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, to. 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 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 four years ago 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 tint 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 quiet 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 Winston 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. 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. Shelton was born Edward Price Shepperd in 1915 in Los Angeles, to Edward Price and Madge Shepperd. He was a actor and singer.

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 yesterday. 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 the 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 the broke up,  she consoled herself by dating Chester Stratton for a few months. Here is another fun bit about Irene:

Walter Piiranty, the war cor-respondent, 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 in 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.

 

Neila Hart

Pert and pretty, Neila Hart was the sister of the famous actor Bob Sterling, but didn’t have quite the same luck in Hollywood as her older sibling. She got some publicity due to the familial connection but ultimately sliding into obscurity. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Nellie Holmes Hart was born on August 22, 1921, in New Castle, Pennsylvania, to Walter K. Hart and Vera Holmes. She was the youngest of three children, her older brother was William Sterling, born on November 13, 1917, and her older sister Helen, born in 1919. Her father was manager of Sylvan Heights golf course. In his younger days, he was prominent in athletics and played professional baseball, where he attained success as a catcher.

Neila grew up in New Castle and was a very athletic child with great flexibility. In 1937 Walter’s health became impaired and the whole family went to California to reside with Robert, who was by then then beginning his success as a film actor. Neila finished her education in Los Angeles and graduated from high school, After graduation, she started to work as 5-and-10-cent-store girl, secretly dreaming of becoming an actress, patterning herself after her brother. She was finally noticed when her Robert was in the Army Air Corps. She was signed by Columbia Studios and her career started.

CAREER

Neila appeared in only three movies in a span of few years. Are You with It? was her first Hollywood movie, a pleasant affair with a carnival background story. Originally a Broadway play that was watered down for Hollywood in a form of a low budget musical. Those type of movies were always the same – a non-existing (sometimes even absurd) story, some song and dance numbers (mostly not from top line composers), but usually the leading lady/man fill out all the holes with their presence. here was have Donald O’Connor, a man of immense dancing talent and modest but lovable charm, and Olga San Juan, a petite but fiery senorita who could set aflame blocks of ice.

Since You Went Away is the most recognizable movie that Neil appeared in. It’s the classic family-in-wartime film. The brain child of David Selznick, it is best known today for its august cast – Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley and so on. Showing the daily life of families left behind during WW2, it’s sincere, well acted and written – if it is a bit syrupy on the edges, remember that it was made during the war, and people needed their Mrs. Minivers and other light-beats-the-dark characters very, very much. This is classic Hollywood at it’s best – it’s not a superbly inspired, artistic movie, but it’s perfectly made for the source material and does it’s job more than admirably.

Neila’s last movie was Good Luck, Mr. Yates, a so-so wartime movie, with a overtly dramatic story-line about a Military Academy instructor who is 4-F and thus loses the respect of his students. He quits to join up but ends up working in a shipyard and tried to redeem himself. The cast is mediocre, with the generally uninteresting Jesse Barker in the lead and Tom Neal always playing the same hoodlum. Claire Trevor and Edgar Buchanan fare a bit better, but not by much.  Overall a forgettable movie.

And that’s it from Neila!

PRIVATE LIFE

Neila changed her first name from Nellie “because everyone told me Nellie sounded too much like a horse.” I like Nellie, it’s such a innocent, cute name, but okay, whatever Jan. As the new girl on the block, Neila was feted and beaued by a number of Hollywood personalities. For a time she was seen with Van Johnson at the Somerset house and with Tom Neal at the Mocambo.

After her Hollywood career failed lightning fast, Neila decided to stay in the Hollywood circuit and became a publicity woman with the Alan Gordon Agency. She also started dating Steven Crane, former husband of Lana Turner. Steven was, at the time, looking for a house to rent with a nursery for his and Lana’s daughter Cheryl, and it seems that such a set up was not very constructive to his relationship with Neila, so they broke up not long after.

In 1944, while Neila was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy, her father died. Neila and Bob received the whole of Hollywood’s sympathy on his death, in a testament of how well liked the brother and sister were in Tinsel Town. Then, to the surprise of almost everyone, Neila married Maj. Dick Benjamin. Richard Benjamin was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, the son of Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Benjamin. His father was a staff photographer with the Sun-Telegraph. He grew up in Beatrice, and attended Fairfax High School. He served with the air corps during WW2, and  had seen plenty of action in New Guinea and Burma. He was Jackie Coogan’s commanding officer, and this is how he came to the attention of various Hollywood glitterati. He dated songstress Helen Forrest before meeting Neila.

In March 1945, Dick was shot down over Germany and spent two months in a German prison camp, and was later sent home on a furlough. He had to scrape for the money, too, because his back army pay hasn’t come through yet. Neila quit Hollywood for a time to devote herself to family life, but the marriage was over by 1948. She came roaring back to the dating scene, and was seen with Bruce Cabot at the Tallyho. A few short months later, in 1949, she secretly married in Tijuana a certain Rocky Mario, night club entertainer. Mario also worked as an Arthur Murray dance instructor.

This marriage also did not last long, and they were divorced by the mid 1950s. Neila married her third husband, Edward Cass, in the late 1950s. Their daughter Carla Helen was born on August 20, 1961. The Cass marriage also disintegrated sometime in the early 1980s.

After the divorce, Neila moved to Atmore, Alabama and lived there and in Mobile, Alabama, for the remainder of the life.

Nellie Holmes Hart died in 2003. Sadly, her daughter Carla Cass died on January 14, 2011.

 

Patricia Farley

Hollywood always asked their actresses to be very thin, sometimes at great prices. Patricia Farley is a great example of a girl who wasn’t really fat but was nudged by studio brass to lose weight very quickly – this type of yo-yo dieting this is never a good idea. She managed to lose the weight at a large cost, as she became sick and almost died later. Luckily she got out of the rat race and lived happily in California. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Zedna May Farley was born on September 27, 1914, in Toronto, Canada, to Harry Farley and Betsy Morgan. Her older sister Minnie was born in 1913. Her father was a draftsman (drafting technician makes detailed technical drawings or plans for machinery) for a telephone company. The family moved to California in in 1919, and Zedna grew up in Pasadena, where she attended high school.

Since she was a beautiful girl not adverse to public appearances, Zedna participated in a number of beauty pageants and talent contests while in high school. In 1928, she was one of the Court of the Queens of the Valencia Orange Show–the “Queens” were future starlets Mona Rico and Dorothy Day.

Zedna won A “Miss Canada” title (to be clear, this was a contest held by the Southern California Canadian Society, she was not a Miss Canada in the full sense, chosen in Canada) later, in 1929. In 1930, she ran away from home to get married at only 16 years old. She soon realized her mistake and going to Reno was the result. She liked the city and decided to stay there working as hostess and later as entertainer In a night club, where she began to put on weight.

Patricia moved to new York not long after and she was employed for a time by a New York club. She won the notice of Paramount studio officials because of the way she exchanged flip repartee with Mae West while playing the tiny role of a hat check girl in “Night After Night,”. But it wasn’t an easy road – an observing pair of eyes in Paramount’s New York office, however, took more than passing note of Patty. Certain photographs, “stills” from the production, were brought out, the one of that particular scene was produced, and an informal council of New York advertising men agreed that Patricia was a good screen prospect. This opinion was wired to Hollywood, along with the suggestion that studio executives give the girl further opportunity. In the end, she was awarded a contract. And off she went!

CAREER

Pat m,ade a few comedic shorts in 1932, and her first movie was the Mae West Night After Night – quite a successful concoction of delightful ingredients – George Raft, Mae West and Constance Cummings, with gangsters, drama and comedy! It’s an interesting movie definitely worth watching! Pat’s second movie was the Tarzan rip-off, King of the Jungle, with Buster Crabbe in the lead. Crabbe was actually an okay actor who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, and his movies are mostly very much watchable, including this one.

Then came the George Raft/Sylvia Sidney movie, Pick-up. Sidney was, as one reviewer perfectly wrote, “princess of gloomy tragedy” and she works this movie like a charm. Pat than made tow low budget westerns, Under the Tonto Rim and Sunset Pass, and as you know I never write about such movie so skip.

Patricia rounded of 1933 with perhaps the weirdest movie she has made, Narcotic. How to sum it up? Here is a great review from IMDB: “While not as over-the-top as Dwain Esper’s MANIAC or as professionally made as his MARIJUANA: WEED WITH ROOTS IN HELL, NARCOTIC is a unique film experience. It has a jumpy, elliptical style–sometimes the next scene may be a few days after the prior scene, sometimes a few months or even years. Add to this the use of stock footage from silent films (in the first half) and stock footage of animals killing each other (in the last third).Also, the script mixes philosophy with medical jargon with drug slang with hard-boiled dialogue. And Esper’s preference for odd, off-putting camera angles and introducing characters by showing their shadow.The whole thing, in under one hour, has a grimy feel to it.” An unusual movie experience, that’s for sure!

Pat appeared in three movies in 1933. All of Me, a so-so PreCode drama where Miriam Hopkins, in the leading role as a spoiled heiress, is the least interesting part of the movie, and the laurels go to George Raft as a ex con who can’t get a steady job to support his pregnant girlfriend. We also have Frederic March, but he’s almost not quite interesting. Good Dame was a movie in a similar vein, a so-so movie with some strange stuff in it. We again have Frederic March, but this time he plays a con-artist thug and speaks in a weird accent that’s totally unbelievable, and Sylvia Sidney, as the girl who believes she can reform him. You see where this plot is going? Yep, you guessed it! And since this is Sylvia Sidney we are talking about, you know it’s not gonna end well. Pat’s last movie is 1934 was the best one, the witty, sparkling comedy The Merry Widow, with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. Now this one is worth watching!

In 1935, Patricia started strong in Naughty Marietta, the first of the famous Jeanette MacDonald /Nelson Eddy pairings, and a charming, fluffy movie to boot! Classic Hollywood at it’s best, what can I say! Another minor classic was Diamond Jim, The story of legendary gambler Diamond Jim Brady and his romance with entertainer Lillian Russell, with Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur in the leads and Jean doesn’t even play Lillian, Binnie Barnes plays her!). Pat then appeared in a minor classic, Barbary Coast, with the grand team of Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson and Joel McCrea. Pat’s last movie was the charming whodunit Grand Exit, about tracking down an arsonist, with Edmund Lowe and Ann Sothern.

That was it from Patricia!

PRIVATE LIFE

Patricia was known in Hollywood as the gal who looked like Gloria Swanson. I can see a slight resemblance, but not that much I have to say. Patricia married her first husband,  Thomas B. Hearn, on November 3, 1930, when she was just 16 years old. Thomas Baker Hearn was born on September 21, 1907, in Connecticut/Rhode Island to William Hearn and Margaret baker. He was an electrician by trade. The marriage lasted only a short time, ending in June 1932 (and Patricia went to Reno and the rest is history!). On August 21, 1937, Thomas married Marylynn Ruth Titus. He died on may 27, 1962 in Los Angeles.

When Patricia landed in Hollywood, movie scouts told her she was overweight and would have to reduce. A contract was written, contingent on her weight at the end of one month. She dieted, exercised, submitted to pounding and twisting on the massage tables and took off 15 pounds in 30 days. It was considered a record, even In the movie colony. So she got the Job. Here are bits and pieces from her journey:

Fruit juices and .on small salad these Items make up three meals a day for Patricia Farley, eighteen, who believes a movie contract Is worth heroic dieting. ‘ Patricia, Canadian-born Pasadena girl whose beauty attracted attention on a mpvl set where sh wa working as an extra, has won bar contract by taking off fifteen pounds In thirty days, and sh Is still dieting and reducing, not to cease until she ha regained her normal weight of 118. ‘I weighed 145 pounds that day they first noticed me,” sh says, “I weighed 130 the day I signed the promised contract. Today I weigh. By a strict -liquid diet composed mainly, of fruit Juice anal supplemented by water she pulled down from 145 and she say shell maintain the rigorous scheduled diet til she reaches 115 pound. 125 and am losing pounds at the rate, of four a wek!”

“I’m not afraid my diet will hurt me, even though it Is rather stringent and it might not be good for others,” sh says. For breakfast she ha orange Juice, for lunch more of the same and the salad, and for dinner Just orange juice. , Coffee sh takes cream-less and sugarless. But diet Is only a small part of her reducing program; Exercise does the rest. This is what she did: Thirty minute of rope-Jumping, bicycling, rowing and bending exercises, ten minutes In the electronic vibrator, fifteen minutes in a steam bath, five minutes in hot and cold shower, thirty minutes of massage.

“I didn’t mind it a bit,” she said “The first two or three days the most difficult. I was not accustomed to so much exercise i my muscles became stiffened i sore. The diet didn’t bother m. all, for actually my menu was reasonable and adequate. I now convinced that the average woman eats far too much food today. Exercise is very important in reducing, and, in my case found it well to avoid too much sleep. Inactivity adds pounds, of course, adequate rest is essential.” Patricia Farley, weighing around 118 pounds, seems destined for a very happy and fortunate H wood career.

I don’t know what to say about this story – it’s heartbreaking and sad. This healthy young woman had to undergo extreme dieting conditions to be given a contract – while she did have a choice to just let it all go and give up Hollywood, we are well aware that she, in real life where stuff are grey and not black and white, was more or less pushed into it. And you think this just flows by without any serious damage to the person doing it? Not a chance, and it was pretty obvious that something was going to pop, sooner or later.

And that something came just a few short years later. Patricia was seriously ill with pneumonia for a few weeks in 1935. Several days before she was Injured in an automobile accident. In convalescence she took pneumonia. It was very much close to the edge for a time, and nobody knew for sure she would make it. The moral of the story: don’t do yoyo dieting. It truly doesn’t’ pay and get back at the user tenfold. Being slim/fit/not fat is a long and rhythmical process where a person must change her whole set of habits to integrate balance into his or her lifestyle. Otherwise it just wont’ yell. To some people it’s easier, to some it’s more difficult, but it’s always the same method (finding a middle road), just with a million different ways of achieving the goal.

Patricia’s illness changes her life drastically. She gave up Hollywood, and started playing a guitar at evangelistic services. Patricia married for the second time to Reuben B. Deweerd on March 9, 1938, long after she left Hollywood. Reuben was born on May 22, 1913 in Holland, Michigan, to Bert Deweerd and Sadie Waterman, the oldest of four children. His mother died in 1921 while giving birth to his youngest sister, Sadie. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s and became a professional cook. Sadly, this marriage did not last and they divorced in about 1940. Reuben later returned to Holland, Michigan, remarried to a local, Ruby Helena Weighmink, and died there in 1984.

Patricia married her third husband, Larry Morey, on March 7, 1942. Here is a short bio of Larry from IMDB;:

American lyricist and author Lawrence L. ‘Larry’ Morey was chiefly noted for co-writing (with the composer and songwriter Frank Churchill) the musical numbers for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), including “Heigh-Ho”, “I’m Wishing” and “Whistle While You Work”. He also worked on the picture as a sequence director. His second claim to fame was adapting Felix Salten‘s 1923 book, “Bambi, a Life in the Woods”, for the screen (as well as co-writing the score with Churchill). Assisted by Perce Pearce, he is further credited with devising the characters of Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk, primarily to lighten the mood of the picture. One of the musical numbers from Bambi (1942), “Love is a Song”, was nominated for an Oscar, as was “Lavender Blue” (sung by Burl Ives) for So Dear to My Heart (1948). This piece was adapted from a popular folk song.

Morey worked for Disney from 1933, following stints at Paramount and Warners. He joined ASCAP in 1938.

It seems that third time was the charm for Patricia, as she hit the marital jackpot. The Moreys lived happily in Los Angeles until Larry’s death on May 8, 1971.

Patricia married Jack Winnett on 24 January 1973. Jack J. Winnett was born on may 2, 1917, in Los Angeles, to . He worked as an order clerk for a sporting goods wholesale store. The couple separated and divorced in 1977 and it was made final in 1979. Jack died on April 24, 1981.

Patricia married for the fifth and final time to Joe Paysnick on May 23, 1984. Saul Joseph Paysnick was born on December 14, 1922, in Massachusetts, to Abraham Paysnick and Rose Bore. He served in the US army during WW2 and continued working for the army after the war ended. He married Mavis Pauline Neibs on 26 Nov 1947 but they divorced in the 1950s. IMDB claims that Joe and Patricia divorced, but I couldn’t find any proof so let’s assume they remained married.

Zedna died on July 25, 2001, in California. Her widower Joe Paysnick died on February 17, 2007.

Audrey Conti

Audrey Conti is a great example of how Cinderella stories cannot really be taken for granted. A  normal Mid Western girl who was courted by powerful movie scouts due to her beauty and charisma, it seemed that she was on her way to the starts after she was signed by a studio. Not! Nobody knew what to do with her, and after wasting away, she did some TV work and retired after a really short time as an actress.

EARLY LIFE

Audrey Conti was born on January 31, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Rudolph and Sophia Conti. Her older brother Eugene was born in 1932. Her father was from France/Italy, her mother from Poland. Her father was a boiler operator at a local electric power plant.

Audrey grew up in St. Francis (A small town in the Milwaukee county), and showed no signs of wanting to become an actress. She graduated from high school and took up a job ads a Pabst Brewery Tour Guide. She worked as a tour guide for a few years when she appeared on the CBS Game Show “What’s My Line?” in March of 1954. She made such an impression that she was swamped by calls from the program’s fans. A studio scout visiting Manhattan noticed her and she was signed pronto. Unfortunately, she spend time in the studio not really doing anything, just going from one photo shot to the next, but then she was finally put into movies. And her career started!

CAREER

Audrey appeared in six movies and a small number of TV shows. Her first movie was The Birds and the Bees, a sub-par remake of the wonderful comedy, The Lady Eve. Yep, some movie just can’t be remade, and Lady Eve is certainly one of them. While Mitzi Gaynor is even good enough in the Babs Stanwyack role, George Gobel is not up to the task in the Henry Fonda role. Godel’s comedy is a very acquired taste and doesn’t really work here, but it still boils down to personal preference so quite  afew people actually like this version more than the original.

Her second movie was Ten Thousand Bedrooms, a peculiar Dena Martin musical where he has to marry of three older sisters before he can marry the youngest one. Today the movie has a bad rep, mostly thanks to the fact that this was Martins’ first solo effort after his series of movies with Jerry Lewis, and it was a dismal failure that almost ended his career. While the movie is not bottom of the barrel bad, it’s not particularly god either – Dean plays a role much better suited for Cary Grant (suave older tycoon), and the story is somehow silly and paper-thin. Good points are the gorgeous location filming in Rome and a solid supporting cast Walter Slezak is especially good as the girls’ father!

Then came Spook Chasers, a Bowery boys movie. Short description from IMDB: The Bowery Boys must battle crooks when a real estate agent sells their friend Mike (Percy Helton) a rundown piece of land. The group end up finding money there, which draws the attention of a couple gangsters who plan on making the boys think the house is haunted so that they’ll leave. Moronic story but good enough for Bowery boys fans, otherwise don’t bother.

Invasion of the Saucer Men is a teen-horror camp movie deluxxe. The plot is really uninspired (A teenage couple accidentally awakens an alien after hitting it with their car.), the costumes are quite amateurish and the actors are a mixed bag (some good support). It’s not even a top campy movie, but it does have it’s moments, and recommended fo rthe fans of 1950s teen over-the-top movies.

Audrey’s last two movies were her best known. The Joker Is Wild is a above average biopic, with Frank Sinatra playing the Roaring 20’s icon, Joe E. Lewis. Sinatra excels at playing bitter men with serious vices, and Lewis is a great showcase for his talents. The movie doesn’t shy away from less savory aspect’s of Lewis’ life, and is not your typical saccharine 50s biopic. Jeanne Crain and Mitzi Gaynor are able female support, as well as Eddie Albert and Jackie Coogan.

Audrey’s last movie was The Naked and the Dead, a lukewarm adaptation of the Normal Mailer novel. The movie is sadly a typical 1950s Hollywood product, too sanitized and banalized to have an impact (even if it is directed by the great Raoul Walsh!). Instead of a nuances portrayal of a group of WW2 soldiers, we get the good vs. bad soldiers story, the one we have seen a thousand times before.

And that’s it from Audrey!

PRIVATE LIFE

As she had literary no acting experience, Audrey had to learn from scratch when she landed in Hollywood, and dedicated a great deal of her free time to acting, singing and dancing lessons. Believe it or not, Audrey was quite popular back then (in a niche kind of a way), as she got thousands of letters due to her What’s Your line appearance. She diligently answered each and every letter, no matter how long it took (and it took years for it to die down).

As I already mentioned it, Audrey is a great example of how getting discovered by Hollywood was literary just the first 20% of the process. While not a small feast and it doesn’t’ happen to everybody (a  great deal of actresses were not discovered but had to actively work for Hollywood to notice them), it is by no means a sure sign that you are going to make it. I watched Audrey’s what’s my line episode, and I have to say I just don’t see it. While she is a cute, good looking girl, she’s not really charismatic and didn’t’ tickle my fancy one bit. Guess Hollywood scouts noticed this after she came to Tinsel Town. In a town where thousands of new comers appear every week, you need something to single you out, to make you jump form the crowd, and looks almost always are not enough.

With no prospects on the horizon, that was more or less it for Audrey. After some lackluster TV roles, she gave up acting, but I have no idea what she did for a living. Audrey married Gary Clarence Steenlock  in the late 1960s. Gary was born on 14 Jul 1940, in Minnesota, to Clarence Steenblock and Goldie Lokach. He really wanted to go to college, and even sold his prized car to get tuition money. Later, in 1964, he served in the US Marines, reaching the rank of lieutenant. On December 30, 1963 he married Judith F Green, but they divorced a few years later.

The couple went to live Olmstead, Minnesota. Sadly, Gary died on August 30, 1971.

After Gary’s death Audrey returned to live in Milwaukee, and maintained close ties to her brother, Eugene. Eugene died in 2019. Audrey also owned a dog, a schnauzer, who died in 2009.

As far as I know, Audrey still lives in the Milwaukee region.