Ruth Ownbey/Valmy

Sorry for the months long hiatus, no real reason for it, just hope to make it all up in the months to come! Anyway, Ruth Ownbey was a pretty girl who ended up as a Power Model that ended up as an actress. Sounds familiar? Of course it does, as anyone who reads this blog can ay, been there, done that. Sadly, Ruth didnd’t fare much better than most in this postion – while she did appear in several really good, if classic movies,

EARLY LIFE

Ruth Lola Amber Ownbey was born on January 24, 1922 in Asheville, North Carolina, to Robert Lee Ownbey and Mary Lee Steelman, their youngest child. Her older siblings were Elda Caroline, born on May 4, 1914, Elbert Hubbard, born on October 4, 1915, and Clara Barton, born on August 17, 1917. Her father was a professional cook.

When the Ownbeys lived in Asheville, her father operated a restaurant, and Ruth attended Monlford elementary school. When Ruth was 10 years old her parents divorced and the family moved to Fort Smith, Arkansas. In Fort Smith she attended high school, and after graduation went on to try and find some employment. An unlikely profession came to her by accident when won a contest for the most beautiful redhead, and this is how her modeling career started.

From Fort Smith she went to Dallas, Texas, where she worked as a model and thru her brother Elbert went to New York, where she was a Powers model for four years, her pictures becoming familiar on billboard and magazine covets. In the interim she took part in many beauty shows. Her time came in the unlikely year of 1941 (When US entered WW2). Then she was crowned Miss America, was named Miss Rheingold (the second Miss Rheingold ever, the first one the year before was Jinx Falkenburg), as a result had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt and was put under contract with MGM Studio. And her career started!

CAREER

Ruth always made small, uncredited role, making her a glorified extra in most cases. She made her movie debut in Du Barry Was a Lady, as Miss September, under her birth name, Ruth Ownbey. Then she got married and used her married name until 1946, when her career ended.

Like many, many girls profiled here, Ruth appeared in Up in Arms, a Danny Kaye movie. I really don’t know what more to write about it! It truly is full of beautiful starlets trying to make it in Tinsel town. Ruth was another showgirl in the aptly named Show Business, a breezy and easy Eddie Cantor/George Murphy musical. No big story, but plenty of music and dancing, and a very nice, old Hollywood way. They don’t make them like this anymore for sure! Ruth then appeared in three classics: Since You Went Away, The Woman in the Window, The Princess and the Pirate. We have a serious drama, film noir and a brawny comedy here, each very well made for it’s genre and with an enduring quality, makign them immensely watchable.

After a string of such good movies, Ruth stayed somewhere mid tier. Her last 184 was Belle of the Yukon, a so-so western with Randolph Scott and Gypsy Rose Lee. I like Gypsy, so watching her movies is always watching her being herself, but it’s nothing to really write home about.

Ruth appeared as another Showgirl in It’s a Pleasure, a typical Sonja Henie ice skating movie. I mentioned quite a few times on this blog that I don’t really like Sonjas movies, they sure do have that magical old Hollywood touch, but I find then too one dimensional and Sonja a not really good actress. She was a superb ice skater, that is for sure, but that hardly makes her a thespian. Ruth then appeared as a Goldwyn girl in two movies: Wonder Man and The Kid from Brooklyn. Both are Danny Kaye/Virginia Mayo classics, a joy to watch anytime, anywhere.

Ruth closed her career with Night in Paradise, a weird movie about Aesop and his life on King Croesus’ court. Yep, you heard that right, there is a movie movie where Aesop is a main character, and is played by the buff Turhan Bey! Merle Oberon plays his romantic interest, also lusted after by the King (well, nobody has seen that coming!). Linda, Be Good is a very obscure burlesque comedy with Elyse Knox, Marie Wilson and John Hubbard.

And that was all from Ruth!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she came to Hollywood, Ruth tried to band herself as a former rual girl gone Hollywood, and claimed she once had a cow of her own and similar stuff. At her Hollywood peak, she had rich auburn hair, was five feet four inches tall and weighted 115 lbs.

Ruth married her first husband, Alfred Licklider, very young, at 17, on May 15, 1939, in Manhattan, New York. Alfred, born in 1913, had a four year old son when they married (from his marriage to Patricia Pattison), and worked as an advertising man. The marriage did not last however, and they divorced after she went to Hollywood in 1942. Licklider died in 1992 in New Mexico.

Ruth married her second husband, Roger Valmy, in 1943, during the war. Here is an article about their marriage:

Ruth Ownbey, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer starlet and John Power’s model, end Pvt. Roger Valmey of the DEML detachment were married at the post chapel. Chaplain George C. Pearson read the ceremony and the bride was given in marriage by Major William A. Perkins of the medical corps. The bride wore a purple crepe afternoon dress with a single strand of pearls and a short veil of white mesh accented with purple flowers. She carried a bouquet of pink and white carnations with shell pink ribbon streamers. Attending the couple were Lieut. Wright of the 91st infantry division and Mrs. Wright. As the couple left the altar the guard of honor formed an arch of guns beneath which they passed is they walked down the aisle. They received congratulations from friends In the vestibule ‘ and passed beneath the arch again to waiting cars In the street. Members of the DEML detachment who volunteered to serve as members of the guard of honor were: T. Sgt. Garth B. Farmer, commander of the guard: S. Sgts. Lester V. Anderson, Walter D. Brown, John L. Galane, Nicholas Ltwynec, Warren M. Waite, SRts. Robert C Kohlman Carrie B. Adams Battman Llveth O. F. Handel Director. The bridegroom who lived in Europe and spent many years in North Africa la now serving In the U. S. army. Mrs. Valmy appeared In “Madame du Berry” and has successfully modeled for national advertising and will continue to work In this field.

Valmy was an interesting character, born on October 6, 1912, in Cairo, Egypt. His family was in the cotton business and well of. His primary passion were horse racing – he was bitten by the horse-racing bug at the tender ae of 11. At the age of 15, he became editor of a racing magazine but was packed off to Paris and law school a few years later. He later became active in another family business managing estates. Valmy came to California 1936 and began his integration into the horse racing scene and high society of Hollywood.

The Valmys divorced in the late 1940s, and Roger remarried at least twice (to Margaretta Smith and Dana K.). He worked as a managing director for several stores, and till dabbled in horse racing. In 1953, Valmy began an intensive three-year study of his idea for a stock-selling stable nd in 1958 applied for permission from the Division of Corporations.  He died on August 25, 2004.

Ruth married her third husband, Franklin G. Ellerbroek, in the summer of 1950. Franklin was born on December 4, 1916, in Sheldon, Iowa, to Frank Lewis Ellerbroek and Mabel Hornstra, the youngest of three children (his sisters were Hazel and Esther). After high school he went to California, where he worked as in the production of chemical products. He served in WW2 in the Air Corps.

The Ellerbroeks settled in California. After her Hollywood and acting career ended, Ruth kept herself busy with a variety of projects, including print, real estate and interior design. She was the chairperson of the ladies division of fundraising for the Variety Club. She remained an active fundraiser for many various charities throughout her life.

Ruth and Frank lived happily until Frank’s death on November 27, 2001. Ruth continued living in Rancho Mirage, and did not remarry.

Ruth Ownbey Ellerbroek died on July 30, 2008, in Rancho Mirage, California.

Dorothy Lovett

Dorothy Lovett is a nice twist on the usual trope – she was a model who became an actress, based mostly on her looks, but before that, she was actually an actress who became an model because she couldn’t find thespian work. Dorothy actually had a pretty decent career in Hollywood, being featured prominently in a popular movie serial of the day, but gave up her career in order to raise family.  

Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Elizabeth Lovett was born on February 15, 1913, in Providence, Rhode Island, to William Francis Lovett and Katherine E. Galligan. She was the youngest of three children and the only daughter – her siblings were William, born in 1909, and Thomas, born in 1910. Her father was a letter carrier (postman). 

Dorothy grew up in Providence in a happy family unit. had some early stage experience, as this story can attest:

Dorothy Lovett made a false start as an actress at the age of 5, with the Albee stock company. Burton Churchill was the star, and Dorothy was the little girl who got kidnaped in Only a Woman. Looking back at it now, she regards her earlier self with awe and wonderment because little Miss Lovett was bored by show business. She also was temperamental. After about the second performance, she began to sulk in the wings and refuse to go on until bribed with a new toy a football or a fire truck or a baseball bat. One evening she embellished her role by falling down a flight of stairs in the second act. Her two idolatrous brothers in the audience dashed down the aisle to her rescue and were halted only as they were trying to clamber over the musicians.

Dorothy gave up acting for the time being, attending elementary and high school, and devoting her time to becoming a top notch athlete. She became a typical tomboy, spending a great deal of her time in treetops, hacked off all her hair to be more mobile. Pretty soon, she was the fastest broken-field runner in her neighborhood. Her life changed one day in high school, when she was struck on the larynx by a hard-hit baseball. She fainted from the shock, and afterwards decided to change lanes in life once more. 

After she graduated from high school, Dorothy started to attend Pembroke college, and there she got feminine touches. She also got back into acting again –  she didn’t have any interest in the matter until she, by pure chance, got a speaking part in a little theater play, and slowly, bit by bit, upped the scale.  She did some summer theater, and ultimately decided to try her hand in showbiz for a living. After graduation, not being able to secure acting roles, she worked as a model. In a strange twist of fate, her first job was conducting a recipe program on the air. Dorothy at the time couldn’t cook, but she developed such a convincing manner on her cooking program that thousands’ of listeners would rush to their kitchens and do just what she told them. Pretty soon Dorothy progressed to a program about fashions, which she really knew something about. As time went by, Dorothy became a very successful model – she was voted the most beautiful model in New York City in 1940/41. 

All the while, she tried to getting roles but failed. Finally she heard about an interview for John Powers models that RKO was holding. The fact that she was not a Powers model did not deter her. The movie scouts saw her, liked what they saw, and she got her RKO contract. Thus her career started! 

CAREER

Dorothy started her career with Twelve Crowded Hours, a very minor Lucille Ball movie, a crime comedy by genre. In fact, it’s hardy a Lucy movie at all, although she does play the leading female role, she is relegated to being a second banana to the leading man, Richard Dix, a reported who’s tracing Lucy’s wayward brother. Nothing special,  not bad but not really memorable. Next came something a bit more impressive – The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, one of the Rogers/Astaire pairings. What to say, these movies are classics and remain a staple of the genre and 1930s in general. Then came The Flying Irishman,  an unusual movie where aviator Douglas Corrigan stars as himself “accidentally” flying across the ocean to Ireland. Corrigan got some fame in 1938 when this happened, and the movie was made in to cash that fame, since Corrigan is hardly known today, except to hard-core enthusiast. Corrigan, who was not a thespian by any stretch of imagination (albeit in possession of an easy, affable charm), was supported by an able body of RKO staples – Paul Kelly, Donald McBride, Robert Armstrong… 

Dorothy then appeared in Fixer Dugan, a Lee Tracy/Peggy Shannon teaming, with Virginia Wielder, where they play a couple of circus people who develop a deep affection for orphaned girl, Wielder, who mother just died in an aerial accident. Tracy was a specific actor who excelled playing smooth talking conman with just some traces of morality, and he’s always tops playing those roles, no matter the movie nor the story. As you can guess, he plays the fixer. The movie was sadly a B class affair, and Peggy Shannon not the greatest of all leading ladies, but she is cute and pert, Virginia is perky and heartwarming, and we get to see how a circus lived in the 1930s. Dorothy’s last uncredited role before breakthrough was in These Glamour Girls, a biting social satire disguised as a frilly upper class comedy. Lew Ayres plays a preppy boy who, by drunken design, invites a taxi dancer to his all-too-snobbish elite school and she unintentionally causes havoc. This is a role I think Lana Turner played best – naughty but nice independent woman who fight for themselves and know their way around men. She was very often miscast as a upper class lady – she never and could never be one, she just didn’t’ have the sheen, but had plenty of other attributes. The cast is outstanding, Turner, Ayres, Ann Rutherford, Anita Louise, Billie Burke.  

Dorothy’s claim to fame was her role in the Dr. Christian series of movies, where she played nurse Judy in five movies – Meet Dr. Christian, The Courageous Dr. Christian, Dr. Christian Meets the Women,Remedy for Riches, They Meet Again. Whoever loves medical series will probably like this more wholesome and slightly naïve take on the profession. Christian is played by Jean Hersholt, and his support is  good – Robert Baldwin, Edgar Kennedy, and a string of players from the RKO supporting roster. 

Between Dr. Christian movies, Dorothy appear in an odd-RKO feature. The first one was That’s Right – You’re Wrong, a Kay Kyser vehicle, where Kyser plays himself trying to make it in Hollywood. The plot is very thin, but the music is nice if you like Kyser, and there are some good supporting players – Adolphe Menjou, May Robson, Lucille Ball. Next Dorothy had a role in the movie serial The Green Hornet Strikes Again! – about the legendary Green Hornet character. 

Dorothy played a prominent role in Lucky Devils, a completely forgotten movie that doesn’t even have a summary on IMDB. Luckily, her next movie, Look Who’s Laughing, was better known, featuring Fibber McGee and Molly and Edgar Bergen. It’s a typical silly comedy, but for anyone who loved either the McGees or Charlie McCarthy will enjoy it immensely. More nostalgia than art, but who’s asking? 

Dorothy had an okay role in Call Out the Marines but it didn’t really help her career. As one reviewer perfectly wrote in IMDB: The tail end of McLagen and Lowe’s adventures as Flagg and Quirt from WHAT PRICE GLORY (the names are marginally changed) is a piece of production line entertainment that turns the battling buddies into Abbott & Costello substitutes complete with another undercranked chase for a finale. Too bad, those are two very talented actors. Sing Your Worries Away was another comedy, just this time with Bert Lahr and his own very specific brand of funny. You either like or don’t like him – his movies are mostly just for those who like him. 

Next up – Powder Town, a  low budget movie in it’s own category. Perhaps it can be called a SF-comedy-propaganda movie, it mixes a few genres so it’s impossible to really mark it down into one. Edmund O’Brien, who later in his career became a top class noir actor, plays against type here – he’s a scatterbrained, nutty scientist working on a secret formula for explosives. Then add some spies into the mix, and the fact that O’Brien is hot commodity, desired by all the women who live in his hotel. Vic McLagen plays his brawling sidekick, and he’s as good as always in such roles. Dorothy’s last RKO movie was The Mantrap, a very witty and funny mystery movie, with Henry Stephenson playing a Sherlock Holmes-like detective solving a murder. Lloyd Corrigan, known today as a B western hero, plays his Watson substitute, and the two make a dandy and very appealing companions. Too bad they didn’t make a movie serial out of it. 

Dorothy gave up her RKO contract to get married. She gave acting another go in the 1950s, appeared in TV series, and made another movie in 1960, Why Must I Die?, a weird little Debra Paget movie, conceived as a critique of capital punishment. 1950s brought with them an unusual genre (which did exist before, but not so prominently) – the sleazy, lurid movie, usually featuring young actors and actresses, often bordering on camp. Why must I die is one of those movies, a late 1950s relic, with little to recommend it except the over-the-top story and acting.

Dorothy’s last movie was one of her best, A Patch of Blue. The leads, Sidney Poitier and Elizabeth Hartman are both excellent in their roles – she plays a blind young woman, neglected and abused by her rough mother (played by Shelley Winters), and he is a idealistic African American teacher – she slowly falls for him without knowing his skin color, and when her mother finds out, all hell breaks loose. A very relevant movie, even today, with wonderful performances and plenty of positive subtext, it’s truly a 1960s classic. 

And that was it from Dorothy! 

PRIVATE LIFE 

Dorothy was famous in Hollywood for her good looks, and Motion Picture Fan Club voted her the most beautiful girl in B pictures. She was good friends with fellow actress Margaret Hayes.

In 1940 Dorothy started to date Jack Hively, best known as Gloria Swanson’s director. The got engaged in 1941 and planned to wed that December, but  Hively’s enlistment in the Army Signal Corps and they had to change plans. In the end they married on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1942, in Patterson Field, where Hively was stationed. The base was decorated with many lovely flower arrangements to make it more in sync for a wedding revenue. Now something about the groom. Jack Besden Hively was born on September 5, 1910, in Denver, Colorado, to George and Georgenie Hively. His father was an Academy Award-nominated editor, and his brother, George Jr., would become a television editor. Jack grew up in an artistical environment, and when his family moved to California, he decided to go into showbiz himself. He worked at RKO from 1933, first as a editor, then, starting in 1939, as a director. 

The couple were pressed for time – since Dorothy was working at RKO, she was given two weeks off to get married and have a honeymoon, So they decided to honeymoon in vicinity of Patterson Field.  Dorothy cut short her honeymoon and rushed hack to the coast to tell her sailor brother goodbye— only to find him gone when she got here. See then returned to established a permanent home in Osborn. Hively started working with the training film unit of the signal corps place. 

Hively later served under General MacArthur in the Pacific Theater, all the while Dorothy worked back home and was active in the war effort, selling bonds and touring. After Jack was discharged from the army, he returned to Hollywood, where the couple settled permanently. Their daughter Katherine Gordon Hively was born on December 8, 1945. Dorothy took some time off to devote herself to family life and only occasionally returned to acting. 

Hively and Dorothy divorced in the mid 1950s, about 1955, and Hively later remarried, in 1958, to Muriel Bixby. He died on December 19, 1995, in California

Dorothy chose not to remarry, remained living in California, and retired to Sherman Oaks, where she spent her golden years. 

Dorothy Hively died on April 28, 1998, in Sherman Oaks, California

Margaret Landry

Pretty and charming southern girl who came to Hollywood via the pageantry route, Margaret Landry actually had a solid starter career, and perhaps could have been a contended if she stuck to her guns. However she married and left Tinsel town, and that was that! Let’s learn more about her! 

EARLY LIFE 

Margaret Eileen Landry was born on October 2, 1922, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to Lawrence and Ada Maya Landry. She was the youngest of three children. Her older siblings were Katherine and Larry. Her father was a medical doctor with his own practice. 

Maggie grew up in a loving family environment in Baton Rouge, and attended Baton Rogue High school. While she did have a knack for singing and acting, she never seriously considered those as her future vocations, graduating high school, enrolled into Louisiana State University. A sunny brunette with a wide wmile, Margaret bloomed into a stunning girl and when she entered LSU, she was noticed all around by everyone. In 1940, she won out over all other coeds as “Darling of L. S. U.” and her picture was featured in the beauty section of the Gumbo, student yearbook. The same year she was selected by the Kansas City Southern Railroad to be Miss Southern Belle. 

Then, in 1941, came her moment of destiny. Margaret was Selected from over 5,000 entries in a nation-wide contest as the  “Sweater Girl of 1941,”. Her award $500 in cash and a trip to New York. The competition was sponsored by a leading knitwear association with the purpose of finding the Ideal American girl dressed in the most typical American garb – a tissue-knit sweater and skirt. The campaign was very much a large publicity stunt, especially blown into the skies when Will Hays, the resident Hollywood censor, pronounced sweaters to b too sexy and immoral. Maggie went head first into a sweater defense. Here is an article from the event: 

Margaret Landry believes “Mr. Hays is Just silly to think sweaters are Immoral” and 6,000 American soldiers free with her. Likewise, some dozen or so hard-boiled New York photographers who In less than an hour today took more pictures of Margaret in her sweater than have been taken of Winston Churchill on his entire American visit. Margaret. 19, brunette and definitely cuddlesome, won the title America’s official sweater girl,” over 5,000 contestants in a Nation-wide competition held by a knitwear association. Her reward, besides honor and glory, v as a $500 defense bond and a 10-day Broadway whirl. Wearing a sweater is really patriotic,” Margaret said in a heavy southern drawl she comes from Baton Rouge, La. “because it pleases the soldiers.” To prove her point Margaret hauled out a batch of fan mail, about 5,000 letters she received from soldiers, sailors and marines, far and near, since her contest victory was announced a few weeks ago. “I get hundreds like this almost every day,” she said, picking out one at random. Sgt. T. E. Wells, Camp Beauregard. La., “on behalf of the whole darn camp.” discussed Margaret and her sweaters for three paragraphs and concluded: “Girls as beautiful as you make this country worth fighting for.” “You see,” Margaret said. “the soldiers are right. Mr. Hays Is Just silly to think sweaters immoral. 1 Nobody can say college girls are immoral and every college girl has a closet full of sweaters.” . “I’m really grateful to him, though,” she added. “If he hadn’t stirred up the fuss about sweaters, nobody would

Well, if this wasn’t enough for Hollywood to notice, I don’t know what was, and the point is Hollywood did notice her, and she got a contract and started her career in 1942. 

CAREER

Maggie’s first movie was The Falcon Strikes Back, one of the Falcon movies. In fact, Maggie appeared in three Falcon movies overall, the other two being The Falcon and the Co-eds and The Falcon Out West. What to say about these works – if you like episodic serial movies with a charming and slick main character, and light and fun plot, but no big emotional impact not any real artistical merit, than Falcon is good enough for anybody. A special plus is that Falcon was played by Tom Conway, George Sander’ brother, and I really really love Sanders as an actor!

Then she appeared in Mexican Spitfire’s Blessed Event, one of the Mexican Spitfire movie. Anyone who fancies fiery senoritas like Lupe Velez, and the adventures and misadventures of her and her comedic entourage (Leon Errol among them), can probably consider this a minor comedy classic. Maggie’s next, The Fallen Sparrow, is an interesting WW thriller/proto noir, with John Garfield and Maureen O’Hara, about a man trying to solve the murder of a benefactor who helped her escape a concertation camp. One more uncredited part came in The Iron Major, the so-so drama with Pat O’Brien playing a football coach who goes blind after returning from WW1. O’Brien is always very good in his roles, but the movie isn’t particularly interesting, like many biopics from that time that aimlessly go from one scene to another. 

Perhaps Maggie’s most memorable role came in The Leopard Man, where she played Teresa Delgado. If Margaret is remembered at all by the movie community today, it’s mostly become of her work on this movie. Made by master director Jacques Tourneur, it’s a gripping, visceral and terrifying psychological horror with an incredible atmosphere of danger and impending doom. No blood necessary – that’s how the masters did it.  

Maggie got her leading lady role in The Adventures of a Rookie, a dismal comedy patterned after the then popular military comedy genre, spearheaded by Abbott and Costello. As one reviewer wrote, Alan Carney and Wally Brown play two clowns who do stupid stuff once they are drafted into the army. While this worked with Abbott and Costello, it just doesn’t work here. If Maggie hoped to secure herself a movie serial like some other actresses, she was sadly mistaken – this was it. The movie did not do good business, and the comedic duo just melted away. Maggie got one more uncredited role – in Gildersleeve on Broadway. Based on based on radio show The Great Gildersleeve, it’s a mildly amusing comedy with the colorful Harold Peary as the titular character, and Billie Burke plays support (love that woman!)

Maggie’s career took a bit of a nosedive afterwards. Gangway for Tomorrow, a typical WW2 propaganda piece about five women who all work in the same factory. It’s actually not a bad film and illustrates the psychological state of US in the early 1940s very well, but perhaps it’s not as interesting to today’s audiences as it was back then (this is the downfall of most propaganda movies). Then came Government Girl, an okay comedy about a naïve senator (Sunny Tufts) who gets schooled by his secretary, played by Olivia de Havilland, about the way thing work in Washington. 

In 1944 there was Bride by Mistake, a predictable but ultimately fun comedy about a independent career woman (played by Laraine Day), who becomes, as the title says, a bride by mistake (the groom is Alan Marshal). Maggie than had a lightly more visible role in Mademoiselle Fifi, which is an interesting movie all around. Based on a novel by Guy de Maupassant, it does tackle, albeit in a very non-subtle way, some very relevant moral questions. It does have WW2 propaganda movie shades as all Germans in movie are shown in a rather negative light (Mademoiselle Fifi is nickname for a German man, and you guess why!). Our heroin is played by Simone Simon, an unique actress that was not really well used by Hollywood. Their loss! 

Youth Runs Wild is an WW2 propaganda, plus teen movie. While the teen genre would only spark up in the 1950s, there were traces of it before, like this movie – but it’s far from being a memorable film. It’s a very heavy-handed movie, literary ramming it’s messages right into the viewers brain. The cast is also nothing exceptional – Bonita Granville and Kent Smith are okay, but rather bland overall. Then came Girl Rush, another Carney/Brown comedy, just this time Maggie wasn’t in the leading female role (the dubious honor goes to songbird Frances Langford). Maggie’s last movie was Having Wonderful Crime, a funny crime romp about a lawyer and two newlyweds get mixed up in mock mystery at a resort. Probably worth watching just to see the lovely Carole Landis. 

And that was it from Maggie! 

PRIVATE LIFE 

Margaret seemed like an easy going, happy-go-lucky southern girl who landed in Hollywood more due to luck than any real design. She was very close to her family and enjoyed nothing better than having coffee and breakfast in bed while home in Baton Rouge. Like many southerners, Maggie was a gourmand, and this put her at odds, slightly, with the Hollywood brass, as this article can attest: 

Margaret Landry, the charming R.K.O. menace, was asked by her studio to keep her figure as is, and not indulge in starchy foods. One day recently, a producer came into the RICO. dining room, and spied Margaret Indulging in a creamy hit of fluff. That is not cricket.” said the producer. Margaret looked up and said, “Not even this light desert? You make it sound as if a girl becomes a great actress On the cricket fields of eatin’.”

Margaret’s brother Larry Jr. died in Bali during the war. He was in the air force. Even before this tragic occurrence, Maggie was very active in the war effort work. She was so popular that U. S. fliers in the South Pacific called their sweaters “Maggies” in her honor. Here is a short article about this:

Margaret Landry is a lovely flower from Louisana. She won national attention as a “sweater girl” (for good reasons, plural) .’. and,, given the fight breaks, should make a name for herself . She deserves the breaks, too, if she does many such nice acts as one , I shall now describe. At a party, she overheard six air cadets lamenting the fact that they had missed the last bus to camp, and would have to hitch-hike thirty five miles. Whereupon Miss ‘ Landry loaned them her car, which is quite a favor these days. Next morning, it was returned, together with a large box of candy. What makes this story more poignant is the fact that Margaret lost her brother in air battles over New Guinea. 

Maggie married her Baton Rogue sweetheart, James Alexander Moore, who served in the US Air Force during WW2. After he came back from the war, she gave up movies and moved to Houston with him. They raised four children together: Michael, Larry, Candance and Susan. In the end, Maggie found true happiness not in Hollywood, but in Texas. She was active in local civic activities, volunteering many hours at the Hermann Hospital and was a member of the Houston Junior League. She and James continued living in Houston, where he died sometime in the 1990s.

Margaret Landry Moore died on April 22, 2005, in Amarillo, Texas

Luana Lee

Luana Lee was a very pretty girl who was literary born into acting – she came from a theatrical family, was on the stage from the age of 2 and considered a very talented child actress. Then she came to Hollywood after high school, with hopes of continuing her lucky strike. Sadly nothing much happened, and her career was over in a few short years. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Luana Lee Mehlberg was born on October 11, 1935 in Pasadena, California, to Ernest Mehlberg and Dorothy Meilbeck. Luana was sadly not the first Luana Lee Mehlerg – her older sister with the same moniker was born on September 10, 1934, but died at only a month old on October 12, 1934. Her father, who was about 45 years old when Luana was born, was wed twice previously but had no children.

Luana’s parents had long experience as dramatic teachers in such well-known schools as the Meglin Kiddies. In 1938 the Mehlbergs left for Detroit, Michigan, to establish their own dramatic and dancing school. Both Ernest and Dorothy were Michigan natives so it was like a homecoming for them. Luana was thus just 3 when she made her theatrical debut as the Christ Child in a Christmas pageant.

Luana became her parent’s star pupils during some 10 years they conducted the dramatic school in Detroit, where she also attended elementary school. But Luana was fired with ambition to become a movie star and returned to California in 1949. From then on, things began to happen. Luana enrolled at Hollywood High School because she had heard how Lana Turner was once a pupil there and how other girls had gone on from there to film fame. After a year, she left to enter the Hollywood Professional School.

Before she left Hollywood High she was called to MGM for a bit role as Janet Leigh’s sister in “Rosika the’ Rose” and an episode in “It’s a’ Big Country”. She appeared in little theaters and summer stock. After graduating from Professional School she worked two weeks in a department store sportswear department. Then a friends of hers, who had become head dispatcher of MGM messengers, called Luana to fill a messenger vacancy.

While she was a messenger in MGM, a stroke of good luck happened. Producer Arthur Freed saw screen possibilities in her and arranged for Gene Kelly to star in a test with her and also ty directed it. A contract resulted for Luana who then was given roles in two musicals “It’s Always Fair Weather” and “Kismet”.

And her career started!

CAREER

Luana appeared in seven MGM features. Her first three were prestigious, high-budget musicals – however, this was the end of the golden age of musicals, and the movies show. Gone were the days of American in PAris and Rinsing in the rain – things were happening that were not kind to the movie musical genre. As in most cases on this page, Luana was uncredited in all of her movies.

Anyway, Luana’s first movie was It’s Always Fair Weather, bit of a more mature musical, a spiritual successor to the immensely popular on the Town. Three soldiers meet again after some years of being apart and slowly start to realize they have nothing in common. Three tio was played by Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd and Dan Dailey. Interesting cinematography, great dancing, good music, a bit more sombre story than usual – its still a musical with no great depth, but it’s definitely not bad. Plus there is Cyd Charisse to look at 🙂

THe next musical, Kismet, is very well made but never achieved a level of fame like other musicals. This Baghdadian fable with grand wiziers, harem dancers and beggar kings was helmed by Vincente Minnelli and based on a stage play which was re-made into a Broadway musical. The movie oversimplifies some things but adds plenty of others for some colorful, oriental entertainment. The cast is singularly MGM 1950s bonanza – Howard Keel, Ann Blyth, Dolores Gray, Vic Damone… Nope, they are not Kelly and Astaire, but they were all very good singers and dancers. Music is based on Russian composer Borodin’s work, so it’s an very good update to the 20th century.

Luana’s third musical was Meet Me in Las Vegas – basic plot with nothing special to recommend it (a gambler and ballerina get lucky in gambling under special circumstance), but with great dancing by the leads and some nice music. Plus Lena Horne! She was a dream!

Luana was then moved to other kinds of MGM movies. The first was The Fastest Gun Alive, a very interesting western with an unusually story, low budget, but superbly made, without a lost second. Glenn Ford, never a great actor, is actually very good as a timid shopkeeper with a secret history who’s coerced into robbing a bank. Broderick Crawford plays the bully who manhandles him, and he’s simply perfect in these larger-than-life roles. Then came These Wilder Years, a low-key drama with James Cagney and Babs Stanyck. It deals with some very serious issues, and doesn’t have a leading man/lady romance, which I find very refreshing!

Afterwards came The Opposite Sex, a tame remake of The Women, a so-so comedy with some good performances (Dolores Gray!), but overall nothing special. Her last movie was Raintree County, an interesting movie, and for more than one reason. However heavy handed and with a sloppy script, it’s worth seeing to see Liz Taylor and Monty Clift together again.

And that as it from Luana!

PRIVATE LIFE

She is 5 feet 7 inches weighs 120 pounds and has blonde hair and hazel eyes. When she was under contract to MGM, she did as all starlets did – got themselves into the papers with engineered romances. In 1954 thus Luana had a studio backed relationship with young hopeful Russ Tamblyn.

Luana ended her contract to MGM and and began freelancing, with some success in the beginning, as she had been chosen out of 200 aspirants to appear in the musical version of “Seventeen” at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. However, other things started to occupy her mind and acting would soon slip into obscurity.

Yes, for all the hubaloo over her burning desire to act and how she was literary born a thespian, Luana gave acting and Hollywood up and in 1959 married George V. Clark in Las Vegas, Nevada. This proved to be the right choice for her – they remained happily married.

The couple had six children: Christoph, born on January 18, 1960, Matthew, born on December 4, 1961, Daniel, born on March 13, 1963, Johnathan, born on July 21, 1964, Jason, born on September 30, 1966, and Christia, born on August 10, 1968.

Luana and her family lived in Orange, California, and allegedly dabbed in pet care.

Luan Lee Clark is still alive today, as always, I hope she has a happy life!

 

Hester Dean

Hester Dean was a very famous model who hit Hollywood mostly due to her looks. Perhaps there could have been some kind of a career for her, at least as a supporting actress, but she married and effectively left movies the same year she entered them. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Hester Deane Jones was born on March 22/23, 1909, in Sapulpa, Creek, Oklahoma to William Edgar Jones and Bessie Jones. She was the oldest of three daughters – her younger sisters were Melba, born on May 17, 1912, and Lola, born on June 12, 1914. Her father was a professional carpenter, doing house work.

The family moved to Wetumka, Oklahoma when Hester was a small child, and she attended elementary school there. Sadly Hester’s mother Bessie died in 1917. Edgar remarried to Nynn Lister in 1920, and the whole family went to live in Oklahoma City, where Hester attended high school.

Hester was a beautiful young woman who decided upon a modeling career after graduating high school. She became a very successful model, moved to New York, and appeared in hundreds of advertisements in national newspapers and magazines. Her claim to fame was becoming ‘The Girl with the Fisher Body‘ after modeling for the Fisher Automobile Company.

At some point in the early 1930s, Hester made the trek overseas to see Europe and settled in London for a time. While living there, she was offered a film contract by Alexander Korda , but turned it down, and decided to go to Hollywood. And so it was! In 1935, she got her chance.

CAREER

Hester was chosen as one of the Glorified American Girls for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s “The Great Ziegfeld.”, and that proved to be her only movie.

Now is a movie that needs no introduction, a absolute classic that holds up more than well today. The best Picture Oscar winner. The story is pure Hollywood unrealistic biography, but it’ not that much about the story as it is about the sets, choreographies, and over-all lavish and luxurious feel. The ever suave William Powell plays Ziegfeld. Powell is a tour de force in any movie he appears in, and playing the Great Ziegfeld did him no harm! Myrna Loy as his partner is that comes so naturally that it’s weird when they are not in the same movie! Louise Rainer won an well deserved Oscar for playing Ziegfeld’s lover Anna Held.

And that’s it from Hester!

PRIVATE LIFE

Hester was chosen as one of the Glorified American girls in 1936. What is a Glorified American girl? Read for yourself.

Hester Dean was not one of the originals. But she has impressive qualifications to play the beautiful “Dolores.” Miss Dean posed for those stunning girls in the Fisher Body ads. She is 5 feet, 7 ‘ inches tall and weighs 122 rounds. She has 34-inch bust, a 26-inch waist and- oh, enviable miracle her hips are encompassed by just 34 inches of tape measure. Her shoe size is 6.

Hester’s love life was a bit tempestuous but wrapped up nicely in the end. In about 1934, she eloped for the first time with James F. Lewis, New York socialite and heir to spark plug millions. The marriage did not last, and the divorced in 1935.

Just when you thought that drama was over and done, guess again! They eloped once more, after their previous marriage was annulled. They took an airplane to Yuma and were married by Judge Kelly. She gave her age as 26 year (which was correct, so rare in Hollywood). The groom was a year older at 27.

James Freeland Lewis was born on May 25, 1908 in Manhattan, New YOrk to wealthy family. His father James Lewis, was a member of the New York Stock Exchange. James Jr. had a Park avenue penthouse (and by his virtue of his ancestry, was one of the famous “400” social luminaries of New York), as well as a property in Westport, Connecticut.

The couple spent their honeymoon in a Palm Springs cottage. With this act, Hester became one of Two of M-G-M’s socially prominent showgirls, the other being Patricia Havens- Monteagle of San Francisco. Sadly, Hester decided to quite movie not long after, and Hollywood became a distant memory.

After living for a time in Beverly Hills, the Lewis family went to live in Maumee, Ohio (not far from Toledo), where their only child, a son, James Fielding Lewis, was born on September 29, 1939. In 1940 they lived in a house with three servants. The also purchased a farm in Albemarle County, Virginia, and grew horses there.

Hester and her husband were involved in the local social scene, and hosted many lavish cocktails parties and dinners. This high-brow life continued until 1968, when Hester and James divorced after 33 years of marriage. Why? Well, become James fell in love and married Elizabeth Love Starcher. He and Liz divorced in the 1970s, and he married again in 1977 to Rosemary Rinehart. He died in 1982.

Hester moved to Miami, Florida and lived there for the rest of her days.

Hester Jones died on May 11, 1970 in Miami, Florida.

Kay McCoy

 

Kay McCoy was marketed as a socialite who wanted a Hollywood career not to have a day job but because she wanted to be a star and taste the actor’s life. While this was only marginally true, Kay ended up like most girls in that predicament – in uncredited roles, with a career lasting for only a few years. 

EARLY LIFE 

Catherine Virginia McCoy was born on August 7, 1913, in Dallas, Texas, to Frederick Lee McCoy and Theresa Mantooth. Her younger brother Frederick Franklin was born on June 19, 1916. Kay’s father was a well-known Western banker. For many years he was president of the Wichita Falls National Bank and later he organized the Bankers’ Reserve in Denver, Colorado. Kay’s family was considered socially prominent, and she herself was a budding socialite/debutante.  

Kay attended the prestige Mrs. Wood’s Private School in Wichita Falls and later went to the Fairfield School in Denver in the early 1920s. When the family moved to California due to the Great depression in the late 1920s, she attended and graduated from the Hollywood High School in 1931. 

The papers claimed Kay’s father was a top money maker, but it seems that when the family came to California, his fortunes, while not bad, were not lavish either. He worked as a newspaper editor and earned about 2000$ a year, which is more middle class than upper class. Kay in the meantime broke into movies in 1934, and her career started! 

CAREER

Kay appeared in six movies during her Hollywood tenure. Her first movie was Come On, Marines!. It could have been a great movie about marines fighting a dirty, dirty war but ended up a totally mid tier war-in-the-jungle effort with no big merit to it. At least you can see a very young Ida Lupino in it. Her next movie was Broadway Bill, a charming, heart-warming Frank Capra movie about a race horse, the eponymous Broadway Bill. Myrna Loy and Warren Bayter play the main couple who join force to make Broadway Bill a champ. Whoever loves Capra will like this movie, it has all the typical Capraesque moments. 

Kay got her one leading role in a… You guessed it, a low budget western!!! The name was Tombstone Terror, the cowboy star was Bob Steele, and it’s a action packed movie with a flimsy story. It also features Gaby Hayes, who was a very popular Western sidekick. Kay got some publicity for this, appearing in papers often in 1935, but then she got pregnant and took a hiatus to give birth to her daughter.  

She returned to movies in 1936, but it seems that her leading role in Tombstone Terror did nothing for her career. Namely, she was cast in an uncredited role in Our Relations, one of the best Laurel and Hardy movies, about two set of long lost twins who get together with dramatic and funny results. However, Kay was almost invisible, and Kay’s last movie was another Lauren/Hardy combo, Swiss Miss. Sadly the movie is not highly regarded among fans, as it features irritating singing parts and a very convoluted plot, which only detracts from our favorite duo!  

And that’s it from Kay!  

PRIVATE LIFE 

Kay was sold as another poor little rich girl who entered the movies as slumming more than much needed work. Here is a typical article from 1933: 

Society belle this Monday was preparing to depart from social activities and enter films in an effort to win stardom. She was pretty Kay McCoy daughter of Fred McCoy, a Wichita Falls Texas and Denver banker. Although educated in private schools Miss McCoy had ideas of he own on the subject of a career in motion picture, and on Monday she was preparing to go work in a minor role,

As I noted above, while her father was wealthy perhaps in Wichita Falls and Denver, where he worked as a banker, he wasn’t’ that well off in California, so this was an inflated story, but it did work to try and push Kay into the public’s perception sphere. 

Kay never made waves for he private life, and you know why – she was already a Mrs. when she landed in Hollywood in 1933! Her husband was George Kline Davison, whom she married in about 1932 in Los Angeles.  

George was born on February 20,1915, to John Robert Davison and Alta Mae Flach in Appleby, Texas. He moved to California in the 1930s and became an automobile sales manager. The family lived in Los Angeles while both worked at their prospective jobs. Their daughter Barbara Kay was born on November 30, 1935. 

Kay’s career was over by 1938, and it seems that Davison did not take his family too seriously, so money was lacking. In need of some funds, Kay, hailed as a rich socialite just a few years earlier in the papers, became a hosiery saleslady. I find Kay very strong and impressive here – she took care of herself and her little daughter as well as she could, without the input of an obviously errant husband. This behaviors resulted in her marriage disintegrating, her going to live with her parents, and ultimately divorce in 1940. She won the divorce on the on testimony that she waited two years for George to straighten out and he failed. She was granted custody of their daughter Barbara. 

It seems that Davison did not remarry, and died on March 1, 1970 in Sacramento. Kay marched on into the 1940s, working and raising her daughter in Los Angeles. 

Kay married Howard Montez Harrington on December 24, 1951. Howard was born in 1904 in Montana. He moved to California, attended the University of California at Los Angeles and became connected with a New York newspaper. In 1933 he married Edith Wallop,  graduate of Anaheim Union High school  who became a member of the teachers’ training staff and the head advisor for all the Girl Scouts in Los Angeles. She died in 1949, making him a widower. 

 Kay and Howard lived in quietly in Los Angeles until Harrington’s retirement, when they moved to Monterey. Howard died there on January 6, 1987. Kay continued living in Monterey, outliving Howard by only a year. 

Kay Harrington died on January 24, 1988, in Monterey, California

 

Gladys Willar

Gladys Willar 3

Gladys Willar was a pretty New England girl with no dramatic training who won a beauty contest and landed in Hollywood. She made only one movie before changing her career and becoming a successful model. This is a positive outcome of a woman who understood how Hollywood works early on, and had no illusions about it. Let’s learn more about her! 

EARLY LIFE

Gladys Mary Willar was born on October 29, 1916, in Auburn, Massachusetts, to August Willar and Mary Fantom. She was the fourth of eight children – her siblings were Dorothy, Irene, Barbara, Helen, Augustus, Donald and Virginia. Her father, who was born in Newfoundland in Canada and worked in a machine shop, had been married before and had two daughters, Viola and Madeline, from that marriage.  

Gladys was known as “Sunny” to her family, grew up in Auburn, and then attended high school in Worcester and lived there with her aunt, Mrs. Guy Fantom. Gladys was an avid cinema-goer, star-struck from childhood and wanted to become an actress, but the opportune moment had not yet come. 

In 1933, there was a search conducted by local theaters, for roles in Paramount’s “Search for Beauty”. Gladys was delighted at the opportunity and applied. The photograph and test of Gladys, by then a radiant 17 years old brunette, attracted some attention at the studio back in Los Angeles. One of the publicity boys allegedly told a newspaperman: “Gladys Willar looks to me like she has more chance m pictures than any other unknowns we’ve seen tests of!” Unfortunately, Gladys severed her high school education after this, hoping to become a Hollywood actress. 

In the end, the brass decided on a man and a young woman from New England to come to Hollywood – Gladys was the girl, and the guy was Malcolm Ball of Boston. They went to Hollywood to appear in the cast of The Search for Beauty, and this is how her career started! 

CAREER

Gladys appeared in only one movie –  Search for Beauty. The movie that was more ballyhooed in the press and in the beauty pageant circuits than it has any artistically or indeed any merit. But there is plenty of nude girls, sexy dances and sensual stuff if one likes it. Never again will classical Hollywood make such carnal musicals, with such visceral scenery and atmosphere. Ah, Busby Berkeley and his kind although he didn’t make this movie)! Gladys played one of the beauty winners of course. Plus you can see Ida Lupino and Buster Crabbe

And that was it from Gladys! 

PRIVATE LIFE 

Gladys was an attractive brunette, weighed 117 pounds, and was 5 feet 4 inches. She gave a beauty hint for the readers: 

 A simple exercise will keep the legs from becoming flabby and fat. Sit down with the legs stretched out, knees raised and feet flat. Then gently massage the muscles from the ankle to the thigh. 

here is another funny bit about the versatility of her looks: 

GLADYS WILLAR of Worcester, Mass., thought she was the ideal vamp. She put her eyes at half-mast, and dressed in what she thought was an intriguing makeup. The makeup men gave her arch, honestly youthful eyebrows, cut her hair off and frizzed It up all over her head and decked her out in a snappy little sports outfit which transformed this vamp into a little high school number.

Gladys time in Hollywood was of short duration, and by 1935 she was back in Massachusetts, working in Boston and living in Brookline. She did modeling work in various shops in the city,  like the Gilchrists swim shop (doing the the newest bathing suit fashion originated by the U. S. Rubber Company), or wearing fur stoles at Crawford’s Furriers.

By 1938, Gladys had moved to New York and became one of the elite John Robert Powers girls. She lived in a hotel, the Allerton House, and was a very popular mannequin during the early WW2 period. 

Gladys Willar 2

Gladys married, on June 22, 1942 in Manhattan, a certain David Lewis. She retired from modeling after her marriage. The couple went to live in Worcester, Massachusetts after the war ended. I could not find any records of children. I hope they had a nice and happy marriage. 

Gladys Willar Lewis died on December 24, 1997. (The imdb date of death is wrong, and it lists Ohio as her state of death, and I think that Glady never had any substantial ties with Ohio). 

Marjorie Manners

Marjorie Manners was a nice looking blonde who started in low budget westerns. She then met and married a guy who produced a string of low budget movies and put her in almost every one. When he left Hollywood, she left it also. Let’s learn more about her! 

EARLY LIFE

Marjorie Eileen Myers was born on March 19, 1921, in Los Angeles, California, to Morton L. Myers and Maud May Purdom Selby. Her father was a newspaper advertising man. She was their second child, after Claire Adora (born in 1918). Her mother was wed once before, to Ray Rell Purdom, with whom she had two children. Papers later claimed that Marjorie was a direct descendant of Betsy Ross, who made the first US flag in the 18th century.

Marjorie had a knack for dancing and dramatics, and decided to become an actress early on. After graduating from high school she started doing theater work. This capaluted her to Hollywodo in the early 1940s.

CARRER:

A bulk of Marjoie’s career were low budget westerns which I never profile, so here they go: Federal Fugitives, Rubber Racketeers, Tumbleweed Trail, Texas to Bataan, Outlaws of Boulder Pass, Western Cyclone, Blazing Frontier. If she is ever remembered, it will be for those roles by western fans.

However, she acted in a varied of other low budget movies, and had credited roles in most of them, sometimes even solid roles! Starting in 1943, she appeared in A Night for Crime, a formulaic but very fun crime caper with Lyle Talbot and Glenda Farrell playing a amateur sleuth duo who solves a murder mystery. While the movie doesn’t give us anything new, especially interesting or original, it’s fun and breezy and a nice, with good performances by the leads.

 Tiger Fangs is a movie that tickled my fancy, but not because it’s a work of art or anything like that, but because of the leading actor, Frank Buck. Who was he? Well, taken from IMDB: Frank Buck was a man who created a persona of a big game hunter whose motto was “bring ’em back alive”. In other words, instead of shooting the animals like most hunters, he specialized in bringing exotic Asian animals back for circuses and zoos. He was moderately successful in films by various small studios as well as with an animal act with Ringling Brothers. Interesting, no? While any interference in wildlife can be very detrimental, at least the guy opted not to kill the animals, which seems very forward thinking. Sadly, his movies were usually low budget fare with same old, same old stories, and here he fights Nazis who want tot use wild animals to slaughter their enemies. At least we have the very charming and beautiful June Duprez, whom I love, as the female lead.

Harvest Melody was a low budget musical with an bvery inmprobable plot of movie stars going via farmland to help farmers during WW2. Unfortunately it gets to absurd levels pretty quickly, being too campy and too overtly WW2 moral boosting for today’s audiences, but it’s not the worst movie ever to get out or Hollywood for sure. Rosemary lane and Johnny Downs head the cast.  Marjorie’s next, Trocadero, is almost the same movie, just set in Hollywood, with the same leads (Lane and Downs), with a bit of a better music, less campiness and Ralph Morgan!

Keeping up with the happy-go-lucky musicals we have  That’s My Baby!, with an incredibly lame story (daughter tries to cheer up her dad by arranging a string of performers) but it ends up as, as a reviewer wrote on IMDB, an amazing time capsule of vaudeville acts. Plus we have Ellen Drew in the leading role.  The Big Show-Off continued the track, a funny musical where Arthur lake plays a shy pianist who pretends to be a hard core masked wrester to win the heart of lounge songstress, Dale Evans. it’s a typical light musical-comedy, enjoyable but not much else.

Marjorie then appeared in a few movie shy her husband, Walter Colmes. Colmes was a man with a vision and made a few unusual and interesting movies. The first one was  Identity Unknown, about an amnesiac veteran whose whole unit has been decimated, so he has to find out just which member of the unit he is. He travels around the US with a list of his possible names, and tried to remember. Very good premise, the movie is a slow moving, down-beat, almost-noir affair with a bravura performance by Richard Arlen, who usually was not atop thespian, but he fits this role like a glove. While the movie could have been a tad bit deeper and more profound, it works and keep the viewers attention all the way, and has much to say about grief and losing your loved ones.

 Woman Who Came Back is about a woman who, after a bus accident, comes to believe that she’s actually a 300-year-old witch. This is a movie where atmosphere is everything, and it’s incredible to see how with so little budget you could do wonders. Plus, Nancy Kelly is really good in her role, mixing paranoia, panic and fear with aplomb.

Then came two detective movies, with totally different undertones –  The French Key, a Thin Man-like mystery, with an elegant and debonair amateur detective, played by Albert Dekker, and Accomplice, a more hard boiled variety, with Richard Arlen playing the cynical, touch detective trying to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend’s new husband. Both movies are good but nothing really spectacular.

 The Burning Cross is perhaps Colmes’ most serious, ambitious movie, dealing with a very touchy subject – Ku Klux Klan. It’s incredible to see somebody in 1940s Hollywood tackle this seriously, and kudos to Colmes for the bravery! Sadly, this was the last movie of the gifted actor Hank Daniels, who plays the leadign role.

And that was it from Marjorie!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marjorie Manners was seriously dating Harry Ritz, the youngest of the the Ritz Brothers, for a few months in the 1939/1940. Ritz often commuted between Los Angeles and New York so it was a partially long distance relationship, but it worked somehow. Until it just didn’t, namely Harry met and married actress Betty May Heath and Marjorie was of to date other guys.

In the early 1940s, when she was about 20 years old, Marjorie married a Mr. Kline. Little is known about the marriage, except that they were divorced by about 1942 or 1943. She also told the papers she knew an actor who was so conceited that instead of joining the navy to see the world, he joined so the world could see him. 

Marjorie and Walter Colmes, Louella Parsons aide, became an item. they married on October 8, 1944 in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a reception in the Terrace Room followed the ceremony. Afterwards they  honeymooned in Palm Springs. Walter Colmes was born on May 19, 1917 in Boston to Dr. Abraham Colmes and Marie Gordon

Here is a newspaper article about Walter’s work in Hollywood:

Producer-director Walter Co Imes (left) is seen here conferring with stars of his latest production, Cheryl Walker and Richard Arlen, as they discuss script of “Johnny March.” The old-established pioneer producers will have to look to their laurels. Youth is having its fling in Holyw000d behind the camera as well as in front of it. Hollywood’s youngest producer and director is a Boston boy, Walter Colmes, 28 years old. He’s the son of Dr. A. Colmes of 416 Marlboro st., Boston. Walter’s success story is one of those Hollywood fairy tales. He made the grade in four years, an unheard of record. Educated at the Boston Latin School and University of Wisconsin, he first taught dramatics and public relations work in Boston. All the time he had his eye on Hollywood. So in 1940 he packed his bags and came West. In order to familiarize himself with the movie industry and its leading personalities, he entered the publicity business. Although a stranger, his experience in the Boston field of public relations enabled him to land as clients a number of top-flight personalities. The next year he took a step higher. He became an actor’s agent. Then to further broaden his Hollywood education, he joined the staff of Hedda Hopper to see how the news-gathering was done. One night in Ciro’s he was dining with red-headed actress Marjorie Manners. By this time he had plans to become a producer and he entertained Miss Manners With his ideas. The only drawback, he said, was that he had no capital. Now here is where the fairy tale angle comes In. At the next table .sat a robust man, who eventually introduced himself as an owner of a chain of motion picture theatres in Los Angeles and vicinity. To Colmes’ amazement the man stated that he might be interested in financing a movie production deal. Colmes talked fast, although he knew that even in. Hollywood things couldn’t happen like that! He was really stunned when two weeks later he received a phone call from the theatre magnate, who said he was ready to take a fling providing Colmes could arrange for national distribution. By this time Mr. CoImes from Boston knew his way about. He hurried over to Producers Releasing Corp. and set up a deal with himself to function as producer. His first picture was “Harvest Melody,” a musical starring Rosemary Lane and Johnny Downs. The picture turned out so wellfrom the box-‘ office as well as artistic standpoint. that Republic immediately signed him to produce a series. The first’ of these was “Trocadero” with the same cast and based upon the famous night club on the Sunset’ Strip. Not being satisfied with being a 1 producer, Colmes next wanted to direct the pictures he produced a la Cecil De Mille and Orson Welles. After he completed “That’s My Baby”a comedy with Richard Arlen and Ellen Drew, he tested out his ability directing “Johnny March”, a postwar drama with cast headed by Richard Arlen again and Cheryl Walker. His second success convinced Republic. But this energetic Boston producer-director isn’t satisfied yet. He is now working out the idea of developing new personalities o supplement established names. He gets his talent where he can find it. In “Johnny March” he introduced Juanita Roberts, local candid camera woman – who snapped the – night-clubbing movie talent at their, tables. Walter Colmes is now scouting points East for talent.

Water did some producing and directing for a few years, and Marjorie was in most of his movies, at least in a bit role, so they had a kind of a partnership, which is always great to see in Hollywood. However, despite their valiant tries, success was lacking. In the early 1950s Walter saw the writing on the wall, and gave up Hollywood work to become the head of the Encyclopedia Britannica motion picture division. Sadly, this marked the end of their marriage, as Marjorie went to Las Vegas to get a divorce in 1952. 

Marjorie falls from the radar from then on, and I have no idea if she is still alive or not. As always, I just hope she had a good life!

Phyllis Planchard

Phyllis Planchard was a late 1940s blonde, so she came just a few short years too early to ride the 1950s blonde craze wave. Although her career spanned the 1950s, she only had one leading role, in a low budget western, and then simply faded from view. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Phyllis C. Planchard was born on April 13, 1923, in San Pedro, California, to Mitchell Planchard and Hazel Petersen. Her father was a fisherman. She was the oldest of three children – her younger siblings were brother Robert Claudius, born on May 5, 1925, and sister Janis Eleanora, born on February 26, 1927.

Phyllis grew up in a the typical traditional American home in a suburb of Los Angeles, and did everything a girl of her position was supposed to – she was active in the local society, sang in the church choir, hosted tea parties and dinners. She also started to seriously date a wholesome all-American boy, Sam Platis. Phyllis was a beautiful blonde girl and harbored hopes of working in showbiz, but let her aspirations wait for the opportune moment.

Phyllis graduated from San Pedro High School (same as Sam). Afterward she was employed by Seaside Pharmacy, got married and had a child. However, Phyllis wanted more from life, and after she got divorced and her son was grown enough not to need her constant attention, she packed her bags and went to Hollywood, hoping to score it big. After some looking around town, she was signed by a studio in 1947 and her career started.

CAREER

Phyllis’ first movie was Philo Vance Returns, a low budget mystery programmer with a solid story and some fine acting choices. Yep, I found the mystery unusual and interesting, and let’s face it, we are so over-saturated by crime series that it’s quite hard to actually churn out something good and original. Similar in tone and in budget was Heartaches, but it just has such a ridiculous story (a Hollywood actor starts receiving death threats, but why?) and doesn’t quite work, even if you have major suspensions of disbelief. Well, at least we can see the stunning Sheila Ryan on screen!

Then came the mandatory low budget western, The Westward Trail, so no comment on that. But she had a leadign rol ein that one, hooray! However, this moment of fame didn’t gather the necessary momentum to boost her career, and it was back to uncrediled roster after that. Another abysmal movie came with Dancing in the Dark, a very sub-par musical with William Powell and Betsy Drake about Broadway producers, future stars and the love affairs between them. Same old same old. I find Betsy an odd fish, while I don’t completely dislike her, she’s such a weird, ethereal creature with an unusual and not quite right acting style. And even Bill Powell is miscast in this one! The music is not that bad but can’t save the overall product.

Phyllis was of the screen for two years, and then got back in 1951 with Roadblock, a low budget but well made film noir. Charles McGraw plays a sap who ruins his life for a woman (played by Joan Dixon) – so, the story is a cliche, but the atmosphere, the actors and the feel of the movie hits al the right spots and it’s an enjoyable viewing experience. Fast forward four years, and we have Phyllis again in a semi-noir movie, Women’s Prison (she plays a small role of an inmate). This is a sleazy, heavy, difficult movie with a touch of the campy, an unusual combo that was honed to perfection in the early to mid 1950s. The story is simple – it follows the Life at a women’s maximum security prison where the warden and the guards are as brutal as the inmates. It’s the characters and the relationships between them that make this a camp classic. And the cast! Cleo Moore, Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling!

Phyllis made two more movies in the 1950s – Designing Woman, a Lauren Bacall/Gregory Peck classic (a great, funny, witty movie, and so beautiful to look at, a true and enduring classic!), and The Gene Krupa Story, biopic of the famous jazz drummer, Gene Krupa.  Krupa had some major substance abuse problems, but remains one of the best drummers of the 20th century. It’s a simple, straightforward movie, not really accurate but a real treat for anyone who loves jazz and wants to hear some great music. Sal Mineo plays Krupa, and he’s a mesmerizing presence.

And that’s it from Phyllis!

PRIVATE LIFE

As we already noted, Phyllis was married to her high school sweetheart not long after they graduated in, 1941. Here is a bit about their wedding:

Sam Platis Wed in Quiet Home Ceremony In a simple ceremony which took place Saturday night at the home of the bride’s parents. Phyllis Planchard daughter of Mr and Mrs Mitchell Planchard became the bride of Sam Platis son of Mr and Mrs John Platis of this city. Only members of the immediate families witnessed the ceremony at which the Rev Fred H Ross officiated The bride wearing a bolero suit of aqua blue with white and luggage accessories had for her flowers a corsage of pink camellias and Cecil Brunner rosebuds. Attendants were Mrs Richard Mitchell (Mary Prances Haralson) and Nick Platis cousin of the bridegroom – After the ceremony the traditional cake was cut by the bride and served to the guests. After a brief wedding trip in June Mr and Mrs Platis will be at home to their friends in an apartment.

Sam Platis was born on July 11, 1918 in Tucson, Arizona, to John S. Platis and Mercedes Ochoa. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, and after graduating from San Pedro high school worked as a plumber and gas fitter. The couple settled in an apartment in San Pedro.

Their only child, son John Mitchell Platis, was born on July 29, 1942. The marriage did not last, and they were divorced by 1945. Sam Platis died on July 13, 1984. Phyllis understood that this was an opportune moment to realize her childhood dreams of becoming an actress, and went via Tinsel Town. When Phyllis came to Hollywood in about 1946, she still stuck to her roots and traditions, and was quite straight laced, as this bit from a newspaper can attest:

Phyllis came Phyllis Planchard, featured In Producers Releasing Corporation’s “Philo Vance Returns.” which opened today at the Majestic Theatre, “closed” a .set for a scene where she takes a bubble bath. Although clad in a bathing suit, she refused to appear in the scene until the set was cleared of all except those vitally necessary to the filming of the scene.

Phyllis married and divorced a certain George J. Nigro in about 1949. George Nigro was born in December 14, 1922 to Italian immigrants George and Angelina Nigro in Pennsylvania. The family moved to Los Angeles where George grew up. Sadly the marriage was quickly doomed and they divorced in about 1951. George remarried to Bonnie Dunn in 1970. He died on December 12, 1999.

Phyllis married Sidney G. Hinds in 1952. Hinds was born in July 20, 1913, in New York City, to and Jacob Hinds and Fannie Kashowitz. He served in the US Marines during WW2. They lived in Los Angeles, Phyllis retired from movies for good by that time. I either divorced or remained married until his death on April 6, 1997 (didn’t find any concrete info on that one).

Sadly, Phyllis’s life took a turn for the tragic, as this article for Los Angeles Times can attest:

“A B-movie actress and model in the 1940s, Phyllis Planchard always loved to dress in stylish clothes. A poetry lover, she collected the works of Robert Frost and Shelley. She cherished a 1920s maple bedroom set that once belonged to her parents. Planchard, then 77, was placed in the public guardian’s hands in May 2000 after exhibiting signs of confusion and mental decline. She owned a house in North Hollywood, but police found her living in her car. She was taken to a Burbank hospital, then discharged to a nursing home in Glendale. After becoming her conservator, the public guardian moved her possessions to a county warehouse in Pico Rivera. Attorney Lisa MacCarley, appointed to represent Planchard, said in court filings that she had asked that at least a few personal items, particularly clothes, be brought to the nursing home. On photos from her acting days, Planchard wrote across the bottom: “A beautiful Phyllis loves clothes!” But for seven months, Planchard lived in an almost bare room. She wore used clothing — even underwear — donated by her care home, mostly from patients who had died. “It’s about human dignity. She was aware she had clothing and it wasn’t brought to her,” MacCarley said. Planchard’s nursing home complained about her treatment to professional conservator Dan Stubbs, who asked a probate court to remove the public guardian from the case. Agency officials said an employee eventually brought Planchard some belongings and ordered her new clothes. Nonetheless, in 2001 a judge decided Planchard was better off out of the public guardian’s hands. The court named Stubbs as her caretaker.”

So sad, I hope they managed to make her last years a bit bearable after that.

Phyllis Planchard died on May 25, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Irene Winston

Irene Winston was a very rounded actress that appeared in everything a 1950s actress could – movies, TV, radio, theater. She literary did it all, and was more or less successful in most of the fields mentioned. Sadly, her movie career was pretty thin and except from Hitchcock aficionados, she is rarely mentioned today. But yes, she appeared in Rear Window and probably will never be completely forgotten due to this fact. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mable Irene Winston was born on July 18, 1916 in New York City, New York. She was a Brooklyn girl, born and bred, and attended elementary and high school there.

After high school graduation, Irene entered New York University with the idea of becoming a doctor. After a year or premedical studying, however, she was presented with an unexpected chance to try out In a play. She snapped it up, and when she was finished went back to school, only to find that she had missed her year-end exams. Also, the role in a stock company production changed her mind and her ambition.

Rather than repeat the year of pre-med work, Irene decided she d be come an actress. She then appeared on the stage to “Tovarich , “Boy Meets Girl” and “Having a Wonderful Time, and made her radio debut. Later she admitted that she didn’t get far into the mysteries of medicine. “Just six months of pre-medics, I think I really started it as a shield to my real ambition. I was afraid if I told people I wanted to be an actress, they would not understand.”

She started to divide her time between the theater and the Chicago studios of NBC, plus a career in radio. And this is how her acting career started!

CAREER

Irene appeared in one of my all ti favorite movies, Gone to Earth (IMDB mentions the English cut, not the Sleznick US one, this is important to note!). I generally love the director, Michael Powell, plus Jennifer Jones, another one of my favorites, and David Farrar, such a yummy, sexy guy! All of this aside, the movie is a minor classic, visually stunning, with incredible cinematography and a multi-layered story with some profoundly moving themes and deep philosophical discussions! Irene plays Jennifer’s mother in a very small role, but just being  apart of this piece of magic is more than enough.

Dear Brat is a okay young adult movie with the formulaic plot of (taken from an IMDB review): “a teenager who decides to rehabilitate a criminal by hiring him to work at her father’s home. Her father was the judge that sentenced him.” Seeing a young Natalie Wood on the screen is perhaps the movie’s only claim to fame today. Mona Freeman sadly got stuck playing these kind of brats for a portion of her career, too bad for her since she had some talent that just wasn’t properly used.

My Son John is a weird, outdated movie about the the Red Scare in the 1950s, but on a more intimate level – family. Robert Walker (that unique actor that truly was, for a man, fairest of the fair, an unappreciated waif, never to be repeated afterwards) plays the black sheep of a picture perfect Mid Western American family, returning home after changing his outlook life. He is… horror of horrors, a Communist now! Yep, that’s the worst they could pin on a guy. In a world where there are so many worst offences, this is what they find as the biggest one… For a conservative 1950s American that is. The cast is actually solid – Walker, Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger… But the story is so simplistic and borderline  that it’s almost obsolete do watch it today.

Carrie is another Jennifer Jones movie, and serious drama. Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel, it deals with some serious issued like a woman’s place in society, sexual obsession and the price of breaking societal norms. Jennie is as good as always, and Laurence Olivier is tops against her (I have yet to see Larry give  a bad role – he appeared in some dismal movies, but he’s always in top form, the perfect consummate actor). Interesting to see Miriam Hopkins in one of her more mature roles, she’s also a class act although she did her share of below average movies.

Rear Window is Irene’s claim to fame! What needs to be said about this absolute classic? Just go and watch it! After some TV work came The Delicate Delinquent, a typical Jerry Lewis movie. What can I say, I don’t especially like Jerry Lewis and find his brand of humor not really interesting or my cup of tea, so I’ll say a definite skip, but to each his own! Here Lewis plays a bumbling janitor who befriends a juvenile delinquent and helps him become a straight laced citizen. Predictable.

And that’s it from Irene!

PRIVATE LIFE

Here are some bits and pieces about Irene:

Irene said: “Still learning wanted to be an actress, they’d look at me and say: ‘You?’ ” Her hope is to get through stage training; to do “something worth while” behind the footlights, and then think of the films. Dramatic parts are what she likes best. She’d like to sing, too, but “I always find myself losing the key.” For the rest: she’s not married, nor engaged; doesn’t care much for outdoor sports; delights in travel end reading plays; enjoys being on the road and hopes to put on four more pounds.”

Irene was also quite passionate about the art of acting and seemed ready to go that extra mile for thespian brilliance. Another article:

She’s been on the stage about three and a half years, and on the radio about the same length of time. She says she still has much to learn. And she has a quaint notion that the best way to do this is to put all there is in every part, even if it isn’t the lead. For example, she enrolled in a beauty school in New York, just because she wanted to be sure she’d wield her file like a real manicurist.

Irene had two favorite pastimes — surf bathing and bowling. Her Christmas favorite was Cranberry Maple Syrup Pie and she even shared her recipe for making it with the papers. She also shared some tricks for swollen feet:

 Irene Winston, pretty dancer, uses this bubbly type of footbath every night. After the soaking she rinses her feet in cool water, dries them very thoroughly and massages with scented alcohol. Then she dusts on her foot powder as the finishing touch to make her feet happy. They are pretty, too, for she keeps the nails tinted and the cuticle around them well oiled. Ordinary foot weariness will vanish after such treatment, but when long hours in tight shoes have made feet swollen and tender, the old standby, the contrast footbath with a basin of very hot water and one of cold water, is more effective than soaking for restoring normal circulation. The dips in the cold water should be very brief. The massage following this foot bathing should be done with feet elevated while you Rotate each toe, knead the sole and Instep, stroke down from toe to ankle. After ten minutes of this, rest with feet elevated on a high pillow.

And here are some more tips for feet care:

Are you tired of hot weather, are yon having trouble with tired, burning feet? Much of this, of course, is due to shoes that don’t fit. Be careful about electing open sandals that give no support, or wearing comfortable shoes which are really oat of shape and worn down at the heels. You’ll want your feet to he as well groomed as your hands, now that you spend so much time at the beach, so take these few tips from Irene Winston of Columbia networks When a Girl Marries series. Clip nails straight across and smooth with an emery board. Rub each nail separately with a semi-stiff brush, then push back cuticle with an orange stick dip-pod in oily cuticle remover, rinse and dry thoroughly. Separate toes with wads of cotton and apply polish. When dry, massage with skin lotion and pat on a bit of cologne. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

By 1940, Irene was living in a boarding house in Manhattan, New York and was active in the dating world. Irene and Victor Christian, who played opposite her in “Brooklyn, U. S. A.,” were an item for some time, but larger dangers were looming over Irene.

It seems that Irene was a sickly and accident prone person who ended up in the hospital with some frequency. For instance, she fell and was injured as she alighted from a cab at the studios. At some point, she became very, very ill at Manhattan General, and literary almost died. Luckily, she was reported mending again after nearly kicking the well-known bucket.

Irene then dated Ham Fisher, Joe Palooka‘s creator, but it seems that Ham carried a torch for his ex-wife and the relationship went nowhere. Not long after, Walter Coy, of the “Hamlet” cast, was reportedly engaged to Irene, and they planned for wed when his divorce from Ann Burr was made final. Walter and Anne truly did get divorced in 1950, but Walter and Irene did not get married.

Naturally, she relocated to Hollywood for a brief time to appear in movies. During her Hollywood sojourn, Irene met and fell in love with John Shelton, previously married to Kathryn Grayson. Shelton was born Edward Price Shepperd in 1915 in Los Angeles, to Edward Price and Madge Shepperd. He was a actor and singer. They married on September 11, 1948. Shelton flew to Las Vegas from Oklahoma, met his bride there on her arrival by plane from New York. They lived in Hollywood, but the marriage was rather short lived.

They separated in 1949, and started divorce proceedings in June 1951.  Irene accused Shelton of deserting her a year after their marriage, asking for $300 ‘a month alimony in a superior court suit filed. Finally, by late 1953, they were divorced. However, they stilled work on stories together for some time afterwards. The dropped that in the end, and Shelton died under mysterious circumstances in Sri Lanka in 1972.

Irene wasted no time in finding new beaus. She and Henry Hull Jr. dated while they were appearing in the theater show “Having Wonderful Time”. After they broke up,  she consoled herself by dating Chester Stratton for a few months. Here is another fun bit about Irene:

Walter Duranty, the war correspondent, Irene Winston, the actress, and George Jean Nathan, the actor, were playing The Word Game when Duranty called “re-vng”. . .”In what sense,” inquired Mr. Nathan, “do you mean it?” “In the sense.” said . Duranty, “of doing something to someone because he or she did “Something to you. .Getting even.” “Sweet!” called out Irene, who is just divorced. “Marriage!” echoed Nathan, who is still an old maid.

Irene then dated actor Harry Lewis before more or less completely disappearing from the newspaper circuit. What we do know is that Irene lived jointly in New York and California for the rest of her life. She traveled extensively, visiting Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Brazil and so on.

Irene Winston died on September 1, 1964, in Hollywood, California, from pneumonia.