Melba Marshall

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Good looking chorine with an unremarkable career that ended her Hollywood sojourn a happily married woman with two beautiful daughters, making her a decent example of a typical late 1930s Hollywood starlet.

EARLY LIFE:

Melba Mae Kruger was born on August 9, 1914, in Rochester, New York, to John Marshall Kruger and Nina Gamble.

In 1920, the small family was living with her maternal grandmother, Ella Gamble, with her first cousin, and a boarder. Sadly, her parents divorced in the mid 1920s and her mother went on to marry Charles H. Fick. Nina and Mae moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with Charles.

Melba was not a big lover of the academical life, and gave up high school after the second grade. She ran away from Chicago, moved to New York, and danced in Earl Carroll shows and Manhattan nightclubs.

Melba got her first movie job using a sly trick. Getting, via friends, to Busby Berkley, she told him she’s a friend of Dick Powell. Delighted, Busby casts her in his newest movie. The ruse was soon found out, but she was forgiven and remained in the cast. Thus her Hollywood career started.

CAREER:

While IMDB has a page for Melba, the page is empty. Yeah, you heard that right, it’s empty. So I have no factual information about the movies Melba appeared in. Yet, she was for sure in the above mentioned Busby Berekely movie, The Big Broadcast of 1937, but was not credited in the movie’s imdb page.

While it is possible that she was only used for publicity purposes and was never officially in the movie, and that indeed she never made a movie appearance, I hope for her sake it’s not true and her appearances remain buried by the veil of time.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Melba started dating George Scott Barnes, noted cinematographer, in mid 1938. Barnes was already married twice before, to Joan Blondell and Elizabeth Wood. If his later obituaries were to be takes into account, he was married not two but at least four times (allegedly one of his former wives was named Ethel). The relationship went from strength to strength, and the two married sometime in 1939. Later that year, Barnes was sues by his former wife, Betty Wood, for the support of their son, Carlton. That should have been a red flag for Melba, but she stood by her man.

MelbaMarshall2Garnes was born in 1894, making him 20 years older than Melba. Barnes was well known as the silver tongued Romeo among the Hollywood crowd – while not at the least handsome, he was soft spoken and very gentlemanly. He mingled with the high class, and knew everybody there was to know. His specialty was the soft focus camera technique, a technique made especially to flatter a woman’s face. No wonder so many women fell for him. There wasa dark side to his genious,  however. Like many “smooth” men, he was an egoist and a hard task master, rarely submitting to anything less than what he decided was his preference. He made his former wife, Joan Blondell, have two abortions, and their marriage was a truly miserable one.

Their first daughter, Barbara Ann Barnes, was born on April 16, 1940. Their second daughter, Georgene S. Barnes was born on May 7, 1942. The marriage did not last, however, and the divorced in about 1945.

Melba married noted composer Arthur Quenzer in 1947. Quenzel was born on  October 20, 1905 NYC, NY, to Hary Quenzler and Rose Coughlin. Prior to 1930, Quenzer married his first wife, Helen Gehring. He divorced her in about 1936.

In 1938, Quenzer married Marcoletta Hellman and lived with her father in Los Angeles. His first son, Peter Dennis Quenzer, was born on March 26, 1940. His second son, Michael Arthur Quenzer, was born on December 4, 1943. Quezner adopted her daughters upon the marriage.

Quenzer got his five minutes of fame by composing music for movies like Swiss MissThe Cowboy and the Lady  and DumboThe family lived for a long time in North Hollywood, where her husband headed the California Academy of Music. Georgene, known as Gene to her peers, followed in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a well known model in the area, winning her first title by the time she was 16 years old. She attended Reseda High School.

Her former husband George Barnes died in 1953.

Melba Mae Quenzer died on December 10, 1979, in Los Angeles, California. 

Her widower, Arthur, died on January 29, 1986 in Nevada. Together are are interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.

Harriette Haddon

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Pretty chorus girl who made countless uncredited appearances of many 1930s movies in Hollywood, Harriette Haddon was a true working gal for a time, before marrying into Hollywood royalty and leaving the industry for a family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Harriette Jane Northfoss was born on October 13, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, to Victor Northfoss and Jessie Blanpied. Her father, born in Minnesota, worked as a interior decorator. Her mother, born in Kansas, was a librarian.

Harriette was the couple’s only child, and grew up in Los Angeles, the city that would soon become the hub of most of the US film industry. She began dancing as a youngster, and was a sure bet to become a dancer. After graduating from high school, she entered movies in 1932.

CAREER:

Harriette’s career lasted for 15 years, and can be divided into roughly three chapters.

She started as a fresh faced, naive girl barely 17 years old, when she signed with Fox Film Corporation. Make no mistake, her career would always remain a marginal one for Hollywood, but quality of the films wildly varied. Between 1932 and 1936, Harriette worked only part time in movies an dit showed. The Trial of Vivienne Ware was a hectic, well plotted 1932 quickie, less than an hour long, with some very good actors (Joan Bennet in an early appearance, Zasu Pitts and Skeets Gallagher). She did not fare so well with her second movie, a truly wierd one, It’s Great to Be Alive. The story is center on the last fertile man in the world! Guess no more needs to be said… Arizona to Broadway was one of those comedies that have al the right ingredients but fall flat in the final run. Joan Bennett again (he girl sure made some strange movies early on…)Stand Up and Cheer! is a Shirley Temple movie with only 5 minutes of Shirley Temple. The rest is taken up by Warner Baxter as a theatrical producer whom Franklin Roosevelt appoints a tas the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. it’s a basically a pastiche of musical acts not worth your money.

Harriette Haddon1Kentucky Kernels is an average input into the Wheeler and Woosley comedy series. if you like them, you’ll like this, if not, don’t even come close. Similarly, College Rhythm is another one of the endless college campus movies of the early 1930s. Nothing to yell about, but not the worst either. Interesting if nothing than for seeing the Bing Crosby wannabe, Lanny Ross, who had a brief career and never managed to live up to his potential. The Lottery Lover is a lightweight romance movie, with a lukewarm script and mostly decent actors (Lew Ayres, Peggy Fears, Pat Paterson). Star for a Night was by far the most serious movie of this part of Harriette’s career. When the blind mother comes to visit her children in America, hoping to find them all well off, quite a different scenario occurs. Great actors like Jane Darwell and Claire Trevor light up this realistic movie. The next one, Rose Bowl  is, again, a college campus movie,with a convenient love triangle. Yawn. And more of the same in College Holiday, but at least it’s a very fun, feel good movie with several wacky performances (the crazy professor is here, and the crazy old rich lady played by Mary Boland). And Gracie Allen, George Burns and Jack Benny together are always a good combo.

Thus begins the second phase of Harriette’s career. She started to focus on her Hollywood career more, and do less nightclub work. With what results? Not so good, I’m afraid, but she had had several good credits to her name.

In 1937 only, Harriette made 8 movie! Turn Off the Moon is a Paramount 1930s musical, and as we already noted, Paramount was not the best place for musicals back then. While tolerable, they are barely able to hold a candle to the superior studios like Warner Bros and MGM. The stars (like Charles Ruggles and Ben Blue) do try but it’s never quite enough. Mountain Music  is one of the hillbilly musicals that could be absolutely hilarious when made by the right people. And here we have big mouthed by infinitely charming Martha Raye and the rugged Arkansas bum Bob Burns in a funny romp worth watching. Thrill of a Lifetime is the typical musical where the back story is absurdity itself but the musical numbers are well made and make the movie. And, typical for this type of movie, the lead often ends up the least interesting part of the exudation. Who would even look at Lief Ericson (handsome but never a good actor) when you have luminaries like Eleanore Whitney, Yacht Boys and Ben Blue on the screen?

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, a input into the Bulldog Drummond series, is again centered over the bad guys attempt to thwart Bulldog’s marital plans (the explosives they are carrying are secondary to this, the most malicious of all deeds). Poor Phyllis Clavering, always waiting for Bulldog and always the bad guys appearing just before she is about to catch her prize. Joking aside, it’s a solid entry, with John Barrymore, generally a superb actor, giving a good performance as one of the good guys. Bulldog is finely played by the handsome John HowardDaughter of Shanghai is a movie very important or minorities and women in Hollywood – it features an Asian leading lady! Anna May Wong, the alluring siren seen in more than 60 Hollywood movies, gets a rare opportunity to play the lead. One can forgive the movie even if it’s not a master piece (due to the story and the characters), but it ends up a surprisingly well made film. Good plotting and very good acting roster make it an unique experience for not only B movies but female lead movies.

Harriette Haddon2True Confession is a interesting blend of black and screwball comedy, with Carole Lombard playing the first prototype of a scatterbrained wife. Wells Fargo  is an unusual western about the early riders of the  US Post Office. Featuring the off screen life couple, Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, it’s quite realistic for the time and worth your money.

In Old Chicago, one of Harriette’s better known movies, is certainly a mixed bag. With a big budget, big stars it should have been a sparkling cinema hit, and it does have some fine parts, but it collapses under its weight before the credits are out. Everything seems to just be the interlude for the great Chicago fire playing for the last 20 minutes of the film. Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye – all secondary. Sad.

The Buccaneer is a typical Cecil DeMille film – historically inaccurate, with lavish production values, large cast and technically well made. Frederic March, while not the best choice of actor to portray what is basically a swashbuckler character, still does a decent job. The Big Broadcast of 1938 is one of the Broadcast series of movies, a flimsy excuse to showcase the studio talents like Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour and so on. Scandal Street is a forgotten movie.

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a superb Ernest Lubitsch movie. While the verdict about the movie is well divided, I for one loved it and it figured much better than some of his other movies, like Design for Living. Cocoanut Grove is a nice little musical with Fred MacMurray showing he can do comedy easilyYou and Me is a scramble of opposing movie genres – crime, musical, melodrama, propaganda… And so on. Made by the great Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, the bottom line was that crime does not pay, but the results are mixed. Worth watching, if nothing to see how an experimental mainstream movie looks like. Give Me a Sailor is a funny little musical about a love quadriple (Bob Hope, Jack Whiting, Martha Raye, Betty Grable). The Arkansas Traveler is a one man movie, a showcase for the many talents of Bob Burns.

Illegal Traffic is a formulaic, uninteresting crime movie with Robert Preston.  Say It in French is a breezy, elegant comedy farce, sadly forgotten today. Zaza is a little known George Cukor movie. While not his best by a long shot, it’s not his worst either – despite the story being a typical Camille rip off (married aristocrat loving a dance hall girl) he has very capable leads (Claudette Colbert and George Marshall) and even better supporting cast (Constance Collier, Bert Lahr, Helen Westley). Paris Honeymoon is a watchable but unmemorable Bing Crosby musical. Similarly, St. Louis Blues is another lightweight but amusing musical. Cafe Society is a typical social disparity movie, pitting the high class Madeleine Carroll (always a welcome sight for sore eyes) against the working class Fred MacMurrayKing of Chinatown is one of the Anna May Wong movies of the time, usually with the same cast and similar characters (mostly Caucasians portraying Asian characters). 

Harriette Haddon3Never Say Die is another Bob Hope/Martha Raye comedy. The two worked well togetehr and could salvage even pretty bad script writing. Undercover Doctor is a thriller made after a book by the man himself, Edgar J. Hoover. It’s nothing to rave about, but it does make a nice afternoon viewing. Man About Town is a typical Jack Benny musical comedy, where he always plays the same old,same old character (as one reviewer nicely wrote: “Different aspects of his cheap tightwad and his narcissistic would-be great lover popped up in many of his films, even his best ones”). A Yank in the R.A.F. was one of the better propaganda piece movies to come out of Hollywood, with real life lover Tyrone Power and Betty Grable playing the leads. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break  is the last W.C. Fields leading vehicle, and one of his best known and most enduring movies, well known today.

What to say about Thank Your Lucky Stars ? As the summary goes: “Two producers are putting together a wartime charity show with an all-star cast but the egotism of radio personality Eddie Cantor disrupts their plans.” Plenty of talent, a flimsy story, but nicely done. Casanova in Burlesque is a Joe E. Brown comedy, totally obscure today. The lively music, colorful locations and all around cheerful atmosphere is the saving grace of Harriette’s next movie, Brazil. The bland leads (Virginia Bruce and Tito Guizar) are overshadowed by the mentioned elements, and Edward Everrett Horton cannot take a wrong step in my book.

 Earl Carroll Vanities is a sad excuse to showcase the lucious Vanities, with a sorry plot and no good actors. It was time for some B westerns for Harriette. Bells of RosaritaMan from OklahomaSunset in El DoradoDon’t Fence Me InRough Riders of Cheyenne and Dakota are all B westerns, with varying degrees of success. Most of them are Will Rogers/Dale Evans, pairings, but we also have an early John Wayne/Vera Ralston movie (Dakota).

Harriette made several more movies in 1945 before she retired for good. The Cheaters is a touching and delightful film, perfect for Christmas family viewingHitchhike to Happiness is an uninteresting Dale Evans musical (yeah, you heard that right, before she became Mrs. Rogers, Dale was a promising musical movie alumna)Behind City Lights is a completely obscure but possibly interesting crime/drama.

HarrietteHaddon4Love, Honor and Goodbye is similarly forgotten. The fluid, well plotted The Tiger Woman (with the seductive Adele Mara as the nominal character) is a lost treasure of the 1940s B movies. Like one reviewer wrote, “Republic features were almost always entertaining, economical, professionally made, well-cast, and tightly paced”.

An Angel Comes to Brooklyn is an absurd, so bad it’s almost funny category of a movie. Just to taste it, here is what one reviewer wrote:

High up in Actors’ Heaven—where those actors who have taken their final curtain on earth still maintain a lively interest in theatrical activity—there is a bell which has been named Minnie. When a struggling young actor on Broadway has sufficient faith in himself—if he believes strongly enough in his ability and talent—then Minnie rings out clearly, signaling that the time is right for an angel to leave Actors’ Heaven and go down to earth to help a worthy, but-as-yet-successful actor or actress.

Ha ha ha. The joke’s on them at any rate. Obviously not worth watching.

That was all from Harriette.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Harriette started her Hollywood career in 1932, but also went on to seek more luck in other venues – one of them was night club performing. She was so good she ended up in London in early 1935, and was popular with the night club going public, but visa problems forced her to return to the US (and consequently Hollywood) before the year was over. There were signs, here and there, that Harriette could become more than a uncredited chorus girl, her name mentioned in the papers a few time, but it all ended up zero.

Harriette Haddon5In 1939, Harriette was involved with Jackie Coogan. A former child actor, . The misfortune of such a match was that Jackie was just getting divorced from Betty Grable, and he carried quite a large torch for her some time after the divorce took place. Not even Harriette could alleviate it, and the two broke up in 1940.

Harriette married Hilliard Herbert Marks on November 23, 1942 in Jack Benny’s Beverly Hills home, just before he joined the US army to fight in WW2. Harriette was photographed for the papers in February 1943, still a newlywed, knitting garments for her corporal hubby.

Marks was born on June 29, 1913, in Seattle, Washington, to David Henry Marks and Esther Wagner. His older sister, named Sadie Marks, was to become Mary Livingston, a famous comedian and wife of Jack Benny. Benny proved to be one of the most important men in Marks’, and in effect, Harriette’s life.

Marks returned dot he civilian life in 1945. Harriette gave up her career in 1945 to take care of her family. Their first child, son Phillip Haddon Marks, was born on October 19, 1948. Their second child, a daughter, Victoria Jessica Marks, was born on February 23, 1952.

THarrietteHaddon7he Marks enjoyed a hefty Hollywood social life, mingling with Benny and his inne circle. Mary Livingston, Harriette’s sister in law, was an interesting woman herself. Mary’s adopted daughter, Joan Benny, wrote about her after her death:

She had so many good qualities — her sense of humor, her generosity, her loyalty to her friends. She had a famous, successful, and adoring husband; she had famous, interesting, and amusing friends; she lived in luxury; she was a celebrity in her own right. In short, she had everything a woman could possibly want. When I think of her it’s with sadness because I wish she could have enjoyed it all more

The Marsks divorced in January 1967 after more than 20 years of marriage. Marks remarried in 1971 to Virginia Amber Morrison. He died on August 19, 1982, in California.

Harriett did not remarry, and lived the rest of her days in California.

Harriette Marks died on March 1, 1999, in Los Angeles, California.

Francine Counihan

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Overshadowed by her more popular sister (Anita Colby), Francine Counihan was still a well known model of the 1940s and 1950s who with several fellow models, helped usher the golden age of modeling and made an lasting impact on US advertising world.

EARLY LIFE:

Francine Lynn Counihan was born on November 18, 1915 in Washington, DC, to Daniel Francis Counihan and Margaret Ann McCarthy. Her father, nicknamed Bud, was a cartoonist for the New York Evening World and the artist for the Betty Boop series. Her older sister Anita was born on August 5, 1914.

They family lived in Washington, DC. The girls mother, Margaret, was a very conservative and strict disciplinarian: they were bred to be perfect ladies, always thinking of propriety, with a perfect carriage and at all times maintaining their decorum. It was forbidden to swar or

Under Anita tuelage, she started modeling in 1935. As she later recounted:

Colby started me in ’35. Conover said, ‘Have her come with you on one of the jobs and I’ll talk to her.’ I was eighteen, and Colby was nineteen. Conover said, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t start modeling. There’s so much money in it.’ Well, in those days it was five dollars for an hour and a half. So I went to Powers. He was very interested in people, and he was interested in you being successful. He was a great morale builder. I went into everything. Fashion shows; Sears, Roebuck; Vogue; Harper’s Bazaar; all the catalogs. I went to Canada, and I went to Arizona—any place that there was money.

The girls were social butterflies of New York, frequenting all the places high society cold be seen in: Twenty-one,’ Stork Club, El Morocco, Plaza Hotel. Yet, if they wanted to date, it was forbidden to go without a chaperone – if Francine wanted to go out with a man, she had to find a date for Anita so they could chaperone each other. Imagine the many awkward situations that came out of this!

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

Francine5Her 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 roles in 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!

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

Francine returned to New York after this and never had another Hollywood role.

PRIVATE LIFE:

On January 5, 1936, at just 20 years old, Francine married Robert J. Riordan in Manhattan, New York. Riordan, born in 1912, was the son of a banker, and finished 2 years of colledge, never graduating. The couple lived in New York, and soon Francine was the main breadwinner in the family.

Their son Robert J. Riordan Jr. was born on October 11, 1936. Their daughter, Francine Lynn, was born in 1940.

FrancineCounihan2Francine continued to model, but only for the money. As she told author Michael Gross for his book, Model, the ugly business of beautiful women:

Colby was more glamorous than I was. I thought glamour was fine, but I wanted the money. She was doing a lot of Vogue and a lot of Harper’s. I was more commercial, and she was more high-fashion. I made a lot of money. See, for me, being a model wasn’t as important as the money. I had a seven-room apartment in New York, I had two children in private school.

Francine and Robert’s marriage was not a stable one and they separated in 1941. They remained separated for six years, until 1947. In the interim, Francine occasionally dated somebody who caught her fancy. In 1946, she was a duet with Richard Carolson, just out of the army.

Francine varied the color of her hair through her long modeling career. She was originally light brown, but changed it to ash blonde in the mid 1940s. She got back to blonde in 1949, just before the end of her career.

Francine married John B. Okie in 1949. Okie was born on August 27, 1914, in Marshall, Virginia. He was an OSS operative during World War II and an international businessman afterwards. They met when Francine and Anita sailed to Europe on a luxury ocean liner (wth many other dignitaries like Rita Hayworth, an Indian maharaja, the Churchills and so on). Churchill was pretty impressed by the sisters, and even gave them a signed copy of his book about painting! There is a funny story concerning the camaraderie between the sisters and the maharajah: he was a free wheeling, great spender type of a fellow, but his government forbade him to spend any more more on women an d gambling as he was deeply in debt. Known for showering ladies with jeweles, he met the two sisters, liked them a great lot, but could not give them the customary rubies or diamonds. The girls, when they came to England, as a consolation, they send him a crystal nipped from a chandelier!

Lets go back to Fancine and John. They lived for a time in Connecticut, before moving to Kent, Rhode Island. Thier mansion in Kent featured a huge swimming pool beyond a set of magnificent floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

FrancineCounihan1Okie was not ecstatic about his wife modeling, and persuaded her to give up that life in 1950. Conover owner her a load of money, but she gave up on ever trying to get it from him. She retired for good after 13 years as a model (a pretty long time for such a job).

Francine Okie died on November 14, 1994, in Kent, Rhode Island. 

Francine’s widower John Okie died on February 6, 1999 in Kent, Rhode Island.

 

Cornelia Von Hessert

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A member of a fabulously rich family, Cornelia Von Hessert was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. She was materially well covered – but everything else proved to be anything but milk and honey for the heiress. Difficult parents, an unhappy marriage and several family tragedies marred her life, but she survived it with stunning resilience to finally find solace in a happy and satisfying marital life with her last husband.

EARLY LIFE:

Cornelia Fitch Baekeland was born on November 6, 1919, in Denver, Colorado, to George Washington Baekeland and his wife, Cornelia Fitch Middlebrook, the eldest of three children. Her younger brothers were George Middleton “Brooks”, born on February 7, 1921, and Frederick Baekeland.

The Baekelands were a insanely rich family, and the reason was Cornelia’s grandfather, Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, invented Bakelite, the world’s first plastic, which was used in everything from radios and records to artificial limbs and atomic bombs. At the time of her birth, Cornelia’s father was studying to become a geologist at the Colorado School on Mines. He attended Cornell University for two years before serving in the Air Force in WW1,when he met Cornelia and married her. He served in Italy during the war.

Cornelia’s father was a strict, mercurial man, as many of his class shallow, born in the wrong time and place. He was very capable in some matters (he was adept at handwork) but totally hopeless in the matters of emotion and heart. Despite their initial love, he never felt any real rapport with his wife, and the romantic Cornelia suffered for the great part of the marriage. One winter, during a sojourn in Florida, Cornelia Sr, fell in love with Penrose Halliwell, another socialite. Penrose was married, but that did not stop Cornelia from divorcing George and becoming his mistress. That happened in 1935. She had to give up custody of the children, and lived on 3 000$ of alimony a year. Penrose was married and could not marry her before his wife died – so she lived as a bachelorette and was admired by many men.

Cornelia was a famous beauty, but also a difficult, “prima donna” personality. Yet, Cornelia Jr. and her brothers were utterly devoted to her, and when their father remarried, were pretty hard on their new stepmother at first. They mellowed in time, as the new stepmom was a gentle, beautiful woman with a great ear for music.

Little Cornelia was a beautiful child with a wonderfully developed imagination. She was ful of potential and flourished in boarding schools, developing her skills in the arts, but her father, in a very old fashion thinking set, seemed Cornelia’s education irrelevant to her education and demanded she return from boarding school home. This left an lasting impression on her, as she felt her wings were clipped – and predictably, she married the first man who offered her marriage just to run away from such a domineering father.

Cornelia allegedly studies law for a brief time before setting into a socialite life. Yet, her highly active nature propelled her into the modeling industry. Then in 1943 she was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

Her 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 roles in 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!

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

Cornelia did not need to appear in any more movies, and she never did.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Being beautiful and a heiress, Cornelia was a sought after marital prize. And a big plus to the ardent pursuers was the fact that Cornelia wanted to get far away from her father as possible, as soon as possible.

She married her first husband, Gerhardt Von Hessert on June 7, 1939, when she was just 19 years old. Hessert was born, with the title of Baron, on August 18, 1906, in Germany. He was a successful bobsledder, even participating in the 1932 Winter Olympics.

Their son Christian Hendrich was born in 1941. They lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in a wealthy community. Sadly, the marriage did not work, and they divorced in the mid 1940s. Hessert died in 1994.

Cornelia married her second husband, Hanns Ditisheim on July 1, 1946. Ditisheim, born on May 3, 1901 in Switzerland, was Von Hessert’s best friend. Time magazine perfectly summed up Ditisheim:

Manhattan Investment Banker Hanns Ditisheim, is a spruce, Swiss-born millionaire with a speculator’s sharp eye for an underpriced stock and a burning desire to control a big company…

Hanns, handsome, dashing and loaded with European charm, came out of nowhere to become a major power broker in the investment banking world. The couple lived where Hanns’ business took them, but ended up in Tarrytown, New York, where Hanns purchased an apartment building block.

In March 1961, despondent over his failing health, Hanns committed suicide by jumping off the roof of one of the buildings he owned in the Bronx. He left a note indicating that he had no financial woes but rather health ones.

BagarottiCornelia married her third husband, Giovanni Bagarotti, on June 12, 1964. The Rev. Gregg Brewer of the Christian Com­munity Church in New York performed the ceremony at the home of the bride. Bagarotti, born on July 9, 1899 in Italy, was a famous violinist and well known interpretation of Johannes Brahms , Ludwig van Beethoven , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Johann Sebastian Bach and many more. He was friend with the famous pianist Edwin Fischer and often played with him. He was active mostly in New York but lived in Seal Harbour, Maine. He was married once before to an American born woman, but she died in the late 1950s.

Cornelia’s family became a center of a huge scandal in 1976. But first, let’s go step by step. In the early 1940s, while still married to Von Hessert Cornelia introduced her younger brother Brooks to Barbara Daly, a beautiful New York model. Brooks was a handsome but conceitful young man, allergic to any kind of work and fashioning himself a writer.  Barbara came from a problematic background. Born and raised in Boston, her mother Nini had had a mental breakdown a few years before Barbara was born. In 1932 when she was aged 10, her father Frank committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of his car in the garage. After the life insurance payment had been collected, Barbara and her mother moved to New York City, taking up residence in the Delmonico Hotel. Becoming a young socialite, Barbara was hailed as one of New York’s ten most beautiful girls, gaining her regular modelling contracts with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and resultant invitations to high society parties, allowing her to date various wealthy admirers. She also suffered mental health problems like her mother, and was a private patient of psychiatrist Foster Kennedy

Their highly dysfunctional marriage was a roundabout of ups and downs, always with a bottle of champagne in tow. But the couple had fabulous friends, and their boozed-up bacchanals in Manhattan and Paris attracted bright stars from the world’s roster of hip bourgeoisie: Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, William Styron, Yasmin Aga Khan, and a myriad of aristocrats.

BarbaraDalyTheir son Anthony was born in 1946. Here the true problems start. The boy, raised by two irresponsible pelasure seekers, grew up to become a mentally unbalanced, unhappy individual. To shorted it up, I quote New York Times:

When Tony is still a boy, the family takes up a gypsylike existence, flitting to and from East Hampton, Cadaques, Zermatt and other resorts. When Tony is 22, Brooks runs away with the only girl Tony has ever brought home. Mother and son unravel. Barbara falls into a boozy ”look of old furs and feathers – like a Jean Rhys character,” has affairs (and a hysterical pregnancy) and, we are told, in a campaign to wrest him from his homosexuality, sleeps with Tony. Tony takes drugs, attacks his mother at least twice and, in 1972 in London, stabs her through the heart with a kitchen knife. He is put in Broadmoor, a Dickensian English hospital for the criminally insane. In 1980 he is freed and returns to New York, where he commits another hair-raising crime and meets a macabre demise.

Tony killed himself in 1981, while still in the psychiatric ward. He tried to kill his 87 year odl grandmother, Nina Daly, just several months before. What a sad, sad story. It was later made into a movie, called Savage Grace, with Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne in the lead roles.

Yet, Cornelia escaped the whole sordid business and lived quietly with her husband in Tarrytown. Their was a happy marriage, and it lasted until Baragotti died on June 18, 1994, at the age of 94, in Tarrytown.

Cornelia’s only child, son Christian Von Hessert, died on April 1, 2001, in Canada. Except Cornelia, he was survived by his wife, Donna Christine Smith and their three children.

In the new millennium, many of Cornelia’s belongings were auctioned off at prestige auction houses like Sothersbys.

Cornelia Bagarotti is still alive and lives in Tarrytown, New York.

Peggy Lloyd

PeggyLloyd2

As the daughter of one of Hollywood’s richest citizens, Peggy Lloyd could have had an “easy living” kind of a life. Yet, she stubbornly chose to become her own, independent woman, and fought tooth and nail to make a decent living in Hollywood for herself and her children.

EARLY LIFE:

Gloria Gabrielle Freeman was born on April 15, 1925, in Los Angeles, Califronia, to single mother Gloria Freeman.  Her father (whatever his name was) was allegedly from Nebraska and her mother from Pennsylvania. Miss Freeman gave up Gloria for adoption soon after birth. She was put in a Pasadena orphanage.

Peggy was adopted at the age of 5 by Harold and Mildred Lloyd. Harold Lloyd was a famous comedian, and the richest man in Hollywood – he was a shrewd investor and canny businessman. They already had two children, a son, Harold Lloyd Jr. and a daughter, Mildred Gloria, whose companion Gloria was destined to become.

They renamed her Marjorie Elisabeth, she was nicknames Peggy almost from day one.

Peggy lived the high life as Lloyd’s daughter – she was chauffeured to school in a limo, and the family lived in the fabulous Lloyd estate (Green Acres, one of the first mansions in Beverly Hills) that had it’s own nine hole golf course and an Olympic sized pool.  In 1930, after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, Lloyd became paranoid about the safety of his own children. As Gloria Lloyd later said to a journalist:

 “That was a scary time because we were old enough to know what was going on. We had two guards outside of our room with guns in holsters. Nice guys – they made fun for us children. But they used to go with us wherever we went, even to the tennis court. One taught me how to rollerskate. We weren’t allowed to go many places. So it was a very sheltered childhood.”

By all accounts, Harold and Mildred, as parents, were generous to the point of overindulgence. I quote Gloria’s independent obituar:

“The children even had a private zoo. But Harold insisted they learn the value of money. At 13, Gloria and her friends had a lemonade stand on Benedict Canyon Drive. They charged a dime a glass, but Mildred made sure they gave the profits to the church.When Gloria and Peggy were students at UCLA. Lloyd ran the family on strict Victorian lines. Drinking was forbidden. Pocket money was limited to $30 a month while the girls were at college, and they were expected to travel there by bicycle.

“As we grew up we had to be heavily chaperoned. It seems a little strange now, but we went out on dates with the chauffeur and the governess. Boyfriends came to the estate and were screened by Clementine, our housekeeper for 45 years. We felt like a Hollywood royal family.”

Peggy attended Westlake School for Girl and, as mentioned in the quote, enrolled into UCLA and USC, majoring in art.

Despite the family’s wealth, Peggy wanted to work and carve her own mark on the world. Being a very beautiful woman, it was only natural that she try her hand in modeling. Soon, Peggy was all over the papers, modeling clothes and advertising for this and that. In 1943, she landed a role in Cover girl, and started her career in Hollywood, the town where she was practically royalty.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

PeggyLLoyd3Her 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!

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

After her death, Peggy was featured in an American Masters episode about her father, where she talked about their relationship and how was it to growing up in such an environment.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1946, Peggy made it in the California debutante book, along with her sister, Gloria, and Shirley Temple.

PeggyLLoyd4Peggy married movie producer Almon Bartlett “Bart” Ross on April 17, 1948. Ross was born on July 5, 1923, making him just two years older than Peggy. His father was a well known doctor in Beverly Hills. Their son David Lloyd Ross was born on May 26, 1950. They separated and divorced in 1953. In 1954, Bart married Erin Considine, another daughter of well heeled showbiz parents (her mother was Carmen Pantages, of the Pantages dynasty, and her dad director John Considine Jr.). That marriage did not last either, and he married lastly to Mary Carmenla Clark in 1961. He died in 1970.

After her divorce, Peggy refused to return to the Lloyd’s house, and instead took an apartment with a friend and started a career as a Hollywood gossip columnist. She had to learn everything from a scratch, but Peggy was a smart, sharp woman and quickly paved her own way. She was proud to be able to support her son all on her own.

Peggy had a one sided crush on society columnist Jim Copp. One of her first dates after her divorce were Don Taylor (then freshly divorced from Phyllis Avery) and Bob Fullerton. She let her hair down, driving in a fiee truck around town with her friend Ginny Simms. In late 1953 and early 1954, she had a serious romance with Dick Ogden, but he left her and she carried a torch for several months afterwards. Peggy dated first Harry Crocker and then Herbert Hirschmoeller for a brief time in the 1955, and then met her next husband, a young actor Robert, “Bob” Patten.

PeggyLloyd1They married on March 3, 1956, in Las Vegas. Patten was born on October 11, 1925 in Tacoma, Washington. He came to Hollywood in 1925 and was to become a major character actor in showbiz. The real marriage lasted only 8 months, and her friend Betty Plant even testified that Patten told her he could not stand Peggy any more, since he disliked “good wives”. They won a divorce in December 1956, and afterwards Peggy found out she was pregnant. This did not change her decision about her marital state – they did not remarry. Their son Robert Patten Jr. was born on August 3, 1957 in Los Angeles.

As Harold Lloyd’s daughter, Peggy was very active socially. She knew everybody who was somebody from the movie colony, and was a good friend with Charlie and Oona Chaplin, giving many interview about the couple. Peggy also gave many soirees at her home in San Fernando Valley, hosting many a famous people. She was on good terms with her sister and brother, and the only child who remained in normal contact with the elder Lloyd and Mildred.

BettyJaneHess2I was very impressed by Peggy, as she became a  publicist and refused all help from Harold for financial support. She candidly told a reported that “I am over 21 and mom and dad are not responsible for my mistakes.” Bravo for Peggy! A very down to earth, normal millionaire’s daughter! Peggy later worked in a variety of other jobs: as a talent scout for a radio DJ, restaurant hostess, bookkeeper for an advertising agency and saleswoman.

Peggy tried to find her birth mother in about 1972, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This started a trend in the papers, where adopted children seeker the truth about their birth parents. I don’t know how exactly it transpired, but Peggy met with her birth mother, then known as Dorothy Callison.

Peggy did not remarry and lived the rest of her days in California.

Marjorie Elisabeth Lloyd died on November 18, 1986, from lung cancer in Newport, Orange County, California.

Her former husband Bob Patten died in 2001. The last surviving Lloyd sibling, Gloria, died in 2012.

 

Martha Outlaw

MarthaOutlaw2

With beautiful, exotically slanted eyes, a well sculpted face and a slim but womanly body, Martha Outlaw was the paragon of a stunning 1940s woman, ending up a highly successful model, a failed actress and in the end a happy family woman.

EARLY LIFE:

Martha Rascoe Outlaw was born on April 29, 1914, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Edward Ralph Outlaw and Louise G. Greenleaf. Her older sister, also named Louise, was born in 1908. Both of her parents were from Elizabeth City.

The family lived in Elizabeth City until the 1930s. Martha’s dad Edward was a college educated boat captain who worked in the Texas oil industry. In his spare time, he was a passionate lover of early American history and was well known collector of the Pasquotank area (where Elizabeth City is situated) local stories. The stories were later privately published by Martha’s mom Louise in a book named Old Nag’s Head (this was to in 1954, after Ralph’s death).

The Outlaws were a well liked, popular local family, and both Martha and Louise were local debutantes, making social column notices in the paper and flirting with local boys.

Martha wanted a career, and decided upon a modeling one. She started modeling in cca 1942, pretty late, when she was almost 30 years old. She was soon a sought after model, and in 1943, was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

MartthaOutlawHer 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!

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

MarthaOutlaw8Martha appeared in one more movie, albeit uncredited. But, it’s a pretty good one – Since You Went Away, a WW2 classic. Unlike many other WW2 movies, it has nothing to do with the battleground but all to do with the people left behind, just as much victims of war as the soldiers were. While this is not a master piece, not by far, as it is marred by cons typical of the patriotic WW2 movies (too preachy, a bit unrealistic, too sentimental), it still features some superb performances and that is its core strength that raises it above the typical WW2 propaganda film. Claudette Colbert, Jennfier Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley are all solid performers and all give spirited performances. All in a all, a promising start. Yet, it was as much a start as it was the end of Martha’s career.

Martha left the film world to become a wife and mother after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1942, Martha dated James McKinley Bryant, the well known cafe society broker and author. They actually dated for almost a year but broke up before she departed for Hollywood.

MarthaOutlaw3In Hollywood, Martha suffered an appendicitis attack in October 1944 and lived in a single room with fellow starlet, Karen Gaylord. Gaylord even had problems when she wanted t marry her love, Ted Knoll, since there was a shortage of housing in Los Angeles then (during the war).

Martha married Henry Edwards Huntington II on May 17, 1944, while he was in the Army Air Force. He was the grandson and name sake of Henry E. Huntington, famous millionaire philanthropist. Born on January 3, 1921, his father was Huntington’s only son, Howard Edwards Huntington, and his mother was the former Louise Thayer Green from Berkeley, California. He was the youngest of six children (his siblings were Elizabeth,  Margaret, Harriet, Howard and Leslie). Sadly, Henry was just one year old when his father died.

The couple lived a lavish life in California and had two children, two sons, Henry III, born in 1945, and Edward “Ted”, born on August 25, 1947.

Martha separated from her husband in November 1951, and sued him for divorce in December 1951. She claimed he took 9,000$ dollars from their shared account and left California without providing any means for her or the boys. There was a bit of push and shove since Huntington, in hopes of getting a swift divorce, moved “permanently” to Nevada, became a Nevada resident, and filed for his own divorce proceedings. He charged Martha with mental cruetly and was awarded a default divorce in March, but since Martha signed a separate divorce petition, there was a bit of a wobble. In the end Martha was awarded 2900$ monthly temporary alimony in January, and the final divorce decree was given in June 1952. Martha even hired two private detectives to tail her husband, who laid low in Nevada, but they never did manage to catch him. Martha testified that Huntington could frequently get her up at all hours of the  night so he could tell her about his “conquests”, and that he abused her verbally.

MarthaOutlaw6.comHuntington tried later to nullify Martha’s California divorce by his own Nevada divorce, but the judge rules it as a sham. All in all, the show dragged on for a while…

In the meantime, Martha wisely choose to give up on the whole sordid game and married Secondo Guasti III, scion of a well known California wine making family, on April 17, 1954. It was true love, since Martha gave up her 1,000$ alimony after the marriage (Huntington only had to continue paying 600$ per month for their two sons). Guasti was Martha’s junior by 10 years, being born on October 13, 1925. His grandfather was Secondo Guasti I, founder of the Italian Vineyard Company. Secondo came from Italy to the US in 1881 and slowly built his business from the ground up. Within 20 years he had founded his own vineyard and town, and his name became synonymous with Southern California wine. A simple testament to his success – penniless when he arrived, Guasti later lived in a mansion on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles that was said to have cost $500,000 to build.

His father was Secondo Guasti Jr, Secondo Sr’s only son (he also had a daughter). Secondo’s mother was a well known gourmet cook who combined several ethical cuisines into a compact new cuisine, and wrote cookbooks. Sadly, Secondo Guasti Jr. died in Santa Barbara on April 6, 1933 at the age of 42. His widow remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. Secondo later moved back to California.

Martha and Secondo had a happy, fulfilling marriage and were socially prominent in Pasadena, often giving their famous gala parties for friends. The charmed life lasted until Secundo’s death in 1973. Martha’s former husband, Harry Huntington, died in 1978. He remarried in 1954 to Lucille Barnes Noonan.

Martha continued to live in California, and was very active in the local community.

Martha Guasti died on December 30, 2002 in Santa Barbara.

Helen Mueller

HelenMueller3

Beautiful model whose movie career never happened, but who became a leading philanthropist in the New Yersey area, Helen Mueller is certainly a woman who is living an interesting life.

EARLY LIFE:

Helen Irene Mueller was born in August 1919 in Bloomfield, New Yersey, to Emil Mueller and his wife, Gertrude Mueller, the youngest of three daughters. Her older sisters were Marguerite V., born in 1913, and Hildegarde, born in 1915. Both of her parents were born in Germany and immigrated to the States in about 1903 and 1904.

Helen grew up in Bloomfield, New Yersey. There she graduated from high school (but opted not to go to college).

Helen’s father died in the 1930s, and her mother took up nursing to support the family. Her sisters married and left the family home, and in 1940, Helen and her mother were living together in Bloomfield, New Yersey. Helen was working as a professional photographer’s aide. Her knowledge of the photography process helped her carve a career as a model, and she left for New York in cca 1941. She quickly rose in the modeling ranks, and was posing for Norman Rockwell and regularly appearing on magazine covers. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to appear in Cover girl, a Rita Hayworth movie, and left for the West coast.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

HelenMueller4Her first 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!

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

PRIVATE LIFE:

I was surprised to see just how many models actually had low key love lives and married normal guys. I always imagine them as glamorous gals who ended up with crem de la crem of society (Conover once remarked that he wasn’t sure was he running  a marrying agency or a modeling agency). Yet, there undoubtedly was a string of models who married high up and mad news with their romantic exploits. Helen was on the threshold between these two : the girl next doors and the glam queens. Why? Let us firnd out!

Helen hits the papers in 1941 as a serious romance of a famous illustrator Jon Whitcomb. Whitcomb had just left a short and bitter marriage to Mary Brian months prior, and of course the “serious romance” led nowhere.

HelenMueller5Well, for a time in 1943, Helen was in all the papers as the prospective bride to be of Mickey Rooney, that well wed but well loved cad, Rooney needs no introductions. A genius all around performer, he was one of the best examples of the triple threat: an actor, dancer and singer rolled into one. By 1943, he was already married once to Ava Gardner, . Helen and Mickey met in the early 1943, by April were a constant couple, and in August he organised her a birtdhay party and even gifted her with a ruby bracelet! They were frequently photographed at the Mocambo night club and premiere of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” . It must have been love for Mickey, as he tried to persuade the pretty model to marry him in January 1944. During the whole month of September and OCtober Helen was trying in earnest to fight off rumors that she would wed Mickey, claiming that she was engaged to another man.

And engaged to another man she was. Helen announced her engagement to Bill “Wild Indian” Geyer in May 1943, before things with Mickey really heated up. She vehemently tried to deny that she was in a serious relationship with Mickey and that she would wed Bill regardless. She and Bill married on March 15, 1944, in New Jersey.

Now, Geyer is a very colorful, interesting man. I quote http://www.njinvent.org/ web site for information about Bill’s father, also called William Geyer:

William Geyer arrived in the United States from his native Germany in 1910 at age 17, earning his passage by peeling potatoes on the ship. He had no money or command of the language but put his skills to work as a glassblower at Westinghouse, making lamps for 15 cents an hour.

By 1918, at age 25, he established Scientific Glass Apparatus Co. in Bloomfield in the back bedroom of his home. After the business spilled onto other parts of his property, including the chicken coop, he established his first factory in Bloomfield, about 500 feet from his home. Several skilled craftsmen manned the plant, producing custom-made glassware for local laboratories.

Geyer was the inventor of automatic burettes, metal-clad joints, melting point thermometers and other items now considered standard equipment in laboratories. He was also responsible for the development and production of interchangeable glassware in the United States.

He was honored with the Kiwanis International Legion of Honor Award.

His son “Indian” Bill Geyer, who was an All-American running back at Colgate University and a professional with the Chicago Bears, succeeded his father as president of Scientific Glass, now an international company with annual sales in excess of $7 million. He was resident of Bloomfield.

Here are some more bits about Bill, and what kind of an interesting character he was:

-       Colgate football – 1939, 1940, 1941
–       1942 East-West Shrine Game
–       Selected in the 11th round of the 1942 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears
–       Chicago Bears – 1942-1943, 1946
–       He paid for his own plane and training after being rejected for Colgate’s civilian pilot training course in 1940 because of an eye injury
–       He was turned down by the Navy in 1941 because of the same injury, so he had surgery to correct it
–       Returned to Colgate in 1943 for aviation training and took math courses from Andy Kerr
–       Gunnery officer in the Navy in World War II
–       Played with a Navy football team in a game against the Army in the Philippines in 1945
–       Returned to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center in 1945 after commanding a gun crew

Bill was a very indastrious, hard working man. He served not only heads a prospering manufacturing company, with factories in many states, but also held such honors as the vice-chairmanship of the Colgate University Board of Trustees and the presidency of the New York Touchdown Club.

HelenMueller2Helen and Bill had, by all means, an exciting, harmonious marriage, a marriage anybody could wish for. They had more than one child, but I am unfortunately unable to find their names (if anybody has this information, please email me so I can put it here). They were a perfect team, doing extensive philanthropic work together, flying in their Cessna airplane, attending charity events, mingling with students at Bill’s alma matter, Colgate University, and making long sojourns in Africa to go hunting.

Due to their shared philanthropic work, Helen is a living legend in New Jersey, as the local web page (http://patch.com/) quotes about her:

Helen Geyer has served for many years as a valuable volunteer to the YMCA of Montclair. Over the years she served on the Ladies Auxiliary and in addition to many other special events she assisted in transforming the gymnasium to look like that of the theme of that year’s fundraiser. She assisted with inviting “the right people” to the table for each event and funded several projects over the years. More recently and more significantly, Mrs. Geyer generously funded the renovation of the 159 Glenridge Avenue property. In 2007, the branch of the YMCA intended to serve our youth population was officially named the Helen & Bill Geyer Family Center of the Montclair YMCA. We give many thanks to Helen for her philanthropic spirit.

Bill Geyer died on June 4, 2004.

Helen Geyer is still alive and lives in Montclair, New Yersey. 

 

 

Betty Jane Graham

Betty Jane Graham3

Stunning cover girl who almost nagged a spot in the B western roster, Betty Jane Graham took the family route and retired before reaching any true milestones.

EARLY LIFE:

Betty Jane Graham was born on December 24, 1917, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Henry Duncan Graham and his wife, Mary “Mae” Melley. Her older sister was Muriel Graham, born in Wisconsin in 1913. (IMDB lists her DOB as 1920, and she doubtlessly tried to make herself look younger when she hit Hollywood, but the 1930 census lists her at 12 years old, so that sounds about right).

Her father was a Wisconsin native who wed her mother, an Illinois native in the early 1910s. The family moved around a lot, first living in Wisconsin, then living in Minnesota where Betty was born, moving to Indianapolis, Indiana, then Kansas City, Missouri and in the end settling in Emory, DeKalb, Georgia. Her father, who was college educated, was a district manager. The family, while not rich, was well off.

Betty changed schools a lot as a child, and developed a special interest in the performing arts. She decided to become an actress, and went on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. To make extra pocket money, she started modeling and was soon a sought after model. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover girl, a Rita Hayworth movie.

CAREER:

Betty originally came to Hollywood to appear in Cover girl. I repeat the story again:

Betty Jane GrahamHer 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!

Betty 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.

Unlike many of her fellow cover girls, Betty stayed in Hollywood for a longer run. Her second (uncredited appearance) is in Louisiana Hayride, quite a predictable and ultimately unfunny comedy with Judy Canova in the lead. When Judy’s the lead, it’s clear what kind of a movie it is – featuring hillbillies and showing their (mis)adventures around the US. While Judy is as good as ever, the movie lacks everything else – a good story, common sense and originality. The supporting actors are also only so-so.

Betty Jane Graham2Like fellow model Eileen McClory, she appeared in They Live in Fear, a WW2 propaganda movie about a German intellectual who escapes Nazi Germany after seeing his professor being killer in the Dachau concentration camp. His life in America is soon threatened by a careless mistake of a colleague. Like many of the propaganda movies, it’s zero art and all “giving a message” film, 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.

Betty reached the pinnacle of her career with Rough Ridin’ Justice, a B western where she played the lead. From an uncredited extra to the lead in just one step, whoa, and to add a bonus, it’s a decent, well made B western. The story is interesting enough, and the movie flows seamlessly from beginning to the end. Betty got kudos from the critics for her performance, and should have stayed in B western movies if she wanted to continue her career.

Yet she did not, opting to retire to raise a family, and thus it was bye bye Hollywood.

 

PRIVATE LIFE:

Betty did not have a tumultuous love life, nor did she make any shocking newspaper headlines.

Betty Jane married her first and only husband, Robert Defiel, on July 23, 1944, in Los Angeles. Robert Matthew Defiel was born on July 15, 1916, in Minnesota to Matthew J. Haller and Caroline E. Linder. A civil engineer by trade, he was married once before to Ani Kaster in October 1942, but they were divorced in 1943.His brother, George, was to become the president of Colorado and Southern Railway and Fort Worth and Denver Railway.

Betty Jane gave birth to her only child, daughter Kellin Graham Defiel, on August 21, 1947. Defiel became a distinguished citizen of Claremont, and was active in the local politics – he endorsed his friend Fred Warner Neal for Congress in 1968. The Defiels were also passionate golfers and played often at “Indian Hills”, the Riverside local club. The family moved around, living in San Francisco and Oregon for a time.

Her daughter married Kenneth Scudder in 1995.

Betty Jane Defiel died on July 1, 1998, in Palm Springs, California.

Her husband moved to Oregon after her death, but as his health failed he returned to Palm Springs, where he died on December 24, 2007.

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.