James Wesley Dodd (March 28, 1910 – November 10, 1964) was an American actor, singer and songwriter, best known as the master of ceremonies for the popular 1950s Walt Disney television series The Mickey Mouse Club, as well as the writer of its well-known theme song “The Mickey Mouse Club March.” A different version of this march, much slower in tempo and with different lyrics, became the alma mater that closed each episode.
Dodd had some early film roles in The Three Mesquiteers series of westerns. Coincidentally, he performed in two unrelated series whose names were plays on “musketeers”. He made his first screen appearance in the 1940 William Holden film Those Were the Days! in a minor role. He also appeared in many theatrical films in the 1940s and 1950s, often uncredited. He appeared with John Wayne in the war films Flying Tigers (1942), Janie (1944), in which he sings a bit of Keep Your Powder Dry with star Joyce Reynolds, and with Harry Carey in China’s Little Devils (1945), another film involving the Flying Tigers. He also played the taxi driver in the MGM film Easter Parade (1948), starring Fred Astaire and Judy Garland. Dodd had a small, but important part in the Mickey Rooney hit Quicksand (1950). Two of his films were biographies of baseball players: The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), in which Jackie Robinson played himself, and The Winning Team (1952), in which future president Ronald Reagan portrayed pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander. He played a taxi driver again in Phffft (1954).
Television other than The Mickey Mouse Club
In addition to his small role in an early episode of Adventures of Superman titled “Double Trouble,” Dodd appeared as a deputy in the 1955 episode “Sontag and Evans” of the syndicated television series Stories of the Century. The segment was based on the California train robbers Chris Evans and John Sontag.
The Mickey Mouse Club
The Mickey Mouse Club aired each weekday. Dodd always wore “Mouseke-ears”, played his “Mouse-guitar”, and sang self-composed songs. His tunes contained positive messages for kids. In addition, among his other musical contributions is a song that a generation of kids has used for nearly a half century to spell “encyclopedia”. He performed a regular segment on the show singing “Proverbs Proverbs they’re so true”…and then would expound on a Proverb from the Bible and give an explanation of its value in everyday life. He wrote some themes for Zorro and performed songs in several of his movies. He also wrote “Lonely Guitar”, a Billboard Top 50 charted hit for fellow Mousketeer Annette in 1959. The original Mouseketeers, frequent guests at the Dodd home for backyard barbecues and sing-alongs, said Dodd treated them as part of his own extended family.
Dodd, at age 54, died of a staph infection on November 10, 1964 in Honolulu, Hawaii. Cheryl Holdridge was the last Mouseketeer to see Dodd alive. Holdridge visited Dodd in his final hours because she and her new husband, Lance Reventlow, had flown to Hawaii for their honeymoon. They came to the hospital before Dodd died. He is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills of Los Angeles.