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“...handsome, elegant, tough, funny, wholly commanding and magnetic, not to mention his talent.”

(The South Bend Tribune)

Lauren Levian, Jan Pippins & Henry Darrow Memphis Film Festival 2014

(Photo Courtesy of Debra Cox)

Henry Darrow, Jan Pippins, Memphis Film Festival

Excerpts from “Henry Darrow: Lightning in the Bottle”

His first onscreen kiss and first death scene came in a Latin role in Universal’s Curse of the Undead (1959). It was the same scene. He played the ill-fated Roberto, brother of bloodsucking gunslinger Drago Robles, in one of the few western vampire movies ever made. Unfortunately, the vaqueros and vampires genre never caught on. He obviously needed to cultivate wider appeal.

He became “Henry Delgado from New York” instead of “Henry Delgado from Puerto Rico,” but to little avail. “It was ‘Oh. . . Delgado. . . good actor, but we don’t have any Latins in this script, Carlos. We can’t use him’.” Shut out from the get-go, he couldn’t make connections through the usual means. He became Alvarado’s chauffeur and his natural affability paid off. Driving his agent to the studios, he met casting office personnel and eventually was on first name basis with them. They began throwing him uncredited roles with, if he was lucky, a line or two of dialogue.  But Hollywood has been called a meat market and day players with a line or two are cheap ground chuck. He almost lost an eye while in San Diego filming Manhunt, a half hour series starring Victor Jory and featuring screen veteran Paul Dubov.

During a dramatic scene, a nervous young actor was pointing a gun at Delgado’s head. He says, “He was supposed to shoot at least a foot off the side, but he moved his hand back. I moved my face, because I knew something was going to happen.” The fired blank luckily held only a quarter load. It caught Delgado on the left side of his face, just missing his eye. The impact point swelled immediately. Dubov called for a nurse to clean him up and wash his eye out, but the director ordered, “No, just turn the kid around.”

“So I turned my face to the other side and we kept going.” By the time the nurse saw his wound, it was infected.

Calling Dubov a wonderful actor, he says, “You always met those established character actors that you could follow. You could see them prepare and copy them. I wasn’t going to be like a lot of other young actors. Their attitude was, ‘Hey man, I’m here doing two lines for two days, one inside the house and one on the porch. I got a two day job!’ They’d say their lines and vanish.” He knew opportunity when it knocked and hung around the set, watching and learning.

Darrow’s first horse, Diablo, wasn’t as good at avoiding Leif Erickson. In the first scene where Darrow did serious riding, he mounted quickly and galloped to the ranch house. “All of a sudden, there was Leif Erickson on foot and I thought, oh my God, I’m going to run over him!” Darrow yanked the reins to turn Diablo, but the animal’s hip slammed Erickson into the air. “And that’s how I broke Leif’s wrist,” he says. “Somewhere, there’s a picture of him upside down just before he landed.” Erickson recovered with no hard feelings, but as long as Chaparral aired, whenever anyone was on foot and Darrow rode up, he swears they stepped backward.

In truth, Diablo was too much horse for a novice. Before there were other mishaps, Bobby Hoy provided a mid-season replacement. Because Hoy rode to the rescue if another horse bolted or a wagon team lunged out of control, he needed a fast, reactive horse. Instead, his first mount was a nearly bomb-proof sorrel gelding named Mackadoo. The only thing challenging about Mack was keeping him awake during long scenes, but he was an old trooper who always hit his mark and riding him was comfortable as a rocking chair.  He was ideal for Henry Darrow.  “Mack knows me and my reactions and I know what he’s going to do,” he told Western Horseman magazine. “In my role as Manolito, I’m supposed to be a horseman and I want to look as well as feel the part.”

“It becomes part of your character,” he says. “I enjoyed riding in as the sun was going down when maybe only twenty minutes of light was left. When the sun turns from yellow to red, they’d have to put on lights and the entire atmosphere changed. I like working under pressure like that, shooting at the end of a ten or twelve hour day when people are tired. To hit my mark and come through was as satisfying as playing a wonderful emotional scene.”

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