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.

Ellen Hall

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Ellen Hall, unlike most of the girls featured here, has her own Wikipedia site! This is highly indicative of the fact that she had some minor success in the film industry despite being completely obscure today.

EARLY LIFE:

Ellen Jeane Johnson was born on April 18, 1923, in Los Angeles, California, to Ella Hall and Emory Johnson. Her older brother Richard was born on January 27, 1919. her younger sister, Diana Marie, was born in October 27, 1929.

She came from an acting family – both her parents and maternal grandmother, May Hall, were thespians. Yet, the only one who ever made true waves was her mother, Ella, a well known actress in the 1920s. Born in New York, she came to Hollywood in the early days of silent films. Her father was originally from San Francisco but left the city for Los Angeles pretty early, in 1913, to have his luck in the burgeoning film industry.

Her mother retired from movies in 1933, and her parents divorced sometime in the 1930s. With her pedigree, it was not wonder that she started acting at a very tender age of seven. She made her movie debut in 1930, and started doing theater work very early, in about 1935. She migrated to New York in 1937 and had several theater roles on and off Broadway.

In 1940, Ellen was living with her mother, brother sister and grandmother in Los Angeles and attending high school. Ella worked as a saleswoman to support the family. Her film career started in full that year, and some success awaited her.

CAREER:

Ellen made her debut in an absolute classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, when she was just a 7 year old child. this is nothing unusual for offspring of thespians families, but what is unusual is that her mother decided upon a path of education for her instead of a child actress career.

Ellen was already a seasoned theater player when she hit movies again, this time in 1941 at the age of 18. The movie was The Chocolate Soldier, a charming Nelson Eddy/Rise Stevens operetta.

In 1943 Ellen finally came into her own. She was never to become a star, not an A class actress, but worked steadily in B class movies for more than 6 years from than on and achieved enough success to play leads.

Her first lead was in Outlaws of Stampede Pass, a more than decent Johnny Mack Brown western. She continued the trend by appearing in the very next Mack western. Both times the played the female lead and the romantic interest, but they were not the same characters. Seems like Mack Brown was a James Bond before the first Bond movie was even made!

Ellen Hall2Ellen made a foray into A class movies in Up in Arms, playing the Goldwyn girl, but it was back to B-s right after with Voodoo Man, a decent enough Monogram horror with a superb horror cast (Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Lionel Barrymore). Ellen play the role of Lugosi’s wife, a woman dead for 22 years who he is trying to revive with the help of  a voodoo priest. In a nutshell, she’s the reason everything happens in the movie, a pivotal point. Quite flattering, considering that other cuties like Louise Currie and Wanda McKay.

It was back to westerns after that. LumberjackRange Law Call of the Rockies and Brand of the Devil are the four movies that constitute the pinnacle of Ellen’s career. Always playing female leads in solid B class western series, and acting opposite some western heavyweights (Johnny Mack Brown again, William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, a character rarely surpassed in terms of popularity in the genre, and Smiley Burnette). While this was never the way to the A class, Ellen seemed content to being a working actress.

After such a nice strike, Ellen was set aback to the uncredited tier in more prestigious movies, often a scanerio that happened to western heroines and B movie stars (kings in their tier, and paupers in the tier up). Here Come the Waves is a mediocre Bing Crosby Betty Hutton musical. Definitely not  a movie for those with any artistic or intellectual aspirations, it’s a piece of fluff that works due to the leads and their unique brand of charisma. Having Wonderful Crime, a Thin Man wannabe movie trying to mix sophisticated comedy with crime, falls short on several accounts, but it raised from total mediocrity by the role of the ever charming Carole Landis. 

Ellen+’s last big movie was Wonder Man, with Danny Kaye, where she was one of the Goldwyn Girls. Cinderella Jones, a below average romantic comedy did nothing for nobody, including the leads, Joan Leslie and Robert Alda.

EllenHall3It was back to westerns and credited parts again. Thunder Town, one of the Bob Steele western movies, is unfortunately not among his best. While a very capable actor with an unique hard stare, Steele looks a bit worn out in the film and even the cameraman tried to “skip” any close ups. The next was Lawless Code, a western so deeply forgotten today it’s not even rated on IMDB, and the plot looks like one hot mess.

Ellen evaded westerns for a short time with Bowery Battalion, a Bowery boys movie, and one of their more valiant efforts. While the low budget constrains to leave their mark, the gags are good enough to make it a enjoyable experience. Ellen then had a few appearances in the well kn own western series The Cisco Kid, with Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.

her very last movie effort came in 1952 with The Congregation, a completely lost movie.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Ellen mostly made the paper due to her acting skill and not really any publicity stunts. Her large acting family was always mentioned whenever she made the news, her mother being the most prominent star of the yesteryear.

Ellen married Lee Langer on December 3, 1944, in Los Angeles, California, just as WW2 was ending (Lee attained the rank of captain). Langer was born on Ferbuary 3, 1919 in Illinois to Alex Langer and his wife, Sophia Rice.

The couple lived first in Los Angeles, and them moved to San Diego. As  far as I can tell, they had no children and Ellen enjoyed a quiet retirement.

Langer died on February 24, 1995. Ellen moved to Washington state after his death.

Ellen Jeane Langer died on March 24, 1999, in Bellevue, Washington.   

 

Maxine Cantway

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The beautiful blonde, trained in dance, crashes Hollywood. She gets some publicity, dances in several good musicals, and hopes to achieve stardom. A familiar story by now? Oh yes, and most of them did not move from the uncredited tier. Meet Maxine Cantway, a beautiful blonde with that very fate.

EARLY LIFE:

Florence Maxine Kantz was born on 1912 in Missouri, to John Kantz and Florence Conklin. The family moved to Los Angeles  not long after her birth. They settled in Pomona, and lived with Florence’s parents, Francis and Maria Conklin.

Maxine was a beautiful, vivacious child, and her mother enrolled her into dance classes at the age of 4. One of her earliest dance teachers was Lina Basquette, then yet to become a famous actress/dancer (and one of the most wedded women in Hollywood with seven husbands and about nine marriages all in all).

With a passion for the stage, Maxine was a youngster barely out of her early teens when she started to perform on the stage. She attended both dancing and dramatic school to help her in her endeavor, in addition to graduating from high school.

In 1929, she got her due and got into the spotlight. In 1930, she and 11 other hopefuls were signed to a movie contract.

CAREER:

Maxine started her career in comedy short that were made by the dozen in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Jimmy’s New YachtIn Conference (Short) 1The Dog DoctorThe Bride’s MistakeA Poor Fish gave Maxine at least a chance to get in front of the camera (but sadly little else). Due to the rapid decline in popuarlity of short comedy reels, neither of these movies are known today and none has a IMDB review (and you know how obscure that makes it).

600full-maxine-cantway (1)Yet, Maxine started as did many dancers in those days – comedy reels were bread and butter to them.

Maxine then had a large boost in the quality of her movies. She remained uncredited, but all else went up! She had a string os superb 1930s gems – The Kid from Spain, one of the best Eddie Cantor musicals, 42nd Street perhaps oen fot he best Busby Berkeley musical ever made, with an unbeatable Warren Baxter in the lead, 

The Little Giant is a not well known but still a very good Edward G. Robinson movie that gave him a chance to truly shine as a racketeer trying to turn gentleman in one his rare comedic roles. Mary Astor and Helen Vinson are first class support for Eddie.

The last movie in Maxine’s golden line is Gold Diggers of 1933. Along with the already mentioned 42nd Street and Footlight Parade, this is the best 1930s have to offer in terms of musicals. Long before MGM made their lavish, vivid but squeaky clean musicals in the 1950s, the genre was dominated by these movies – they were sharp, unforgiving, funny, laden with innuendo, featuring massive dance numbers, top notch actors and music. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are the tyapical handsome leading pair, but the supporting actors are what makes this such a winner – the superb Precode cad, Warren William, Joan Blondell (need I say more about this fabulous actress?),  Aline McMahon, Guy Kibee, Ginger Rogers!

600full-maxine-cantway (2)It’s easy to fall after achieving great heights, and the rest of Maxine’s filmography is dismal at best. While neither was truly a bad movie, it was way below her usual fare. Redheads on Parade, for instance, a sub par musical. Yet, it would be unfair to label Pride of the Marines as a worthless movie. While not well known today (or indeed when it came out), it’s still a touching movie about rearing children in a unusual enviroment. Charles Bickford proves himself to be one of the best character actors in Hollywood, playing the tough-but-tender hero who “inherits” a small boy and has to raise him in a military camp. Thurston Hall as the major of the camp also gives a very good role.

Maxine’s last movie, Two in a Crowd, a not-above-average comedy. While far from being a bad movie and featuring some fine actors, it still does not manage to outgrow the uninspired direction by Alfred E. Green.

Maxine disappeared from Hollywood and the paper after 1936.

PRIVATE LIFE:

First, I have to say that IMDB lists the DOB and DOD for Georgia Maxine Cantwell, who they claim is Maxine Cantway. While I’m not 100% sure, I am more than 80% sure that that is not our Maxine. Maxine had been living in Los Angeles for quite some time by 1929, was about 19 years old – this does not match the information about Georgia Maxine Cantwell, who was still living in Cairo, West Virginia in 1930.

600full-maxine-cantway (3)Maxine came into the spotlight in 1929, when she was named the ultimate model for all chorus girls of that time. She was a perfect 109 pounds in weight, 5 foot 3 inches in height, with brown hair and blue eyes. She claimed that she had never dieted but that her slender body is the result of strenuous exercise and making several movies at the same time.

Maxine declared herself to be a shoe lover, was passionate when buying them, and owned more than 35 pairs. She lived with hr parents and did not own a car.

When one is the most beautiful chorine in the world, one if qualified to give beauty advice! Thus Maxine said for a syndicated newspaper column:

Any artificial means of adding sparkle to the eyes is bound to last only a short time, and may be actually injurious. Furthermore, no woman under 75 should require it.
Enthusiasm, health, physical and mental, are he real beautifiers that brings sparkle to the eyes. Cultivate these and you will not need to spend money on special eye treatment.

I have to say I completely agree with her, not just for the sparkly eyes but in general for all things related to beauty. The only true way to look good on the exterior is to feel good in the interior.

600full-maxine-cantway (4)As for her love life, the information is pretty slim. She dated Lou Friedberg, and broke his heart when she became serious with Charles Grayson, a young writer. The affair lasted for several months before the called it quits. Charles went on to date several famous women including Irene Hervey,  CaroleStoneGreta NissenJune Knight, Nancy Carroll, Audrey Totter and Joan Crawford.

The last we hear anything of Maxine, she was back to minor theater productions after her film career ended.

If Maxine is indeed Florence Maxine Kantz, then she died in 1996 in Riverside, and was never married.

 

Diana Mumby

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With over 30 movies to her (un)credit, Diana Mumby, a pretty and talented chorus girl, worked regularly in Hollywood for almost 10 years, a had much better track records than many of her contemporaries.

EARLY LIFE:

Diana Sootheran Mumby was born on July 1, 1922, in Detroit, Michigan, to Gerald Mumby and Gladys Wright. Her father was an English RAF officer, and her mother a born and bred New Yorker. Her parents divorced not long after her birth, and she was shuffled between her father who lived in England and her mother, who moved to Los Angeles.

In 1930, Diana and her mother (who attended college but did not graduate and worked as a nurse) lived in Los Angeles with a lodger. Gladys remarried to Mr. Johnson sometime in the 1930s,but they were living apart by 1939. Diana attended high school in Los Angeles and graduated in 1940, still living with her mother at the time.

She started her career as a chorus girl not long after graduation. She became an Earl Carroll girl and dancer for several years before getting into movies.

CAREER:

Diana  spent most of her career in musicals, not surprising considering she was originally a dancer, and was never ever credited, despite being a Hollywood fixture for at least 8 years.

Since she has a rather big filmography, consisting of 33 movies, and can be easily divided into three stages.

Diana originally made her movie debut in a 1940 movie, A Night at Earl Carroll’s, where she played one of the chorines, but that  did not warrant a movie career and after that she did not act for four years, working as a dancer in the interim.

Diana Mumby2-YankShe truly started to act in 1944, and until 1946 she appeared exclusively in musicals. We have Up in Arms (AGAIN!), where she was a Goldwyn girl, the slight but charming Two Girls and a SailorIt’s a Pleasure a typical Sonja Henie movie (no brains, but skating), Earl Carroll Vanities, one of those musicals with a hugely implausible story that are just simply fun to watch, the exotic and breezy A Thousand and One Nights (that type of a movie was a huge hit with the audiences that did not have easy access to all the information and photos about the faraway lands that we have today), the foul mouthed George White’s Scandals, the so obscure we don’t know what to say about it An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, the silly and slightly amusing Cinderella Jones, a Danny Kaye classic The Kid from Brooklyn, a three-girls-seeking-husbands movie, Three Little Girls in Blue, and a witty and sharp but ultimately forgotten musical The Thrill of Brazil.

What to say about this string of movies? While not bad at all, it is clear that she missed all the big, famous musical and settled somewhere in the musical mid tier, but at least she worked regularly and paid her bills.

Thus starts the second part of Diana’s career, where she got out of the musical cave and steered more towards straight drama and comedy movies. She kicked it high by appearing in The Razor’s Edge, one of Tyrone Power’s best movies, and generally one of the best movies of that year. More than a film about social problems, it’s a story of a man’s search for meaning, something much deeper than his social standing and his material wealth.

158875037_1945-diana-mumby-named-prettiest-girl-in-the-world-pressOut California Way is a low budget western, . Winter Wonderland  A Song Is Born was a short veer back into the musical arena, but it was back to drama and crime movies in Alias Nick Beal, the Faust story with a modern twist and a superb cast with Ray Milland and Audrey Totter. Air Hostess was a typical light fare with three female leads trying to navigate their complicated professional/love lives, Beauty on Parade a obscure drama about unfulfilled that is a good illustration of the husband/wife relationships back in the day.

Let’s Dance is a Fred Astaire musical, and that fact alone elevates it to a very high level of movie making. Let’s be realistic, any movie with Fred in it is worth more than some better movies with lesser names today.  The movie is far from a work of art, but fits the bill of an entertaining, fluffy film very well. Fred and Betty Hutton were a very interesting pair: he was technically flawless and very graceful, but she had the pizzazz and the magnetic pull that pried all eyes to her. Fred really has to work hard to keep the attention off of Betty, a refreshing change to his usual dominance on the dance floor.

Diana Mumby1Diana continued the line with Bowery Battalion, the good enough entry of Bowery boys comedy series, The Lemon Drop Kid  one of Bob Hope’s better 1950s comedies, and the prototype fo the serious, theatrical, glossy 1950s dramas (featuring Susan Hayward, who next to Lana Turner was the queen of such roles) I Can Get It for You Wholesale.

G.I. Jane  was an unusual but highly diverting musical, just one of the many forgotten gems in the Hollywood low budget vaults. The Model and the Marriage Broker is an unjustly overlooked George Cukor movie. It has much to offer and an interesting choice of thespians – with Thelma Ritter being the absolute queen of the cast! The Las Vegas Story is a formulaic crime movie of the 1950s, using the ever lasting love triangle to get together Jane Russell, Victor Mature and Vincent Price.

A Fool and His Honey is a comedic short of no great merit, Something to Live For, a George Stevens drama, is a somber, dark movie showing complex people in complex relationships – but it’s very predictable and has too many holes in the plot. Up next: when you have a movie called Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, I think everybody can guess what kind of a movie it is. While not the worst movie ever made, it’s still a muddling mess.

whiteSound Off is a pedestrian Mickey Rooney musical, and We’re Not Married! boasts such an impressive cast that even the mediocre quality of the movie can’t hamper it down. I mean, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and Mitzi Gaynor all int he same movie, priceless!

Diana took a hiatus after this, and returned in 1955 with Son of Sinbad, just one of the many “adventure on the high seas” that overcrowded the 1950s. Coincidentally, her last movie was also the last movie of Humphrey Bogart, The Harder They Fall, a superb study of the behind the scenes of the boxing world in the 1940s.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Diana was a seasoned chorus girl who hit the papers before she hit the movies, appearing in the Florentine gardens and in various musical revues as early as 1941.

In 1944, MGM contract player Lorraine Miller sued a distributor for using her photo and labeling it as Diana’s photo and circulating it amogn the GI-s. How did this happen I have no idea, as Diana herself was a very attractive woman who surely did not need a stand in for any pin up poses she did (as a testament to her pin up prowess, she was in the Yank Cover Weekly).

Diana Mumby3
In 1945 she was voted the Prettiest girl in the world and by her fellow pin up girl/chorines, no less! Truly, Diana had the perfect look for the 1940s/1950s pin up girl – a pleasing, round face and a lean, elegant figure.

In late 1945 Diana married Richard Allord, who was married to Marie McDonald for a brief time in 1940. The marriage proved to be equally brief, ending in 1946. She wasted no time in looking for a beau, and came very close to getting married to millionaire Eddie Torres in November 1946.

Diana married James Carlos Hernandez on September 30, 1951. Born in New York in 1920 to Frank Hernandez and Edna Considine, he attended college while living in Westchester, New York, and served his country in WW2. Their son, James Carlos Hernandez, was born on September 4, 1954.

Diana and James divorced in September 1968. Hernandez died in 1998.

Diana Mumby died on may 19, 1974 in Westlake, California.

Florence Lundeen

Florence Lundeen

The stunning blonde amazon was a short lived Hollywood extra, following suit of many other Goldwyn girls.

EARLY LIFE:

May Florence Lundin was born on February 9, 1922, in Los Angeles, California, to Carl Ludin and his wife, Selma Lenden. Both of her parents were born in Sweden. Her older sister, Gerda, was born in California in 1918.

Florence grew up in Los Angeles. Her parents separated sometime during the the 1930s. In 1940, Florence lived with her mother, sister and brother-in-law (Keith Garrick) and nephew in Los Angeles and worked as a model.

She trained as a stenographer at J C Fremont high school and was dancing as a junior hostess at Hollywood Canteen when discovered by MGM’s Ida Koverman (Koverman was Louis B. Meyer’s secretary and an very influential woman). She signed a contract with M G M and the following day was loaned out for Up in Arms.

CAREER:

Florence had a very, very minor career. She appeared in only four movies, all uncredited.

She made her movie debut long before she was noticed by Ida Koverman, in 1941, by appearing in Hitchhike to Hell, an exploitation movie. Needless to say, it’s a low quality work of dubious reputee, and it is even possible that Florence appeared in more of these movies to cash in some loot.

Her first proper movie was Broadway Rhythm, where she played a autograph seeker. A imdb reviewer wrote nicely of the movie: 

A pleasing enough entertainment, working primarily as a pageant of various MGM specialty acts – impressionists, contortionists, nightclub acts, tap-dancers, as well as the standard musical theatrical numbers. The film isn’t a musical in the traditional sense, as all the musical numbers are in the contest of an actual performance (some done toward the camera). It’s much more in the tradition of a 1960s-70s variety TV show.

FlorenceLundeen2In other words, it’s a typical bread and butter musical with the “it was always there but you never saw it” theme. For a newcomer like Florence this was not the worst way to start a career.

Being a tall and shapely Teutonic maiden, Florence was cast a one of the Goldwyn girls in Up in Arms. Again, I am not writing any more about this movie. Obviously a huge number of nice looking girls appeared in it, and Florence was just one of the masses.

Florence’s last appearance was in Meet the People.A modest film with no big production values, it’s far from a very good movie but it fits the bill of a mid tier musical. Lucille Ball and Dick Powell and typically good in the leads, plus is featrues some other MGM musical stock actors and actresses like Virginia O’Brien, Bert Lahr and June Allyson.

After this, Florence got divorced and probably left Hollywood.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Florence hit the papers before she even made a proper movie debut. Due to her “Scandinavian blond” good looks, she was a sought after girl about town as early as 1940. She dated noted songwriter Garwood Van, but hit the jackpot when she was noticed by Franchot Tone. She happily let the two men vie for her affections. Franchot won out, but he was a all around charmer, dating Peggy Moran at the same time. Franchot, ever the perfect gentleman, used to wine and dine Florence at the Beachcomber’s, a famous sea food restaurant in Los Angeles. Predictably, it did not last long.

Florence married actor Robert Conway in 1941. He was born on June 12, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois as Robert Anderson.

Florence gave birth to twin daughters, Jeannette Kathryn Andersen and Judith Anne Andersen on April 27, 1942. Sadly, her marriage to Andersen was a very troubled one, and they separated in September 1943. She went back home to her mother Selma, and never returned. They divorced in 1944.

I have no idea what happened to Florence afterwards. IMDB lists her death on January 23, 1961, but I could not find any Florence, born on February 9, 1922, who died on that day. There is a whole list of women named Florence born on February 9, 1922 who died at  a later date, ranging from 1980s until 2000s, and our Florence could be any of these women.

What I do know is that Florence’s sister, Gerda Garrick, died on 2000.

 

 

 

 

Inna Gest

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Inna Gest tried to live the Hollywood dream – a Russian immigrant making it big as an actress. Of course, she never made to to top brass, but did much better than many girls in similar positions, playing leads and working steadily for a few years.

EARLY LIFE:

Inna Gest was born on February 11, 1921, in Odessa, Ukraine, to Arseny Gest and Maria Kaminina. The family moved a round quite a lot during her earliest years, and lived in Czechoslovakia and Poland for a brief time.

In 1925, her parents immigrated to the US, and settled in California. Her brother Vladimir (called Walter) was born in 1928. Her father died sometine in the 1930s, and her mother got  job as a neck tie operator. Inna graduated from Hollywood high school in 1939 and decided upon a showbiz career. A major factor in that decision was her uncle, Morris Gest, a well known theater producer who gave Inna her first push by introducing her to all the important people. Along with Margaret Roach, daughter of Hal Roach, she was signed to a movie contract the same year.

CAREER:

To be perfectly honest, when I started exploring the career of Inna Gest I fully expected to find her to be like most of the Goldwyn girls  – a glamour gal with a very slim, almost nonexistent movie output. I was proven wrong and ended up pleasantly surprised after discovering she was in fact a western leading lady and that she really worked from 1940-1944, making several appearances in a year.

Inna started her career in 1939 with Babes in Arms . Her next one was one of thebest (and the first) Harry Aldich movies, What a LifeFast and Furious is a mediocre murder mystery, only heightened by the genial pairing of Franchot Tone and Ann Southern as husband/wife sleuth team.

51777255030ae_149919nInna got noticed by the studio brass and her career went up. She had her first credited role, and a female lead one at that, in the not-that-bad low budget western, The Golden Trail, playing opposite Tex Ritter. She continued the trend, playing leading ladies in man’s movie (where the female lead is mostly decorative and not as important to the plot as the male lead’s machinations). Her next movie was Boys of the City, where she played second fiddle to the East Side Kids. She reached the pinnacle of her career in Gun Code, again as the female lead. A well paced western with a good balance of characters, story and action, it is certainly one of Tim McCoy’s best movies.

Road Show was a silly comedy of little merit, Hard Guy is probably one of Inna’s better known credited movies, for no other reason than that it’s her only gangster movie (very popular at the time) and features Jack LaRue. It’s not even a good movie to start with – it’s premise is extremely ridiculous (as one user masterfully wrote on imdb):

His specialty was getting the women in his employ to marry rich men and then get quickie annulments or divorces–splitting the money with him. This was a big problem with the film, as there is no reason for any woman to split the money with LaRue–it just made no sense. Nor did it really make sense for them to give up on their ‘sugar baby’ so quickly. When one of the women develops a conscience, LaRue kills her and makes it look like her new husband did it! So it’s up to a bunch of idiots to somehow unravel the mystery.

So very funny… Yes, they made movies like this before :-P

Just when things could have turned out nicely for Inna, she gave up movies for the time being to become a wife. Sadly, her change to become a solid actress was gone by the time she returned to the movie arena in 1943, when her husband was off fighting in WW2.

In 1943 she made You Can’t Beat the Law, a run of the mill low budget thriller, two well made war movies, Hangmen Also Die! and The North Star. Both can still be seen on television today.

She had one lead role, in Six Gun Gospel, a totally forgotten Johnny Mack Brown western. Sadly, Inna was never to have a lead after this, but totally slipped into uncredited territory.  

Up in Arms was Inna’s chance to finally appear as a Goldwyn girl. I mentioned this film so many times on this blog that I’m so fed up with it and am not going to mention it again. Show Business is a wacky, vulgar pastiche of vaudeville shorts and RKO musicals footage with some very racy jokes. Ladies of Washington is an interesting movie about the housing shortage in Washington during WW2 and how people deal with it, but sadly not widely known today.

InnaGestInna’s only movie in 1945 was Bring on the Girls, a sparking, vivacious comedy with Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake. Veronica’s career was already on the downhill, and except Blue Dahlia, would never regain her early 1940s fame. Such a shame for this uniquely talented femme fatale…

After the filming was over, Inna decided to devote more time to her infant daughter and husband and gave up Hollywood for the time being.

Inna made two more uncredited appearances, one in 1947 in Northwest Outpost, one of Nelson Eddy‘s last movies (and nothing to write home about, Nelsonw as never a good actor and he sue did not become any better with his last features), and No Minor Vices, an interesting comedy that received mixed notices, but boasts a fine cast (Dana Andrews, Lili Palmer, Louis Jourdan).

That was all from Inna.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Inna started her career as a typical starlet with strong familial connections, but grew into a working B class actress and was rarely featured in the papers. Except a brief flash of interest that followed her around when she entered the Hollywood scene in 1939, she got some minor publicity in 1944, when she was doing war relief work. She posed with Malinki, a cat found floating in a bucket by a Naval officer during the battle for Guadalcanal.

InnaGest3Ina married Clarence H. Peterson in the early 1940s. Their daughter Victoria Inna Peterson was born on November 6, 1944. They divorced in cca. 1947/48.

Inna married Alex Grobenko in San Francisco in the late 1940s. He was born on November 6, 1895 in Russia, moved to the US and became a naturalized citizen in 1932. They divorced a few years later. Grobenko remained in California and died there at the ripe old age of 93 on January 31, 1989.

Inna married her third and last husband, Alexander Istomin. Istomin was born on June 12, 1923, making him the only husband who was younger than Inna. Like Grobenko, he was born in Russia and became a naturalized US citizen (just in 1953 not 1932).

Inna Gest Istomin died on December 31, 1964, from hepatitis B, aged only 43.

Inna’s widower, Istomin, married Irina Thompson in 1968. On a sad note, Inna’s only child, daughter Victoria, died in 1969 in Eldridge, California, aged only 24.

 

Virginia Cruzon

VirginiaCruzon

Another Goldwyn girl that never broke from the uncredited tier. Nothing new here, but Virginia Cruzon was so much more – she was a true and blue working gal who supported not only herself but her mother and seamlessly switched to a career in the oil industry after her Hollywood years were over.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Monroe was born on May 25, 1921, in San Francisco, California to Albert Harold Monroe and Mabel Maude Babb.

She had four older brothers and sisters: a unnamed sister, who was born in 1908 and died a few months later in 1909, Phyllis Morine, born in 1909, Muriel Nadine, born in cca. 1913, Harold Richard Monroe, born in 1916.

Her parents divorced not long after her birth. In 1930, she was living in the house of Garfield Stanley Kirkpatrick, with her mother acting as his housekeeper.

Virginia attended high school in Los Angeles, but completed only the first two grades before dropping out to try her hand at the showbiz career. She worked as a usher at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and graduates to a chorus girl not long after. She worked for five, six years before becoming a Goldwyn Girl (she was also an Earl Carroll girl for a brief time), and then got into movies.

FILMOGRAPHY:

Virginia had two breaks into movies before she finally settled into it (but she never did get any credits). Her first experience was in George White’s 1935 Scandals. For ambitious chorus girls who wanted to taste the movie life, George White’s movies were paradise. A man well known for his taste in women, and, much like Busby Berkeley, George White made lavish musicals featuring a large number of dancers. Also like Berkeley, his movies had a paper thin plot, the lead was normally a Mary Sue and characters one dimensional. The above mentioned movie is no different, it’s pure escapist fare you watch once and forget soon after. The charismatic lead, Alice Faye, lends the movie a warm flavor but it’s not a top achievement.

VirginiaCruzon2Fast forward to 1941, and to Virginia’s second movie, Ziegfeld Girl. Co directed by Busby, top notch production values and with several huge stars in the cast, what could go wrong? Nothing did go wrong, but it’s most definitely not a legendary movie well known to the masses like Gone with the wind. And then again a hiatus from the industry.  

Virginia made the cusp of her filmography in 1944/45.  Up in Arms was her last Goldwyn girl appearance. As mentioned several times of this site, it’s a fluffy, happy go lucky movie, perfect for a Sunday afternoon viewing, with very charming leads (Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore).

Having Wonderful Crime was one of Carole Landis’s last worthwhile movies. She would die three years after the movie was released, in 1948, but the rest of her filmography is dismal to say at least. While this movie is no big work of art, it’s still a decent screwball comedy. Some gags are repetitive and hardly funny, but Carole Landis is superb in her role, and George O’Brien is as good as usual in his stock role. The story of course, expects a total suspension of belief on the side of the viewer, but that is to be expected from a WW2 comedy.

A Thousand and One Nights is the movie that gave the people what they wanted – exotic escapism. it’s full of colors, fancy costumes and endearing musical numbers. Characters come and go, there is no structure of indeed a decent plot, but who cares? it’s not that kind of a movie to start with. Conrel Wilde and Evelyn Keyes make a handsome couple.

Virginia had more of the same by appearing in George White’s Scandals. Nothing more needs to be added. A typical George White movie with Virginia in the chorus.

Shadowed was a run of the mill Columbia crime quickie. One Sunday Afternoon isd a movie that tries to chew more than it can swallow – why?  Because it’s a remake of “Strawberry blonde“, a superb movie with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Olivia de Havilland. Need I mention that surpassing one of these thespians is hard work, but surpassing all three is down right impossible. Cagney owns the rough but lovable Irishman stereotype and nobody, but nobody could put him in shade. Dennis Morgan, the lead in One Sunday Afternoon, was always a passable actor bu tno big talent (he was a great singer, but actor? Meh). Janis Paige and Dorothy Malone, while very good actresses in their own right, do not peg down the roles sufficiently. The end result is a pale remake, completely overshadowed by it’s older brother.

Emergency Wedding was a bright spot on Virginia’s filmography. It’s a low key, funny, gentle movie about male-female relationships  and the meaning of work in one’s life. The cast is made out of highly reliable actors and actresses that never achieved huge fame – Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, Willard Parker, Una Merkel and so on. Great comedic moments, good romantic tension, a clear message,  it’s a movie that shows what was so right with Hollywood in the 1950s.

Virginia retired from movies after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Virginia came into the media spotlight after Ziegfeld Girl. The movie had some extensive publicity, with the Ziegfeld girls from the movie wearing the newest fashions and doing tours all over the US. A brilliant press agent send Virginia and Myrna Dell to New York for the festivities to promote the movie, and claimed both never set foot outside Los Angeles county. Since Virginia was born in San Francisco, it’s clear what a fad that was.

The press was also inventive in her life story: she was depicted as a poor girl working in a factory who was pushed out of that mundane life by a talent scout who started pulling string to have. Not quite true – in 1940, her official occupation was being a photo model, not a factory worker!

VirginiaCruzon3Virginia continued to appear in variety and revue shows even after her movie career started, and supported her mother all the while. She appeared as a in Ken Murray’s Blackouts several years in a row, proving her mantle as a comedienne.

Virginia’s first known beau was producer Robert “Bob” Sherwood. Nina Orla was also vying for his attention, but Virginia won hands down.

Virginia married Rex W. Whaley, a movie splicer, on May 29, 1944 . Whaley was born in Oklahoma in 1918 and since the 1930s lived in Los Angeles where he raised his three younger sisters with the help of an aunt.

Virginia gave up movies not long after for started working for the Chevron Oil Company. She and Rex resided in Glendale in 1955. They divorced in 1956.

Virginia married Stephen H. Sanders on April 26, 1957. Their daughter Virginia Jocelyn Sanders was born on June 3, 1958. They divorced in February 1968.

Virginia retired from Chevron Oil Company in 1988, and moved to Lamarie, Wyoming to enjoy her golden years.

Virginia Sanders died on August 21, 2010, in Lamarie, Wyoming.

 

Joan Chaffee

JoanChaffee2

Joan Chaffee went from a college educated high society girl to brief flashes of glory in the papers as another one of the Goldwyn Girls, only to end up in obscurity a very short time later.

EARLY LIFE:

Elizabeth Joan  Chaffee was born on January 19, 1925, in Los Angeles, to Harry Chaffee and Frances J. Anderson, their first and only child.

Her parents lived in Beverly Hills and were very well off. Joan grew up in a loving, nurturing environment and started dancing as a child.

Her parents divorced in the 1930s, and she continued living with her mother in Beverly Hills. In 1943, she enrolled into the UCLA. She did some amateur dramatics at the UCLA theater and was noticed by a talent scout who steered her towards a movie career.

CAREER:

JJoanChaffeeoan appeared in only two movie, and both were uncredited. What a waste!

She was one of the many Goldwyn girls in Up in Arms, a nice, fluffy, happy go lucky movie designated to make your day a bit sunnier. While not a masterpiece by any account, not something so deep it will leave you thinking, it’s more than adequate for the musical escapist fare. The cast, Danny Kaye, Dinah Shore, Dana Andrews and so on, are all very good .

Her second and last movie was Belle of the Yukon is solely remembered today as a showcase for the famous burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. And add an impressive roster of B tier actors. Nothing else is especially notable about it. No tension, muddled plot.

Joan retired from movie afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Very slim information here. She hit the papers in 1942/1943, but it was never related to her personal life.

In 1943, she was a part of a publicity stunt devised by Sam Goldwyn to shame a hermit living in Los Angeles Hills into taking a job and living a more typical existence. One afternoon Goldwyn sent sent the Virginia Cruzon, Dorothy Garner, Virginia Mayo and her to do the picketing, plus two photographers to record it for .

Joan left movies in 1944 and got married not long after. She entered a new career in 1945, but the paper refused to disclose it, claiming it was all hush hush, so I never found out what exactly did she do.

Joan divorced her husband at some point and moved to the East coast.

Joan Chaffee died in Sharon, Connecticut, on April 4, 2002.

 

 

Mary Ann Hyde

MaryAnnHyde2

Mary Ann Hyde is the ultimate proof that even incredible legs and a slender body were not really enough to become  a movie star. A true knockout, she nonetheless never achieved anything remotely close to cinematic fulfillment.

EARLY LIFE:

Mary Ann Hyde was born in cca 1923 in Akron, Ohio. Her father was  a wealthy banker.

The family moved to Beverly Hills, California, in he 1930s. Her father continued his prosperous job, and thus Mary Ann belonged to the Beverly Hills social set . She attended Beverly Hills High School, majoring in art and hopign to become a painter. fate had something different in store for her – in the early 1940s, producer/director Tay Garnett, a friend of her father’s, asked her if she wanted to be in the movies. Owning to her incredible looks more than her talent, she was signed to a contract in 1942 and started her career.

CAREER:

Mary Ann’s career is very, very slim. She appeared in only four films, and never made it to the credited tier.

MaryAnnHydeHer first uncredited role was in Seven Sinners, a Marlene Dietrich/John Wayne western. A nice blend of comedy and social satire, it manages to satisfy both fans of Dietrich (who like sophisticated movies with a strong female lead) and fans of Wayne (who liked action and tough guys). Special mention goes to Broderick Crawford as a strong support.

That Night in Rio is the kind of that shows us that even escaping fare can be well made. The simple, clean plot, breezy dialogue, endearing stars and great music all neatly combined in a top notch package – while this is not the kind of movie that will leave you thinking for days afterwards, it manages to entertain and leave a positive impression. And it catapulted Alice Faye to sure stardom.

Flesh and Fantasy is Mary Ann’s claim to “fame”. When browsing through old newspapers, it’s clear she got most publicity from appearing in this movie. While her role in minuscule and uncredited, it’s very flashy- she is Charles Boyer‘s aerial partner (Boyer plays an acrobat). Chosen because of her long, MaryAnnHydelean legs and good coordination skills, Mary Ann spend weeks and weeks practicing above the safety net so she could play the part convincingly. The movie is a anthology of three stoires dealing with the supernatural. This “three movies in one” format was very popular for a brief time in the 1940s, and despite being rarely used since, Flesh and Fantasy holds up well today and is definitely worth watching. The most impressive thing about it are the actors no doubt – Charles Boyer, Edward G. Robinson, Barbara Stanwyck, Thomas Mitchell, and the list goes on!  Sadly, Mary Ann’s segment is the weakest of the three, but on the other hand, it’s hard to match Robinson and Stanwyck in the same frame!

Up in Arms is a movie that perfectly showcases the typical Danny Kaye vehicle – phony, unbelievable, but absolutely enchanting and lovable. Danny is supported by the great Dinah Shore and the equally good Dana Andrews and Constance Dowling.

Mary Ann cut her movie career short after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Mary Ann had the looks and body type Hollywood loved – all clean, elongated lines, very lean, not too tall nor muscular, with stunning legs, lush black hair and a cute face.

Behind her socialite facade, Mary Ann was a serious sportswoman. The press lauded her as a top line underwater harpooner, who routinely captured stingarees. Armed only with a strong swimming stroke, underwater goggles and a steel barbed, wood handled harpoon four feet long (with a coil of light rope attached), she caught fish many men could only dream off.

With her combination of looks, personality and breeding it’s no wonder that Mary Ann had the luck of dating some very desirable, luscious men. She had great taste, that’s for sure!  

Mary AnnHyde4If she ever gets mentioned today in books, it’s mostly because she was, for a brief time, the serious girlfriend of Errol Flynn. Although the words “serious girlfriend” and Errol Flynn don’t go quite hand in hand, she was a prominent Flynn date in the late 1943 and early 1944. Flynn had just come out of a nasty rape charge, and was probably more vulnerable than ever before, making a great opening for any woman to cement her position with him, but with his usual Flynn panache, he did not give in to his morose toughs dated others girl(s). One of them was none other than Linda Christian, the famous temptress who seduced the likes of Tyrone Power, Edmund Purdom and Alfonso de Portago.

Indeed, it was clear from the beginning that Mary Ann had no real chance to snag Errol for the long run. She was a young, inexperienced girl, and he was a well known lothario, and the competition for his attentions were fierce. She never lived with him at his home in Mullholland drive, but stayed there often and provided him with more than a romantic liaison – she was also his part time secretary. Flynn paid her back by engaging her in once in a lifetime whirlwind romance, wining and dining her at some of the most famous restaurants and clubs in Hollywood. While it’s clear that those wild, unbelievable romances almost never last, it must have been helluva lot of fun for Mary Ann to be in such a revered position.

By the middle of 1944, Flynn had moved on, and so did Mary Ann. After some casual dates, she fell in love with David Silva, a famous Mexican actor on loan to Hollywood. Another whirlwind courtship followed, and they were married in Tijuana, Mexico, during a massive downpour, in November 1944. They returned to Los Angeles afterwards.

The marriage did not last, and they divorced in 1946. Silva became one of the most prominent Mexican actors of his generation. He died in 1976.

I have no idea what happened to Mary Ann afterwards, or if she is alive today.

 

Karen Gaylord

Karen5

 

Goldwyn Girls were all statuesque charmers, well publicized, appearing in top movies. Yet, none of them achieved any great success as an actress. Karen Gaylord likewise never rose above being the resident glamour girl.

EARLY LIFE:

Mary Jane Goerner was born in 1921, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Werner C. Goerner and Marie Goerner.

Her father is German, her mother from Illinois. The family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where her younger sister Doris J.E. was born in 1925.

The family moved around quite a bit during Jane’s childhood, going back to Milwaukee, settling permanently in Devils Lake, North Dakota, where Werner operated a chain of lumber yards. Jane attended schools in Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Devils Lake.

The pretty girl became a fixture on the pageant scene in her late teens, and won the title of Miss Minnesota when she was about 18 years old. Harry Conover, the connoisseur of pretty girls, saw her in a Butte, Montana bank and signed her to become a model in New York City. Jane was quick to rise the ranks of models, appearing on covers of national magazines.

CAREER:

As a Goldwyn girl, Karen appeared in small, uncredited roles in a string of high budget, distinguished movies. Most of the movies are well remembered today and most them feature at least one A class star.

Karen6Her first movie appearance was in Cover Girl, a lovely Rita Hayworth musical, one of her best. Gene Kelly and Rita are a great dancing couple, and the breezy movie moves skillfully towards a stunning ending. Wonder Man is a hilarious Danny Kaye movie. The name itself is misleading, as Kaye doe snot play a superhero in any form, but a man haunted by the ghost of his dead twin brother who seeks justice for his murder. As always, Virginia Mayo is a great foil for Danny, and the finale, set during an opera performance, is one of the best scenes in comedic history.

The Virginia Mayo/Danny Kaye combination was exploited again in The Kid from Brooklyn. Kaye is at the top of his game here, with a youthful exuberance and one of a kind body language no other comedian manged to match since. Eve Arden is especially delightful in the role she excelled in – deadpan sparkler.

$(KGrHqN,!qMFJE!u46F5BSUFJfuKe!~~60_57Night in Paradise was a lesser movie than her previous ones, biut still managed to pull of a mildly entertaining show, featuring Merle Oberon.

A extension of the “Three girls looking for husbands” genre, Three Little Girls in Blue was baed on the same play used by The Greeks had a word for them (1932), Three blind mice (1938), Moon over Miami (1941). It’s hard to judge the movie on its own merit as it was remade so many times, but it remains a lively, brisk, fast moving delight for all who love 1940s musical. While not as lavish as the MGM musicals of the era and lacking a huge star like Gene Kelly or Judy Garland, the cast is perfect: June Haver, Vivian Blaine and Vera Ellen as the sisters, with Celeste Holm in her very first movie appearance (and she kicks the trousers out of everyone with her impeccable timing!).

Karen2The Shocking Miss Pilgrim is a Betty Grable musical that hidden much under it’s glossy surface polish. The underlying story tackles both woman’s suffragette and their relationship to other ideologies (in this case, the prohibition), and never wavers into typical musical silliness. Dick Haymes is given one of the few meaty role sin his career and his character lived through a transformation easily believable even today (from a “manly man” looking down on woman, he learns to respect the working female and her role in society).

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is the most popular movie Karen had appeared up until them, the absolute pinnacle of Danny Kaye comedy. A sharp, witty script, great performances and high production values mix together to make a top notch comedy movie. Unfortunately, her career trajectory did not go up after this, but  rather down.

Karen4Linda Be Good is her first B class production with smaller names like Elyse Knox and John Hubbard. It’s a very good mystery movie. I Love Trouble, despite its lightweight name, is a full blown film noir, gritty and hard boiled like any good Raymond Chandler book (the movie patterns itself very devotedly after these books). While the performance of Franchot Tone, known as a second banana charmer in his heyday at MGM, is a matter of debate (some can never envision him as a tough private eye, some maintain that his inbred elegance help elevate the stereotype), the story and supporting players are all very good.

A Song Is Born is a paradise for music lovers. A remake of Ball Of Fire, it doe snot even remotely match the original in its pacing and comedy, but the spirited leads (Kaye and Mayo once again) and a wide variety of famous musical performers of the time gives it some ebb and guarantees a movie not that easily forgotten.

Karen’s last movie was The Girl from Jones Beach, a mediocre, no-reason-to-watch-it-twice Ronald Reagan comedy, with Virginia Mayo as his leading lady. Again, it’s not  a bad movie, but it’s not a very good one either, falling solidly into the mid tier.

Karen got married and left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

As a Goldwyn girl, Karen was extremely active in the war relief program, touring army bases constantly in 1943/1944. She found time for romance on the side, dating Ted Knoll. They were even engaged at some point in August 1943, but decided to postpone the wedding. In late 1944, she revealed to the press how she wished to purchase a farm where she and Knoll can raise foxes. Her family had owned a fox farm outside Minneapolis while she was young and ever since she wanted to own one herself. Karen was known around Hollywood as a very shrewd, thrifty woman, and it’s not hard to believe she has such grounded goals (unlike many other chorus girls whose heads were in the clouds).

Karen1There were several other newspaper gimmicks she was a part of: in November 1944, along with six other starlets, she became the manager and backer of a professional acrobat, Allan Dodd. They would invest money in him and they hope he would become a movie star and pay them back the investment. Of course Dodd never became a movie star and nobody ever heard anything about him since the article, but it made a small splash. She and Ruth Valmy, both farm girls, constantly talked about their rural tendencies in the papers, and both tried to shake their “southern” accents (now this is a quack – Karen was from Minneapolis, quite far from the south, but okay!). There was a Sawtooth mountains outing at Sun Valley, Idaho, where, the press notes “three visitors Shirley Buchanan,Karen Gaylord and Pat Hall find plenty of winter facilities for rolling snowballs. “

By 1945, she had ditched Knoll for Brian Aherne, a rather cold man once married to Joan Fontaine. By October 1945 she was over with Aherne and dating Ted Howard. Not long after she suffered an accident and dislocated her hip, but recovered soon enough to resume her career and start a brief liaison with Ray Milland.

$T2eC16d,!y8E9s2fk3T9BSdsBwE0Lg~~60_57She was one of Sam Goldwyn’s troop of 6 goodwill glamour missionaries who toured England and Paris in 1946, and this more than anything was her claim to fame.

In 1947, Karen scored the big kahuna – Cary Grant. She was on tour with the Goldwyn Girls in Mexico when the screen star noticed her and a quick and passionate courtship followed. Karen had contractual obligations and had to continue touring South America, and Cary called her at least once a week to check up on her. Unfortunately, the affair never developed into something more permanent, and Cary went on to marry Betsy Drake a few years later.

Karen continued to burn through high profile men wit ease. She enchanted her boss’s son, Samuel Godwyn Jr., and in October 1947 the papers were abuzz with news of their engagement. The elder Goldwyn was furious and did all he could to separate the couple. He succeeded, as they broke up before getting hitched. Goldwyn would marry Jennifer Howard in 1950.

1948 was a very good year for Karen romantically. She started the year as the best girl of Harold Clark, a New York blue blood worth millions. There were some rumors he would divorce his wife Millie and marry Karen, but that did not happen. By May 1948, she was flying to Los Angeles frequently to date Steve Crane, Lana Turners ex husband and a very well known Lothario. After Steve came Jack Carson, handsome actor.

Then, in late May 1948, she met Don McGuire on a blind date. Frank Sinatra was the match maker. The whirlwind courtship lasted for only three months before their tied the know on August 15, 1948.

Karen3McGuire was born as Donald Rose on February 28, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to Benjamin Rose and Ann F. Uadanter. For a brief biography, I quote Imdb:

American screenwriter and director Don McGuire was a former Warner Brothers contract player and Hollywood press agent during the 1940s. He had a background in journalism, having begun his professional life as a reporter for the Hearst press. After four years of military service, he acted on screen in small roles as interns, barmen or drivers. After leaving Warners in 1948, he found good roles hard to come by and ended up being relegated to appearances in second features. Therefore, he decided on becoming a writer of film scripts instead

There were some bits and pieces about Karen in the paper after that, but she sank into obscurity after 1954. All I know is that she and McGuire did not have any children and divorced at some point. Don achieved his biggest success in 1982 with Tootsie that he co wrote with Larry Gelbart.

In 1949 she retired from films and moved to Clearwater, Florida to teach music and art and in 1950 she legally changed her name to Jane Goerner and up until the 1990s she gave private lessons out of her home.

Don McGuire died in 1999.

Jane Goerner died in her sleep on August 1, 2014.