responses to “Arthur Carrington Obituary”

  1. Kim Eazell says:

    I have known Art and Willetta for over 15 yrs and they are the sweetest couple. Thanks for this Allan.

  2. Tracy says:

    I have seen them at the Cemetery but never knew this story. Thanks Allan for sharing this!

  3. Ginny Michaels says:

    Love this couple – they truly are the sweetest. We were lucky enough to meet them in Hillside over ten years ago on one of first journeys to CA, and we got the whirlwind tour of that cemetery and Holy Cross. Without them, we’d still be searching! Thanks for a fitting tribute!

  4. w.k. mccauley says:

    Awesome story as always. But was wondering–is there a link between his film career and visiting celebrity graves? Or just a hobby?
    A.– Hi Kevin, no it’s just a hobby – like me. — Allan

  5. Barry Lane says:

    He wasn’t a child “star.”
    Come on Barry, let’s not quibble over semantics. He was a good friend of mine and I’ll honor him in my way. Thanks for understanding.

  6. Scott Wilson says:

    I know of Art and Willetta and their finds through the late David Lotz and other friends. Their sharing and generosity of spirit is well known. I’m very sorry to hear of his passing and my condolences to Mrs. Carrington.
    Scott Wilson

  7. Mary Johns says:

    My Uncle Art will be greatly missed. I know that he was loved by many and between his family and friends, his memory will live on.

    Correction 0n the burial location: It will be held Wednesdy, November 21 @ 12:30pm at Cypress Forest Lawn Cemetery.
    4471 Lincoln Avenue
    Cypress, CA 90630

  8. Tracy says:

    I am very sorry to read this news. I wouldnt even have kown, if it wasnt for your wonderful site. Art and Willetta were fixtures at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, I always saw them there. He will be missed.

  9. Debbie says:

    Thank you for such a kind and informative tribute to my dad. I enjoyed meeting and hearing from so many of my parents friends in the past few days! God bless you pappa! We are missing you….

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