Barbara Freking

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One of the model-turn-actress crop, Barbara Frekign gave Hollywood a go for a few times, and achieved no bug success. However, she remained a highly succesful model for a long period of years and did more than well for herself!

EARLY LIFE

Barbara Freking was born on January 28, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois,to Henry Louis Freking and Dorothy Edredge.Her father was a newspaper publisher, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother was a housewife born in South Carolina. She had an older brother, Henry Louis, born on May 4, 1918 (who sadly died on May 7, 1918), and a younger brother, also named Henry Louis, born on July 21, 1922.

Henry, born in 1878, was already married once before Dorothy, to Ida Naomi Long, in 1900. They divorced sometime in the 1910s. Dorothy and Henry married in about 1915, lived in Indiana for a short while, moved to Chicago, where their first son and Barbara were born, and then moved to Michigan where the younger Henry was born. From there, they moved to Spencer, Indiana and later Atlanta, Georgia, where Barbara grew up and attended high school.

Her parents later moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but by this time Barbara had already left their home and was living and working as a model in New York. She landed in Hollywood in 1947, when she was an experienced, mature 27-year-old looking to break into movies.

CAREER

Barbara made her debut in If You Knew Susie, a entertaining,mid tier Eddie Cantor/Joan Davis comedy. While nothing outstanding, it’s a shining example of casual, nice, benevolent 1940s movies, led by some seriously talented people. Her second movie was the poor man’s Body and soul, In This Corner. We haven’t got John Garfield and Lili Palmer, but Scott Brady, a handsome but highly wooden actor, and Anabel Shaw, a nice looking but not overly talented actress. The story however is a good one, with tight noir moments and plenty of sleazy boxing underworld elements. Appointment with Murder was another entry into the Falcon movie series, and it any much better or much worse than the rest of them. The Falcon is played by notable magician John Calvert, who lived to perform at the ripe old age of 100 (interesting man!).

barbarafreking5Barbara moved up a notch with the A movie, East Side, West Side, a grim story of a shallow society man who ruins hi smarriage for a brief dalliance with an old flame. Boasting  a strong and capable cast, the movie is good enough, but not outsanding. Barbara Stanwyck, for one, is too old to play the leading female role, and James Mason, otherwise a wonderful actor, is pretty much wasted in his bland role. The supporting players have it better – Van Helfin is great, and is Ava Gardner. Next, Barbara was one of the Petty girls in The Petty Girl, a handsome but none too deep musical with Joan Caulfield (beautiful for sure, but not a good thespian), and Bob Cummings. Barbara then appeared in a string of prestige movies, not al of the same quality:

The Lemon Drop Kid is one of Bob Hope’s better movies, a brisk, witty piece of amusement, about a likable but flawed con artist who has to repay a debt. His Kind of Woman was a guilty pleasure, the type of movie you can only make when the leading man is Robert Mitchum and the leading lady is Jane Russell. Forget the story, the supporting characters or the direction – there are important but secondary – Bob and Jane are the reason to watch this. Two Tickets to Broadway is another one of those insipid, dull musicals that are ultimately likable enough to watch at least once. The Las Vegas Story is another Jane Russell movie, this time with Victor Mature instead of Bob Mitchum. And Vincent Price on the side. Barbara was then again in a Bob Hope movie – Casanova’s Big Night,. not one of his best effords but far from a total waste. Plus his leading lady is the outstanding Joan Fontaine.

Barbara’s last movie was Jet Pilot, a John Wayne vehicle. After this, Barbara went back to modeling full-time.

PRIVATE LIFE

Barbara was a seasoned New York model by the time she landed in Hollywood, and probably had more amorous experiences than most starlets (of which we sadly know nothing about!)

In early 1949, Barbara went to Costa Rica to participate in the making of a documentary about a fabulous treasure-hunt expedition, led by James Forbes, by filmmaker Paul Parry. About that time, barbara was dating Horace Schmidlapp, former husband (and official widower) of Carole Landis. As Horace was shorter than Barbara, she often had to take of her shoes when the two went dancing. By April she was back from Costa Rica, and dating Franchot Tone (boy, that man really dated almost all of the Hollywood starlets!)

barbarafreking4By May, she was seen with Ralph Dandies. Barbara then moved to Columbia joining two other b.b.s from New York, Vera Lee and Marjorie Slapp In December 1949, she was beaued by Sterling Edwards, and they were often seen at the Mocambo. Edwards was far from the only man in Barbara’s life – she also dated rich Spaniard Ricky De Vega on the side.

In early 1950, Barbara took up with Howard Lee, wealthy Texan oilman and future husband of Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney. That man sure had taste! Then in mid 1951, Barbara started to date that man who would change her life – Oleg Cassini.

What to say about Cassini? Slick as a snake, handsome in a dry, Continental way, a true connoisseur of fashion and beauty, he had his good sides – but plenty of bad sides to match them. He was women as objects that needed to be conquered, put himself first and was the supreme bon vivant egoist. Cassini was still married to Gene Tierney when they hooked up, and by January 1952, it was clear that Gene would divorce Cassini, and that Barbara could seize her chance of becoming the next Mrs. Cassini.

In march, there was this article in the papers: The Hollywood models who know.her best say that Barbara Freking will never wed dress designer Oleg Cassini, who’s been divorced by Gene Tierney. You know what? And they were right. 50 years after the fact, I do know that Barbara would never marry Cassini… But neither Barbara nor Cassini probably knew it back then. And I can only say – all the better for it. As a first danger signal – Cassini was also dating another model, June Myers, at the same time.

barbarafreking3Barbara spat back by dating producer Charles Feldman for a short time in late march/early april. She then dated a string of men – attorney Ralph Fields, Dan Dailey, theatrical producer Herman Levin, and returned to new York. obviously there was some correspondence between Cassini and Barbara, and when she came back to Los Angeles in October 1952, they were again seen together.

Everything was swell and fancy until April 1953, when things turned once again sour. Barbara was despondent, and in a fit of depression, took an overdose of sleeping pills. Only the quick thinking of her mother, who called the ambulance saved her from a grim fate – the doctors came just in time to save her. After this unfortunate incident, Barbara and Cassini reunited, both professionally and privately. A newspaper article followed:

 The Cassini charm was in full force yesterday for the opening duo of fashion shows presented by the Children’s Museum Guild In the William II. Block Company auditorium. Count Oleg was master of ceremonies, pointing out the highlights of his fall and winter collection. AH the guild members who modeled were sent out to buy waist cinehers to do .justice to his shepherdess line around the middle, and often came on the runway in pairs to show the same dress with belt or without. Asked about his stand in the hemline controversy, he said: “For the tight sheath I think a little shorter is all right. It is effective with a straiefit skirt, but full skirts I think should be longer.” Two New York models accompanied him for the show, Miss Carol Walker and Miss Barbara Freking. As Barbara was walking around the elaborate centerpiece the guild had created at the foot of the runway, Cassini asked her to tell whore she came from. Her answer vas “Spencer, Ind.” She still has friends there although her career has taken her to South Carolina and California before New York. The show will be repeated at 12:30 o’clock today.

They shuffled between California and New York and were firmly a couple, until another spat. The spat was named Grace Kelly, and it effectively ended their relationship… For then. Barbara was clearly devastated, and here you can see how Cassini operated – he just changed one beautiful woman for another. Barbara, obviously madly in love, couldn’t see the signs and always went back to him – Grace, on the other hand, was much more frugal and understood just what a cad Cassini was. She enjoyed his company for a time, then sacked him for a more suitable man. I can’t say I’m sorry for Cassini – IMHO, if you operate this way, you shouldn’t be surprised when it hits you right back in the heart.

barbarafreking2Barbara started to date mobster John Sorrenti in March 1954. Then she reunited with Ralph Fields, and casually dated Bill Eaton, famous man about town. In early 1955, Orrin Lehmann took over, and squired her all around New York. Jerry Herzfeld, the race track ace, took over by may 1955 from Orrin.

However, Cassini was never far from Barbara’s mind. They reunited yet again in early 1956. of Barbara, will you never learn! The relationnship lasted for a year-and-somethig this time. They broke up in early 1957. By June, she was dating Jerry Herzfeld again. Then Cassini cut in, AGAIN. They dated until late 1957. In January 1958, she was seen with Hugh O’Brian. By that time, Barbara and six other aspiring actresses lived in a sorority house they called “House of the Seven Garbos”.

It seems that Barbara and Cassini were business partners, and if they did date, it was half-hearted. Barbara kept Jerry Herzfeld on a short leash for a time, but he also settled for another lady in the end.

In his autobiography, actor/comedian Don Harron claims that Barbara had an affair with his second wife, actress Virginia Leith, before the two were married. If this is true, then Barbara was a bisexual, but this of course had to be kept from the tabloids of the time. Yep, it was expected of all women back then to be lilly-white and family oriented.

It seems that Barbara never married, and worked as a model for a long time. She retired to Connecticut at some point.

Barbara Freking died on August 25, 2008, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Evelyn Lovequist

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Many girls come to Hollywood via the chorus line, with no dramatic experience but with impressive physical attributes. Another variation of that theme are the girls who landed in Hollywood via the beauty pageant route. They often have no dramatic background, but are young, nimble and beautiful. Evelyn Lovequist was one of these girls, and she experienced first-hand how unfortunate and ungrateful it was to be a pageant winner who came to Hollywood hoping for a career. Nobody took you seriously and you could amount to little more than an extra. Some broke the mold, the vast majority did not. Evelyn, for all her striving, never did break the mold. She did have, however, a successful secondary and career and ended up quite the businesswoman.

EARLY LIFE

Evelyn Ellen Lovequist was born on March 30, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Martin Lovequist and Helen Mackey. Her younger sister Myrna was born on March 9, 1939, in Chicago.

Her father, who was born in Sweden and emigrated to the US in the 1920s, was a manufacturer of tools for sewing machines and dies for sewing. He owned his very own company (Lovequist Inc.) and was well off. In his youth he was a keen amateur boxer. Her mother was born in Wisconsin and was a housewife.

The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1940s. Evelyn graduated from Hollywod high school in California, and became a serious contender on the beauty pageant scene. She won hundreds of titles, and she became Miss USA in 1950, and this netted her a contract with a movie studio.

CAREER

Evelyn started her career in Two Tickets to Broadway, one of the thinner 1950s musicals. The plot: Janet Leigh, Gloria de Haven, and Ann Miller want to make it big in show-business, and decide to stage a show that they hope will be taken up by the Bob Crosby Show (brother of the better known Bing). Enter Tony Martin as the male love interest. It’s can’t compete with the cream de la crem of the genre, despite a good cast and not so bad music. Ah well!

evelyn2She switched studios and appeared in more serious fare, The Las Vegas Story. While no master piece, it’s a late film noir worth watching for some good chemistry between the leads – Jane Russell, Victor Mature and Vincent Price. Neither was a top thespian, but all three have immense charisma and charm and they rub of each other deliciously well. The story is atypical love triangle with gangster thrown in, but as I said, nobody is going to watch it for the plot. Evelyn then appeared in Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, a insipid, totally mediocre movie about a county bumpkin who lands in the great big city and of course, falls in a jam with gangsters and swindlers. People nowadays only watch it to see Dinah Shore in one of her “most embarrassing roles”- since I’m not a great fan, no reason to see it in fact.

Evelyn’s last movie under her contract ended up being Eight Iron Men, one of the few low-key war movie with little to no action and plenty of drama. The movie shows the relations between eight GIs stuck in a small town during WW2. They are all on the edge, mentally and physically, after fighting for what seems like an eternity. It’s a mature and serious movie, and there is nothing breezy and fleezy about it. The cast is made out of actors who, with the exception of Lee Marvin, never reached upper echelons of stardom – Arthur Franz, Dickie Moore, and Richar Kiley, but they are all good in their roles and make it work.

evelyn1Evelyn took a hiatus from movie work, and returned only in 1955, with Son of Sinbad, a movie made for visual enjoyment and little more. Plot, acting, anything of depth – no sirree. But beautiful women, great costumes and other eye candy – yes please! The movie even gently spoof the sword-and-sandal genre, so ti does have at least a bit of depth (nothing much, mind you!).

Her last movie appearance was the Three Stooges short comedy skit, Hot Stuff. And that was that from Evelyn and the big screen. She did some theater work in the late 1960s, was a regular in Bob Cummings Show, appeared in a string of unknown TV series, and then retired from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Evelyn married Warren Homer Smith on September 24, 1949, when she was only 18 years old. Warren was only a few year older, born on January 27, 1928 in Los Angeles, to Warren Smith and Mildred Miller. I could not find any information about Warren, so I have no idea what he did for a living and how did the two meet. The marriage was of brief duration – the next year, Evelyn competed to become Miss America, so she was quite probably divorced by then. Warren later married Audrey Blanche James on November 12, 1955, divorced her, and married Alayne L Harmon in 1980. He slips from view from then on.

Evelyn married her second husband, James Robert McClelland, on January 4, 1953. McClelland was born in 1926 in Ohio, to William McClelland and Marion Lamond. He moved to California ta some point and started working for her father’s firm, and that’s how they met. They settled in Los Angeles. Their son, James Martin McClelland, was born on November 7, 1954.

evelyn4Evelyn was very dismissed of her career as a beauty queen later, when she became an actress. She claimed that nobody took beauty queens seriously, nobody even expected them to be anything but pretty faces. Her acting career was not helped but rather hampered by this. She liked the publicity a beauty queen got, but it lasted only a brief time and never amounted to much more. She claimed she would have done it differently is she could do it al over again, and go to drama school and the stage first, and then

Here is a short article about Evelyn from 1956:

Ever wonder what happens to the hopeful beauty after she becomes Miss America or loses to Miss Universe and packs her bathing suit and goes home? Well, everybody thinks they marry millionaire playboys and live happily ever after but some of them don’t, since it’s the fashion today to have brains as well as beauty. They’re doing things that require brains as well as beauty. Like Evelyn Lovequist. She was named Miss America in 1950 and she cashed in on her title to some extent by doing professional modeling and some acting. In Exclusive Club She’s a member of another exclusive club, the Bob Cummings Girls’ Club, which is a unique organization composed of beauties “second to none,” says Bob, who have appeared on his show. But acting and modeling are only a sideline with Evelyn. She has a profession that has nothing to do with show business and one that will last long after her professional beauty days are over. She’s a sales engineer. Of course, she got the job the easy way. She works for her dad. But that doesn’t stop her from being a real good sales engineer. She knows such uninteresting and unexciting things as schematic diagrams, cost indexes and variable condensers. She goes on the road representing Lovequist Engineering Co. of Van Nuys and she brings home the MISS AMERICA trophy for 1950 decorates modern desk of Evelyn Lovequist, singer, dancer, actress, model and tales engineer, and she accomplished it all with figures. wid world potato bacon, which in this case is the order that keeps the firm’s wheels turning. In Seattle recently, Evelyn had an appointment with the office manager of a local firm who got the surprise of his life when the expected “contact man” walked into his office complete with brief case and a breath-taking red knit outfit that didn’t do its wearer a bit of harm with her impressionable customer. In fact, it may have had some- in today’s busy world?

Orders invited on pettyskirt thing to do with her landing the desired contract. Evelyn is no girl to hide her natural talents under a bushel. When she goes on the road, she carries enough wardrobe changes and applies her make-up -as deftly as though she was about to walk on stage. Easy and Attractive “There’s just no use kidding ourselves,” she says. “Men are men, thank goodness, and there’s no use pretending that they aren’t impressionable. I always feel that it’s a good idea to make their work as easy and attractive as possible, and I choose my wardrobe with an eye to that end.” In addition to her professional and business life, Evelyn is a successful wife and mother. She’s married to James McClelland, who’s sales manager at the Lovequist plant, and the McClellands have a 2-year-old son James Jr. Jim and Evelyn are considering buying their own plane to expedite their coverage of business conferences and conventions in all parts of the country and Evelyn is taking flying lessons and will get her pilot’s license soon. We tried to figure out just how and why a professional beauty should be such a success in business and we think we have it. Figures! Whether they’re mathematical or physical, figures are the answer. Slide rule or bathing suit, it’s figures that bring success to a beauty who also has brains and who has time for the other kind.

Evelyn also always stressed out the importance to good posture and a ladylike carriage. In a Lydia Lane article from 1957, she claimed that it was her posture that won her the title of Miss USA – there were more beautiful women than her on the pageant, but she always stood straight as a pole and won her due.

Evelyn and James divorced sometime before 1960. Evelyn married her last husband, David J Levinson, on December 30, 1961. Levinson was born in 1916, making him a bit older than Evelyn. Little is known of the marriage. They divorced in 1977.

Evelyn Lovequist Levinson died on May 31, 1996 in Los Angeles, California.

Lorraine Allen Breecher

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Lorraine Allen Breecher achieved a minor level of fame by dating a string of prominent men – Busby Berkeley and George Raft, ultimately marrying rhumba king Xavier Cugat. Even after her movie career failed, she rallied and became one of the few female bandleaders, giving her husband, Cugat, more than a run for his money.

EARLY LIFE

Lorraine Stein was born on July 22, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Herman Stein and Ethel Rubin. Her younger brother Jack was born in 1923.

Lorraine’s father worked as a garment merchant, her mother was a housewife. The family lived with her maternal grandparents, Barney and Bessie Rubin before Jack’s birth – afterwards they lived with lodgers. Lorraine grew up and was educated in Chicago. I have no idea how she landed in Los Angeles and into movies, but she was there by 1943.

CAREER

Lorraine appeared in only two movies, and it’s clear her movie career is not truly her forte. A dancer, she appeared in the capacity in The Gang’s All Here, an Alice Faye musical, directed by her one time fiancee, Busby Berkeley. You know the drift – plot – non existent, a great deal of singing, dancing and good sense of camaraderie between the cast.  The comedy is okay, nothing to sneer at. Carmen Miranda is in it, so that is a plus also.

lorraineallen5Her second appearance was in Cinderella Jones, one of Joan Leslie’s lesser efforts (I wrote about this movie at least 3 times, next!). After this, Lorraine took a breather from the movie industry.

Under the name of Lorraine Allen, she appeared in only one movie – Holiday in Mexico, and only thanx to her association with Cugat. The plot is simple, even a bit bare-boned – The U.S. Ambassador’s (Walter Pidgeon) daughter (Jane Powell) falls for a Mexican pianist (Jose Iturbi) old enough to be her grandfather. But what more can you ask from a Jane Powell musical? Nothing – the music is wonderful, the dialogue is witty, the cast is very good, it all moves around nicely. Totally forgettable movie, but more than worth a look

PRIVATE LIFE

Lorraine married and divorced her first husband, a Mr. Breecher, sometime prior to 1943. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find any more info on this…

Lorraine hits the news in 1943, when she became the prime woman in director Busby Berkeley’s life. Berkeley was born in, making him 21 years Lorraine’s senior.

lorraineallen6They got engaged in early August 1943, and were to be wed in 1944 after he got his final divorce decree from starlet Claire James. Busby gifted her with a expensive diamond sparkler. They were seen all around town in fancy nightclubs. Busby broke his arm in early 1944, and wore a sling over the injured arm, but this did not stop them from going out dancing.

In his biography of Berkeley, author  Jeffery Spivak claims that perhaps the reason Lorraine and Busby broke up was the fact that Busby was at heart a mama’s boy, and he deferred to Gertrude’s wishes more than she found acceptable. Anyway, I was not surprised they didn’t make it to the altar – with three or four wives behind him, Busby was a man prone to bursts of intense feeling that simply ended, and so did his infatuation.

Lorraine wasted no time in entering the dating pool again (I never understood these Hollywood people, they would plunge head first into dating the minute they were free, maybe even before! Did they really think that was the answer to their present mental and emotional state? tough luck, my pretties, it just shows that it ain’t never learned). She was seen with George Raft in October 1944, and in November 1944, she was the swain of attorney Seymour Chotiner. Later it was Steven Crane, the former husband of Lana Turner. She and Raft dated on off for about six of seven months. In May 1945, she was seen with Nat Pearlsten.

Then, in about March 1945, Lorraine got hot and heavy with her future husband, another major celebrity of the time – Xavier Cugat. Cugat was born on January 1, 1900, in Barcelona, Spain, and emigrated with his family to Cuba when he was 5 years old. He was married twice before, to Rita Montaner and Carmen Castillo.

lorraineallenThey traveled abroad together, and by June 1946, the papers were full of stories how Cugat’s marital state (he was still married to his second wife) was the only obstacle to matrimony. That same months, she got her engagement ring (another diamond stunner!). To add to his infatuation, he took Lorraine to a exclusive clothes shop and told her to pick anything she wanted. She took a almost 300$ cocktail dress. Cugar forgot to pay for it, and he was sued by the boutique not long after. They settled out of court. Cugat also persuaded his friend, Joe Pasternak, to test Lorraine for an MGM contract. Nothing came of it (she made only one movie).

In early 1947, Cugat announced Lorraine and he will be wed on October 3, in Mexico, after his divorce becomes final. However, as the date drew nearer, they had to push it day by day, and ultimately give up the option to get married in Mexico. Lorraine kept herself busy by preparing for the upcoming martial life and buying things like orange squeezers, can openers, bacon grills, etc., for their future home.

They married on October 15, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a civil ceremony conducted by Municipal Judge Adrian Bonnelly, and later they had their wedding soiree at Palumbo restaurant. It was second marriage for her and third for him. Cugat gifted his new wife with a magnificent kohinoor mink coat and a muff to match.

lorraineallen2Cugar later recounted how his good friend Joe Pasternak wanted to know the exact date and time of the ceremony, but Cugat was suspicious so he avoided telling him. With good reason – Pasternak wanted to get him arrested half an hour before the ceremony. Sly trickster. Anyway, Cugat bought a gorgeous six-acre estate in Westwood for Lorraine. Famous Mexican artist, Miguel Covarrubias, helped decorate the place. They allegedly had a mink rimmed bathtub.

In february 1948, Cugat Lorraine and fashion designer-cum-playboy Oleg Cassini made newspaper fodder when Cugat flipped after Lorraine danced with Cassini at the Mocambo club. With good cause, as Cassini most certantly was a rake who liked the ladies, and the ladies like him. Lorraine later claimed Cassini did nothing improper, but it was enough for Cugat to ask Cassini for a duel outside the club. They got into a brawl, and Cugat lost. Ah, men and their pride! Anyway, Cugat injured his finger, and Lorraine was livid with him, and refused to speak for two days with him. Cracks were more than visible in their shiny, new marriage.

However, things didn’t get any better. Just a few days later, Lorraine appeared at Ciros, another posh nightclub, with Mary Kunody, sister of insurance broker Arnold Kunody, and her fiancee Charlie Morrison – but Cugat was nowhere in sight. Since Cugat was known to be an explosive, jealous lover, everybody was wondering what happened? Lorraine told the story that he was detained and would return shortly. And Cugie did return – but instead of sitting down with his wife and friends, he sat down with Harry James and Betty Grable. What? Rumors began to circulate in Hollywood abotu the state of the marriage. They made up very publicly a few days later, when she embraced him in front view of the whole audience at the Mocambo, but hah! We all knew it won’t last long.

lorraineallen3However, rumors never lot down. It went so far that the magistrate that married them, Adrian Bonnelly, sent them a letter and urged them to think before separating for good. By September, rumors were rampart that the marriage was on the verge of collapsing. They stuck together for some more time. In early 1949, the couple moved for a time to Brazil. she returned for a few days in June, and all was okay. She flew back to Brazil. Then, when she returned to the US in July, nothing was right. She was to return to Brazil, but had no idea when she would see Cugie. By August, the patched up their quarrel via long distance phone, and she was to return to Brazil. NOT! Something happened between them, and Lorraine filed for divorce in New York on August 19, 1949. They were wed for less than two years. Cogie flew back to New York, and they managed to patch up their differences. In fact, Cugie’s jealousy seemed to be the main reason for the separation. They were badly matched at any rate – Lorraine was a beautiful former starlet who knew her assets and liked flaunting them – Cugie was madly jealous at any man who just looked at her. Bad, bad combo…

Guess what? After a brief idyll, Lorraine sued again in late December 1949, and in January, the divorce made all the papers. She seeker 2000$ temporary alimony a month, Cugie didn’t want to give it to her, he threatened to stay outside of California territory for years, so that the divorce can never be finalizes and so on… The drama wen on and on. For a time Lorraine even threatened to call off the divorce – since Cugat decided to marry his newest singer, Abbe Lane, in the meantime, this was a huge torn at his side. While waiting for the divorce to come trough, Lorraine almost went bankrupt. She also filed a complaint that Cugie cheated on her with six women, one of them Abbe. It was truly a nasty divorce case that dragged for months with no end in sight.

Thing went from bad to worse when Loraine hired detectives that burst into Abbe’s room after a show with Cugat. They allegedly found them naked… You connect the dots. There was much newspaper coverage of the event.  They claimed she was only changing her gowns, that is why she was naked… I can say I was not unpleasantly surprised when I read this… To go this far.. It was clear to everybody that Cugat and Abbe were an item, so why do all the fuss? Why did Lorraine persist in this? Was it a case of wounded feeling or purely material gain? Anyway, Cugat was not much better than Lorraine was. Both acted like spoiled, overgrown children. And on and on it went… Until January 1953, when it was finally settled.

After the divorce was finally given, Lorraine dated oilman Bob Calhoun, agent George Wood and Glenn Ford. She also headed her very own rhumba band, trying to become serious competition to her ex-husband. She even sailed to Europe to look for new talent in 1953.

By November 1953, she was dating millionaire Robert Altman. In April 1954, she married Stanley Stalford, a Los Angeles millionaire banker. The two honeymooned in Europe and visited Paris.

Stanley Murray Stalford was born on April 10, 1919 in New Yersey. He moved to California in the 1940s and got into the banking business. Lorraine retired from showbiz after the marriage, and the couple lived in Beverly Hills. However, they divorced in 1960.

Stalford remarried in 1962, to Joan Frank, and his son, Stanley Jr., was born on January 19, 1964. The boy made newspaper headlines when he was kidnapped in 1968 and held for random for two days before FBI rescued him. Stalford died on June 10, 1980 in California.

In 1964, Lorraine dated songwriter Sammy Khan. That was the last I could find about Lorraine. I have no idea is she alive or dead today. As always, I hope she had a good wife.

Phyllis Adair

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Beautiful and regal Phyllis Adair showed an early promise by appearing in a number of low budget westerns. However, when the time came for her to spring up and manage a step forward, career-wise, like many of her contemporaries, she just didn’t make it.

EARLY LIFE:

Phyllis Louise Wilsnack was born on May 1, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to George and Louise Wilsnack.  Her older sister, Priscilla Mary, was born on August 5, 1911 in Chicago.

Her father, a direct descendant of the noble von Wilsnack line (his great grandfather was count von Wilsnack), was born in 1886 in Berlin, Germany and after finishing his education in Europe, in 1908 he emigrated to the US and settled Chicago, Illinois. Her worked as a chemical engineer, specializing in making cement. Her mother, Louise Wingertier, was born in Buffalo, New York and came from a prominent Swiss family.

The family lived in Chicago, where Phyllis and Priscilla grew up. The family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s. After living in Easton for a few years, they departed for Los Angeles after Phyllis graduated from high school so she can attend college in Los Angeles.

Phyllis enrolled into college in Los Angeles (could not find which one), and there met her first husband. In the meantime, she started to act professionally, appearing in several little theater productions. She was seen by a talent scout, and soon started her movie career.

CAREER

Phyllis appeared in a great deal of low-budget westerns (oh my!). The list is as follows: Wild Horse ValleyBilly the Kid’s Fighting PalsLand of Hunted MenRiders of the Dawn and Gunning for Vengeance. As per usual, I’m not going to write anything about these charming movies, I am definitely not a fan of big budget, much less low budget westerns.

Her filmography is peppered with more valiant tries. her first ever movie, made in 1939, was All Women Have Secrets, in what seems like an interesting movie about few young people (students to be precise) who pool their resources to make their life better. Hollywood rarely tackled with such everyday problems, and it’s sure a breeze of fresh air to see movies like this. The cast has some hidden gems that would surface later – Jeanne Cagney, Janet Waldo and Veronica Lake.

phyllis-adair-and-max-terhune-1Phyllis made another movie in 1944, Abroad with Two Yanks, about (guess!) Two US soldiers and their adventures in Australia during WW2. The movie was made as a morale booster and thus hold little merit outside that field. it’s not a bad lot, but it’s a lightweight comedy and that’s about it…At least William Bendix and Helen Walker (in the lead roles) manage to do their job admirably.

God Is My Co-Pilot is perhaps the best known movie of Phyllis’a career, and yet it’s far from a full pledges classic everybody knows today. However, the movie, about Robert Lee Scott, a Georgia native who became a flying Tiger and did miraculous things during WW2, is well made and solid, if anything else. Scott is played by Warner Bros favorite bland and uninteresting every-guy, Dennis Morgan! I know, I may be harsh towards Morgan, but I’ve seen a few of his movies and I truly never understood his appeal. He was neither handsome not a particularly good actor… He’s far from the wooden magnificence of John Boles or John Gavin, but he just doesn’t do it for me. The supporting cast is much better – Dane Clark, Raymond Massey, Andrea King.

In 1945, Phyllis appeared in Kitty, a wonderful historical movie about the rise and rise of a simple London wench, with Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland in the lead roles. Just as I don’t like Morgan, thus I like Milland. He had some limitations as an actor, but he sure managed to leave a mark in most movies he appeared in. Paulette, in a similar vein, was not a great actress, but had screen presence and a feline, alluring vibe. What the film does right is putting these two actors in roles absolutely perfect for them – Milland as a charming cad and Paulette as a feisty gold digger. Add to this a solid script, great costumes and set design, and we have a winner!

dennis-moore-and-phyllis-adairTo Each His Own was another great entry into Phyllis’ filmography, a very good example of a weepy woman’s picture done right. When you have Paulette Goddard, Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, you can’t really go wrong, now can you? They truly don’t make them like this no more! The Glass Alibi is a so-so thrilled with some good twists in it. Sadly, the cast is lackluster (low tier stars like Douglas Fowler and Maris Wrixon) and the director just can’t make this a truly memorable movie experience. Phyllis’ last movie was Of Human Bondage, the lesser remake of a great book. This is the problem when you try to film movies that already have ultimate adaptations. Paul Henreid takes Leslie Howard’s role – too bad he can’t hold a candle to him (despite a strangely charming melancholy strike, Henreid was a sadly mediocre actor). Eleanor Parker is good in Bette Davis’ role, but let’s be real, nobody can top Davis is that kind of paranoid, nervous roles.

Phyllis returned to the theater even before her movie career ended. Example, from 1948: “Beaux Arts Theater will reopen Dec. 25 with “Holiday Lady,” a new comedy-drama by Luther Yantls, who has also written “Killers,” “Souvenir Sadie” and “Loose Ladles.” The production will be offered by Irving Thorns and Jack Moser. Its plot concerns a young girl of the early 1900’s whose view of life was “far ahead” of the period In which she found herself. Phyllis Adair and Jack Murray will be the principals in a company of 15. ”

By 1949, Phyllis was out of showbiz and raising a family.

PRIVATE LIFE

Phyllis’ private life was barely mentioned by tabloids, so there is so little information… Anyway, let’s squeeze what we have. First, Phyllis was a stand-in for Peggy Cummins during the filming of Forever Amber. However, we do know that Peggy was ultimately sacked and Linda Darnell took over.

Phyllis married her first husband, med student William Fredrick Eschrich, on February 14, 1940, in Los Angeles. Both of them were in college, and lived with her parents who supported them (bad idea!).

dennis-moore-and-phyllis-adairEschrich was born on February 19, 1916, in Los Angeles, to Julius Eschrich and Aurelia Mountain. He started to attended med school in his home town and met Phyllis during his studies. Sadly, the marriage was terminated in about 1943. After the divorce, William graduated from med school and became a successful doctor. He married Marcella Phillips and had two sons, Gary, born on March 9, 1948 and Tyler, born on January 21, 1950. William practiced medicine in California for the rest of his life and died on January 3, 1990, in Los Angeles.

Phyllis married her second husband, Edward David Bronaugh, in Los Angeles on August 27, 1945. Bronaugh was born on July 12, 1918, to Ruby Rheinhart and Eugene Bronaugh, in Kansas, Missouri. He trained as a pilot and became a commercial airline pilot. He served in the Air Forces during WW2, and spent two and a half years overseas. He was married once before to Mary Louise Boswell – it was a wartime marriage that started on March 12, 1943 and ended that same year.

Phyllis and Edward’s marriage also proved to be very short – they divorced in 1946 or 1947. Bronaugh later moved to GlendaleArizona and got married again, to a woman named Francoise. They had two children, Kelly and Stephane. He died on August 3, 1987 in Arizona.

Phyllis married her third husband, a Mr. Stevenson, in 1948. Their son, Scot Bruce, was born on July 3, 1949. Long retired from showbiz by then, she devoted her time to her family and lived the rest of her days in California.

Phyllis Stevenson died on February 23, 1990 in Los Angeles, California.

 

Virginia Maples

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Virginia Maples was an Earl Carroll dancer who crashed Hollywood and actually managed to get in front of the camera. However, her true claim to fame were not her acting chops, but the man she dated – she was a serious contender to become both Mrs. Phil Silvers and Mrs. George Raft. Let’s hear her story.

EARLY LIFE

Virginia Lillian Maples was born to on January 13, 1921, in Los Angeles, California to Cornelius William Maples and the former Evelyn Rae Kavanaugh. Her father was an army captain who headed the Camp Tulelake. Her younger brother, Richard, was born on March 25, 1926.

Virginia grew up in Manhattan Beach, and dreamed to being an actress/dancer from early childhood. She started dancing before she went to school. In 1937, at just 16 years old, Virginia won the title of Miss Los Angeles. Earl Carroll saw her, liked what he saw, and signed her to become a Carroll girl. Barely 16 years old, Virginia was on her way to greater and bigger things.

There are several version of the story how Virginia was discovered for the movies. In a newspaper article she claimed she was discovered on a beach near her mother’s house. Years later, she claimed she came to the studios gates one day, and said to the guards she wanted to act. Luckily, they needed a dancer that very day, and she got the part. While I can’t be sure, I just think that her engagement in Earl Carroll’s vanities catapulted her to the screen. Anyway, she signed with a major studio in 1941 and started her career.

CAREER

Virginia made her debut in 1941 with Week-End in Havana, a fun, no-brains-required Alice Faye musical with her standard stock actors – John Payne, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero. Truly, Alice’s 1930s and 1940s movies were pure enjoyment, perfect escapism at the end of another mundane working day. The plot is pretty silly (from imdb: In this case it’s Alice Faye, a shopgirl who saved her money for a cruise and in this case the cruise ship ran aground on a reef on the Cuban coast. She just doesn’t want to sign a waiver to get the company off the hook for a lawsuit. So John Payne who is about to become Barbier’s son-in-law is sent to get that waiver by hook or crook.), but you know it’s just an excuse to paste together several singing and dancing scenes.

oakland_tribune_sun__jan_2__1944_Virginia started 1942 with The Mad Martindales, a movie more or less lost today. It’s a pity – the movie seems like a charming, likable family romp with Jane Withers in her usual perky role. Next Virginia appeared in the highly sanitized and inaccurate biography or Ernst Ball, an Irish songwriter, called Irish Eyes Are Smiling. If you watched any musical/biographies, you know the drift – the plot only has minor similarities with the real life of the man it portrays, and there is plenty of nice music and dancing. Dick Haymes, in the leading role, was not a good actor for sure , but he sings well enough, and June Haver witth her happy go lucky act and nice snging saves the day.   

Virginia appeared in only one more musicals – the “war musical” Something for the Boys. Like most propaganda movies, it’s thin int he art but abundant in the fun/morale department. It’s entertaining and nice to watch, but easily forgettable (even Carmen Miranda and Vivian Blaine can’t elevate it to a upper tier status).

virginia-maplesYou know it’s the beginning of the end, or a beginning of a new career when you start appearing in low budget westerns, like Virginia did with Wildfire. After that, you either sink and leave acting, or swim and become a B western heroine. Since the movie was easily forgettable, Virginia left movies for a period of time. She worked in nightclubs and so on.

She only returned to Hollywood in 1954, to appear in tow glossy, high class productions: Woman’s World and Black Widow. Woman’s world is one oft he best movies made abut the corporate world, about three hotshot salesmen and their wives, and the rat race to get ahead int he business. Black Widow is a mixed bag of pleasures. The plot is something right out of Hitchcock (taken from imdb: Van Heflin gives a striking, forceful performance as a theatrical producer in New York City who befriends a lonely 20-year-old girl at a party; she’s a would-be writer hoping for success, he takes a shine to her and offers a helping hand…but then she turns up dead!), and the actors are good enough, but it’s all so overtly dramatic it hurts!

Virginia left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

While Virginia was one of the Earl Carroll girls, she dated Lionel Newman, the Earl Carroll orchestra leader, and there was talk the two would wed. They never did.

virginia-maples2After Newman, Virginia was seen several times with Laurence Tibbett Jr. In May 1942, she was seen with Victor Mature.

Then, in September 1943, Virginia started dating comedian Phil Silvers. Things got serious pretty soon, but theirs was a turbulent, love/hate relationship that just went up and down for about six months. They were cooing one moment, next they were fighting, then they were separated, then they were buying jewelry… it was pretty obvious the relationship would not last. They broke up in April 1943.

Virginia then took up with another famous beau, George Raft. To be sure, George was a notorious skirt chaser that dated all the girls in Hollywood (slight exaggeration, but just slight). He had just come out of a intensive relationship with Betty Grable, who ditched him when his wife refused to grant him a divorce (he used his wife a great many times to excuse himself from remarriage). Betty was furious when she found out that George started dating Virginia, and she tried to make her life a bit more complicated – only an intervention from the studio brass managed to calm down the situation.

George allegedly carried a huge torch for Betty. Since Virginia was a dear ringer for Betty in terms of looks, you can guess where that comes from… To my surprise, they actually dated for a long time – three months!!

virginia-maples3In July 1943, she switched to Tex Feldman. Then dirty laundry came out. Allegedly, when Virginia replaces Betty as George’s number one lady, he forced her to imitate Betty in everything from waling to fashion style. Virginia got sick of it and left him for Feldman. What can I say about Raft? The more I read about him and his ladies,s the less I like him. The guy obviously had some ego problems, as he dated ladies by the load but never remotely considered getting divorced from his wife who lived on the other side of the country. Some sources claim he was unable to divorce his wife, but hey, I think there are means of divorcing somebody if you really want to! Good for Virginia to get out of such a distressing relationship.

But then (WAIT FOR IT!) they got together, again!! Ugh. And they stayed together for two more years. George went overseas during the war to tour war camps, and left his car to Virginia. It must have been love😛 Anyway, he returned and they continued their idyll, until about mid 1945.

albuquerque_journal_sun__may_7__1944_After that, Virginia, started to date Bill Burton, Dick Haymes’ manager. Then she was seen with hotshot lawyer, Bentley Ryan. Then she dated Arturo de Cordova in December 1945. Virginia Maples worked as an exotic dancer at the Club Riviera, and was out of the movies.

Virginia’s last known Hollywood beau was Walter Kane, Howard Hughes’ right hand man. They dated in early 1946 for several months, but she denied reports she was to marry him.

Then, Virginia met and fell in love with a handsome Brazilian, Envidio Sanctos (they met at one of Carmen Miranda’s parties). They eloped in 1947 and got married in Brazil. She effectively left behind her career to live in the Amazon jungle with her new husband. They spent their time between Brazil and the US. Their daughter, Diana, was born on April 17, 1950, in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple separated and divorced in 1962.

In 1975, Virginia moved to Isles of Capri and opened a gift shop, Diana’s Gifts, in East Naples. She continued working until she was 70 years old, and retired in Naples after that. She was a much loved member of the community.

Virginia Maples Sanctos died on January 13, 2010, in Naples, Florida.

 

Marbeth Wright

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Pretty, well-built and with a fine singing voice, Marbeth Wright was just 14 when she signed her first contract and hope for the best. For whatever reason, her movie career never got oft he ground – however she found luck in other revues of showbiz and achieved a better career in Europe.

EARLY LIFE

Marbeth Wright was born on July 9, 1915, in Crawford, Texas, to James C. Wright and Mabel Anderson, their only child. Her father was a police officer. The family moved to Los Angeles, California sometime after 1920, and Marbeth grew up and attended school there.

Marbeth started performing at the tender age of 11 – on a gathering in her home town,  she sang popular songs, including “Honey Bunch,” “What a Man’ and several others, and won much applause for her skills. She was bitten by the showbiz bug, and there was no other path – she would become an actress. Although only 11 years old, she started working hard to achieve her dreams, and from then on was a regular at the pageant and dancing scenes.

Marbeth won Cecil De DeMille’s personality Contest, actually a lure to find new talent they could exploit in movies. Marbeth was allegedly Miss Los Angeles in 1928, which would make her only 13 years old when she won the title. Was that even legal? Yet, all the documents attest that she was born in 1915. Weird. I would put her at least in 1913, if not 1912. After winning this title, the doors to Hollywood were wide open for the beautiful girl, and she signed a studio contract in 1929 and started her career the same year.

CAREER

After three silent films that I won’t cover here (The Great Gabbo, Happy Days and The Bridge), Marbeth appeared in Just Imagine, one of the most bizarre movies to get out of Hollywood. The forced and generally unfunny comedian, El Brendel, plays a normal guy (huh, touch luck with calling his humor normal) who is struck by lightning in 1930, and winds up in 1980 New York. And you imagine how people in 1930 imagined 1980! They sure didn’t expect the shoulder pads and the hair spray! Needless to say, it’s campy, it’s ridiculous and it’s so bad it’s good! As one reviewer wrote, “There are relays of airplane roads above the city, babies are dropped from coin fed machines, and outfits are made reversible for day and evening wear.” Don’t tell me you don’t want to see this!

marbeth-wright-01Marbeth next appeared in The Trial of Vivienne Ware, a well made and sturdy drama with Joan Bennett as the innocent female lead, pushed into a nasty court trial. She was again a dancer in It’s Great to Be Alive, another bizarre one. The plot already goes south in the first sentence: An aviator who crash landed on an island in the South Pacific returns home to find that he is the last fertile man left on Earth after an epidemic of masculitus. A reviewer wrote about it on IMDB: “It’s Great to Be Alive” is one of the weirdest movies I’ve ever seen. It’s a science-fiction comedy, similar in spirit to “Just Imagine” (1930), although not quite as musicalised. This is a dumb movie, but it’s so cheerful in its mindlessness that you’ll have a good time watching it …. What more do I need to say? Hollywood sure made some very strange movies back in the day.

Marbeth took a hiatus from movies – I have no idea what exactly was she doing, I always suspect, when an actresses disappears, that she got married and then divorced, but perhaps this is not the case with her. When she returned in 1935, she appeared in The Lottery Lover, a conventional and only average movie about the misadventures of military cadets in Paris. Like most movies set in Paris in the 1930s, it features the Folies Bergere prominently. Lavish costumes and great sets can’t manage to save a dull script and insipid story.

Guess what? Marbeth then appeared in a movie aptly titled Folies Bergère de Paris. And guess what again? The movie is actually not a bad one. Headed by the effortlessly charming Maurice Chevalier (the king of precode, oh la la), it’s a story about an entertainer impersonates a banker who looks just like him, causing confusion for the bankers wife and his girlfriend. It has all the right ingredients – the witty banter, good music and decent actors. She continued her dancing output in George White’s 1935 Scandals, a typical George White movie, full of pretty girls dancing and with little to no plot.

Marbeth appeared in another idiotic musical, and that movie is truly and well forgotten, Redheads on Parade. Next, she was not a dancer but rather a secretary in The Girl Friend, only a modesty funny comedy with Ann Sothern, Jack Haley and Roger Pryor. Nothing to write home about! She finished her movie career with Music Is Magic – this is officially an Alice Faye movie, the true star is  Bebe Daniels, a 34-year-old star who refuses to acknowledge that her prime is past that she must choose roles in accordance to her advanced age! I cannot stress enough how this movie shows, unintentionally, how Hollywood treats women. While I’m the first to say that casting people who are too old for some roles is not a perfect solution, the lack of substantial roles for women above 35 years of age is alarming. And Daniels, still beautiful and with tons of charisma, is a better actress than the younger Faye and truly steals the show.

Marbeth moved to other forms of showbiz, and never made another movie.

PRIVATE LIFE

Marbeth was 5’5” tall, and tried to get into the papers like any dutiful starlet tries, but she never caused a scandal or sensation. It was her baking skills that got her into the papers in 1929 – she baked a very nice bread man for a culinary fair.

Marbeth also gave a handy beauty hint to readers:

An alluring note is added to light summer gowns by the use of fresh flowers in the hair. A cluster of mess rosebuds, gardenias, or a pink camellia is especially attractive.

Marbeth’s life gets interesting in about 1936, when she was allegedly summoned to Maurice Chevalier to appear with him in a revue show in Paris. The story goes like this (taken from a contemporary newspaper):

Marbeth Wright has signed a contract to go to Paris and appear at the Casino there and also play in a picture with Maurice Chevalier. I’m not saying there’s a romance, but I hear Maurice selected this young lady, who played Just a bit in “Folles Bergere,” as the object of his special attention when they were making the picture and chose her also for the new Job.

marbeth-wright-3I was highly suspicions of this story. Chevalier, one of the most famous stars in the world, asking for a complete unknown for a co-star, and he’s not even a friend or a lover? While possible, I doubted this very much. However, after some digging around, I found out something that could be reason – it seems that Marbeth was involved, romantically of course, with Max Rippo, who was at the time Chavelier’s secretary. Now, this makes much more sense – Rippo recommended his lover to Chevalier, he obviously liked what he saw and signed her. This way I guess Rippo and Marbeth could continue their liaison in Paris.

Marbeth sailed for Paris in 1936, and stayed there for the next three years,  singing in the Monte Cristo casino. If we only knew what other stories of Paris Marbeth could have told us…

Marbeth only returned to US in mid 1939, when it became absolutely clear that bad times were looming over Europe – she returned to Los Angeles, where her parents lived, but she did not sign a contract with any studio nor did any nightclub work. One has to wonder what happened to Marbeth? Why the termination of her career? Could there be a revival?

Unfortunately, there was to be no revival. Marbeth Wright died from a dental infection on September 17, 1939, 16 days after was declared in Europe . She was just 24 years old, and we can say that it was a tragedy she died so young.

Philippa Hilber

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Beautiful girl who danced at every show, acted in every production in her birth town, who dreamed of becoming an actress from as long as she can remember. Sounds familiar? There were thousands of such girls, and Philippa Hilber was one of them. Unlike most, she actually got somewhere – she signed a contract with a major studio and started in bits and pieces.The problem was that she never got beyond that stage. In the end, she married and left the screen.

EARLY LIFE

Phillippa A. Hilber was born on January 22, 1918, in Los Angeles, California, to Phillip Melbourne Hilber and Vera Thornton. Her father was a professional photographer, born in Michigan.

Her parents separated when she was a toddler, and she went on to live with her maternal grandparents, Alvin and Addie Thornton. In 1920, Vera and Philippa lived with Alvin and Addie and Vera’s younger brother, Richard Scott. Alvin and Addie were both Mississippi natives that married in the late 1880s, had six children, and came to California in the early 1910s. After the divorce, Vera never remarried. Phillip remarried to Hazel Hilber and had a son, Charles, born in 1930.

Philippa grew up in San Bernardino, and integrated herself with the entertainment world while very young – she appeared in school plays aged only 11, and was about 14 years old when she danced ballet in various summer concerts. Here is an excerpt of a newspaper article, dating from July 1931, about a concert at the Biltmore Bowl:

Suited particularly to this out-of-doors theater, and offering an atmospheric bit which will, in all probability, long be remembered, is the ballet “Clouds,” danced to the music of Debussy. Of the sixty dancers included in the personnel of this ballet, only six will appear as individual figures. The others are completely covered beneath more than 1000 yards of veiling, shading in color from foggy grays to brilliant orange: Representing the. clouds at sunset, the dancers drift in their rhythmic patterns about the stage, finally disappearing, leaving but one tragic little cloud who has strayed away from the rest, but who scurries away when she discovers she has been left alone. Hiding behind the clouds, but emerging in their full brilliance when the last bit of chiffon has drifted away, are five stars and, as a final climax, the moon. Featured in this ballet are Evelyn Wenger, Edith Jane. Elise Relman. Helen Doty, Phillipa Hilber and Dorothy Wagner

Philippa continued to dance at various revenues, and hope for movie stardom. And that came soon enough – she signed a movie contract in November 1934, when she was just 16 years old, and started her movie career. On the side, we have to note that she waited to finish high school in 1936, when she was already a working actress.

CAREER

Philippa started as a dancer, and as such appeared in uncredited roles of chorus girls. Her first appearance was in Arizona to Broadway, a sadly forgotten but not-all-that-bad comedy about con men trying to out-con each other. The underrated and tragic James Dunn plays the male lead, and my favorite Joan Bennett is the female lead. What’s not to like? Philippa then appeared in Roman Scandals, the seminal Eddie Cantor comedy.

philippahilber1This was followed by a show girl role in Moulin Rouge, a charming but shallow pre-code comedy with Constance Bennett playing dual roles and Franchot Tone as the husband. As you can imagine when there are dual roles involved, it’s about mistaken identities and so on. Predictable, but fun non the less. Then came Stand Up and Cheer!, which is less of a movie and more of an excuse to put one variety act after another. Avoid if you don’t like your movies without a plausible plot.

Philippa was a rumba specialist dancer in Redheads on Parade, a sadly totally forgotten Dixie Lee musical, with our favorite wooden actor, John Boles. She danced ballet in one of the few Spanish movies Hollywood made, Piernas de seda.

King of Burlesque, Philippa’s next feature, was an early Alice Faye movie with a plot that would become a genre staple in the 1940s – The low-class man aspiring to high society and married above himself, shunning his low-class sweetheart, who then goes abroad to sing and becomes a big success on the stage there. Faye actually played the shunned lady twice more, but this was the first time. The husband/cad is Warren Baxter, and socialite wife is Mona Barrie – decent cast, good dancing and singing acts, and what more do you need?

philippa-hilber-2Philippa appeared in two Loretta Young movies – Wife, Doctor and Nurse and Second Honeymoon. The former is actually an interesting take on the typical love triangle, with Loretta playing the wife – the latter is a lackluster Loretta/Tyrone Power pairing, devoid of any energy and wit (a must for a screwball comedy, which it feigns to be). She also appeared in Girls’ Dormitory, a flat movie that aimed to shock but of course is more boring than anything,  and You Can’t Have Everything, a breezy, charming Alice Faye/Don Ameche movie (where you need to forget the plot and just enjoy the music!)

Philippa ended her career with two total misses – Love and Hisses, a dismal movie at best, about  a rado feud between columnist Walter Winchell and band leader Ben Bernie(since neither knows how to act, you can imagine how good the movie is), and Kentucky Moonshine, a lesser movie of the Ritz brothers (and they were the poor man’s Marx brothers).

Philippa left movies to raise her children after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1934, Philippa gave a Beauty hint for her fans:

FOR a facial that leaves the skin smooth and soft, mix equal parts of sweet almond oil and honey, cover the face and allow to remain on half an hour. Remove with cold cream or lukewarm, damp towels. through several waters. Do not wring them out, but hang up dripping. Dry celery leaves and parsley, then pulverize. Keep in salt shakers. They are worth the trouble to prepare and make a tasty garnish.

philippa_hilber_make_upPhilippa dated Doodle Weaver for a few months in 1935. She married Bill Goodwin on March 11, 1936, in Yuma, Arizona. They just hoped into Goodwin’s car one day and of they went! William Nettles Goodwin was born on July 28, 1910, in San Francisco, California, to . Goodwin attended the University of California. He acted in stage productions on the West Coast before he began working in radio in 1930. After working on a station in Portland, Oregon, he worked at stations in Sacramento and Los Angeles. he would act in Hollywood movies, and work with George Burns and Gracie Allen.

Philippa promised that marriage would not interfere one bit with her career. Typical sentence, spoken by dozens of starlets – with typical results. Yes – within three years, Phillipa was pregnant and leaving movies for good.

philippafamilyThe couple had four children – Jill (born on December 20, 1939), William Richard (born on January 8, 1942), Lynn (born on October 18, 1943), and Sally (born on June 29, 1945). In 1945, she was named Glamour Mother of the Year by infantry men fighting in Europe. In 1951, there was thing short item in the papers about Philippa: People are always asking Philippa Goodwin, wife of Bill Goodwin, how she finds time to raise four children. “It’s the same as raising one,”, explains Philippa. “When Jill, our firstborn, arrived, she took all my time. What can three more do?”

Philippa and Bill enjoyed a happy and fulfilling marriage, and even had their own radio program. Unfortunately, Bill died from a sudden heart attack on 1958. In the 1970s, Philippa worked as a successful real estate agent, based in Los Angeles.

Philippa never remarried, retired in the 1980s and moved to Palm Desert to enjoy her golden years.

Philippa Hilber Goodwin died on April 1996 in Palm Desert, California.

Mildred Stone

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Beautiful and a wonderful vocalist, Mildred Stone had all the pluses to make it in Hollywood. And just when she started her road to riches, she got married and gave it up. As we know from previous posts, such was the story of many women in 1930s Hollywood.

EARLY LIFE

Mildred I. Stone was born on January 13, 1914, in Hanford, California to Cedric A Stone and Harriet Berachig Wilson. Her younger sister Dorothy was born in 1920. Both of the girls grew up in Lucene, Kings County, where their father had a farm.

Sadly, her father died on November 29, 1925, aged only 35. Harriet took the girls to Hanford, where both of them attended Hanford High School.

While there, Mildred was tutored by elocution and voice expert Mary Hobson Crowe, who was once a star of the stage. This gave her . She played leads in Mikado, the Indian Operetta, Lela Walla and other productions. She also studied for a bit with a voice coach in San Francisco.  She had to return to Hanford to earn money to continue her education – Hanford chamber of Commerce staged a recital to help her. Then, she had her first solo concert in October 1933 – she was accompanied by her mother on the piano.She also did some work for Hanford Players to supplement her income.

After bagging some money, she returned to San Francisco studied with the prior mentioned voice coach for some more time, and then moved to Los Angeles to further her career. There she won a contest and nabbed a role in a at a Clark and McCollough comedy. Not long after she got a contract with KMTR radio, and did gigs at famous nightclubs:

In mid 1934, she was let go from her KMTR contract and signed with Jimmy Grier at the Biltmore bowl, where she sang 7 nights a week. On the side, she tried for a movie career. Her break came as a total lark – she was noticed in a nightclub by a talent scout, who arranged for her screen test. She passed with flying colors.

Mildred signed her first motion-picture contract, a seven-year agreement with Paramount Productions under which she was to. receive $50 a week to start with, her salary ascending on a sliding scale to $450 a week. And her movie career started…

CAREER

Mildred made only two movies after she signed her contract with Paramount. And both were in uncredited roles. So much about becoming a film star…

mildredsantaellaHer first movie was the Bing Crosby vehicle, Mississippi. Most of his early to mid 1930s movies fall into the same basket – funny, charming, paper-thin plot wise musicals. Of course, they are of varying quality, but neither veers too much of the charted track. Mississippi falls somewhere in the middle of the road, being neither the best nor the worst of the Crosby offerings. The flimsy plot (taken from a reviewer on imdb): Bing is cast as a northerner set to marry a southern woman who lives in one of those great plantations, and who has a prettier younger sister. He is challenged by an evil ex-suitor, but won’t duel with him. So Bing is cast out in disgrace to sing on Fields’ riverboat. Bing has to somehow survive Fields’ influence, get back on shore and re-claim his marital “prize”. But she is married to the “bad guy”. What does Bing do? What is his relationship with the cute younger sister?

You get the drift. The best thing about this movie is the pairing of Bing Crosby and W.C. Fields – the only time they worked together. Shame, as they were on the top in their prospective fields: Bing a top crooner and Fields a top comedian. The movie’s one major downfall is its mild but still very much apparent racism. Hollywood of the 1930s was very ambivalent about racism – as one reviewer correctly wrote: “For every serious film that grasped at racial tragedy in this country (the US) (IMITATION OF LIFE with Louise Beavers and Freddy Washington, or IN THIS OUR LIFE with Bette Davis) there were hundreds which were made that insulted millions of African-Americans for laughs.”

mildresstone2Mildred’s second movie was 13 Hours by Air, a brisk, well made thriller. It offers little more than that, but let’s me real, nobody expects it to be a top feature. he plot is a bit convoluted, with planes, jewel robbers, high society ladies, corrupt counts and so on, but the cast is pretty good – Fred MacMurray and Joan Bennett in the leads, and John Howard , Ruth Donnelly, Alan Baxter and Zasu Pitts in the supports. Mildred plays a (what else) stewardess. Also worth watching out is a small role by the forgotten silent movie queen, Marie Prevost.

Mildred gave up acting to starts a family after this, and her Paramount contract was broken.  She returned to movie making in 1947, with her last feature, The Shocking Miss Pilgrim, a truly enjoyable fare. Without insulting the sensibilities of the all mighty production code, it manages to be a commentary on the early women’s right movement in the late 19th Century. It’s also a delightful love story and ultimately musical with some irresistible music by Ira Gershwin. Yep, win-win situation on all accounts. Special plus is seeing Betty Grable and Dick Haymes paired on the screen.

And that was it from Mildred.

PRIVATE LIFE

Mildred was a petite woman, standing at just 5′ 2″, but was of shapely build. She was nicknamed Midge by family and friends. She gave her beauty hint to the public in 1934:

If your blonde hair looks dull, try using a tablespoon full of vinegar in the lukewarm rinse water after a shampoo.

Short, sweet and very much true!

mildredstone3Now for her love life. While working at the KMTR radio, Mildred met Salvatore Santaella, the charming, suave musical director. Santaella was born on September 12, 1896, in Mexico City, Mexico, of Italian extraction, to Pasquale and Anna Maria Santaella. He immigrated to the States with his parents in 1908. They settled in Detroit, where he finished high school. A gifted pianist, he became a professional musician. In 1920, he married his first wife, Lillian Hansen. The couple moved to New York in 1921 and renewed their vows in 1922. Their daughter Dorothy G. was born not long after, in Oregon.

Santaella moved to Los Angeles at some time in the mid 1920s, and started to work in the radio and movie industries. He and Lillie divorced at some point. Santaella played piano solos for the George Arliss movie, The Man Who Played God, and became the KMTR musical director. He also wrote songs on the side, and even collaborated with Jan Rubini, famous composed who was the husband of another starlet I profiled on this blog, Terry Walker.

Mildred and Salvadore dated from at least mid 1934. He had already let her out of the KMTR contract so she can sign with Jimmy Grier and appear in movies. He obviously had misgivings about letting her go – not just professional ones mind you!

the_bee_thu__jan_10__1935_They married on  September 14, 1935, in Los Angeles. Their daughter, Linda, was born on October 3, 1935, in Los Angeles (now, look at the dates – Linda was born just 20 days after they married. Pretty steamy stuff for 1935. I wonder why they married so late? Divorces, or?).

Mildred slowly gave up her budding career to become a housewife. By 1939, she was not working any more, and the family lived in 6506 Lindenhurst Avenue. She was close to her mother’s family, the Wilsons, and sometimes popped up in the local Californian newspapers in the society pages.

Saltavore Santaella died on January 11, 1964. I have no idea what happened to Mildred afterwards – the IMDB claims she died in 1989, but I could not a death certificate.

As always, I hope she had a good life.

Perdita Chandler

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A stunning Elizabeth-Taylor-look-alike, Perdita Chandler acted only for fun – thus, she never expected anything big and never got anything big from Hollywood. However, despite the thin number of movies she appeared in, their quality is quite impressive – isn’t it enough to say that she appeared in same movies as Greer Garson, Spencer Tracy and John Wayne?

EARLY LIFE

Perdita Chandler was born in 1928 in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of a local physician. The family lives in Santa Monica for a time.

The family moved to Salt Lake City in the late 1930s. When Perdita was 13 years old, she fell from a roof. The doctors gave her parents a grim prognosis – Perdita will never walk again. However, the determined child gritted her teeth and refused to give up – she worked every day, and she was back on her feet (wobbly a bit but a step forward) in a couple of months. In order to strengthen her back, she started taking dancing lessons.

Soon, Perdita was a serious dancer, enjoying it very much and hoping to make a career out of it. Not long after she started to sing, and joined the Mormon Tarbenacle Choir. She sang there for four years – encouraged by her success, she left for New York int he mid 1940s. Her father, however, did not wish for her daughter to be in showbiz – but it did not deter Perdita!

Beautiful, tall and well-built, she became a Powers model in no time. She also sang in nightclubs and made an appearance on Broadway in The Firebrand of Florence, a Kurt Weill musical. In 1949, she left New York for Hollywood, and there our story starts!

CAREER

Perdita made her debut in The Great Jewel Robber, a David Brian veclicle. What can I say, Brian is a new favorite of time, after seeing him in The Damned Don’t Cry. he wasn’t PerditaChandlerOlivier, but he had a menacing vibe and was largely magnetic on-screen. it’s an interesting film at any rate – Brian plays the titular jewel robber, who uses anyone and anything to live off his trade. It’s just what he is, and he will never be anything else. this grim, serious outlook on a man is something we don’t see too much in saintly Hollywood. he won’t change – he doesn’t want to. he’ll use any woman he meets to achieve his cause (the women are played by Perdita, Marjorie Reynolds and Jacqueline DeWit). Wonderful start for Perdita, despite the B movie status, but did she match it up?

Unfortunately, she would never again play a credited role. But she did appear uncredited in some pretty good movies! First in the list – The Glass Menagerie, an overall successful adaptation of the Tennessee Williams classic. Mister 880, her next movie, is a well made Burt Lancaster thriller about a Secret Service Agent trying to catch a cold case counterfeiter and a United Nations translator. Since Burt made tons of good movies, it gets drowned out and is barely remembered today. This is the only time Burt played opposite the enchanting Dorothy McGuire.

The People Against O’Hara is essentially a character study about an alcoholic lawyer who tires to redeem himself by defending a youth from the wrong side on the tracks during a murder trial. Luckily, the lawyer is played by Spencer Tracy – few actors could pull of the role with such a mixture of ease and heaviness. It’s not an edge of your seat, thrilling movie, but it works on most levels.

Phone Call from a Stranger  is a small, non-bombastic movie, but very well-acted, directed and scripted film, with a surprisingly good ending. It deals, directly, with loss – how people cope when they suddenly lose somebody. The leads are played by Gary Merrill, Shelley Winters and Michaell Rennie, all fine enough thespians.

The Merry Widow is a lukewarm adaptations of the famous operetta, which was filmed before (in 1932) with a (IMHO) better cast – Maurice Chavalier and Jeannette MacDonald. The 1932 movie is generally a better one than this one (by miles). Lana Turner, who plays the widow of the title, is as lackluster as always. What can I say about her? No great actress, but she did have the star quality and managed to pull off more good movies than many more talented actresses. The male lead was taken over by Fernando Lamas – since I’m not a fan of the Latin lover types, I’ll just say skip.

Perdita’s lats movie under contract was Scandal at Scourie, a later Greer Garson movie. By 1952, Greer was not the major star she was in the early to mid 1940s – her movies were never as good as they were back then. However, she was always extremely watchable and could lively up even mundane material. Here she is again paired with Walter Pidgeon, in a touching story about.

Perdita made only one more movie, in 1957, John Wayne’s Jet Pilot. After that she completely dissipated from the Hollywood scene.

PRIVATE LIFE

In early 1950, not long after she came to Hollywood, Perdita was seen with Ronald Reagan. It didn’t last long, unfortunately. Fortunately, another man came into his place.

The_Jacksonville_Daily_Journal_Fri__Dec_18__1953_His name was Felix Ferry, known as Fefe or Fifi Ferry, a famous movie agent. Ferry sure had a colorful life. Born in 1897 in Romania, he moved to Monaco and helped make Monte Carlo the hubbub of European jet set. He came to the States and opened and former owned of a top-notch New York restaurant, Monte Carlo. Ferry had connection with some shady characters, including mobster Frank Costello. He was also engaged for a time to dancer Hilda Knight. Ann Woodward, who famously killed her wealthy husband William Woodward, was a dancer at one of Fefe’s nightclubs before her marriage.

Fefe was a slight man, under 5’5”, but with a magnetic presence and great charisma. As Fefe’s fiancee, Perdita mingled with the higher-ups of Hollywood (she was often likened to Elizabeth Taylor, whom she knew personally), and was a good friend of famous astrologer Carroll Righter.

In June 1953, Perdita went to Europe for the first time. She was to be married to Ferry in Germany. The couple traveled around a great deal before the nuptials were to take place. However, during one such trip, Fefe died from a sudden heart attack. The wedding was only three days away. Perdita, who was expecting to get married to a wealthy man, brought only a small sum of money with her. Fefe was dead, she was not his legal successor – she had no right to any of his inheritance. She didn’t have enough even to return back to the States. Fiercely independent and unwilling to fall onto the kindness of strangers, she hitch hiked to Paris, talked to some of Fefe’s friends, and got herself a spot as the chanteuse in the posh nightclub, the Elephant Blanc. Her show was a smash – soon she was overrun with offers for other engagements. She appeared for a time in Carroll’s, another fashionable nights spot, and toured a great deal (most notably to Egypt).

When an US newspaperman interviewed her in 1954, almost a year later, Perdita expressed her deep sorrow over Fefe’s death, but also a certain satisfaction over her present situation. She had no plans to return to the US any time soon, and she obviously enjoyed the “French living”.

In early 1955, Perdita became an ambassador for French wine. She gushed to the papers how wonderful French wine was, much better than sodas or coffee back in the States. In September of that year, Perdita was seriously injured in a car crash near Milan. She managed to recuperate and after such a life or death situation, came to the conclusion that it was time to return to the States in 1956, to continue her movie career.

What happened afterwards is a mystery to me. She returned to Europe and didn’t make another movie. Perdita got married to a French man, a Mr. Dalbavie, after 1958. Her son, Marc-André Dalbavie, was born on February 10, 1961. He became a famous composer.

I have no idea where Perdita is today, but I hope she had a good life!

Maxine Reiner

Maxine1

Maxine Reiner was a gorgeous model who came to Hollywood with the sole intention of making it as an actress. Her looks warranted her a contract, but we all know that’s only a starting point for something more substantial. After some uncredited bits, she was given a prominent role in a movie series and it was either make or break – sadly, she did not make the grade and her career ended not long after.

EARLY LIFE

Maxine Frances Reiner was born on March 16, 1916, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Bernard Reiner and Ida Eisenberg. Her younger sister Naomi was born in 1923. Maxine grew up in Philadelphia and attended schools there.

During her high school years, to make some money, Maxine worked as a model in Philadelphia. She was best known for the cigarette ads (despite the fact that she never smoked). Upon graduation, her father gifted her with a train ticket to Los Angeles. Piqued by the light of Hollywood, she left for the West coast with her mother and sister. She did the usual studio rounds, but no luck. Then, one day, an agent was reviewing a screen test trying to decide will he sign an actress of not. Maxine was in the same screen test – the agent finally decided to sign Maxine and not the girl he was originally . She got a contract with Universal Studios and started her career.

CAREER

Maxine was uncredited in her first feature, Wanderer of the Wasteland, a forgotten movie based on a Zane Grey novel. The cast is good enough for sure (Dean Jagger and Gail Patrick in the leads), but MaxineReiner5there is nothing further I can say about the movie. She had another uncredited role in Professional Soldier, a fun and delightful romp, a perfect Sunday afternoon movie. The plot is simple enough – Former real-life mercenary Victor McLaglen plays a professional soldier who is hired to kidnap the Russian king, Peter II, but he gets much more than he bargained for in Freddie Bartholomew (who play Peter). it’s not about the plot for sure – it’s about the great interplay between McLagen and Bartholomew, the fast and elegant action scenes, and witty dialogue. Rita Hayworth and Maxine play gypsy dancers.

She continued her uncredited adventure with It Had to Happen, one of the less known George Raft movies. He plays an Italian immigrant who makes it big in America. Same old, same old story. Rosalind Russell plays the female lead. Nothing to yawn about.

Maxine struck cinematic gold that catapulted her out of the uncredited pool with Charlie Chan at the Circus. Was it the best way to become a star? Heck no, but it was a god start. What can I say about Charlie Chan movies?  Like most movie serials, they were made on a shoestring budget and with mediocre writing, and this particular entry is a mid tier one. Some love it, some find it uninteresting, but it’s enjoyable any way you look at it. Charlie Chan is, as the title suggests, in the circus and gets embroiled in the complex behind the scenes hierarchy. Maxine plays a trapeze artist. What was supposed to be her ticket to stardom only buried her further. Maxine did no make the grade, and her roles suffered.

MaxineReiner3She had a smaller role in Sins of Man, a long-winded, heavy drama with Don Ameche playing dual roles of two brothers. It’s more or less completely forgotten today.

Maxine had a slightly more prominent role in The Girl on the Front Page, a Gloria Stuart vehicle where she plays a rich girl who starts to work at her dad’s paper incognito and managed to bust a counterfeit ring. While I love a heroine who is proactive and does things, the rich girl going to work narrative is a bit boring, I have to admit. Yet Gloria is such a lovely presence, you can forgive some plot holes.

Maxine’s last movie was Flying Hostess, a movie about the lives and loves of airline stewardesses (they were called flying hostesses back in the 1930s). It’s a pretty minor, forgotten movie. Aware that her career was going nowhere, Maxine gave up her contract to become a wife and later, mother.

PRIVATE LIFE

Maxine was a budding novelist, and wrote the novel Stranger in Manhattan in 1935. It deals with the sophisticated life in New York. I have no idea if it was ever published, but it’s never bad to write, so kudos to Maxine.

MaxineReiner4Maxine married Joseph “Joe” I. Myerson on July 11, 1935, in an orthodox ceremony in Los Angeles. The studio gave her two weeks to go on a honeymoon. Joe was born on December 6, 1905, to Victor Myerson and Ida Hoffman, the fifth of six children. He grew up in California but moved to Yuma, Arizona in the late 1920s. He returned to Los Angeles in the mid 1930s and worked as a wholesale clothing merchant.

The marriage ended in a separation on October 18. They finally hit the divorce courts in February 1936, where she asked for separate maintenance and he claimed that it’s stupid to pay her alimony since she earned more than him. Finally, she was awarded $185 a month alimony.

Myerson remarried to Jean Morantz on June 20, 1937. He died on December 1986, in Pima, Arizona.

Maxine married Harry Eliot Sokolov on April 29, 1937. The couple waited for two months to reveal their marriage to the press. Harry was born on December 23, 1899 in Baltimore, Maryland to Jacob Sokolov and Anita Azrael, second of seven children. He graduated from Central High School in Washington DC. In 1921, while studying law, he helped organize an eight piece orchestra that was to stage a George Washington musical. In 1925, he and his brother opened a Realty Corporation in Brooklyn. He became a practicing attorney and moved to Los Angeles after 1930. He and Maxine lived in Beverly Hills.

Maxine2Now, something more about her husband. In 1939, he, along with several other luminaries, founded the Producers Corporation of America.  Harry Sokolov was a very active and energetic man who served as an attorney to several stars (Patsy Ruth Miller comes to mind), was the CEO to Harry Sokolov and Sons, a construction company, and later became an executive producer at 20th Century Fox and close associate of Richard Zanuck. He also was a member of the advisory board of the California State Park Foundation and a member of the California Superior Court Arbitrators.

On January 22, 1943, the Sokolov’s only child, son Thomas Reiner Sokolov, was born. Maxine’s sister Naomi lived with them until her own marriage the same year. Maxine was active in the local social life and dedicated a lot of her time to charitable causes.

The couple divorced at some point before 1956. Sokolov died in 1977.

Maxine married Frank Maury Grossman on August 5, 1956. He was born in January 21, 1915 in Canada, to Harry Gorssman and Florence Claman. They divorced afterwards. Grossman died on June 16, 1988.

Maxine Frances Reiner died on June 19, 2003, in Los Angeles, California.