Toni Seven

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Toni Seven is proof that a girl who lands in Hollywood, has money to burn, a great press agent and more than enough beauty, can still end up a complete unknown. Toni tried to attain stardom several times, and the second time, an extensive campaign to catapult her to stardom was coined by PR guru Russell Birdwell, but she just crashed and burned pretty soon. What a waste! Toni truly was a beautiful woman and probably had some talent in her. Too bad too much publicity killer her.

EARLY LIFE

June Elizabeth Millarde was born on July 6, 1922, in New York City, to Henry F. Millarde and Helen Elizabeth Lawson. Her mother was professionally known as June Caprice, an actress of major prominence in Hollywood, and her father was an succesful movie director. His most famous movie was If Winter comes, from 1916. by the time she was born, her parents had amassed quite a fortune and retired from active movie work. June grew up in Long Island, and attended school at Great Neck, Long Island.

On November 2, 1931, June’s father died from a heart attack, aged only 45. June was raised by her mother form them on, but sadly the elder June succumbed to a heart attack while fighting cancer in 1936. The 14 year old June was left in the care of her maternal grandparents in Long Island.

While June was materially well of, as a heiress of a considerable fortune (rumored to have been 3 million dollars), she wanted to act not for the fortune but for the fame. She moved to the West Coast after graduating from high school, and undertook extensive dramatic training before deciding to crash movies.

June signed with MGM in 1941, owning of course to her late parents friendship with producer Bob Leonard. Unfortunately, she left Metro after just a month, unhappy how they only posed her to leg art. She signed with Warner Bros and started her career anew.

CAREER

Pretty slim! Toni appeared in only five movies, although I have to say they are 5 decent movies at least! Her first movie was We Were Dancing, based on a Noel Coward play. When i say based on a ToniSeven2Noel Coward play, it means it’s a witty, sparkling, lightweight fare. And this movie is just that. don’t look for deeper, hidden meanings and something profound. Norma Shearer is delightful int he leading role. Coward + Norma = a good combo. Some people would disagree with me, but heck, Norma was perfect for sophisticated, drawing room comedies. Here she is ably supported by Mervyn Douglas, Gail Patrick and Lee Bowman.

She then followed it with Yankee Doodle Dandy, one of the best musicals to come out of her 1940s. Jimmy Cagney, what more do you need? Toni’s last movie under her Warner Bros contract was Wings for the Eagle, a love triangle set amidst  Southern California aircraft production in WWII. The lovers? Ann Sheridan, Denis Morgan and Jack Carson. What ca I say, I’m a sucker for Ann, she was such a luminous actress, but I am not a fan of either Crason or Morgan, so for me, it’s a skip.

ToniSeven1Aware that her career went nowhere fast, Toni hired Russel Birdwell and tried anew (again!). The result were only two movies – Ladies Courageous and Once Upon a Time. While not the bottom of the waist basket quality, they are far from good solid movies that Toni needed to build a career. Ladies courageous is a weird, weird, anti feminist movie (despite the more than a decent cast – ). Once upon a time is one of the lesser Cary Grant movies – it’s a movie with a strange kind of charm, unusual story (A cash-strapped theater producer promotes a nine-year-old boy’s dancing caterpillar) and features the stunning Janet Blair as Cary’s leading lady, but it’s not top tier movie making and it did little favors to anyone involved.

Toni gave up her career and publicity campaign and settled in Washington DC after this.  

PRIVATE LIFE

This is where Toni shines. If she is at all remembered today, it is because of her private life, not her slim movie career.

Toni was 5 feet, four and a half inched tall, weighted about 108 lbs, was a great horsewoman who rode frequently, and was also a good swimmer and tennis player. She disliked gossipy women, bad movies and prize fights.

TonISeven4In march 1943, she was just one of the many girls that dated Errol Flynn. She also banked heavily on her parents’ fame. A quote from a newspaper:

“Director Al Hall is giving June Millarde a break in “My Client Curly,” the Cary Grant-Janet Blair . The person who gave Al his first acting role role was Harry Millarde, June’s ‘ father, who was king bee on the old ‘Fox lot and frequently directing June Caprice (June’s mother). As time went by Al gave up his acting ambitions and became a director, but he never forgot the Millardes. So when their ‘ daughter June was up for a role in ; “Curly,” Al directed the test and saw she got the best cameraman at Columbia.”

In 1944, Toni hired Russell Birdwell to become her press agent. Birdwell was a wildly oscillating guy. While ha had major success with Jane Russell (and her bust and bra) and the search for Scarlett O’Hara (he was the brain behind this superb publicity stunt) most of his other “finds” ended up complete unknowns after a period of intense publicity frenzy. And he really tried with Toni, he really did. It just didn’t pay. For instance, Toni posed with a mama cat that gave birth to a litter of kitten with 7 toes on their paws. She also posed with a man’s black shirt, claiming she uses them as nightgowns. On the right ear she wears nothing; on the left, a large gold loop, and in the center of it, a cut out 7! She made bread with exactly 7 ingredients. She wore earrings with 7 precious stones dangling from them. Her phone number ended in 7. You get the picture…

She was supposed to star in a revue by Fort Ord, but nothing came out of it. She was very active in the war effort, going to rallies, signing pictures. Birdwell sent thousands of her pictures to the GI-as around the world – she was named the most popular pin up for the boys int he European Theater in 1945. Her photos could be found on obscure Pacific islands where there was literary nothing else!

Toni Seven has bought herself a little house in Benedict canyon. By her own admission, she knows nothing about antiques, yet is furnishing it exclusively in early American stuff.

In March 1945, Toni and five other starlets staged a strip poker session at the United National Clothing Drive. The other starlets were Ann Miller, Evelyn Ankers, Nina Foch and Renee de Marco. They all had better careers than Toni (even De Marco, who did not have a great movie career). She was also good friend with starlet Frances Vorne, who also posed for Yank. They often threw big dinner parties for their swains.

ToniSeven5In early 1946, Toni went back to her old moniker, but still remained an active pin up girl – her legs were claimed to have been “perfect” by a lieu of eminent photographers.

By 1948, June was out of Hollywood, out of movies, and living of her inheritance. She entered a hospital in October 1948 for a serious operation, and was recuperating in November 1948 in Hollywood.

Then, she was again back in the newspaper fold. How? Love! In January 1949, a certain senator Warren Magnuson, the famous lothario of Washington and a very sought after bachelor, missed the opening of Congress. Why? Because he was allegedly with Toni! There was much press furor re over the fact. His friend kindly noted to the press that Warren had been doing the Seattle nightspots with Toni for some time now. However, in September 1949 she sailed for Europe, and was beaued by Peruvian playboy, Alfredo Carreo.

More about Warren, who ended one of the most meaningful men in Toni’s life. He was born on April 12, 1905, in Minnesota, and was adopted by the Magnuson family (due to his surname, he was known as Maggie to friends). He attended college in Seattle, Washington, and settled there permanently. A member of the Democratic Party, he served as a U.S. Representative (1937–1944) and a U.S. Senator from 1944. In 1928, he was married to Eleanor Peggy “Peggins” Maddieux, but they divorced in 1935. Warren dated all around the States from then on, escorting women like actress Carole Parker and Austine McDonnell.

Toni and the senator dated on off from 1948 until 1953, although some papers pin them together in 1955. It is known that the senator married in 1964 to a Seattle widow, Jermaine Peralta, and thus he obviously never married Toni. Toni gave up her career (which is not saying much) to cater to Warren. She acted as his hostess at social functions, they traveled around a great deal, often visiting Hawaii. Warren’s close friends said that Toni was absolutely loyal to Warren, but liked to drink to much. Warren also had a weakness for vodka – it seems they were well matched here (sadly!).

ToniSeven6I sympathies with Toni on this one. She obviously wanted to get married, and talked constantly to the press about her upcoming nuptials, but the senator obliviously rebuffed her every time, until they were done. I have no idea why they broke up – but I can only guess. Maybe Toni had had enough? Maybe Warren passed on to another woman? He later romanced Monique van Vooren, another luscious starlet. He died on May 20, 1989 in Seattle, Washington. His wife died in 2011.

In 1952, Toni was seen with Hank Fisher, of the “Joe Palooka” fame.

In 1959, it was reported that June was to marry Eric Stanley, prominent in the art circles, that June. I could not find any information that proved this as a fact. She then completely falls of the radar.

June Elizabeth Millarde died in 1991.

 

Daun Kennedy

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Yank Girls Continued… More sexy and alluring than beautiful, Daun Kennedy tried pretty hard to build a solid filmography during her brief sojourn in Hollywood. Unfortunately, like most non-trained actresses who came to Tinsel Town via either the chorus or modeling jobs, she was not a natural-born actress and thus didn’t have much to recommend her except her curvy figure and pleasing face. Predictably, she was out of Hollywood after a thin career in a few years.

EARLY LIFE

Carmen S. Kennedy was born on November 13, 1922, in Seattle, Washington, to Robert F. Kennedy and Shirley Heuston. Her mother worked as a seamstress. Her parents divorced in the 1930s, and Daun went to live with her mom in Los Angeles. However, the papers have a slightly different version of her pre-Hollywood years:

Daun started her working life as a canary with the Seattle Opera company. Laryngitis put a temporary stop to her warbling, and she took a job with the Boeing Aircraft corporation. Then Cupid nudged her in the ribs and called attention to a fellow worker, Fred MacDowell. Came a time when MacDowell thought he could better himself elsewhere, so he headed south for Lockheed. Daun promptly took after him, and likewise signed up to punch rivets into Lockheed P-38’s. Then Fred MacDowell left Lockheed, went to work for RKO as a film cutter. “He can’t do this to vie,” murmured Daun Kennedy, as she hustled right over to the same picture factory and got a job as a messenger girl. Two hours after she went to work, the new messenger was sent on an errand to the set where Kay Kyser was emoting in “Around the World.” Producer-Director Allan Dwan got an eyeful: Said Dwan to Daun: “C’mon.” Wherewith, he took the bewildered blonde to the office of Ben Piazza, head of the studio’s new talent department. And that evening Daun Kennedy’s signature was on an acting contract.

Daun Kennedy, they mean Daun Kennedy, who flew from the Lockheed Aircraft plant to become a messenger girl at RKO, circled the studio once and made a happy landing as an actress. Brown-eyed, shapely, with hair like combed corn silk, she’s currently delivering a message of personal beauty in the Eddie Cantor production, “Show Business.”The next day, also, her engagement to Fred MacDowell was announced but since then the same engagement has been broken ! Daun made her movie debut in “Around the World” and followed that performance with parts in “Government Girl,” “Gildersleeve on Broadway,” and “Show Business.”

This is somehow misleading since, based on this story, Daun was in Seattle in the early 1940s. But let’s roll with the newspaper version, and see what happened with her career!

CAREER

Daun made her debut in Gildersleeve on BroadwayThe third in RKO’s series of four movies based on radio show The Great Gildersleeve. This one has Gildersleeve traveling to New York to help out his friend Peavy. In order to help Peavy out, he has to cozy up to widowed drug company president Billie DaunKennedy2Burke. He also attracts the attention of a gold digger. The situation gets even trickier when Gildersleeve’s girlfriend shows up unexpectedly. It’s a fun comedy, a treat for all lovers of screwball. Government Girl is a lame wartime comedy with Olivia de Havilland in the lead. The Falcon and the Co-eds is one of the Falcon series of movies, with Tom Conway as the Saint. It’s a solidly made thriller, with a decent cast, but formulaic enough not to fall into a higher category.

Around the World is a wartime propaganda musical, cute fluffy and upbeat. Fans of Kay Kysler should definitely watch it. Higher and Higher is the typical movie that can’t be considered high art, but is an enjoyable, light-hearted piece. Special plus is a very young Frank Sinatra in the lead. The Falcon Out West is another of the Falcon series, more of the same old same old. Seven Days Ashore is another fluffy musical. Show Business surely fits into the “Nothing major, but it’s a lot of fun” movie. The story of a vaudeville team (Eddie Cantor in the lead), their ups and downs, it’s interesting today if nothing than a memory lane piece about times long gone.

Marine Raiders is a WW2 movie, typical example of the genre and the time. War movies made during the war often used live footage of battles, and they all boiled down to “rally round the flag, boys”! The leads are played by two fine actors, Pat O’Brien and Robert Ryan. Of course, there is a love story, with the charming Ruth Hussey (I love intelligent, everyday, non-extremely-beautiful actresses like Ruth!) in the middle. Bride by Mistake is a mid tier romance movie – but an absolute highlight is the stunning Laraine Day in the lead. I love Laraine, she was such a gentle, beautiful actress! Unfortunately, Daun followed some decent movies with Youth Runs Wild, a movie about juvenile delinquency that fares like most movies about the topic – pretty badly. This ain’t no Rebel without a cause. Then came Heavenly Days, a Fibber and DaunKennedy3Molly McGee movie. Like most series, it’s a rec is you like that kind of humor – if not, stay away. Daun went back to musicals with, Girl Rush a standard Western gold rush comedy with all of the cliches and not enough good things to recommend it. Daun finally hit it big with Murder, My Sweet, a superb example of the mid 1940 film noir. Based on Raymond Chandler’s book, Dick Powell plays an excellent Phillip Marlowe. While Bogart may be the ultimate Marlowe, several other actors made a very good job of playing him, and Powell, IMHO; is a close second. He is just the right mix of soft and hard, of success and failure, of idealism and disillusionment to be Marlowe (whom I consider to be one of the best written fictional detective). Powell aside, the story is solid and with enough twists to keep anyone occupied, the supporting cast is wonderful and the atmosphere is spot on. Almost nothing to subtract from its brilliance. Next was Mademoiselle Fifi, a movie that has divided its critics. Based on a Guy De Maupassant short story and dealing with some very relevant issues (as back then as today), it’s hampered in a major way by the production code and censorship. Yes, this is the gaping wound of so many -could-have-been-wonderful movies from the decade. Yet, some praise it’s actors (Simone Simon!) and the story that ultimately inspired the western classic Stagecoach.

Daun-Kennedy-photo-by-Ernest-Bachrach-p412Duan was one of the much revered Salome Girls in the notorious camp classic, Salome Where She Danced. The long and arduous process of finding Salome girls was well documented in the press, and thanks to this movie, Daun got tons of publicity. It was this boost that got her a leading role! Yaay finally! On the flip side (there is always a flip side!) the movie is The Royal Mounted Rides Again and it’s a (guess!) … LOW BUDGET WESTERN. Oh yes, you know what I think of those… Anyway, it got her absolutely nowhere. She returned to the uncredited tier in This Love of Ours, a Merle Oberon tearjerker (too bad she appeared in such a large number of those she was a gifted comedienne!). It was followed by another Merle Oberon movie, Night in Paradise, a wacky and unusual movie for sure, but deeply flawed. A Scandal in Paris is a George Sanders vehicle, and the great man plays the same character he always plays – himself. This time his name is François Eugène Vidocq (famous french criminal) and the place is (duh!) Paris. But more of the same old, same old. Next she appeared in the Bowery boys movie, Bowery Bombshell, and then was the female lead in the forgotten DuanKennedy5serial, Son of the Guardsman. Too bad that this didn’t pan out – maybe Daun could have caught at least a bit of fame that way. Meanwhile, the serial was actually decent enough, with a solid story and decent production values – one wonders what went wrong?

Daun appeared in only two more movies, both featuring the characters Jiggs and Maggie (played by Joe Yule, Mickey Rooney’s pop, and British actress Reine Riano), Bringing Up Father and Jiggs and Maggie in Society. It was clear that Daun used all of her showbiz lives and it was time to retire. And retire she did.

PRIVATE LIFE

The Kennedy lass lives in a Hollywood apartment with another young actress, took music lessons, liked an occasional game of tennis, Bowled a great deal, and had never kept a budget, never had been in debt.  She admitted she was a bum cook. Daun was a very popular pin-up during the war, being named Miss Iceberg Warmer and Miss Optometrists. In 1946, contemporary publicity shamelessly pegged her as the descendant of Mary Queen of Scots.

DAUN KENNEDY_1361832226Duan was engaged to her first boyfriend, Fred L. McDowell, when she came to Hollywood in 1944. She engagement was terminated due to unknown reasons. In 1945, Daun first dated Rod Cameron, then almost married to agent John Lindsay.

In the end, she married her first fiancée, Fred L. McDowell. He was born on September 5, 1916, in Derby Line, Vermont. Somehow he ended up in the Boeing Aircraft corporation, and met Duan (the story is in the Early life section). He was in Hollywood from the early 1940s, but only in 1954 did he get his first credit as an editor.

Their daughter Linda Carol was born on October 28, 1955. Their second daughter, Tamara L., was born on November 17, 1959. Sadly, McDowell died on June 4, 1960, when their younger daughter was but a baby.

I have no idea what happened to Daun afterwards, or if she is indeed alive today. As always, I hope she had a good life.

 

 

More Yank Cover Girls – Part IV

And we continue with the charming Yank Pin Up girls…

May Moniz

MAyMoniz_2

There is almost nothing about May Moniz on the web. Yet, she was the only Yank Cover girl to come out of Hawaii, where WW2 started for the US.

This is almost the only article I could find about May:

There are some outstanding reasons why May Moniz, who is only 17 years old, has already become one of the most photographed lovelies on Oahu – as any fool can plainly see. Her talents include dancing in various USO shows which have toured the island, as well as sitting around swimming pools occupying black silk bathing suits like this. BRIEF hereby endorses any world planner who will include May – or a reasonable facsimile – as one plank in a Postwar Plan for the Returning Soldier. The photo is by our incredible Cpl Harold Klee, who spent two long years out here photographing Oahu beauties as a hobby. He is now Down Under, where his opportunities are slightly more curtailed.

Who was May? It’s just a uneasy coincidence that there were 2 May Monizes in Hawaii, both born in 1928 in Honolulu. Which one is our May I have no idea. One lived with her widowed mother, younger sister and lodgers, the other with her aunt and uncle and younger sister.

What I do know is that May was supposed to graduate from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu and then relocate to New York to become a model. During the war, she danced along with her fellow Hawaiian girls in The Flanderettes, a USO troupe directed by Josephine Flanders. Unfortunately, all mentions of May afterwards are nonexistent.

May L. Moniz died in 1984 in Hawaii, and it’s very much open to discussion if this is our May.

Sylvia Opert

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Sylvia Opert was born in 1924, in Johannesburg, South African Republic, daughter of Maurice and Fannie Opert, Lithuanian immigrants. The family moved to California several years after her birth (and lived there at least from 1929). Maurice and Fannie divorced in the mid 1930s, and Sylvia stayed with her mother. The two lived in Beverly Hills, with Sylvia working as a dancer since high school. She danced ballet originally, and by 1940 was a part of the Ada Broadbent Ballet troupe.

Various newspaper articles claimed she studied music and composition in France and Switzerland. While this could be true, it means that she lived in the US and commuted to France and Switzerland during the 1930s. Sylvia spoke flawless French, and this later helped her land movie roles. She also specializes in exotic and native dances, as he filmography can readily show.

SylviaOpert2She made her movie debut in 1942, in Road to Morocco. hHer next movie was Happy Go Lucky, a breezy, simple and very endearing Dick Powell musical. His co-star is Mary martin, who worked better in theater than she ever did on film, but she was truly no slouch! The plot is typical for the genre – Martin plays a gold digger who wants to nag a rich husband. Powell plays a beach boy who sees right throught her, but decided to help her to spite his long time enemy (rich yacht boy, played by Rudee Vallee). but true highlight of the movie is the pairing of Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton. Boy, those were some dynamos! Then came Background to Danger, tightly plotted, well made spy thriller. Yep, it’s a Casablanca rip of, but like most rip offs, it never gets hit the high ground. Perhaps part of the reason lies in George raft, a menacing actor who could do wonders on the screen but not a particularly good one (imagine him in Shakespearean plays! Exactly!). The supporting cast is top notch and worth of better actors like Humphrey Bogart – Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Brenda Marshall. It never was and never will be a top-tier movie, but it’s a decent example of the genre and keeps you on the edge of the seat.

And of course, like many others in Hollywood, Sylvia appeared in Thank Your Lucky Stars. She then had a small but memorable role in The Desert Song. She took some time of to get married, but as soon as she divorced, she was back in the saddle with two short features – Princess Papaya and Dance Comique. Sylvia’s last movie was Devotion, about the lives of the Bronte sisters. It’s a typical over the top drama, Hollywood style, but nobody can say that Olivia de Havilland and Ida Lupino are not good actresses – their warm and engaging performances give the movie a shining quality it otherwise wouldn’t deserve. The supporting cast is pretty good also – Sydney Greenstreet, Nancy Coleman, Arthur Kennedy, Dame May Whitty.

SylviaOpertIn 1944, there were stories that LeRoy Prinz discovered her while eating lunch in the studio commissary. Again, I assume this is just a publicity plot, as Sylvia was a seasoned dancer who did her bit, not a wide eyes starlet who just came to Hollywood hoping for a lucky break. That beak sadly never came, and her movie career ended in 1946. She continued dancing in revenues and nightclubs, but most probably gave up her career upon her second marriage in 1946.

Now something about her private life. Sylvia married Newell O. Roberts on April 30, 1943. Roberts was born on August 7, 1916, in Texas. A medical doctor, he enlisted into the army in 1940, and later became a Captain, serving in the 94th Fighter Squadron with 5 victories. I guess this was a typical wartime marriage between two people who hardy knew each other. Accordingly, the marriage lasted only a short time and they divorced in 1945. Roberts returned to his native Texas after the war, and went on to marry Carolyn Ann Roberts in 1956, divorce her and then marry Patricia A. Winkler in 1969, and later divorce her in 1979. He died on June 6, 2010, in Comal, Texas.

Sylvia moved fast onto her next husband. On January 15, 1946 she married Jack H. Spiro. Spiro was born on November 24, 1906 (making him almost 20 years older than Sylvia) in Pennsylvania, to Louis and Sadie Spiro. They moved to New York, where he worked as a jewelry salesman. The couple settled in Los Angeles. They had two sons, Lee Mark, born on December 14, 1949, and Richard Martin, born on August 20, 1954. They divorced sometime after 1954. Spiro died on January 3, 1976.

In December 1967, Sylvia married Harvey Bernstein. They divorced in April 1969. On May 1, 1974, she married a Mr. Strauss or a Nathan Boxer in Dade, Florida.

Unfortunately, I could not find any additional information about Sylvia, so I have no idea if she is alive or dead. As always, I hope she had a good life.

Helen Talbot

Helen Talbot2-Yank

 

Helen Darling was born on April 7, 1924, in Concordia, Kansas, to Edward and Arby Darling. She had an older sister, Dorothy, born in 1909, and an older brother, Daniel. Her parents were already in middle age when she was born – her mother was 45, her father 54. She grew up in Concord. Both of her parents died by 1937, and she was adopted by the Smith family. She lived with them until 1941, when she relocated to Los Angeles to live with her brother Dan and his wife. She graduated from high school in Los Angeles and started to work as a model by 1942.

Helen was allegedly discovered by fashion designer Don Loper in 1943, and this catapulted her to Hollywood. She then worked with Don Red Barry on his show, and started a movie career not long after. Her filmography is full of low-budget westerns (Canyon CityPistol Packin’ MamaCalifornia JoeOutlaws of Santa FeSong of NevadaSan Fernando ValleyCorpus Christi BanditsLone Texas RangerBells of RosaritaTrail of Kit CarsonSong of MexicoDon’t Fence Me In ) which I will not even try to review as you very well-known my dislike for the subgenre.

Helentalbot4Her other movies were a mixed bag at best. She appeared in Up in Arms (after all this time, this movie pops up again and again) and Rosie the Riveter, both light fare but fun movies. And then came a horror, The Lady and the Monster, baes on Curt Siomdak’s novel, Donovan’s Brain.  The plot: In a rural castle two medical men and a woman assistant are experimenting with brain chemistry and energy. After an airplane crash, they take a human brain of one of the victims to continue their work. The brain is of a criminal mind that gradually takes over the medical assistant’s mind periodically to do more evil. The movie is polarizing in so many ways – it has decent direction and very good set design. Cinematography is also on the level. However, the actors are a mixed bag here. Erich Von Stronheim is as menacing as always, but Richard Arlen is a tad stiff and Vera Ralston is, as always, absolutely terrible. It’s not a particularly god movie, but a watchable one. The 1953 remake with Lew Ayres is superior in every way.

Helen appeared in two Jane Withers vehicles, first Faces in the Fog, a long forgotten but actually not-the-worst movie about two youngsters who fall in love and everybody and everything stands in the way of their happiness, and then in Affairs of Geraldine, a similar convoluted love story. Swingin’ on a Rainbow was another Jane Frazee musical, low-budget but pleasing enough.

Helen Talbot1She also did appear in two serials, which are her only claim to fame today:  . The info is taken from the superb Files of Jerry Blake site:

Sooner or later, most of Republic’s contract players found themselves cast in a serial, and Helen was no exception. The first of her two chapter plays was 1945’s Federal Operator 99, which starred Marten Lamont as Jerry Blake, a FBI agent out to capture the suave master criminal Jim Belmont (George J. Lewis), and co-starred Talbot as Joyce Kingston, Blake’s trusty secretary and assistant. The serial’s plot consisted of a series of duels between Belmont–who concocted various impressive heists only to be  thwarted by the federal agent–and Blake–who kept checkmating Belmont but failing to capture him. This cat-and-mouse game was augmented by a clever script, some excellent action scenes and some innovative cliffhanger sequences, several of which centered around Helen’s character. The indefatigable Joyce was almost perpetually endangered throughout the serial, but managed to survive a cremation chamber, avoid being shredded by an airplane propeller, and escape rolling off a cliff in a laundry basket. While Talbot’s youthful and ingenuous appearance kept her from seeming entirely convincing as an FBI operative, it also made her character instantly appealing; the audience found it easy to be concerned about this sweet-looking girl’s perils.

Her second serial was King of the Forest Rangers. Another quote: 

Talbot’s second and final serial was King of the Forest Rangers (Republic, 1946). One of the last Republic serials filmed largely on location (in the picturesque pine woods of California’s Big Bear Lake), this cliffhanger dealt with the attempts of the villainous Professor Carver (Stuart Hamblen) to get his hands on valuable minerals concealed in some ancient Indian towers. Forest ranger Steve King (Larry Thompson) investigated the crimes spawned by Carver’s schemes, with the help of local trading post proprietor Marion Brennan (Helen Talbot). A good serial that could have been better, King of the Forest Rangers featured two rather lackluster leading performances; hero Thompson was low-key to the point of dullness, while villain Hamblen was too unthreatening in voice and appearance to make his character suitably sinister. However, both actors received an assist from their energetic aides–Hamblen from nasty henchman Anthony Warde and Thompson from the chipper Helen, whose wholesome, “All-American” good looks suited the serial’s rustic, outdoorsy milieu nicely.

Helen Talbot3And now for some private life information. In early 1944, Helen was deeply involved with Don “Red” Barry, and they were engaged in August 1944. They dated for a few months more, and were often seen around town in various posh restaurants. Barry was known as a charismatic man, but with a nasty temper and an over inflated ego.

Thus, it came as so surprise to me that, in the end, Helen married her high school chum, Richard M. Hearn, in mid 1945. Hearn was a navy flyer during the war. They moved to South Bend, Iowa where he attended Notre Dame University and earned his degree in Corporate Law before returning to West Los Angeles.

Her daughter Kathleen Mary Hearn was born on November 15, 1950 in Los Angeles. Hearn died in about 1962. In 1969 Helen married Larry Bailey, owner of a bakery in Northridge, California. Larry died about 1980 and Helen moved to La Jolla, California.

Helen Darling Bailey died on January 29, 2010, in La Jolla, California.

More Yank Cover Girls – Part III

Moving on to the next installment of these short biographies… We have one more installment like this to go before going back to normal full lenght bios…

Eileen Coghlan

Eileen Coghlan

Eileen Coghlan was born on to Charles F. Coghlan and his first wife, Margaret Johnson, in the early 1920s. Her older sister, Rosamond, was born in 1919. Her mother, born in Wisconsin on February 9, 1898, was the daughter of noted silent actor, Arthur V. Johnson (who died of tuberculosis in 1916, just a year before they married). Her father, Charles, born in 1897 in Masschusets, sure had an interesting life story!

Taken from his obitury:

Coghlan had an illustrious theatrical background. His mother was the famous actress Rose Coghlan, a leading lady from 1885 to 1915. He was born in Boston where his mother was playing at the time. His father, playwright Charles Jordon, died six months after he was born. Both parents came to America from England. He attended Staunton Military Academy and Fordham University. He got his start in the theatrical world when he was only ten.

In 1918, he appeared with his mother and Ethel Barrymore in “The Lady of the Camelias.” He associated with the great names of show business, often appearing with them in various productions. He numbered among his friends the Barrymores, Eugene O’Neill and Jasper Deeter. Coghlan not only appeared in many stock shows but turned to the motion picture field in his early days. He played with such stars of the day as William S. Hart and Pearl White.

The Coghlans moved a lot, owning to where his father found work. They lived for a time in Hollywood, where her sister married her first husband.

The Coghlans moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where Charles became director of the Harrisburg Community Theatre, in 1942. In 1945, he joined Gene and the Henry Otto to reopen the Gretna Playhouse in 1945. The theater at Mt. Gretna had been started by A.E. Scott, who ran it for years before World War II forced it to close down.

It was here that both Rosamond and Eileen did much of their thespian work. In 1943, Eileen already a seasoned theater actress, made her Hollywood debut in Thousands Cheer, a lively, happy go lucky and well made musical. Eileen was signed with Columbia, and appeared in two of their movies: Swing Out the Blues, a minor and completely forgotten musical, and the superb None Shall Escape, a chilling and ominous piece of work, brutally honest in depiction of Nazi atrocities during WW2. Special highlight of the movie is Alexander Knox, a wonderful actor, who plays a normal man gone completely wicked and twisted under the Nazi regime. Marsha Hunt, always a welcome presenc ein any movie, rounds it up. Eileen appeared in only one more movie, Dark Waters, a mediocre Merle Oberon thriller, before she took a breather.

During WW2, Eileen was a very popular pin up, and even traveled to mexico so that the Life photographer could take her photos. She continued to act after the war.

She returned to the theater for a time, and only came back to Hollywood in 1948. She made tow movies for Enterprise Productions. The first is No Minor Vices, a lukewarm remake of Unfaithfully Yours. I really like Dana Andrews, but boy, it’s true, he wasn’t a comedy actor in the slightest. Louis Jourdan, such a good actor, plays plays the same charming rouge role in most of his movies. Sad, sad. The second is Force of Evil, a excellent movie with a tour de force performance by John Garfield.

Eileen took another breather and then came back in 1950 with Bright Leaf. Now, this movie has everything for it – solid script, great cast, good production values, but it ends up a tasteless mush. Okay, it’s not that bad, but it’s not nearly as good as it could have been. I Can Get It for You Wholesale is a very well made, plotted and acted movie with Susan Hayward. She then had an uncredited appearance Lightning Strikes Twice, an atmospheric if formulaic movie with Ruth Roman and Richard Todd. Eileen’s last three movies were cute and funny 1950s fluff – they can brighten your day, but are far removed from art and profound movie making – Two Tickets to BroadwayThe French Line and My Sister Eileen

In 1954, Eileen went to Italy and met Fabio Fiorentino a handsome hotel owner. Fiorentino was born on November 28, 1929 in Italy. They married there the same year, and returned to the States, opting to live in California. Eileen retired from movies to devote herself to family life.

Her daughter Lydia was born on September 22, 1956, and her daughter Vivian was born on August 30, 1960.

Eileen and her husband live in Newport Beach, California.

Selene Mahri

SeleneMahri

Let’s get one thing straight – Selene was not an actress, and she does not have one credited performance anywhere, not the cinema and not the theater. But finally we have another socially buttefly at our disposal. Her lack of movie roles is more than made up by her rather impressive marital record.

Solveig Ann Mari Eklund was born on December 17, 1924, in Finland, to Karl and Thyra Eklund. Little is known about her childhood, but she and her mother came to the US in 1942 (due to the war perhaps? The papers claimed they just came to see a fair, but somehow I don’t buy it). Solveig was easily noticed by scouts and she started modeling, rising to the top pretty quickly.  Allegedly, she could speak five languages (as far as I know, Finish, Swedish, German, what are the other two?) but very little English. Within a short time she was earning as much as $25 for an hour. She was well known for her silky blonde hair. She was on the WAC recruitment poster and was could be found on as many as 8 covers yearly.

Now, it’s Selene’s private life that is of interest. In September 1943, she dated Victor Mature, stationed in the Coast guard. She then dated Emilio Tagli, wealthy Chilean, for some time in early 1944. By June 1944, there were rumors the two would wed. She was also courted by Stavros Niarchos, wealthy Greek shipping magnate.

In 1947, Selene revealed a bit about herself – she worked only with photographer she liked, was easy to make enemies because she chose to do things her own way. She never went below 40$ an hour for a session and never worked before noon. She lived in Long Island and raised pet poodles in her house.

In August 1947, Selene married millionaire Albert George Rupp in Garden City. They divorced in 1949 and she married John Wendell Anderson II in Grosse Point, Michigan that same year. John was born on Jack was born September 16, 1923 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In his later years, Anderson was described as a former industrialist, world traveler, avid sports fisherman and golf enthusiast. He came from a prominent Michigan family. They had two sons: John and Christopher. They divorced in 1957. In 1958, jack married starlet Lisa Ferraday.

On January 2, 1958, she married her third millionaire, William Weaver. That year, it was revealed that Selene was a passionate deep sea fisher, dabbled in painting for a time, was a good piano player (Chopin being her favorite), that she played bridge frequently, that she was an arm chair golfer and a frustrated interior designer. Her favorite piece of jewelry was her husbands Phi Beta Kappa Key that she wore on a bracelet. The couple moved to New York not long after.

Selene and William divorced in 1972. She kept his surname and didn’t remarry.

Selene E. Weaver lived in New York City in 2009. I hope she is alive and kicking today.

Peggy Corday

PeggyCorday1

Such a shame that Peggy Corday, truly an unique looking lady, got so little coverage in the press during her heyday. Thus, the info on her is slim indeed. Her pin up is another favorite – she is a wonderful combination of youthful vivacity with elegance. Just look at her hand, the way she modestly hold her negligee… Whauza! Peggy was probably born in the early 1920s (but I have no idea where or who her parents were. Searching for Margaret Corday gave me no conclusive evidence).

In 1943, she got her first newspaper mention: “Red-haired Peggy Corday, who will portray Venus in the forthcoming musical, “Helen of Troy”, is being groomed for her role by Mikhail Mordkin.” She did play Venus in the mentioned play – her Yank cover photo show her during one such a performance. Very good choice for Venus, I must say. Unfortunately, this did not catapult her to any stardom.

Peggy was the assistant to Robert Ripley, from Ripley’s Believe it or nor, in 1959, when Ripley died after a show. Nothing else is known about her.

Ernie Clarke

Ernie Clarke

Another interesting woman, Ernie Clarke was the scion of a acrobatic family who did trapeze acts from the time she was 9 years old. Imagine that! Anyway, everything you need to know about Ernestine in her obituary in the Telegraph web site. I’ll copy paste most of it here:

She was born in New York on October 16 1921 and christened Elizabeth Laura Clarke, although she was always known as Ernestine after a friend of her father’s made play of a family resemblance and dubbed her “Little Ernie”. By the time she was three months old she was travelling to engagements with her parents, and she made her debut in the ring when she was big enough to be put on a horse.

Her parents passed on their circus skills to her and at the age of nine she joined the family act, graduating to the trapeze when she was 11. “The first time I missed the flying bar in practice,” Ernestine later recalled, “my mother was watching. As I fell into the net she fainted and they had to carry her out.”

In the late 1930s, the Clarkes appeared with Poodles Hanneford’s comedy riding act and then in the musical Jumbo at the Hippodrome in New York. They also worked with Tom Mix, the star of many Western films. By 1941, Ernestine Clarke was beginning to make her own reputation, and the writer Earl Chapin May raved about her “unusual beauty of features and figure, high intelligence, charm and character.

“She can be built up,” he went on, “to be a star in the circus, on the stage and the movies. As either a rider or flyer she has grace, personality and a definite histrionic ability. Moreover, she has the carriage of a ballet dancer.”

Although the entry of America into the Second World War led to the break-up of the family act when her uncles were called up for war work, by 1942 Ernestine Clarke’s own career appeared to be going from strength to strength. That year, she was signed to the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, where she was to present her own equestrian act and to ride with the highly regarded Italian troupe The Cristianis at a salary of $350 per week.

But when she arrived in Florida to rehearse with the circus, she discovered that its manager John Ringling North had been ousted from his post by other members of the family, and her contract had been effectively cancelled.

She stayed on with Ringlings, however, as a replacement for Antoinette Concello, the star of the show’s trapeze act, who had injured her shoulder. When the Concellos then left the circus, Ernestine Clarke was invited to form her own trapeze troupe, which she did with catcher Eddie Ward and flyer Clayton Behee.

In 1944, she presented a solo riding spot and her own flying act for Ringlings, and appeared on the cover of the show’s programme that year. She was with the circus in July 1944 when at Hartford, Connecticut, the big top burst into flames and 168 people were killed and almost 500 more injured.

As for her private life, she married actor Parley Baer on April 9, 1946. Born parley Edward Baer on August 5, 1914, he was also from a circus background, he studied at the University of Utah, worked in a radio station, served in WW2 and started his Hollywood and TV career in the late 1940s.

The couple had two children: daughters Kathleen Baer, born on June 29, 1952, and Elizabeth Baer, born on February 18, 1957. Both worked as trapeze artists in their professional life. Ernie and Parley lived for years in Encino, where they were active in their local St. Nicholas Episcopal Church.

Elizabeth Laura “Ernie” Clarke Baer died on August 5, 2000. Parley died on November 22, 2002.

 

More Yank Girls – Part II

Lets keep on moving with the Yank Cover Girls…

Gloria Anderson

GloriaAnderson

I have very little info about Gloria, sadly. I don’t even know if Gloria Anderson was her real name. Gloria was born, I assume, in the late 1910 or early 1920s, and lived in New York in the early 1940s. She worked first as a Powers Model, then as a chorus girl in the Broadway show, Stars and Garters. There she met dance director Georgie Hale, who was a Broadway staple in the 1920s, and worked in Hollywood occasionally. Georgie, a dancer by trade, was born in 1901, making him quite a bit older than Gloria.

They started dating in early 1943. Not long after, George went ot Hollywood to work as a dance director. They managed a long distance relationship for a few months, and then Gloria moved to the West coast and started her Hollywood career. She appeared mostly in musicals: Up in ArmsShow BusinessSwing Parade of 1946Night and Day (and pretty decent ones at that, although I can’t say I like those types of movies). She also appeared in three non musical movies: Life with Blondie, another of the Blondie comedies with Penny SingletonA Guy Could Change, a surprisingly decent romantic comedy, and Two Smart People, the best movie of the bunch, a Jules Dassin  half film noir half romantic comedy.

Gloria and Georgie briefly split in November 1944, just to get back again a few weeks later. They married during the Christmas season 1944. They stayed in Hollywood until mid 1946, when Goergie went back to Broadway and Gloria retired.

Their daughter Stephanie was born sometime after this (a date I believe could be correct is November 19, 1948). Georgie enjoyed major success as a producer, and their marriage was considered a very solid one. However, the couple split in mid 1955. Gloria moved out and took Stephanie with her. In 1956, Georgie was dating chorus girl Honny Gray and Gloria was in Miami, Florida for a divorce. Everything came to a halt when Georgie died unexpectedly on August 20, 1956.

Gloria was officially Georgie’s widow as they were not divorced when he died. I have no idea what happened to her afterwards – there were news that she was working as a fat check girl to make ends meet. IMDB claims she made movies in 2004, 2009 and 2016, but it remains to be seen if this really is our Gloria Anderson.

Frances Vorne

FrancesVorne

FrancesVorne1Frances’ past is shuddered in mystery. It was noted by the papers that she was of the Ukrainian extraction – this prompted me to connect Frances with the Vorne family, who immigrated from Russia (Ukraine was part of Russia back then) in the 1910s. The names were Jacob and Pearl (parents) and two younger brothers, Daniel and Martin, and a sister, Zelda. This is from the 1940 census – Frances perhaps did not live with them at that time. I assume she was born in about 1920, like most of the Yank cover girls. May 30, 1920, New York is a possible date/place. She was five feet six and a half inches tall and weighted 126 lbs, with an 36 inch bust.

FrancesVorne2Frances was a regular in the papers in about 1945, mostly due to publicity stunts. For instance, this news flash: Frances Vorne has a soldier friend who came home from overseas a few days ago with a present of the remnants of a German parachute. Frances, who likes to swim more than anything else, found that there was just enough cloth left to make a swimming suit. Frances wanted to be an actress, but she never made a movie (if IMDB is to be believed).

My own guess was that Frances was already married by 1945. She divorced her groom in 1946. She continued working as a model at least until 1949. She falls of the newspaper radar from then on.

Frances Vorne (possibly) died on August 8, 1990, in New York.

Betty Anne Cregan

Betty_Anne_Cregan_2

While you can find at least tidbits of information about every other cover girl, Betty is completely shuddered in mystery. There is literary nothing on her. Such a shame, for her cover is a great one. I assumed that her full name was Elizabeth Anne Cregan, or even Elizabeth Anne Creegan. There is a Betty Anne Creegan born in 1928 (who died in 2012), but that’s all I could find. It could be our Betty, as she girl on the cover looks about 18, 19 years old. Otherwise, no luck so far. If anybody knows anything, please help!

Virginia Kavanaugh

VirginiaK

Little info here I’m afraid. She didn’t make any movies so no go as far as IMDB is concerned. She was born Virginia Kavanaugh on August 15, 1927, in New York City, to Thomas A. Kavanaugh and his wife, Frances Hopkins. She had one brother, William T. Kavanaugh, born in 1932. Her father was a secretary for a football team.

In March 1945, Virginia was chosen, by her modeling agency, Walter Thornton Agency, as the prettiest Irish American model, and posed with a shamrock on her head for St. Patrick’s day. She then falls of the radar until 1952, when she’s in a Glamour column. We learn that she is married to John T. Landry, a advertising executive (Mad men, anyone?), and that they are parents of an adorable baby daughter Sharon (born on March 27, 1950). She was a skating champion in 1944, but switched to ice skating upon her marriage to accommodate her husband. They were both outdoorsy people who enjoyed long distance walking.
Now, something about her husband (from his obit from the New York Times):

Mr. Landry spent most of his career at the Philip Morris Companies, which he joined in the mid-1950’s. He retired in 1984 as senior vice president and director of marketing and as a member of the board, to which he was elected in 1972.

He reached the top of his profession in 1963, when he oversaw development of the ”Marlboro Country” advertising campaigns, in which the Marlboro Man rode to fame around the world. He also played key roles in the development and marketing of several other Philip Morris brands, including Virginia Slims, Benson & Hedges and Marlboro Lights cigarettes.

They had three more children: daughter Jennifer (born on September 16, 1952) and sons Jack Jr. (born on November 23, 1956) and Thomas (born on October 9, 1958).
Her husband was a passionate thoroughbred bred horses (I assume she took part in it too). Another quote:

Mr. Landry was also an owner and breeder of thoroughbred race horses. His passion for the sport of kings prompted him to found the Marlboro Cup horse race, the richest thoroughbred event at the time. It was an invitational race sponsored by Philip Morris and was run each fall from 1973 through 1987.

Her husband died in 1997. Virginia was still alive in 2007. I hope she has had a happy life.

More Yank Girls – Part I

There are plenty of Yank Cover Girls who have slim pickings in terms of information. I usually don’t like to profile women where I can’t find a DOB and names of her parents, but let’s make an exception so we can learn more about these charming ladies.

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence (also called Joan Lawrence Tasch), a native New Yorker (born around 1922) and Sarah Lawrence College student, was signed to a movie contract after a talent scout saw her wearing a ravishing dress for a walk on part in a movie. The papers told it this way: “All Joan Lawrence had to do was walk past the camera in this streamlined gown. The director whistled, gave her a screen test and handed her an MGM contract. Nice work, what?”.  The year was 1943. She appeared in three very good movies afterwards: a delightful but simple musical Two Girls and a Sailor, Greer garson drama Mrs. Parkington and superb war drama Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Then in all fell apart. 

JoanLawrence2In November 1945, wealthy Texas oilman Robert Hungerford sues her for squeezing money out of him on a night out (she allegedly stole 2700$ off him). I am extremely ambivalent about this suit. While it is possible that Joan tried to steal the money, I doubt that taking a man (who know full well who you are and where you live!!) out on the town, and then stealing the money so he knows you stole it is the best way to do it! I don’t understand Hungerford. He, a 55 year old oilman, comes to Hollywood and goes out with a 22 year old actress. What was he expecting? Going for tea? When you date a 30 + year younger starlet you obviously have met for the first time, of course it can  get expensive. But well, anything is possible. The suit was throw out, but Joan’s time in Hollywood had gone bust. She was not to make another movie for two years.

As for her private life: in 1944, she was one of the Ziegfeld Follies, and did not have a steady beau. Then she started dating Alex D’Arcy in 1944. In 1945, she was feted by Jim Stack, brother of Robert Stack (and future husband of actress Wanda Hendrix). In February 1946, she was dating agent Louis Schurr. In 1947, She was chosen by Ronald Reagan as the girl one can never forget, and had a role in The Voice of the Turtle.

Afterwards, unable to get any more roles, she turned to theater acting, appearing in Arsenic and the old lace in a stock company. In 1949, she got one more movie role, in My Dream Is Yours, a paper thin but charming Dory Day musical. Her last TV work came in a episode of SuspenseShe then falls of the newspaper radar. I have no idea what happened to her.

Jean Trent

Jean_Trent_pin-up_from_Yank,_The_Army_Weekly,_March_1945

No less than the esteemed director Alfred Hitchcock said that Jean Trent had the perfect feminine figure in 1944. This, however,did not help her achieve a substantial career.

Real name Opal Jones, a native of Denver, Colorado, she was a stunning brunette, five feet three and 124 pounds. I have no idea when was she exactly born, but I have found the date of October 17, 1920. She attended high school in Denver, when she appeared in a school play. She liked the experience so much she decided to go for an acting career. While this is just an option, it could be that she moved to Los Angeles during her high school years to live with an uncle and an aunt. She was an aviation enthusiast and enjoyed watching planes.

She was discovered by Hitch in a nightclub in Los Angeles. She started her career in Western Mail, appeared in Hitch’s Saboteur (not one of his best movies, but a good one nontheless), Sin Town, a forgotten Constance Bennett western. She was one of the harem girls in the colorful escapism, Arabian Nights, with our favorite handsome-but-no-talent-actors, Jon Hall and Maria Montez. She was then in Fired Wife, a typical B movie fare of the period, soundly made but not memorable in the least.

JeanTrent1She had a minor role in the The Great Alaskan Mystery serial. Next was The Singing Sheriff, a western musical with Bob Crosby. Bing’s younger brother never achieved the level fo fame comparable to him, but Bob sure knows how to sing! Like many western musicals, this one has no plot and only serves to show Bob singing. Babes on Swing Street is a forgotten comedy musical. She was in See My Lawyer, an Ole Olsen forgotten musical, perhaps notable today for the appearance of famed flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya.

In 1945, she was selected by Walter Wagner as one of the most beautiful girls in the world for his epic Salome Where She Danced. Other stunners were Barbara Bates, Duan Kennedy, Kathleen O’Malley, Karen Randle and Kerry Vaughn. Sadly, the much publicized movie is a dismal affair at best, with a insipid story and wooden acting. 

Jean finally appeared in a upper class movie – Lady on a Train, a breezy, well made Deanna Durbin movie, a curious hybrid of murder mystery, musical, and comedy. Deanna is a very likable actress with a great voice, and was nice to look. Winning combo! And truly,

Jean’s next movie was another good one – This Love of Ours, a true melodrama with a overblown story it there ever was one. Think Douglas Sirk on steroids. Listen to the story: At a convention, medical researcher Michel Touzac goes with colleagues to see stage caricaturist Targel, whose assistant Florence recognizes him…and attempts suicide. Saved by Touzac’s new technique, Florence is revealed in a flashback as Michel’s abandoned wife Karin, whom their daughter Susette thinks is dead. Can Susette cope if they now re-unite? Yet, the movie is decent proof that even soapy melodramas can work wonders when you have a talented cast and crew. The director, William Dieterle, knows what he is doing, and Merle Oberon and Claude Rains are superb in their roles.

JeanTrent2Jean appeared in Frontier Gal, a weird, slapstick comedy western. As one reviewer wrote, the axis of the movie is the love story between Yvonne de Carlo and Rod Cameron – “Their love-hate romance was unusual for any era, and would be almost unthinkable in today’s films, but it worked for this out-of-the-mainstream movie”. Also, the cinematography, done using Technicolor, is superb. Jean continued her string of good movies with Because of Him, a funny and touching Deanna Durbin/Charles Laughton pairing. Then came Night in Paradise, a colorful and enjoyable Universal fantasy about famed fable writer Aesop. Unfortunately, this did not lead to anything substantial and her career ended in 1946.

She was one of several actresses who staged a protest in July 1945 when Police Chief H.J. Schlepper of Decatur, Illinois, declared a ban against the wearing of shorts in public,

She married actor Ray Montgomery in September 1942. Ray was in a middle of making a movie and had to have a stub beard during the ceremony because of it (considered a great sin in the 1940s!). Montgomery was born on May 27, 1922, in Los Angeles, California. He started acting for Warner Bros in 1941, after graduation. As IMDB claims, he spent the next two years working in short-subjects and playing small roles in war-era films, but did not rise to leading man status. Later played “bad guy” roles on 50s TV.

In 1957, Montgomery left acting to join Ad-Staff Inc., a “Hollywood firm specializing in creation and production of jingles and other radio and tv spots,” as the TV coordinator for the firm’s Canada Dry account in the West.

She and Montgomery remained married until his death in 1998. I have no idea what happened to Jean, there is a Opal Montgomery who died on April 10, 2005, in Kern, California.

Nancy Porter

Nancy_Porter_pin-up_from_Yank,_The_Army_Weekly,_June_1945

She was heralded as a girl with the perfect body and everyone expected her to follow in Dorothy Lamour’s footsteps and become the sarong siren. Nancy Porter was born in about 1922 (I have no idea where). She began appearing on Broadway in the early 1940s, and replaces Betty Garrett in Something NancyPorter1for the boys in late 1943. She was Ethel Merman’s understudy on Broadway when she was noticed by Paramount scouts who bought her to Hollywood in 1944. She enjoyed a brief flash of fame and appeared in tow movies, Isle of Tabu, a short and completely forgotten tropical adventure, and then in Out of This World, a witty and biting musical satire on the many tiffs between TV and radio. It’s a great movie for Eddie Bracken fans, and Diana Lynn, a sweet actress I like, is also there! But that was it as far as Nancy was . She was a popular pin up during WW2 and was active in the war relief work.

Nancy was married once before she came to Hollywood and divorced by 1944. She married writer Milton Holmes on November 15, 1944, in Las Vegas, Nevada. They were wed by Judge George Marchall and went to a short honeymoon afterwards. Holmes was born in 1907, in Syracuse, New York. He started as an actor in 1927, and slowly graduated to screenwriting. He became a producer by the time he married Nancy. However, information about their shared life after 1944 is scarce at best.

What we know is that in 1946, Holmes told the newspapers that he will move to New York to give Nancy a chance to appear again in Broadway. This never happened. In 1947, the Holmeses adopted a French war orphan. In November 1949, their daughter was born. In 1952, her husband sued Columbia pictures for not promoting his movie, Boots Malone, so it can be nominated for an Oscar (hah! Do they did it back in the old days too!). What happened afterwards is a mystery but I can sum up the pieces – Holmes was blacklisted by Hollywood for suing a major studio. He never produced or directed another movie. Some of his books were later made into movies, he served as a screenwriter for a TV series in the 1950s, but his career in Hollywood was kaput. Holmes died in 1987 in Los Angeles. I have no idea what happened to Nancy.

 

 

Dorothy Day AKA Vicki Lester

Vickilester2

Yank Girls continued! Dorothy Day/Vicki Lester had a more substantial career than most starlets of the time. She played both leads and supports in a variety of B movies. She was most certainly beautiful and wasn’t a talent less hack. So, again I ask, what went wrong? The more I think about it, the more I understand it’s not a question of what went wrong, but what went right with the ones that actually made it. Hollywood is such a fickle, unstable town, and there is no given formula of success.

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Gertrude Day was born on April 17, 1915, in Manhattan, New York City, to Alfred Day and Gertrude Van Der Raalte. Her great great aunt was the great actress Charlotte Cushman.

Dorothy attended grade and Julian Richman High School in the borough. After graduation, she started doing modeling work, and pretty soon was one of the 12 most photographer models in Gotham. For instance, if you picked up just one issue of a magazine in 1936, she was bound to be in at least 3 commercials, and her record was 10!

Like many New York models, Dorothy was signed by Walter Wanger for Vouges of 1938, and this catapulted her to Hollywood.

CAREER

Dorothy appeared in movies as Dorothy Day and Vicki Lester. She came to Hollywood in 1937, a seasoned model, to appear in Vogues of 1938. The name alone reveals much about th emovie – it’s all about the fashions, the pretty colors and beautiful girls. Story? Characters? Zero sum! While they actually have decent actors at work here (Warner Baxter, Joan Bennett), it’s a paper thin affair.

VickiLester1Dorothy’s name was changed to Vicki Lester, and she would remain Lester until 1943. She made her first appearance in Warner Bros’s The Patient in Room 18, a typical, run of the mill comedy-detective-potboiler. Warners churned out hundreds of movies just like this on a yearly basis – what to say? Chances they are any good are slim pickings at best, but often the movies were mediocre and decent enough. At least we have the charming Ann Sheridan in the female lead here. Maid’s Night Out continued in the same vein, a silly and charming little romance movie with future superstar Joan Fontaine in the lead. The story is same old, same old – a rich guy pretends to be poor to win a bet, and fall in love. Moving on! Fools for Scandal is a Carole Lombard vehicle with a uninspired story – American actress (Carole Lombard) visiting Paris meets a penniless Frenchman (Fernand Gravet). He becomes smitten with her and pursues her for the rest of the movie. This doesn’t sit well with her dull American beau (Ralph Bellamy). Again, what to say? Carole sure was a charismatic, charming actress, Gravet is a Gallic Don Juan and Ralph Bellamy plays the scorned, boring lover to perfection. Cute, nice and nothing more than that.

This Marriage Business is another B romantic comedy, starring Victor Moore as a small town justice, none of whose weddings have ended in divorce. Mix it up with a mischievous reporter and Vicki in the leading female role, and you know the drill. Like most of the films mentioned beforehand, it’s charming and breezy, but no high art. Go Chase Yourself squarely fits into the silly but nice crime movie category. Look out for an early role for Lucille BallHaving Wonderful Time was originally a Broadway play about a Catskill Mountains resort and the assortment of Jewish people who visit it. It was a biting satire on the types and stereotypes of the New York’s Jewish population, written by Arthur Kober (to me, better known as the husband of Lillian Hellman). Hollywood, in its typical fashion, took a nicely done show, watered it down (the characters are not Jewish anymore!) and gave us only a mildly interesting final product. The roster of talent here is impressive – Ginger Rogers, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Lee Bowman, Eve Arden, Jack Carson, Lucille Ball and Michael (Red) Skelton, but all are underused. Sky Giant is an insipid, lukewarm aviation drama whose main claim to fame is Richard Dix’s profile. Go figure!

Vicki was finally cast in at least marginally better movies with The Mad Miss Manton, another piece of fluff, but well made and acted fluff. When you pair Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, you are bound to have at least a semi decent movie, and this has a script to match. This was Dorothy/Vicki’s last movie for a brief time, and she returned in 1940, with The Great Plane Robbery, a forgotten movie about a (gasp!) plane robbery. You’re Out of Luck is another in the series of films that paired Frankie Darro and Montan Moreland as best friends fighting crime. we have already mentioned it in this blog, as Kay Sutton plays the femme fatale. Decent but nothing special. Tall, Dark and Handsome is a parody of early 1930s movies, with Cesar Romero in the lead and a pretty good supporting cast – Sheldon Leonard, Virginai Gilmore, Milton Berle, Charlotte Greenwood. It’s quite funny at times and ultimately, a satisfying watch for this genre. Tom Dick and Harry proved to be the best known movie on Vicki’s filmography. This is a screwball comedy done right – simple but effective story, witty dialogue, great actors! While I understand that a number of people will never like movies like these, it is hard to deny that there are qualities (I lack a better word for that) about these movies that are impossible to reconstruct today. Classic! And Vicki has a pretty good role in this one, as one of the girls. Next came The Miracle Kid, a so-so boxing drama with Tom Neal in the lead.

VickIlester3And thus Dorothy came to the dreaded moment of an actresses life – the moment she starts to appear in low budget westerns. The movie in question was The Lone Rider and the Bandit. No comment. Her next one, Sleepytime Gal, is a Judy Canova comedy, movies that are sure to polarize the public. You either love or hate it. You’re Telling Me is another forgotten comedy. Her last movie under the moniker of Vicki Lester was I Live on Danger, actually a pretty decent crime movie with a sterling B class cast – Chester Morris, Dick Purcell and Jean Parker. Morris is a likable actor, and Parker could have catapulted to A class easily if she only had the right breaks.

After this, Dorothy reverted to her old name, moved back to the East Coast, and did a wartime propaganda short movie, Women at War. She then took time off to get involved in the war effort, and returned to movies in 1945, with Diamond Horseshoe. Now, this is a kind of musical I like better than some MGM extravaganzas. While it’s lush and lavish like a musical should be, it actually has a pretty good story, and the stars are simply magnetic! Who can not like Betty Grable? She such a vivacious, lively presence! Same goes for Dick Haymes. And here comes the last one… Kiss Them for Me. Now, this is one weird movie. The plot is actually above average, and the character Grant plays, if you get over the posh Mid Atlantic accent, is well written. However, there are some parts of the movie that just baffle me. Why did they have make them? Plus, Suzy Parker, for all her beauty, is a terrible actress. So sad…

That was it from both Dorothy Day and Vicki Lester.

PRIVATE LIFE

How did Dorothy get her moniker? Well, after making Vogues of 1938, she returned back to New York City for a brief visit, and when she came back, she learned from the studio brass she was renamed, without consulting her, to Vicki Lester, the heroine of A Star is Born, played by Janet Gaynor.

Vickilester4Dorothy played the piano, danced and sang. She was a clothes horse, and her ideal was “heaven of clothes”. She hated throwing away old shoes. Her favorite foods were caviar, steak, truffles and creppes suzettes (she sure had expensive taste!). Her favorite color was blue, and her favorite flower was the gardenia. She liked to watch football and ice hockey. She mostly read epics (Gone with the Wind, Anthony Adverse, Good Earth). She was superstitious, collected handkerchiefs and carried her lucky matrix ring with her at all times. For keeping her figure trim, she swam and ice skated.

There is a article that claims that Dorothy was married in the mid 1930s, and had a son from that marriage, who was born in about 1935. I could not find any such document, but this is possible, as her life in New York is obscure at best.

When she landed in Hollywood in 1937, she was a constant duet with Willard Parker, handsome B actor who would end up marrying Virginia Field in 1951 (I love Virginia!). By the end of the year, she was hooked up with another handsome B actor, Jon Hall. However, there were persistent rumors she would wed Parker, and they even had good odds in the Hollywood marriage betting pool (oh yes, they even had that back in the 1930s. Crazy decade!). She also managed to squeeze Milton Berle in between. However, by early 1938, she was seen with neither Hal or Parker, but with a new swain, Paul Draper.

In 1938, it was reported that Dorothy and Allan Lane, western star, were not an item but quite the opposite – they absolutely disliked each other off camera. The most ironic part of this story is the fact that Dorothy and Allan knew each other from way back, when she was just starting as a model in New York City and he owned a modeling agency.

By March 1938, Dorothy was steady dating Dick Purcell. The relationship turned serious pretty soon, and they were to be wed in July 1938. We gifted her with a sapphire engagement ring. They set the wedding to October. In July, he was on location for filming Valley of the Giants, and they wrote passionate love letters to each other daily. And upon his return, Dick took rumba lessons to please Dorothy. They planed to fly all over the States for their honeymoon. Ah, love! At the same time,  Dorothy fell into a feud with Frances Mercer over the title of Best Dressed Woman in Hollywood.

VickIlester5The couple had a spat in September, got over it, and when Dorothy landed in hospital in October 1938, Dick was with her every single day. Then, all of a sudden, the papers started mentioning that the man Dorothy really loved was not Dick, but rather some Billy Reed? And truly, by November 1938, they were kaput! After that, in typical “can’t live with you, can’t live without you” fashion, they were on and of for a few additional months. Purcell dated Jane Wyman, then tried to hush it up and claimed that Dorothy was his one and only and that he will wed her… typical hammy behavior. By the time Dorothy got really sick in October 1939, they were over. Her mother came from the East to take care of her. Now, this is my theory of what happened – During her convalescence, she met a Dr. Sterling Bowen, who became her fiancee by the end of the year. That barely lasted until early 1940 – she took up with John Rose, a Disney executive, afterwards. She then dated Dick Behans and Alex D’Arcy. She got together again with Dr. Sterling Brown by June 1940. Sometime in the 1940s, Dorothy also had a few dates with Mickey Rooney.

By 1939, Dorothy was dating Bennett Cerf, the wealthy publisher/bon vivant, former husband of Sylvia Sidney. This too did not last, and by mid 1940, she was seen with director Al Hall. Then came Bob Oliver. Later that year, she started to date Eddie Cherkose, famed songwriter. What started as a nice, lovely dovely romance ended a bitter feud by June 1941. That year she was also romanced, long distance, by Stuart Schweit (all the way from Chicago!). In August 1941, she was laid up in the hospital bed once again, this time ptomaine poisoning. By early 1942, she was dating Matty Fox. He was swiftly replaced by Cesar Romero in March 1942. By April, it was Terry Hunt, the bodybuilder. By November 1942, there was talk she would elope with Richard Deer (or Derr). This was a serious relationship, but it didn’t lead to the altar. Perc Westmore took over by early 1943. In April 1943, she was dated by Brazilian playboy George Guinle. However, by June 1943, she was serious with George Brent. Boy, did she move fast! She then went to a USO tour of Europe with Jack McCoy, and allegedly even met the Pope in Rome.

lildorothydayIn early 1945, she met Steven Stanford, and married him on December 2, 1945, in Los Angeles. Stanford was born on November 6, 1909, to Charles Stanford and Rhoda Jamnik in Norway. He was a Norwegian ski champion who decided to turn to clothes designing. He spent some time in Paris and New York before settling in Hollywood.

She gave up movies and bought a dress shop. She started designing clothes, and was quite successful at it. However, the marriage was very short lived – they separated in July 1946. Stanford remarried in 1960 to Betty Skelly and died on July 25, 1979.

Betty wasted no time in waiting, and started dating director Jack Bernhard. They were married on November 13, 1947. Jack was born on to, Joseph Bernhard and Tillie Schmalzback. He grew up in the States, and started working as a writer then as a assistant producer, finally graduating to producer. During the war, he served in the UK, where he met Jean Gillie, and actress who would become his wife. They married in about 1944 and divorced in 1947. Jean died in 1949 (what a sad waste! She was a superb actress).

Both Jack and Dorothy retired from movie by the early 1950s. I have no idea what they did afterwards, nor if they had any children.

Jack Bernhard died on March 30, 1997, in Beverly Hills, California.
Dorothy Day Bernhard died on May 7, 2001, in Beverly Hills, California.

Dorothy Van Nuys

Dorothy Van Nuys 3

Dorothy Van Nuys was a magnificent Amazon-line beauty, standing six feet tall, with a voluptuous figure and a pleasing face. Yet, as we have learned countless times before, this means so little in Hollywood, place where beautiful women pour in large doses. And Dorothy became one of the many nameless faces in musicals that never propelled their career on to the next stage.

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Jane Van Nuys was born on November 24, 1922, in Payette, Idaho, to Edward G. Van Nuys and Roma Van Nuys. She was their only child. Her mother and father worked in a tandem as salespeople. The family moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, when she was 4 years old, in 1926. She grew up on the island.

Dorothy was tutored by private tutors in Honolulu and attended high school there. She was active in the sports department – she danced, swam, played tennis and took up diving. However, her major passion was deep-sea fishing – she was as good as any guy and undertook multi day excursions around Hawaii to catch big fish. Unfortunately, the adventure came to an end when she got stuck on a coral reef for two days with little to no food and water. She gave up fishing after that, and took up dancing more seriously. This propelled her to try to become a professional dancer.

Dorothy graduated from high school and returned to the mainland in 1940. She worked as a model and Ziegfeld girl, and got her Hollywood shot in 1944.

CAREER

Dorothy Van Nuys1Dorothy appeared in only two movies in her whole Hollywood career. The first one was Ziegfeld Follies. I have written about this movie before, as a large number of starlets appeared in it. But what is there to say? I myself don’t like this kind of musical. Yes, this is MGM at its absolute best, when the had the best sound stages, best songwriters, best music writers, best dancers and singer. The movie was easily attest to that – just look at the line-up: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Lucille Bremer, Esther Williams, Lucille Ball, Fanny Brice, Lena Horne, Red Skelton, William Powell and so on… The dancing is magical. The sets are superb, and the music is pretty good. Yet, this is a movie with no substance behind the (wonderful) illusion. Mind you, it never tries to be much more than that, but as I said, I prefer my movies with a little more plot and depth. I understand that musicals are not quite the genre for deep philosophical discussion, but countless other musicals had better stories and conveyed stronger (no matter how simple) messages. But well, if you like it this way, enjoy!

Dorothy Van Nuys2Dorothy’s second and last movie role was in The Harvey Girls, another musical. IMHO, this one is a total step up from Ziegfeld Follies. It was made in the same studio – MGM, warranting great production values and wonderful stars, yet it has a coherent story and a message! Yaay! As one IMDB reviewer wrote:  the film tells the story, in words and music, of a group of waitresses brought west in the late 1800’s to open another link in the Fred Harvey chain of restaurants. In the process, they encounter all kinds of romantic and dramatic conflicts. Judy Garland plays the lead, and John Hodiak, a decent actor but not material for a musical lead (IMHO), plays her love interest. It’s got everything you could want from this type of movie – humor, a bit of a soapy melodrama, god music, great vocalists and a passable story. And all in lush Technicolor! Dorothy is one of the background dancers (the Harvey girls of the title!).

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1941, Dorothy graces the newspaper cover all around the States as the official Camel girl. This was  a huge boost for her career, as she truly was one of the most visible models of the year thanks to this. Then she falls of the newspaper radar for three years.

Dorothy Van Nuys 4In 1944, Dorothy was living with her mother in Los Angeles. One day she phoned home and a fireman answered – the house burned down! Her whole wardrobe, except the thing she had on when she went out that day, was lost. Luckily, her mother escaped the fire in time.

From the early 1940s, Dorothy was steady dating her business manager, Barry Mirkin. Mirkin was born in 1918, and was a fixture in the Los Angeles entertainment world for decades. They broke up in early 1944. Mirkin later married Joan Burnham. He died in 2007 in Los Angeles.

In May 1944, she was “The oddest twosome in town” with George Stone, five-feet-five. And yes, Dorothy was six foot tall! Imagine how cute they looked!

In late 1944, Dorothy dated Paramount director Marty Lewis.

By 1945, Dorothy was back to being a full-time model, and by 1950, she was living and working in San Francisco, part of an acting company. After that stint, she moved to San Raphael and with a few fellow models, gave lectures on how to look like a model. They were very popular, and had plenty of clients. She even had her own charm school at some point in the 1960s, and was a member of the local Models Association. But what about her love life?

Dorothy married Zachary Armand Charles in Las Vegas, Nevada, on November 3, 1957. Her movie career far over by that time, the marriage produced no ripples in the journalistic sea.

ZacharyCharlesZachary Armand Charles was born on November 7, 1918, in New York City,where he grew up. He was good friends with Marlon Brando and Carlo Fiore in the late 1940s, when all three were young and struggling actors. He made his movie debut in 1950, and worked in TV from 1954. On September 11, 1949, he married Donna Beamount in California. They divorced in the early 1950s.

Their daughter Cynthia was born on July 28, 1958, in Marin, California. Their son Jason C. was born on June 14, 1962, in Marin.

Dorothy Van Nuys 5Dorothy and Zachary divorced in February 1969 in Marin. He returned to New York and soem time later continued his TV career. In a strange stroke of fate, his last role was in one of my absolute all time favorite video games – The beast within – a Gabriel Knight Mystery. Anyone who played the game – he’s the cuckoo clock vendor!!! Dorothy stayed in Marin and lived quietly there for the rest of her life.

Dorothy Van Nuys died on October 8, 1985, in Marin, California. Zachary Charles died on November 15, 2007, in Burbank, California.

Martha Holliday

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Beautiful and slightly exotic, Yank Cover girl Martha Holliday sure had the looks to stand up and be noticed. By the time she landed in Hollywood, she was an experienced ballet dancer. So, what happened? She was given a chance in a major musical and after that failed, her career sank for good.

EARLY LIFE

Harriette A. Olson was born on August 3, 1922 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Hialmer A. Olson and his wife, Betty G. Olson. She was the youngest of six children: her older siblings were Willard (born in 1906), Kathryn (born in 1908), Vivien Ione (born in 1910), Lester Don (born in 1913) and Byron M. (born in 1915). Her father was an accountant, born in Minnesota. Her mother was born in Sweden and immigrated to the States in the early 20th century.

The family moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma when Harriette was a toddler and she attended elementary and high school there.

Martha started to dance before she turned 10 years old. Her talent was noted and she was soon readying herself to become a pro. She became a professional ballet entertainer while still in high school. She spent her summer vacations traveling around these United States,’ dancing in night clubs all the key cities of the nation. On the day she got her high school diploma and a contract as premiere ballerina with the Pro-Arte Ballet company, of Havana.

After a season with the Havana ballet, Martha returned to the States, went to Hollywood, signed with Warner Brothers. She wanted to act, but they made her teach dancing. She was only 18 then, but for three years she taught some of the biggest stars at that studio how to dance. She set the routines for Jimmy Cagney’s George M. Cohan steps in “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” and often her legs doubled for those of feminine stars who couldn’t master intricate numbers. Martha’s option lapsed after three years. So she signed with RKO, with the understanding that she could forget dancing and become an actress. But a month later, studio executives asked her to teach dance routines to other players. She taught dancing for some more time.

Martha was patient and waited for her time to come. It did when she was noticed by Don Dilloway, RKO head talent scout. He tested her, and found her a perfect combo for musicals – beautiful, a good dancer, decent actress. She was put into George White’s Scandals, playing the romantic lead opposite Phillip Terry. The movie was the biggest film musical on RKO’s current program, and her career started!

CAREER

Martha was already 23 years old when she made her debut in The Enchanted Cottage, a wonderful, gentle and very touching movie. The plot alone is such a magical one: A homely maid and a scarred ex-GI meet at the cottage where she works and where he was to spend his honeymoon prior to his accident. The two develop a bond and agree to marry, more out of loneliness than love. The romantic spirit of the cottage, however, overtakes them. They soon begin to look beautiful to each other, but no one else. combine this with superb movie performances by Robert Young and Dorothy McGuire, and we have a winner for the ages.

Martha_Holliday1Her one brief flash of fame was due to her appearing in George White’s Scandals. Now, the movie is a mixed bag with more bad than good, unfortunately. As one reviewer wrote:

I have a feeling that over at RKO they heard that MGM was doing The Ziegfeld Follies and decided to do George White’s Scandals. White who was an actor as well as producer appeared in his own shows and in adoptions over at 20th Century Fox. Here however White is played by Glenn Tryon.
MarthaHolliday3But White himself is extraneous to this story which concerns two backstage plots. White’s number one assistant Philip Terry falls for Martha Holiday whose mother back in the day was chorus girl in the Scandals but who married English nobility and retired. Now Holiday is trying out but lets no one know including Terry. Holiday also has Jane Greer as a rival who is pretty ruthless about getting her way.

The best part of the movie is a love story, but not Martha’s love story. Here is another review from IMDB:

Where it is very funny (and very worth watching) is for the teaming of Joan Davis and Jack Haley as musical revue comics who have to deal with the fact that Haley’s spinster sister (the wonderful Margaret Hamilton) does not approve of her brother being in show business and is determined to keep Davis from marrying him no matter what. Davis and Haley are perfectly matched, and of course it is a delight to see Hamilton playing sister to her “Wizard of Oz” co-star (Haley).

Martha_Holliday2Yes, the movie is a funny and amusing farce when Haley/Davis are on the screen, and it becomes a mush, a bland exercise in romance when Martha and Phillip Terry. Martha does have a few dancing sequences, but she is hardly ever mentioned in the reviews and obviously she was not quite what RKO expected when they made the movie. This hurt her career tremendously, and she was dropped from her contract not long after. In 1947, she signed with the death row Republic Studios.

The Flame was Martha’s first movie for her new studio, Republic. It’s easy to put a summary of it: A woman falls for the victim of an intended blackmail plot. Yep, been there, seen that! The plot is lackluster at best, and fails to give the leads any chance to act (heck, when your leads and John Carroll and Vera Ralston, I somehow doubt they even know how to act!). The best things about the movie is Broderick Crawford who plays the ruffian villain and Constance Dowling as his dancer girlfriend.

Martha_Holliday7Martha followed this by I, Jane Doe, another run of the mill, uninteresting movie. The plot is a typical woman weepie – an American fighter pilot marries a French girl during WW2, but he’s already married to a successful lawyer back in the U.S. However, the European bride follows him back to the US and winds up killing him, and finds herself being defended in court by the wife of the man she has just killed. The only true plus side is the charming Ruth Hussey (love that woman!), and you have to wonder why did the sop marry Vera Ralston (the European wife) when he has Ruth Hussey back home!

Martha’s last movie appearance was in Lulu Belle, an interesting movie. While not a top master piece, it’s a story Hollywood rarely told (IMHO) – about a woman who does everything to climb the ladder of success. There are some good movies of this type, but not enough! Here we have Lulu Belle, played deftly by Dorothy Lamour (she was weird looking, but a decent actress!), who uses men to leave behind her saloon singing job to become a Broadway star. The men are played by George Montgomery, Albert Dekker,Otto Kruger and so on. As you can see, it’s a pretty good cast and the movie definitely works. Unfortunately, it did nothing for Martha’s career.

PRIVATE LIFE

In June 1945, there was talk of Martha marrying actor Mike St. Angel. a native of Rockford, Illinois. Now this is where all the mumbo jumbo started – I was sure that she married Mike and lived happily ever after with him. NOT! In fact, that totally pushed me of the right track. Namely, Mike St. Angel did marry a Miss Holliday, it just wasn’t Martha but Marjorie. For a time I was sure that Martha and Marjorie were one and the same person – but upon closer inspection, they were two separate entities.

Martha_Holliday5However, there are some interesting similarities. Martha was born on August 3, 1922 – Marjorie was born September 21, 1920 (only 2 years apart). Marjorie, like Martha, was born in the South – in Alabama. Like Martha, she moved as a toddler to another state – just not the same one, Martha moved to Oklahoma and Marjorie to Florida (counted Miami as her home town). She started her career in 1947, while Martha was still in Hollywood. And the girls bear a superficial resemblance, mostly due to their slated eyes. The biggest and saddest similarity if their DOB – Marjorie died, age 48, on June 16, 1969 – the same age as Martha when she died (in 1970).

Martha was dating Robert Graham Paris, Rita Hayworth’s coach. There were rumors the two would elope. Pushed by this info, I did a little research on Paris, and found some interesting things. In the blog, Art Lobster, Robert’s nephew writes that Robert left home (Wyoming,) for New York City, studied acting with some of the best acting coaches of that time (Boleslavsky, Ouspenskaya, and Belasco), and ended up a speech coach in Hollywood. He never married, and there were rumors that he was gay (typical, bachelor men were often branded gay back then😦 ). Robert was a master gourmet cook, and published his very own cook book, Gourmet Cooking for One. What an interesting man!

Martha_Holliday6Sadly, the relationship didn’t last. In late 1945, she was seen with Barney Glazer.

After 1946, Martha slide into obscurity. She still acted but only in uncredited roles. All steam was gone from her acting career, and she retired in 1948. I could not find any accounts of Martha ever marrying, so I’ll assume she never did.

Harriette Olson died on November 22, 1970, in Los Angeles, California.

Delma Byron

Delma1

On with the Yank girls… In a city of beautiful women that was Hollywood in the 1930s, Delma Byron was a stand-out and that is certainty saying something. With smooth, porcelain skin, pale blonde hair and a regal bearing, she was truly a perfect example of a stunning lady-like beauty. Too bad she ended up a minor actress (but not a complete unknown).

EARLY LIFE

Sara Delma Bynum was born on July 31, 1912, in Weakley County, Tennessee, to Samuel H. Bynum and Minnie Pearl Harris. Her older sister, Dulcie, was born on July 19, 1910.

Unfortunately, Minnie died in 1914, when Sara was only 2 years old. Samuel remarried to Reoma A. Gargus, a Kentucky native who ultimately raised both Dulcie and Sara. Her half brother James was born in 1919.

The family moved around a bit, settling for a time in Kentucky. They were living in Akron, Ohio, in 1930. The family moved back to Kentucky at some point after 1930. Sara was a lively child who studied dancing from the age of ten.

After high school, Delma ran away from home to join a revue as a dancer. She toured the southern states in a troupe then later took a job modeling clothes. The became an actress and toured with a stock company. In 1935, after years of stage experience, she was discovered by 20th Century Fox and given a chance in films.

CAREER

Delma, despite her exquisite beauty, had a very thin movie resume, and only a slightly more expansive TV resume. Her best known movie came very late in her career, something I have rarely seen in any actress’ filmography.

Delma2Delma made her debut in Professional Soldier, a movie that’s very successful at what is tried to be – a lightweight, fun and colorful action movies, aimed for men and boys. The plot is simple enough: major star of the day, iron jawed Victor McLaglen plays a professional soldier who is hired to kidnap a king, played by kiddie star Freddie Bartholomew, but he gets much more than he bargained for. it’s not a world-class masterpiece, but it works wonderfully. Victor is superb as always.

Delma had a bigger role in Everybody’s Old Man, based on a strikingly contemporary (even today) story – taken from imdb – The leading actor, Irvin Cobb, plays a grumpy, but very successful businessman who holds a grudge against his main competitor, who is also a former friend. When the friend dies suddenly, Cobb investigates the competing company and finds that his friend’s son and daughter have been wasting all their money and are in danger of losing the company to some conniving executives. He does his best to straighten out the profligate kids and nurtures a romance between his son and the competitor’s daughter. Cobb is not quite up to the task, and the movie suffers accordingly.

Champagne Charlie is a typical, run of the mill 1930s B movie. Short summary, taken from IMDB: B-film from Fox has a gambler known as Champagne Charlie (Paul Cavanagh) getting behind on debts so he decides to marry a society girl (Helen Wood) so that he can get her money but the poor sap ends up falling in love. There is nothing to recommend the movie, but it’s not a bad piece of work, and features some pretty good character actors.

Delma4Dimples became THE movie of Delma’s early filmography, and the first one that gathered her some major newspaper coverage. Why? Because it was a Shirley Temple vehicle, that’s why! In a time when Shirley was de facto number one star of Hollywood, when she saved studios from bankruptcy and was as influential as any politician, it was A BIG thing to act in a Shirley Temple movie. And Delma had that honor. Something about the plot: Dimples Appleby lives with the pick-pocket grandfather in 19th century New York City. She entertains the crowds while he works his racket. A rich lady makes it possible for the girl to go legit. “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is performed. It’s easy to get the drift of this movie. The plot is secondary, the music and dancing are good enough, Shirley is so cute and vivacious she just steals your heart away, she is supported by tons of good older character actors and beautiful younger actors. Delma squarely fits in the later category.

Delma3Let’s try and appraise this role realistically: it was without a doubt a major boost for Delma’s publicity. And when you are a young and pretty starlet hungry for fame, this is a good thing. However, in hindsight, it’s clear that acting as a second fiddle in a movie that’s centered on a 10-year-old child is not the way to go if you want a solid acting career. It’s impossible to deny that some actors propel this into lucrative careers, but they are few and far between, and Delma wasn’t one of them. Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding the movie, she quickly faded into obscurity.

Delma made only one more movie in the 1930s, Laughing at Trouble. Plot: Jane Darwell is Glory Bradford, a newspaper editor whose niece is in love with John Campbell (Allan “Rocky” Lane), unjustly accused of murdering his wealthy uncle with a knife. After the jury returns a guilty verdict, Campbell escapes from prison and hides out at Glory’s home, with the alert Sheriff (James Burke) following close behind. Leading the chase with his German Shepherd in tow, is hot-headed Deputy Sheriff Alec Brady (John Carradine), determined to replace his boss as the town sheriff, who doesn’t hesitate to shoot the elusive Campbell against the Sheriff’s orders. The local doctor (Frank Reicher) gives Campbell the okay to remain at Glory’s due to his near-fatal injury, while Brady resigns and begins to work up the townspeople into an outraged mob over their harboring of an escaped criminal. During the evening, a remark from unmarried gossip Lizzie Beadle (Margaret Hamilton), about $10,000 in Treasury bonds belonging to Campbell’s late uncle, helps lead Glory to the true identity of the real murderer. The movie looks good enough, and tackles some interesting questions, but it’s almost lost today and obviously not remembered as well as it should have been. Delma plays the blonde ingenue, and it’s clear that if she remained in Hollywood for a longer stretch of time, she would have continued to mold this thankless stereotype. She was so beautiful and fragile that I find it hard to believe she could have broken the bound to become a proper dramatic actress. Hollywood is just like this sometimes. Aware of her status, Delma quite movies and devoted herself to other pursuits.

Delma5She returned 13 years later, in the late 1940s, with Southward Ho Ho!, a short comedy skit with Tom Ewell. She worked more or less steadily for the next decade, doing TV work (Hands of MysteryRobert Montgomery PresentsMasterpiece PlayhouseMartin KaneKraft TheatreThe Brighter DayM SquadRichard Diamond, Private DetectiveThe Untouchables), and appearing in two movies. The first was a TV movie, Lady in the Dark, a musical with music by Kurt Weill and lyrics by Ira Gershwin. Ann Sothern plays Liza Elliott, is the unhappy female editor of a fashion magazine, Allure, who is undergoing psychoanalysis. It’s a Freudian movie musical,

In 1958 Delma appeared in Auntie Mame, her most famous movie and best remembered role. What more need sot be said about this infinitely charming movie? Roz Russell is a gem, the writing is superb and the movie in general is truly emotional and touching. Classic Hollywood filmmaking at its best. Delma plays Sally Cato.

Delma stayed active in the theater for some time after, but never made another movie.

PRIVATE LIFE

Delma was a constant duet with your Australian actor, Alan Marshal, in 1936. For a while it was tough thy might get to the altar, but the relationship fizzled before the year was out. In January 1937, she was the leading contended with Howard Lang, who took her out for five night in a row.

Delma6In 1937, Delma became engaged to Frank Hervey Cook, a member of a well-known Helena, Montana oil family.  Cook was born on November 28, 1899, in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His father died when he was a boy and his mother remarried to A.B. Cook, was a world renown grower of blooded livestock. He attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, graduating in 1919. He assisted his adopted father on the ranch, and after his operated the ranch on a smaller scale. In 1931 he married Lena (Sally) Gosnell Finley, heiress of the Gosnell oil fortune. She died of a heart ailment August 5, 1933. He was a widower when he met Delma.

This relationship lasted for several years, and Delma was a frequent guest at the home of Frank’s sister Gloria Walker (for propriety’s sake, of course). However, by 1942, after years of dating, they seemed to have gone kaput! In 1953, Cook moved the Dunleavy house to the Bedford Ranch north of Townsend, Montana. He rarely left the ranch and never remarried. Frank Hervey Cook was murdered there, in an apparent robbery attempt, on November 22, 1970. Three men were arrested under the suspicion for his murder.

In 1943, Delma was dating Ken Spalding of the Tobacco Road ensemble show. Sometime after 1945, Delma moved to Europe and became an accomplished sculptress when she lived in Venice, Italy. She returned to the States in the late 1940s. She settled in New York and was active in the theater circles. Delma never married, and news of her love life were scarce.

In the 1970s,  she retired from showbiz and moved to Kentucky, where both her sister and brother lived. There she was a much-loved member of the community and enjoyed her golden years surrounded by family and friends.

Delma Byron died on May 29, 2006, in Leland, Kentucky.