Dorothy Van Nuys

Dorothy Van Nuys 3

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

In late 1944, Dorothy dated Paramount director Marty Lewis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martha Holliday

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Delma Byron


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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Irene Manning


Irene Manning was a major musical theater star in the 1940s, constantly in the papers. Her cover for Yank the Army Weekly is one of the best of all the covers (so sexy and slinky!). Thus, you can imagine by surprise when I couldn’t find any more substantial information about her. She is truly an example of an unjustly forgotten Golden Age Star. She was beautiful, talented and very determined – unfortunately, she was not star material, as she lacked that certain onscreen charisma that would have pushed her into cinematic immortality. So, let’s find out more about Irene…


Inez Odella Harvout was born on July 12, 1912, Cincinnati, Ohio, to Ohio natives Shirley Everet Harvout and Inez Odella Dunham, who married in 1900. She was the youngest of five children – her siblings were Alice (born on February 21, 1902), Richard (born on 1904), Lois (born on 1907) and George Lloyd (born on August 17, 1908). Inez later adopted the name of her maternal grandmother, Anna Manning.

her father worked in real estate and the family was well of. Music was a large part of Inez’s upbringing. Both of her parents (Shirley and Inez) were singers, her sister Alice played piano. Her two brothers played the violin and Lois played the cello and a clarinet.

After graduating from high school in Cincinatti, Inez moved to Rochester, New York to attend the Eastman School of Music. Her teacher was the renown opera diva Adel Fermin. After she graduated from the school, Inez started her singing career in the Rochester Opera Company, playing on both operas and operettas.

She gained some recognition when she toured with the Great Waltz road show. Then, she was asked to perform with the St. Louis Municipial Opera Company for a season. This led her to radio engagements, most notably with John Charles Thomas. Impresario Phil Baker heard her, saw her, liked what he saw and asked her to play the lead in his Broadway show, All in Lights. Thus started a long and successful collaboration between Irene and Phil. This in turn bought her to the attention of movie talent scouts, and she signed with Republic Studios in 1937.


Irene started her career quite the unsuitable way, in The Old Corral, a Gene Autry western. What more can I say? No comments necessary. Under her contract, Irene, (then known as Hope Manning), appeared in two more movies: Two Wise Maids, a minor comedy with Alison Skipworth and Polly Moran playing spinsters meddling in everybody’s lives, and Michael O’Halloran, a soapy drama about the growth of a once spoiled woman onto a responsible, mature woman (Wynne Gibson plays the lead). Neither of the three movies did anything for Irene’s career, and she gave up movies in 1938, after getting married and decided to focus herself of other venues.

Irene2She appeared in the St. Louis Municipial Opera staging of Gentlemen Unafraid in 1938, then Victoria and Her Hussar in August. Showed off her voice to good effect on Broadway in Susanna, Don’t You Cry (1939) and All in Fun (1940). At the same time she took leading roles with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera in HMS Pinaforte and Savoy Serenade.

Hope was at the top of her game, and was noticed by MGM, who didn’t even cast a glance at her when she visited Hollywood for the first time. She was allegedly groomed to replace the 1930s Opera Queen of Hollywood, Jeannette MacDonald. However, the plans fell through, and Irene was back again on the Municipal Opera stage, playing in a production of Rosalie.

Irene continued her career in 1942, with her biggest and best known role, Yankee Doodle Dandy. She played Fay Templeton, a real life songstress who worked with George Cohan, the hero of the piece. What to say about a movie like Yankee Doodle? It’s corny and over the top, but superbly made, with a great cast and good music. James Cagney is one of the best actors ever to grace the screen, period. I haven’t seen a bad performance by Cagney anywhere yet (yea, give him time😛 ).

After the boom that was Yankee Doodle, Irene never managed to live up to her promise. She had a solid career for a few years more, but she never touched true fame. She appeared in Spy Ship, where she plays an heiress who hides secret information for the Germans in her lectures against war. It’s a well made but ultimately generic WW2 spy movie, made just as US joined the war. Irene is paired with Craig Stevens, a fine looking but mediocre actor, and the work well together. Like most other spy movies, we have a mumbo jumbo of Nazi spy ships, the US Army Marines Coast Guard, FBI and the Japanese. Well, good luck with solving all of that!

Irene10The Big Shot 
is a Humphrey Bogart movie, and for this reason alone it enjoys a status few old movies enjoy. However, it’s one of Bogart’s less known efforts, and for no good reason. While not a A class masterpiece, Big Shot is a masterfully directed, cliche-free film noir in the true sense of the word, without the sappy elements that can ruin even the best laid noirs. Bogie plays a three time convict who know his next foray in jail will be his last and final one (yep, he’s going for life!). Yet, he can’t shake the life of crime, and gets mixed up with all the wrong people planning a armored car robbery. Irene plays Bogart’s ex mistress who still has the hots for him (and is married to one of the robbers). Irene and Bogie disliked each other on and off the film set, but their chemistry is more than decent and she plays a femme fatale admirably. Too bad this was her last true film noir.

Irene was back to basics – musicals, with The Desert Song, only a lose remake of the operetta with the same name. Dennis Morgan, the handsome singing star of the Warner Bros stable, plays Paul Hudson, who leads a group of desert bandits against some Nazis, who want to use them as cheap labor for their railroad. Irene’s soft soprano voice was used to it’s best advantage in this movie, and it remains a true staple of her filmography. Unfortunately, due to some copyright laws it’s not easily accessible even today, 70 years after it was made.

Shine on Harvest Moon was another okay quality Dennis Morgan musical, this time with Ann Sheridan in the lead and Irene as the main female support. After appearing in two short war propaganda movies, The Shining Future and The Road to Victory, Irene entered the last part of her Hollywood career. Make Your Own Bed is a screwball comedy of the lower tier, frenetic, without an ounce of style and sophistication. Not, it’s not all that bad – Irene, firmly in the supporting cast, Alan Hale and Ricardo Cortez make it at least a worthwhile experience. And the leads, Jack Carson and Jane Wyman, ain’t that bad. It’s just a stupid story with zillion plots going nowhere that makes it such a shmuck effort.

Irene4The Doughgirls is another frenetic comedy (a bit outdated – it’s about the housing shortage in Washington DC during the war), with a great female cast (Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith, Irene, Eve Arden). Nothing to drool about, but a good one.

Irene did her bit in Hollywood Canteen (like almost everyone in Hollywood), and made her last movie for Warner Bros – Escape in the Desert. It’s a B grade remake of the Petrified Forrest, but with an incredible cast of lesser known bravados – Helmut Dantine and Phillip Dorn, European Continental Actors Extraordinaire! Too bad about the lackluster story and director!

She also had her own BBC television show, An American in England, but on returning to America in 1952 found that she was largely forgotten. She did some bits and pieces on TV (The Passing ShowSchlitz PlayhouseThe Philco-Goodyear Television PlayhousePonds Theater and Producers’ Showcase).

Irene continued her career in the theater until 1964, when she married and retired. Afterwards she occasionally gave singing lessons.


Irene was in the papers much of the time in the 1930s and 1940s, but not for her private life, but rather for her artistic achievements. She was one of the few opera songstresses who had both the looks and the voice, and thus she was very popular. However, she was also a demanding, diva-like personality who had strong moments of ego-centric behavior. Yes, she was a complicated, often difficult woman. Despite this, she was generous and kind to people she deemed talented.

Irene6Irene married her first husband, Harold Mannheim, in 1940. Manheim was born on February 12, 1906, in New York to Levi and Rachel Manheim. He came to Hollywood in the early 1930s. On September 22, 1931, he married Wyktorya Ryta Michalczewska. They divorced later. He started working for Republic Studios as an actor’s agent/publicity man. There he met Irene in 1937, while she was making a movie with Gene Autry.

Mannheim became the mastermind of Irene’s new career. He changed her name to Irene Manning (she was known as Hope Manning back then), and pushed her to up her publicity and engagements until she was noticed by MGM and then signed by Warner Bros. While the information about the marriage is scarce, I get the feeling that Irene was in part a major investment for Mannheim and that she grew bored by this.

During her marriage to Mannheim, Irene met Keith Kolhoff, a young police officer working at the Los Angeles Traffic Division. Kolhoff was a businessman at heart and had major plans for his future, opting not to remain a simple cop but to expand his horizons. Irene was supportive of his plans and the two fell in love. She left Mannheim to be with Kolhoff, and got a Mexican divorce in April 1944.

Keith and Irene married on June 20, 1944, in a afternoon service led by Reverend William Platt at the First Congregational Church in  Los Angeles. It was the second marriage for both. Many of her friends found it a hasty decision, so soon after her divorce from Mannheim, but she stuck her guns.

KolhoffKeith Robert Kolhoff was born on December 31, 1912, in Minnesota, to Karl and Lillie Kolhoff. He moved to California in the 1930s and became a police officer. He married Marie Kosier, who was an Arizona resident, in 1940. They divorced between 1942 and 1944.

Keith and Irene’s marriage started badly when her father died the same day they married. As Shirley was ailing for a long time (five years) He gave strict instructions not to tell anything to Irene until the day after the wedding, so she could go through the ceremony without a heavy heart. She was told the next day by her brother Richard and her husband. That certainly couldn’t have been a nice thing to hear on the second day of your new marriage.

Irene8The couple honeymooned in Colorado for two weeks, and returned to Los Angeles in July 1944. The marriage was of short duration, however, and they separated in September 1944. Irene went to England in October 1944 (her farewell party, on October 5, 1944, was noteworthy because Mario Lanza, then an unknown baritone, sang and was noted by few producers – that night helped launched her very successful career!). For the next six months, Irene was overseas, and kept sparse contact with Keith. Most of the information he knew about his wife came from the papers. She finally returned to the US in March 1945, and instead of flying to Los Angeles to try for a reconciliation, she flew to Florida. Kolhoff called her, push and pull, and they finally reconciled in May 1945. It lasted for two months straight, and by July 15, 1945, Kolhoff announced he would divorce Irene. he was then drafted into maritime service in Catalina, and Irene went to visit him and try and iron out their differences in August 1945. It didn’t yell and the divorced in 1946.

After the divorce, Kolhoff left the police force and took up a publicity and newspaper publishing business under the name of Keith King. I could not find his date of death nor did he remarry.

9d4d6932d06f1df2d22ed9129c9e5adbIrene moved to London, and made her career there. Irene allegedly married Jack T. Kenney in London after the divorce was made final. Except on IMDB, I never found anything to prove this claim – anyway, she allegedly divorced Kenney in 1947.  She continued her career, as her obituary notes:

In 1944, Irene Manning set off for Britain where she recorded, for the BBC’s Wehrmacht Hour, a German version of Begin the Beguine with Glenn Miller just before he was killed, as well as touring with a four-woman USO unit. She appeared in Herbert Wilcox’s I Lived on Grosvenor Square, and was later in the West End revival of The Dubarry; but the critics were not overly impressed by her conventional performance. There was more enthusiasm for her partnership with the musical comedy star Jack Buchanan in Castle in the Air.

While in London, Irene fell in love with Clinton Green, a member of New York Times’ London Branch, and married him on July 31, 1948, in Marylebone Registry Office. Green was born on September 15, 1912, in Providence, Rhode Island. He was a noted reported during WW2, covering both the Pacific and European theaters. The marriage did not last long and ended in 1951.

In 1952, she dated Everett Warren, who owned Tony’s Caprice restaurant. In 1954, she was very serious with the Earl of Warwick, the only english peer that ever made a movie in Hollywood (under the name of Michael Brooke). He even proposed to her at some point, but they never got married (that might as well could have been a recipe for disaster, since he was married twice up until then and Irene a whooping four times…).
Irene3Irene marred for the last time to aeronautical engineer Maxwell White Hunter in 1964. She completely shunned showbiz and moved to Washington, DC, with her husband. Irene became the stepmother of five children:  three sons, David, Matthew and Max and two daughters, Peggy and Sally.

Here is his background from Wikipedia: Maxwell Hunter was born in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania and graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in that state with a degree in physics and mathematics. In 1944, he earned a Master’s Degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His obituary in LA Times sheds some more light on his career:

A pioneer rocket scientist whose career spanned five decades, Hunter joined Douglas Aircraft in 1944.

As chief missile design engineer, he was responsible for the design of the Thor, Nike-Zeus and other missiles. And as chief engineer of space systems, he was responsible for all Douglas space efforts, including the Delta launch vehicle and the Saturn S-IV stage of the Apollo moon rocket program.

In 1962, Hunter joined the staff of the National Aeronautics and Space Council in Washington, D.C., which was created at the same time as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration four years earlier to coordinate interagency air and space activities.

As an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, he offered insight into future space programs and the creation of the National Space Policy.

Irene11Returning to designing in 1965, Hunter began his 22-year association with Lockheed Missiles and Space Co. in Sunnyvale, Calif., where he worked in several areas, including the astronautics (rocket) division and the advanced development section.

At Lockheed, he was responsible for the design of the Advanced Space Transportation Vehicles StarClipper and Shuttle, and he originated the concept of using large expendable tanks in shuttle designs.

Hunter was in the forefront as an advocate of advanced space systems, such as the space-based laser defense program and a nuclear-powered spacecraft.

The Hunters moved to California to enjoy their retirement in the 1980s. Hunter died on November 10, 2001. Irene lived the rest of her life quietly in California.

Irene Manning Hunter died on May 28, 2004, in San Carlos, California.

Elaine Shepard


We are continuing our Yank Cover Girls marathon… This is taking much longer than I thought, but there are tons of girls to profile so I’m on it. One by one. My own calculations tell me I’ll be over with the girls in May or June… Anyway, back to Elaine. She has been one of the most unusual and intriguing women I have profiled so far… You wanna see why? Without spoiling too much, Elaine truly was a woman of the world who had great plans for herself and achieved some of them. It wasn’t an easy road – she was far from perfect, not a talented actress and only one of a large number of beauties that swarmed Hollywood at that time. She had impediments on every corner, but fought like a bull and did wonders with her career. She had an incredibly interesting life! Want to learn more? Well read on!


Elaine Elizabeth Shepard was born on April 3, 1913, in Olney, Illinois, to Thomas J. Shepard and Bernice Shepard. Thomas was a widower when he married Bernice, and brought three children into the marriage –  Mable, Burl and Thomas Jr. her younger brother Elbert would be born in 1917. She was an imaginative, active, endearing child who always had big plans for herself.

However, the Shepherds did not have enough money to send Elaine to college, and money became even tighter after her parents divorced in the mid 1920s. So, by that time, Elaine decided to make her own luck. She started taking tap dancing lessons, and paid for them by doing housework for her tap teacher. However, after she graduated from high school, she decided against a dancing career, opting to become a secretary. She had to mortgage her piano to pay the 40$ of down payment for the course. So, she attended and graduated from McKeendre College in Lebanon, Illinois, and became a capable typist. Interesting in dramatics from her earliest days, she was active in college’s drama department.

After graduating from business college, Elaine started to work as a typist, but soon hit a slump and lost her job. Just at that time her mother, who suffered from serious respiratory problems, was ordered by her doctor to move to a less harsh climate than the one in Illinois. They packed their bags, and by sheer change, decided to move to San Diego. Elaine and her mom arrived therewith nothing but 86 cents in their pockets. That same day, Elaine wormed her way into a steady job – while having breakfast in a restaurant, she saw that the premonitory carried a pin from the same order that her mother belonged to (what order? Have no idea!). She used the connection and shed a few tears to get a job behind the counter.

A very active woman, Elaine was soon juggling two jobs – working behind the counter and ticket seller at a nearby cinema. She saw star struck not long after, ad started to seriously contemplate an acting career. But that was still a dream too far away at the moment. However, only patience and some will power was required, as Elaine was closer than she ever knew! She started modeling to earn more money, and won a day trip to Agua Caliente, where she won about 170$ at the gambling tables (and mailed it to her mother right away).

While working in the theater, she was noted by an agent who sent her to model in Palm Springs. While bowling there, she was noted by Mrs. Milton Bren, wife of noted producer. Impressed by Elaine’s beauty, charm and grace, she told her to contact her husband. Soon, Elaine landed in Hollywood and, due to her dancing background, started appearing as a member of the chorus for the studios, but never did any movies. It wasn’t until she was noted by choreographer Hermes Pan that she finally got in front of the camera.


Elaine had a three part career in Hollywood – one from 1936 until 1938, again in 1940, then from 1943 until 1945. She made her last movie in 1951, but it was a sole effort after several years of retirement, so I did not count it as a stage.

ElaineShepard6Elaine’s first role was a lead in the Darkest Africa serial, the very first made by Republic studios, which would become a prolific serial movie maker in the decade to come. What to say? While acting in serials is in no way the top of the world for an actor, it’s better than acting in western serials… Anyway, Darkest Africa is a decent example – fast-moving and action-packed, with a  good lead (Clyde Beatty) and adequate support (Elaine is the love interest). The special effects are remarkable considering the year it was made and it’s not a bad effort, all in all. Elaine could have done much worse for her official debut.

I Cover Chinatown is a very, very minor movie that proved that the right director could make something out of nothing. The story is thin and the actors only mediocre, but director Norman Foster (and main actor, but less talented as actor than as a director) rises above these restrictions to produce a nice comedy/drama with horror touches. It was clear by this time that Elaine, despite her beauty, was not an actress who set the camera aflame. She was adequate enough, but that was hardy enough to warrant anyone cinematic immortality. She didn’t’ have that extra something, that pizzazz that made great Hollywood stars. Too bad…

ElaineShepard5Then Elaine did what I always dread when first looking at an actress’ filmography – she started in a low-budget western! Two of them to be exact… Law of the Ranger and The Fighting Texan. As always, the less said about these movies, the better…

Elaine than had a minor role in Topper, a hilarious Cary Grant comedy, about a couple of crazy wheeling ghosts who decide to stir their stuffy friend out of his comfort zone. The real strength of the movie is Constance Bennett however – her career was on the wane by 1937, but Connie was a stunning woman and enchanting actress. Not a great actress, mind you, but she had something going for her. She was unusually graceful but also hard core – like a fairy that will smack you over the head. So great… However, Elaine’s career was on the downs like by then. She appeared in Night ‘n’ Gales, a Our Gang short, as Darla’s mother… As you know, nobody ever watched the grown ups in those movies – its regular work, not anything that will catapult you anywhere…

Then came a promising movie… Professor Beware , the comeback vehicle for Harold Lloyd. Lloyd plays an archaeologist who falls for the daughter of a tycoon and finds himself fighting the forces of Wall Street and fate itself to get the young lady. Lloyd’s character is trying to fight an apparent curse from the tomb that he opened. I understand the situation Lloyd was n when he made this – as a major 1920s star, the expectations were VERY high (almost astronomical) and this movie, while a decent effort with some good moments, didn’t quite measure up to it. Yep, the movie was cursed way before it even hit the theaters. Elaine’s role was so minuscule that she wouldn’t have profited from it even if the movie were a smash, but this only cemented her already shaky status in Hollywood. The most damaged party was the pretty young leading actress, Phyllis Welch, who never made another movie after this one.

ElaineShepard3She squeezed only one more minor role in There Goes My Heart. At a first glance, it’s a It happened one night rip off, with the same story – but behind the facade, it’s a silly comedy with a superb cast. Frederic March has been a long time favorite of mine, and can do no wrong in my eyes. Virginia Bruce, not a typical screwball movie heroine, is pretty decent enough. The laughs go to Patsy Kelly and rest of the supporting cast is excellent (Claude Gillingwater, Eugene Palette, Arthur Lake, Alan Mowbray). For a light, funny watch, recommended!

Elaine went to New York and got discovered again, and signed with RKO. She appeared in only one movie – You Can’t Fool Your Wife. It’s a pedestrian, nothing out of the ordinary, even boring comedy movie with a lot of mix ups and that’s about it… Charming leads (Lucille Ball and James Ellison in this case) can sometimes save the movie – but not this one! With this, Elaine again gave up movie work… Only to return in Hollywood in 1943!

Her first movie this time around was The Falcon in Danger, the sixth in the series and second with Tom Conway as the hero. The movie actually had a pretty good plot (taken from imdb: A small airplane comes in to land at an airport but it drifts off course and crashes. The police investigate but find the plane empty – totally empty. The plane was meant to have a couple of wealthy industrialists on board as well as a shipment of money. When the daughter of one of the men (Nancy Palmer) gets a ransom note she goes to Tom Lawrence for help), but nothing else measures up – the actor are all B class, the interplay between Elaine and the other femme fatale, played by Jean Brooks, is lacking to put it mildly, and last but not least, Falcon’s fiancée, played by Amelita Ward, is one of the worst characters on this side of Jar Jar Binks

ElaineShepard2Seven Days Ashore is one hot mess of a movie – the movie officially stars Art Carney and and Wally Brown is supposed to be a straight comedy with the duo in the leads, but in the end more screen time is given to Elaine and Gordon Oliver, who play a straight romance movie. Then we have Marcy McGuire, the songstress, who plays like it’s a straight musical. Too much of everything but not in a good way. Forgettable movie in the end…

Elaine finally appeared in something of value – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a very good war movie with a great cast (not all equally talented, but famous nonetheless): Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum, Phyllis Thaxter and so on…

Elaine had a small role in Ziegfeld Follies, a musical famous enough that I don’t really need to write anything about it. No plot, good music and dancing, great production values, and that’s about it…

Elaine put a stop on her career for the third time, and only appeared in one more movie – Fiamme sulla laguna, a forgotten Italian drama. And then, she’s gone (from the movies of course)!


In Late October 1936, it was announced that Elaine would wed Terry Hunt, studio physical director, on Thanks Giving. The two were introduced by Frederic March, who was to be best man. The two did not wed in November 1936, but continued their engagement. However, it was a very short lived engagement (or a overly long one, depends how you see it), as by October 1937, they were broken up and both dated other people (Elaine was seen with Marc Connelly around town). Then, they did marry in late 1937. Ups and downs, ups and downs… Their marriage seemed to be more of the same…

ElaineShepard1In April 1939, Elaine was looted from most of her jewels by an unknown assailant. She is the Nth woman who was looted that I have profiled, so I guess a very powerful thief group operated in Hollywood in the late 1930s/early 1940s.

In early 1938, Elaine decided to try her luck in New York and forgo her acting career, even refusing a contact with Republic Studios. Sounds a bit daffy, as most models go the other route, but let’s think about it – signing with Republic studios meant you were to play female leads in Z class westerns. BAD! Elaine shrewdly knew what was coming for her if she aid yes to the contract, and knowing very well that she could make more money modeling, went east. Elaine seemed to enjoy the work very much, and was known as one of the most versatile models around. She could impersonate Hedy Lamarr, Carole Lombard, Joan Bennett like it’s nobody’s business. She was titled as “The perfect model” of 1939 by a group of esteemed photographers. However, when better studios started calling (namely RKO), she jumped at the chance to return to Hollywood and acting. Elaine had to remove her wisdom tooth around this time, and for a few days after she could not be photographed as her jaw was constantly “off focus”.

Elaine dated a Chicago attorney before returning to Hollywood, then ditched him to date Greg Bautzer. One attorney for another, but I guess Elaine knew that Bautzer dated every good looking girl in Hollywood, and she was just one of many. She and Greg actually lasted for a few months, which is a pretty good track record for dating the notorious Lothario (she made the rounds for her birthday in April 1940 with him, although her estranged husband Terry bought her a fur coat!). Around this time, Elaine disclosed the secret of her perfect figure to the press – she did the hot water shaker –  first she drank two glasses of water, then stands on her  head and shakes her body. Whoa Nelly!

In the meantime, Elaine separated from her husband, and her started dating Patricia Morison (whom he helped shed the pounds). They finally divorced in May 1940. By then, Hunt operated his own sports club. He and Patricia never did get to the altar (I love Patricia, she is such an incredibly beautiful, enchanting actress! So sad she never got the recognition she deserves!). Of course, the divorce had its ups and downs, the will or won’t they… For a time in early 1941, Elaine was ready to return to her former groom, but was also dating S. Rosenblatt on the side (who owned a chicken farm). Anyway, she and Terry continued to date for some time after the divorce was made final. I find this very perplexing, but I guess that two people can enjoy each other’s company occasional, but are just not cut out to be married?

ElaineShepard12In August 19412, she was on the cover of Cosmopolitan, wearing the wings of Noel Vincent, pilot. Oh dear, who knows what happened there… By July, she was dating Bob Ritchie, once the heart of Jeanette McDonald… In December, she raised men’s pulses by wearing a nude colored chiffon gown to a Broadway premiere. However, by February she was in the hospital, about to have a major operation, but I couldn’t find more information about it…

In May 1942, Elaine announced her engagement to Pierre Huss, International Wars Service Correspondent. Huss was in Tunisia, North Africa ta the moment, and asked her to marry him via cable. She cabled a positive answer back to him. Pierre wired her 1000$ to buy herself an engagement ring. Elaine spend the entire sum on war bonds. Around this time, Elaine returned to Hollywood yet again and was constantly yin the papers. She gave some tips of how to take care of your eyebrows:

First she sues cold cream, rubs a lot into her eyebrows, brushed them every which way and then, after removing as much as much cream as she can with a tissue, she bathes the brows with hot water – as hot as she can take it. Then she takes out the tweezers and removes the errant hairs with no problem at all!

Now, what exactly happened to Huss remains a mystery, but Elaine married George F. Hartman in a surprise ceremony in Mafra, Texas, on October 4, 1943. She came to Marfa in September to sell war bonds, and the two met – and were stunned to rem embed that his brother was Elaine’s childhood sweetheart back in Illinois, but they had not seen each other for years! Puff, and a month alter, they were wed! Unfortunately, the couple had only a few days together, as George was sent overseas to fight, and Elaine was summoned back to Hollywood to resume her career.

In the absence of her husband, Elaine was very active in the war effort, touring the country with her co-star Charles Ruggles and selling thousands dollars worth of war bonds. In May 1944, Elaine had barely seen her husband for more than 5 days and was hoping he was to return home soon. Sadly, her mother was just then struck by a car somewhere in Hollywood, and Elaine nursed her to health. In the meantime, Hartman got a Soldier’s Medal for rescuing his comrades from a burning tank, and met with Paulette Goddard in Spain, where he gave Paulette his Wing so she can give them to Elaine.

ElaineShepard10In 1945, George returned home from the war, and he and Elaine established a solid marriage, moving to Mobile, Alabama, where he was stationed. Opting to work in the world of aviation, George became a adviser to companies specializing in Air travel all around the World. So, in 1949, he was posted as a Turkish Airlines Adviser and the couple were living in Istanbul. Elaine hopped to Rome once in a while to make a movie (she also did the Billie Dawn role in Born Yesterday on stage in Rome) or go shopping. She was a champion bridge player, spoke some French, Italian and Turkish, and visited Orson Welles in Venice when he was playing Othello there. She later said about her experience in living in Istanbul:

“It was delightful living in Istanbul. The city is a lovely combination of old and new – modern buildings and those that go back centuries; cobblestone streets and modern highways. Our house was built in 1946 so Colonel Hartman and I had the same conveniences as we have here in New York. There was no servant problem., Constantine settled that. Of Greek, Italian and Turkish descent, he is a chef by profession but he did everything at out house. The only drawback was that while he spoke Russian Greek and Turkish he spoke no English. So we were forces to learn some Turkish. I finally acquired enough to get along at home and in the city. I I also learned enough Italian to get by with fellow workers in the picture.”

By 1951 they were home, and Elaine had a health scare – she went to the Red Cross to donate blood, but when the doctors saw her blood, she was immediately transferred to a hospital, where a tumor was discovered and operated on. She managed to recuperate pretty quickly. By 1953, the couple had settled in Washington, and were very active on the social circuits. Elaine was known for her parties (she even had a party with wild animals) and wrote a column, dealing with the Washington social scene, for the local newspapers.
Elaine and George separated in 1957, but lingered on and off. Thy even flew as a couple to the South Pole in late 1957 (imagine when Elaine canceled her lunch plans with Tedi Thurman, she told him “Sorry, can’t come, gotta fly to the South Pole! Can’t imagine how Tedi felt…). Unfortunately, the reunion didn’t work, and they divorced in 1958. She dated Aly Khan in 1958 (who didn’t)! Elaine continued working as a free lance writer, and fought tooth and nail to get commissions usually reserved for men. She also dabbled in masculine past times – she became a truly proficient poker player and won big money in some tournaments (she played with the biggies at Jack Hurdle’s apartments, among others). In 159, she was the only female correspondent (working for Women’s New Service) who traveled with President Eisenhower when he toured 11 countries. She also became quite chummy with Mamie Eisenhower, the First Lady

Elaine was especially impressed by India and president Nehru, whom she had the honor of seeing with his “cap off”. She dated Khrishna Menon while there. She also visited Congo. By late 1951, she was home again and started dating published George Little, and later was very much in love with a fellow correspondent, Russian Count Constantine Zernekau. She lived for some time in Paris, where she interviewed a large number of notables, among them Juraj Ganarin (and continued to date Zernekau).

ElaineShepard9In 1962, after 18 months of writing, Elaine’s book, “Forgive us our press passes”, was published. She was a hit with the readers, and the book was deemed a witty and sparkling read. Here is a Kirkus review of the book:

Though forgiveness may be in order on the title too, Elaine Shepard is a woman who has really been places and seen things. She reports on them with the verve of a young girl, perception of an inveterate newshawk, and the wit of a high-priced comedy writer. For only a few years, she has lived in the “”methodical havoc”” of the international correspondent, as a reporter for North American Newspaper Alliance and Women’s News Service syndicates (“”when Rosy — my editor — handed me my accreditation. I vowed that if I interviewed the devil himself, I’d stick to the facts””). She arrived in this “”honorable and coveted position”” via Hollywood, Broadway, John Robert Powers’ agency, diplomatic hostessing in major world capitals (as the former wife of an Air Force officer) and TV in Washington (Rosy “”did not share some people’s opinion that all actresses have the IQ of a marble””). Her book covers trips with the Eisenhower entourage, interviews with Castro and Gagarin, press conferences with Patrice Lumumba, and a short tour of duty in Russia (“”modern buildings can best be described as Soviet Gothic or Early Hallowe’en). Her material is thoughtful, interesting, and very, very funny.

Elaine continued her journalistic career. She was posted for a time in Haiti when Papa Doc Duvalier took over the reins of the country. In 1965, she was sent to cover the Vietnam war. In 1967, her second book, about her experience in Vietnam, called The Doom Pussy, was published. Here is a review:

The Doom Pussy crouches in wait for American pilots when they fly their missions over North Vietnam. Elaine Shepard has been there and seen the Pussy. She has brought back a bouncy recall of the men in the air and on the ground, whether flying into the jaws of the terrible cat or tearing shirts afterwards to let off steam. She came to know Smash, beseeched and sought after by the passionate Mercy Belle back in the States, and Nails, who beseeched and sought after her. She joined in their revels and their raids, moves from ribaldry and revelry at R&R (rest and recreation) periods to the tense and trying moments of combat. “”The sharpest Negro pilot in Vietnam”” died in her arms after they had been shot down and picked up; she saw Dickey Chapelle “”crumpled on her right side in the weeds and dirt like a broken doll.”” From such experiences is hard to be neutral, and she closes her book with George Washington’s words: “”If we desire to secure peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”” This is a book about the flyboys, held aloft by admiration for their courage and understanding of their off-duty flings. It has glamor and guts, and may well hit a market no other Vietnam book has, the ladies.

Also interesting to note, Elaine and first and foremost a woman who like do to shop – when she was in Vietnam, she cashed more than 40 000$ worth of money orders, and had to have her visa and passport revoked since cashing that much money violated military rules. However, this ended up being Elaine’s last big journalistic adventure.

ElaineShepard13Elaine dated some prominent men of that time – former ambassador Henry Taylor and Washington Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall (the former husband of Corinne Griffith). However, she did not remarry following her split from Hartmann. Elaine also had a long standing feud with fellow scribe Dorothy Killgallen – Dorothy wrote a blind item about a female reported who slept with Clark Gable to get an interview (the girl in question was Elaine of course), and later another blind item, when Elaine traveled around with the Eisenhower entourage (as the only woman), Dorothy accused them of doing wild orgies on the plane. Elaine sued Dorothy for slander, but Dorothy walked of victorious.

Elaine retired from active correspondent duty in the early 1970s, and slowly slipped of the newspaper radar. She moved to New York City for good and lived the rest of her days there.

Elaine Shepard died on September 6, 1998, in New York City, New York.


Ramsay Ames

I was unpleasantly surprised just how little information about Ramsay Ames in available on the net. She wasn’t an obscure actress back in the 1940s, and today she has a firm fan base, mostly made out of camp classic lovers. And, to top it all of, she truly was an interesting woman. My biggest pleasure in writing this blog comes from learning more about the lives of strong, interesting women who lived life their own way. Ramsay, for all her shortcomings, was one such a woman. She was a band leader at the time when women didn’t even play in bands, let alone lead them, and she left behind a life in Hollywood to expand her professional credibility. Well, I’ll try to remedy this lack of information! Let’s begin!


Rita Rebecca Phillips Ames was born on March 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York,to Edouard Ames and his wife, Violett Phillips. (Her imdb, Wikipedia and other paged claim she was born in 1919. her social security death number also says this, but many other documents on Family Search claim her birth year in 1924. This corresponds to some ramification I have found about Ramsay in the papers, so I’ll take this year as a reference).

Rita Rebecca grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, in a well to do family. She attended a swank private school, Edgewood Park School and Walter Hillhouse School in Briarcliff Manor. However, Ramsay was just no cut out to be a socialite – she was an hyper energetic, lively girl, and had a burning desire to do something. So, at 15, she started modeling for John Powers agency. During one assignment, she had to wear a dancers grab and shimmy in a rhythm of some exotic tune – she liked it to much she decided to take up dancing at the Walter Hillhouse Dancing School. She danced with a partner for a few months, and started to dance professionally. When they were dancing in Miami, he was drafted by the Immigration department and had to return to his native country somewhere in South America.

Stranded without a partner, unable to find anyone to replace him, Ramsay took up singing. Soon she was singing at the plush Stork club, and noticed by impresario Gus Martel. He gave Ramsay reigns of her very own band. He soon left for Las Vegas, and Ramsay was completely on her own. She learned the hard way just how difficult it was to be a band leader, but managed to pull it through, and enjoyed her work very much. This was just Pearl Harbor. Her band played in places like Stork, La Conga and Famous Doors club.

However, WW2 started and most of her band members were drafted. Left with just an “anemic piano player”. To make things worse, she had a back injury and couldn’t dance as well as before – she decided enough was enough and returned to modeling. In 1943, she went to California to visit her mother, who was ailing. There she met with Harry Cohn, the president of Columbia, who told her to call him when she landed in Hollywood. She did and somehow got a contract not with Columbia, but with Universal. She started her career in 1943.


Ramsay was the local queen of the Bs in the early 1940s, enjoying a semi successful career.

Ramsay had the luck to actually have a credited performance in her first movie – Two Señoritas from Chicago. This is very much forgotten today, and it has exactly 0 reviews on IMDB. What can I say, it’s a typical low-budget comedy of errors with a cast of fine but B level actors: Ramsay, Ann Savage, Jinx Falkenburg.

RamsayAmes4Ramsay next appeared in Crazy House, as did many other Universal International stars. It’s a Ole Olsen – Chic Johnson film, a typical anarchic comedy in the vein of the Marx brothers. It’s one of the their best efforts, with an actually pretty decent mix up story and some good gags. Percy Killbride kills it as the old man who everybody think (including himself) is a millionaire but is actually broke (love Percy!). Ramsay and her band have a short cameo.

Ramsay ended 1943 with Calling Dr. Death, a mind-fuck movie before the term was even coined. The plot roughly (taken from IMDB): Dr. Steele (Lon Chaney Jr.) is a psychiatrist married to a cheating wife who refuses to give him a divorce. He’s in love with his nurse (Patricia Morison) who loves him back. Then he blacks out one weekend and awakens to find his wife was brutally murdered. Did he do it or is he being set up?

The movie glides like an surreal ship down mystic waters, full of symbolism and mystery, giving you the sense that nothing is what it seems, like the viewer himself is hypnotized. It’s more mesmerizing than high quality, but truly an interesting viewing experience. Ramsay plays the cheating wife, and while she’s stunning to look at, she’s a wooden actress. Unfortunately, this would not change much in the future.

1944 was the best year for Ramsay’s movie career. She made 7 movies, among them her best known. She was in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, a escapist Oriental fare that bloomed during WW2, often with Maria Montez and Jon Hall in the leads.  Ramsay Ames is the (quote from IMDB): incredibly HOT, sexy and traitorous lady in waiting Nalu who betrays her mistress, played by Montez. What can say about these movies? I think we all grew up watching this camp classics that aren’t worth a dime as far as any artistic pursuit is mentioned. On the other hand, they are fun, unpretentious and colorful, more than enough to warrant repeated watching.

Ramsay was uncredited in Ladies Courageous, a (watch for this) propaganda movie for men and anti propaganda movie for women. While I haven’t watched the film, based on the reviews, it’s clear that the main aim of the movie was to dissuade women from becoming pilots! Loretta Young, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Diana Barrymore play three mentally and emotionally unstable pilots who do some crazy stuff (and not crazy good) in the air. Weird, weird, weird movie.

Hat Check Honey  is a completely forgotten comedy, so there is nothing to write about. Follow the Boys is one of of those WW2 all star extravaganzas that did nothing for anyones carrer, but serves as strong morality boosters.

RamsayAmes6Ramsay was back on the horror track with Ghost Catchers, another Olsen and Johnson comedy. They play themselves as entertainers whose nightclub is next to a haunted house. It’s a silly, uncomplicated, almost dumb movie, but it fits the bill of a 1940s funny movie. Unfortunately, Ramsay fall such a minor role that she’s barely seen.

Ramsay’s best known movie came next – The Mummy’s Ghost. Most people today remember Ramsay as the main selling point of the movie. She has several highly effective scenes, and her character doesn’t quite end up as one would expect from 1940s Hollywood. Make no mistake, it’s still a low-budget quickie without any truly artistic merit, but then again, this is Universal and these are the movies they made.

A Wave, a WAC and a Marine is a slightly above average women’s comedy about women helping the war effort. Most of the loads is carried by Elyse Knox, Ann Gillis and Sally Eilers, but Ramsay actually had a pretty good role in this one (compared to her previous roles of course).

In 1945 Ramsay signed with Warner Bros, and started appearing in higher quality movies. Mildred Pierce  was her very first Warner Bros role, and I don’t think this movie needs any introductions (Joan Crawford!!). Just when it seemed that Ramsay was going up, PUFF! She appeared in only one more movie (Too Young to Know ), before Warner bros dropped her.

And it was time to start doing low-budget westerns. As I noted numerous times before on this blog, an actress has truly hit acting rock bottom when she starts doing westerns where the horse is billed above her! Okay, this is a slight exaggeration, but the point is – women rarely fared well owning to their roles in such movies.

Ramsay appeared in two movies with Gilbert Roland portraying Cisco Kid – The Gay Cavalier and Beauty and the Bandit. What can I say? Roland sure is a handsome man and not that bad of an actor (like many other pretty boys – John Gavin spring sot mind) but I’ll never (and I am sure there are plenty like me) spend my time watching such movies.

Below the Deadline, a low-budget crime movie, in between the westerns. It’s a curious movie, made on a shoestring budget but very compact, without a sentence to waist and with some flair that resembles a film noir (not quite there, but not that far). The plot (taken from IMDB): This one starts out with gambling rackets boss, George Meeker being warned to stay away from a rival’s clubs. Of course the viewer knows this is going nowhere good for Mister Meeker. And right they are, as Meeker is given a severe lead overdose one night exiting a club. Now we have the just returned from the Air Force, Warren Douglas, putting in an appearance. Douglas is the brother of the just ventilated, Meeker. He grills the mob lawyer, Paul Maxey for all the info on the mob, and who was responsible for his brother’s death. Maxey suggests Douglas cool down and learn the business before he goes headhunting. On the way he gets hooked up with Ramsay, who works in the casino but a girl with a heart of gold. Compared to Ramsay’s other movies, this is Nobel league, and one of the best things she made. This is more sad than not😦

Ramsay was back in musicals with The Time, the Place and the Girl. One reviewer succinctly wrote all that need sot be said about the movie: It never rises above being a pleasant little “let’s put on a show” musical, it does feature a few sprightly song numbers that are easy on the eyes and ears–and all of the performances are genial and appealing. Sadly, Ramsay’s role was minuscule, blink and you’ll miss me. She was top bikled in Philo Vance Returns, a boilerplate Philo Vance movie, the last made with the famous detective in the 1940s. Wiliam Wright, who plays Vance, in no match for the more capable actors who played him the past (William Powell, anyone?).

RamsayAmes5Ramsay did another low budget western (the less said about it, the beter) The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West, before acting in the major production of Green Dolphin Street. Lana Turner, not a very talented actress, nonetheless had the pizzazz to maintain an enviable 50 year-long career, and movie like Green Dolphin are a testament to her brand of “charisma” – she somehow made it all work, lack of talent or not. However, the movie actually has a pretty decent story (it was made from a book after all!) and good supporting player,s making it one of the few A list movies on Ramsay’s filmography.

Ramsay then starred in The Black Widow, a Republic serial, and actually gained some fame and fortune from it. Boosted by her new found aisle of opportunity, Ramsay did one more serial, G-Men Never Forget, then retired from the movies more or less. She appeared in one only more movie, Vicki, before moving to live in Spain. She occasionally appeared in movies afterwards (TV movie The Lie, Richard Burton historical epic, Alexander the Great, forgotten Spanish movie At Five in the Afternoon and Laurence Harvey/Lee Remick/Alan Bates thriller, The Running Man) , but it was a sporadic past time for her, not a real full-time job.

Ramsay made her final movie, Una tal Dulcinea, in 1963, and after that dedicated her life to other pursuits.


In 1943, Ramsay was  a target of a stalker, and had to have police protection against the man for some time. Ah, when you’re young and beautiful these men just come like flies to you.

In early 1944, Ramsay was a duet with Jack “Legs” Diamond, and Barney Glazer, but then took with a more “glamorous” beau, Mickey Rooney. They were pretty serious for a few months, and there were news that Ramsay was going to be wed to Mickey. However, all that turned out to be one hot mess and they broke up in March 1944.

RamsayAmes8After Mickey, Ramsay dated some pretty ordinary guys. Ramsay than dated captain John Young, a flying ace, then a salesman (sorry, can’t didn’t catch his name). But she also danced all night with director Frank Borzage, proving that she mixed Hollywood gents with normal gents. In May she was seen with Lee Fields.

In late May, Ramsay came to blows with fellow starlet Vera Shea. The reason remains unknown, but I somehow think it’s a (shahh!) a guy. In June, she dated John Meredith. That summer she collaborated with orchestra leader Emil Coleman on a brand new song. She also had another side project: building a miniature golf course on Sunset strip, with partner Mercedes Marlowe.

Ramsay went steady with Jimmy Ritz, one of the Ritz brothers, for a time in mid 1944. She also was Don Alvarado sometimes. On a funny note, Ramsay had a maid whose real name was Amey Ramsay. Ha ha ha! Wonder how much the name played a part in Ramsay’s decision to hire her… In July, burglars broke into Ramsay’s home – but they stole only an electric clock. Talk about blessings in disguise! She also had time to squeeze actor Michael Harvey, who appeared in Winger Victory on Broadway, into the list of beaus. During this time, Ramsay owned a pet dachshund dog, and enjoyed when the neighborhood kids tried to pet him.

Also, it was reported that Ramsay and Jane Greer were not fond of each other. Too bad, I like both Ramsay and Jane😦 In August, Ramsay took up with Artie Shaw, but didn’t they all? Later that month Ramsay fell ill, but that did not stop her from keeping in touch with Jackie Coogan, and old beau who was in the army now. By late August she was well enough to appear in the Hollywood canteen, but one night her shoulder strap broke, and she had a pretty humiliating experience with it.

RamsayAmes2That same month, she was dating Cantinflas, noted Spanish comic. Then it was Ramsay and David Silva. Then it was Marc Cramer. In October she was seen with famous man about town, George Jessel. The man bragged how he never dinned at home – he was so pupular everybody invited him everywhere. Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but it’s true that he dated a large number of stunning Hollywood starlets. Ramsay suffered a nasty car crash that month, but there were no serious injuries involved.

Ramsay obviously has a thing for burglars – after being robbed a few times, she and her friend Sylvia Lee walked onto a burglar trying to steal a ring that Jackie Coogan gave her. Tough luck! Jackie Coogan came to New York for a furlough, and he and Ramsay tried to date again. It didn’t work out – Ramsay went on dating right away, but Coogan pined after her for some time. Interesting enough, he was seen with Mercedes Marlowe, Ramsay’s business partner!

In December, Ramsay was feted by Leslie Fenton and Ben Bogeaus. By the end of the year, she was seen frequently with Arturo Cordova. Ramsay spent the Christmas holiday that year in Palm Springs, plays gin rummy (she was allegedly an excellent player). She started the year by dating producer Eddie Peskay. As a funny anecdote, Ramsay once received a type writer from a boyfriend of the moment. The two broke up, but she kept the typewriter and sometimes wrote bits and pieces to help her relax. Unfortunately, it the end she found out that the typewriter was not  a gift – it was merely rented, and she had to pay for all the time it was with her! Imagine what she did to the former boyfriend when she met up with him (if she did, but that would have been a rage fueled encounter for sure!). On a side note, Ramsay was likened to another B movie heroines Linda Stirling, as two peas in a pod, physically very similar (I don’t see if frankly!). Another funny anecdote Ramsay was introduced to a well-known Don Juan at a party. Before the guy could even finish saying his name, she asked him”I heard all about you. So, what’s your side of the story?”

Ramsay-Ames-1940s-film-actress-and-pin-up-girl.Around that time, Ramsay had an unfortunate blonde episode – she died her hair, but hr studio was so angry with her, she had to change back in less than three days. On her 21st birthday, Ramsay inherited a sizeable fortune, and bought herself a mink coat. Unfortunately, just before her birthday, Ramsay had a serious mishap – she parked her car on a hill, and when she started the engine, the car just lurched forward. She hit the brakes, but they were faulty and she didn’t stop, but instead rolled down the hill for almost the whole block and smashed into a garage. The car was wrecked, and Ramsay had to be treated in a hospital. Luckily, it wasn’t anything serious and she was back on her feet in a day or two, but she learned her lessons about faulty brakes!

In May 1945, Ramsay dated Howard Thomas. She will received presents from her constant on off beau, George Jessel. Jessel dated most of his girls like that – never serious enough for marriage, but more than a casual fling. Anyway, she announced plans to run her very own music publishing company with the money she inherited from her father (but that didn’t mean she would give up acting or cheesecake). Columnists, by then used to Ramsay dating another guy every night joked that it’s because she was so popular, not because no guy asked her out twice.

In August 1945, Ramsay sniffer orange blossoms with captain Ken Noulton, army pilot. When she went to a camp show in Texas, he was the one who flew her. Ramsay had an elaborate wardrobe prepared for the show, and ever changed three times, but it was so freaking hot she shed all her clothing, doing the skit in a sun suit… Sadly, that didn’t last. She was seen with George Morgan (son of actor Frank Morgan) next. That same month, Ramsay was dropped by her studio, Warner Bros.

740full-ramsay-amesRamsay had another brush in with thief, when one stole a radio from hr car, but left the phonographic records on the front seat. Not under any contract, Ramsay decided to expand her education and started taking a course in psychology, but then decided to freelance, and signed to appear in Cisco Kid movie. However, Ramsay’s solo effort were tougher than she expected – she broke her hand during filming, didn’t have time to visit and doctor and lost 10 pounds from stress. She could barely wait to finish filming and take a long break and mend her broken hand – it was healed awkwardly by then, and she had to have it broken again so it could heal properly. Ah, the boy of filming low-budget westerns!

However, her hectic love life finally came to steady pace after she and George Morgan became a proper lovely dovely. They dated for several years breaking up in about 1950, after a passionate, on off romance. They often battled, and the columnists almost took it for granted that they would wreak havoc and then make up. In December 1947, Ramsay sprained her back during dancing practice. Little was heard of Ramsay from then on. She dated Polan Banks in 1951. I 1952, she dated a N. Darvas.

Ramsay headed her own band, and they often toured South America. She got mixed up in some trouble there, and sued a very, very wealthy South American family in 1952, but I couldn’t find any information as to why and how? In 1953, she was madly in love with Harry Crocker. The papers called Ramsay a divorcee, but I have no idea whom she married and when did she divorce him. Maybe it had something to do with that South American family? Mysteries, mysteries…

In September 1953, she dated producer Morrie King before departing to Rome and Spain to make more movies. In November, there were news that Ramsay was to wed a Italian in Rome. In the end, it was reported that she met a man on the boat to Rome, married him, and separated from him, all in the span of one month!

In the meantime Ramsay went to live in Madrid, and became a columnist there. She started to hang out with Ava Gardner, another Hollywood expat. Years later, she noted how Ava slept late, like many Spaniards did – once she asked her to a flamenco party at 11 pm, and Ava said she’ll get up, have her coffee and get there. After a few years in Madrid, Ramsay ONLY returned to New York to help plug the Alexander the Great film. She underwent surgery there, but went back to Spain. She dated a wealthy Spaniard, and life seemed good for her. In 1958, Ramsay narrated the Oscar ceremony when it was broadcast in Spain. She also had her very own TV show where she interviewed celebrities. Her all time favorite guest was Sophia Loren.

tf5dl450109rtr51At some point, Ramsay met playwright Dale Wasserman, and married him in 1966 in Nevada. Whoa Nelly, not so fast! Let’s start from the beginning. Dale Wasserman, born in 1914 in a poor family in Wisconsin, was a self schooled playwright who just hit it big time when in the early 1960s – his play Men of la mancha was a major hit that played to sold out theaters. He became a glitterati of Manhattan, and there met Ramsay in 1964. She was still living in Spain, but they kept in touch and dated on/off for two years. Ramsay was hardy the only girl on Dale’s arm – he dated a string of girls simultaneously. Yet, his friends were baffled by their relationship.

What was peculiar about Ramsay was that she wasn’t Dale’s type – he was a shy, introverted, self-centered writer, deeply imaginative, easily emotional and very fragile. She was a true Arian woman: strong, capable, independent, stubborn – a true diva in every sense of the world, who liked “fun and cocktails”, was not above being petty from time to time, pretty much spoiled from early childhood – a woman more than capable to hold her own but extremely difficult to live with.
He liked intellectual women – she was anything but, more street smart and shallow than well read and educated. She dated well-groomed, wealthy men about town (she was well-known for it in Spain) – he was noveau riche (literary!), famous for only a few years and not from an illustrious background. They were ill-matched, but married anyway. Dale kept the marriage a top-secret for as long as he could (why??), and then moved to Spain with Ramsay.

To please her, he built and furnished a lavish house somewhere in coastal part of Spain. The house gained such prominence due to its interior design that it was featured in several architectural magazines. They entertained many notables, both American and European, in it.

The Wassermans returned to US in 1970, so Dale could continue and pursue his career.Also, with this act, Ramsay ended her 17 year-long stint as expat. However, their marriage turned sour somewhere along the road, and they divorced in 1980 after 14 years after the married. later, Dale claimed that marrying Ramsay was the worst mistake he made in his long life.

Ramsay lived the rest of her days in California, and was devoted to many charity causes, especially those with regards to homeless animals (dogs in particular). She was very kind towards her fans, always writing back whenever sent her a fan letter.

Ramsay Ames died on March 30, 1998, from lung cancer, in Santa Monica, California.

K. T. Stevens

K.T. Stevens1
Unlike many actresses profiled on this page, who saw Hollywood as a platform for money, fame or getting married, K.T. Stevens was a woman who truly didn’t need to act for any of these reasons. She was a daughter of a major director (and famous just because of it), she had the money (from her dad) and she actually chose not to wed a very wealthy man so she could do “her stuff”. Truly, she acted because she wanted to act, and did it to the very end (acting until she died). While she never became a huge star, nor is her movie career impressive, she is still a rare bird – a dyed in wool actress who cared less about the benefits of stardom and more about her craft.


Gloria Wood was born on July 20, 1919, in Los Angeles, California, to Samuel Wood and his wife, Clara Rausch. Her father was one of the best known Hollywood directors of the 1930s and 1940s, belting out such classic like Goodbye, Mr. Chips, For whom the bell tolls, Kitty Foyle, Kings Row, Saratona Trunk. Born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he began his career as an actor, and worked for Cecil B. De Mille as an assistant in 1915. He became a solo director by the time Gloria was born. Her mother was an actress before marrying her father in 1908. Her older sister Jane, known in the future as actress Jeane Wood, was born on November 22, 1909, making her full 10 years older than Gloria.

Gloria’s first brush with the movie business was in 1920, when she played Gloria Swanson’s daughter. Billed as Baby Gloria Wood, she was an instant sensation and got tons of fan mail. Instead of encouraging her parents, this frightened them, and they halted all plans for any further acting jobs. Thus, at the age of 2, Gloria was retired and went on to live a normal life. That is, normal, under Hollywood standards :-)  Among her earliest memories are toddling as a tat after her father as he directed movie scenes.

Gloria grew up in splendor on the west coast. The Woods resided at a plush Beverly Hills home, and always had at least a maid and a butler. Aside from the Beverly Hills abode, the Woods also owned a beach cottage in Bel Air. Gloria spend much of her childhood with her dad’s polo ponies, and was a good rider. As she matured, it was clear that Gloria was a true knockout – a great combo of her father and mother, she had her mother’s stunning figure and her father’s sharp , strong jaw that gave her face much character. Combined with her agile mind and good family background, she was a very sought after girl in the Hollywood community, dated by many eligible bachelors at places like Cirros, Coconaut Grove and so on.

Despite all the splendor surrounding her, Gloria was restless. She was bitten by the acting bug from her late teens, and had a burning desire to become an actress. However, her mother, Clara, was vehemently against Gloria becoming an actress, and her father was not that far behind. They “persuaded” her that she must at least graduate before even trying for a movie career, which Gloria did. In 1937, Gloria was signed to MGM, but got minimal publicity and never made a movie for them.

Somehow dismayed and still playing the dutiful daughter, Gloria enrolled into University of South California, but her heart wasn’t in it – she only spend a year on the campus, and spend more time in the local theater than the classroom. Gloria had reached a breaking point: either she completely drop her acting pretenses, finish college and become a devoted housewife and mother, or she would become an actress, against her parents wishes, and make her own way in the world. Gloria chose the latter – she persuaded her father to put her up on a stock company in Maine. She spent that summer playing a string of roles with the company, the experience only cementing her desire to act. However, her parents still hoped it was a passing fancy and when it became clear it was anything but, they showed their active disapproval. Realizing it was now or never, Gloria left home for good and went to live with her older sister, who was married to her second husband, John Hiestad, and living in Los Angeles.

Gloria changed her name to Katherine Stevens, enrolled into an acting school (Bliss Hayden School) and soon landed herself a starring role in a theater production of the stock company in upstate New York. However, her “anonymous” cover was blown when her dad (by this time resignated to the fact that Gloria was a proper actress and nothing could change that) went to see the play – he was recognized instantly, and Gloria came under fire for being a director’s daughter who got the role due to his connection (not true, of course). To avoid any such embarrassments, Katherine decided to try New York, away from the West coast.

Her father wrote a letter of recommendation for George S. Kaufmann, but otherwise she was on her own. Kaufman was impressed and told her to wait until his new play was written. Impatient, Katherine auditioned for a part in “Yo can’t take it with you” under her non-de-guerre, and won the part. After the play ended, she did some radio work, and then returned to the stage in “The man who came to dinner”. When the play reached San Francisco, her parents were in the first row – and her dad became her stage door Johnny.

Not long after, she changed her name to K.T. Stevens (her first acting name was Katherine Stevens, the name in honor of Katherine Hepburn, the surname from a phone book), and in a stroke of publicity genius, started lamenting to the press how she wants to succeed on her own, without the help of her esteemed papa. Her quotes reached all the major papers – and K.T. truly reached an audience who understood her craving to become a major actress without the help of her dad – yet at the same time they KNEW she was the daughter of Sam Wood. Pretty nifty stuff for sure!

In 1941, K.T. toured with My Sister Eileen, and when the run ended, she landed in Hollywood, hoping to get a movie contract. She wisely played hard to get and declined several offers, but finally signed with


I’ll juts touch upon K.T. Movie career, which was only a minor fragment of her overall acting career. She was a theater pro and later a prominent TV actress, but I’ll just stick to the movies.

K.T. Stevens8In 1937, K.T. was signed by David Selznick, a subsidiary of MGM, but she never made any movies for him. ut, when your dad is Sam Wood, you can sure appear in his movies – K.T.’s first adult movie was Kitty Foyle. Now, while I like this movie, I neither consider it a masterpiece nor Ginger Rogers an Oscar worthy winner. It’s a very good movie, don’t get me wrong, but it still simplifies the choice women HAD to make back in the 1940s. Plus Dennis Morgan, who plays the male lead, is as talent-less actor as you can want it! Ginger is cute and very effective, but she ain’t no top actress. However, I admit am a bit too severe in my observations, and it’s a movie definitely worth watching.  K.T. had a unbilled role as Ginger’s friend.

Then, K.T. went her own way, changed her name and gained some working experience in the theater. Then she went back t o Hollywood and made The Great Man’s Lady, another female-centered movie in its core. Barbara Stanwyck plays a 100-year-old pioneer woman who recounts her story to a young reporter, played by K.T. The movie was nominally directed by the great William Wellman, and truly, when you feel his “touch” – those scenes are truly wonderful bits of film making. The rest of the movie, made by a less capable director, is a run of the mill, uninspired movie. Barbara is a very good actress, and shined here, going from 0 to 100 in a span of an hour and a half.

K.T. Stevens2K.T. toured with My Sister Eileen, and then returned to New York to appear in a George Kaufman/Edna Ferber play, The Land is Bright. She returned to Hollywood in 1943, and made a few movies: Address Unknown is probably the best movie K.T. ever made. Based on a truly shocking epistolary novel about two art dealing friends, one Jewish and one not, as they correspond in time of great peril in Germany – Hitler’s rise to power and subsequently, his treatment of the Jewish population. I think you can venture to guess what happens until the end. Watching it, I was surprised how modern it feels, how seamlessly and easy it flowed, and how elegantly it was made. The director, William Cameron Menzies, pleasantly surprised me. I also have to note that, while K.T. is a vision to behold, her acting is a tad bit too theatrical – you can truly feel her place is in the theater, not on the sound stage. But the movie truly is a marvel, recommended by all accounts!

K.T. ventures out of Hollywood again, got married and gave birth to her first child by the time she was back on the sound stage. The movie was Port of New York. One reviewer on IMDB said it the best: Minor film noir but not without merits. It’s a minor movie all right, but the photography, the semi documentary filming style, and Yul Brynner squarely put it into the “Worth watching” category. Yes, the story is the same old, same old stories about narcotics agents and bad drug lord and yes, K.T. is more ornamental than substantial, but that’s the genre for you!

K.T. Stevens7In 1950, K.T. appeared in Harriet Craig, a movie about “A strange and fascinating woman, at war with the whole world!”. Interestingly, this truly is a movie about such a complex, grey character it’s actually, in my view, more of a women’s movie that Kitty Foyle. Harriet Craig is a much more “real” woman of the 1950s, what I call the domestic decade. While the 1930s were raunchy (at least in the beginning), 1940s were marred by the war, the 1950s were the decade of a new-found conservatism that was as good in some parts that was bad in others. Harriet Craig, a novel written much earlier, in the 1930s, translates better in the 1950s than that period, IMHO. Harriet is a woman who wants to have a clean, spotless house, a rich, well-groomed husband and a perfect life – and does ANYTHING to achieve it. Lie, manipulate, cheat. I can very well understand – for instance, some older generations in my family belong to this mindset, and their premier interest is “What are the neighbors gonna say?”. It’s a kind of mental state where you can literary be a thief and swindler, but as long as you are socially accepted, have a family and a well-kept house, everything is forgiven! Women had it worse than men, as they often did. Crawford is superb as Harriet Craig. While she was always an angry, almost aggressive actress (and thus not the best choice for some characters), this personality set suits this role perfectly. Wendell Corey, who played the weakling husband, and K.T. who plays her friend, fall into second plane and are hardly noticeable. Most reviewers didn’t even mention K.T! But yes, this is Joan’s movie all the way, and everything, including the plot, pacing and cinematography, are there to serve he, and it actually works this time. Rec!

K.T. Stevens9K.T. didn’t make another movie until 1953, when she appeared in Vice Squad, a B level film noir. Nothing extra to write about – Edward G. Robinson is always compulsively watchable (he plays the lead role, the prime man of the Vice squad), the story is predictable, Lee Van Cleef plays the bad guy (what else), and Paulette Goddard is the head of an escort service (considering her reputation as a gold digger, this a bit tongue in cheek). Tumbleweed is an Audy Murphy western. As anyone who reads this blog can attest, I dislike western as a gentle, but have specific dislike for low-budget westerns. While this isn’t in the same class as Allan Lane and Richard Dix movies, it’s still nothing I would ever watch. Although the cast has some good names in it – Lori Nelson, a fine and likable actress, Chill Wills, and again Lee Van Cleef. I can’t deny that it’s probably a fun romp, and that a large number of people may enjoy it, but boy, not my cup of tea! It was obvious K.T. had slipped from first class to second class in Hollywood, and she thus continued Jungle Hell, a patchwork of tons of elephant footage and parts of episodes of a shelved TV series. Yes, it’s a major mess, with Sabu, K.T. and David Bruce tying but failing to do anything of any substance. Avoid.

K.T. marched the “trash genre” way with her next feature, Missile to the Moon, made in 1958. It’s a spectacularly bad movie, with over the top costume design, no coherent story, and horrible performances. Yet, it morphs into a “so bad it’s good movie”, and that’s a guarantee you’ll enjoy it, if you watch it as a camp classic and not as a serious try at film making. K.T. plays The Lido, an alien queen, and wears ridiculous head-gear in every scene she appears.

K.T. didn’t make a movie for a long time after that, and only returned to Hollywood in 1970 to have a small but pivotal role in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice. A swinging classic (in every sense of the word!) its one of the first movies to tackle, very head on, the topic of “swapping partners.” It’s a centuries old phenomenon, but Hollywood, with its intense distaste for all things “not in the vein of a typical nuclear family”, steered clear of. Kudos goes to producer/director Paul Mazursky for taking it s step up. It’s funny, perceptive, sharp and well acted, everything you could fish from a movie.

K.T. appeared in only a few more movies (Adam at Six A.M.PetsThey’re Playing with Fire and Corrina, Corrina), and in minor roles at that, but she acted until the very end.


Gloria was allegedly a pretty popular girl in Beverly Hills in the late 1930s, turning many heads and dating a number of men, but I’ve only found name of just one beau, Frank Appleton, a Harvard man. However, I can sure believe she was wooed my the bucket load, just take a look at her! Beauty with attitude!

tumblr_m79r90De0T1rnodj0o1_500As a side note, K.T.’s dad, Samuel Wood, became one of the premier members of the HUAC and was a zealous anti communist. After his death, his daughter, K.T.’s sister, Jeanne Wood, would liken his distaste for communist to an obsessive, unhealthy state, not unlike an addict, where everything in his life was dominated by this profound hatred. Wood’s reputation had been tarnished because of this, and today he’s not as nearly as known as he should be. What can I say about this? I’m politically liberal and have intense dislike for any extremes, but especially for extreme right wingers, and Sam seemed to be one of the boys in the band (John Wayne, Walter Brennan, Adolphe Menjou, Gary Cooper). So, is it fair to overshadow a man’s artistic achievement because of his political affiliations? It’s too complex a question to answer, so let’s leave it for posterity to answer this one (oh, I could go on and write and write and write about a number of topics here, but this blog is not the place for it).

Back to K.T. Her amorous adventure starts in 1941, when she was already known under her new moniker, K.T. Stevens. And in July 1941, K.T. started to date the big bingo of all bachelors, Alfred “Alf” Vanderbilt, the scion of the illustrious family. Af was born in 1912, making him 7 years older than K.T. He was married to Manuela Hudson, but separated by that time. He was making rounds in Hollywood, dating from early 1941 – his notable conquests were actresses Margaret Lindsay and Margo. But then came K.T. and everything changed!

K.T. played the cards wisely, picking dates on the side – like young actors Ronnie Brogan and Boyd Crawford. Art Jarrett also tried his best to snare the lovely K.T. from Vanderbilt. Boyd was a serious contended for some time, but finally Vanderbilt won. Interesting to note, during this whole time, K.T. was acting opposite Hugh Marlowe, who would become her husband about five years later (he was also married at the time, to Edith Atwater).
KT_vanderbiltK.T. and Al were seen everywhere in New York and seemed to have a great time together. They were both passionate gin rummy players, By late November, it was clear that only Vanderbilt’s estranged wife, Manuela Hudson, was the obstacle to matrimony. In December 1942, they visited Monte Carlo (what, during the war???) together. Vanderbilt really seemed to be “gaga” over K.T. and their relationship progressed beautifully. In early 1942, Vanderbilt seemed to be as much in love with K.T. as usual, but she encountered her first problem – his (perhaps excessive) love for horses and horse races. Without fail, Vanderbilt had to visit the track at least once a day – no matter the weather. This was simply an extent of the Vanderbilt way – both his parents and grandparents and many, many cousins were passionate horse people.

She told her friends that she’s not ready to marry him – she was neither madly in love, nor ready to compete with horses for his time. There was trouble in paradise, but Al was as ardent as always, buying K.T. expensive gifts. He finally divorced his wife in February 1942,and was free to wed K.T. By this time K.T. lived in Los Angeles, going for a short-lived movie career, and Alf followed her, only flying to New York on the weekends.

In April 1942, Alfred tried to enlist in the US army to fight in WW2, but he was several pounds underweight and K.T. helped his gain them by making apple pie (awww, how cute!).

While it’s impossible to say what exactly happened in the relationship between K.T. and Alfred, I’ll try to guess (and this is only my theoretical approach, nothing necessarily true nor concrete) – K.T. never truly loved Alfred. She was probably fond of him, liked spending time with him, was flattered by his attentions. Let’s not forget that dating and marrying  a Vanderbilt is akin to dating a member of some royal house. On the other hand, Alf was crazy mad about K.T. They stuck together, but when the time came to get married, K.T. was not so sure. One thing I adore about K.T. – the girl knew what she wanted and truly went for it. She didn’t pretest that she wanted to act just to nab a wealthy husband, like many actresses of the time did – she TRULY wanted to act and act she did. She could have married Vanderbilt any time of the week, and come into one od the most prestigious families in the US, and be financial secure for the rest of her life  but did she do it? No. Of course, the fact that her father was a wealthy Hollywood director probably helped her choice, but she actually seemed to want to be able to make it on her own, and have a husband who’ll be truly be her equal and her partner. That’s one of the reasons I find K.T.such an interesting actress of the time. Not only was she unusual looking, with an almost masculine jaw, but she also had her very own acting style and never crossed into starlet territory.

K.T. STevens3Alf and K.T. broke up for the first time just before Christmas 1942 – I assume she left him. Alf was inconsolable and spend a miserable and lonely Christmas. Alf was finally drafted int he Army in early 1943. How, this is only a theoretical possibility, but I think that Gloria went with the romance for Alf’s sake. He was stationed int he Pacific, ferrying a PT boat. The “wartime marriage” syndrome was very prevalent in those times – women married men they hardly knew during their brief furloughs, but with (seemingly) a good cause since a large number of those men would never return from the war. There were tons of examples in Hollywood alone – Dusty Anderson, Carole Landis, Anne Jefferys and so on. Most of the marriages failed in the long run (hm… One has to wonder why?)

Alf allegedly had more than 35 photos of K.T. in his cabin, and his only happiness came when he received the letters she wrote with zealous frequency (one a day!). A newspaper reported correctly states that “his 20 million dollars mean nothing to him here.” And K.T. was the only thing he truly cared about. Of course, what was really happening is a mystery to me, but K.T. didn’t seem to be as much in love with Alf as he was with her. She dated other man frequently during 1943. Some of her paramours were Art Jarrett (whom she dated before taking up seriously with Vanderbilt), Paul Getty, Warner Bros writer Lionel Wiggam, Lt. Frank Milan, Frank Farrell (who also served in the marines), and so on.

K.T. Stevens4By August 1943, Alf and K.T. were again in a blissful state. Since Al was in the Army, she did the town with his good fiend Johnny Hamilton, who doubtlessly kept an eye on her. K.T: may have been “promised” to Vanderbilt, but that didn’t stop other men from pursuing her. Victor Mature tried to woo her in October 1943, but ended up a good friend instead. She was also seen frequently with John Hamberlon, a Broadway stage and costume designer who worked with her on Address Unknown. In December 1943 K.T. and Alf got engaged and planed to marry when he, and if he, returned to the US for his next furlough. There was something very touching about the way K.T. spoke about it, not quite sure will Alf make it, unsure how their future would look like. (However, a columnist noted that Alf send a mere pittance to his friend, for buying K.T. a Christmas present… ??) But, 1944 brought changes that would forever separate the young couple. K.T. got the leading role in the Chicago theatrical run of Voice of the Turtle, and moved there. The run was to last about two years. While in Chicago, K.T. fell in love with Hugh Marlowe, her co-star in the play. K.T. played the lead, Sally Middleton, who falls in love with Bill Page, US Army Sargent, played by Marlowe. Controversial in its day, the plays touched upon the subjects of single girl sexuality with surprising frankness. As night by night K.T. played her part, she and Marlowe fell deeper and deeper in love.

Alf was discharged in October 1944, and after doing the rounds in New York, flew o Chicago to appraise the situation. Of course, I have no idea what happened, but I guess he got the picture. K.T. was head over heels in love with Marlowe. Alf returned to New York, and married beautiful Irish-American lass, Jeanne Murray in 1945. He would marry one more time, to Jean Harvey, and die in 1999 in New York.

Back to K.T. and Hugh. After the play ended, they married on May 7, 1946. It was a start of a long partnership, both professional and private. They often appeared together in the theater. Marlowe was born as Hugh Herbert Hipple on January 30, 1911, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and began his stage career in the 1930s at the Pasadena Playhouse in California. Marlowe was usually a secondary lead or supporting actor in the films he appeared in, but he spent more time in the theater.

Their son Jeffrey was born on July 7, 1948 in Los Angeles. Their second son Chris was born on September 28, 1951.

K.T. Stevens5The marriage went well until about 1966, when Hugh fell in love with his costar, the talented young actress Rosemary Torri. They started an affair, and in mid 1968, Rosemary got pregnant. K.T. and Hugh divorced in a quick fashion and Hugh married Rosemary right after the divorce was made final. Their son, Hugh Marlowe III, was born in February 1969. The older Hugh continued making movies until his death on May 2, 1982.

Little was written about K.T. after her divorce. She continued working, got over her divorce and her husband’s remarriage pretty quickly and generally stayed out of the limelight. She was a passionate gardener and her garden was one of the best known in her street. K.T. also served on local and national boards of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists from 1978 until 1994. She was president of the union’s Los Angeles local from 1986 to 1989.

K.T. Stevens died from lung cancer on June 13, 1994, in Los Angeles, California.




Betty Bryant


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


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

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

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


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

The Other Betty Bryant, born in Australia

The Other Betty Bryant, born in Australia

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

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

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

That was all from Betty.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jo Carroll Dennison


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jo Carroll Dennison lives in Idyllwild, California.


Carole Gallagher


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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