Jana Mason


Jana Mason was a talented singer who set aflame stages al over the States with her sensual, jazzy style. Unfortunately, this did not warrant her cinematic success – she never had a credited part and appeared in only a handful of movies. Let’s hear more about Jana…

EARLY LIFE

Ursula Comantadore was born on September 11, 1929, in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Joseph Comendatore and Frances Caiezza. Her younger sister Dolores was born sometime after 1940. Her father worked first as a fruit and fish salesman – he had his own stall, and her mother was a factory worker in the early 1930s. Later on her father worked at the shipyards – her mother became a housewife.

Jana grew up in Jersey City in scant circumstances. To help her family make more money, she had to give up on her education (she never got past the 10th grade), and started to sing professionally. She was soon singing in several radio stations and after she moved to New York, worked in various nightclubs. In the early 1950s, she moved to Las Vegas and slowly but securely built up her “brand”. Here is a short article about her:

Jana Mason, the canary with the fabulous figure (at Basin Street), is making a fast climb up the success ladder. In the same hour the past week, she signed to do two Bing Crosby shows and put her signature on a Decca contract. She’s been singing professionally for only 14 months.

She was already a seasoned performer with hundreds of concerts and appearances under her belt, and sang for more than the 14 months like the article claims.  Thus she easily landed in Hollywood in 1955.

CAREER

Jana’s first movie appearance was in Women’s Prison, a low-budget women’s prison movie (boy, the name does say it all!). but, that’s not the reason to watch this little “trashy gem” – rather, it is a great women’s cast – Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter and Phyllis Thaxter. Despite it’s overly dramatic story and obvious flaws, it’s entertaining and ultimately satisfying. Just beware, this ain’t Shakespeare!

Jana’s next feature, 5 Against the House, one of the 1950s caper movies (let’s rob a casino!) that Rat Pack excelled it. No Rat Pack here, but he have some interesting substitutes – Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews. Let’s be clear, all of them were pretty boys that never won Oscars, but they are more than tolerable here, and Keith is still a notch above the median, and stands up as the best fo the lot.  What this movie does right is the psychological profile of the caperers – they are all different people with their own “demons and angels”. Another plus is a very young Kim Novak – as soon as she enters the screen, it’s clear there is something about Miss Novak that would make her a star a few short years later.

Jana was then featured in My Sister Eileen, the second adaptation of the well-known book. Unfortunately, it’s a lesser movie than the first adaptation (with the wonderful Roz Russell), but it’s still a breezy, happy-go-lucky movie, a true Hollywood delight for taking the blues away.

Jana’s last movie was The Wild Party. It there is one word that can descrive the movie, it’s sleazy. We have Anthony Quinn, playing an over-the-hill football star that holds a thrill-seeking wealthy couple captive. The movie was supposed to be a social commentary on the rich vs. the poor, but dilutes into a semi-exploatation movie with intense sexual innuendo and some pretty lurid scenes (for the 1950s). High art it ain’t, but it’s not a complete waste either. The social message, while it does get lost in the sleaziness most of the time, comes across to some degree, the cinematography is almost noir-like (always a plus in my book!), and Anthony Quinn, oh my! The man was a charismatic powerhouse and did most of his roles justice, and the movie would hardly work with a lesser actor in the leading role of the deranged football player. His supporting cast is less than stellar, but sturdy enough to make it work (Carol Ohmart, Kathryn Grant and so on).

Jana did some TV work on the side, but retired from movies after her marriage for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Little is known about Jana’s early life. We know she had a cat that the press dubbed “the real cool cat”. It slept on the air conditioner. Funny.

Jana married her first husband, David Victorson, on December 28, 1953, in Los Angeles. Both of them worked in Las Vegas, just in different nightclubs.

David was born on June 23, 1916, to Louis Victorson and Hanna Smith. He was married once before, to Jean Victorson, whom he divorced in 1937. He and Jana met in New York and moved to Las Vegas to further their careers (but in reality to primarily further her career).

Their marriage was not long-lived. In 1955, Jana got involved with a man who would completely change her life – Jackie Barnett, the songwriter for Jimmy Durante. if the name rings a bell to you, I’ll just say it should – Barnett dated a string of Hollywood beauties in the 1940s and 1950s, and was even engaged to several starlets I profiled here on the blog. He sure had a rich social life!

Madly in love with Barnett, Jana and David divorced in 1956 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Victorson married Angela Velasquez in 1961 and died in 1973 in New Yersey.

After that Jana and Jackie went full yuh-voom. They were often seen together eating supper at the late bistros, seemingly without a care int he world and madly in love. However, the relationship was a stormy one, and they constantly fought only to make up later. Their first real break came in early 1956. In June 1956 Jana met sportsman Jim Kimberly, who would become a serious beau and later change the course of her life (read on to find out how!!)

Jana didn’t stick just to Kimberly – she also dated disk jockey Bill Williams. However, by early 1957, Jackie and Jana were back in each other good graces and in April there was talk that Barnett checked city hall about marriage regulations. His bride-to-be was of course Jana. However, nothing came out of it, and they were kaput once again by September 1957.
In November 1957 dated comic Phil Foster, of the “Halavah Hilarities” cast. She claimed it was an “An old friendship.”, and truly, it didn’t last. By December of that year she was back again with Jackie Barnett, and there were again rumors of an impending marriage.

But oh my, to everybody’s eternal regret Jana and Jackie broke up! (NOT). And this time, it was for good. But, Jana was in no shortage of male company. She was singing in Chicago back then, and the wolves-about-town lined up with mistletoe to greet Jana after every Camellia House performance. Jana took up with her old beau Jim Kimberly, and he then introduced her to .his close friend, socialite Freddie Wacker.

Their mutual interest in modern music was a starting point of what ended up a wonderful romance, ultimately culminating into marriage. Frederick Wacker was born on July 10, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois. He was a grandson of Charles H. Wacker, sponsor of the City Beautiful plan and of Wacker drive. He was a professional drummer and passionate race car driver – he participated in five Formula One World Championship races. Here is what their 1958 wedding looked like:

Frederick G. Wacker Jr., musician, sportsman, and industrialist, left the ranks of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors yesterday when he took Miss Ursula Comandatore as his bride in New York City. The ceremony took place at 5 p. -m. in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian church, with a reception in Hampshire House. Mr. Wacker, son of Mrs. Wacker of Lake Forest and the late Mr. Wacker, is a grandson of the late Charles H. Wacker who headed the Chicago Plan commission for 19 years and for whom Wacker drive is named. The bride is known professionally as Jana Mason and was singing in the Drake hotel when she and Mr. Wacker met a few months ago. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Commandatore of Jersey City, N. J. For the wedding, the bride wore a white lace gown and white pillbox to which a net veil was attached. She carried white orchids. Her only attendant was her sister, Miss Dolores Commandatore. Charles Wacker II was his brother’s best man. After wedding trip to Europe Mr. Wacker and his bride will live in his Lake Shore drive apartment.

The Wackers had three children: Frederick Wacker, III (born on January 5, 1960), Wendy, born on August 27, 1961, and Joseph, born in 1963.

Like many ladies whom I profiled on this site, Jana was a victim of a carefully planned burglary in 1965. There was a long and painful list of valuables taken, including several diamond rings and bracelets, two fur coats, and a fur stole.

Jana in the late 1950s and early 1960s was the embodiment of a seemingly dream-like existence – wealthy, healthy, she had an adoring husband and three wonderful children, but she was unfulfilled and wanted more. So, in the mid 1960s, she went back to work. She sang in Monetral, Chicago and Las Vegas. A short article illustrated her life back then:

Freddie Wacker, the social register’s only professional drummer, flew to Montreal to bring his singing wife, Jana Mason, home from her short but smash engagement at the Queen Elizabeth hotel up there. Freddie reportedly wanted no publicity in Chicago on the deal and isn’t overjoyed at talented Jana’s return to the night clubs.

However, her husband’s distaste aside, Jana found her re-enty into the world of showbiz shallow and insipid. Unhappy qand without a clear idea what can be done about it, she one day met a woman who taught Bible lessons, going from door to door. Jana’s interest was enflamed after she met the woman twice, and she joined their group and found a new meaning in life soon after. Determined never ever again to sing a secular song, she teamed up with old friends from the music industry, and recorded a gospel album. Thus, Jana toured the States with a gospel group for several years, and this completely changed her life. She would later say:

“Everybody tries to pressure himself to live up to the guy next door. I used to spend a couple of hours to get ready to go to a party. I was so uptight. Why? Insecurity? I seemed to believe that life revolved around me. There are no special people under God. We are all together, and we need more love. We need to be touched and loved. We are afraid to clap, to touch, to sing out.”

She retired in the 1980s from all forms of performing and lived quietly with her family. Jana’s husband, Freddie Wacker, died on August 18, 1998, at the age of 80. After his death, Jana divided her time between Lake Bluff, Illinois and Indian Wells, California, where her daughter Wendy lived.

Jana Mason Wacker died on August 22, 2013, in Illinois.

Jana’s son, Joseph, died in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Millicent Deming

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Young, pretty Millicent Deming proved to be a more apt businesswoman than she was an actress – she worked in a modeling agency as a tutor from her late teens, and later was successful in real estate and had her very own modeling agency. too bad her acting career was so thin… Let’s find out more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Millicent Louise Deming was born on June 12, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, to Robert Edwards Deming and Mildred Fulton. Her father came from a progressive Iowa family – his older brother was William Edwards Deming, a prominent 20th century engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. Robert worked as a super service station proprietor (I have no idea what it is, but it’s written like this on the 1930 census so go figure?)

Millicent grew up in a upper middle class family in Los Angeles, and discovered her love for acting from an early age. Here is a short article about her social life from the late 1940s:

Visitors Coming from Bel Air to attend the junior-senior prom at [shadow Mountain Club tonight is pretty Millicent Deming, who will be squired by Kenny Jackson of P. S. High. Miss Deming has taken junior parts in several movie shorts, one of which was shot down here at the airport with Kenny playing opposite her. She will he the house guest of Mrs. Mildred Jackson

Millicent became a successful businesswoman early in her life, before she graduated from high school. Her father opened a modeling school where she worked as a instructor, giving girls lessons in how to be feminine and pose for the camera. On the side, she also worked as a secretary for famous impresario Nils Grauland, and did a nightly KTSL (2) show. She met the right people, and it was only a matter of time before she landed in Hollywood.

CAREER

Millicent’s first movie was Two Tickets to Broadway, the all too familiar musical with tons of unknown actresses playing chorus girls (I think that about 7 or 8 actresses I profiled here actually had an uncredited role in that movie). There is nothing much to say about it, it’s a lower mid tier musical with a moronic story, colorful cinematography and sadly forgettable music. Skip.

Millicent’s second, much better movie, was The Garment Jungle, a bag of mixed pleasures. Basically a racket movie, it’s part film noir with dramatic touches, a so-so mesh of it’s two directors – Vincent Sherman and Robert Aldrich. And boy, we can hardly find two such disparate directors!Sherman was known as a woman’s director in the vein of George Cukor – he excelled in melodrama and worked with great divas like Miriam Hopkins, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Robert Aldrich was the master of unseen violence, one of the few directors that showed what a phantom menace looks like. Combine them and you have an interesting experiment – not a completely successful one, mind you. The movie, which ended up begin completely unknown afterwards – has flashes of brilliance as much as some truly dismal parts. The story is nothing to gape about – racketeering in the garment district of New York – but it works as a framing device for some very relevant questions and punches you hard when you finally realize that those things happened in real life. Oh yes, people literary died in these rackets. The actors are a mixed bag too. There are wonderful actors like Lee J. Cobb and , and on the other hand, we have Kerwin Matthews in the lead, handsome enough but a total wooden pole. However, the atmosphere and the style overall is superb. There is much “angry silence”, menace and doom in the air, and you can easily feel that Robert Aldrich did a large portion of the movie. It’s his signature style – brutal yet always subtle. Sherman infuses the more “intimate parts”, and they are lacking compared to the rest of the movie. The female love interest, played by Gia Scala, is so marginal to the story it’s almost sad, and Matthews was too thin an actor to truly pull of the more challenging gentle scenes. If you could pull out the redundant cheesy side of the movie, It’s almost a wonderful film noir, and it’s a shame it so neglected today, despite it’s shortcomings.

Millicent did some TV work (Peter Gunn) before retiring from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Millicent was 34-23-34, blonde haired, hazel Eyed, and 5’ 6”. In 1951, at just 18 years old, Millicent was engaged to Serge Ross, a Hollywood stalwart. The engagement was terminated, and she was seen around town with well known attorney Milton Golden.

Millicent married John Anthony Restifo on May 5, 1953. Restifo was born on December 30, 1916, in Washington DC, to Thomas Charles Restifo and Madeleine DiCamillo. He was the oldest of four children (John, Joseph, Nancy and Margaret). His father, who ran a successful beverage business, died sometime in the late 1930s. His mother took over as the head of the business, running it with John and his brother Joseph. John moved to Los Angeles a few years later, along with his mother, and there met Millicent. Little is known of the marriage. They divorced in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Sadly, Restifo died in Mexico in 1964.

Millcent married, secondly, to Gerald Fishbein on January 29, 1964. Fishbein was born on March 12, 1930, to Joseph Fishbein and Esther Levin. His younger sister Joan was born in 1940. His father was a successful jewelry salesman – they always had a servant in the household. His parents moved to New York not long after his birth. They lived in Queens where Gerald grew up. Gerald returned to California at some point. Millicent and Gerald’s only child, daughter Leslie, was born on March 17, 1966. After living n Los Angeles with a lofty social life, Millicent and Gerald divorced on December 22, 1982. He married Emily S. Adehlson in 1985 and continued living in California.

Millcent married her third husband, William T. Reynolds, on April 6, 1985.  Born in Trenton, New Jersey, February 11, 1923, to parents William Titus Reynolds, Sr. and Mary Knode Reynolds, he attended schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida before moving to California following service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He was a graduate of the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Finance (Magna Cum Laude), and an M.B.A. He had a long career in financial services. While in graduate school, he was employed by Hill Richards & Co. in Los Angeles. In Pasadena, he was broker/manager at Blyth & Co., later Blyth Eastman Dillon, Paine Webber and, finally, UBS. He was a Past President of the Bond Club. Reynolds was married once before, to Mary Electa Nehman, and they had three daughters: Cornelia, (born on June 30, 1948), Electa (born on October 28, 1950), and Rosemary (born on May 12, 1953).

Never the one to sit idly, after the demise of her acting career, Millicent ran Millicent Deming Commercial Modeling Studio for several decades, and has been a licensed real estate agent in California for 37 years and is currently with Exclusive Estate Properties in Northern Hollywood. Millicent focuses on Pasadena, where she has lived for many years.

As for her civic life, Millicent served as Member of the Advisory Committee of The Pasadena Symphony among others. Sadly, Millicent and William divorced in the 1990s or 2000s. Millicent moved to La Canada-Flintridge after the divorce.

Wiliam T. Reynolds died on April 9, 2013 in San Gabriel.

Millicent Deming Reynolds lives in California today.

 

Georgia Clancy

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Stunning model who went to Hollywood hoping for fame and fortune, Georgia Clancy was one of many that never amounted to much in the movie world. Yet, after both her acting and modeling careers were over, she became a highly succesful executive and paved her own way in life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Georgia V. Clancy was born on October 10, 1924, in Sayre, Beckham County, Oklahoma, to Elmzey George Clancy and Mary Etta Hervey. She was the second of four children – her older brother was Alvin, born on February 19, 1923, and her younger siblings were Helen, born in 1931 and Mary, born in 1932. Both of her parents were native Oklahomans.

The family moved from Sayre, Oklahoma to Texas for a brief time in 1932, (her sister Mary was born there), then back to Oklahoma (San Francisco, Oklahoma, yep, that place really exists) and finally to Compton, California in 1936. Georgia’s father was a carpenter and had his own carpenters workshop – her mother helped manage it. Both Alvin and Georgia worked at the workshop since their early teens – by the time she was 16 years old, she racked up quite a bit of work hours per week.

wanting for a better life, Georgia decided to try her luck in New York, where she went after graduating from high school. Not long after she became a premier bathing suit model and was summoned to Hollywood for the movie Bitter Victory in 1948.

CAREER

Georgia landed in Hollywood in 1948, under this guise: “Georgia Clancy, America’s top bathing suit model who became a mannequin hoping it would lead to an acting career, recently reached second base in her campaign to become a screen actress. The beauteous redhead rounded first base in the self-same campaign last week when Paramount called her to play herself in fashion salon sequences for “Bitter Victory.” She was one of the premier New York models sent to Los Angeles – the others were Billie Fuchs, Maruja, Vivian Easton, Georgia, Yvette Koris and Gini Adams.

The movie never being made (a Bitter Victory movie was made later, in the 1950s, with Richard Burton), Georgia opted to stay in Los Angeles and actually made her Hollywood debut in Neptune’s Daughter, one of the better Esther Williams extravaganzas. What can I say – they were top of the art in terms of technical excellence and innovation, but did not have back then, nor now, any big artistic merit. But they are nice’n’easy viewing for an afternoon movie session.

In 1950, Georgia actually had a speaking role in Buccaneer’s Girl, a movie low-budget, thin plot and mid tier actors – but still despite al of this a very amusing movie. Yvonne de Carlo plays the female pirate (while never a big talent, and IMHO not a particularly beautiful woman – I know many will disagree with me on this, but I just don’t find her attractive, De Carlo was superb for these swashbuckler roles and had a certain charisma).

Georgia then appeared in two very good movies: The Furies  and September Affair. Both are examples of superb classic Hollywood filmmaking, despite their relative obscurity today. The first one is a interesting psychological western centering on a dysfunctional but passionate father/daughter relationship (between Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston – two top actors!!!!). The second movie is one of the bets tear-jerker I’ve even watched – this is how sad movies are done, people! The story has to be a bit far-fetched (otherwise you’ll never get the over-the-top drama much movies need), actors should be top-notch and truly earnest in their roles, the direction should be unobtrusive and slightly, and their shoudl be plenty of truly emotional moments. September affairs has all of this and one. Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten are wonderful in their roles. Gorgeous music (the song, September Affair, was sung by Walter Huston!!! Love that man!!) and great cinematography are a well-earned bonus. definitely put this on your watching list if you like it elegant and tragic.

Georgia’s last movie was the mediocre Two Tickets to Broadway, which I have reviewed to many times on this page to make it relevant anymore…

PRIVATE LIFE

When Georgia came to Hollywood in 1948, there were serious tried to make her more accessibe to the public by mentionign the frequently in incocequencial articles, like this one:

The legend that fashion models get their pick of handsome he-men is a lot of bunk, a green-eyed beauty said today. All she ever meets on the job is a flock of balding grandpas with romantic ideas.. Georgia Clancy, speaking. America’s highest-priced bathing suit mannequin. She has red hair and enough curves to keep a strapless swim suit from slipping. She’s also an expert at broken-field running. “You have to be quick,” says Miss Clancy with a shrug of her bare shoulders. “A lot of buyers get lonesome on out-of-town trips:” Georgia spends her working hours strutting her stuff before the delighted eyes of middle-aged executives. ‘ “We don’t have to date the visiting firemen if we don’t want to,” she explained. “But we have to be tactful in brushing them off. “When some homesick gent asks me out I usually smile and say, ‘oh, I’d love to, but mother expects me home for dinner.’ ” If she knows he’s married, it’s even easier. “I just hint,” she purred, “I’m certain his wife wouldn’t like my alienating his affections.” And she usually can tell a wolf before he even has time to make a pass. “Then I twist my signet ring around so it looks like a wedding ring,” she said. “It also helps to tell him I’m married to an all-American football tackle.” Miss Clancy’s in Hollywood with two other models for Producer Hal Wallis’ “Bitter Victory.” They have the same troubles she does…

After her Hollywood career evaporated Georgia returned to modeling. Sadly, in the 1950s not many women over the age of 35 worked as models, and the same applied to Georgia. However, she was far from disillusioned – she seeker her fortune elsewhere, became the number one executive of A.P. Management Corporation, run by the even interesting Al Petker. Taken from a newspaper article:

If radio isn’t dead yet and it isn’t much of the credit for keeping its pulse going can be claimed by Al Petker, known in the trade as The Contest Man. There can hardly be a man alive who has not heard a Petker-inspired contest on air.  He services some 8,500 disk jockey shows on 1,800 radio stations and also takes care of 119 TV stations with his two going enterprises: Gifts for Listeners and Gifts for Viewers. Whenever you hear a promotion contest on the air with a variety of prizes clocks, radios, watches being offered, you can take odds that it was Petker who dreamed up the idea and Petker who supplies the prizes. The prizes, literally thousands of them, are stored in a warehouse in Beverly Hills. It is, in fact, the only warehouse in Beverly Hills, a city which is very touchy about anything more commercial than selling mink stoles or poodle haircuts. He has his warehouse there, plus a luxurious swimming pool-home. He even maintains cordial relations with the Beverly Hills post office which handles an average of 2,000 Petker-pushed parcels every month and writes him fan letters about the nice way he wraps and addresses them

Petker, who only two years ago was flat broke, is today quite wealthy. Al’s income, of course, comes from the manufacturers of the products he gives away through the disk jockeys. They pay him an annual fee, in return for which he sees to it that the product is handsomely mentioned on the air in such a way that it not only doesn’t sound hike a commercial but doesn’t cost what a commercial would cost. He has, made a legitimate, good business out of what used to be (and in many Instances still is) a low earnign industry in the broadcasting business. When, for example, a comedian’s writers build a Joke or a sketch around some commercial products, such as a refrigerator, the writers are quietly rewarded by the refrigerator pee-pic. Petker is only 37; stands an even six-feet and is handsomely mustachioed. He lives , with his wife and two children and. an 8-month-old Russian wolfhound, and runs his A. P. Management Corp. (along with a dozen other related corporations) with the help’ of Georgia Clancy. Clancy, as she is invariably called, is his executive vice president and would be the hands-down winner of any contest for the most fetching executive v. p. in the world. But the Petker people have no interest in winning contests. They just like to run them. Pays better that way.

Georgia was by all accounts never married and the papers never mentioned a significant other.

Georgia Clancy died on March 8, 1981, in California.

Dorothy Dearing

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Dorothy Dearing was another dancer who broke into movies, but found little success in her new career, managing plenty of uncredited roles. However, after Dorothy turned her life around and remade herself for the second time, this time as a succesful businesswoman. Bravo to her! Now, let’s hear her story!

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Dearing was born on April 17, 1913, in Parachute, Colorado, to Erdix Dearing and Elizabeth “Bessie” Wilson. Her father worked as a commercial inker. Her older brother, Erdix, was born in 1912, and her younger brother, Edward, was born in 1916. The family moved to Alhambra, California not long after Edward was born. Dorothy attended elementary and high school there.

Her father died in 1925. Her mother rented the house to tenants for some extra money, but in order to feed the family, both Erdix and Dorothy had to go to work. Erdix worked as a salesman in a drug store, and Dorothy was a dancing teacher (at only 16 years old!). Her love for dancing soon overrode everything else, and, after she graduated from high school, she set her sights to Hollywood and left for Los Angeles with her mother.

Dorothy was one of those actresses that didn’t land a contract right away, in fact, she danced in Busby Berekeley’s shows by night, worked as a secretary by day and went to as many auditions as she could, visiting tons of casting agents. One of them gave her a chance, she got a movie contract and started her career in 1933 for 20th Century Fox.

CAREER

Dorothy appeared unciedted in fluffy, happy-go-lucky musicals – Dancing LadyRedheads on Parade and Song and Dance Man. As she was a trained dancer, this was probably easy-peasy for her. All of these movies are no works of art, but are more than fun and nice on the eyes.

dorothydearing5Dorothy then turned to a bit more serious fare with Girls’ Dormitory, an insipid drama-romance about a (gasp) girls dormitory, with Simone Simon in the lead. Tyrone Power was a secundary male character then. Then, Dorothy took a year-long break from movies (I guess it was for martial reason, but can’t be sure), and returned in 1938. Her first movie was Alexander’s Ragtime Band – and guess who was the lead? Tyrone Power, of course, in one of his Alice face musicals. It’s a pretty good movie, especially interesting to nostalgia people. Dorothy then had her first credited role in Up the River, a likeable and lively comedy about con men who work their own football team (the story was remade later with Spencer Tracy). For more about Tail Spin, perhaps the pinnacle of Dorothy’s career, read the Private life section. It’s Stage door just swap acting with aviation. Dorothy then had another credited role in the mediocre drama Wife, Husband and Friend, one of the tons of Loretta Young movies from the 1930s (that almost nobody remembers today).

Dorothy then appeared in Hotel for Women, one of the best women’s movies of the 1930s, with the young Linda Darnell in the lead (who goes on to live in the hotel for women), and an impressive supporting cast to boot (Ann Sothern, Jean Rogers, Lynn Bari, June Gale)… A year later, Dorothy also appeared in the sequel – Free, Blonde and 21, and this time Lynn Bari had the cake!

Dorothy returned to musicals in the pastiche Hollywood Cavalcade (with Alice Faye in the lead, again), and the so-so biographical movie, Swanee River, about songwriter Stephen Foster. She then appeared in a rare Lynn Bari vehicle, City of Chance, a mid tier comedy/drama about a girl going to the big city so she can save her boyfriend from becoming a gambling addict.

Next up was the pale remake of Wizard of Oz – The Blue Bird, with Shirley Temple. Nothing special to see here, so skip unless you are a Shirley fan. Then there was Girl in 313, a typical B movie, blend of crime, heist and romance, with the evanescent Florence Rice in the lead, playing a jewel thief. It was followed by The Great Profile, a thin but highly amusing movie in which John Barrymore spoofs himself, playing an alcoholic former movie star. I like Barrymore – he was a superb if a bit overtly dramatic actor, but his last years were truly a study in a wasted life. Then Dorothy was in Murder Over New York, a mid tier Charlie Chan movie.

dorothydearing2Dorothy captured some roles in higher up movies with Hudson’s Bay, an epic movie about early Canada (with Paul Muni, truly a gem among actors!), Tall, Dark and Handsome, a well made comedy/crime film with Cesar Romero and Virginia Gilmore (too bad about her – she was a capable, good actress, but was overshadowed by her husband, Yul Brynner). Dorothy appeared in another Alice Faye movie, That Night in Rio – same old same old, shallow overall, but fun, elegant and pleasing. She continued with more musicals – The Great American Broadcast, another same old same old Alice Faye vehicle, Moon Over Miami, a surprisingly charming Betty Grable musical (I was more interested in Carole Landis, who plays Betty’s sister – she was truly a stunner!).

Dorothy last string of movies were crimes or dramas. She appeared in the lesser movie, We Go Fast, a completely forgotten Lynn Bari movie where she plays a waitress who falls for the wrong guy, and in a better one: I Wake Up Screaming, a top-tier film noir, with a solid story (watch it to see it!) and a cast of not very talented actors who actually give above-average-performances (for them at least). Neither Betty Grable nor Victor Mature knew how to act, but here it works. Dorothy’s last movie was Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air, another William Wellman aviation movie, a must see for fans of the genre and a good-enough movie for the rest of us.

PRIVATE LIFE

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In 1934, not long after she started her movie career, Dorothy gave a beauty hint for the readers:

Ten minutes daily for a period of a month in training the muscles of the abdomen will do much to help the not-so-perfect figure Simply contract and relax , the muscles, slowly and systematically, and after a while improvement should be evident.

It was noted that Dorothy was an excellent spokeswoman, one of Hollywood’s most attractive blondes, and that her favorite hot beverage was Bokar coffee, because its vigorous and winey aroma.  Dorothy was well known in Hollywood for her resemblance of both Madeline Carroll and Dorothy Mackaill. She was also part of the “in crowd” at 20th century Fox, as this article can attest:

Each noontime at Twentieth Century-Fox, four young stock actresses—Alice Armand, Dorothy Dearing, Irma Wilsen and Helen Erickson—lunch with ex­ star Mae Marsh and chatter like so many magpies. Having often wondered at such conversational pep, I finally mustered courage to ask Mae, pointblank, what they had talked about. “Well, said she, “Today we discussed (1) Alice Faye’s new hairdress, (2) the rumored romance of Sonja Henie and Alan Curtis, (3) the new composition stockings, (4) possible use of the same material for undies, (5) winter wardrobes and (6) three other things that are none of your business!” Guess femmes are femmes—even if they are actresses.

Dorothy’s only true claim to fame came when she went on the Tailsip publicity tour. A short article about it:

Tailspin party involves more than 5,500 miles of airline travel. In each key city visited the party will deliver prints of “Tailspin,” which stars Alice Faye, Constance Bennett and Nancy Kelly.  Some of the personalities to visit Detroit will include Ruth Nichols, famous speed pilot, who has established many of her air speed records right here, and Margo Bain Tanner, world’s holder title for a speed record. Others in the visiting party will include Dorothy Dearing, Joan Valerie, Lillian Porter and Helen Erickson, youthful stock actresses from the Twentieth Century-Fox studios. The fliers and Hollywood starlets will spend Saturday night and Sunday morning in Detroit. They’ll be guests at a buffet supper at 7 p. m. Saturday at the Book-Cadillac Hotel, together with Detroit and Michigan members of the Ninety-nine Club, officers from Pelfridge Field, civic dignitaries and newspaper men and women.

Sometime in the 1930s, Dorothy was married, but I could not find any information about the groom nor indeed how long did it last. What I do know that by 1940, she was divorced and living with her mother, Bessie, in Los Angeles. She also dated comedy writer Curly Harris for a time in 1937.

Dorothy made her last movie in 1942, and saw the writing on the wall. Always an independent, capable woman, she decided to go into business – import/export business, to be exact. By 1944, she was pretty well established in the Los Angeles biz world. Here is an article from 1944:

Dorothy Dearing. an importer, just back” from Mexico City, brought us aevaral packs of American-made cigarettes which she purchased there. One pack of Luckies (where the revenue tax stamp should be) is marked: “Best Wishes from, the Hit Parade and Joan Edwards.” Free cigarettes meant for our troops overseas. She paid 10 cents per pack! Miss Dearing and several friends bought them at the drug store in the Reforma Hotel, Mexico City. They are now in the mails to examination,

dorothydearingDorothy Dearing and former actor Roland Drew began dating in 1944, while he was still serving in the US Army. After a brief engagement, they married on August 12, 1946, in Los Angeles.

Roland was born, as Walter David Goss, on August 4,1900, in New York,  to David Goss and Elizabeth Kennedy. His father was English. Roland, in silent days, played opposite such stars as Dolores del Rio and Gloria Swanson. Later he was prominent as a character actor on the screen and in radio. He gave up acting by the time he married Dorothy. He enlisted as a private in September 1942 during World War II. This was his first marriage.

Their son Damon Dearing was born on April 13, 1947. Dorothy left acting for good by that time, and focused on her family and her import business. Drew became a renown dress designer in California, catering to the posh ladies, and was very famous and successful. IMDB alleges that Dorothy became an alcoholic, and this contributed to her premature death.

Dorothy Dearing Drew died on April 19, 1965, in Beverly Hills, California. Her widower, Roland Drew, died on March 17, 1988 in Santa Monica.

 

Reita Green

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Blonde, vivacious and beautiful, Reita Green was a star dancer at a beloved dancing troupe from the time she was 16 years old – she showed plenty of promise to make it as an actress. She did find her way to Hollywood and  astudio contract, but unfortunately this is were the story ends – after a few uncredited roles, she gave up the stage for motherhood.

EARLY LIFE

Reita Ann Green was born on April 15, 1936, in Scotland City, South Dakota, to Lloyd Green and Valeria Cach. Her older sister, Gloria, was born in 1935. Her father worked as a manager at a creamory – they made various creams, like ice cream and butter. Reita’s paternal cousin, Roger Green, lived with her and served as a helper for her father at the creamory business.

The family moved to Codington, South Dakota in the early 1940s, and after a brief time there, moved to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where Reita grew up and attended high school. She was a gifted dancer and spent many hours immersed in dancing, with hopes of becoming a professional one day.

Reita danced only as an amateur, but her luck changed in 1950 (note that she was just 14 years old!!), when Horace Heidt’s touring Youth Opportunity program passed through the city. She auditioned for the show as a member of a dance duet. Heidt didn’t think the act had possibilities but was very impressed with the way she performed, and when an opening came in the show, sent for her and made her a regular member of the chorus.  She then became a member of Heidt’s youthful Heidt-Steppers and appeared every Friday on his TV show, KLA. She was one of the youngest members of the troupe, and attended school every day along with other members of the troupe who were working toward finishing their formal education. Reita lived at Heidt’s ranch with 13 other performers who appear on the show. It was via Heidt that she landed in Hollywood.

CAREER

Reita’s first movie was Indestructible Man, a Z class, trashy horror movie with Lon Chaney Jr. as the eponymous Indestructible man – a screaming, raving banshee avenger (who mutates after a death sentence goes horribly wrong and doesn’t kill him) out to get his scheming lawyer and pay back all her’s done to him. Stupid plot, low-budget, but if you like trash horror, than this is definitely something you should see. Lon Chaney Jr. is one of the best in the field, and the supporting cast is actually pretty decent – Max Showalter, Ross Elliot, Marian Carr.

reitagreen4Her second feature was another lo-budget horror – Daughter of Dr. Jekyll. The name says it all (guess what the plot is about…) It’s predictable, it’s got bad specials effects and no great artistic merit, but it’s fun and it’s trashy. That same year, 1957, Reita graduated to higher quality movies – she appeared in  Jeanne Eagels, a typical Hollywood 1950s biopic. That means – plot has no connection to the real life person, script is clichéd, acting is limited, pacing is choppy and often it’s over the top corny. Yup, Jeanne Eagles suffers from all of these maladies, although it has a few shining moments (it actually shows Jeanne’s alcoholism and some supporting actors are really good – Virginia Grey and Agnes Moorehead come to mind.) The leads, Kim Novak and Jeff Chandler, are beautiful and charismatic, but hardly decent thespians.

Reita then appeared as a chorine in The Joker Is Wild, actually a biopic made right. While not completely truthful to the source material, its got Frank Sinatra playing Joe E. Lewis and it works very nicely. The music is good and so is the supporting cast, so this one is a winner overall.

In 1958, Reita was a part of an Elvis Presley movie – King Creole. I’m no bog Elvis fan and find his movies lackluster, but that’s just my own personal taste. Reita’s last movie, where she finally had a normal, speaking role, was A Stranger in My Arms. It’s a movie that, at first glance, looks like an overblown Ross Hunter soaper, ends up a less than satisfying meditation on the nature of truth, lies and legacy. Yep, it’s deeper than it seems, it has the typical glossy veneer Hunter was famous for but still doesn’t make the grade totally. The dialogue is a bit off, and with some script doctoring, they could have made a semi classic. Too bad. The actors are a mixed bag also. On one side, we have Jeff Chandler and June Allyson, nice to look at but pretty much untalented, and on the other side you have acting greats Mary Astor and Charles Coburn. And Sandra Dee, a cute dynamo!!

After this, Reita appeared in several Tv shows, and then left acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1951, Reita was involved in a car accident. The summary: Orchestra leader Horace Heidt and three members of his show troupe were injured Sunday in a sideswipe automobile collision 12 miles west of Elgin. Heidt’s nose was broken. Anthony Giansanti, 35, a saxophonist, suffered a fracture left wrist. Reita lost two front teeth, and her friend, Betty Cole, 16, of Houston, Tex., suffered from shock. All were cut and bruised. Heidt’s group fulfilled engagements at Joliet Sunday despite his injuries (the show must go on!)

Reita married comedian Doodles Weaver on October 6, 1958, in a quiet ceremony at the Laurel Canyon home of son of his brother Sylvester Weaver, an industrialist and founder of the All-Year Club. Architect Ray Donley, a former school friend of Doodles, served as best man. The couple left for a short honeymoon trip in Northern California.

reitagreen2Winstead Sheffield Weaver was born on May 11, 1912, in Los Angeles, California, to Sylvester Laflin Weaver and Annabel Dixon. He attended Stanford University and started his work on the radio. He became a producer and renown comedian. More information onj his can be found on his wikipedia page. he was married three times before Reita – to Beverly Masterman, Evelyn Irene Paulsen and Lois Frisell, and had one son with Masterman, Wynette Laflin, born on June 20, 1941.

In 1959, Reita was hospitalized to have plastic surgery, unfortunately I have no more information about what exactly did she want to “mend”. She and Doodles settled in Los Angeles in the long run, but she gave up on her career and never appeared in a movie of a TV show after 1961.

The Weavers had two children: daughter Janella J. Weaver, born August 24, 1958, and son Winstead B. Weaver, born on June 6, 1960.

reitagreen5The Weaver’s marriage was marred by Doodles’ chronic alcoholism. Later, he would claim that everything they had – the house, the pool, the cars – meant nothing to him as he was in constant pain. This is truly a sad story, but at the same time, it should serve as a lesson on how NOT to live. The couple divorced in 1968.

Reita continued to live in Burbank, and built a very successful wallpaper business – Reita Green The Wallpaper Queen. She started in the early 1970s, after her divorce from Doodles, and still runs it today, at 8′ years old! She is very loved by her clients and has an incredible eye for aesthetics and details (see more on her yelp website, here is the link).

Doodles Weaver died in 1983. Reita’s daughter Janella Jill died in 2009.

Reita Green lives in Burbank, California today.

 

Roberta Jonay

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Roberta Jonay had one of the most unusual entries into the world of fame – her boyfriend was a bodyguard for President Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt took a liking towards her, arranged some “meetings” and whauzaa, there she went to the stars! Unfortunately, despite her obvious dancing talents, Roberta never made it as an actress. She signed with Paramount, made two dozen movies, but never jumped out of the uncredited tier.

EARLY LIFE

Roberta Jones was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 1921. I could not find any information about her parents. Roberta grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and considered it her home town.

What we do know is that Roberta’s mom was a typical stage mom (allegedly her parents were showbiz people themselves) that pushed her daughter into vaudeville as early as mid 1930s. The mother-daughter duo went to New York to seek new opportunities. She studied at the Neighbourhood Playhouse and did some stage work on the side. Roberta catapulted to fame in 1937, when she met Earl Miller (more about that in the Private life section).

She was soloist and mistress-of ceremonies at Earl Carroll theater and danced all over the States in various shows and revenues. Her appearances in the Broadway productions of “Allegro” and “As You Like It” in the 1940s led to a contract with Paramount and thus her movie career started.

CAREER

As a dancer, Roberta naturally started her career as a chorus girl – she was a string of mostly mid tier musicals – Riding High, a Dorothy Lamour vehicle, Star Bright (a forgotten short), Here Come the Waves (this movie sure had a lot of starlets in it), Duffy’s Tavern (ditto), Masquerade in MexicoThe Stork Club (with Betty Hutton, our favorite little dynamo!).

roberta_jonay_2After this set of happy-go-lucky movies, Roberta was then featured in something more “mature”. She first had a small role in Miss Susie Slagle’s, a tear-jerker made with enough flair and style to make it one of the best movies of the year. With Veronica Lake, Sonny Tufts and Joan Caulfield in the leads, what the cast lacked in talent they make up in beauty and elegance. Plus notables like Lillian Gish and lloyd Bridges  give the true acting chops. Then, Roberta was in another of Veronica’s movies – The Blue Dahlia. What more is there to write about this movie? it’s a classic, nuff said.

For some lighter fare, there was The Well-Groomed Bride, a lukewarm Ray Milland/Olivia de Haviland comedy, and for some heavier fare, there was O.S.S, a pretty realistic WW2 spy movie with Alan Ladd and Geraldine Firtzgerald. And no, spying does not look like James Bond movies – kudos to Hollywood for not trying to fluff it up too much.

Roberta was back in musicals in Blue Skies, a mid tier Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire movie. it’s got good music and dancign numbers, but a vapid script and Joan, despite her great beauty, was no quality actress! Ladies’ Man was more of the same – thin plot, but loads of music and good comedy (with Cass Dailey and Eddie Bracken!). These musicals were followed by a so-so comedy, Suddenly It’s Spring –again it was a silly story but with good performances by Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard.

Roberta then appeared in The Imperfect Lady, a Ray Milland/Teresa Wright movie with conciousness. It’s a out-of-the-box movie, nothing too deviant but it does touch upon some delicate issues about women’s positions in society and their reputation. Next up was Golden Earrings, one of Marlene Dietrich’s lesser known movies, but what  a shame – it’s an interesting movie any way you look at it, part comedy, part romance and part serious drama. Strange mix for sure, but it works, and Ray Milland, the leading man, and Marlene have some good chemistry together.

roberta_jonay_3Afterwards came Variety Girl, the movie with just about everybody who was anybody on the Paramount lot. Roberta’s last musical was The Emperor Waltz, charming, fluffy but low-calorie, and with superb leads (Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine).

Roberta appeared in just one more movie – Whispering Smith, Alan Ladd’s first western, and a sort of predecessor to the better known Shane (Alan plays almost the same character). Ladd, despite being slight and short, played the quiet cowboy quite well, and he has very good support (Robert Preston, Donald Crisp, Murvyn Vye). The direction was bit on the pedestrian side, but Leslie Fenton, a former actor and husband of Ann Dvorak, does the job ably (but not spectacularly).

Roberta appeared in some minor TV shows, and afterwards retired to start a family.

PRIVATE LIFE

Some bits of info on Roberta:

roberta_jonay_6

Roberta was a very, very ticklish. In fact, she was so ticklish that it was a herculean task to refrain from giggling in the midst of soulful love songs with her leading men, when he was supposed to touch her. Funny. Really funny.

One of Roberta’s earliest crushes was Marty McDonough, star Syracuse half back, but they were both hardly more than kids and the relationship was short and sweet.

roberta_jonay_4Roberta’s first TRUE beau was Earl Miller, a bodyguard for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor,m when they lived in Albany. Earl was close to both of his patrons on a personal basis, and naturally introduced Roberta to the couple. Eleanor came to like Roberta immensely and develop a maternal relationship towards her.

Here is a bit about Eleanor and Roberta’s relationship:

Roberta Jonay, the girl who is  dancing at Northwood Inn just now told us about some of her rovings. Miss Jonay, protegé of Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt, has done plenty of getting-around for a girl, including visiting at the White House and being tossed into a concentration camp in Cuba. … She admits having been scared when she entered each of then, but got used to the first and got out of the second. We asked whether visitors at the White House ever tried to pump state secrets out of the President, and she said no, that people didn’t even talk much about polities around the house or at dinner. . . . “Mostly at dinner,” she said, “they listen to Mr Roosevelt cracking jokes.” . . . Mrs. Roosevelt generally went horseback riding very early, and Miss Jonay got up when Mrs Roosevelt returned and they went swimming, she said. . . . The most trouble she had was in running into Secret Service men before they had learned that she belonged there. It happened twice. Once in the house a guard thought she was a sightseers, but she explained who she was, and another time (and much more embarrassing) she got the brush-off by a guard at the front door, but an official who knew her explained

At a first glance, Roberta and Miller had everything they needed to be happy – both were young, healthy, with good jobs, and plus Earl could actually help catapult Roberta into a major career due to his connections in the White house. However, it was not meant to be. Roberta’s mother took an instant dislike towards Earl, and nothing he did was good enough for either Roberta or her. Even after he pulled strings and truly jump started Roberta’s acting career, Mrs. Jones did not consent to the relationship. It might have been fine if Roberta had a say in the matter – unfortunately, she did not. Her mother controlled every facet of her life, including her lovers. Under intense pressure, Roberta broke it off with Earl in 1939. He was shattered, and did the absolute worst thing he could – on a rebound, he married Simone Von Haven in June 1941. I have no idea what happened to Miller or indeed how did his marriage end up.

Roberta marched on with her love life. In 1939, she was to be married to Martin Jurow, 26-year-old Harvard law school graduate, then the company manager of What a Life (he was the youngest and most prosperous theater manager at that time). They didn’t get to the altar and Jurow became a premier Hollywood producer later, in the 1950s and 1960s.

roberta_jonay_5In 1941, Roberta filed suit for $20,125 damages in Superior court. The suit named Dr. Harry Singer, plastic surgeon. She said she went to him when advised that she needed nasal alterations to meet with success in the films. The operation was performed but her nose ended up crooked on the left side and a bump developed on the bridge. She claimed her movie career was damaged by the mishap.

In 1947, Roberta was seen with the dashing John Conte, but he left her for Katherine Lee, a ballerina, before the year ended. Due to her hectic lifestyle, Roberta gave some hints for the frequent traveller:

Roberta Jonay, who has the part of Jenny Brinker in “Allegro” at Taft theater this week, has worked out a basic wardrobe which keeps her looking well-groomed all day long when she’s on tour. At first glance, this may sound like a lot of clothes, but remember that Miss Jonay is on the road for months and months. She said the wardrobe listed below along with a cloth or fur coat sees her through the various changes of climate the average tourist encounters. This is what she takes with her: 1 black and 1 white lace evening dress, as these do not wrinkle. Suits of neutral colors with changes of blouses. ‘ 3 black cocktail dresses. 1 silk print dress. 4 hats, small models that can pack easily in suitcases. 8 pairs of stockings. 5 pairs of shoes. 2 nightgowns in addition to usual under-things. Miss Jonay said she never wears black suits on trains as they catch every bit of dust and you emerge at the station looking a mess. She recommends grays In a solid color or blue (not too dark).


In 1948, Roberta started dating actor Judson Pratt, a Broadway alumnus like her. They married on June 3, 1950. Judson D. Pratt was born on December 6, 1916, in Brookline, Massachusets. He grew up in Massachusetts, and went to act on stage, ultimately ending up in Hollywood. From 1950 until 1980, he racked up more than 100 credits in movies and TV shows, making him a highly prolific character actor.

Their first son Michael was born in 1954/1955. Their second son, Mitchell W, was born on June 29, 1959.

Roberta lived a quite life outside the limelight in California and was a devoted wife and mother.

Roberta Jonay Pratt died on April 19, 1976, from cancer. Her widower, Judson Pratt died on February 9, 2002.

 

Harriette Tarler

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Beautiful women who crashed Hollywood only thanks to their looks and charms were plentiful, but rarely did they achieve anything worthwhile. Harriette Tarler, one of those women, did find her bit of fame with the Three Stooges shorts, but not much more. Let’s find out something about her!

EARLY LIFE

Harriette Gerthrude Hecht was born on November 4, 1920, in New York, to Adolph Hecth and Charlotte Reicher. Her parents were both Hungarian immigrants – her father worked as a furrier and wholesale fur merchant. Her older sister Beatrice was born in 1914.

The family moved to Los Angeles at some point, and Harriette graduated from high school there. She got married, had a family, and lived in Los Angeles until 1950, when she started her career (sorry, I don’t have any more info about this).

CAREER

Since my knowledge of the Three Stooges is very limited at best (I’ve never seen any of their movies or shorts, heck I can’t even name al three of them), I’ll simply skip Harriette’s claim to fame – her roles in Three Stooges shorts. She was the girl who got the pie in the face. For more information about her roles in the shorts, visit the fabulous Three Stoones site on this link.

Now, let’s take a look at some of her other acting achievements. Unfortunately, she was always uncredited and did no big service to the movies she appeared in… Thus, her career outside the Three Stooges shorts was a bit lackluster at best.

harriette-tarler-diana-darrin-arline-hunterIn 1957, she appeared in The Joker Is Wild, a surprisingly touching and nuanced biography of comedy legend Joe E. Lewis. Sinatra was in top form playing a man who was a personal friend for many years. Recommended! The next year Harriette was in The True Story of Lynn Stuart, a film noir about operatives going undercover, but with a whole new premise – the operative is a housewife, who, after her nephew died from a drug OD, decided to do something and help the police. it’s a low-budget movies and the cast is second tier, but it’s unusual, out of the ordinary and interesting.Next came The Party Crashers, a typical delinquent youth 1950s movies with Connie Stevens trying to choose between wild boy Mark Damon and nice guy Bobby Driscoll.

As Young as We Are was a rare B movie that tackled the student/teacher romance in the 1950s. While today you wouldn’t even flinch at the theme, back then it was dynamite and never shows in A budget movies. While this is a half-baked, lowly made film, make no mistake, the performances are good enough to warrant it a watching. Pippa Scott is pretty good in the female lead, and Robert Harland hits a right note as the highschool in love with his teacher.

The Buccaneer is an entertaining, fun, well made adventure movie. It’s not a classic nor is it a work of art, but it more than fulfills it’s promises. Yul Brynner is the eponymous buccaneer, and Anthony Quinn in the bad guy. Pirates, high seas, sword fights, pretty ladies, oh my!

Don’t Give Up the Ship is a typical Jerry Lewis comedy, this time on a ship and mocking naval 1d39cfee15d2cec41d1a805310b604e1beaurocracy. What can I say, if you like Jerry Lewis you’ll like this movie for sure. Since I’m not a fan (quite the opposite), I’ll just say no. The only reason I could find to watch this is the gorgeous Dina Merrill in the female lead role. Love Dina!!

Last Train from Gun Hill is a western that manages to outgrow that (IMHO) limited genre to become sa semi classic. it’s not as well-known today as some other staples of the genre like High Noon or 3:15 to Yuma, but it’s a sounding hit in almost al departments. Stalwart story (it starts like a run of the mill revenge story) that hides more depth than you think – check. Good actors – Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones – check. Great cinematography – check. Suspenseful action scenes – check. Horses – check. Nothing else you need!

Harriette moved to New York and left movies behind for another career.

PRIVATE LIFE

Harriette was an interesting, colorful person with some major flaws. She was immensely charming and easily won people over. She also intrinsically understood how HOllywood worked, and knew that talent and beauty were not enough to gain fame – you needed a gimmick. Hers was being nicknamed Tiger and singing her autographs with a tiger paw next to her name. Long after her career ended, she moved to New York and decorated her apartment wholly in tiger print. She also wore tiger print silk dresses.

63627888_1460942147Harriette married  Leo M Schechtman on June 1939. Leo was born on April 20, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Max and Lona Schechtman. Their daughter Stephanie Shelton was born on November 16, 1942. They divorced not long after her birth. Leo was allegedly a mean-spirited, tight-fisted man who never contributed anything to Stephanie’s well-being, even stole her the money Harriette gave her. He later remarried and had children. He died on March 4, 1990.

Harriette married for the second time to Arthur Tarler on November 3, 1951. Tarler was born on July 9, 1921, in Germany, to Siegmund Tarler and Regina Heimberg. He immigrated to the States in 1938, just before the start of WW 2. He lived with his maternal uncle in the Bronx, New York. Somehow he got to California in the mid 1940s and started a lighting fixture business. The marriage was short-lived, and here is an article about their August 1954 divorce:

Actress Harriette Tarler, 27, who now is engaged in a divorce contest with Arthur Tarler, 33, in the courtroom of Superior Judge Gordon Howden. Tarler, with Tobias G. Klin-ger as his counsel, had just withdrawn his cross-complaint charging mental cruelty, and was contesting only his wife’s claim to certain of their community assets. The husband is in the lighting fixtures business …
“I’m only beginning to see the light on this,” she told the court. Questioned by her attorneys, Henry J. Gross Jr. and Jacques Leslie, the actress said her husband stayed out nights until 4:30 or 5 in the morning. Her friend, Pauline Goddard, a fashion co-ordinator, corroborated her. She said that at a party one night someone complimented Mrs. Tarler, and “her husband immediately started belittling her.” The hearing will be resumed Monday.

So you get the drift, another messy divorce. But, that was the way divas did it back in the 1980s. Anyway, the two divorced and went on with their lives. Arthur remarried to Judith Rappapor, and had two children, Regine L, born on November 7, 1956, and Stacy J, born on January 30, 1959. Artur retired in the 1980 and went to live in Denver, Colorado, with his wife. He died there on August 23, 2009.

In 1958, Harriette left everything in Los Angeles (including Stephanie who was 16 years old) so she can move into the New York Plaza hotel suite, paid by her married boyfriend. Stephanie had to fend for herself (remembered, she was only a high schooler then) – the relationship between mother and daughter was strained (at best) after that. It seems that Harriette, for all of her immense charm and allure, was simply not a maternal woman. She was competitive, even with her own daughter, and too much of an egoist to really care about other people. Sadly, she never managed to outgrow this fatal flaw of hers, and both her daughter and her grandchildren felt it keenly.

10712698_742243325842384_7268080002787469464_nHarriette married her third husband, Roy Price Steckler on September 11, 1959, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steckler was born on January 1, 1926, in New York, to Samuel and Stella Steckler. His father was a wealthy druggist and drug store owner – the family lived in Park Avenue and employed two servants in the 1930s. Little is known about the marriage and they divorced him in the 1960s.

Harriette became very testy about her age as time went by. She and Stephanie would travel to Las Vegas and double date as sisters (weird!!). She forbade her granddaughter to call her grandma, and her own daughter never refered to her as mom. Nobody was sure how old she really was, and she kept her true age a secret until the day she died.

Harriette found work as a telephone sex therapist in the 1980’s and 1990s. She would lie about her age, counsel her client, and demand payment via credit card. She owned a black cat called Tuthancamon, which looked like a a miniature panther, and she grew a rare breed of orchids in her apartment. She was excentric, larger than life and one of a kind, and people adored her, for all her bad sides. (much information about Harriette comes from her granddaughter Jessica Queller’s fabulous memoir! Jessica was a writer for Gossip Girl series, and she’s a true gem!)

Harriette’s health declined in the 1990s, and she spend more and more time in the hospital.

Harriette Tarler died on November 18, 2001, in New York City.

 

Audrey Westphal

happychristmas

Sorry to say I couldn’t find a photo of Audrey Westphal, so I put a Piper Laurie happy Christmas photo. And thus, Happy Christmas!!! And now, let’s learn something more about the alluring Audrey…

EARLY LIFE

Audrey Lorraine Westphall was born on October 17, 1922, to James W. Westphall and Viola Moris, in Buffalo, New York. Her younger brother was named James Westphall, born in 1920. Her birth and death dates on IMDB are not correct – it states she was born in 1914, making her 30 years old at the time of her movie debut, which was a rare occurrence for starlets in Hollywood.

Audrey’s  father worked as a draftsman specializing in engines – her mother was a proprietor of the boarding house they lived in – they had one or two lodgers living with them at any time. Audrey grew up in Buffalo and attended high school there. She danced from early childhood, and this cemented her wish to become a professional dancer/actress.

Shortly before she graduated, she left Buffalo for New York in 1939, hoping to achieve some fame and fortune. In the meantime, her parents divorced and her mother went to New York to live with her. She got some Broadway work in panama Hattie, and this catapulted her to Hollywood. Her mother, naturally, followed.

CAREER

Audrey never landed in the credited tier, and she was always in blink and you’ll miss it roles, so it’s impossible to say if she was truly untalented or she just didn’t land the break she needed to showcase her skills. Anyway, Audrey’s first role was an uncredited one in Frenchman’s Creek, a fun high waters romp with a lady pirate in the lead (played by indomitable Joan Fontaine). Next, she appeared in another Joan Fontaine movie, The Affairs of Susan, a witty comedy about the already mentioned Susan and her relationship with three difference men (who all see her as a completely different woman). The best of the trio is George Brent, not a particularly magnetic leading man but a wonderful foil for strong female leads.

Audrey then appeared in a string go prestigious A movies. She first was Kitty, the lavish costume epic showcasing, first and foremost, the ravishing Paulette Goddard and her misadventures in the 18th century London. While Paulette was never a top actress, she had charm galore and could turn men into mush. Ray Milland is her capable support. Audrey then landed in a Betty Hutton movie, The Stork Club. I’m no big fan of Betty (I prefer more sophisticated actresses) but there is no denying she was an incredible dynamo and very amusing and her movies are likewise nice entertainment if nothing else.

Audrey’s perhaps most famous movie is The Blue Dahlia, one of the best film noirs ever made, with the indomitable teaming of Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd. Audrey’s last really important picture was Blue Skies. The story is pure schmoock, but when you have Bing Crosby+Fred Astaire+music by Irving Berlin, do you need any more? Certainty not! They dance, they sing, it’s all fun and games and it’s your typical 1940s musical. Some support is added by the beautiful but wooden Joan Caulfield and the more able Olga San Juan and Frank Faylen.

The rest of Audrey career was filled with mediocre movies. First came Dream Girl, with a surprisingly subdued Betty Hutton playing  a daydreaming girl who meets a stone cold realist (played by Macdonald Carey) who tries to shake her out of her stupor. While not a well remembered movie today, it’s a nice film with good performances.  That same year, Audrey was featured in Gypsy Holiday, a comedy short. Her last role was in Sealed Verdict, an unjustly overlooked post-WW-2 movie. it deals with tribunals of the higher echelons of the Third Reich army, and while it’s no Judgement at Nuremberg, it a surprisingly nuances movie with a sliding scales of gray morality so lacking in typical Hollywood lore. Ray Milland (once again) plays the council trying to establish the guilt or innocence of German General, played by John Hoyt. The incredibly beautiful Florence Marly plays a French peasant who testifies of some good deeds the General has done. Milland is left in highly ambiguous waters as he navigates a ruined country, just out of a terrible war and fraught with pessimism, bitterness and death. All in all, an above average movie. Hoyt takes the cake as the best actor – while Milland is his usual effective self, Hoyt has both the meaty role and the chops to pull it of.

Audrey decided to give up movies and focus on her growing family.

PRIVATE LIFE

While dancing in New York, Audrey met Lewis Hightower, another dancer. The married in 1940, when she was 17 years old. Lewis  Carlton Hightower was born on July 19, 1917, to Carlton Hightower and Nettie Owens. He moved to New York start a dancing career in the mid 1930s. His younger brother, William Hightower, would wed another dancer, the better known Vera-Ellen.

At first, the Hightower marriage was an idyllic one. However, more than aware that her daughter was young and inexperienced and wanting to help, Audrey’s mother came shuffling down from Buffalo and moved into their apartment. The honeymoon bliss ended. Things went south.

By October 1941, the Hightowers were reconsidering plans to get an annulment (met. married, separated and reconciled, all in one year). By late 1941, Audrey started to date Arthur Lewis, son of the “Banjo Eyes” producer, Al Lewis. There were rumors the two would center-aisle it when her decree was final. In February 1942, Arthur was spending his furlough time with Audrey and it was clear he was very serious about her.

However, Audrey could not get a divorce so easily. She later told the papers about a incident – Lewis found her dining delightedly with two other young gentlemen in a festive spot. Hightower supposedly was disturbed by this sight. He allegedly attempted to carry Audrey out of this festive center. But the two young gentlemen, according to the popular story, persuaded Mr. Hightower to unhand Mrs. Hightower and gave him a few assorted black eyes to balance things. Audrey left her husband in disgust. She also said her husband is tardy with her alimony and suggested jail. Typical Hollywood mumbo jumbo divorce. It went on and off for some time, but the divorce never came. Why? Well, because, tragically, Hightower died on September 2, 1943, another casualty of World War 2. He and Audrey were separated for a long time by then, but it was devastating for Audrey non the less.

As for Audrey’s relationship with Arthur, it lasted until August 1943, and that was the last we hear from the younger Lewis. Then, in 1944, Audrey met the man she was to marry.

She married her second husband, David Enton Friedkin, on March 31, 1945, in Los Angeles. David was born on on March 8, 1912, to Benjamin Friedkin and Anna Lapatin, in Kansas City, Missouri. her had an older brother, Morris, born in 1910. Both of his parents were Russian immigrants. Now, lets fast forward and say something about his career. Friedkin was a noted writer and director – he and his collaborator Mort Fine developed and produced the milestone series “I Spy” in association with Sheldon Leonard Productions. The duo wrote some of television’s most memorable scripts dating back to the first adult TV western. Frontier. They also wrote a number of movies, including “The Pawnbroker,” which won them the Writers Guild Award. As a director, Mr. Friedkin was probably best known for the Emmy-winning “The Price of Tomatoes,” which won him the Directors Guild Award. He directed many of the scripts which he wrote with Fine and which the pair produced, including the movies “Hot Summer Night” and “Handle With Care.”

Audrey and David had two children: Gregory Enton Friedkin, born on May 23, 1946, and Anthony Enton Friedkin, born on May 26, 1949.  By 1950 Her movie career over for sure, Audrey lived the high life in Beverly Hills with her husband, and they hosted many movers and shakers over the years. They were devoted Democrats and often had Democratic fundraisers at their home.

Their son Gregory became a actor/playwright, and hung out with the likes of Blackie Dammett, the famous  and father of Red Hot Chilli Peppers frontman, Anthony Kiedis. Thjeir other son, Anthony, became a noted photographer.

David died on October 15, 1976, in California from cancer. Audrey never remarried and lived the rest of her life in California.

Audrey Westphall Friedkin died on February 6, 1999, in Santa Monica, California.

PS – HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!!

 

 

Lucy Knoch

lucyknoch1

A beautiful southern belle with a peaches-and-cream complexion, Lucy Knoch survived for over 10 years in the hostile climate of Hollywood, and none can dispute the fact that she accomplished a career much better than most starlets. Yet, she is miles away from standing toe to toe with proper actresses that left a mark on the film world.

EARLY LIFE

Lucy Claire Knoch was born on June 30, 1923, in DavidsonNashville, Tennessee, to Beverly and Annie Lee Knoch. She was the fourth of children – her older siblings were Beverly Louise, Horace and William, her younger siblings were Dorothy and Charles. Her father ran his own hardware shop.

She grew up in Nashville and attended school there. A lively, imaginative child, was active in school theatrics. In 1937, Lucy, then in the eighth grade students. and bunch of her classmates organized a program honoring the Constitution of the United States.

Lucy later told an interviewer Cordon Allemand the story of her childhood:

When Lucy become a model at the Hollywood Photographic Studio in the Nashville Arcade, never suspecting what the word “Hollywood” would someday mean to her future. Today this fortunate young lady, Lucy Knoch, it on her way to stardom at the Paramount Studios in the real Hollywood, which ia now her home. Lucy Knoch’s success story was related to me one afternoon in the living room of her home in Hollywood’s luxurious Alta Nido Apartments. Her warm Southern smile that’ makes you feel right at home is one of the first things I noticed about Lucy, and making me feel even more at ease was her genuine delight in learning that her interviewer was “homefolks” from back in Tennessee. “Honestly?” Lucy cried. “Why I was at Central High in 1939. I went to Woodbine grammar school out the Nolensville Pike. Nearly all my family live in Nashville and are in business there.” “Well just how did you get from Nashville to a Paramount contract?” I questioned. And this is Lucy’s story. “I suppose I was like lots of girls. All of us kids, my sister, Dorothy, and two brothers, William and Horace, went to Woodbine. I dreamed of being a movie star, but thought the nearest I’d .ever get to a stage was when I went to high school and joined the debating “team. A good one too, because we got several cups and ribbons.” She went on to tell of an early love for dancing and of being sent to dancing school three times a week. As a dancing team she and sister Dorothy appeared at many Tennessee festivals. Then came an end to school days and her first job. “I worked in the studio there for quite a while. Modeling. Maybe some of the Nashville people will remember me there. … Read the rest in the Profile section.

And she was in Hollywood in 1945, and started her career for Paramount.

CAREER

Lucy made her movie debut in The Affairs of Susan, a charming, well made Joan Fontaine vechicle. While no big brainer, it’s a delightful comedy with a good cast (Joan, George Brent, Dennis O’Keefe, Walter Abel). Lucy then continued to appear in movies of the same vein – decently made romance movies that never made it into the top category and are not that well-remembered today. Those are You Came Along (with Bob Cumings and Lizabeth Scott, an unusual but actually pretty good pairing), Incendiary Blonde and the short You Hit the Spot.

Then, Lucy’s career took an upswing and she stated to appear in some genuine classics. To Each His Own, Olivia de Havilland’s only Oscar win, The Blue Dahlia, one of the ultimate film noirs, and Blue Skies, a wonderful musical. 

lucyknoch5After reaching such a high point, there was a let down again, and she was back to the A budget mid tier movies. The first was Cross My Heart a True Confessions remake with Betty Hutton in the lead. The movie, a lackluster one ta best, still boasts a wonderful supporting cast – Michael Chekov, Iris Adrian and Howard Freeman. Sonny Tufts is his typical wooden  and Betty an energetic, fine performer, but no great actress.

Lucy then appeared in The Imperfect Lady, one of the rare Hollywood romances that goes for something slightly more mature. This is no fluffy, feel good, happy movie, and while it’s not a terribly dark movie either, it deals with some more tricky aspects fo the Victorian culture. Ray Milland and Teresa Wright lead a capable cast, and it’s generally a well dome movie, worth watching. Next came Welcome Stranger, a decent enough Bing Crosby/Joan Caulfield movie. What can I say about Crosby’s movies? Same old same old, but it certainly worked back then!

Lucy then appeared in the film noir classic, The Big Clock – now this is a movie more than worth your time! Slick, with a superb cast, nicely photographed and with an impeccable pacing, it takes a pretty simple story and makes it an intensive exercise in elegant filmmaking! Kudos for the always wonderful Charles Laughton as one heck of a villain, and to Ray Milland as the hero.

After appearing the short musical, Footlight Rhythm, Lucy was in Two Tickets to Broadway, a sub par Broadway pastiche musical. She then hit the jackpot again with The Bad and the Beautiful, one of the best outlook on Hollywood that Hollywood ever producer (whoa, this is one difficult sentence)! Kirk Douglas plays the ultimate fight-dirty producer who’ll do ANYTHIGN to get what he wants.

lucyknoch3Lucy started 1953 with The Clown, a nostalgic, sentimental story about a professional clown who barely makes ends meet but can’t give it up since he has a son to support. Nice, touching, with the right degree of pathos, and Red Skelton is pretty good in the leading role. Next was Sabre Jet , an insipid movie about the men who flew combat aircraft known as Sabre Jets during the Korean War. This ain’t Top Gun people, and the characters and the story if thin at best. Robert Stack, never my favorite actor, never quite manages to make it work as a romantic lead.

Half a Hero is a mediocre movie about a pretty much everyday theme – normal couple Red Skelton and Jean Hagen decide to move the family from New York City to the suburbs. Trouble ensures. Lucy had the biggest role in her career in Executive Suite, a well made Her last movie in 1954 was Athena, a Jane Powell musical with a surprisingly modern outlook on food and lifestyle!

Lucy worked for a time for Red Skelton, and changed her name. She did some minor movie work: appeared in Anything Goes, the Marilyn Monroe movie Bus Stop  and the swashbuckler The Buccaneer. Under her original name, she made one more movie, Frank Sinatra’s The Joker Is Wild , before retiring.

PRIVATE LIFE

Here is everything you need to know about Lucy in short, as written in a newspaper from the 1950s:

Lucille Knox has been a movie fan since she was five years old. Her favorite dolls were named Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. When she daydreamed herself a husband it was always Clark Gable. When Lucy was a teen-ager she and sister Dorothy drove from their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, to visit relatives in Tucson, Arizona. At dinner one night in a local .-hotel their eyes almost popped out when they saw Paulette Goddard at a nearby table. Naturally Lucy asked for an autograph. Miss Goddard was cordial and said, “If you girls ever come to Hollywood look me up at Paramount.” Shortly after that Lucy and Dorothy arrived in Hollywood. “Miss Goddard,” they were told at the studio, “is in San Francisco.” “We were disappointed and hungry,” said Lucille. “A restaurant a block away caught my attention because of its name: Lucey’s. The place was jumping with movie stars. We met Everett Crosby, Bing’s brother. I told him that Paulette had promised to show us the Paramount studios. ” ‘Well,’ he said, ‘since Paulette Isn’t here, I’ll show you the studio and I’ll also introduce you to the casting director.’ He did. And we both were signed to a Paramount contract.”

Lucille and her sister were not popular with the other girls on the lot. “We were real naive. In all the fan magazines we’d read back in Nashville all you did in Hollywood was sat at a soda fountain or in a popular restaurant and you were discovered. We thought getting a contract on the first day was par for the course. We didn’t know that some of these kids had waited years for a break.” Another day, another restaurant. Lucille was having lunch at the Tail of the Cock. Red Skelton was at the next table. “Would you be interested in television work?” he asked. For two years Lucille was an important part of the Skelton show. M-G-M director Vincente Minnelli saw her on the show and gave her the part of Gilbert Roland’s steak-eating girl friend in The Bad and the Beautiful. After that she played Louis Calhern’s sexy girl friend in Executive Suite and a process-server in Esther Williams’ Athena. Lucille Knox was born Lucy Knoch. Red Skelton changed the Lucy to Lucille. And she herself recently changed the Knoch to Knox. She’s 5 feet 5′,inches tall, weighs 119 pounds and is married to an insurance man. Skelton once wrote an article about her titled, “The Young Lucille Ball.” She has been carefully avoiding Desi’g Lucy ever since. She figures she’s been lucky enough just being herself.

lucyknoch4However, what Hollywood didn’t know was that Lucy came to town as a married woman – she was wed to Michael Joseph Rose on September 11, 1941, in Davison, Tennessee. the newlywed had scarcely any time to enjoy their wedded bliss – Rose went into the army in October 1945. Rose was born in 1915, son of Tony and Marie Rose. Little else is known about him. The marriage was short-lived however, and they divorced sometime prior to 1945.

When Lucy first came to Hollywood, she gave another interview:

Lucy stayed on and has just signed a new contract. “It’s been wonderful here at Paramount,” she said. “When it was learned that we were two Southern girls alone in Hollywood, everybody from producers snd directors on down helped and advised us. A Southern accent is no handicap when it comes to making friends. Everybody around the studio calls me ‘Honey Chile’ and ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Lucy Belle.’ And anybody from the South visiting the lot is rushed over to meet me.” “Nevertheless,” Lucy said, “I am trying to lose my Southern accent because you can’t play many roles with a Tennessee drawl.” AFTER she signed her contract Lucy’s days were occupied with a rigid training program, as they still are. As a member of the Paramount Starlet School she receives instruction in dramatics, diction, calesthenics, dancing. “I even had to learn to walk all over again.” she exclaimed. Also part of the training program has been Lucy’s appearance in IS major films. As a show girl, dancer, nurse, maid, Lucy has had experience before the camera. “It was a terrifying ordeal those first few weeks on the set. There are directors, assistant directors, cameramen, wardrobe women, scenery men, electricians, all watching you as if you were a trained seal going through your tricks. But I finally got used to it and don’t mind the shooting now.” Among the major films in which Lucy Knoch has appeared , are “Road to Utopia.” “Incendiary Blond.” “The Blue Dahlia.” “The Lost Weekend” and “Miss Susie Slagle’s.” Her newest pictures, all with Bing Crosby, are “Welcome Stranger,” “Blue Skies.” and “The Emperor’s Walta.” Honey-haired Lucy is 23 years old. five feet six inches tall, and weighs 121 pounds. She plays golf and rides, but her favorite sport is fishing. ‘ With her husband, tall dark Nicholas Can-cellieri (trucking-line owner whom she married in 1945), she spend most of her free momertts deep-sea fishing off Catalina or Malibu. The starlet loves California but misses the neighborliness of ber home town. “Here in California things are so big that your friends may be 20 or 30 miles away. And most of the time you scarcely have the opportunity to say more than “hello’ to the people in the neat apartment. It’s awful in a way. But you can’t have everything.” According to Paramount officials, however. Lucy Knoch does have everything, and it is easy to see why stardom for her is their prediction. And she seems to have Lady Luck on her side.

lucyknochlouiscalhernBut before he go farther, let’s look at her Hollywood private life. Lucy’s first serious beau in Hollywood was the former vaudeville star, Lyle Latell. He also dated starlet Beverly Thompson, so you can guess Lucy was not really a number one priority in his life. Then, she met THE MAN.

Lucy married Nicholas Cancellieri in 1945. He was a trucking company owner, as noted in the quote above. Nicholas was very supportive of his wife and her career, and she continued to act for more than a decade after the married. In the late 1950s, after being in Hollywood for 15 years, Lucy gave up her movie work to raise a family with Cancellieri.

Their first son, Jerry D., was born on August 1,1960. Their second son, Dominic, was born on October 19, 1964. The family lived in California.

Lucy Cancellieri died on July 22, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

 

 

 

 

Barbara Freking

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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