Cecilia Meagher

Cecilia Meagher

Regal, elegant model who became the queen of jukebox movies in California, Cecilia Meagher lasted much long than some, but still did not find lasting success in Hollywood.

EARLY LIFE:

Cecelia Margret Meagher was born on May 10, 1919 in New York to John Meagher and Sarah Potter. Her father was to become a vice president of the Pennsylvania R.R. company.

Cecilia was the oldest of three daughters: her younger sister were Mildred, born in 1921, and Joan, born in 1926. Cecilia and her sisters grew up in the family home in Howard Beach where they attended high school.

A pretty brown eyed girl, Cecilia entered the world of modeling in 1936, barely 17 years old. She entered a large number of various beauty contests and often placed second (always the bridesmaid, never the bride).

In the early 1940s, Cecilia signed with Conover models. In 1942, she won a national wide contest of Coronet magazine to find a perfect girl who will represent them in the upcoming Rita Hayworth movie, Cover Girl. Thus, Cecilia left for Hollywood!

CAREER:

Cecilia made only one movie under her real name, and that movie is Cover girl. As with Jean Colleran, I repeat the passage about the film:

CeciliaMeagher2Her first credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Cecilia was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

In the interim, Cecilia change her name to Cissy Marr and made a large number of jukebox movies. IMDB only lists a few credtis under tCeciliaMeagher6his name. Let’s go with them:

Anna and the King of Siam, a predecessor of The King and I. It’s a very well made movie, with a geniune warmth and loads of charm. The performances by Irene Dunne and Rex Harrison are first class, very nuanced and deeply felt, the production values are high and the script is intelligently written. While it’s not the flippant, happy go lucky movie the musical version is, the dramatic flair gives it a seriousness and earnestness the musical does not have. Cissy played one of the King’s wives and was (sadly) uncredited.

CeciliaMeagher4The second one is Blue Skies, a Bing  Crosby/Fred Astaire film with music by Irving Berlin. If you like musicals where the music is of primer importance, this is the movie for you. While both Astaire and Crosby excell at their prospective fields (Astaire as a dancer and Crosby as a singer, naturally), they cannot outmatch Berlin’s ingenious music. Joan Claufield is a bit balnd as the love interest, but her sweet but interesting type was a female role staple in Crosby movies for  a very long time. All in all, a nicely done musical, worth watching, not the best for any of the performers involved but certantly good enough.

The Belle of New York is a slightly different musical (of the musical fantasy type), with Astaire and Vera Ellen, that never grows to it’s full potential. The reason? Several, but mostly it’s the inspid, uninteresting story (about a playboy at the beginning of the 20th century who falls in love with a mission house worker, now where did I see that one before?) . Fred, despite being in his late 50s, is as god as ever, and Vera Ellen is a graceful but energetic dancer, matched by very few female dancers of that time. The supporting players are also outstanding (Marjorie Main, Keenan Wynn, Alice Pearce), but there is always something missing.

Cissy allegedly appeared in the movie A Bell For Adano with her daughter, but it is not listed among her credits.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Cecilia’s life was pretty ordinary for someone who was a top New York model and an working actress (at least for a time). Men flock to date and sometimes wed both of these brands of girls.

CeciliaMeagher3Back home n New York, in the late 1942 and early 1943, Cecilia dated the famous puppeteer, Frank Parris. Yet, Parris was soon out and a new beau was in – civilian flying instructor, Robert Heasley. For Cecilia Bob Heasley was the one, and the two wed on December 7, 1943, in Los Angeles.

Robert Preston Heasley was born on August 2, 1915 to Walter Heasley and Jeanette Barrett in California. The family lived in Los Angeles where Bob grew up. He later opened a flying school in Arizona.

CeciliaMeagher5Her daughter Barbara Jeanne Heasley was born on October 26, 1944. When the baby was two months old, both she and Cecilia appeared in the movie “A bell for Adano.” Cecilia’s second child, a son, Robert Preston Healey Jr., was born on April 29, 1948.

Also worth noting is that Ceceilia’s sister, Mildred, became the model Betty McGuire and made headlines more than her sister in the earl 1940s. She was very popular with the boys and had a brief marriage that was well documented in the papers. She faded from view after 1946.

CeciliaMeagher7Cecilia and Robert continued to live in California. She gave up her movie work in the late 1940s to raise their family. She was completely out of the limelight and it’s very hard to find any information about what she was doing during that time. Cecilia and Bob divorced sometime in the mid 1960s, and Bob remarried in 1968 to Constance Simons.  

Her son, Robert Preston Heasley Jr., married Mary Charlene Hayes in Las Vegas, Nevada, in 1977.

Cecilia’s former husband, Robert Preston Heasley, died on April 17, 1998.

Cecilia Heasley died on July 11, 1998, in South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, California

Eileen McClory

EileenMcClory1

The fresh faced beauty was just one of many who tried to make a Hollywood career and failed.

EARLY LIFE:

Eileen June McClory was born on June 1, 1923, in Hartford, Connecticut, to William McClory and his wife. Her older brother was William McClory Jr.

Eileen’s father was a man who, with just 8 grades of elementary school, built his own business from the ground up and employed several people. Her brother grew up to become a professional machinist.

Eileen grew up in Hartford, finished high school there, and moved to Manhattan to become a model in the early 1940s. She was signed by the Conover agency and was soon a sough after model. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to appear in the movie Cover Girl, and opted to stay for the Tinsel Town ride.

CAREER:

Like most girls who came to Hollywood for Cover girl, her career proved to be very thin, but still better than some!

EileenMcClory5Her first credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Eileen was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Ceceilia Meagher, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

EileenmcClory3Eileen went on to appear in two more movies, proff that at least she tried to make a career out of it. Her second was movie was They Live in Fear, a WW2 propaganda movie about a German intellectual who escape Nazi Germany after seeing his professor being killer in Dachau concentration camp. His life in America is soon threatened a careless mistake of a colleague. Like many of the propaganda movies, it’s zero art and all “giving a message” movie, but that’s what is to be expect of it. Plus, it gives Otto Kureger, a superb actor, a chance to play the lead (he was mostly a support in A class movies). The movie is little seen today and can be tagged as sadly mediocre.

Her third movie did not fare any better. Carolina Blues, while definitely better known than They Live in Fear, is still a weak movie with Kay Kysler as the lead. Make no mistake, while a very fine musician, Kysler was no actor and it shows, especially when he has to carry a movie. It gets even worse when you notices there is an absurd plot and supporting cast is sorely underused. Georgia Carroll, Eileen’s fellow model who ultimately married Kysler, is a visual delight at least, and who can resist the perpetually enchanting Ann Miller with her all too brief tapping sequence? A below average musical, to sum it up, completely forgettable.

Eileen gave up her career for family after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Eileen was not the stunning, classical ladylike beauty, but rather a vivacious, cute girl next door and was quite successful in her niche. Unlike many of her fellow models and actresses, she had a sedate private life and never made any negative headlines.

EileenMcClory4Her love life was never mentioned n the papers before her first and only marriage. In December 1945, just after being his discharge from the Navy, Eileen married Walter Crawford Adams Jr. Walter, born to Dr. Walter Adams and his wife Emma Pool, on September 16, 1919 in San Joaquin, California, the oldest of three children. He was enrolled into a college in Berkeley, California before going to fight into WW2. He served for 25 months in the UN Naval Air Force in the Pacific. The wedding was held at the St. Angeles church in the Pacific Grove by reverend Father Kerf. They honeymooned in the East Coast for a few days.

EileenMcClory6Eileen gave up her acting career to raise a large family: she and Walter had five children, in proper order: William McClory Adams (names after both her father and her brother), born on October 25, 1951, then James Grant Adams, born on February 20, 1953, then Steven Robert Adams, born on April 3, 1954, then Thomas Pool Adams, born on July 25, 1955 and finally a baby girl, Carol A. Adams, born on November 30, 1959.

The family first lived in Alameda and then moved to Merced, California, and then went back to Alameda. The Adams’ had a solid, happy marriage that lasted until Walter’s death on June 28, 1981. Eileen did not remarry.

Eileen June Adams died on February 23, 1984, in Alameda, California.

Jean Colleran

JeanColleran2

Most female models in the 1940s and 1950s served their due for a few years and happily gave up their jobs for marriage and family. Jean Colleran was one of the few models that lasted more than a decade and became a powerhouse in the industry.

EARLY LIFE:

Jean Pershing Colleran was born on September 7, 1918 to Michael Colleran and his wife, Jeannette Hemmings, in Manhattan, New York City, New York. She was one of four children – her older siblings were Walter M. and Blanche M., her younger sibling was John R.

Jean’s mother was an England native who immigrated to the US and married Michael in the early 1910s.

Jeannette stayed connected to her family in England, and the children went overseas at least twice to visit their grandparents and other relatives. Jeannette’s sister, Maizie, also came to New York at some point, and was living with the family in 1940, along with her son Michael Eby (names after Jeannette’s husband).

Jean attended George Washington high school in her birth city, and later became a talented artist and sculptor studying at the Art Students League in Manhattan. She started modeling while still a schoolgirl, in 1936. Due to her exquisite face, she was quick to become a leading model by the time she was 20 years old. She even purchased her own home and lived in Riverdale, New York, for a time, while her parents lived in Kew Garden Hills, Long Island.

CAREER:

{Since their career were more or less the same, I am repeating this from the post about Betty Jane Hess.}

JeanColleran3Her one and only credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Jean was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Ceceilia Meagher, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Many of the high fashion models of that time married very well. In fact, I’m sure that more models married millionaires than chorus girls and Hollywood actresses! From the 14 Cover girls, several of them married upwards.

Jean was a refreshing change from his rule. While the other capitalized on their faces and bodies, Jean remained devoted to her high school sweetheart, Robert Foster Fuchs. Foster was born to Herman and Josephine Fuchs in 1916 in New York (I guess he changed his surname to Foster at some point). 

JeanColleranTheir wedding, held on August 1943 in Beverly Hills, turned into a media extravaganza since all of the 14 cover girls attended it.  And they all kissed the groom! On a funny note, of all the eligible bachelorette girls, the 5 year old model, Cheryl Archer, caught the bouquet! The couple honeymooned in Florida before Robert was off to Europe to fight in WW2.

Foster got his moment of fame, being married to one of the foremost models in the country. A touching story about Foster was featruesd in the papers in November 1944 – after not seeing his wife for more than a year, he dozen off during a movie screening on the French-German battle line. When he was awoken by the whistle of a GI, the firts thing he was was Jean’s face, looking down at him (they were watching Cover Girl), and he was sure he was still dreaming! Very sweet!

I have no information about what happened to Foster, but I assume he returned from the war and the couple resumes their apple pie marriage. Jean’s Hollywood career never going off the ground, and she worked in New York from then on. She was very close to fellow model Cecelia Meagher, and Cecilia named her son Robert Foster after Jean’s husband.

She was still an active model in 1953, by the time most of her pees were already married and retired from modeling. She was even featured in a newspaper article in 1950 where she reminisced about the old days, saying how everything was much cheaper in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Jean was a very savvy woman, saving money by making her own facials, buying nylon hair extensions (as opposed to those made out of real hair which are much more expensive), and made her own false eye lashes! To quote Jean on how to make them:

“Just knot short pieces of your own hair on one longer strand, trim them, and curl out and mascara the hairs. Then glue them on the lashed just like any other false eyelashes.”

In 1958, Jean decided to take matters into her own hands:

Babs Ferguson, formerly with Hartford Agency, and Jean Colleran Foster, former model, have formed a new firm, Foster-Ferguson Agency, to provide advertising agencies and film firms with models for commercials. The new firm is at 141 East 44th St., New York. The agency will provide both male and female models, providing screening service before sending models to casting directors.

BettyJaneHess2So, Jean ended up being a successful businessman too! What a lady! One of her most famous protegees was Martha Stewart, who modeled when she was just barely out of her teens); Virginia Booker, Frances Huff (who was romanced by the Maharaja of Baroda), and the list goes on. The agency was still working in the 1960s.

Jean married her second husband, Daniel Lynch, sometime in in the 1960s. The marriage was terminated, either by his death or divorce, in cca early 1970s.

Jan married her third husband, Francis Cruthers, in the late 1970s. Crithers was an interesting man, as his obituary notes:

Hero firefighter Francis Cruthers, who rose through the ranks to become chief of the Fire Department of New York, and later saw his son reach the same position, died yesterday at 73 following a long illness.

Cruthers became chief of department, the highest-ranking uniformed position, in 1978 and remained in that post until his retirement in 1981. His son Frank served as chief in 1996 and 1997 and is now an assistant chief with the department.

The two are the only father and son to serve as chiefs, a department spokesman said.

Following a stint in the army, where he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, Cruthers joined the department in 1949.

He served in all five boroughs and was cited twice for heroism.

Cruthers was named Bronx borough commander in 1973 and was promoted to head of the Bureau of Fires in 1976. He held that position, now called head of Bureau Operations, until his appointment as chief.

Cruthers is survived by his wife, Jean, four children and 10 grandchildren.

From this link

Jean did not remarry after Cruthers’ death, and lived for a long time in Southampton, New York. Later, she went on to live with her nephew and niece  Joe and Leeanne Healey in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Jean Cruthers died on April 14, 2011 in Florida.

 

Betty Jane Hess

BettyJaneHess

Top New York models/cover girls in the 1940s. They were stunningly beautiful and each had her own unique brand of charm. Yet, just the same, Betty Jane Hess was just one of the many cover girls that tried Hollywood but failed to make grades as actresses.

EARLY LIFE:

Betty Jane Hess was born on February 3, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to John N. Hess and Jessie W. Stroup. She was the youngest of three children – her older brother was John R. Hess, and her older sister was Mary Louise Hess. Her father worked as a demonstrator and her mother was a housewife. They married just before 1910.

She grew up in Pittsburgh, and attended high school there. She entered modeling quite young, in 1938, when she was barely 17 years old. As most beginners in the field, she competed in man pageants and slowly worked her way from Pittsburgh to New York.

Pretty soon, Betty was one of the highest paid Harry Conover models. She modeled for Chesterfild cigarettes and frequently worked with illustrator. She even scored a Life magazine cover.

Betty hit Broadway and appeared in “Hold on to your hats”, a revue with Al Jolson in the lead. As one of the “ladettes”, she was noticed by a unnamed Hollywood scout and scurried to the West coast to try a career in movies.

CAREER:

BettyJaneHess4Betty’s Hollywood career came out as a very thin one, but hey, at least she has one credit!

Her one and only credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Betty Jane was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Jean Colleran, Ceceilia Meagher (both whom of I hope to profile in this blog), Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

Betty Jane toured extensively with Cover Girl, passing over many a city. It was noted that she refuses the swanky hotel accommodation when they passed Pittsburgh so she could stay with her family (her parents, brother and sister all lived together in 1940).

Yet, Betty chose family over career and gave up movies for good afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Betty was often seen in the newspapers due to her active social life and stormy love life. On a interesting note, Betty Jane was a passionate lover of ice cream but absolutely hated sea food :-(

BettyJaneHessCoverBetty entered the media worlds in the late 1930s, as a young model in New York. Her first beau was Giuseppe Vittelli, a young Italian actor, who just joined a stage show in September 1940 when they started dating.

By 1941, Betty had moved on to greater plains, and dated Alexis Thompson, a wealthy sportsman famous as a old school, elegeant playboy. IOt was a very toumolous relationship that lasted for severla months, with lots of ups and downs. They broke up, got gether again, broke up again and so on goes the circle. They broke up for good in August 1941 after several months of pushing if forwards/backwards. She was also seen with Tom Cassara, who was known around town for dating showgirls. n Setpember she was allegedly seen with George Hale, the famous showman.

Betty wasted no time in moving on and married Harry Bleich, a Wall Street sugarbroker, at the Little church Around the Corner in October 1941. Harry, born in, was a member of the affluent Illinois Bleich family (his cousin was actress Mary Bovard, profiled on this blog in 2013). Harry was drafted into the Navy in 1942. She got massive publicity when she went on to appear in Cover Girl, and was in the papers almost monthly in 1942 and 1943.

Betty gave birth to a son, John North Bleich,  on May 22, 1945. Her second child, daughter Susan Bleich, was born in August 1946.

BettyJaneHess3Sadly, that marriage hit a rough patch and they were separated by the end of the decade. Quite probably this was one of many “wartime marriages” when women married servicemen they would never have married in a normal circumstances. Most of these marriages failed without a hitch after the end fo the war, but this one was not over… yet.

During her separation from Bleich, Betty Jane dated Sy Devore, the Tailor to the stars, in 1956. In 1959, she was the best gal of Hollywood producer Dick Krakauer.

By early 1960s, the Bleichs were reconciled and lived together until Harry’s death in 1972. In 1974, Betty remarried to Marshall Duffield. Marshall was an very interesting man, today primarily known as a USC all american quarterback. He was born in Salt Lake City in 1911 and moved to Santa Monica with his family in 1914. He graduated with honors from USC and was nominated for a Rhodes scholarship, but, in his own words:

“The Rhodes examination was scheduled for the same day as the final game of our 1930 season and I couldn’t have deserted the team, even if I’d wanted to,” he said years later of abandoning his plum academic chance to study at Oxford University.

“Maybe it would have been better if I had,” he added candidly. “We got beaten 27-0.”

After USC, Duffield dabbled briefly in politics, announcing his candidacy for Santa Monica mayor and Los Angeles Board of Education, and briefly attended law school. He worked as an assistant movie director and in 1933 married a starlet, Dorothy Lee. They divorced two years later.

Duffield next worked for an import-export business and just before World War II founded his Duffield Distributing Co. of Culver City, which handled beverages.

BettyJaneHess2During World War II, Duffield served as commander of the Navy minesweeper Starling, shipping out four weeks after his marriage to Donna Maguire of Los Angeles.

Returning to his business after the war, he expanded from five employees in 1946 to 150 with a sales volume of $10 million in 1957 when he sold the company.

Duffield then moved to Orange County and became president of the Newport Shoreside Co. boating concern, vice president of the Bayside Village trailer park and owner and general manager of the Duffield Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Long Beach.

Betty and Marshall lived peacefully and happily in Orange County until his death in 1990 at the age of 79. Betty never remarried. In her later years shared fun times and travel with Howard Marvin. She generally lived a glamorous life and was well liked by her friends.

Betty’s older son John North Bleich died on January 18, 2001, aged only 56. Sadly, her parents, brother, sister and nephew all preceeded her in death.

Betty Jane Duffield died on March 14, 2008, in California.

 

 

Virginia Huston

Virginia Huston.

Beautiful Virginia played the anti-femme fatale, or the good girl, in several top film noirs of the 1940s and 1950s, and achieved a level of recognition that was not too shabby. Sadly, she left movies to become s a housewife in the early 1950s.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Ellen Huston was born on April 24, 1925 in Wisner, Nebraska, to Marcus M. Huston and Agnes Kane. Her father was born in 1897 and married her mother sometime in the late 1910s. In 1920, they were living in Illinois, but moved to Agnes’ native Nebraska in the early 1920s.

The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska not long after her birth. She made her stage debut at the age of 5 in a production of Helen of Troy. Virginia attended a catholic all girls, Duchesne school, and was acting in the drama department. She was just 12 years old when she decided to become an actress (after visiting Los Angeles).

Virginia stuck to her master plan and became a fixture in the Omaha public life. Except appearing in school plays, she was active in the local radio station and even acted in the prestigious Omaha Community playhouse (where Dorothy McGuire and Henry Fonda acted early in their careers).

Her younger brother Randy was born in 1942. In 1945, she decided to go acting full time. She could not decide between going to New York to act on Broadway or to go to Hollywood. In the end, Hollywood and the stories of making  quick buck won out. So, Virginia, her mother and brother were off to California.

They roomed in a small hotel room in Beverly Hills while Virginia made the rounds of movie studios. Due to her resemblance to Joan Fontaine, she was rejected by Darryl Zanuck and almost gave up. Luckily, Charles Feldman, a successful agent, saw her in the  Romanoff nightclub, like what he saw, signed her, and finally nabbed her a contract with RKO studios due to her melodic voice.

CAREER:

VirginiaHuston2Virginia set the prototype of most of her future roles in Nocturne, a decent film noir with George Raft. Lynn Bari was the dark and dangerous femme fatale and Virginia was the blonde good girl. While it’s pretty standard to say Raft was not a great actor, his charm and charisma make him a adequate film noir hero. Virginia’s soft spoken manner was perfectly in tune with the role, and she is one of the better things to remember from the film.

Out of the Past  remains Virginia most durable role and her best known movie. An all around  superb film, with Robert Mitchum in the lead, directed masterfully by Jacques Tournouer, it remains one of the staples of the noir genre. While Virginia was overshadowed by Jane Greer, who was absolutely first class as the femme fatale Kathie Moffat, her career would have been much poorer were it not for this role.

Flamingo Road  is one of the so called carnival movies, with a past-40 Joan Crawford trying to act like she’s a fresh faced, naive dancer. While Crawford’s age does ruin the feeling of the movie a bit, generally it’s a well acted, well made film dealing with some topics highly actual even today.

In a sea of B westerns, The Doolins of Oklahoma stands out as a above notch piece of work. Not only is the cast a very good one, but Zachary Scott as the main character is a study in grey morality – a bank robber who can show kindness and compassion to others.Virginia is the typical decorative good girl.

Women from Headquarters is a woman empowerment movie about female police officers. Like many movies of the genre, it’s no master piece, but solely the theme makes it an interesting watching experience. Virginia, Barbara Fuller and Frances Charles make quite a trio!

VirginiaHuston4While it did not endear her to the large masses like a true hit film, Virginia still struck career gold by playing Jane in one of Lex Barker’s Tarzan movies, namely Tarzan’s Peril . Let’s be realistic, it’s just another entry into the Tarzan series, and thus nothing to call a great film, but it is not a disgrace in her filmography. It’s certainly well made and decently acted, but that is about it. As a plus, actresses who played Jane are something akin to Jame Bond actresses, no matter what they did for the rest of their career, at least they will be featured on every “Actresses who acted in Tarzan movies” list, and, to some degree, remembered.

Virginia marched on. The Highwayman, a moody, dark retelling of the famous Alfred Noyes poem is a movie that many who saw it as children will never forget. It’s got everything  a movie needs: a touching, tragic story, decent actors (I am a sucker for Wanda Henrdix, who plays the female lead!) and a great cinematographer. Flight to Mars is a typical low budget 1950s SF movie. Predictable, with no big names and barely there script, recommended only for the hard core fans of the genre.

tvsinopse333037Sudden Fear is Virginia second best movie, right after Out of the past. A unusual but very good film noir, it’s one of the few noirs that gives precedent to an older woman – Joan Crawford was nearing 50 when she played the role with special gusto (we need more movies like this, with more roles for women past 40 – just when they become great actresses, the roles dry up! Another great movie with a great role for an older woman is White Heat, with Margaret Wycherly whipping up everybody else in the cast!).Virginia, as usual, plays the good girl, and the bad girl is played by Gloria Grahame (who excelled in these types of roles!).

Knock on Wood, a decent Danny Kaye movie, proved to be Virginia’s last hurrah. Too bad. She only made one more appearance on the The Ford Television Theatre TV series, and then settled into comfortable retirement as the wife of a wealthy real estate broker.

 

PRIVATE LIFE:

Virginia was no means a typical starlet. Not only more delicate looking and regal than the typical starlet, she was never in the papers for reasons of private life and so on. When somebody wrote about her, it was because of her career. It was also often noted that her mother and baby brother, Randy, lived with her.

VirginiaHuston3Virginia developed  a crush on the star of Out of the past, the jaded, cynical Robert Mitchum. As anyone who was Mitchum in movies can attest, while not handsome, he had a gritty, powerful charm that was very alluring to women. While he was a married man with three children, that did not stop him from having a devil may care lifestyle, drinking, doing drugs (mostly marijuana) and womanizing. Yet, he swiftly brushed Virginia aside as she was too small a fish to end up on his repertoire, and he was hunting for bigger fish to fry (yep, the man dated some pretty impressive actresses, like Ava Gardner, Jean Simmons and Joan Crawford, all of them more famous than Virginia). Despite this, Virginia was enthralled with Bob until the filming ended, and even some time afterwards.

Little was written about Virginia’s love life in the papers. What we do know is that, on August 12, 1952, Virginia married wealthy real estate agent, Manus Paul Clinton. Clinton was born on June 17, 1923. Their daughter, Pamela Ann, was born on September 3, 1954. Virginia retired from movies and the couple lived in Beverly Hills.

In 1953, Virginia gave an interview to Lydia Lane, the famous beauty columnist, where she made it pretty clear how ill suited she was for the highly hectic Hollywood life. She said how her stomach was often in knots during filming, and she could not eat properly as a result. VirginiaHuston5In order to maintain her strength, she drank a strong beef concentrate with an egg thrown in it. Sometimes, her anxiety would get so intense she would feel she was about to faint. She could reverse the process and not faint by doing a form of self hypnosis, where she would imagine nice things and tell herself calming words. Afterreading this, I was glad that she gave up movies for marriage. She did not seem the type to take the extra wattage needed to become a hard core actress (imagine Bette Davis doing this!). Similarly weak willed actresses, many of the quite talented, often ended up in the gutter (Frances Farmer, Gail Russell), so Virginia’s story is not that bad at all.

Virginia and Manus divorced sometime in the early 1960s.

1966 was a very tough year for Virginia. Her former husband married his second wife, and she gave birth to a long awaited son who bore his father name. Her own father died in September of that year at the age of 69.

Virginia never remarried, and lived the rest of her days in Beverly Hills.

Virginia Clinton died on February 28, 1981, in Santa Monica, California. Her former husband died in 1989.

Diane Cook

DianeCook3

Tall, good looking Diane Cook was a very good dancer and Hollywood utilized that talent – just not the way that warrants anyone fame and fortune, but is a short way into obscurity.

EARLY LIFE:

Maybelle M. Cook was born in 1913 in Valdez, Alaska, to John Cook and Margaret Hardie. Her father was an Englishman, her mother from Washington. Maybelle was the eldest child and only daughter – her younger siblings were all brothers: John, James and William.

The family lived in Valdez in 1930, where Maybelle attended high school. She started dancing pretty early, and decided to make it her career. In 1933, she left Alaska for the West Coast, and started her career in Hollywood in 1934.

CAREER:

Some of the best musicals of the 1930s can be found on Diane’s resumee – sadly, she was a uncredited chorus girl in all of them, one of many who never got noticed. it’s no surprise that she stay in Hollywood for about six years before calling it quits (hey, longer than some, but not nearly enough to be called a true working actress).


DianeCook1Dames i
s just the first of several Busby Berkeley musicals – and a very good one at that, with Berekely’s best cast - Dick Powell; Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell. Kid Millions is one of Eddie Cantor’s best movies, about a simple Brooklyn boys who inherits a large sum of money but must go to Egypt to reclaim it. The superb supporting cast (Ann Sothern, George Murphy, Ethel Merman, Doris Davenport) make this a true delight for any musical fan!

Roberta goes down in history as the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but even without the eternal musical duo, it’s a finely made, entertaining movie.  Irene Dunne is, as always, a grand dame with a great voiceBroadway Melody of 1936 is one of the Broadway Melody series movies, while not the best, it’s not the worst by far. The plot is, as usual with these type of movies, quite thin, but it’s funny enough, and the musical numbers are seamlessly integrated in it. And who doesn’t like Jack Benny? And of course, the young and stunningly handsome Robert Taylor, while not a great actor by any chance, it very nice to look at.

The Great Ziegfeld is The best Picture Oscar winner, so nothing new to note here. Bill Powell is a tour de force in any movie he appears in, and playing the Great Ziegfeld did him no harm! Myrna Loy as his partner is that comes so naturally that it’s weird when they are not in the same movie!  Sing, Baby, Sing is a decent musical pairing off quite an unlikely duo – the angelic, sweet Alice Faye and the funny, sharp Patsy Kelly. And the pairing works great! I wish we had more of these interesting female pairings in movies!

DianeCook5Then, Diane started appearing in Sonja Henie movies. I never tried to hide the fact that I dislike Sonja Henie movies. Sonja, while very cute with her round face and quite a capable skater, was, IMHO, quite  a talent-less actress and mostly made extremely simplistic movies without  a hint of intelligence. Thus, anything I say about One in a Million won’t sound kind, so I’ll just skip it. Thin Ice  gets the very same treatment.

 Man-Proof was finally a non musical movie! While it’s not a very good one, it still veered Diane a bit off her usual fare and branched her into other genres. While the movie boasts a first class cast (Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon), it’s quite predictable and some moments comes of as highly contrived ones. How to Watch Football is a hilarious, 9 minute Nathaniel Benchley shortHonolulu is what you would call a musical with an completely idiotic plot but with plenty of soul and sass. Robert Young and Eleanor Powell head off the cast of great supporting players (George Burns, Gracie Allen, Rita Johnson, Clarence Kolb, Ruth Hussey - 1930s was a gold mine of SUPERB supporting players!)

Then it was back again to Sonja Henie movies with Second Fiddle – at leas we have Tyrone Power in this one, and one can enjoy the beautiful visage! Another non musical film came in the form of I Take This Woman, a Hedy Lamarr/Spencer Tracy movie. Hedy is a truly unique actress, incredibly beautiful and immensely talented, but one has to pass several checkpoints to actually understand both her talent and her appeal. It took me literary years to finally see her in a true light – I tough of her as a beauty with a big ego and no talent before this. Tracy, as any classic movies fan knows, is one of the best actors that ever lived. The film did not utilize neither him or her very well and is a type of movie you watch and forget 2 hours after it ends. Still, I enjoyed seeing the soft spoken, ethereal Laraine Day in it!

Like many of her contemporaries, Diane left movies for marriage in 1940.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Diane had had a surprisingly small newspaper coverage. She was never mentioned as a solo starlet, but mostly in the context of a larger group of starlets. Not that much information was given about her as a result and there is not much to write on :-(

DianeCook4

Diane married her first husband, Henry Frederick Shilling, in May 1935. Schilling was born in 1905, making him 8 years older than Dioane. The marriage was very brief, and ended in 1936.

Diane married her second husband, Fred Fredericks, a well known hair stylist working for Max Factor, in October 1939. Fredericks was born in 1907 in New York. At some point he moved to the West Coast and was very well paid for his job.

They had two children, a son, Jerry Louis Fredericks, born on January 26, 1940, and a daughter, Diane Katherine Fredericks, born on March 22, 1945.  Fredericks died in 1984.

I have no idea what happened to Diane afterwards, or indeed if she is dead or alive today, but, as always, I hope she had a good, happy life.

 

 

 

Virginia Hewitt

Virginia_Hewitt1

Virginia Hewitt was an incredibly beautiful model who never made it in Hollywood. Same old same old? Yes, but she was one of the few lucky ones who got their big break on TV, landing a role in a highly popular series of the 1950s, and later branched into other venues.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Hewitt was born on November 28, 1925, in Shreveport, Louisiana to Leland James Hewitt and Ethel Roloson. She was the youngest of three children: her older sister Etheda was born in 1920, her older brother, James, in 1923.

The family moved quite a bit during her childhood, and were living in Ada, Pontotoc, Oklahoma in 1930. They moved to rural Missouri in the mid 1930s, and by 1940, they were living in Louisiana, Pike, Missouri, where Virginia attended high school.

A stunningly beautiful girl with a perfectly sculpted face and an elegant bearing, it was no surprise that she chose to become a model. She started modeling upon graduation, and moved to Kansas City, Missouri . She dabbled as an actress in small theatrical production on the side. It was during  ashow that a talent scout approached Virginia and asked her to try her hand in Tinsel Town. In 1947, she and her sister left for Hollywood.

CAREER:

Although she was uncredited in My Dear Secretary, Virginia actually had a decent role in it, appearing in about three scenes and her character actually had at least a marginal importance in the film. Virginia was so beautiful that my breath stopped when the camera followed the contours her face – so perfectly sculpted, like a Venus statue!

VirginiaHewitt2Anyway, My Dear secretary is a nicely done, funny battle of the sexes comedy with some great acting bits. The star of the movie are not the leads (although they very much charming), but Keenan Wynn, who has all the best one liners and delivers them with a impeccable comic timing. The man is  a genius, to put in succinctly.

It was that role that brought her to the attention of producer Mike Moser, who was about to bring a space adventure to the small screen. Soon, she was signed to appear on Space Patrol, her claim to fame. Virginia played Carol Karlyle, daughter of the Secretary General of the United Planets who, when she wasn’t helping Corey (portrayed by World War II flier Ed Kemmer) battle an assortment of evil-doers in the 30th Century, was trying to lure him into matrimony. It remains by far her most popular role.

The series opened  a few new doors for her, both in movies and TV. She appeared in The Flying Saucer, a low budget, very trashy B class 1950s SF about flying saucers in Alaska. Need I say more? This movie was not meant to be a good one, and of course it’s not even close to being one. This mind numbing feast is not for those who want some quality entertainment. Virginia has a small role at that, so it’s not even worth watching to see her pretty face.

Bowery Battalion, featuring the Bowery brothers, is a much better fare, and a real example of how low budget movies can actually turn good despite the lack of funding. The People Against O’Hara, a solid Spencer Tracy movie, was her last foray into Hollywood.

Virginia got married and quit acting for the time being. She only had a brief foray into episodic roles in the UK in the early 1970s – The GuardiansThirty-Minute Theatre and Adam Smith are mostly forgotten series today. Virginia never acted after that.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Unlike many starlets, Virginia was not a newspaper staple in the late 1940s when she crashed Hollywood, and got no media recognition whatsoever until her Space Patrol days. There is little information about her in the papers and just a few photos.

VirginiaHewitt3As far as her talents go, Virginia was an amateur writer who wrote articles and even got published several times in some papers and magazines. Hertrue dream when she came to the West coast was to become an writer first and actress second.

Virginia was described several times by her co stars as a ladylike, elegant woman who was nice to everybody, but always at a distance, not too friendly, and with a touch of an ice queen about her. Her cool blonde looks complimented that image well.

Virginia started dating her Space Patrol co star, Lyn Osborne, in early 1952. Osborne was often connected to other actresses in the media (to Piper Laurie, Rita Moreno, Barbara Withing, model Christine Marlowe and the list went on) but Virginia was his one true lady love, and he fell like a ton of bricks for her.

Yet, the story did not continue the as one would expect. Instead of getting married to Lyn, Virginia met and was swept of her feet by Ernest Meer, a Viennese born architect working as interior designer for the rich and famous Californians. Virginia soon left Lyn to be with Ernst – Lyn took the blow extra hard. There was some tension on the set due to this – Lyn verbally lashing out on her and Virginia hiding behind a cold exterior to hide her distress. Luckily, they managed more or less a professional front and the filming continued without a hitch after the first few tiffs.

Despite the bitter sweet ending of their relationship, Virginia cared deeply for Lyn for the rest of her days, saving all of his love letters, notes and photos of them together in a special memory box. Eventually they resumed their friendship, and she was devastated upon his early death in 1958 after an unsuLyngunccessful operation.

She and Meer married on December 31, 1953, and she used the artistic talent to help him in business. The two then began to design some of the better-known chandeliers around Los Angeles, including the spectacular one in the Cecil B. DeMille Room at the old Hollywood Brown Derby. They owned the world famous Courant showroom.

Virginia and Meer divorced in the 1970s. Virginia never married again, and lived for a brief time in the UK before returning to Los Angeles.  Meer married Patricia V. Font in 1981, divorced her in 1985, and married Irina K Maleeva in 1985.

Virginia Hewitt Meer died on July 21, 1986, in Los Angeles, California from cancer. Meer died in 1987.

Barbara Barondess

 

Barbara Barondess

Barbara Barondess is one of those people whose life story can easily serve as a movie script. A versatile, vivacious woman who gave up movies for marriage – as most of the girls did – she nonetheless rose again as a prominent interior decorator and acting coach. Quite a feat for someone who was born in 1907!

EARLY LIFE:

Barbara Barondess was born on July 4, 1907, in New York City, to Benjamin Brandes and his wife, the former Stella Sirkis. She came from a wealthy Russian Jewish family which made it’s fortune in lumber trade. The family moved back to Russia after being persuaded by Barbara’s grandfather. They lived in Shitomir, Ukraine, where her younger sister, Rosalie , was born in 1911. Hard times befell on the family in 1914 when the Russian revolution stated – they were both Jews and capitalists. Her father was shot in the throat the same day Barbara was shot in the shoulder. He survived due to an emergency operation, but was unable to speak normally for the rest of his life.

Her sister Lucienn was born on May 16, 1919. Afterwards, the family fled to Poland where Benjamin and Barbara were arrested and imprisoned. Barbara was eventually released and joined her mother and two sisters (who had crossed the border separately). Her father remained in custody for close to a year and a half while the family struggled to prove that Barbara was an American citizen. Her mother argued to authorities that at the time she and her husband were born, the Ukraine was part of Poland and therefore they were Polish citizens. Eventually, the family was allowed to leave for the United States.

They settled in New York where the girls attended school – Barbara went to Erasmus High School.  She started working in a bank at the age of 16. While working by day, Barbara attended night classes at New York University. At the age of 19, she entered a beauty contest and won the title of “Miss Greater New York” which in turn led to a role in the stage play Gay Paree . Barondess went on to appear on Broadway in a handful of parts, including Crime (1927) and, most notably, the ingénue role in Topaze (1929), . The recognition she received from these plays landed her a chance to try her luck in Hollywood in the mid 1920s.

CAREER:

Barbara Barondess 5Barabra appeared in several silent movies, All AboardSummer BachelorsThe Sorrows of SatanThe Reckless Lady , A Kiss for Cinderella but made no splashes in the sea of Hollywood starlets, warranting her no fame nor fortune.

Her career really started in 1932, when she made her sound movie debut in Rasputin and the Empress. Notable mostly for getting the colorful Barrymore family in one movie, it’s still a stodgy, over the top piece of work with a totally distorted history. Her second feature was Luxury Liner, an interesting if flawed account of a passengers aboard a (yep, you guessed it), a luxury liner!

Sadly Barbara’s next two features, Soldiers of the Storm and When Strangers Marry are very hard to get and moslty considered lost today, so we have no idea what kind of movies they are. Barbara had a credited role in Hold Your Man, a Clark Gable/Jean Harlow movie. This one is an unusual one – what starts as a typical rom com with Gable as a con man and Jean as a gun moll turns into a touching drama about life choices and change. Harlow is superb in the movie, as a woman who undergoes a major transformation, never an easy feast for any actor playing such roles. The Devil’s Mate, her next movie, is considered lost.

Barbara Barondess3Queen Christina is such a tour de force movie that it needs no introduction for anyone at least marginally interested in classic movies. Barbra continued appearing in credited roles, but small ones and in small movies. Eight Girls in a Boat, made just months before the code went into effect, dealt with teenage pregnancy and had a charming female lead in Dorothy Wilson, a WAMPAS Baby Star. Unknown Blonde is a movie about a con man who almost frames his own daughter (unknowingly, of course). The movie is worth watching if nothing than for Edward Arnold, a fine actor, in the lead role. Change of Heart was a level up for Barbara, as a gentle slice of life drama about young people starting their professional lives in New York. It’s interesting see and contrast it with the way New York functions today in movies and series. The movie also features the perennial movie couple, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.  Beggar’s Holiday is a lost movie about a woman falling in love with an embezzler.

The Fountain has an impressive cast (Brian Aherne, Paul Lukas, Ann Harding) but not much else going for it – as an adaptation of a stage piece, it’s stilted, formulaic and often too slow. A must for Ann Harding fans (I love the actress, she was such a kind but strong personality) but hardy recommended for anyone else. The Pursuit of Happiness is a happy-go-lucky, charming movie with Charles Lederer in the lead.

Barbara downgraded to uncredited roles after that. The Merry Widow is a Lubitsch classic, but not worth a notch for her career. Life Begins at Forty is a mild movie, a perfect showcase for the comedic talents of Will Rogers. People Will Talk is another comedy, this time with Charles Ruggles/Mary Boland comedy duo, dealing with martial squabbles in a lighthearted way.  Diamond Jim is a very good biographical film – no wonder, when you have Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur in the leads and Preston Sturges as the director! A Tale of Two Cities, from 1935, still remains the best adaptation of Dicken’s classic novel, in large part thanks to Ronald Colman impeccably playing the dual  main roles.

BarbaraBarondess2Barbara managed to revive her career enough to get credited roles again. Easy Money gave her a meaty roles of a bride trying to set her wayward husband straight. The film is is a crime movie with an unusually intricate plot dealing with insurance fraud, not something Hollywood covers every day. Sadly, it remains one of many well made but obscure movies from the 1930s. Lady Be Careful, her next feature, is another movie completely forgotten today. The Plot Thickens is a delightful detective movie with the Inspector Piper/Hildegarde Withers sleuthing team.  James Gleason plays the Inspector, and is matched every step of the way by the indomitable Zasu Pitts playing Miss Withers. There is plenty of 1930s dry humor and wit in this one!

Make a Wish is a type of a movie Deanna Durbin excelled in – with a juvenile lead whose mischievous nature pushed him/her into various adventures and misadventures, mostly concerning their matchmaking skills. Instead of Deanna we have child star Bobby Breen, and the objects of his matchmaking are his widowed mother, playing by soprano Marion Claire (her only film role) and Basil Rathbone (known today as the ultimate Sherlock Holmes)Fit for a King is a good enough comedy with Joe E. Brown and Paul Kelly as the funny guy/straight guy pair.

Barbara left her pursuit of movie stardom afterwards, and made only one feature, Emergency Squad, a solid, fast paced action film from 1940. Barbara turned to other revues and managed quite a career outside the limelight.

 PRIVATE LIFE:

Barbara was a society butterfly who mingled with the elite of both the East and the West coasts. She knew everybody in Hollywood in the 1920 and 1930s, and afterwards was a doyenne of New York society in the 1940s and 1950s. She later switched to Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1960s and 1970s. Any way you put it, her social life was HIGHLY impressive.

Barbara Barondess6Barbara was featured to some degree in the papers, but generally not to much. She gave a beauty hint in 1933:

Upon finishing work I very carefully remove all screen make up with cold cream, soap and water. Afterwards I run in just a little cold cream because I like the highlights this gives to one’s face. I use only lipstick for street.

Unlike many starry eyed girls who land in Hollywood and expect miracles to happen, Barbara was a hard bitten realist. Years after her experiences as a minor actress, she said:

“In those golden years of Hollywood, women were treated like disposable Kleenex. My experience started at MGM in 1933. I made two dozen pictures in five years and my hair color changed in each one. We had nothing to say about our appearance. I had to lose weight, although I was a size 8. The strain of the working conditions was almost beyond endurance. I don’t know how we survived making Eight Girls in a Boat (1934) for Paramount. We had to jump into a cold lake 20 times for a take.”

Barbara’s first husband was theatrical producer Irving Jacobs whom she wed in 1929 in New York while working as an model/Broadway actress. The marriage fell apart by the time she came to Hollywood in 1932.

Barbara met Douglas MacLean shortly after she came to Hollywood. He was separated from his second wife, actress Lorraine Eddy. Before Eddy he was married to the east coast socialite Faith Cole. Soon they were a constant duet, and in February 1938, they eloped to Tijuana, Mexico and got married. They lived in Beverly Hills, in a hotel. Barbara was a good friend of many famous actors, like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Douglas Montgomery.

Barbara and Douglas wanted a baby badly, but at first she was unable to conceive, and when she did get pregnant in 1943, she suffered a miscarriage. Sadly, in the end, no children were born out of the marriage.

Barbara enrolled at UCLA, studying art and design. By 1940 she started an secondary career as an interior decorator, designing homes for celebrities like Garbo, Norma Shearer, Gail Patrick, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Jane Wyman, and Ronald Reagan. She was so successful that she expanded her business to the East Coast, opening a branch in New York in the mid-40s. Barondess later branched out into fashion, designing and manufacturing clothing, and later added cosmetics to her growing empire.

Barbara BarondessBarbara’s soaring career as a n interior decorator and fashion designer ruined her marriage to MacLean in cca 1947. They divorced in 1948, after ten years of marriage. Her next beau was Roger Dann, a French singer. He gave her a diamond ring, but it did not last long.

Barbara re-meet Phillip Reed, whim whom she went to school on the East coast, and the two started dating in July 1948.  They broke up in early 1949. That year she also dated a fabolously wealthy Spanish, Alfred De Vega.

Barbara also dabble din real estate. She owner the apartment where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe spent some of the happiest days of their brief marriage.

In 1952, Barbara married Nathaniel Rouvell. The marriage made front papers news and it was not surprising that their separation a few months later spread like forest fire.  They divorced in 1953. At the divorce proceeding she claimed that Nathaniel criticized her constantly but never constructively and was never satisfied with anything she did.

Barbara married her fourth husband, a wealthy Pal Beach man, ladies’ apparel executive Leonard Knaster, in 1955. He divorced his previous wife in 1952. They divided their time between Palm Beach and New York. As many wealthy dames, Barbara was looted from a chunky part of her jewelry collection in 1957. The marriage did not last – they divorced in 1974. Barbara never married again.

In 1984 she founded a non profit organization to help theatrical professionals move on in their chosen areas. She produced several off Broadways plays. Among the alumni of the school is the notable actor Morgan Freeman.

Barbara Barondess died on May 31, 2000 in New York.

 

Jean Chatburn

JeanChatburn1

Entering movies as a Barbara Stanwyck double, Jean Chatburn actually made her way into the credited tier and even had a chance to become a full pledged working actress, but sadly left movies before she could make a memorable career for herself.

EARLY LIFE:

Geneveive Jennie May Kellar was born on September 11, 1914, in Hanover, Michigan, USA to Daniel H Kellar and Leora Marion M Kellar. Her father came from Indiana to Michigan and married her mother, a Michigan native.

Her younger sister Gladys Pearl Kellar was born in 1916 ad her younger brother Robert Franklin Kellar in 1920.

In 1920, the family lived in Hanover. Genevieve attended elementary and high schools in the city and showed an early interest in a showbiz career.

I have no idea exactly how she ended up in Hollywood, but by 1934 she was appearing in movies regularly.

CAREER:

As all girls who had any singing ability, one would expect Jean to be pushed into musicals for most of her brief career. Wrong! She actually had a varied career spannign several genres, somewhat of a rarity for somebody who was basically a starlet.

Her first movie, Paradise Valley, made in 1934, is a lost one today and nothing can be said about it’s quality or indeed any plot.

JEanChatburn5Come On, Marines! her second feature, could have been a very good if not solid jungle combat movie, but ends up a lukewarm mess with no real redeeming features (a lot of money and authenticity went into its making, but for no avail). Thirty Day Princess, while no big master piece, is Jean’s first solid movie. A fluffly comedy starring Sylvia Sidney and Cary Grant, it’s  a perfect Sunday afternoon watching and highly enjoyable if you’re not looking for a serious, philosophical drama. Jean had a short foray into serious drama with Society Doctor, a mediocre movie with Chester Morris on the downside of his career and Robert Taylor on the upside (although it’s clear as day that Morris is a seasoned actor and Taylor a mere amateur trying to learn his craft… Sadly I never found Taylor to be a good actor until the 1950s, when he finally matured into something, but even then he was lacking compared to the true greats of cinema… Ah well, a handsome face could get you far if you had the right breaks!). A predecessor of the Ben Casey franchise with a dedicated but gruff doctor as the lead, the movie has it’s moments of glory but also had several highly absurd ones (Morris’s character operating on himself with the help of a mirror! Come on!!).

JEanChatburn4Drifting through the genre, Jean finally hit her stride in a musical, Memories and Melodies. Yes, the movie is forgotten today but it gave her  chance to sing on screen. The quality of her movies went up from then on. Naughty Marietta is a classic today, one of Jeanette MacDonald/Nelson Eddy’s best efforts, a charming movie worth watching several times.

No More Ladies is the suave, elegant drawing room comedy Hollywood made dime a dozen in the 1930s. It’s brisk, funny but not really noteworthy as far as the genre goes. Joan Crawford played the role she does in most of her movies, as do Robert Montgomery (before his greatest roles in film noir and drama, he was a typical charmer) and Edna May Oliver (mostly played the same type, but what an actress, simply hilarious!). The Great Ziegfeld is a movie that needs no introduction, a absolute classic that holds up more than well today. Jean even has a delightful scene with the ever suave William Powell playing Ziegfeld. Then, typically, there was a decline in movie quality.

New Shoes is a mildly disturbing (or better said weird) short with Jean’s shoes having the leading role (as I said, weird).

JeanChatburn2The Devil on Horseback could have been an entertaining movie with a silly but endearing plot – sadly in ended up an undefined, weird movie with some pretty bad acting and lots of stereotypes. On the plus side, Jean played the best character in the movie – the female lead’s (Lili Damita, Errol Flynn’s first wife) secretary and one of the very few female characters with lesbian overtones in movies of that time in general (yes, the movie does have a few surprises)! However, with this dud, Jean entered the prestigious area of supporting characters. She would never be uncredited again, something many other actresses never managed to achieve in career that lasted longer than Jeans!

Some Time Soon another musical short, lost today, gave Jean a leading role. She then played the main female support role in Bad Guy, an interesting movie about a convict who gets out of jail but returns to crime. It’s a morality story, very much grey, and shows both the good and the bad sides of the main character, played well by Bruce Cabot. Willowy and beautiful Virginia Grey serves as his love interest.

Jean’s last movie is a good one. Dramatic School, while not really a classic today and not a top movie in terms of plot not character development, features so many good actresses it’s a must see for anyone who likes the golden age of Hollywood. Paulette Goddard, Louise Rainer, Lana Turner, Ann Rutherford… and the list goes on! Of course Jean, a little known actress then, gets drowned by the sheer number of bigger stars, but her role was prominent enough that maybe someone could have noticed her.

Like many other actress of the day Jean gave up her career, which was slowly but securely on the rise, for marriage and children.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Jean married Richard Metz, a future professional golfer from Kansas, in 1929 when she was just 15 years old. Metz was born in 1908, making him only 21 for the marriage. The marriage was quickly annulled, but that was not the end of the Jean/Dick story.

JeanChatburnVictorOrsattiJean was quite active in the publicity stakes in Hollywood. While her career was nothing to talk about, she was featured in papers on every opportunity she (or her publicist) could muster. We learned from the various articles that she was an active horse woman, maintained her slim frame by bowling, that she enjoyed sun bathing, was a passionate motorcyclist and was quite a clothes horse. Jean seemed like a well rounded, interesting woman a bit ahead of her time. She also entereted beauty peagants pretty late, when she was in the early 20s and working as an actress, but was quite successful at it, winning several titles.

JeanChatburn6Jean married Frank Orsatti, brother of the better known agent Victor Orsatti in 1936, not yet 22 years old. Frank was born in 1893, making his almost 20 years older than Jean, worked as a press agent like Victor, and had one writing credit to his name. The couple bought a breeding farm outside of Los Angeles and were heavily involved with thoroughbreds. Their horses frequently won races at the famous Santa Anita racetrack cca 1937. At their peak, they had four champions. Frank and Jean were very good friends with his brother and his then wife, the stunning beauty June Lang, and they often went out to town as a foursome. Frank seemed like a nice and attentive husband to Jean, but fate would have it otherwise. Jean meet her former husband, Dick Metz, by chance, in 1939 and it changed their lives.

Jean divorced Orsatti in November 1939 in Reno, Nevada, and married, two days later, her first husband, Dick Metz. This time it was for keeps. She left Hollywood not long after to live in Chicago with her golfer husband. They had three children, two sons Craig and James and a daughter, Joan.

JeanChatburn3After Dick retired from golfing in the 1950s, the two went into the cattle ranching business in his native Kansas. Their was a happy marriage until declining health compelled Metz to commit suicide in the parking lot of an Arkansas City, KS funeral home on May 4, 1993. She never remarried.

Genevieve Metz died on July 18, 2007 from cancer.

 

 

 

Scarlett Knight

Scarlett Knight

Scarlett Knight is one strange flower. I stumbled upon her name quite  a few times in the early 1940s papers – touted as a promising starlet on her way to stardom, she fizzled like many of them, but it is the inspiring story of her post-Hollywood life that makes her an interesting subject for a short biography.

EARLY LIFE:

Frances Knight Archibald was born in Louisville, Kentucky, in about 1918, to William David Archibald and his wife, . It was a prestigious, rich family – her father was once Kentucky state banking commissioner.

Frances grew up in Kentucky and from any early age developed a special passion for horse riding – she was famous among her hometown for being able to guess a horse’s age by looking at his teeth and for her recopies for mint Jelups and Tom and Jerrys .

Frances attended the University of Minnesota where she caught the acting bug and joined a stock company. She traveled through 33 states with the said company and played a variety of different roles.

In 1940, Scarlett told herself that Hollywood is the next step in her career, and in two weeks she went from a stock company actress to a actress under studio contract. How did she do it? The enchanting southern belle, despite being labeled as a Myrna Loy look alike, did not give up and with a rarely seen determination managed to get signed by RKO.

CAREER:

We fall quite short here. While Frances definitely was in Hollywood for a time, from 1940 to about 1943, and she was in the papers, I could not find any IMDB account for her and thus I have no information about the movies she appeared in. While there were plenty of actresses on the studio’s payroll who never saw the camera lens, and Scarlett could actually be one of them, I sincerely hope this is not the case and just that by some accident she does not have her page. If you trust the papers, she appeared in several movies in 1940 for sure. Anyway, wherever she appeared in movies or not, it did nothing to catapult her to stardom and she left Hollywood by 1942.

PRIVATE LIFE:

When girls enter Hollywood they often fall into two basic categories: beauties who have little to o acting experience and use their looks as a starting point, or veteran theater actresses who have the experience and skill. it’s still a gamble and it’s very much unknown who will succeed or who will fail (While the second category has a bigger chance of success, there are truly no rules. Many world famous actresses started as chorus girls who used their looks to propel themselves to stardom – Joan Crawford, Jane Wyman, Norma Shearer. Many other top actresses were theater practitioners who just translated their thespian skills onto film – Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Ruth Chatterton).

By all accounts Scarlett, while not a Lynn Fontanne of her generation (in other words, a world known Broadway diva who did Shakespeare like it’s nobody’s business)  she was a seasoned stock company player when she entered Hollywood, an experience that could have very well lent itself to her path to stardom. Yet, it did not, and Scarlett remains uncredited today.

Yet she did sink her teeth into the Hollywood lifestyle and lived like many starlets of the time, gathering publicity for her exploits. She was a clotheshorse and posed for fashion columns. In early 1941, Scarlett injured her Achilles tendon and was bedridden .- as a result, she had to skip a few roles.

By 1942, Scarlett had seen the writing on the wall – there was no success to be had in Hollywood for her. True movie recognition constantly evaded her. Next we hear anything of her, it’s 1945 and a newspaper article emerged in the papers that explained what happened to Scarlett in the interim ( forgot to take the name of the columnist, but it’s clear that he helped Scarlett a great deal):

A few years ago during a visit to Hollywood I was privileged to meet and to be of some assistance to a beautiful young Louisville Ky girl with the startling nom de theater of Scarlett Knight. She had talent ability ambition and great beauty but she was getting no where fast in filmdom  so with the aid of Abe Shore, manager of Max Factor Cosmetic Co and Harold Rodenbaugh former Tribune reporter who had be come photography editor of the Louisville Courier Journal I started a publicity campaign for the young lady. Her picture appeared in Life magazine and Harold went to town with n full page article complete with photographs in the magazine section of the Courier Journal.

Theatrical agents began to take notice and when I next heard from her she was playing one of the principal feminine roles in the stage play Good Night Ladies which had a two year run at the Blackstone theater in Chicago. She dropped the Scarlett and was known as Francos Knight. Every Christmas she wouldd send me a card of appreciation and I could tell that success hadn’t gone to her head.

Then I received an mail letter from Italy where she was with a M S O troupe entertaining our fighting men. Then a long silence and I wondered what happened to my young friend. Then the other day there came in my mail the following Mr and Mrs William David Archibald announce the marriage of their daughter Frances Knight to John Bayne Breckenridge, Lt Col Army of the United States, on Sunday, the twelfth of August 1945, in  St Johns church, Broad Creek , Maryland. And so one chapter of the story ends and a more interesting one begins. May it and all the succeeding chapters be filled with joy and happiness.

Thus, Frances married John Bayne Breckenridge in 1945 and gave up her acting career for marriage. Her transition from a starlet whose career went nowhere to a respected theater actress who met the love of her life while on a truly noble mission is very encouraging and shows how we can all reinvent ourselves anytime in life.

The Knight-Breckenridge union resulted in two children, a daughter, Frances K., born on September 12, 1946, and a son, John B., born on May 5, 1949. Both of the children were born in Ketucky, so I imagine she and her husband lived there long term.

I have no idea what happened to Scarlett afterwards, but I do hope she lived a happy life.