Interview by Paul Salfen
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Born in Depression-era Texas, Donnie Dunagan moved with his parents to Memphis as a young child. There, as a three-year-old, he was taught to tap dance by a neighbor and entered in a talent contest at the Orpheum Theatre. Donnie won the $100 prize and caught the attention of a movie talent scout in the audience, who arranged for the family to come by train to Hollywood. The blonde moppet made his film debut in “Mother Carey’s Chickens” (1938), played the son of the “Son of Frankenstein” (1939) and provided the voice of young Bambi for the 1942 animated classic.
10 years later, Dunagan later became a career Marine (1952-77), serving in Vietnam and working in counter intelligence. In 1952 at the age of 18, Donnie Dunagan became the youngest ever drill instructor in the United States Marines, he served 3 tours in Vietnam, was wounded several times, and earned 3 purple hearts.