Betty Bryant

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Yank the army weekly had a Betty Bryant on the cover in 194?. So I decided to profile her, and this is where the problem starts. Which Betty Bryant? After some digging around, I noticed that there are, no more and no less, than three Betty Bryants that operated in Hollywood in the early 1940s. The only one I could cross was the Australian Betty Bryant (as she was definitely not the woman on the picture!). The second is a Portland, Oregon born Betty Bryant, who was a Goldwyn girl. The one left is the Betty Bryant the high society songstress. The Betty we are going to talking about is the most active one (the songstress), filling newspaper columns from the early 1930s until the early 1950s. Well, let’s read on!

EARLY LIFE

Elizabeth Bryant Borst was born on February 5, 1909, in Natick, Massachusetts to Theodore C. Borst and Sara Boysat (Bryant?). Her younger brother John was born on January 23, 1910. Her father worked in real estate – her mother wrote children’s books, and was pretty good at it, as several of her books were best sellers (for instance New Stories to tell the children, published in 1923).

The family moved to Newton, Massachusetts when Betty was only a few years old, and stayed there for the long run. Betty and her brother grew up in an affluent, loving environment and had a nice childhood.  Betty attend Foxcroft Finishing school for genteel ladies in Middleburg, Virginia. Already at that tender age, it was clear to everybody that Betty was destined to become a performer. Her desire for a professional career on the stage alienated her a great deal from her school chums, who found her weird. But Betty did not back down, she knew what she wanted and went for it. She took voice and dance lessons and slowly grew at her craft. But, her education had to be finished first.

Betty first got her BA in University of California, and then got her masters from Smith Colledge, where she was in the Phi Beta Kapa sorority. After graduation in 1932, she started working on the stage right away, but it would take her a long time still to come to Hollywood.

CAREER

Betty worked from the time she graduated, joining the Bryant Show Boat and going extensive theater work (she played Shakespearean roles, among others). In the late 1930s she settled in New York and did nightclub work and became very succesful. She appeared in some of the best known cafees in the city and drew large crowds.

The Other Betty Bryant, born in Australia

The Other Betty Bryant, born in Australia

Betty never truly was part of the movie scene, and she does not have her own IMDB page, but instead her credits are mixed with her namesakes, Betty Bryant, who was an Australian actress born in 1920, made famous in the early 1940s when the australian movie 40 000 Horsemen hit the US cinemas, and the Betty Bryant Goldwyn girl. Two of Betty Bryant (Australia) credits are actually Betty Bryant (Goldwyn girl or singer) credits. So, I’ll just take the two credits and go with it.

One Betty Bryant was a Goldwyn girl in Up in Arms – again this movie!!!! But it seems I’m goign to profile more and more Goldwyn girls appearing in it (really, the movie is a goldmine for obscure dancer/actress types with only a few credits to their name!).

Her second and last credit was Saigon, the last pairing of Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake. It’s  definitely a movie of mixed pleasures – a romance/adventure set in the orient, with Ladd playing a flying ace who tries to help his former army buddy during the last months of his life. Add Veronica Lake and you have a slightly more different love triangle than the usual fare, but you still know Ladd’s going to get the girl!  The movie is a mild excercise in adventure making and lacks the suspense or the stunning twists of some of the other similarly themed Oriental movies (Calcutta, Macao and so on). On the other hand, it’s got a decent plot and Ladd and Lake are effective as always (they truly are a unique pairing of the silver screen – they perfected the cold, icy passion better than anybody else).

That was all from Betty.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1936, Betty had a serious relationship with Maxwell Aitken, son of Lord Beaverbrook. The young Aitken was a keen aviator, and even brought his father along to New York to meet Betty and the two hit it off right away. There were stories Betty could actually become part of the english nobility, but the relationship quickly sizzled after that. In 1937, she was engaged to band leader Henry Sosnik, but that also did not happen. He was closely followed by a Captain Roark, an upper crust polo player who flew to the US just so he could meet with Betty. Pretty romantic, but it also didn’t lead to a long-term relationship. John Buckmaster, another Briton, came along after Roark. Seems the gents from Europe really adored Betty!

BettyBryantBetty was a well-educated woman, and sometimes this se her apart from the peers. In 1942, she lamented ow a well-known actress was “quite stupid” as she had no idea who Lindbergh was (and Betty wanted to discuss his book with her).

In 1940, Betty was again in a hot clinch, this time with Paul Douglas, the sports announcer. They dated on off for better part of the year. In 1941, Betty was constantly seen with Luther Davis, one half of the Davis Cleveland writing duo. By this time, Betty was living in the Blackstone hotel in Manhattan, and was a succesful business woman, living by her own hard work, quite a feat for that time!

In early 1942, Betty dislocated her shoulder while ice skating and was bedridden for a short time. This did not stop her from dating one of the eligible Whitney brothers (never said who) and Spencer Eddy, member of the New York high society. Betty started dating the suave Eurasian novelist, Leslie Charteris, in mid 1942. They married on October 2, 1943, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Charteris was born Leslie Charles Bowyer-Yin on May 12, 1907, in Singapore, son of a chinese doctor and an Englishwoman. He attended a prep school in England, and later attended Cambridge university for a year before dropping out. He led quite a colorful life: he worked at various jobs from shipping out on a freighter to working as a barman in a country inn. He prospected for gold, dived for pearls, worked in a tin mine and on a rubber plantation, toured England with a carnival, and drove a bus. He constantly wrote on the side, and in 1935 started to write  series of books that would become his claim to fame: Simon Templar, “the Saint” books. He moved to the States and worked in Hollywood for a time as a scriptwriter.

Before marring Betty, Leslie was already twice married – first, in 1931, to Pauline Schiksin, daughter of a Russian diplomat. They had a daughter, Patricia. They divorced in about 1937.  In 1938, he married Barbara Meyer, editor at the American magazine. He divorced her just before marrying Betty (I could not find this information – was Betty the reason Barbara and Leslie divorced? I don’t think so, but can’t tell for sure).

In the late 1940s, Betty was an active humanitarian, organizing benefit baseball games featuring movie stars and so on. However, her marriage fell apart acrimoniously toward the end of the decade. Charter fell into a writing rut, unable to come up with any quality novels, was often highly agitated. She did not have enough un understanding for him (and so goes the story). When things escalated he left her in New York to wonder around the world. They finally divorced in 1951. Charteris was ordered to pay his wife 500$ monthly alimony. He went on to marry his last wife, actress Audrey Long (who somewhat resembled Betty) in 1954. He died in 1992.

Betty resumed her nightclub career after the divorce, and it lasted well into the 1950s. Unfortunately, that was all I could find about Betty – she left the US at some point.

Elizabeth Charteris died in January 2003 in Corby, Northamptonshire, England, UK.

 

Jo Carroll Dennison

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Let’s move on to another Yank Cover girl – Jo Carroll Dennison. She  will forever be remembered as Miss America of 1942 first, and comedian Phil Silver’s wife second. But what about her acting career? That was slim, sadly, and very forgettable. Such a shame, for Jo Carroll truly seems like an interesting person, definitely worth checking out.

EARLY LIFE

Jo Carroll Dennison was born on December 16, 1923, in Tyler, Texas (or Florence, Arizona), to Henry Dennison and Carroll Brownd, who ran a vaudeville troupe. She was their only child. She was raised on the Medicine Show circuit, began singing and dancing at age 2 and traveled all around the States with the troupe. They lived in San Francisco and Santa Barbara for a time.

Jo was a fine cowgirl, handling a lariat pretty well, milk a cow and herd cattle, She attended Hale Center High School. After she graduated, She left the traveling show to start a secretarial career in Tyler, Texas. She went to a city college and worked as a stenographer at a law firm for 25$ a week – after her father died, Jo had to work to support herself and her mother (they lived with her grandmother in Tyler in 1940).

The full story of how Jo Carroll became miss Texas goes like this (taken from Miss America site):

While she was outside of a bank on way to a drugstore, Jo-Carroll Dennison was stopped on the street by the Vice President of Citizen’s National Bank in Tyler, Texas. He asked her to be “Miss Citizen’s National Bank” in the Miss Tyler Pageant held by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce. She declined. He insisted that many of the city’s finest young women were going to compete for the crown, and each girl could go to Swartz Department Store and pick out their own new swimsuit.

Eighteen, and on her own as a Student at Federal Institute, Jo-Carroll figured she could use a new swimsuit, so she became Miss Citizen’s National Bank and in short order, Miss Tyler. Her prizes were a scholarship to Federal and Flying lessons. She thought her pageant days were complete, when she was approached by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce that they expected her to represent them in the Miss East Texas Pageant to be held in Dallas. She politely declined. She was made to feel as though it were her civic duty to her city, so she eventually agreed.

After she won the Miss East Texas Pageant she found out she was expected to go on to Miss Texas to be held August 16th at Austin Stadium with an audience consisting of soldiers from one of the largest Army camps in Texas, Camp Swift. Eight girls competed representing the points of the compass of Texas. Jo-Carroll won.

Jo Carroll won the title of Miss America in Atlantic City. She did a lusty rendition of “Deep in the heart of Texas” that much impressed the public. Movie man came knocking on her door right after, and she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in November 1942.

CAREER

Jo Carroll signed with 20th Century Fox, and appeared in some good movies in that period – the only perh was that she was not billed! Her first appearance was in The Song of Bernadette, the celebrated religious movie about Bernadette Soubirous, a very powerful movie with an upbeat message about love. Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for her performance – I’m a big fan of Jennifer and find her a wonderful actress, and this is one fo her best for sure! Jo Carroll moved on to lighter fare in The Gang’s All Here, a slim in the story department, fat on the fun and colors musical. Think Betty Grable and Alice Faye musicals and you know what I mean – movies meant for enjoyment without too much thinking.

JoCarrollDennison1Jo Carrol started 1944 in Ladies of Washington, the typical “bad girl to good girl” story, where Trudy Marshall plays a selfish ma hungry dame that gradually becomes a better person after meeting soldier Anthony Quinn due to the shortage of wartime housing in Washington DC. What can I say, sound like a good movie but it’s impossible get a hold of it today. Something for the Boys is a below average musical tosh with Carmen Miranda as the only selling point. Heck, even Carmen and her incredible energy can’t save everything! No story and not enough good music, making it a dismal effort at best…

Jo Carrol appeared in Winged Victory, s well made wartime propaganda movie about the lifespan of a WW2 airman – the recruitment process, the waiting, the training, the battles… Impressive cast ( Lon McAllister, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Ritt, Red Buttons, Peter Lind Hayes, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Lee J. Cobb, and Don Taylor) and a more than able director (George Cukor) make this a winner – not a top f the shelf master piece, but good enough for what it wants to achieve.

JJoCarrollDennison2o Carroll appeared in only one movie in 1945 – State Fair. A throwback to the simpler times, it’s a simple, colorful movie with a lots of soul and great performances, especially by Jeanne Crain in the lead. She finished out her contract in 1946 with two movies – The Missing Lady, one of the Shadow (super hero originating from a comic) movie series (and not a particularly good one), and the superior The Jolson Story, an Al Jolson biopic with wonderfully talented Larry Parks as the man himself. Jo Carroll moved to New York to be at hand with her husband and sadly left her career behind.

Like many similar stories, Jo Carroll decided to return to showbiz after her divorce. The year was 1950 – she was off the screen for almost four years. She appeared, first, in Beyond the Purple Hills, this time as the female lead. But, you guessed it, it’s a low-budget Gene Autry western. While it’s a great thing to finally get a leading role, but in this kind of movie? Remember, the cowboys changed their leading ladies like socks! The horses were more important than the women (at least it seems that way to me). It’s a typical movie for the genre, nothing more, nothing less. Next on the line was Prehistoric Women, a do bad it’s good camp classic with plenty of scantily clad women running around, fighting each other and dinosaurs. What to say, this could actually be a step down from the low-budget westerns. Secrets of Beauty is a weird movie that doubles as a beauty manual – do you know why husbands leave home? Because their wives don’t take care of themselves! Listen to Ern Westmore’s advice and you’ll get it right! Absurd  but it could be much worse :-)

JoCarrollDennison8Pickup is a very low-budget, but still compelling Hugo Haas movie, a Take on The Postman always rings twice, but with a nice twist (he knows she wants to kill him). The lack of a budget is very jarring, but Bverly Michaels is more than fine as the lady from hell. Jo Carrol’s last movie of the period was A Millionaire for Christy, is a breezy, feel good comedy without much artistic merit, but a great way to cheer yourself up after a ponderous day. Eleanor Parker and Fred McMurray are both good in the leading roles.

Jo Carroll did some Tv work on the side, but her career after 1953. She got married and slid into happy obscurity. She did only one more feature in 1975, and that was all for now!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Jo Carroll won the Miss America title, she  stoutly pledged her own sacrifice — she would not marry for the duration of her title. And she did not. She noted to the press how she has plenty of beau – enough to date another man every day of the week – but that matrimony was not on her mind. Taking into account that she was only 18 then, that was some good reasoning. Instead, Jo Carroll toured the Army bases with much vigour, working for days no end. She later said of the experience (you can read the full article here):

“It was an extraordinary job. I went to military bases all the time and the soldiers were so enthusiastic and treated me with such respect. I was a symbol of what they were fighting for — like the flag or the Statue of Liberty. It had a much bigger connotation than just the title.”

JoCarrollDennison5Jo Carroll dated Ray Carter, who was a captain during WW2, in April 1944. Then she started dating Phil Silvers in June 1944. She married Phil on March 1945. She was 21, he was 33. Phil was born as Philip Silver on May 11, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, to Saul and Sarah Silver, both Russian immigrants. His siblings were Lillian, Harry, Jack, Saul, Pearl, Michael, and Reuben. He worked s a comedian in New York from the time he was 11 years old – he made his first movie in 1941. By the time he married Jo Carroll, he was not yet the household name he would become later.

Jo Carroll gave up her budding career and followed her husband to New York, where he appeared in the Broadway show High Buttoned shoes. Phil went along with Jo Carrol’s mom marvelously, and they truly adored each other. He seemed very loved up when he talked about Jo Carroll to the papers. Sadly, Jo Carroll suffered from serious migrants, and Silvers did his best to find her the best possible doctor who ould help her. No further information was given, I just hope she found something to alleviate the pain… Yet, despite the idyll, the couple separated in mid 1949 and divorced in early 1950.

So, why did Jo Carroll and Phil divorce? While it’s impossible to say exactly, ether were reports that Silver was a gregarious guy who like nothing better than to go out with his coterie and laugh and drink till morning. Jo Carroll found that too “crowded” and not intimate enough. They clashed over such little things, but, in the end, those are the little things that make a marriage either a success or a failure. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem would emerge only later (to the public) – Silvers was a compulsive gambler. Jo Carroll later said of him: “We never lived expensively, or travelled, because he gambled everything away”

JoCarrollDennison7Silvers went on to become a major player in the 1950s TV comedy, playing Sargent Bilko in the Phil Silver Show. He remarried to Evelyn Patrick, a Revlon model, and had five daughters:  Cathy, Candance, Tracey, Nancy and Laurey. He and Evelyn divorced in 1966. Silvers died in 1985.

After her divorce from Silvers, Jo was beaued by producer P.K. Palmer before embarking on a serious relationship with Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie. They started dating in November 1950, and dated for more than a year,  ending in cca June 1952. In the end, she left him for no other than her former husband, Phil! They seemed pretty serious, but did not rekindle their relationship completely.

Trying to make something out of her showbiz career, Jo Carroll alternated between Hollywood and New York, and finally became a secretary at the office of Rodgers and Hammerstein in early 1953. In September 1953, she was dating Bob Joseph.  In mid 1954, she became a script girl on the Lux Video Theater.

Jo Carroll started dating Russel Stoneham in early 1954, and married him on October 15, 1954 in Santa Monica. Stoneham was born as Russell Charles Stoneham on April 18, 1920, in New York City, to Charles Stoneham and Margaret Leonard. His father was the owner of the New York Giants, married once before (his half-brother Horace was 17 years older than Russell). He died in 1936, and Russell lived with his mother and sister in New York. He worked for the CBS as a producer when he married Jo Carroll.

JoCarrollDennison6The family settled in California in 1954. Their son Peter R. was born on November 20, 1956. Their second son, John D., was born on June 5, 1961. Both f the children were born in Los Angeles. While retired from the movies, Jo Carroll still remained active in the beauty peagant world and appeared with some frequency in the papers. In 1970, she said of her life so far:

“I was immature in so many ways in my early 20s. I didn’t settle down in domesticity until I was 30. I doubt that I could have. Now I know what will make me happy, but without having worked, doing by jobs, traveling a great deal, being rich, poor again, I would have been discontented, I think. My life is now happier and more complete than I had ever hoped, and I always had great expectations.”

I generally agree with Jo Carroll here, that it so much better to taste life and so things then settle down, when you know what you want and how to get it. of course,e there are examples of people who found their true “calling” very early, but I find this to be the rule of the thumb – experience will teach you the best what way to go. By that time, Jo Carroll lived in pacific Palisades with her family then, and was obviously very content. She was also on very good terms with Silvers, and she was often his confidante, as well as his travel agent.

JoCarrollDennison9Jo Carroll divorced Stoneham in 1981. He remarried to a Sharon ? right away, and divorced her in 1984. Russell died on March 12, 2002, in El Paso, Colorado.

After her divorce, she served as a community relations director for the nonprofit group, Hemet Hospice, during the 1980s and 1990s. Later, in the 2000s, she told an interviewer about her activities in those decades:

“I had a fantastic life and met so many interesting, talented people. I thought I should do something to give back, so I worked at Hemet Hospice for 11 years,” said Dennison,  “I feel it was truly the most purposeful, rewarding work I ever did. Working with the terminally ill, you learn so much about life.”

Jo Carroll Dennison lives in Idyllwild, California.

 

Carole Gallagher

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Hello! I decided that January and February will be the Yank Cover girls month. I have already profiled several of them before (Diana Mumby, Juanita Stark, so on), some of the cover girls were major stars (Ingrid Bergman, Gene Tierney… ) so they aren’t interesting from an “obscure actress” standpoint, some are already profiled on other sites – and now come the lesser known starlets that are barely mentioned today. Carole Gallagher’s biggest claim to fame is definitely her marriage to the handsome cowboy actor Dick Foran, but who was the woman behind the facade? Let us find out!

EARLY LIFE

Carole Gallagher was born on February 24, 1923 in San Francisco, California to Lasher Barrington Gallagher and Carole Arlene Grogg. Her younger brother Ryan Russell was born on September 30, 1927. Another brother, Lasher Barrington Jr., was born on November 28,1928 and died the same year. Her younger sister Jacqueline Dolores was born on July 13, 1932.

Her father, Lasher Barrington Gallagher was born in San Francisco on March 11, 1895 to Robert Ferral Gallagher and Edith Barrington McTarnahan. His father, the member of the large and influental Gallagher family that came to San Francisco from Pennsylvania in the 1850s, owned Gallagher – Marsh Business School in San Francisco. Lasher studied to be a lawyer and married to Viola Van Daalen in Dec., 1914. They divorced several years later. He had one brother, Leland, who was killed in an auto accident with his mother in June, 1916.
Lasher moved to Los Angeles around 1918. It is possible that he had a falling out with his father who remarried a teacher at his school less than a year and half after his mother’s death. In Los Angeles he married Carole and started a family with her.

Carole Jr. and her siblings grew up in an affluent environment in Santa Monica and she wanted to be an actress from early childhood. After graduation from high school she left for Hollywood, attended a drama school and was soon noticed by talent scout who signed her with MGM.

CAREER

Carole was signed by MGM in 1942 and started her career as a cutie in uncredited roles. Gangway for Tomorrow is a dated propaganda piece. We see the stories of five people working in a defense plant – how they got there, how they feel about their work and so on. It made lots of sense when it was made in 1943, but it’s hardy worth watching today. Carole then played one fo the pretty, bouncy co-eds in The Falcon and the Co-eds. We all know what the Falcon movies are – a cheap man’s Saint, with George Sanders’s less charismatic brother, Tom Conway, in the lead (and boy, you couldn’t be more charismatic than George!).

CaroleGallagher1Carole’s movies got better with Girl Crazy, a Mickey Rooney movie made durign the height of his fame. As you can well imagine, acting in a Mickey Rooney movie meant something back then, even if you were nothing but a chorus girl. Anyway, it’s a great 1940s musical with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, the best of the genre from that time. MGM was yet to become a musical dream factory (it peaked in the 1950s) but this truly is the predecessor of the big kahuna. Thin plot, but endlessly entertaining, endearing and almost magical. Carole’s last movie under her contract was her only credited one, The Falcon Out West. It’s another Falcon movie, what more do I need to say? Typical murder mystery and so on. What goes for this movie is the impressive supporting cast – Lyle Talbot, Barbara Hale, Edward Gargan! Carole then terminated her contract to get married and raise a family. Like it often happens in Tinsel Town, it didn’t work, and she was back to the sound stage by 1947.

The movie was Hit Parade of 1947, and she played the girl in a mink coat (wanna bet she was uncredited :-P ?). The formula for the something of (Some Year) – Follies of 1937, Big Broadcast of 1936 and so on is well-known – no story, just loads of musical numbers. This one is no different. Carole was cast next in Secret Service Investigator, a very, very low-budget crime story, with Lloyd Bridges and Lynne Roberts in the leads. The dialogue is fast and so is the action, but the sets and minimal and te overall impression is crummy. Carole was finally credited in The Denver Kid, but guess what (oh yes!) it’s a Z class Allan Lane western. Don’t ask me about the plot please (as the plot is more or less irrelevant in these kind of movies) As I said about a 100 of times, actresses should ask themselves, when they come to this point, is it really worth it? It seems that Carole really was asking herself this question by now…

CaroleGallagher3She was back in the uncredited tier in Homicide for Three, a really dumb, dull movie. The ridiculous story concerns with a young couple trying to find a hotel room, and when they finally do (after hours of fruitless searching), a murder occurs in that very room. Yawning already? And the two dim wits think they can solve the murder and instead of calling the police, they start to play Nick and ora Charles… Ah, a total waste of time. Audrey Long as the female lead is endearing, but she’s far from the reason to watch it.

Blondie’s Secret is the 24th movie in the Blondie series, and it’s always the same old, same old. Only worth watching for Penny Singleton if nothing else. Carole made her swan song in Sands of Iwo Jima, a pretty good WW2 movie. John Wayne gives a very fine portrayal of a tough Sargent ruling his men with an iron fist – but battling his own demons at the same time (a portrayat that launched a hunders similar characters in movies). John Agar is less effective as the young rebel who wants to sit of his throne (Agar was never a strong actor in my book). It’s not historically nor battle correct, but it’s a powerful, moving movie that’s hard to forget. If only Carole could have appeared in more such movie,s maybe her career could have actually taken of… But sadly, this was the last we see from Carole, and she completely falls of the publicity radar from then on.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1940, Carole consoled Greg Bautzer after Lana Turner ran off with Artie Shaw (let’s not forget that Greg dated Joan Crawford at the same time…). By November, she was engaged to John Shelton – they celebrated in the Ciros nightclub and they had her mother’s approval. That turned out to be one big fat zero, as Shelton married Kathryn Grayson justa a year later (and he managed to sandwich Lupe Velez in between! Boy was that Shelton something, ey?).

In mid 1942, Carole started dating Dick Foran, the handsome red-haired actor. The relationship quickly caught fire and they became inseparable. Foran was born John Nicholas Foran on June 18, 1910, in Flemington, New Jersey, on to a distinguished family: his father, Arthur Foran, was a Republican senator from New Jersey. He attended Princeton and started his career as a radio singer in the early 1930s. He was signed by Warner Bros in 1935, and played either supportign parts in big pictures and was the resident cowboy crooner. Foran was married once before, to socialite Ruth Piper Hollingsworths, and then 1940 divorce was a messy affair constantly dragged in the newspapers. They had two children: John Michael Foran (born May 29, 1938) and Patrick Foran (born on July 22, 1939).

The couple married on January 1, 1943, in Flemington, New Jersey home of Dick’s parents, and went to live in Hollywood. Their son Sean was born on February 14, 1944. However, the marriage was turbulent and they separated in September 1944, with Carole signing the divorce papers not long after.

CaroleGallagher4Howard Hughes wasted not a moment in courting Carole even before her marriage was irrevocably over. Howard had a “thing” for recently divorce, emotionally vunerable women, and Carole was in the perfect spot for Howie back then…

In November, Carole got 200$ a month for herself and her baby boy. The couple tried reconciliation a few time during these long month, but always they ended up on the same spot they started – separation. Foran allegedly took the split extra hard, and carried a king-sized torch for Carole. They finally divorced in May 1945, after Carole testified that he humiliated her in front of other people, saying she was stupid, and that he struck her once during an argument. By the time the final divorce decree was given, Carole was dating another screen cowboy, Craig Lawrence. She also had a fling with Willis Hunt Jr, handsome playboy married in the past to Carole Landis. Dick went on to marry once more, to Susanne Rosser in 1951, and had another son, Thomas Foran on December 11, 1968. He died on August 10, 1979 in Panorama City, California.

Carole married her second husband Jimmie Ferrrara on November 27, 1946. Ferrara was born on May 11, 1920, in New ork City to Soloadose Ferrara and Laura Settimo. He worked as a bit actor in Hollywood, appearing opposite some major stars – Humphey Bogart, Roy Rogers, Bill Elliot, although I can’t find him IMDB page. He dated Rita Hayworth for a while and they remained friends afterwards, and Rita even once snuck a bottle of bourbon into his jail cell after he got thrown in the brig for hitting an officer. He was also on friendly terms with Jane Russell. He was already married once before, to chorine Kathleen Corrinne Cartmill, in 1942, whom he divorced in 1944 or 1945.

With Jimmie’s approval, Carole tried to revive her career, but she never managed to make a role of any importance. Jimmie and Carole divorced in the early 1950s, and he married Margaret May Bartlett in 1954. His last marriage was to Delma Lee Collier in 1981. He was murdered on September 19, 1985 in Nevada – his wife, unhappy in their marriage, asked her lover, Rick Kosterow, and his friend, Donald White, to help her kill her husband. They ambushed Jimmie (after he came home from a vacation in Nevada) and shot him four times in the upper torso and face. The case was left unsolved for 22 years until 2006, when all three were trialed and sentenced. Delma Lee Troy (who remarried in the meantime) died in prison in 2015.

Carole married her third husband, ? McQuillan, in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about the marriage, nor who the mysterious Mr. McQuillan was. The divorced sometime before 1964.

Carole married Leroy Vincent McPeek on October 11, 1964, in Nevada. McPeek was born on April 24, 1914 in Stanley, South Dakota to Clarence McPeek and Margaret Collins. He served his country in WW2.

Carole McPeek died on February 24, 1966 in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Leroy McPeek died on May 21, 1967 in Lompoc, Los Angeles, California.

 

Cindy Garner

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Publicized as the only newspaper gal who ever hit Hollywood, Cindy Garner hoped to become a mix of Lois Lane and Joan Crawford – but she was neither a top newspaper reporter during her brief writing career, nor did she ever become a great and respected actress. Yet, her story is an interesting one, very telling of how actresses tried to reinvent themselves to get to the top. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t, but it always makes for some good reading.

EARLY LIFE

Elizabeth Dorothy Garner was born December 21, 1924, in High Point, North Carolina, to Douglas “Duff” and Eula Garner. Her older brothers were Neallei “Neal” Harrison, born on October 1, 1918, and Joel Martin, born on Mach 21, 1921. She attended elementary school in Robbins, where she got her first taste of acting – she appeared as a buttercup in the school play. She was bitten and there was no way back, but other things beckoned first.

Soon, her family moved to High Point, a bigger city, which gave Cindy more chance of developing her talents. She attended high school in High Point (sounds kinda poetic, doesn’t it?). Her first real claim to fame (at least locally) came when she wrote a play that was later staged by the senior class of the school. Why didn’t she act in it? In fact, Cindy’s mind wasn’t on acting that much back then – it was on writing.

Namely, Cindy, aged only 16, started writing a column for High Point Beacon, the weekly paper, named “Personality Parade”. Ambitious and ready for more, she met a impressario via one of her colleagues from High Point Beacon, and he persuaded her to try her hand at Hollywood. She decided to leave her small town to make good in movies. Not long after, she married a soldier stationed in California and went to Los Angeles with him in 1943. She started from the bottom, doing menial work until her big break came.

Cindy worked as a cigarette girl at the Hollywood hotspot Ciro. Afterwards she would recall how she was once tipped 20$ for a 1$ cigar by Hollywood legend George Jessel. It was during her tenure here that a talent scout saw her and arranged for a screen test. She started acting in 1944 as a Goldwyn girl.

CAREER

Cindy signed with Samuel Goldwyn, the collector of beautiful women who seldomly catapulted to stardom (of literary hundreds of girls who became Goldwyn girls, about 10 of them managed a more substantial career – I plan to profile more of them, so watch out).

CindyGarner2Her first movie was Up in Arms, and as I already wrote countless of times, I’m not going to waste any more words on it. She again played a showgirl in Show Business, a pastiche of vaudeville numbers one after another, with no plot to speak of. Fans of Eddie Cantor could like it, but it’s not a movie worth bragging about. Cindy finally landed in a more worthwhile movie with Since You Went Away, the classic family in wartime film. The brain child of David Selznick, its best known today for its august cast – Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley and so on. Showing the daily life of families left behind during WW2, it’s sincere, well acted and written – if it is a bit syrupy on the edges, remember that it was made during the war, and people needed their Mrs. Minivers and other light-beats-the-dark characters very, very much. This is classic Hollywood at it’s best – it’s not a superbly inspired, artistic movie, but it’s perfectly made for the source material and does it’s job more than admirably.

CindyGarner4Cindy was out of musicals and into serious movie fare now. She appeared in You Came Along, a pretty good romance movie. The cast is a mixed bag – Robert Cummings, Dom DeFore, Lizabeth Scott – but they pull it off nicely and we have a pretty mature, not too sugary romance set during WW2. This time it’s not the domestic life but rather the aviation world. This was followed by A Scandal in Paris, one of the early Douglas Sirk movies. Headed by the king of wit and irony, George Sanders, it boasts a mid level cast (Carole Landis, Signe Hasso, Akim Tamiroff) but the main selling points are George himself and the witty, sparkling script laden with no many innuendos and moral ambiguity it was impossible for any censor of average intelligence to actually make out what is happened between the scenes and try to “trim” it. The result is a flawed but very amusing romp about the rise (and rise!) of a criminal mastermind – he becomes the chief of police! – and the very nature of morals and ethics. Sirk is a very European director, despite all of his later day US melodramas, and it’s nowhere as obvious as here. Cindy’s last movie under her contract was Till the End of Time – another movie dealing with the GIs-return-home scenario. While Since you went away was a general crowd pleaser (but very well made) – this ia a more subversive, less “sugary” movie, with a realistic plot and very complex characters. Yet, where Since you went away had a first class cast – here we have actors like Guy Madison, who, while a pretty boy by all standards, was a mediocre actor at his best. Luckily, we have Robert Mitchum and Dorothy McGuire to make it up for his shortcomings.

CindyGarner3After her career soured in 1946, Cindy took up modeling and became a fixture in the Los Angeles modeling scene, all the time hoping for another try at movies. She appeared in magazines like Esquire, Hit, Modern Romance, Modern Screen and so on. Also she allegedly appeared in productions staged for soldiers at army bases, sharpening her acting skills.

The patience paid off – after five years off the screen, she was again given the chance to act – Universal International signed her for a seven year contract in 1951. Her biography was slightly modified – hoping the public had short memory (and it does!), they claimed she had been in Los Angeles for just two years, doing modeling work, managing to neglect the fact that she was a Goldwyn girl once and that she has some movie experience. Not to mention her marital state (this was carefully hidden from the press, as they liked them young and unmarried back then)!

Her first UI movie appearance was in Week-End with Father, a cozy, simple family movie about two widowers with children who meet while going camping. Guess how it ends. Good cast is headed by Patricia Neal and Van Helfin. This is a kind of likable movie with no big depth that most of us probably enjoy to watch on occasion, and the kind that it’s truly hard to stumble upon today. It really is a movie from different times – but that’s okay, the world changes and the movie industry had to change with it… Cindy appeared as a stewardess in Meet Danny Wilson, a movie as similar to Week end with Father as it is different from it. The story (a nightclub singer tries to break into the nightclub circuit, and gets mixed up with some criminals and finds love along the way) may be more hard-boiled, but it’s still a light early 1950s movie with plenty of charm and not too much depth. It’s a very good vehicle for Sinatra – he gets to sing a bucket load of songs and the character he plays is an expy of himself (don’t tell me you didn’t get it :-P). Shelley Winters, a good but abrasive actress (her autobiographies are fun to read but one can easily notice that Shirley, despite all of her talents and wit, had a huge ego…), plays his romantic interest.

CindyGarner8Her next movie was Flame of Araby is a typical desert epic Universal churned out frequently after achieving great success with his Maria Montez/Jon Hall pairings. Here we have Jeff Chandler and Maureen O’Hara, better actors than both Montez and Hall, but boy, this genre doesn’t ask for great Shakespearean actors – it asks for some nice eye candy who doesn’t look ridiculous while prodding around the desert. Chandler and O’Hara try and manage somehow – and the art direction and cinematography are wonderful, you can see they have plenty of experience in that department – but as always, the story and the overall dynamic fo the movie is lacking. All style, little substance.

Cindy finally got her credited performance in Red Ball Express, where she plays a Red Cross worker. The movie deals with behind the lines machinations in WW2 – and I have to say, I always forget that war takes a lot of logistics just as important to the war cause as hand to hand combat. Jeff Chandler is a leader of a motley crew of former truckers that supply the Allies with weapons in Europe during the height of war. The sure reason to watch this movie is however not the story but the fact that Sidney Poitier has a meaty role in it – and boy, Sidney is worth watching anywhere! The rest of the cast is plenty good with Chandler, a solid actors, of course Poitier, and Alex Nicol, Hugh O’Brian, Jack Kelly and so on. While the movie does steer towards the clichéd war movie of the 1950s, it’s still a decent effort.

Cindy’s last appearance was in a movie that debuted in cinemas after she left Hollywood, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki, one of the last in the long running series, with our favorite hillbillies in, where else? but Hawaii.

That was all from Cindy as far as Hollywood goes.

PRIVATE LIFE

Cindy was 5’4”, tipping the scales at just 100 pounds. She was renown for her fair complexion – she revealed that her secret was “washing your face with buttermilk every night before going to bed,” an old advice given to her by her mother.

CindyGarner5Cindy was married to a North Carolina soldier who was stationed in California, and she followed him there. The marriage was short-lived and they divorced before she started acting.

Cindy married to a Mr. Marshall in 1946 (I can’t find any information about the man, but he was allegedly from a showbiz family and well off). Their daughter, Cathy Jo Marshall, was born on January 25, 1948.

In 1951, she lived alone in an apartment in North Hollywood (where was her daughter??), and was active in the war effort work – she traveled to the Fairfield-Susan Airbase near San Francisco every weekend to entertain the troops. She sang a lot of standards and did skits for them. Kudos to Cindy for thinking of the servicemen more than herself – when you work hard during the week, it’s even harder not to give up and just stay at home during the weekend. Cindy was also a typical outdoor type of a girl: she excelled at swimming, tennis and bowling. She was also a decent painter, and always had a black cat in the house as a pet, proving she was not superstitious. Like most writers, she was an avid reader and collected books of verse.

When she signed with Universal International, she underwent an ambitious training programme: four days n the week she studies dramatics with coach Sophie Rosenstein, twice a week she takes ballet and tap dancing lessons, and gymnastics once a week. Hailing from North Carolina, she was a fine horsewoman, but still chose to take raiding lessons the studio gave her.

CindyGarner6A funny think happened to Cindy and fellow starlet Judith Braun when they were traveling by train to Chicago. On the train was Francis X. Bushman, noted silent film player who had fallen into obscurity since the dawn of talking movies (he played Messala in the silent version of Ben Hur – and boy, did he look good in the roman grab!), and Betty Blythe, also a popular actress back then. When the foursome descended in Chicago, they were mobbed – but not by handsome young men wanting to see Cindy and Judith, but by grannies who went wild when seeing Bushman, the idol of their youth! Boy, I wish I was there to see it… Pretty funny…

Cindy appeared quite a lot in the papers in the early 1950s, and Universal International used her extensively for touring and publicity, and sadly not too much for movies. She had a nationwide tour with Frank Van, the famous ex boxer who served as a trainer for all Universal International concractees, and later one tour with the velvet voiced crooner, Kenny Baker. In 1952, we finally find out something about her private life – she was dating Rudy Ralston. The relationship lasted for about a year.

CindyGarner7UI terminated her contract in 1952, and she made one last uncredited performance in 1955. Her marriage ended bitterly. Alone, with no job and with a daughter of support, Cindy fell on hard times and it took a toll on her psyche. By 1954, she was mentally unstable and it was decided that she and Cathy Jo would go back to North Carolina – Cathy to live with relatives, and Cindy to go under the care of her mother. Unfortunately, there was little that Mrs. Garner could do for Cindy, and soon she was in and out of mental hospitals, undergoing electroshock treatments and unable to work. I can only imagine how difficult the those years were for Cindy, but the only answer then is to push on, keep going, and actively work to get things to roll.

Things did get better as time went by and Cindy managed to recuperate herself and continue to live normally. She married Jerry Gray in the 1960s or 1970s, and lived with him in High Point. Gray was born on February 2, 1935, making him 11 years Cindy’s junior. They divorced after 1992.

Dorothy Elizabeth Garner Gray died on January 2, 2002, in Sanford, North Carolina.

Jerry Gray died on May 22, 2004, in Trinity, North Carolina.

 

Madelon Mason

MadeonMason3

 

When I saw Madelon Mason on the cover of Yank the Army Weekly, I was intrigued. She had such a cute, gentle, girl-next-door vibe, unlike many other more “vampish” cover girls, and I had to investigate. Much like Rita Daigle, Madelon Mason never made any splashes in Hollywood, but she was a very succesful model in the 1940s, earning good bucks for her job.

EARLY LIFE

Madelon (I’m not even sure this is her birth name but let’s go with it) Samandl was born on  July 4, 1921 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Jerry Samandl and Virginia Conway. Her parents married on November 30, 1920, when Virginia was already pregnant with Madelon. Virginia, born in 1901 and just 19 years old, worked as a model before marriage. Jerry was the son of Czech immigrants. The family moved to Jerry’s native Lowell, Massachusets when she was a baby. She grew up in Lowell, and graduated from Lowell High School there.

She continued her education in Boston (have no idea what college), where she entered the world of modeling. She changed her name to the more english sounding Mason. Before long she ended up in New York, and became a top flight Harry Conover model. She shaved 6 years from her CV and presented herself as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, when in fact she was 23 years when she started modeling. However, this was no great hamper to her – due to her porcelain beauty and natural ash blonde hair, Madelon was soon in the game. She was a top model by 1945, and this propelled her to a brief visit to Hollywood. Her mother always followed her. I’m not sure if she divorced her father – but I do know that, in the meantime, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where many of his cousins lived.

CAREER

MadelonMason2Madelon is pretty slim in this regard – she only had one appearance that we know of, and a short feature at that! Dear Miss Gloria is a short comedy skit with Gloria Swanson, truly one of the most stunning divas ever to grace the silver screen (while some people just can’t take the pressure of fame and end up deeply unhappy, even dead – Gail Russell is a good example – some people thrive on it and became the most willing participants in the publicity game. Such personalities are much better suited for Hollywood than the gentle, sensitive ones – and Gloria was the woman whom Hollywood suited like a glove. When she was on top, she enjoyed it to the hilt, when the good times passed she reinvented herself. What a dame!). Sadly, the short is completely forgotten today and I have nothing to say about it. Better luck next time!

Her newspaper bio from the early 1950s state that she appeared in numerous TV shows, but I couldn’t find any credits, so there’s kaput again.

PRIVATE LIFE

MadelonMason1In her prime, Madelon was 5’6” tall and weighted 115 pounds. Madelon gave some useful advice to her readers:

“Make your bath a daily beauty treatment” suggests lovely model Madelon Mason. “Time spent in the tub can be made to serve a double purpose – cleansing and toning up – if you follow the bathroom routine of this model. After a day packed with appointments Madelon comes home, removed her make up, smears a coat of nourishing night cream and slips into a tub of ward water with a handful of lavender scented meal dissolved in it.

While she leans back in the tub and relaxes, the meal gently loosens minute articles of rough skin, leaving it soft and smooth when the briskly towels herself dry. Meanwhile, the cream is eradicating any drying effect the weather may have had on the skin.

With the stiff nail brush, Madelon scrubs her feet thoroughly, using lots of soap. The friction restored her circulation to normal, and the soap softens any rough patches of skin on the soles of her feet – thus preventing callouses and corns. Also, as an aid to circulation,she scrubs her back the entire length of her spine. A cool rinse, a sparkling of talcum, and she’s ready for an evening of fun!

In December 1945, Madelon was THE cover girl of the moment. She appeared on the covers of such prestigious magazines like Life, Yank, Seventeen and so on. Harry Conover called her “the wholesome, refreshing type of girlwho looks, just like the girl next door or down the street, but perhaps a little prettier. So she seems like an old friend to the boys whether they on the cover of a candy box, a magazne of a refrigerator ad”. He continued: “Madelon uses very little make up, doesn’t smoke or drink and doesn’t like nightclubs.”

MadelonMasonNewspaperTruly, Madelon was a homegirl, living with her mother in Manhattan, avoiding nightclubs and making very good money of her looks. She earned about 400$ a week during the height of her fame, much better than alternative jobs offered to women in showbiz – being a minor actress, or being a showgirl.  In 1951, she was named one of the overall beauties of the decade, along with such luminaries like Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Mayo, Blanche Thebom and Faye Emerson (while Rhonda and Virginia were incredibly beautiful women, I never found Faye to be a stunner – she was a woman with great personality and talent more than a looker, but to each his own).

While much of the publicity in the 1940s and 1950s was make-believe, Madelon truly was an earthy, calm person who never made any newspaper fodder. Her love life was a completely mystery to the public until she married her first and only husband, Frank Foster in late 1956. Frank worked in the lobster-shirt (a popular name for the shift that covers the late evening and early morning hours) of some newspaper (they just called it News – maybe New York news or something similar?). Madelon gave up modeling work to dedicate herself to family life. Sadly, I couldn’t find any information about who Frank really was, or did they have any children.

Madelon Foster died on September 14, 2011, in New York City, New York.

 

 

PS: Happy new year!! All the best in 2016!!!

NewYear

Rita Daigle

RitaDaigle

I’m gonna finish the year and begin a new one with two model-turn-actresses with almost no credits! Ha!

Vivacious, exuberant and pert, Rita Daigle caught my eye due to her cover on the Yank Army Weeky Magazine. As many fans of classic movies know, quite a number of wonderful actresses graced that cover and I had no idea who Rita was so I decided to investigate. Sadly, I came to the conclusion that Rita did not have a movie career – not that she didn’t try, she even signed a contract at some point – but she had a highly lucrative modeling career. Let’s learn more about Rita.

EARLY LIFE

Rita Daigle was born on July 31, 1927 in New York City, to Raymond and Alice Daigle. Her father, who worked as an assistant manager in a hotel, was born in Massachusetts. Her mother was French-Canadian, a housewife. She was their only child.

The family lived in Manhattan with a lodger in 1930. Rita attended high school in New York and developed an interest in modeling from an early age, picking this vocation as her road to fame and riches.

Rita signed with the Walter Thorton Agency, a premier modeling agency of the time, on par with Conover and John Power Agencies. She was only 16 when she started doing the modeling rounds. Her claim to fame was being crowned Miss Stardust in 1944, beating more than 3000 other pretty hopefuls for the title. This was followed closely by being Queen of New York’s Press Photographers Ball. Riding on a wave of high publicity, she was signed to a movie career in 1945.

CAREER

RitaDaigle4Let me tell you right of the bat – I haven’t got any credits on Rita. She doesn’t have a page on IMDB, but I know that, unless the papers outright lied about it, Rita signed a contract with Paramount pictures in April 1945. There is a good chance that she, like many young and pretty starlets, never made a movie during their contract period. Also, it’s worth noting that her modeling career was much more lucrative than signing a contract as a starlet. If I were Rita, I would have chosen to return to New Yotk. Anyway, Rita really went back to New York and married by the end fo the year, thus ending any chance of working in Hollywood for the long run (her husband absolutely refused to work on the West coast, and her modeling momentum was slowly melting away).

Later, after her divorce, in about 1952, the papers called her an “actress”, but I couldn’t find any credits from this time (unless she changed her name) so it’s kaput again.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1944, when the 17-year-old Rita hit the papers, they claimed she was a native of Lowell Massachusetts (not quite right), that she was 19 years old (not quite right), and that she was the sweetheart of Liutenant Emile Bouchard, serving somewhere in England at the time. I guess the part about Bouchard was true, but their relationship ended not long after.

Rita married singer Jimmy Saunders in New York in December 1945. Saunders was born as Vincent LaSpada on June 9, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He came from a large Italian-American family – the son of Fillipo and Lillian LaSpada, his father was a baker who owned a bakery on the 9th and Cross Street. He had seven sisters (Lucy, Rose, May, Grace, Helen, Carmel, Angelina).

RitaDaigle2In 1945, Jimmy was in top form, and so was Rita. For instance, in 1946, Rita was crowned Miss Rheingold, a great honour for any model in the 1940s (the very first Miss Rheingold, Jinx Falkenburg, was the only one that had any kind of a acting career). That year, she made about 45, 000$ from her modeling work, making her a pretty well paid woman for that time! Rita appeared in Yank the Army Weekly, Cosmopolian and Vogue (among others). She was nicknamed La Daigle, and played pretty coy with the papers, admitting her father was a innkeeper and refused to say what inn – she also admitted that she rarely drank beer (despite being Miss Rheingold). It was also noted that she met Jimmy while dancing at Pops’ hotel. Cute! Now more about Jimmy’s career. As his obituary on Philly.com notes, he was a popular big band singer of the time:

Jimmy Saunders, also known as Sonny Saunders and for a time as Marco Polo, sang with the bands of Harry James, Eddie Duchin, Ray Bloch, Sonny Kendis and Charlie Spivak. He co-wrote “Peach Tree Street” with Frank Sinatra and recorded such hits as “There Must Be a Way,” “Santa Lucia,” “You Belomg to My Heart,” “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “You Are Too Beautiful.” He also was a featured vocalist on the “Lucky Strike Hit Parade” show.

Aside for their highly succesful careers, the LaSpadas had two children, two daughter, together: Diane LaSpada (born on April 15, 1947) and Linda LaSpada (born on December 9, 1948).

However, things in showbiz turn fast. One day a king, the next a pauper. Rita’s career, in a time when models lasted until they were 25, was hampered not only by her age but also by her wish to take care of her children. So, her modeling career was effectively over by 1950. Due to the sharp decline in popularity of big bands, so was Jimmy’s.

RitaDaigle5The tensions over their failed careers led to the demise of their marriage in 1951. Yet, during the court proceedings more dirty laundry made it’s way to the public. For instance, an article claimed that Saunders filed court papers asking a judge for help “ridding his household of a mother-in-law and a gossipy aunt.”

Rita officially divorced Saunders in 1952 – Jimmy never remarried. Rita marched on. There were rumors she might marry James Cecil when her Florida divorce came through. Nothing doing.

RitaDaigle3Rita married Raymond J. McGrover, probably in the 1950s. McGrover was born on December 9, 1905, in New York, making his a whole lot older than Rita. While unlike in age with Rita, like her he spent his entire life in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact. He became a noted lawyer and devoted much energy to his favorite pastime, bridge. He married Billie McGrover in 1930, and they had a child. Both Raymond and his wife were passionate bridge players, probably the best in Brooklyn, often winning tournaments. I found that very cute – they had a strong shared interest that probably got them together in the first place. However, they divorced in 1939 in Reno, and Mrs. McGrover charged Raymond with a very non descriptive “cruelty”. McGrover lived alone from then on in Brooklyn. In the 1946-1947 period, he was a member of the steering committee that very much reorganized the American Contact Bridge League.

Rita Daigle McGrover died on February 9 or 10, 1974, at the young age of 46, from cancer. She died in the city of her birth, New York. McGrover died there in November 1974.

Her former husband, Jimmy Saunders, died in 1990.

 

 

Barbara Moffett

BarbaraMoffett9

Barbara Moffett, younger sister of the much better known Lili St. Cyr, was a stunningly beautiful woman whose expert riding skills landed her a brief flash of Hollywood publicity, a roles in a few movies, and that was it. Her movie career faltered, she continued dancing, then got married to a wealthy man and had five children. Sounds perfect? It did to me too, when I first started reading about it. But, behind the surface… Let me spoil it for you, but the story of Barbara Moffett is a tragic story. Most actresses I profile on this blog had (more or less) normal lives and most died past the age of 60. Barbara was just 60 years old when she died and her story is tragic. It’s a perfect example of what happens when a nice, meek and gentle girl ends up with the wrong man. While I am the first to sympathise with classic actresses and I certainly feel sorry for what happened to her (as you’ll see), I have to say that people must take responsibility for their actions and that most people in unhappy situations are there because they chose to (of course, there are those who truly are victims of circumstances, but we don’t need to go there for the sake of this post, perhaps some other time), so it’s much Barbara’s fault as it is her husbands. When you read stories like this, you understand why Margaret Mitchell, in her masterpiece Gone with the wind, so vehemently despised and criticized the role of a genteel southern belle. That trope just breeds women like Barbara – incredibly sweet, feminine, good-natured – but so fragile and delicate they are unable to live on their own, easily broken by either life or other people. If such a woman is able to find a man who will treat her like a flower and help her bloom – the world would be a much better place. Sadly, this does not happen every time. It did not happen to Barbara, and you’ll see where it got her.

EARLY LIFE

Idella Ruth Blackadder was born on April 11, 1924, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Idella Marian Klarquist and John Alfred “Ian” Blackadder. Her father was born in Scotland to a noble but impoverished family, immigrated to Canada when he was 19 years old and came to the US via Minneapolis. Her mother Idella was married twice before. Her first husband was Edward Van Shaack, South Dakota born traveling salesman. They had a daughter, Marie Frances (she later added Willis to her birth name, but it’s probably just a publicity stunt), born on June 3, 1917, known in the future as the burlesque legend Lili St. Cyr. Edward enlisted int he Army not long after and Idella divorced him. She was quick to remarry in 1919, to Lois Sherman Cornett Jr. However, she never revealed to anyone she was wed once before, opting to tell Lili her grandmother, Maud, was her mother. Too young and inexperienced, she felt she was not ready to bring a child into her second marriage.  She wanted a fresh start, sure that Maud could take great care of Marie. Wrong or not, life went on. The Cornetts had two children: daughter Bettaleee, born the same year, and son Louis “Jack” Cornett born in 1921. The Cornetts moved to Louisiana and then to Texas, but divorced in 1922. The Blackadders married the next year, on May 5.

Her younger sister, Rosemary, was born on August 19, 1925. She would become another burlesque star, Dandy Orlandoa and marry famous impressario Harold Minsky. Colorful family for sure! They lived in Minneapolis until 1927, where Ian worked in the linseed oil industry, then moved to Pasadena, where he worked as a garage mechanic. Unable to pay the rent and support his large family, Ian moved them to a less costly Eagle Rock. There Marie visited the family almost daily, and soon became a teacher to both Idella and Rosemary.

Idella inherited her love for horses from her father, whose father was an expert equestrian back in Scotland. He was instrumental in shielding the girls from household chores but pushing them toward being fearless horsewoman. Ian saved a large number of horses from the local glue factory, and “adopted” them despite a total lack of funds to keep them. Unable to buy a saddle, Idella learned to ride bareback, and became a highly accomplished rider before she hit her teen years.

Both Rosemary and Idella had a difficult relationship with their mother, who had grown bitter as a result of a life she never wanted – shackled with too many children and never enough money. Her marriage was also highly unhappy.  Interesting side note is that Barbara was considered the beauty of the family – Dardy was always second in her mothers affections, and their older sister, Bettelee, who was scarred in a traffic accident when she was a teen, was often shoved aside.

Dardy and Idella attended every rodeo they could and participated in many of them. The fact that both were six foot tall stunner, one blonde, other brunette, made them easily recognizable among the crowds. That, plus another fact, that Lili started to strip in the Florentine Gardens in Los Angeles, gave Idella the wanted boost to start dancing on the stage too. Soon, she was noticed by a talent scout and went to try her luck in Hollywood when she was just 18 years old.

CAREER

Slim pickings here, sadly. Barbara made her movie debut in Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost, one of the Mexican Spitfire series (duh!), playing  a secretary. As per usual, Lupe Velez, the Spitfire of the title, plays a secondary role – Leon Errol always steals the show with his double feature (altough he gets boring pretty fast). Perhaps the best role in the movie goes to Donald McBride, a who plays a deliciously over the top nervous man, ready to explode at any minute. The plot is moronic, involving a spooky old mansion, enemy agents and a formula for some kind of explosive device (you fill in the blanks). Not better not much worse than any other Spitfire movie, it will never endear to anyone who wants sophisticated, high-class comedy. But, it’s still far from a complete waste of time. Velez was a true “fire woman” and will not appeal to everyone, but to those she does, she’s the best of the lot.

BarbaraMoffett1Barbara then landed her only credited role, in Red River Robin Hood. Anyone who reads this blogs knows I’m almost allergic to low-budget western, and this one, almost completely forgotten, isn’t a sterling example of the genre that would make me rethink my opinion. Yet, it seems it’s not a totally bad movie either, firmy etched somewhere in the middle. The low-budget is a constant constraint, but the story actually seems level up from the usual insipid fare.

Barbara’s last film turned out to be her best – This Land Is Mine. Yep, she’s uncredited in this one, but it’s a very good anti-war movie, one of the best to come out of Hollywood at that time, with a superb cast – Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak and so on. It tells a story of a gentle school teacher who has to choose sides when the war comes into his peaceful village. Yes, it’s easier to remain on the sidelines, not fighting but watching, but Laughton soon comes to understand the old proverb “If you don’t involve yourself with politics, politics will involve herself with you”. Directed by Jean Renoir, one of the best directors ever to grace the seventh art, it’s an elegant, melancholy movie, perfectly made for the message it wants to send. Highly recommended!

Barbara returned to the nightclub racket after her movie career failed. She would retire from that career five years later, in 1947, upon her marriage to Louis Marx.

PRIVATE LIFE

Barbara was fairly publicised in the papers during her heyday in 1942, and her cowgirl image was especially put in emphasis. Compared to the great cowgirls of yesterday like Ruth Roland and Pearl White, she, along with Joan Barclay and Ann Summers were lionized as true successors of male western stars, most of whom were drafted for WW2. Of the three girls, only Joan Barclay had any success to speak of – but even she is but a footnote in Hollywood history today, known only to hard-code low-budget western fans.

BarbaraMoffett8In 1940, when she started her carer in earnest, she was seen around with Franchot Tone, who seemed to date every pretty girl in Hollywood (I think that almost half of the girls I profiled on this blog dated him at one time or another…). Of course, it never grew into a serious relationship…

In 1941, she caught the eye of Forest Tucker, who send her flowers. However, Tucker did the same with her fellow chorine Nancy Hale, and their relationship was quickly terminated. John Carroll came next. In late 1942, Barbara almost married the wealthy young Jay Gould, who would end up as the husband of the alluring songstress, Elena Romay. In 1942, the appears reported that Barbara was married to a Los Angeles businessman, but I found no records of such a union so I’ll have to go with the fact that the papers lied a great deal back then (and today?).

In 1944 she got mixed up with Errol Flynn for a brief time, and then he moved on (Errol never stayed ont he same place for too long, not even with his wives!) to Corky la Feuch, a Texas beauty queen, and she took up with famed wrestler, then a Lieutenant in the US army, Bob Gregory.  The affair lasted for some time, But Bob was hardly the only one interested in Barbara. She was also heavily involved with Harry Crocker, a dashing New York based millionaire.

Another admirer was Count Alfred de Marigny, a noted dissolute European noble who figured prominently in the Sir Harry Oakes murder (remember, it’s the major scandal in the Bahamas while Edward, Duke of Windsor was the governor. Check it on Google if you want to find out more). He allegedly wanted to come to the US just to be with her. Who know is it even remotely true, but it sound kinda mysterious and dangerous, right?

Then, in 1944, Barbara met Louis Marx. and here begins the most interesting part of our story.

BarbaraMoffett6Now, something about Marx. He was born on August 11, 1896, making him almost 30 years older than Barbara. Son of a poor family, in sheer deference to his matherially slim upbringing and with tons of willpower and determination, he became a millionaire in his 20s – with the help of his brother, he opened The Louis Marx Toy Company, which became the largest toy company in the world. His first wife, Renee, was a submissive woman who died in 1944 from breast cancer. They had four children together: Louis Jr., Barbara, Patricia and Jacqueline.

Marx wanted to marry again – and set his sight on Barbara. As Barbara was such a doormat personality, Lili took over the role of a “lifestyle lawyer” for her – negotiating not only her business deals but also her relationships. She persuaded Marx to give her a job as his social secretary, and even got her a fair wage. Barbara went wholeheartedly into her new position, changing her milieu of dancers and showbiz people for high flyers Marx involved himself with – politicians, military men, eminent artists. For Marx, this was a trial period to see if Barbara can do it – for Barbara, it was a refreshing alternative career. She liked to work and even enjoyed being a social doyenne. Marx also liked to impress her with his far-reaching influence and introduced her to high living, something she never experienced before – fast cars, expensive restaurants, jaunts around the world. Barbara was easily impressed, and combine that with an overhelming desire to have a stable family – and she was under the older man’s spell.

BarbaraMoffett2After a long courtship, Marx was finally ready to web Barbara in early 1947. The decision was not an easy one – many of his friends viewed Barbara as a gold digger, and Lili herself was not thrilled with Louis, trying to dissuade her sister from dating in on a few occasions.

Barbara said yes, and plans for a big ceremony were under way. However, she had no idea of what she was entering. All the qualities that made Marx such an excellent businessman made him a difficult and often unlikable human being – egoistic, patronizing and a control freak, his greatest kick in life was being the puppet master everyone obeyed without a word. Yet, he was generous to a fault, loved his children without compare and was very devoted to his first wife. So, there is no black and white answer – Marx was a highly nuanced, grey personality. With the right woman, he could have been a great husband. But Barbara was hardly such a woman. As for Barbara herself, she must have known to some extent, what his personality was – she knew him long enough – but she wore blinkers around such a man, who promised her stability and a family – so she caved in to his ever-increasing demands.

BarbaraMoffett5Barbara married Marx on March 29, 1947 in Miami, Florida. She wore a stunning brocade dress, her matron of honour was Lili – his best man was baseball legend Hank Greenberg.  They honeymoon in Moscow, where his friend was a diplomat. When she returned home, she moved into Marx’s huge estate in Scarsdale, New York. While many must have tought – she is finally Mrs. Marx, she can relax now – quite the contrary, her troubles were just beginning!

To accommodated her demanding alpha husband, Barbara completely changed her lifestyle. Gone was Barbara Moffett, the cheerful cowgirl, and in came the perfect wife Idella Marx. She never again used Barbara as a moniker – and to finish the transformation, she completely alienated herself from her showgirl past. This created a serious rift between herself and Lili. Marx himself is as much to blame – he tried to buy Lili off, giving her money to give up on her burlesque lifestyle and have a decent career. However, unlike the mellow, easily manageable Barbara, Lili was made from sterner stuff, and no man could tame or control her, least of all not her short, balding brother-in-law. I consider this Barbara’s fault – trick me once, shame on your, trick me twice, shame on me! Giving in to his demands was her choice alone – not an easy one to make, for sure, but when he crossed the line for the first time, she chose to keep going instead of trying to remedy the situation. This is a very shortsighted tactic and always blows up at a later time, when the balloon inflates so much it has to pop.

Barbara miscarried twin daughters not long after her wedding and this caused her much grief. ultimately, the couple had five children, five sons: Spencer Bedell (born August 1949), Emmet Dwight (born November 15, 1950), Bradley Marshall (born February 6, 1952), Curtis Gruenther (born August 27, 1954) and Hunter Bernhardt (born May 30, 1959).

Barbara’s marriage ended to be a tragic and sad story. always a happy-go-lucky, simple and sweet person, unable to stand up to anyone, she was ill matched to the tyrannical Marx. He completely controlled her, not just financially but also psychically, and tried to mold her into his vision of what Mrs. Marx should have been. She was alienated from her family, without a career, drifting from one interest or hobby to another without doing anything substantial. She found only solace in her children and step children.

BarbaraMoffett4Then, something pretty bad happened in 1971. Barbara was always close to her stepdaughter Patricia, who had married to Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, a promising MIT graduate who worked in the Pentagon. It’s  a complicated story, and only somebody with full knowledge to the intricate US inner and outer policy of the time (the height of the Cold War) can understand it, so I’m not going to go into any detail (you can read more about it on Wikipedia and other numerous sites on the net), but, in a nutshell: Ellsberg, who became a anti war activist in the 1960s, leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers and was put under trial for treason. Marx, a freverent anti Communist and right-winger, was absolutely furious. He refused to talk to either Patricia or Daniel ever again. The kind-hearted Barbara, on the other hand, could not envision doing a thing so far removed from her own nature. For the first time in decades, she did something she should have done much sooner – she defied Marx when he crossed the line. She was asked to testify against Ellsberg and she refused. She quarreled with Marx constantly afterwards, and the situation did not get any better as time went by.

Deeply unhappy, Barbara embarked on a few affairs with persons unnamed. Marx found out and left her, kicking her out of the house. They did not speak for the rest of his life. Barbara was alone, penniless and absolutely devastated. She was unable to take care for herself after years of living with someone who dominated every facet of her life. She found solace in Dardy, who lived alone in California. The two decided to live together again, and both hopes the arrangement would alleviate their fallen spirits. However, Barbara’s mental state only detoriated as the months passed. She spent her days crying in bed, unable to function like a normal human being. Dardy, sick from worry, finally persuaded her to visit a doctor. She was diagnosed as a maniac depressive and given shock treatment. On a sad side note, Barbara’s dad, Ian, also suffered from the same disease and killed himself in 1977.

BarbaraMoffett3However, the vicious circle only continued. Barbara would get a new drug, get electro shock treatment, get better for a month and then things would revert to the old hopeless state. Then another round od drugs and treatments, and so on. I can imagine how Dardy felt – she was the most resilient, realistic of the sisters and must have found the situation absolutely heartbreaking – her sister was wasting away, and there was nothing anyone could do to help her. Barbara’s children came to visit her sometimes, but Dardy found them to be a dissolute bunch, unworthy of having such a wonderful mother. It seems that all the years of mental abuse had caught up with Barbara, and she did not have the willpower nor the strength to move on.

The sad story reached its conclusion on March 25, 1986, when Barbara shot herself in the head with a revolver. It was a last desperate cry of a woman who didn’t know how to continue living. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered into the ocean. Marx had died in 1982, a lonely old man, after he was forced to sell his company in 1976 due to declining business profits.

Sadly, two of Barbara’s sons are dead today: Bradley died in 2002 and Emmett in 2015. Lili St. Cyr died on January 29, 1999. Dardy is still live and kicking, a true survivor of the family.

PS: Most of the info comes from the superb book on Lili St. Cyr, named Goddess of love incarnate, by Leslie Zemeckis. You can find more information about the book here

Kay Sutton

Kaysutton1

This is going to be a bit longer than usual… What to say about Kay Sutton? Let’s take the indirect route. Women in Hollywood are a great indicator of the prevalent mind-set of the time, with regards to women and work. I understand that a large number of women who landed in Tinsel Town in the 1930s actually wanted to either get married well or simply to have fun. There is nothing wrong about this – to each his own, and it’s almost moronic and incredibly naive to think that only die-hard artists went to Hollywood to make art. Yet, what often irks me is when a woman openly declares she does it “for the art”, enjoys acting, that’s it’s more than a meal ticket for her – and then puff, two months later, and she is married and retired. The culture of blatantly lying to the press and using it as a tool for more popularity is nothing new in Hollywood – it’s been around from the very start, in fact. I am very ambivalent about Kay in this regard. She was an above average beauty, even for high Hollywood standards. She seemed like the sort who decided to act because she really liked it and wanted to carve her way in the field, which is great. Then she got married, left movies, divorced and returned to movies.

Okay, so she may have wrongly estimated her former husband, may have been dismayed by the reality of marriage and after getting burned, returned to work. Nothing to chide her about, its normal human behaviour to learn and change your plans as you go. During this time, she lamented in the press how she wants to have a career and that movies and marriage don’t mix. Okay, this makes perfect sense for sure, as a number of top actresses were never married for this very reason. BUT, after a few short years, she gets married and puff puff, she’s off again (this time for good)! Who is she kidding here? Why all the laments then when you were ready to throw it all away at the very mention of repeated matrimony?

The fact is, perhaps I am too harsh at the girl – if you watch her movies, it’s clear she was not a talented actress and had little to recommend herself except her beauty. It was a very big dilemma if she could have even survived in Tinsel Town for a long time. Then again, if she wanted to be a serious actress, why didn’t she work on it, why didn’t she take lessons? Oh, I give up! At least I think she did well for herself, all things accounted for…

EARLY LIFE

Katherine Warburton Sutton was born on June 14, 1915, in Irvington, New Yersey, to and William Warburton Sutton and Katherine Rutan Neumann. Both of her parents were from well off, higher middle class families. Sadly, the divorced when she was very young.

When she was about 4 years old, she was sent to live with her maternal grandmother in New York, where she attended elementary and high school. Due to her vivacious nature she was nicknamed Sunny. Kay planned to be a newspaper woman and studies journalism, but was pushed into acting by friend who tough she was just the right type for Tinsel Town. Kay liked the idea, and, determined to succeed at it, she went to Hollywood in the early 1930s.

CARRER

Kay started her career getting uncredited bit parts in a string of well-known movies: first Roberta, the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (with Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott as the other romantic couple – and yes, it works), then the very good Jean Harlow vechicle Reckless,bland and forgettable musical Old Man RhythmRogers/Astaire movie (without Irene Dunne) Follow the Fleet, and ending it with the superb A Star Is Born (gotta love Frederic March!!). It seemed that Kay was on a very good path to some semblance of stardom.However, she retired to marry cameraman Edward Cronjager. The retirement was of short duration, and she returned to movies in late 1937, and by early 1938 was working in  her full capacity.

Night Spot is a pedestrian RKO one hour feature, about the night club racket, with Joan Woodbury and Allen Lane in the leads. Nothing to write home about. This Marriage Business was no better, another RKO quickie. It’s about a judge that had a spotless marriage registrar record – none of the people he married ever divorced.Throw in corrupt city mobsters and a budding young newspaper man, and you’ve got a hot mess. At least the underrated Victor Moore gets his time and place to be funny (something he was very good at).

KySutton2Kay was cast in a better movie when she appeared in Vivacious Lady, is an aptly named comedy, well written, well-directed and well acted. The storyline is simple (a college professor marries a chorus girl on a whim and later has difficulties admitting it to his parents) but you do’t need much more when you’ve god James Stewart and Ginger Rogers in the leads. They don’t make them like this anymore, it’s a true non complex movie with no big pretensions and lots of soul.

The Saint in New York was Kay’s first starring role. It’s the first of the Saint movies made by RKO in the 1930s and 1940s. Louis Hayward plays the hero – or the anti hero to be precise. We all know that with the establishing of the production code, much of the freedom of scriptwriters of Hollywood simply went out of the window. Movies often became predictable and insipid. However, a well versed writer and director could show, or hint, things that could not be said or shown on the screen. While this is not a movie of subtlety, Templar is a surprisingly dark hero, not averse to using less than noble ways to achieve his goals. While he is basically trying to do a good thing –  rid New York of a band of hard-core mobsters – the way he does it makes him no better than the guys he hunts down. He plots and kills mercilessly. I have to say, I was surprised by this, and it’s a nice surprise more than anything else. To see a hero fighting crime – a hero who is not your typical boy next door, a hard-boiled cop or a graceless mobster – perfect! Hayward is superb in the role. I have a soft spot for the guy – he’s an incredible mixture of elegance and menace. Sadly, it is more than visible here that our Kay, despite all her beauty, was not a great actress. She was okay, but had neither the charisma nor the acting skill to get on top. But all in one, to say about the movie: Recommended!

KAySutton10Kay had an uncredited bit in Having Wonderful Time, a cute, fluffy but plot thin comedy with Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks. Kay played a prominent role in I’m from the City, a Joe Penner low-budget comedy. If you like the Three Stooges, it’s a good comedy. If you don’t like them, it’s nothing more than an idiotic movie. Well, to each his own! Kay continued playing supporting roles. She was in Smashing the Rackets, a pretty decent movie about corruption in the district attorney’s office with Chester Morris in the lead and with the ever suave Bruce Cabot (in one of his better roles) as the bad guy.

A good thing of being a contractee of RKO’s in the late 1930s was the chance to appear in one of the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movies. While not her first Astaire/Rogers movie, Kay had the honour of appearing in Carefree. What can I say, it’s a Rogers/Astaire musical, and we all know what that means. It’s a big plus of Kay’s filmography if nothing else. She continued to appear with prestigious stars – in The Mad Miss Manton she plays opposite Barbara Stanwyck, one of the best actresses ever to grace Hollywood. It’s a madcap and sharply written comedy, nothing more, nothing less.

Then, came the moment I dread to see in any actresses career – the moment she ventured into low budget western territory. When the horse is billed about you, you know it’s time to go! Kay’s foray into the wonderful world was Lawless Valley, opposite George O’Brien. The less I say about these movies the better, most fo you already know I’m far from being a fan of the genre. Beauty for the Asking is one fo the “serious Lucille Ball movies”, where Lucille was miles apart from the scatter brained housewife everybody came to live during the 1950s. The plot, while predictable, deals with a topic close to my own heart – a woman trying to do good in business in the 1930s. It’s inspirational stuff if nothing else, and there’s also Frieda Inescort, one of the most royal and regal actresses ever to grace the screen. Twelve Crowded Hours is a typical B plot boiler fo the time, with Richard Dix in lead, as a newspaperman trying to avenge a killed co-worker. Of course he was killed by a heartless mobster, and Dix goes on an tries to steal from the mobster and then he… Blah blah blah blah. You get the picture.

KaySutton3Not long after Kay appeared in her fourth Roger/Astaire movie, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. She played the lead feminine role in S.O.S. Tidal Wave, what is probably a bad movie (listen to the plot, as one reviewer wrote in IMDB – The plot was pretty thin but still memorable for me. Suppose the mob wants to spoil the election and arranges for every station in town to play a live documentary or newscast about the tidal wave hitting New York. Everyone would be glued to the TV box and forget to go vote. Thus the ward bosses get out to vote against the mayor, district attorney? Whoever. Somebody with some alertness realized that a building which had gone down was still transmitting stock news on the ticker. Whoa, call New York, confirm,get the voters out.) Yeah, imagine, they made a movie out of it! No comment!

Kay was again uncredited in Call a Messenger, a minor movie about a reformed youth. She was credited in The Man from Montreal, but it’s another insipid potboiler. Finally something better came her way with Balalaika, a nicely done Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey musical. Nelson is a wooden actor, no doubt about that, but Ilona is a passionate woman and pretty good in her role. The director, set design and cinematography are all first class.

Kay appeared in The Man Who Talked Too Much, a movie version of the well known play Mouthpiece (about a district attorney who sends the wrong man to jail, becomes an alcoholic because of it, and then tries to turn his life around), but her scenes were later all deleted. The movie was later remade with Edward G. Robinson, and that movie, Illegal,is much better known. Kay was billed in Laughing at Danger, but the movie is almost considered lost and I have nothing to write about it.

Sky Murder was the last of the Nick Carter, Detective movies, and a pretty good one at that. Walter Pidgeon was superb as Nick, and had one of the best sidekicks in the business, played by Donald Meek. Next came Li’l Abner, a movie based on comic by Al Capp, about the citizen of Dogpatch. Yep, you have three guesses to try and nail down Dogpatch on the map :-) The later version, from the 1960s, is better known, and this one made no impact on anyone involved. Scratch and let’s move on.

Kay played a miniscule role in The Bank Dick, one of W.C. Field’s best (and best known) movies. Then came A Night at Earl Carroll’s, a movie with a truly moronic plot (mobsters trying top make Earl Carroll look bad so he’ll go bankrupt?) but lots of showgirls (what else can you expect from a movie with Earl Carrol in the name?). Maisie Was a Lady is the third in the ten movies about brassy showgirl Maisie Revier, played to perfection by Ann Sothern (she truly was the right type of actress for the role). The story is pure fluff, but the supports are wonderful, including Lew Ayres and the extremely sweet Maureen O’Sullivan.

KaySutton9You’re Out of Luck was the movie where Kay finally played another female lead. It’s one of the bunch of movies Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland made, always playing best friend who get mixed up in all the wrong stuff. While not high art, there actually decent efforts and worth watching. The Trial of Mary Dugan is a little seen, almost forgotten remake of the better known Norma Shearer movie. Mary is played by Laraine Day, an actress I highly admire, but this one hasn’t got any good notices so scrap. Kay continued her string of uncredited performances with Sunny – it’s is a charming musical that gets totally bogged down by an absence of any coherent plot. Poor circus girl falls in love with a wealthy young man but his family disapproves… With a happy ending of course… Things just starts to drag and go nowhere and that’s about it. It is one of the few movies that British superstar Anna Neagle made in the US, so at least it’s not a complete no name movie…

Sergeant York  is a well known movie, one of the most famous ones Kay appeared in. Her role is uncredited, but hey, at least she was in the same movie as Gary Cooper! Kay ended her RKO contract with Flying Blind, a dismal effort at best. With a stupid story (spies from nowhere steal a plane and crash land it in the jungle, and out heroes have to survive all that, imagine!), below average acting and generally dull pacing, it’s, quite frankly, a bad movie. There are worse to be sure, but also much, much better.

In 1941, Kay married her second husband, moved to Hawaii with him and left movies for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Kay was 5’6” tall, weighted 120 pounds, had to do sports to maintain her figure and was a book lover.

Kay entered the scene in 1935. In August 1935, it was announced she would marry Ed Conjager, Hollywood cameraman, in September. She promised she would leave the screen after the marriage.

Kay married Edward Conjager on September 16, 1935, in Los Angeles. They went on a honeymoon the next day. Edward was born on March 21, 1904, in New York City, to Charles Cronjager and Mary Kenney. He worked as a cinematographer in Hollywood from 1925.

KaySutton4IMDB claims their marriage lasted for just two days, but this is not true for sure. Kay and Ed stayed married for almost two years, separating in May 1937 and divorcing in August 1937. Kay lamented to the newspapers “what’s the use of having a husband when you never see him” and blamed their career on keeping them apart. She then claimed that a woman cannot have a husband and a career, and that she would much rather take her career over matrimony. She won her divorce by saying that Edward called her a “lousy housewife”. Kay resumed her career after the divorce.

Cronjager went on to marry starlet Yvette Bentley in August 1942. His only child, Loretta Arele, was born on November 25, 1950. Sadly, Edward died on June 15, 1960 in Hollywood.

Kay wasted no time in finding a new beau. She dated Walter Kane, Howard Hughes right hand man, in August 1937, even before her marriage was officially terminated. They lasted until late in the year.

Kay started 1938 by dating Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a good catch on all accounts (except the looks maybe). But we all know that Al dated al the actresses, but in the end married only girls his own class (he married Manuela Hudson, a West Coast socialite, not long after)! I hope the actresses he dated knew they (probably) never had a chance. In November 1938, she was dating Joseph Hoenig, an investment broker. In early 1941, she dated Vic Orsatti (I repeat – who didn’t date Vic at that time and place?). Unusual for Orsatti, they lasted for a couple of months. She also revealed to the papers that she wore a round medallion of chased antique gold set with diamonds and rubies, suspended with an intricate golden chain.

In January 1941, she was seen with Carlos Barbe, noted Uruguay diplomat, then serving as a vice consul. Then, in March 1941, it was back to Vanderbilt, who was married at that time but separated from his wife Manuela. In April 1941, Kay was named the most beautiful brunette in Hollywood, beating the likes of Dolores Del Rio, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh and Joan Bennett, among others. Wally Westmore, the leading make up artist in Paramount, told the press how Kay combines a classically beautiful face with stunning body proportions and wonderful coloring. Kay sure was beautiful but can’t match, by along shot, the popularity of other brunette actresses mentioned here. In May 1941, she was dating Gene Markey the scriptwriter who married a string of stunning brunette actresses – Hedy Lamarr, Joan Bennett, Myrna Loy. Now tell me that Kay wasn’t his type!

KaySutton6By June she was dating Townsed Netcher, the department stone tycoon, and by July he was replaced by Nils Ashter, the handsome Danish silent movie star. The papers were at it, just how hot hot they were. Then, Kay surprised everybody by marrying Clifton Stokes Weaver, Honolulu restaurant director and sugar plantation owner. They met in April in Hawaii, dated briefly before she went back to Los Angeles and then lost touch for a while. He visited Los Angeles in June, called Kay to see how she was doing, and the rest is history! They eloped to Juma, Arizona, in early July, 1941. On a side note, Kay dated Nils almost to the day she got married. Well, that’s Hollywood for you!

Clifton Stokes Weaver was born on January 7, 1917, in New York, to Spencer Weaver and Emily Stokes. He was the second son and last child – his older brother Spencer Jr. was born in 1911. His mother died in 1930, and by 1940, he was living with his older brother and his wife Sarah in Hawaii, and attending college (could be Virginia Military Institute). He graduated in 1940, and after the war started served in the US naval reserve. We find more information about Clifton on the site Ventura Real Estate:

Clifton was a Partner in the largest Restaurant chain in Hawaii during the 40’s and 50’s, Spence Cliff Corporation. Their holdings included the Pioneer Inn and Lahaina Broiler on Maui, Hotel Tahiti and Hotel Tahiti Village in French Polynesia, and numerous Restaurants on Oahu including Queen Surf, Cocos (now the location of the Hard Rock Café in Waikiki), Tiki Tops, Fisherman’s Warf, and the Tahitian Lanai.

We move on to more information, especially about the brothers shared company, Spencecliff:

Their father, Spencer Fullerton Weaver Sr, was one of the nation’s leading architects in the 1920s. Known as Major Weaver; among many other projects, his firm designed the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hotel Pierre in New York City, the Biltmore Hotels in Los Angeles and Florida, and the Breakers in Palm Beach.  He designed and owned the Park Land and Lexington Hotels in New York. Their mother, Emily Maloney Stokes Weaver, was a noted tennis player; she won two national indoor tennis doubles championships in 1914 (with Clare Cassel) and 1918 (with Eleanor Goss Lanning.)

The family lived in an apartment on Park Avenue, New York and had a country estate known as ‘Spencecliff,’ in East Hampton, Long Island, NY.  (washington-edu). But that ‘Spencecliff’ is not the basis for this story – this story is about the partnership of brothers Spence and Cliff and the Hawaiʻi business they founded, Spencecliff Restaurants. Queen’s Surf (with its Barefoot Bar,) Tahitian Lanai, Coco’s, Tiki Tops, Fisherman’s Wharf, Senor Popo’s, Trader Vic’s, Kelly’s, South Seas, Ranch House … the list goes on and on.

It was a family operation, run by brothers Spencer (Spence) Fullerton Weaver Jr (May 18, 1911 – Aug 30, 1996) and Clifton (Cliff) Stokes Weaver (Jan 7, 1917 – Jan 23, 1992.) After a couple visits to the Islands, the boys moved and later, intrigued by the fleet of hot dog trucks in Long Island, they got into the food service business with a half-dozen ‘Swanky Franky’ hot dog carts in 1939; then, later set up a stand at Ena Road and Ala Moana in Waikīkī.

Then came the Patio Restaurant downtown and the Snowflake Bakery; the Weavers also had a catering contract to feed five-thousand at Hickam.After service in World War II, they formed the Spencecliff Corporation; it grew, and over the next few decades dominated the restaurant scene. They opened the Sky Room (1948) at the airport terminal at John Rogers Field (now Honolulu International Airport.)   In addition to the pre-flight airport presence, Spencecliff catered the food to airline passengers on ten major airlines, including American, JAL, Canadian Pacific, Qantas and Air New Zealand.At one time, the Spencecliff operation included 50-restaurants, cabarets, coffee shops and snack bars in Hawaiʻi, almost exclusively on the island of Oʻahu. It also operated two hotels, three bakeries and a catering service in Hawaiʻi and two hotels in Tahiti.  There were more than 1,500 employees.

Spence Weaver would later be inducted into the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s First Annual Hall of Fame in 2007. One of the most famous of their operations was the Queen’s Surf (acquired in 1949.)  They converted the former home of heir to Fleischmann’s Yeast fortune, Christian Holmes (Holmes also owned Coconut Island,) and turned it into Queen’s Surf; the home was originally build in 1914 by WK Seering of International Harvester Co. Later (1971,) the property was condemned and Queen’s Surf and the neighboring Kodak Hula Show were evicted and the Waikīkī beachfront area was turned into a public park.

In addition, to the nightclub, there were coffee shops – lots of them – as well as other family-favorites. Spencecliff was renowned for taking care of its employees, many of whom served for decades.  Reportedly, each employee would receive personalized card and a birthday cake from the company bakery the day before their birthday, then were given the day off on their birthday.
Then their ownership in the restaurant operations came to an end.  In the mid-1980s, increased rents and high interest rates affected Spencecliff’s bottom line; on July 14, 1986, they sold the operation to the Japanese firm, Nittaku Enterprises Co, for $6-million. Unfortunately, the new owners didn’t have the same understanding/appreciation for the operations and it slowly disappeared.

Kay announced she would leave movies to live on the sugar plantation in Honolulu. In January 1942, it was announced Kay was pregnant and awaiting the stork in May. Kay gave birth to her daughter Katherine Weaver in May 1942. By July 1942, two months after the birth of her, she was pregnant again. Their second child, son William “Billy” Weaver, was born in 1943.

KAySutton7Sadly, the Weavers marriage was not to last, and they separated in 1944 and divorced in 1945. You want to know the reason? Because Kay was dating up a storm with Dan Topping, one of the infamous Topping brothers. He served in a navy capacity in Honolulu, they started socializing and the rest is history. Dan was then still married to Sonje Henie. Sonja was allegedly seeing Van Johnson (yeah, like that happened) on the side, and both wanted to get divorced – Sonja could marry Van, Dan could marry Kay.

After some ups and down, the couple were married In Florida in March 1946 and went on to honeymoon in Clearwater, in his father’s summer home. Now something about Dan Topping (a short excerpt from Wikipedia):

Daniel Reid Topping (June 11, 1912 – May 18, 1974) was a part owner and president of the New York Yankees baseball team from 1945 to 1964. Daniel Reid Topping was the son of Rhea Reid and Henry J. Topping. Rhea Reid, the daughter of Daniel G. Reid, known as the “Tinplate King” for his vast wealth in the tin industry, was the mother of three sons, Daniel Reid Topping, Henry J. Topping (1914), and John Reid Topping (1921). Daniel Topping, along with Del Webb and Larry MacPhail, purchased the Yankees for $2.8 million from the estate of the late Jacob Ruppert on January 25, 1945. MacPhail sold his share of the team to Topping and Webb in 1947, and the two sold controlling interest in the team to CBS in 1964, after which Topping remained as team president until 1966, when he sold his remaining stake in the Yankees.

Topping also was co-owner, along with John Simms Kelly, of the National Football League‘s Brooklyn Dodgers starting in 1931, eventually owning the team outright. By the mid-1940s, Topping wished to move his football team from Ebbets Field into the newer and larger Yankee Stadium. Tim Mara, owner of the New York Giants, who played in the Polo Grounds, held NFL territorial rights, and refused to permit this. Topping moved the team anyway, joining the newly formed All-America Football Conference. Topping’s team retained most of its players during the jump and became the football New York Yankees. The team was not one of the AAFC teams admitted to the NFL in 1950, and folded.

By November the papers knew that Kay was pregnant. Their daughter Rhea was born in 1947. The Toppings lived the high life for the next couple of years, enjoying a lavish home in Park Avenue, right next to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

By 1948, their marriage was in trouble. The papers were full of gossip about their the shaky marital state. In January 1949, it was reported the have allegedly reached a settlement. By February, they were reconciled. It lasted until November 1951, when they separated for good. While I don’t know the full extent of the settlement, I do know that Kay got their Palm Beach home. Some sources claim that Topping was the love of Kay’s life.

Life went on for Kay and she dated Gary Cooper in February 1952, during his Palm Beach sojourn. We all know that Cooper was a deeply unhappy man during his post Patricia Neal years, drifting from town to town, from woman to woman, and I guess Kay didn’t amount to much on his plate. The Toppings divorce was made final in June 1952, in Florida. Whatever we can say about Topping and his marriage to Kay, his love of sports rubbed of and she wanted to operate her own baseball team. She tried to buy a West Palm Beach India baseball team in 1953. Kay falls from the newspaper radar from then on, but a few bits and pieces of information could still be found.

Tragically, Kay’s son William “Billy” was killed in a freak Tiger shark attack off the Mokulua Islands, Lanikai, Oahu in 1959.

She married Frederick Moulton Agler on September 13, 1963, in Grosse Point, Michigan. Moulton was born on August 3, 1907, in . Detroit, Michigan, to Mary Eldridge Alger and Frederick Moulton Alger. Let’s just list, in short, the most important posts Frederick held in his life:

KaySutton8Republican. Candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan 14th District, 1936; served in the U.S. Navy during World War II; secretary of state of Michigan, 1947-52; Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan, 1950 (primary), 1952; U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, 1953-57.Presbyterian. Member, American Legion; Elks; Sons of the American Revolution; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Military Order of the World Wars; Freemasons.

In 1929, Frederick married Suzette de Marigny Dewey, daughter of Charles Schuveldt Dewey. The had three children: David Dewey Alger (born 1943), Marie Suzette de Marigny Alger Howard and Frederick Alger.

Kay and Frederick lived in his Grosse Point home until his death on January 5, 1967. Kay never remarried to continued to live in Grosse Point.

Katherine Alger died on May 1, 1988 in Grosse Point, Michigan.

Her former husband, Clifton Waver died on January 23, 1992.

Earlene Heath

22 Oct 1933 --- Original caption: Miss Earlene Heath displays the latest fad, "the gator garter and bracelet," a fad that the fair sex will not take too seriously at first. Miss Heath suggested this idea while playing with the baby alligators on her first trip to the Los Angeles Alligator Farm. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Another chorus girl who tired and failed to do good in Tinsel Town :-( Earlene Heath was a headstrong and determined woman who truly tried to make her best, but it’s hard to say did she give up too soon or just gave up a hopeless pursuit that would have gotten her nowhere. Anyway, she settled into domesticity after her Hollywood career was over.

EARLY LIFE

Earlene Marie Heath was born on May 1, 1914, in Dallas, Texas, to Earl Jarrell Heath and his wife, Annie Evelyn Newell. Both of her parents were natives of Texas – her father worked as a salesman, her mother was a housewife. She was the middle of three children and the only daughter – her older brother George Francis was born on November 19, 1910, her younger brother Earl Jarrel was born in 1918.

Earlene grew up and was educated in her birth town. After finishing business school, she became the secretary of an oilman (we are in Texas after all!). She was a passionate dancer but only did it for fun (as a hobby) and had no plans to go to Hollywood nor become an actress. However, a tiff with her boyfriend at the time changed all that. One day he told her that for a woman, being a dancer and actress o the screen is an unsuitable choice of vocation, adding that he would never let her be an actress if she were his wife. Stubborn to the bone and with a love for the theatrics, Earlene wanted to prove him wrong under any circumstance. Boldly she went to Denver, Colorado, to find work in the very field he so vehemently disliked. She got a job with the Tabor Stock Co., and did hard work for six months. With precious stage experience under her belt, Earlene felt assured enough to try Hollywood. Unfortunately, Hollywood is a closed gate community and since Earlene did not know an insider, no work came her way. She took any odd jobs she could and went to dramatic school on the side, hoping for her big break.

Her big break came after she was crowned Miss Ocean Park in August 1933. She became a member of the prestigious David Gould troupe, and she finally entered Hollywood.

CAREER

As a dancer turned actress, Earlene appeared as an uncredited chorus girl during most of her early career. George White’s Scandals was the perfect film where tons of gorgeous chorines can be featured without a valid reason. What can I say, I wrote about this movie so many times, and we all know the drift. Flimsy story but loads of good music and dancing sequences. Not the kind of movie I enjoy, but great escapism non the less.

Stand Up and Cheer! is a movie in the same vein. No story, just music music and dancing dancing! Warner Baxter plays a Broadway producer who is appointed by the U.S. president as secretary of amusement to cheer up the country. Tough job, but Warners got loads of talent to help him. Just name them: James Dunn, Madge Evans, John Boles (no talent for that one, just a wooden expression)… Shirley Temple became an overnight sensation thanks to this movie. I’m the first to tell you I don’t like “kiddie” movies (where the under-10-years-old kid is the main character, everything is sweetness and light, the script is lightweight and so on) and find most child actors uninteresting, but Shirley had something and it shone on the screen. While I’ll never watch her movies, I must admit she was a singular phenomena in Hollywood history.

Earlene_Heath_2Folies Bergère de Paris is a pure delight. Again, if you want some deep movie that’ll make you think, look away. Want some simple, elegant fun – walk this way! Maurice Chevalier, everybody favourite French cad, plays dual roles – one a nightclub singer, other a stiff upper lip banker, which creates havoc in his love life. Chevalier was a limited talent, but very good at what he did – nobody played debonair, charming French like he did – and this movie was tailor made to show off all his strong spots. He gets wonderful support from Merle Oberon and Ann Southern.

Reckless gets us into Jean Harlow territory. Tsis is one of Harlow’s best movies, based on the life story of Libby Holman (interesting woman, read more about her here). What starts as a breezy, fluffy love story turns into a serious drama dealing with issues like domestic abuse, fragile mental health and so on. Harlow is at top from here – these roles suited her like a glove. Much like Chevalier, she was limited, but boy, what she did well she did perfect! Franchot Tone, a wonderful actor wasted in so many movies, actually has something to chew on here. William Powell, Harlow’s real life lover, is the third wheel but decent enough. Earlene appears as one fo the chorus girls. Recommended!

Redheads on Parade is a totally forgotten movie today, so lets assume it made no ripples back when it was released in 1935. And now for the Three Stooges! Despite the fact that they appeared in the same movies before, with Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb Earlene than had the honour of having a role in a proper Stooges short. Wikipedia has a page about the short:

Curly wins $50,000 from writing a catchy jingle for a radio contest. The boys quickly spend their loot, and check in at the Hotel Costa Plente. Their suite is furnished with many expensive items which they systematically destroy. In the process, three gold diggers connive their way into the boys’ room, under the guise that they are three rich widows looking to remarry. This works perfectly, as Curly quickly discovers that all the tax deductions reduce his winnings to a minuscule $4.85. The boys hastily agree to marry the ladies, who soon find out the Stooges are broke and give them what for.

Sounds funny? It does! So, Earlene appeared in a pretty good Three Stooges short, and this is the highlight of her brief and unsatisfying career.

Earlene took some time off to raise her children, then came back in 1941 in Caught in the Draft. To put is short: It’s a Bob Hope comedy. If you like Bob Hope comedies, there is everything going for this movie. If you don’t, don’t come close. Comedy is a tricky subject to write about, since it’s so “subjective”, so as a reviewer said, one mans meat is another man’s poison. To some, Hope is the best of the best of classic Hollywood comedy, for others he’s a raving lunatic doing stupid movies. Here, Hope tries to escape a military draft by marrying a colonel’s daughter (nice plan Bob!) and then enlisting by mistake! Eddie Bracken and Lynne Overman are there for support and Dorothy Lamour is the love interest. I’m pretty much lukewarm about Hope – there are better, there are worse, but as far as Bob Hope movies go, this is solid.

Earlene ended her film career with Kiss the Boys Goodbye, a Mary Martin vehicle. Martin was a great musical theater star, but her “magic” never translated to screen properly and she never became anything notable in Hollywood. The movie itself is a decent enough musical about the search for an authentic southern belle to replace a movie diva. Don Ameche is as good as always in the male lead. Also take note of Oscar Levant!

Earlene faded into domestic obscurity afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE

Earlene long ditched the boyfriend who so enraged her she decided to try a serious acting career by the time she actually came to Hollywood, so I guess he never reaped the fruits of his “success”. She had found a more suitable man who not only understood her passion for acting and dancing, but shared it. Earlene married Hollywood director Otis E. Garrett on December 20, 1935 in Los Angeles. She was 21, he was 30. Garrett was born on March 29, 1905 in Washington State, to George Garrett and Helen Gregory Otis. He came to California in 1930 and started working in the film industry as an editor and scriptwriter.

The marriage was a tumultuous one from the start. They separated for the first time in December 1936, not ever a year after the wedding took place. Allegedly Earlene went to New York for a prolonged stage appearance and decided that her marriage was not worth saving. However, a small “unexpected factor” appeared – Earlene was pregnant. For the sake of their unborn child, the Garretts reconciled.

The Their son, Anthony Otis Garrett was born on July 31, 1937, in Los Angeles.  As we all expected, the birth of little Anthony did little to pacify his parents marriage. She sued her husband for divorce in February 1938. She claimed her woke her up when he came home late from parties, She would protest this atrocious behaviour, and he would swear at her. Yeah folks, this was Earlene’s grounds for divorce. I can’t imagine how the judge felt, hearing these stories. Poor, poor judge…

EarleneHeath3Then, the story repeated itself. By April 1938, Earlene was pregnant again and it was again decided to give the marriage a try.  Their daughter, Judith, was born on January 18, 1939. After little Judy made her appearance, did her parents marriage go into a new, revitalising phase? Guess what? NO! Surprise, surprise, it failed. Earlene was involved in a traffic incident in May, just proving how distressed she was. It was time to end things. The gears of divorce were working again.

In July 1939, she was awarded with 150$ a month temporary alimony. In September 1939, she sued her former husband for not paying his alimony, but he claimed she broke the rules of the settlement by living with her mother. This much was true – Earlene was living with her parents, two children and younger brother in Beverly Hills in 1940. It seems the drama continued.

I was quite shocked when I saw that Garrett died on March 24, 1941, less than two years after this. I have no idea what happened to him, nor how good/bad his relationship to Earlene was by that time – did they make up and enjoy a civil relationship, at least for the sake of their children? So many unanswered questions…

Life goes on and so Earlene moved on. She married Robert Colomb in 1943, not long after catching the bouquet at the wedding of Dorothy Lamour and William Ross Howard. Robert James Colomb was born on August 9, 1904, in Chicago, Illinois. He worked as a property developer in his birth town before moving to Los Angeles, California to try his luck in the real estate boom. Their daughter, Geraldine Marie Colomb was born on February 25, 1947, in Los Angeles. Earlene enjoyed a quiet life outside the limelight with her husband and children.

Earlene Colomb died on May 31, 1958, in San Louis Obispo, California, at the age of 44. Sadly, none of the Heath siblings lived to be over 55 years old – her brother George died the same year as her, on September 12, 1958 (at the age of 47), and her younger brother Earl died in 1978, at the age of 55. Her father died in 1957, her mother in 1966.

Her widower Robert Colomb died on August 14, 1984 in Ventura, California.

 

 

Victoria Faust

VictoriaFaust2

Victoria Faust had all required ingredients that, mixed together, could make her a bona fide star – she was beautiful, talented, college educated, a trained singer, with stage experience and last and but not least, had a capable agent who was also her husband. Yet, after only three movies, she faded into obscurity and never had another film role. Why this happened remains a mystery to me even after researching all I could about her. But well, lets begin!

EARLY LIFE

Victoria M. Faust was born on July 25, 1912, in New York City to Reverend  Alfred Luke Faust of Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, and his wife, Victoria M. Lupton (yep, she was the daughter of a preacher man!). Her father was German born, her mother was a native New Yorker. She was the third of five children – her older siblings were Edna L ( born in 1908) and Alfred (born in 1910), and her younger siblings were Herman A. (born in 1914) and Ethel (born in 1916). They lived for a time in Queens, before moving to the Bronx in the early 1920s.

The family moved to Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut, sometime before 1930. They returned to New York and her father became the minister in the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Victoria attended college and graduated, altough I could not find which one or indeed what exactly did she study, but I do know she was hard bitten by the acting and singing bug and decided that is where her career lies.

Despite the prevalent notion that acting was not a honorable job for a woman, let alone a daughter of a reverend, Alfred was very supportive of Victoria from the very start of her career and actually helped her early on by getting her a singing spot at the prestigious Palace Elegante nigh club in 1935. Victoria was very close to her dad and they enjoyed a cordial and loving relationship for many decades.

That same year, Victoria sailed to Europe and worked part time as a model (posing for Vogue Europe among other publications) in order to pay for her music lessons in London. She returned to New York, and started working as a radio singer, gradually breaching onto the stage, but always hoping for a movie career.

In 1942, she was finally noted by producer Hunt Stomberg and signed to a long term contract.

CAREER

Victoria, to my utter astonishment, made only three movies, and not completely bad ones at that.

VictoriaFaustHer first and most famous movie was Lady of Burlesque, a movie I am astonished ever got made at that time and place. We all know that the late 1940s and 1950s were the time fo the strongest Hays code, and boy, is Lady of burlesque a movie not tailor made for censorship! The plot concerns the murder of a “lady of burlesque”, and Victoria had the dubious honor of playing the murder victim. if nothing else, the movie is abundant with drop dead gorgeous ladies – if you count Barbara STanwyck out (I never considered her remotely beautiful, but a first class actress), there are Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Marion Martin, Stephanie Bachelor and the list goes on! Wunderbar! Eye candy aside, director William Wellman did a good job and directed a brisk, smooth and elegant production that never veers into high art territory but offers loads of fun, a witty script and great burlesque numbers! No nudity of course, but who cares!

Victoria’s second movie came two years later, with The Scarlet Clue. It’s a Chalie Chan movie, and we all know what to expect from such films, right? And yep, this is a Charlie Chan from the Monogram period, so you it’s easy to guess the level of quality the series received. The Scarlet Clue is better than the average Monogram Charlie Chan entry, with a slightly up level cast. The story if silliness personified, but the snappy dialogue makes it work somehow. The pace is quick and there is not a moment to lose. Sidney Toler is more than descent as Chan. All in all, nothing to write home about, but makes for some good mystery viewing int he age before we had TV series like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Victoria made one more uncredited appearance in Johnny O’Clock. It’s Robert Rossen’s first film noir, and it’s a pretty good movie overall (hey, it IS Robert Rossen!). The plot is a frequently seen motif of the post war period – the hero who walks the fine like between the good guys and the bad boys, and just tries to keep his head above the water. No heroics, no shining knights, just a man trying to live like he wants to live and not lose his head in the process. I’m not a big fan of Dick Powell (who plays the movies namesake), but he got better, IMHO, as he got older – instead of playing in idiotic musicals (with the supremely untalented but cute Ruby Keeler), he actually tackled some semi serious roles when he started pushing 30 +. He was actually a pretty good film noir anti hero, charming, sly but always with a darkness lurking behind that fading-pretty-boy face. His female support, Evelyn Keyes and Ellen Drew, are most very effective and both underrated actresses, IMHO. Like most film noirs, this one boasts great cinematography, and the script is full of great one liners. No, it’s not Rossen at his best, but it’s a worthwhile effort.

Victoria continued her career on radio and TV, but never made a movie again.

PRIVATE LIFE

Victoria married her first husband, George Gurskin, on May 23, 1934 in Manhattan, New York. Gurskin was born on August 24, 1909, in Pitsburght, Pensylvania and Benjamin and Lucy Gurskin. He was college educated and very assertive man – he was the president of his very own radio company by the time he was 22 years old. Soon, he became a succesful theatrical agent in addition to being an executive. It was Gurskin who decided to move him and Victoria to Los Angeles to further their careers, and in 1940 they lived in Beverly Hills.

VictoriaFaust5There is a funny story about how Victoria met and fell in love with her next husband, actor Rick Vallin. First, something about Vallin. Born as Eric Efron on September 29, 1919 in The Russian Confederation. He came to the US while still a youngster with his family. He started his career in a New York stock company in the early 1930s, when he was just 14 years old. After a long career on the stage, in early 1940 he joined the Pasadena Playhouse and got his first acting role opposite Sidney Blackmer. He played a variety of roles in B movies, mostly members of ethnic minorities, villain henchmen and so on. He was never destined to become a big star, but, like many other less known actors (and unlike many actresses) would work non stop in Hollywood for more than 30 years.

Victoria met Rick in about 1946, and soon he moved in with her and George. Boy, I can’t imagine what George was thinking when he let that happen – but let’s put three plausible explanations:
A) just a very gullible guy who pretended that everything was okay
B) he didn’t care at that point in his marriage anymore and just went along with it
C) he had a twisted sense of humor and enjoyed such strange arrangements.

Anyway, George was soon dating Margaret Withing – Rick and Victoria fell in love, and the whole tangled mess got untangled when Victoria and George finally divorced in 1947. George remarried Florence Halop in 1949, and had two daughters by her, Georgianna and Benita.

Victoria married actor Rick Vallin after the divorce was made final. Their daughter Victoria Luptonfaust Vallin was born on December 6, 1948. Victoria was finished with movies by this time, but she allegedly had her very own TV show. She was quite wealthy and lived well off.

In 1952, her father, Reverend Alfred Faust, was en route to California to baptize their daughter when fell ill in St. Joseph, Missouri and had to be hospitalized. Victoria came running to his bedside, and was soon joined by Rick. It sure seemed they had a good and solid marriage, but appearances can be deceiving, because, by that time, their marriage was in deep trouble. Her father survived, but the marriage did not. They separated in September 1952, and divorced the next year.

Now, what we do know is that Victoria remarried to a guy living in Mexico and moved there to live with him. I have no idea who they guy is or when did this happen. She lost contact with Vallin, so I have no idea how often he was his daughter. Sometime later, Victoria dn her Mexican groom got divorced and she returned to the States, settling in San Diego and living in quiet retirement.

George Gurskin died on August 18, 1975. Rick Vallin died on August 31, 1977.

Sadly, Victoria’s namesake daughter, Victoria Vallin, died on November 15, 1993, in San Diego, at the age of 44.

Victoria Faust died on April 13, 1994 in San Diego, California.