Donnie Dunagan

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 Peter in the Universal Monsters film Son of Frankenstein (1939) and provided the voice of young Bambi for the 1942 animated classic. Dunagan also had a small role in the historical drama Tower Of London in 1939 which featured horror icons Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff, and Vincent Price.

Dunagan later became a career Marine (1952-77), serving in Vietnam and working in counter intelligence. He became the youngest ever drill instructor, reaching the rank of Major. He served as a Counter Intelligence Officer for Defense Intelligence Agency, and as a Force Recon Commander during three tours in Vietnam . He was a Medal of Honor Nominee, and Valor awards include 3 Purple Hearts for being wounded in action, The Silver Star, Two Bronze Stars, the Navy Combat Commendation Medal, The Navy Achievement Medal, and the Army Meritorious Performance Medal. Having fought a member of the Viet Cong and being presumed dead he was rolled over and was knifed below his ribs. As he fell one of his sergeants shot the enemy causing him to recall the image of Bambi’s father coming up to stand over the youngster after his mother had been killed and saying “Bambi, you must get up”.

After his war service he was away at a boxing demonstration when his secret of being the voice of Bambi was discovered by his wife who found two boxes full of photographs and fan mail. When she asked him what they were he said that he was in films for awhile when he was a kid. His wife told a friend who on repeating the fact to someone else was overheard by a reporter.

Dunagan is currently in pre-production in his first film in eighty years, an action adventure named Sub Rosa.