Film Star And Coronado Man, Johnny Downs Featured On KPBS - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado Island News

Film Star And Coronado Man, Johnny Downs Featured On KPBS

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Posted: Friday, January 31, 2014 9:16 am

One of the most popular shows on television is “Ken Kramer’s About San Diego.” Kramer is the creator, producer and host of the series that began more than 30 years ago at KPBS documenting little known historical anecdotes in San Diego history.

For the past month Kramer has been putting together a segment remembering Johnny Downs, a Coronado man who was a child star in the silent film era, a celebrated song & dance man, movie star and host of a popular cartoon show in San Diego.

“About San Diego” documents San Diego’s long-forgotten legends; the people and stories that have been obscured over the years by the dust of history. It has been said that Ken Kramer is more valuable to San Diego history than any ten museums.

While his show focuses on history of San Diego, Coronado is often featured prominently. “I believe there is more history per square foot in Coronado than anywhere else in San Diego,” the creative newsman/historian is fond of saying.

His show has featured many Coronado stories over the years that have included segments on the ferryboats, the Hotel del Coronado, Tent City, the sand dune letters on our beach, the 1923 Hotel Del Laundry truck, the shipwreck Monte Carlo, author L. Frank Baum, the Kingston Trio, the Flower Lady and various personalities.

In 1995 the show moved to NBC 7/39. In 2010 it returned to KPBS, where it continues to have an enormous following. In Coronado, KPBS can be found on Time Warner channel 11, or in high definition on channel 711. “A look back at Johnny Downs Career” airs on Thursday, January 30, at 8 p.m. It repeats the following Sunday at 5:30 p.m.

The son of a naval officer, Johnny Downs frequented Tent City as a child. He starred in a movie filmed here in 1935 called, “Coronado.” Johnny Downs moved to Coronado in 1953, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

At the age of ten (1923) Hal Roach hired Downs to play in the original “Our Gang Kids.” These silent film shorts ran through 1927 and found Downs in 24 of the celebrated two-reelers, playing everything from heroes to bullies. He played “Toughy” before sound.

He had a break out performance in the movie “Rhapsody in Blue: The George Gershwin Story” (1945). Known as “The All-American Boy,” he made 100 films starring alongside the likes of Hedy Lamarr, Ronald Reagan, Charles Boyer, Betty Grable, Judy Garland, Ingrid Bergman, Susan Hayward, and comedians Laurel and Hardy.

Semi-retired from show business, Downs set up home in Coronado where he and his wife June had five children. Johnny Downs was a familiar sight on the tennis courts, and at the Hotel del Coronado’s Beach & Tennis Club.

He sold real estate here for years, and supplemented his earnings by hosting “The Johnny Downs Show,” a kiddies TV show in San Diego that ran from 1953-1968.

Johnny Downs died in 1994 but remains a favorite memory to Baby Boomers throughout San Diego County, and especially Coronado.

For more information on Ken Kramer, or to watch past episodes from his vast archive of historical documentaries, visit

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1 comment:

  • Jenny McGee Art posted at 7:34 pm on Sat, Jan 18, 2014.

    Jenny McGee Art Posts: 1

    I'm so proud of my grandpa! Thank you for this lovely tribute.