Aina Constant


Stunning chorine turned many heads during her dancing days, but not much could be said of her slim filmography. She married and retired from Hollywood after only a few years of uncredited performances.


Aina Constant was born on September 11, 1914, in London, England, Great Britain, to Edgar Constant and Helen Anna Constant. When she became popular, the press claimed Aina allegedly grew up in London, was educated in private school and that she frequently commuted between the US and Britain while young. While I can’t claim this with a 100% certainty, I am pretty sure they are all bogus claims: her father was a Latvian immigrant (or officially, a Russian immigrant since Latvia was part of Russia then) who married her mother, an Englishwoman, in the late 1900s. Their first daughter, Austra Constant, was born in cca 1913. Aina’s younger sister, Sylvia, was born in 1917.

The family moved to New York in the late 1910s. They lived in the Manhattan Assembly District 7. Aina grew up in the district and attended high school. She was a pretty girl who liked to dance and dreamed of becoming a professional dancer. She started performing young, before she turned 18. Her parents separated at some point, and the sisters lived with their mother, while their father took up lodgings in Manhattan Assembly District 3.

Aina was a chorine at the Casino De Paree, and she got her first newspaper mention during the tenure. In 1938, she was one of the many chorines who tried to make their fortune in the UK. In 1939, she was chosen the most beautiful brunette (alongside Adele Jergens, who was voted the most beautiful blonde), at the New York World Fair. This gave her a chance to become an actress.


Aina’s firts and foremost value in Hollywood was her body, and she was cast accordingly.

Bathing Beauty is the seminal Esther Williams movie. Here she has the perfect partner – Red Skelton, one of the premier comedians of the time. Their movies are never intellectually stimulating nor first class art, but if you like funny, breezy films, do not miss! And the “aquatic” numbers Esther excelled in are a feast for the sore yes even today, more than 60 years later!

AinaConstant2You like hammy, over-the-top performances? Then you’ll love The Canterville Ghost, a movie loosely based on the Oscar Wilde story of the same name. And who the big ham is, you wonder? Why, Charles Laughton, of course! Laughton plays a ghost, and has a blast while doing it. It’s the type of a movie where the story is non existent, but the charming cast make the most of it. Except Laughton, there is Margaret O’Brien and

Those Endearing Young Charms is a okay movie. Yep, I said okay, yet, I wholeheartedly agree with several of the reviewers who wrote that Robert Young (who plays the lead, a smooth talker and ladies man who wooes Laraine Day away from her fiancee), was never truly at ease at playing cads. Somehow, him innate placid, kind and calm nature always comes across, no matter what the role. This is not necessarily a god thing for an actor – great for typecasting, sure, but not for somebody who wants to play a broad range of roles. I always have trouble buying the story that he is a womanizer and rake. Same for this movie. I love Laraine Day, and find her one of the most sincere, gentle actresses ever to grace Hollywood, so having her act in any movie is only a bonus in my eyes.

The Body Snatcher is Aina’s only horror film. It’s a good movie, much deeper in terms of plot and the underlying message it wants to share, than most people expect from a horror movie (the author of the original story, Robert Louis Stevenson, shares the same “malady” – today he is considered little more than a children’s adventure books writer, when in fact he is a fine stylist and a artist of great depth). The legendary Boris Karloff gives one of his best performances, and Henry Daniell is superb as the man doctor (the Body snatcher of the title).

Ziegfeld Follies is a movie I wrote about what likes seems a hundred times, and since it was am mecca for uncredited girls, obliviously I will be seeing it more in the future, but I have no idea what more I can write about it :-)

AinaConstant4Johnny Angel is a George Raft movie all the way, but an uneven one. Raft was no great actor for sure, but when a director knew his strength, he could use him and make a true tour de force moments. While Raft does have these moments in this movie, the story changes lines mid movie and never really gets back on track. A plus is a incredibly imaginative and sophisticated cinematography, and a true “noir” atmosphere, dark, tense and rotten somewhere deep inside.

The Bells of St. Mary’s are a breed of movie you rarely see today. There are no bad guys, no action, but  alot of heart and soul. it’s a simple, warm movie, while not very realistic at least not totally impossible, and with a stunning cast (Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers, William Gargan, Ruth Donnelly and others). The plot is very straightforward, dealing with the friendly rivalry between Bing’s priest and Ingrid’s nun, both working at the same catholic school. This is a companion piece to Going my way, and both movies share the same happy-go-lucky tone and  pleasant atmosphere.

Ding Dong Williams is a low quality comedy, made with the sole purpose of entertaining the audience of the day with a few songs and some good looking actors. Not really recommended for viewing, unless you have to see all classic movies you get your hands on.

Aina retired from the movies to marry and raise a family.


Aina claimed that she was a natural girl, who only used a bit of rouge when she was off stage. She was a also a sugar lover, sing 10 lumps of sugar in her tea, and only cutting down to six when she was dieting. As far as sports go, Aina was a passionate cross country cyclist, especially when she was in the UK.

AinaConstant3By 1939, Aina was already a seasoned man eater, having gone abroad in 1938 and returning with quite a bit of jewelry. Not on her chorine paycheck, as it seems. Tall, slim and lovely, she was a natural man magnet, much like her blonde counterpart, Adele Jergens. She and Adele even gave an interview about it to the press, lamenting that titled and moneyed men are much harder to find in 1938 and they were in the 1920s. Imagine that! It seems that 1930s really were a golden age for being a chorus girl, especially if you went across the pond and entertained the wealthy gents of England.

Aina went zig zag from continent to continent, but soon the war started and the golden days of popping to London to have a tea with an earl or two were over. She did her work for the war effort, like many of her fellow chorines.

In 1943, Aina was just one of many girls who dated the well known Lothario, Greg Bautzer. Afterwards she took up with James Everett. On November 29, 1944, she officially became an US citizen.

Aina married Alexander MacMillan Shields in 1946. That was the first time anybody mentioned them dating, let alone engaged! Alex was the son of Henry Howard Shields and Grace Ste. Marie, born on October 21, 1917. He had an younger sister, Barbara, born on January 30, 1918. His parents divorced, and his mother remarried to Kenneth W. Pope. He lived with Pope, his mother and sister in San Mateo, California.

AinaConstant5Their daughter Alexandra Zia Shields was born on September 29, 1947. The couple lived in Park Avenue, Manhattan, New York and enjoyed a happy marriage.

Aina Shields died on June 25, 2009 in New York.

Her widower Alexander Shields died on August 13, 2010.

Naida Reynolds


Naida Reynolds was a pretty, dark haired girl with a pleasing figure who danced in the Earl Carrol vanities before trying to make her luck in Hollywood. Sadly, she ended up like most of her fellow chorines – a footnote in the musical genre, with no credits to her name.


Margaret Naida Reynolds was born on Verne Reynolds and Pearl Weddle, on November 29, 1911 in Kansas. Much later, the papers would reported she was a kin of the famous Reynolds tobacco family, but I have no proof of these claims. The family moved around a bit during her childhood, living for a time in Kansas City, where her younger brother, John, was born in 1913, then moving to New Mexico before returning to Kansas City for good.

The family lived with her paternal grandparents in Kansas City in 1920. Naida grew up in the city  and attended elementary there. She also danced for fun on the side, but as time went by, it was increasingly obvious to Naida that she wanted to become a professional dancer. Her wish was so strong that she quit high school after only one year to dedicate most of her energy to dancing.

As the story goes, Naida won a Schubert contract, moved to the East Coast and danced in the Earl Carroll Vanities in New York city starting in 1931 (two other Kansas city alumnus were also at the Vanities at that time: Harry Sotckwell and Claire Curry). At some point, she went to the West coast to try her hand in Hollywood.


Despite her enviable dancing skills, Nadia made only two movies in her all to brief Hollywood career, and in both she was a chorine whos eonly role was to dance, dance, dance. Due to the the sheer slimness of her filmography, I will take a deeper look into both of her offers.

By the mid 1935, the golden years of 1930s musical were gone. Busby Berkeley had already made his best movies, and it was all downhill from there. Yet, Gold Diggers of 1937 has the the dubious honor of being one of the last movies “before” the going went totally down. The stars are typical Berkeley “constants” – Joan Blondell and Dick Powell. It’ basically more of the same from Berekely as far as the plot goes (which is not good, as most of his plots are puff, blink and you’ll miss them)  and nothing else measures up to the golden standard of the previous work. The comedy is contrived, the actor uninspired, and the musical numbers are mostly bland (there are a few exceptions, however). I would be too severe to say it’s a bad movie, it’s not, it’s just not a really good one. Still, if you like musicals and especially if you like Berkeley, it’s worth giving a shot.

NaidaReynolds3Naida’s second and last feature is Strike Up the Band. it’s a Judy Gardland/Mickey Rooney movie, but not a particularly popular one nor well remembered today.  Yet, it’s a very good one (the weird thing about Hollywood, quality sometimes realy does not count). The plot is simple enough: (taken from IMDB): Jimmy (Rooney) and his best friend Mary (Garland) unite the music loving kids in town with the dream to be in Paul Whiteman’s band. When their school doesn’t help, they decide to raise the money on their own. However, the many ups and down of growing up including first love, personal goals, and the serious illness/injury of a close friend causes them to think about what’s really important.

The happy go lucky feeling of a small town in the 1930s, the breezy song and Busby Berkeley dance direction make this movie a true treat for the fans. Mickey and Judy are, as usual, balls of energy just waiting to ignite, so great is their charm that even if the movie was a lesser version of itself, they could make it work. Worth watching more for the emotion than for any intellectual reasons, it strikes a cord and leaves the viewer with a nice, warm feeling inside. If you are not expecting a cerebral experience, go for it!

Naida worked in Hollywod for a few years more before retiring, but did not make a credited movie appearance.


Naida was as much in the papers as a typical chorine-turned-actress was in those days,often featured with . She was notable for a series of articles where she showed her exercise routines. She maintained her enviable figure by doing exercises on her tummy, and she claimed more muscles are active in that position.

NaidaReynolds4Naida married Clarence S. Friend on July 11, 1937. His occupation was listed as a movie property man. They met on the sound stage while both were working on a musical film and dated for three months before getting engaged. Friend was born on September 3, 1910, in Iowa, and actually had no credits at that time.

The marriage was short lived, and They divorced in 1939. Firend went on to work as a set designer and art department member on a number of movies and a greater number of TV shows. He married Barbara Nail in 1961 and died on June 27, 1970.

On October 1940, Nadia was again mentioned in the papers, this time because she was a guest at one of the col parties thrown by the popular younger crowd – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney:

Mickey dances to his own music and to hot numbers from his new picture. Keeping pace with him is no task for Naida Reynolds, who often helps director Busby Berkeley teach new steps. Sometimes she works as an extra. There is much less drawing of social lines at a party like this than in Hollywood parties given by adults. Here, friendships have little to do with salaries.

NaidaReynolds2Naida remarried to Ralph Ellson Donerly on April 2, 1951. Donerly was born on June 26, 1920, in New Yersey, to Raymond and Mayzie Donerly. By the mid 1950s Naida was long retired from Hollywood but continued to dance as a hobby. In 1958, she hit the papers when dancing at a charity concert for funding the California Home for the Aged (other old Hollywood personalities who graced this manifestation were Chuck Ryan and Slim Lee).

Naida Donerly died on January 7, 1986, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Her widower, Ralph Donerly, died on August 1, 2007, in Blue Diamond, Nevada.

June Brewster


June Brewster is somewhat remembered today. Just not for her acting achievements (which were not insignificant). Sadly, she is much better known as the wife of leading Las Vegas casino owner, Guy McAfee. A seasoned chorus girl when she landed in Hollywood, June had as much chance to succeed as any chorus girl who came to Tinsel Town in the early 1930s. Yet, after a promising start and a burning passion to make herself a serious actress, she took the other route and gave it all up to move with her husband to Nevada.


Kathleen Elizabeth Anderson was born on August 13, 1909, to Frank E. and Thena Anderson, in Decatur, Illinois. She was the eight of nine children. Her older sisters were Opal, Marguerite, Greta, Mildred and Lena. Her older brothers were Kenneth and Virgil. Her only younger siblings was a brother, Edwin.

Little is known about June’s childhood. At some point, she left for New York and became a chorus girl. She lived a hectic life for three years, and then departed for Hollywood.


June started her career in The Sport Parade, a formulaic, off the mill sport movie about football. I would usually tell: only for the die hard fans, but, on second taught, there is a second redeeming feature: if you like Joel McCrea half naked, this the movie to see! Marian Marsh, a pretty and charming but underrated actress, plays a convincing leading lady, but the love triangle is highly contrived and she seems out of place in a movie like this. There is also a strong homoerotic undercurrent, not something Hollywood could dish easily ever again after the Production code took effect.

Goldie Gets Along is a Lili Damita vehicle, and a dismal one at that, but not for the reasons one might suspect. I always imagined Lili as a talentless hack who got famous because of Erroll Flynn. Yet, after watching a few of her movie,s it’s clear to me she is  a woman of great personal charm. While she was not a top actress, the camera loved her and she successfully lifts up any movie she appears in. Yet, the trying dialogue, stupid story and her leading man, Charles Morton (Who? Well, exactly that!) fares much much worse. Professional Sweetheart is a mixed bag – on onehand, it’s a . Ginger Rogers ia a legend for  areason – and she was just starting here, young, vivacious, cracklign with energy.

Melody Cruise is that could have been only made during the Pre-Code times. And June does exactly what in the movie. As one reviewer wrote:

Naughty pre-Code elements are embodied, literally, in the presence of Vera and Zoe (Shirley Chambers and June Brewster), two party girls who pass out in Ruggles’ cabin after the bon voyage party instead of leaving the ship. When told their clothes have been thrown overboard, Vera reminds Zoe: “It’s possible, Zoe. You know whenever you get a few drinks in you, you always want to take your clothes off.”

Stolen by Gypsies or Beer and Bicycles is a forgotten comedy short.

Flying Devils is a typical run of the mill low budget movie, with a thin script and B class actors. However, it’s zunfair to label it as bad – the airborne sequence,s despite not filmed exclusively for this movie, are well made, and the movie rolls out dynamically, never having a dull moment. June also plays a prominent role.

Headline Shooter is the type of a movie I love. Why? Well, passionate battle of wills between man and a woman, a cat-and-mouse games, and a general scheme of trying to outsmart one another are some of my favorite movie themes in general. While “His girl Friday” remains the staple of the genre, several years before we have Headline Shooter with a similar premise, just not so strong in the acting department. Both William Gragan and Frances Dee are adequate, but as one reviewer wrote “you’ll miss Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.”

June than appeared in several shorts, So This Is Harris! and Flirting in the ParkBridal BailContented CalvesThe Undie-World

June was uncredited in Rafter Romance, the original “living close but never met” romance movie. Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster are the couple, who share the same bed just use it at different times – she during the night, he during the day. It’s a cute, fluffy romance movie, the likes we have seen many times.

Bombshell is the essential Jean Harlow movie. While Jean was no great actress who could tackle Shakespeare easily, she was kinestetically so sophisticated, so intrinsically talented that she is truly one of a kind, unique and never to be repeated again. The way Harlow moves and talks is something . Jean aside, the movie benefits from a very good script and a great supporting cast. A sharp and witty satire on the studio system, it’s funny but at the same time devastating (oh yes, they really did this you know), with luminaries like Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone, Pat O’Brien, Una Merkeln, Ivan Lebedeff, Isabel Jewell, and the list goes on!

JuneBrewster6Meet the Baron is a comedy with very mixed reviews. You can think of it as a sterling example of a wacky 1930s comedy with far fetched but humorous stories and a assortment of great comedic stars, or you can see it as a moronic effort without a sensible plot (just gibberish mashed together) and with mediocre comedy talents. Any which way you chose to see it, it made no wonders for the careers of anyone involved in it.

Hips, Hips, Hooray! is a Wheeler and Woosley movie, and a good one at that. So watch if you like their brand of comedy.

Success at Any Price. Now come the real, buried gems of the 1930s. The Depression era story of a young man who want “success at any price” and his way to the top – is more than a didactic morality story. it’s a story about choice, about people and about the ability to understand others. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., more famous as the son of Douglas Fairbanks Sr and later a UK socialite, is surprisingly good as the anti hero Joe Martin. I never thought much about him, but boy was I wrong! Again, he’s no Laurence Olivier, but played this part very well. Genevieve Tobin, an actress I admire, gives her usual “party girl” vibe and is excellent in her role of a kept woman who just changes her “sponsors”. A true treat is Colleen Moore, the former silent movie megastar, now a dowdy woman int he mid 30s, but still youc an feel that charimsa thgat made her the “it girl” ten years before. That si a traitr many stars have, and has nothingt to do with age not with looks – trhe magnetic look, that electricity.

Private Scandal was one fo the few chances that June had a chance to shine on the screen. As a reviewer wrote:

This film is an ensemble piece, especially as the story progresses and the characters are quarantined at the office. Fittingly, Cody has assembled a memorable staff of employees. In pre-code thirties style, there is the less than polite receptionist June Brewster, who is really too wise for her job but lacks the conscientiousness to perform it. The head of the sales force is married man Jed Prouty, who has an eye for Brewster. Anytime is a good time for a drink with him: “Hey, hey,” Brewster responds when he repeatedly calls her away from the switchboard. Third wheel Harold Waldridge, who has a gambling habit he cannot afford, is wise to them, calling them Frankie and Johnny. Zasu Pitts seems to have an affinity for the restroom. Elderly Charles Sellon is on hand, either to be abused or to speak insensitively to Waldridge. And let’s not forget the sweet young lovers Phillips Holmes and Mary Brian.

June seems just like the right type to play the brassy secretary.

JuneBrewster4F-Man is a below average wannabe comedy. In short, as a reviewer wrote: The comedy is weak, the plot is predictable (especially for anyone who’s seen ‘The Monster’), and most of the performances are lifeless.

The Case Against Mrs. Ames is a solid Madeleine Carroll movie. A weepie at heart, it manages to escape the typical sentimentalist fare similar movies fall into. of course, Madalien shines int he lead role, and it remains one of her most compellign performances. June even has a credited performance in this one!

Spendthrift can only be remembered today as the official movie debut of Hendy Fonda, but eve so, it’s a uninteresting, bland film not especially worth anyone’s time.

She’s Dangerous are proof that many, many movies from Hollywood’s golden years were not classic, or even good movies. As a reviewer wrote: “This is obviously a generic plot line with some interesting character performances and some singing by Walter Pidgeon, but not much else to recommend it. The result is extremely predictable, one of those bottom-of-the-bill features that really deserved to be there, and a leading lady obviously not destined for bigger things” The lady in question was Tala Birrell, a beautiful woman for sure and a mysterious figure, but not a talent by  afar stretch of the imagination. She was another Garbo-imitator that never made it (do imitators ever make it? Usually not, but Hollywood never seems to learns this lesson!).

The Lady Escapes is just another one of Gloria Stewart quckies from the 1930s. This one is almsot completely forgotten by the looks of it. While I generally like Gloria ad find her a decent actress, she was sure in a lot of below average fare int he 1930s. While this is one is not really bad, it’s not something you could remember Gloria by.

JuneBrewster3Blonde Trouble is an Eleanore Whitney/Johnny Downs pairing. Thus, it’s not a good musical. As I already wrote several times in the blog, Eleanore was a likable girl and good singer and dancer, but not a talented actress and had no star charisma. Those women should not be given leads in movies of this caliber. For a musical star, you need someone like Judy Garland, someone with that certain something to keep the viewer enraptured. Since musicals never have a deep plot, if the stars and bad and the music is mediocre, it means most certain failure.

Partners in Crime is a lost and completely forgotten crime movie. Love Is a Headache are those simple movies made not for the artistic merit but just for pure fun. Gladys George plays a fading actress who adopts two children for the publicity. The children are played by Mickey Rooney and Virginia Wiedler, both juvenile classics. The press agent is played by Franchot Tone, an actor I absolutely adore (while a strong actor by himself, he is at his best playing foils for strong female stars. George, while not in the star caliber of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis, was nonetheless a diva personality and plays the part convincingly.

June’s last movie came in 1938, Thanks for the Memory. It could seem like a typical Bob Hope vesicle at a glance, it’s definitely more low key and subtle than that. Too bad Hope made but a few movies like this.

June gave up Hollywood to go live with her husband in Las Vegas.


A newspaper article written about June in 1936 is spot on about her life so far and what she wants to do with her career:

Keep your eye en June Brewster, If you’re interested in the careers of screen youngsters who will be the stars of tomorrow. June isn’t exactly a youngster. She has attained the mature age of 24, but she may rightfully be classed as a movie neophyte and I’m predicting that she will become one of the important figures in the celluloid world in another three years.

All you have  to do to be convinced that this auburn-tressed actress has a brilliant future is to talk with her for a couple of hours —listen to her ideas, her plans, and watch her during her dally routine work. No talented girl with such ideas and they will to carry them out could fall. And June has talent. For that We have the word of Laura Hope Crews, veteran star of the legitimate stage, under whom she has been studying.

Socially this attractive redhead is one of the most popular girls In the film colony. She is invited everywhere, but attends few functions. Before becoming a soda figure she wants to be able to meet the start on their own pita. So she now is devoting her time to studying. It is hard to see how a girl with such ideas—Ideas that the has worked out for herself, not any that have been put into her pretty head by others—and a  will to carry them out could fall. And I believe that” June will stick to her guns. “Certainly, I’m dressed better than any woman here, but this crowd so flat they don’t even know It.’

“I don’t care particularly whether I attain stardom, but I do want to be known as a really fine actress,” June told me. “That is my whole aim in life. Everything else is secondary. And I am not going to give up until I achieve my goal. “I’ve had my fun, have experienced just about every thrill life holds for a girl. As a show girl On Broadway, where we were rated according to the fur coats we wore and the parties we attended, my one big thought was to have a good time. “And I did for three years. Then I decided that there wag nothing in such a life, that genuine satisfaction could be obtained only through achievement.”

Holding firmly to this thought, June made her debut In picture at the RKO stuido about a yea ago. A charming girl with a beautiful face, a. million-dollar figure and three years of Broadway experience behind her, she had difficulty in getting a. contract. “However, that’s about all I did get. Although her bank account flourished, she wasn’t getting anywhere. So she prevailed upon studio officials not to extend their option on her.  “As soon as I was free from the studio, I went to Miss Crews and practically begged her to coach me,” Miss Brewster relates, think one of the happiest moments of my life was when she consented I now have been working wit! her for several month* and finally feel as though I am getting some where. “I am in no hurry to get another part in a picture. I am learning more about acting every day an that is what counts, because it means that when I do get a par I will be able to turn in a real performance, “in my opinion, the building e a career may be likened to construction of a house. If a house has a solid foundation, it will stand for years. So it is with a career. And I am building lay foundation now.”


JuneBrewster1Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go that way – she traded her career for marriage. June married Guy McAfee in 1936. McAfee was born on August 19, 1886, in Winfield, Kansas. He was married once before, to Marie McAfee, who worked as a madame (that must have been an unusual marriage!).

McAfee is surely an interesting character, and the reason why Juneis remebered (at all) today. Playground to the stars summs up al the information you need to know about this man:

Guy McAfee was one of the preeminent crime bosses in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s. He spent his early career as an LAPD officer, rising to captain on the vice squad. In the 1920s, he married a madam named Marie, who worked in the sphere of crime lords Albert Marco and Charlie Crawford, top operators in a powerful organized crime racket known as “the Combination” and, because of its entanglements in civic institutions, “the City Hall Gang.” McAfee left the LAPD for a much more lucrative career as a vice lord and soon controlled a criminal operation that included dozen of brothels, bootleg liquor operations and the most lucrative underground casino in town, the Clover Club on the Sunset Strip.

A wave of reform swept the city in the late 1930s, resulting in the recall election of Mayor Frank Shaw, who was defeated by Fletcher Bowron, a former journalist and sitting judge in superior court. Once in power, the forces of reform targeted operations like McAfee’s, and he quickly decided to move east to Las Vegas, where gambling was legal. In an interview with a newspaper there in 1939, however, McAfee, who was by then remarried to actress June Brewster, denied he’d been driven out of Los Angeles:

“I came to Las Vegas because I’m happily married, have a great sized stake and have decided to operate in a community where my business of gambling is a legal proposition,” McAfee said. “I’m not saying the Bowron administration made it too hot for me, for that wouldn’t be strictly true. I’ve cut myself a slice of a new kind of life. Get this straight, no one ran me out of Los Angeles. I’m pulling out because I want to and no other reason.”

His first investment in Las Vegas was the Pair-O-Dice, a casino south of downtown — an area he is credited with naming the “Las Vegas Strip,” a nod to Hollywood’s far more glamorous Sunset Strip. He soon controlled a number of properties along the highway and on Fremont Street dowtown, including the Golden Nugget, which he built in 1946.

June Brewster hated Las Vegas,” he said. “She had been a star in a New York in a sexy revue and went to Hollywood. She was really into nightlife and the big city, and even Hollywood was a step down for her from N.Y.C. (Las Vegas) was a dump as far as she was concerned.”

Despite the letdown, the marriage remained strong. After being unable to concieve, June and Guy adopted a baby girl, Kathleen Elizabeth McAfee, in 1943.

JuneBrewsterGuyMcAfeeMcAfee was allegedly not a nice person. However: “He also seemed to mellow a lot as he got older He turned into more of a human being at the end of his life.” In his later years, he did a lot of charity work and was a supporter of the Elks Club’s Helldorado Days. His and June’s marriage seemed solid enough to last such a long time in such a city full of temptation.

McAfee died in 1960. Left a wealthy widow, she continued living in Las Vegas and did not remarry.

Kathleen McAfee died on November 2, 1995, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some of her things went on auction after her death. As I found on the internet, on the page Mark Lawson Antiques:

Also of special interest at the auction will be the items from the estate of Guy McAfee, originator of the moniker “the strip” for the Las Vegas Main Street and founder of the Golden Nugget Casino. Featured will be a massive gold nugget necklace given by McAfee to his wife, Hollywood starlet June Brewster McAfee, on the day the Golden Nugget Casino opened in 1946, and estimated to sell for $10,000 to $20,000.

June also has the dubious honor of having a video game character modeled after her. The game is L.A. Noire, and the character’s name is June Ballard. You can read more about the character on this link: LA Noire Wiki. A good or a bad thing? Let time answer that question.

Geneva Sawyer


Geneva Sawyer never made an impact as an actress, but turned around her career by becoming the only female dancing director and choreographer in Hollywood – and a highly successful one at that. Known as a woman who could teach even the clumsiest actor/actress the most complicated dance moves, she educated a whole lot of classic stars and earned her keep in Tinsel Town for more than a decade.


Geneva Norma Sawyer was born on October 26, 1910, in Colorado, to Thomas Sawyer and Norma Spence. Her older sister, Frances, was born in 1909.

The family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Geneva grew up and attended high school. She started dancing in her early teens, and was soon a formidable tap dancer. Her parents divorced in the mid 1920s.

Norma, Frances and Geneva moved to California in the late 1920s, and in 1930 were living in Los Angeles. Geneva was dancing professionally by this time, making good money. After appearing in revues and nightclubs, she got into movies at 20th Century Fox.


Like many fellow dancers, Geneva landed in Hollywood hoping for serious dramatic roles, but keeping in the chorus to work steadily.

It’s Great to Be Alive is one weird, weird movie. As a lover of the mindscrew genre, I like confusing, multilayered movies, but not all jigsaw movies are good ones. As one reviewer wrote:

“It’s Great toGenevaSawyer2 Be Alive” is basically a dirty joke, spun out to second-feature proportions. It’s worth seeing, just to get an idea of how weird Hollywood movies could become during the Depression. Just listen to the premise: “An aviator who crash landed on an island in the South Pacific returns home to find that he is the last fertile man left on Earth after an epidemic of masculitus.” What? No comment needed. On top it all, it’s not a very good movi either.

Arizona to Broadway is another one of those movies that have all the right elements but none fo the right combinations. We have a plethora of good actors, from the leads to the supports, a not to shabby story and even some music numbers, but in the end, you get nothing really. The comedy never comes, Joan Bennett is wasted in a simplistic role, and simply, it’s just not good.

Dancing Lady is a hit 1930s Joan Crawford musical. Let’s face it, Joan was god in anything she appeared in,. She had the sass, and be it drama, comedy or musical, it showed on the screen. She carries the movie, but has more than decent support: Clark gable, Franchot Tone, Winnie Lighter. While the plot is basically a rags to riches Cinderella story Joan did a hundred times in the movies, . I’m a sucker for movies where the lady is recultant to get involved, but the man is so smitten, he would chase her to the ends of the earth to get her to say “Yes” (especially if the man is Franchot Tone – love that man!!!). So yes, I prefer Franchot in this movie to Clark, but both do their job admirably. There are some good dancing sequences, and a special plus to see Fred Astaire in one of his earliest movie appearances.

Ginger gave Geneva the biggest role of her career up to them. Now, we all know that Jane Withers was a dead ringer for Shirley Temple, and that she was signed for that sole reason – to become a child moneymaker for Fox. The question: is Jane Withers better than Shirley? It’s open to debate and of course, depends on the person you ask, but there is no denying that Jane had something, that she was so sparkly, vivacious and happy-go-lucky that it’s impossible not to like her. Ginger, in the best vein of Shirley Temple movies,  is cute, touching, endearing, no big brainer, but it plays on your emotions more than your intellect at any rate. It’s great that an old school top line character actor, O.H. Reggie, is given a chance to shine as Ginger’s uncle, a brilliant Shakespearan actor, but an alcoholic to boot. It’s a simple, slice of life story, and if you like such movies, worth taking a look.

Music Is Magic – the same old story. It’s one of those movies you don’t watch for the movie itself, but rather for the things in it: the stars, in this instance. Here, we have Bebe DanGenevaSawyer3iels and Alice Faye, both dependable, sturdy actresses, giving fine performances. 

Captain January is one of the most beloved Shirley Temple movies today. As I am not generally a fan of movies with cute leading ladies who melt the hearts of the audience despite a thin script, I’ll try to abstain from my comments. Shirley was sure cute and likable enough, but I generally rate her int he same category as Sonja Henie and similar astars, who had the ropes to enchant viewers, but never made great movies.

To Mary – with Love is an atypical movie for Myrna Loy of the period. Loy, known for playing comedies, was finally given a chance to play a serious dramatic role. Un cinephile blog, who reviewed the movie, wrote this very illustrating passage about it:

Myrna Loy wrote in her autobiography that this film was a welcome dramatic change from all the breezy characters she had been playing at MGM (she was loaned out to 20th Century to make this. Loy had great range as an actress and it is a very nice welcome change to the light characters MGM constantly had her playing since her success in The Thin Man. She was so moving in the scene at the hospital where she just quietly turns her head away from Warner Baxter after she hears the news their baby died. Years later Loy met up with the producer of the film and he told her “You didn’t become hysterical. All you did was turn your face away from him. You turned your face to the wall and it was devastating.” And let me tell you because she turned her head the scene did become devastating. This whole scene could have been played so overdramatic had it been any other actress but Loy was not in the habit of over acting. She replied to the producer “I just felt that was what I should do. I didn’t want him to see what was going on” and she goes on to say “Oh I could have cried all over the place in many of my films, but it just didn’t feel right” and she was smart for never doing so. In the fifty films I have seen of Myrna Loy’s I think there were maybe three times she ever over acted a scene and she does so in this one when Jack tries to explain Kitty’s compact. The over acting does not fit her at all and when she does it is humorous.

Kudos to Myrna, as the 1930s Hollywood really had a general problem of their actors overacting even the most trivial roles. The more 1930s movies you watch, the more I understand this. While you can give excuses with the old “it was a transition period, it took time!” I still think that

On the Avenue is a gorgeously photographed film that didn’t quite make it. Yep, it’s another movie that had all the right cards, but did not come tot he winning hand. The tunes by Irving Berlin are superb, the cast is above the fold. So why? Nobody knows. While I’m not a true fan of musicals, I would watch the movie for Madeleine Carroll alone (as I already said, I love Madeleine, such a lovely, strong actress!):

GenevaSawyer4Geneva’s last acting job was in Johnny Apollo. It’s another “straightening up act”, this time not for Myrna Loy but for Tyrone Power. Power was a pretty boy who was cemented as a swashbuckling, charming star of action movies from his earliest roles, and was stuck int he mold for quite some time. Johnny Apollo gave him a chance to uise his dramatics muscles. Tyrone plays a trust fund baby who ends up with nothing after a lifetime of hedonism and devil-may-care attitude. of course, in a typical overtly dramatic Hollywood style, he ends up a gangster and so on.

Though Power, in the lead, stays less than persuasive as a menacing mobster – he’s too much of a pretty-boy, and lacks the acting resources to turn himself into a pretty-boy psychopath – the rest of the cast compensates

But, this did not mean the end of Geneva’s career in Hollywood. In fact, she entered a even more lucrative field, being a dance director. by 1937, she was the only female dancing director in the city, a great achievement! How did this happen? Well, Shirley Temple, the leading star of the time, was tutored by Bill Robinson, one of the foremost tap dancers of all times. When Robinson embarked on a vaudeville tour, Geneva was chosen to replace him as Shirley’s tutor. Being connected to Shirley in any way possible at that time was a winning ace – and soon, after Shirley reacted favorably to Geneva, she was promoted to associate dance director, and later just to dance director.

Some of her coreography credits are: In the Meantime, DarlingHome in IndianaBlood and SandDown Argentine WayThe Blue Bird, Swanee RiverThe Little PrincessThe Arizona WildcatStraight Place and ShowHold That Co-ed, Little Miss Broadway, Josette, Battle of Broadway, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Sally, Irene and Mary In Old Chicago Love and Hisses

Geneva’s last credit is In the Meantime, Darling, a movie that is neither a comedy nor a musical. Like many Jeanne Crain’s movies, it has an moronic name, but deals with some serious issues (it is a Otto Preminger movie after all!).

Geneva retired from Hollywood in cca 1944.


Geneva was quite superstitions – she never went to dance without her “lucky” penny in one of her dancing slippers. She was educated in the Fox FIlm School for newcomers when she first hit the movies. In the early 1930s, she gave this beauty tip in the papers:

A good bleach that is not harmful to the skin is a mixture of lemon juice with glycerin and rose water in equal proportions. First wash the face or hands with tepid oatmeal water and then apply the mixture.

Geneva married Los Angeles businessman (specializing in real estate) James J. Warrick in about 1934/1935. They divorced in January 1936. She testified in court that he kissed a maid on New Years Day 1936, and then admitted he did not love her anymore.

GevenaSawyer1She continued her bacholorette life not long after, dating Dick Foran and Malcolm St. Clair in 1936. In 1938, she was seen around town with the 20 Century Fox executive, Sam Ledner. Later that year, her beau was Nat Young. In early 1939, she was associated with Frank McGrath.

Being a dancer was not an easy job, and Geneva was outspoken about it to the papers. She told abut the threat of muscle knotted legs (they had two masseuses on the film sets at all times), and in 1938, she was doing a tap dancing routine on the glass table when the thing cracked and she had to have six stitches in her knee. During her chorine years, or whenever she was actively dancing, she went once a month to a chiropodist. She held her legs in high regards, even telling a reported once: “Women make a serious error when they spend hours on their face and forget about their legs”, claiming that men love the legs just as much.

In 1936 while still a chorine, Geneva gave an interview to the press. She said:

“I’ve been in stock in this studio for 22 months and it’s true I sometimes wonder will I ever get out of the line.  I’ve had bits in a few pictures but mostly I’ve just been atmosphere or in the chorus. We get 75$ a week on a guarantee of 20 weeksor work over a period of six months. The studio can lay us off when is pleases and call us in a moments notice. I figure my pay has averaged about $56 and some cents.
But, I’m not going to give up. Why. I’m a success already and I can prove it. I’ve received six fan letters, five of them from friends who saw me in Ginger, the other from Oklahoma oil worker who saw me in the line in Redheads on Parade. You wait and see – I’ll be doing picture with Ronald Colman and Warner Baxter yet!”

This tongue in cheek attitude, while sometimes annoying, pushed Geneva to exit the chorus girl area and achieve higher echelons of movie work.

As somebody who actually made it as a dancer in Hollywood, Geneva took a motherly interest in the younger chorines. Always full of sage advice, she took care that they ate properly and were not underweight (she even issued a edict that the chrorus girls but get fatter or the wouldn’t be permitted to dance – as the majority of the were underweight.) She was also very encouraging but realistic, often explaining in interviews how the life of a chorus girl looks like, how there are periods where work is abundant and periods when the work is scarce, and even encouraging them not to give up on their career if they get married.

Geneva dated Freddy Fox, brother of Virginia Zanuck, for about two years in 1941 and 1942. When he joined the army to fight in WW2, she often telephoned to him overseas. Later, he gifted her with a diamond and ruby necklace. The relationship was pretty serious, but did not culminate in marriage.

Geneva married Ward Allen Soladar on June 4, 1949, in Thurston, Washington. Soladar was born on July 3, 1917 in New Yersey. He moved quite a lot with his mother, and attended college in Monroe, Florida in 1940.

The couple lived in California. By this time, Hollywood was but a distant memory for Geneva, but she continued dancing, mostly as a hobby this time around.

Geneva Soladar died on September 3, 1965, in Orange, California.

Her widower, Ward Allen Soladar, died on June 28, 1990 in Glendale, California.

Shirley Tegge


Shirley Tegge’s selling point were her impressive outdoor abilities. She was a superb fly fisher, and spend a large part of her early life in the forests of Michigan. On top of it all, she was a drop dead gorgeous woman with some theatrical training and not without any acting experience. Yet, like many similar cases with genuinely talented woman, this got her nowhere in Hollywood, and except a few spots of publicity, she did not achieve anything big.


Shirlee Ann Tegge was born on August 6, 1927 in Iron river, Michigan, to Albert and Esther Tegge. She was the oldest of four children – her siblings were: Elaine “Peaches” (born in 1931), Marilyn (born in 1933) and Richard (born on March 16, 1934).

The family lived in Iron river in 1940, where Shirley attended high school. Shirley had a very outdoorsy, active upbringing. Her father took her trout fishing ever since she was  toddler, and as a result, Shirley became an expert fisher by the time she was in high school. She also knew the woods of northern Michigan like the back of her hand after spending many, many hours there. Shirley’s pretty visage, combined with her rough and tough lifestyle, made for an interesting personality that only further developed as time went on.

Except her fishing activities, Shirley was the Iron River corps drum majorette in 1941 (she made the papers for the first time that year). It was clean an unusual future was waiting for the girl. Shirley’s father owned a hardware store specializing in sporting goods, and among other things, he sold trout baits made by Shirley, named “Tegge Tantalizers”. They were very popular all over the US and Canada.

Shirley graduated from the Iron River high, in 1945. In June of that year, she won a scolarship for speech and dramatics in Illinois. Shirley relocated to Chicago, and started working as a model to earn money on the side. In 1946, she was named “Queen” by the wounded veterans in US naval hospital in Great Lakes, Illinois. Soon, she was doing summer theater work on Cape Cod.

After modeling and sometime acting for years, Shirley was crowned Miss USA in 1949. Her strong point:

“Her recipe for latching onto a lad I is a brand new gimmick in the wiles of women. It is called the “Tegge tantalizer,” which has absolutely nothing to do with her own blonde beauty or her colossal curves. The former Powers model is a one-woman manufacturer of hand-made fishing flies”.

Due to her title and new found fame, in 1950 she finally landed in Hollywood.


Although uncredited in all of her films, Shirley actually appeared in a good number of solid movies, many of them fondly remembered today.

Shirley2Her first feature was in Where the Sidewalk Ends, a Dana Andrews/Gene Tierney pairing. I’m a fan of this pairing, so I’m not the best judge of their movies, but when I say I think this movie is tops, it seems that most critics and fans agree with me. It’s a stylish, dark and impossibly cool film noir, directed by Otto Preminger (a difficult personality but a top-of-the-shelf director), and with such a great cast you could just lick your fingers with them. Dana Andrews, so underrated as an actor, plays a jaded detective par excellence, and Gene Tierney has just the right mix of stunning beauty, glamour and toughness to make her a perfect femem fatale.  Very good performances are given by Craig Stevens, Gary Merrill and Tom Tully.

Strangers on a Train. What should I say about this movie? Hitch made tons of famous, good movies, and this one falls into the upper echelon category of his work. Take special note of Robert Walker, by far the best actor in the movie (and all the other were nothing to slouch about – Farley Granger, Ruth Roman, Leo G. Carroll). his portrayal is just… W-how. Perfect. Such a shame about his premature death .- he could have developed into a leading actor of the generation.

Take Care of My Little Girl, despite it’s idiotic name, is actually a serious drama hidden by a veneer of a breezy comedy. What seems like a fun loving movie at first, dealing with college, sororities, youth, fun – turns into a dark fable of narcissism, snobbery and greed, showing how those sins penetrate our modern, democratic society like snakes. Jeanne Crain, a mediocre actress in most of her efforts, is good enough, but it is Jean Peters (such a vivacious, interesting actress) and Jeffery Hunter (sadly to much of a pretty boy to be taken seriously, but not a bad actor) who take all the thunder. Dale Robertson is handsome and decent as the male support (although he always sounds like a cowboy IMHO).

The Guy Who Came Back – now we come to the less flashy, but still memorable movies. It concerns an aging football player living in the past until WWII allows him to relive his “glory days”. Part a character study, part a life story, it’s one of those movies that undeservedly slipped into oblivion. Even if you don’t like sports movies, it’s worth watching for the actors alone – Paul Douglas, Joan Bennett, Linda Darnell.

Two Tickets to Broadway is a musical made by Howard Hughes with a roster of former MGM talent – Janet Leigh, Tony Martin, Gloria Dehaven, Ann Miller. As a reviewer succinctly wrote: “This is not a bad musical. It’s also not a good one.” Let’s be realistic for a moment: if you like bouncy, happy-go-lucky 1950s musicals, this will be more than enough – if you’re not a fan, don’t come close. There are no memorable musical numbers, but they are more than amended by the buoyancy and youthful vivacity of the actors – Janet Leigh, despite not being a singer or an dancer, is enchantingly charming, and Ann Miller is as fast in her tapping routines as ever!

Shirley1The Las Vegas Story is a film noir Robert Mitchum used to make by the bucket load int he 1940s. This one breaks no new ground, nor differentiates itself from the mass of others. The most notable exception is that the lead is not played by Mitchum but by Victor Mature. Mature was not an actor, and he knows it – he always plays himself, but this is exactly what the movie needs – a  hard boiled, stones faced, stoic leading man. Matures chemistry with female lead Jane Russell, the veritable man’s woman – is superb. Vincent Price, another favorite of mine (did you ever see him in Witchfield general? Whoa boy, watch it!) is slimy and hammy as usual.

With a Song in My Heart is that rare musical where much consideration was put not only into the music, but also all the other facets of the production – beautifully written, professionally directed and finely acted. The story is touching enough – songstress Jane Forman’s rocky life story is bound to shed tears from the more demure public, but the underlining message is an positive, upbeat one – proving that “determination and grit” can truly do miracles in anybody’s life. Yet, the true strenght of the movie is the superb song book – when you look at the list of composers, one canot but stop and gape: Rodgers & Hart; Sammy Fain; Harold Arlen, Peggy Lee, Vincent Youmans, George & Ira Gershwin; Arthur Schwartz Frank Loesser; Jule Stein & Sammy Cahn. Nothing could go wrong and nothing did go wrong. It’s a true Hollywood classic, more than worth the watch 5 decades after it was made.

April in Paris is a movie that made Doris Day the Doris Day we all know and love today. I was thrilled that Doris’ leading man was not a square jawed, perfectly handsome Hollywood hunk like Rock Hudson, but Ray Bolger, the wacky looking, tall and reed thin actor, but a dancer to boot! This is a movie where your can truly see how the 1950s (the sunny side of them, anyway) looked and felt like. It’s a time long past, and there is a charming naivete to it I cannot find in today’s movie anymore (even in rom coms and other lightweight comedies). While this is not necessarily a good thing (I don’t think the world was a cute, peaches-and-cream place then), a slight nostalgia creeps up and makes it an interesting viewing experience. Doris is the plucky, likable girl-next-door with a strong current underneath, a role she would play to perfection int he rest of 1950s and the 1960s. While the choreography leaves much to be desired (Doris even noted this in her autobiography), kudos goes to Bolger for milking it to all of it’s worth with his flawless tapping.

ShirleyTegge4Shirley appeared in another of Jane Russell’s movie, The French Line. This movie truly is one of a kind. In a time when elegance and good taste were of paramount importance to the movie industry (just look at the musicals MGM made during this time), we have a crass, vulgar movie that know that it’s crass and vulgar and doesn’t even bother to hide it! Jane Russell is granted, the perfect female lead for such a “travesty”. She was one of the few blatantly sexy actresses who made it to the top (most girls with the same brand of in-your-face sexuality never made it to even mid tier stars, let alone top tier!) and works like a charm here. The whole movie is brimming with primal energy and is untarnished with taking itself too seriously. Gilbert Ronald is a bit of a sore spot (another pretty boy with little to no talent), but otherwise more than a decent viewing.

Shirley made a hiatus from the movies, and returned one last time as a thespian in Half Way to Hell. When I saw the tag line, the rating and the summary, and all I can say it: run. It sound like a horrible movie, and it has no reviews, but let’s take it face value and imagine Shirley was better off without acting in it.

In addition to her acting, career, Shirley made a few appearances in TV series: Mark SaberThe Abbott and Costello ShowRacket Squad and I Love Lucy. They are all small, uncredited appearances that did not warrant her further engagements.

After 1961, Shirley retired for good.


In 1947, Shirley was involved pretty deep with the famous boxer Maxie Rosenbloom, and he wanted to marry her. My guess is that Shirley declined his offer, as the marriage never happened (Maxie was divorced from Muriel Faider, and he never married again).

When the press asked Shirley, who was a an expect in catching trout, how to catch a man, she said:

Elementary. Looks, grooming and domestic ability are necessary to a girl. But to interest a man, to land him and hold him, you have to be able to actively share in his interests.
I can cook, do water colors, embroider and sew as well as any girl. I tool my own leather handbags. But these things don’t interest fellows.
But, I can also ride horseback, swim, play tennis and baseball, fly planes, shot deer and fish with the best of the more virile sex. And I can tie a better fish fly than most men.

It’s an interesting story how Shirley met her first husband. A girl friend showed her a picture of Earl Shade beside Mayor Fletcher Bowron of Los Angeles, posing beside a king size marlin caught at Shade’s La Paz Fishing Club in Raja, Mexico. Shirley was smitten before even meeting the fella, and decided she must “catch” him.

A mutual pal introduced them at a dinner party. Shade ignored her, thinking her another blonde stunner – until her learned she was the creator of “Tegge Tantalizer”. The next week they eloped, during a few days off from Where the sidewalk ends.

ShirleyTegge2Thus, Shirley married Earl Hill Shade in a ceremony in LaPaz, Lower California, Mexico, on Jan. 31, 1950. According to the press, Shirley “wore a white off-the-shoulder gown and a Spanish mantilla of white lace secured by small white flowers”. The newlyweds resided in Hollywood.

Earl Shade, was born on February 15, 1923, the son of the Laren Bartlett Shades of Los Angeles. He grew up in Los Angeles. The marriage was a short lived one, and they divorced in the mid 1950s, after 1953.

Shade remarried to Robin Stroud in 1962 and died on June 18, 1985.

Shirley married Jack Ford, a WWII pilot and actor/technical consultant, sometime around 1957 or 1958. Shirley gave birth to a daughter, Jacquelyn Annelyse Susan Ford, on September 5, 1959. Sadly, tragedy struck just five days before her daughter was born – Jack was killed in a mid air collision.

Shirley remarried to Reginald K. Russell on December 17, 1960. Russell was born on June 1, 1914, in Australia and came to the US prior to 1940. He was married first to Nancy (in the late 1930s). Shirely and Reginald divorced not long after, in 1962 or 1963. Russell remarried to in 1968 to Joan E. Humphrey, and in 1972 to Leona Pendelton. He died on May 23, 1974.

In 1964, Shirley married for the third and final time to Charles F. Stoker. She and Stoker too divorced at a point. Shirley relocated to Simi Valley, California.
Interesting to note, is what happened in September 2003, when Shirley was well over both her modeling and Hollywood days:

Simi Valley, CA — A former actress and model who played “Miss 3-D” in a promo for the first major 3-D film is finally getting her due.
Half a century ago, Shirlee Tegge Stoker was hired to prance around with puppets Beany and Cecil in a short film explaining 3-D technology.
The film ran before the feature, “Bwana Devil” — a movie which ushered in the golden age of 3-D in the 1950s. However, Ms. Stoker missed the premiere of the movie because she was stuck in New York on a modeling assignment. Now 76, Stoker is getting a second chance: She’ll be attending a screening of both movies next Tuesday (Sep. 16) as part of the world’s largest 3-D film festival. It’s truly a redo for Stoker, because the screening will be at the same theater as the premiere was: Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre.
The sassy senior says she’s “delighted to be recycled after 50 years,” but admits the job as Miss 3-D was just “a days work for me.”

She lived in Simi Valley for many years before she fell ill. Her daughter Jesse Lindell, who also had  a career in Hollywood like her parents, came to live with her and take care of her.

Shirley Stoker died on June 12, 2010 in Simi Valley, California.



Doris Weston


Doris Weston was a lucky, lucky girl who did not come to Hollywood – Hollywood came for her. While this worked wonders in some cases, in others it was a proverbial kiss of death – it’s not easy for a newcomer to carry a movie right off the bat, especially if the said newcomer is a young and relatively inexperienced songstress (like Doris was). She was given a great chance to sing opposite one of the biggest stars of the decade in a A budget movie. What happened next? Fast forward years later, and Doris Weston is but a footnote in Hollywod history. Well, let’s hear her story!


Doris Wester was born on September 9, 1917, in Chicago, Illnois, to Joseph and Readdie Wester. She was the youngest of five children – her siblings were: Willie (born in 1899), Louis (born in 1904), Samuel (born in 1911) and Alice (born in 1915).

Her parents were both Tennessee natives who came to Illinois early in the century. They lived with a laborer Claude Noe, in Concord, Illinois in 1920.

The Westers moved to New York at some point int he 1920s. Doris was a talented child, versed in french from her early years, with an active imagination and an interest in the performing arts. When Doris was 9 years old, her parents took her to listen to Irene Bordoni, the famous French soprano. Doris was so spellbound after the performance – there was no doubt – she was to become a singer. Her parents were very receptive of her wish – they enrolled her into the Children’s Professional School.

Doris worked diligently on her singing skills, and made her stage debut at the age of 17 in “The great waltz” – she was one of the showgirls. This got her a gig at the Rainbow Room, where she was so popular she lasted nine weeks. This in turn triggered her career in the radio world – at the Major Bowles Hour, a popular radio show in New York. Somebody from the Warner Bros stable heard her on air, and decided to test her for the screen. After passing the tests, she departed for Hollywood.


Doris had the luck of being cast into leading roles from the very first day she came to Hollywood. Is it to be a blessing or a curse? Let’s take a look (but I think you can imagine how it ended). The moment she landed in Hollywood, projects were rolled for her. The first one, a George Brent movie, never belted out, but the second one did.. And it was…

DorisWeston2The Singing Marine  is great example of the kind of film Dick Powell was making all the time in the 1930s, and perhaps a good example of the general 1930s musical. It’s entertaining and charming in its way, but also has moments of downright silliness. The stories are often cardboard thin and the roles Powell played were different in name only. Powell was already an established star by the time Doris co-starred with him – and by most accounts, while pretty and with a good voice, Doris did not have that extra something to make an impression.

On the superb site, there is a page about this movie, and I quote an interesting thing:

It seems Warner Brothers though Powell would do well with any innocent actress, but Weston simply did not fit the bill. No one could replace Keeler in the Powell-Keeler team.
Powell admitted that he was lost without Ruby Keeler. “The hardest thing for me to do is listen well. You have to react to what you hear, and as a reactor I’m dead from the neck up. Ruby Keeler used to react to me, and she was good at it. But yesterday I had to react to Doris Weston while she sang a song in The Singing Marine, and I sank like a chain anchor.”

While I have no watched too many Powell musicals, I have to agree – Ruby Keeler, despite her lack of acting talent, angular face and good (but not excellent) dancing abilities, was a perfect foil for Powell. Doris, obviously, not so much. It’s not truly anyone’s fault – they just did not click. And Powell was fed up with playing the singing marine by now, and you can register it on screen.

DorisWeston4Singing marine was a big moneymaker, and Doris pushed on. Submarine D-1 is actually a pretty good submarine movie. George Brent (finally in a movie with Doris) is remarkably low key and effective as the Commanding Officer. For a bit of romance, there is a love triangle between characters played by Pat O’Brien, Wayne Morris and Doris Weston. Of course Doris did not come into any prominence in this movie – it’s a mans movie, about military life in general and submarines in particular. The special effects are overall quality of the movie is astounding for that time and place – and there is so much to see, including  (as one reviewer wrote on IMDB): the use of the McCann Rescue Chamber and Momsen Lung in a dramatic rescue of men from a sunken submarine off the coast of Point Loma, California.

Want to see how bikers looked before Marlon Brando? Born to Be Wild is the kind of a talky, flashy 1930s movie where the character just trade barb after barb at the expense of pacing and dynamic of the movie. And when the movie is dealing with truckers and bikers, you get the picture. A genre that would one day give us “The wild one” and “Wages of fear” was just beginning to emerge, making this movie a pioneer of sorts. Yet, take note, it is not a particularly good movie, but passable by most accounts. Let’s see what one reviewer wrote:

Look what we have going for us. We have Ward Bond, the major John Ford player, and he does a rhumba in one scene. Ralph Byrd, who played Dick Tracy. There’s lots of open road photography in semi-arid landscapes and California landscapes, with fast-moving cars and trucks. There’s an explosion of a diversion lock to a dam that’s fun. Plus there are several songs, lip-synched by Byrd I’d guess. These are light opera fare and enjoyable. Throw in a Spanish dance for good measure.

Well, what more needs to be said? Have to watch it to believe it.

DorisWeston3Delinquent Parents is a simple, small movie about something that can actually happen in real life (with a bit more drama, but hey, it wouldn’t be Hollywood otherwise). What seems like a low budget quickie actually turns out to be a half decent effort.

Next, Doris made two short musical segments, It’s in the Stars and Men of Steel , both 20 minutes long, for MGM. Both can be summed up with this great line by an IMDB reviewer:

The story is old, some of the acting is dreadful and it was made on next to no budget but this is still an enjoyable musical short from MGM. Stevens and Weston are young, good-looking and so full of life and energy that it’s hard not to like them

Doris, while no talented actress, was a likable enough performer. Obviously she did not have “IT”, or she would have achieved a more prosperous career (heck, I think everyone can name a few actor who were not huge talents, but had IT and managed pretty decent careers for themselves).

Except for maybe her foray into Dick Powell territory, Doris today is best remembered for the serial Mandrake, the Magician, where she played Mandrake’s girlfriend. The fact that Doris was first pushed into shorts and then into a serial attests that Hollywood was on the verge of writing her off as a major star.  The serial is some mean stuff. First, Warren Hull is a magnificent lead, with an iconography easily recognized today. Secondly, it features an African American actor in a prominent and active role, as Lothar, Mandrake’s assistant. Third, the serial overall is full of thrills, genuine “edge of your seat” moments and good acting from the leads. Yes, it’s a cheap serial and one can spot the budgeting restrains in almost every scene, but heck, when one knows serials were made on a dime, such technicalities should be pushed aside for some pure, unadulterated fun, and the serial has that in spades. Doris is typical cute, but also a second banana by all standards. 

DorisWeston5When Tomorrow Comes is a movie that happens every time Old Hollywood struck gold with something: take the same actors, modify the plot and away we go! A follow up to the great Love Affair, it only retains the chemistry between the leads – Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer – but everything else falls a few notches down the scale of good/bad. Doris was for the first time uncredited in the movie – not a good omen.

Chip of the Flying U is a GASP! low budget western GASP!. Yes, Doris came to that last line of defense – when an actress who was once a prosperous contender for stardom fails and ends up next billed to a horse. Seen that scenario quite a few time on this blog, didn’t we? Well, as for the movie itself, you can see it was made by people who made them by the dozens and know their job – as one reviewer wrote: “Directed at a smart enough pace to disguise most of its script and production shortcomings”. Lovers of low budget westerns fo the 1930s and 19450s should find no great fault in it.

Doris retired after this.


Doris seemed like a nice, down to earth girl who was perhaps too good for the cold, brutal world of Tinsel Town. There is a very telling bit about her written on the superb web page

Weston was a newcomer to the screen, and her popularity took her by surprise. When a fan requested an autograph for the first time, she cried. “This is wonderful,” she said. “I never thought six months ago that anybody would ask me for a picture.”

DorisWeston6Doris had some decent publicity during the 1937/1938 season. He learned that she was adept at crying on cue (her trick: she imagined what should happen if her movie career failed. We all know what happened later, in a strange twist of irony), that she was one of the lucky ones that never gained weight, that a fan stole her licence plates, that her costar Hugh Herbert gifted her with a cigar box she used as a make up kit later on, and she changed her surname five times before Warner Bros settled on Weston (that sounded the best, they thought).

As for her private life, Doris dated a Philadelphia manufacturer, name unknown, for almost proposed in August 1937. Even if her did, i somehow doubt that Doris would have given it all up for marriage, after working so hard for such a long time to attain stardom. Later on, his name was revealed to be Joe Linsk, and in October he allegedly dropped by Hollywood with the intention of popping that question. No further information was given, so it’s pretty obvious he did not succeed in his endeavor.

Exactly one year later, in October 1938, it was announced that Doris would marry Dave Miller, who worked in the MGM’s shorts department. The wedding was to take place in December. That too never happened.

By that time, Doris was still acting in Hollywood, but was far from the eye of the press. In 1939, Doris married her first and only husband, Martin T. Borden.

Borden was born on January 28, 1907, in New York. Both of his parents were Russian immigrants. He lived in Rhode Island with his mother and siblings after his father died. He worked as a fur and clothes salesman for the Hollywood elite.

The couple lived in Beverly Hills in 1940, but moved later to the East coast. They had two children, a son, Weston Borden, and a daughter, Patricia Borden. Her son Weston could be Professor Weston T. Borden, currently a professor of Computational Chemistry and Welch Chair in Chemistry at the University of North Texas. While I am not sure, Dr. Borden’s birth date adds up (he was born on October 13, 1943).

Doris Borden died on July 27, 1960, in Scarsdale, New York, after a lengthy illness.

Her widower, Martin T. Broden, died in March 1982 in King, Washington.

Jan Buckingham

Jan Buckingham

Jan Buckingham was given the huge honor of acting in many a movie made by Preston Sturges, one of the foremost comedic directors of the 20th century. Why? Well, she was his niece – and here we also have the answer of how Jan broke into Hollywood. Yet, Jan was pretty realistic about her capabilities – pretty and not without any charm, but not a trained actress nor a big talent, she played uncredited and supporting roles for several years, made a relatively good run (as compared to some other actresses), and retired to become a wife in 1944.


Jane Ridgeway was born to Edward S. Ridgeway and Gladys E. Johnson on July 22, 1913, in Los Angeles, California. The press claimed later that she is the famous director Preston Sturges’ niece – but how I have no idea how. Sturges was born under the name of Edmund Biden. His mother, Estelle Dempsey, most certantly remarried, but I think she had no additional children. Now, his father, Edmund C. Biden, had another son, Edmund Biden Jr., but he is a Biden, not a Johnson or Ridgeway. The only other viable option was that she was related to one of Preston’s wives, but which one? neither was a Johnson or Ridgeway. Sorry, no additional information here.

Little is known about Jane’s early life. She grew up in the movie colony and mingled with actor, directors and other Hollywood personnel from her earliest years. Being Preston Sturges’s “niece”, it was only natural. However, it took her a marriage and widowhood before she started acting in movies full time.


Jan was already widowed from her first husband when she entered movies in 1935. Exactly why she did it then and not before eludes me, but it could be that she was feeling lonely after her husband passed, and wanted something to distract her. Truly, acting, could be a pretty good remedy for that. Take note, Jan was to be uncredited in most of her appearances.

The Woman in Red is a Barbara Stanwyck quckie, mid 1930s style. Thin in plot, but Barbara always makes it work. Another meaty role is played by the delicious Genevieve Tobin. Gene Raymond, as the love interest, is his usual wooden self. Recommended only for hardcore Stanwyck fans.

Gold Diggers of 1935 is all you ever  wanted from a Busby Berkeley extravaganza. Thin plot but great dance coreographies and  The Moon’s Our Home is a movie they don’t make anymore – a fast paced, utterly charming and fluffly romantic comedy. In the time of stupid romcoms, I wish they made movies more like this. They are not master pieces, don’t even try to be master pieces, but the rapport between two mains stars (Margaret Sullavan and Henry Fonda – divorced in real life by the time the movie hit the theaters) is pure gold, the script is witty, and the supporting actors are tailor made.

The Case Against Mrs. Ames, made after a well known book, is Madeleine Carroll’s movie all the way. She gets decent support from George Brent (wasn’t he always a second fiddle for a strong female lead? We’ll he ain’t no Gable, if you catch my drift). As one reviewer wrote on IMDB:

English actress Madeleine Carroll delivers a convincing performance in a dramatic role of the kind that she was, unfortunately, given too few opportunities to exploit during her career. As Hope Ames she reveals a compelling sense of emotionalism that was never over-wrought and remained contained, but not blunted, by a cool, elegant exterior. Every thing about her had a sense of elegance and refinement that is so characteristic of the exquisitely beautiful English actress, from her angelic countenance to her flawless diction. Even in the highly fraught scenes where she tries to regain the love and trust of her estranged son never descend into rank sentimentality, but elicit a welling poignancy at the heart-felt expression of affection that only a mother could feel for her child.

Easy to Take  is another one of those lightweight romantic comedies. You might ask, why should I watch ANOTHER movie like that. Well, one reason only: the two stars, Marsha Hunt and John Howard, both perfectly charming in their own way. Plus, there is a bunch of kid talent displayed during radio segment. I like Marsha Hunt, she is such a true Hollywood legend! And Howard was very, very handsome.

The Lady Objects is a movie I like from the get go. A story about a successful female lawyer, who proves that she can be both a career woman and a family woman. And the superb Gloria Stuart plays the lead. Even if it’s a little rough around the edges (like most B movies), it makes a fascinating watching experience.

Men Against the Sky is an aviation movie only aviation buffs should watch. It’s not a bad piece of work, but you can only truly enjoy it if you understand the state of aviation in the early 1930s. On a plus side, it featured Wendy Barrie, my absolute favorite!

Christmas in July is a less known, but also a more sedate, mature Preston Sturges movie. Warped up in a Despresson era story are some very poignant questions about the nature of success and exactly what does our society deem the most important trait a man has? Dick Powell and Ellen Drew are good as the leading couple, but the suporting actor make this a feast: Ernest Truex and Raymond Walburn give top of the shelf performances!

Mexican Spitfire Out West is a Lupe Velez movie with Lupe Velez in a supporting role. What? Oh yes, exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a Leon Errol vehicle all the way. He plays a double role (both staple of the series, Uncle Matt and Lord Epping), and enjoying it to the hilt! Still, like many from the seruies, it’s a dim witted movie with little to recommend it. Donald Woods, who plays Lupe’s husband, is easy on the eyes but a sub par comedian, and the great comic actress Elisabeth Risdon is more or less wasted in her role. While it does have a slight charm of it’s own (I sure like the world charm,don’t I?), not worth watching.

Life with Henry is a typical Jackie Cooper movie of the period. A moronic plot but likable enough actors. Let’s Make Music is an nusual but interesting musical. The leading actress is actually Elizabeth Risdon, playing a musical teacher about to retire, . How many movies can you name with a lead who is both a female and +50 years old? Well, now you have it! The music is supplemented by Bob Crosby and his Bobcats (yes, the brother of that Bing Crosby). It features at least one hit song and turns out to be a good enough musical. Bravo for Hollywood for tackling these kind of stories!

Virginia, a Madeleine Carroll/Fred MacMurray pairing, deals with the aftermath fo the American Civil War. The south is slowly disintegrating, and the Yankees are buying the plantations. melodramatic as it can be, with an unbelievable story and over the top dialogue, it’s still a decent movie, and the leads make it work also (I love, love Madeleine. Such a lady! Fred was a good actor, but I heard so many things about him as a person that I personally don’t like that I can’t separate his movie persona from his real persona. My bad, I admit). Also watch out for Sterling Hayden, that handsome hunk of a man (whom I also like quite a lot).

The Lady Eve is a Preston Sturged classic, and I think it needs no additional words spent on it. Watch it if you haven’t by now!

One Night in Lisbon came next. What to say? As Leonard Maltin wrote about it: Mild screwball comedy with gorgeous Carroll falling in love with flier MacMurray despite interference from his ex (Morison). Looks pedestrian enough. Yet, her next movie is truly a highlight… Sullivan’s Travels is another Sturges classic that needs no introduction. Veronica Lake at her alluring best, mmmm…

Miss Annie Rooney gave Jan a credited role. Huuray! Still, the movie drew very much mixed reviews – from being a charming Shirley Temple movie to being a brain dead, stupid romcom. I guess you can’t account for taste, but Shirley was growing up and could not be bothered to play girls anymore, so this was not wholly unexpected (I could hardly imagine Shirley graduating to serious, Bette Davis dramatic roles at the age of 14! Give the kid a break!). But if you like cute, endearing movies with little plot and a bit of soul, this is it!

After Midnight with Boston Blackie is a Boston Blackie quickie, short but well made. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is the last Preston Sturges movie Jan appeared in. It’s another classic and needs no further describing.

Lady in the Dark is another unusual but interesting movie. It progressivly melts into a fashion and millinery extravaganza, but the core story is something worth taking notice of – one of the few movies dealing directly with deep psychology and the huge role of subconsciousness in our daily life. And it was a big budget production, surprisingly – meaning Hollywood took could take artistical risks when somebody decided it (often movies with these kind of touchy, double edged themes were low budget ones where there was little to lose). Ginger Rogers gives one of her most inspired performances here. The male supporting roles are also pretty decent (Ray Milland, Warner Baxter, Jon Hall)

Practically Yours is Jan’s last movie. Another Claudette Colbert/Fred MacMurray vechicle, while not a completely pedestrian efford, is not a great piece of worth either. it’s a mediocre, nicely made movie worth watching once if you like the leads and enjoy 1940s screwball comedy.

Jan retired after this.


There is only ONE photo of Jan on the net. I apologize for that, but I could not find more. She was more of a socialite than an actress, so this is to be expected.

Jane married Thomas Buckingham on August 20, 1932, at at the age of 19. Buckingham was born on February 25, 1895, making him considerably older. He was a successful director and writer, making his start in silent movies in 1920 and working steadily ever since.

Tom was Jan’s foray into Hollywood society and movies. By all accounts, their marriage was a happy one.

Sadly, it did not last long – Buckingam died on September 7, 1934, after some surgical complications. Jan was devastated and it took her a long time to get over her loss.

Jan was an active woman who traveled widely (she visited Paris several times before WW2 started), and was best friends with several Hollywood personalities, like Ruth Hilliard, Jimmy Ritz and Bob Armstrong.

She resumed dating other man in late 1936. In 1937, she was dating Al Kingston for a few months. In late 1940, she was seen with writer Robert Buckner, the ex of actress Mary Doyle. There were some bogus rumors the two married. Ineterstingly, Jan got married, just not to Robert!

Jan eloped with Pasadena oilman, Taber Mahler, to Las Vegas in early 1942. Taber Hasler Mahler was born on July 13, 1985 in Boston, Massachusets. At some point, he moved to California. In 1935, he married Virginia Alice Moseley, who brought her two daughters in the marriage, Shirley and Antoinette. Virginia’s former husband, Charles Moseley, left the three to fend for themselves. The marriage obviously did not last, and they divorced prior to Taber’s marriage to Jan. Jan more or less gave up her career to become a society wife.

The Mahlers lived the high life in California. They often commuted to Mexico for holidays, along wiht Palm Springs and Kona Coast, and mignled with the local genteel society. In 1960, the whole family moved to Matzatlan, into a huge spanish style colonial home with a living room 66 feet big. They did not have any children.

What exactly happened is a mystery to me, but one moment Jan was happily married to Tabor, even accompanying him to a check up at the St. Luke’s hospital – next we know, she takes a Pasadena home for the summer season. All seemed fine and dandy. However, things were about to change. Her husband got ill, and passed away in April 1962.

After a period of widowhood, Jan remarried in early 1963. Her new husband was named James Moiso and was younger than Jan, born on March 6, 1917 in New Mexico. His parents were of Italian origin.

Anyway, Jan continued her social life, just not as Jan Mahler but Jan Moiso. Her third marriage was a happy one, and was to last until her death.

Jan Buckingham Moiso died on March 12, 1988, in Pasadena, California.

Her widower, James Moiso, died on May 15, 2001, in Pasadena, and was buried next to her.

Gayle Mellott

James Montgomery Flagg  "Gayle Mellott "  Charcoal - Museum Purchase 1971

Gayle Mellott… Stunningly beautiful, not without charm, and with a strong showbiz background… So, what went wrong? I honestly have no idea. Maybe she did not catch the right breaks, maybe she was not “talented” enough, maybe she was too “beautiful”… But, as it happens so frequently in Hollywood, there are no sure answers, and Gayle remains one of many actresses that never realized even a bit of their potential.


Edna Gayle Mellott was born on August 21, 1916, to Lawrence Clement Mellott and his wife Frances Wick in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was the middle of three children – her older brother, Lawrence, was born on March 17, 1914 (in New York). Her younger sister, Nancy, was born on April 27, 1920 in West Virginia.

Her father was from Ohio, and her mother from West Virginia. The family lived in Wheeling with two lodgers. While the papers paint Gayle as a member of a rich southern family, I get the impression her parents were normal, working middle class. Gayle attended high school there, and developed a love for horses, riding form the time she was a child. Her emerging talent in dancing also became a prominent factor in her life from the time she was in her early teens. By the time she graduated from high school, there was no doubt in her mind – she would enter showbiz and make her luck there.

Gayle moved to New York in circa 1935. She used her talent for horse riding, and got a stop at the Billy Rose’s Jumbo revenue. In the meantime, to supplement her income, she modeled for John Powers Agency and did a bit of summer stock. She also studied designing and attended beauty pageants with some frequency. To further her career, she decided to move to Los Angeles in 1938.

Gayle’s father died on November 21, 1938. Her widowed mother decided to move to Los Angeles along with her youngest child, Nancy. In 1940, Frances and her three children (Gayle, Lawrence and Nancy) were living together in Los Angeles.


Gayle followed the same old story line many stunningly beautiful girls went through – the town belle comes to Hollywood, hoping to become a star, but in the ultra competitive environment of Tinsel Town, she’s not the best looking gal in town anymore. Usually these girls have little to to no acting experience (and are mostly chorus girls),never break from the uncredited tier, last for a short time and then fizzle away.

Gayle1Missing Daughters, her first feature, is a crime movie quickie with a solid cast: Richard Arlen, Rochelle Hudson, Marian Marsh and Isabel Jewell. The plot is actually pretty interesting, dealing with a try to break the Broadway Hostess ring, but the movie slid into obscurity and has no reviews on IMDB. Too bad, just one of many with a similar fate.

The Saint in Palm Springs, one of the few George Sanders made playing the famous Leslie Charteris character, this time involved in trying to find priceless stamps. It is an fine, amiable movie, a very good way to spend an hour and a half. Interestingly, Sanders himself hated the movie and considered it the nadir of his career, but he was certainly too harsh with the criticism – while no masterpiece, it’s well made, with Sanders giving his usually cool, sophisticated performance and the plucky Wendy Barrie playing his love interest with her typical gusto (can’t help it, I like Wendy Barrie). The end is quite unexpected and the whodunnit is more interesting than one perceives it at the first glance.

In the Navy  is a level up for Gayle. The plot involves crooner Russ Raymond (Dick Powell) dropping out of the celebrity spotlight, only to join the Navy under the name of Tom Halstead. He is relentlessly pursued by newspaper photographer Dorothy Roberts (Claire Dodd). The movie, despite some shortcomings (silly, silly silly), is a genuinely funny, witty romp. Powell and Dodd are a nice enough couple, and the music is more or less fine. Gayle was seemingly on her way up.

Manpower is Gayle’s most famous movie and most prominent role. The movie boasts not one or two but three top tier names: Marlene Dietrich, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. Even is teh story was a shallow one liner, it couldn’t have been bad with that cast! While it’s not a top movie for either of the stars, . Gayle has the role of one of Marlene’s “girls”.

And then, poof pow, Gayle’s career started to slide, and slide fast. Just as one would hope better roles were waiting around the corner… No.

Gayle5Flying Blind did Gayle’s career no favors. A dull, uninteresting B movie about pilots and airplanes. I was surprised how that cast, otherwise not an untalented lot, gives so little, like they didn’t really want to act here. You can still enjoy the sight of pretty Jean Parker and luscious Marie Wilson, but it’s hardy enough to make a compelling viewing.

Hard Guy came next. I already mentioned this movie, and I am goign to quote a revierew from IDB who summer the movie nicely:

The film is set mostly in a nightclub run by Jack LaRue. LaRue had an up and coming career with MGM, but by 1940 was forced to act in anything–and this fit that bill nicely. As he often did, he played a heavy–a cheep hood hiding in the guise of respectability. His specialty was getting the women in his employ to marry rich men and then get quickie annulments or divorces–splitting the money with him. This was a big problem with the film, as there is no reason for any woman to split the money with LaRue–it just made no sense. Nor did it really make sense for them to give up on their ‘sugar baby’ so quickly. When one of the women develops a conscience, LaRue kills her and makes it look like her new husband did it! So it’s up to a bunch of idiots to somehow unravel the mystery

Yup, what more do I need to write?

The Falcon Takes Over is another in the Falcon series of movies with George Sanders. Still, it’s not the typical Falcon movie, having a shade darker atmosphere, a complex story packed into 65 minutes. George Sanders was always the epitome of elegance and charm in his roles, and this one is no exception. This is by far the best of Gayle’s roles in her post-Manpower filmography.

Gayle3Cinderella Jones is an idiotic film. There, I said it. Okay, while I can’t claim it’s one fo the worst movie or anything similar, it has an absurd story, and the actors were obviously bored by it, you get the idea they wanted to be anywhere but on the sound stage. Just look at this summary:

Judy Jones, sings with a band and also works at an aircraft plant. She takes part in a “missing heirs” radio program and is discovered to be an heiress to a fortune. But the will provides that she must be married by a certain time or lose the inheritance. She then has to decide whether rivals-for-her-hand Tommy Coles or Bart Williams, loves her for herself or for her fortune. What’s a girl to do?

Oh yes, what more is there to add? While some movies take brainless plot but the sheer charm and vivacity of the leads push them into enjoyable viewing, not so much for this movie.

Gayle’s career was, to be frank, on the total downslide, and she retired after this movie.


Gayle was a Republican, and passionate about the choice, even trying to run for congress in her home state (she lost, obviously).

In November 1935, Gayle was just beginning to get her name in the papers for the first time, and she was dating a T. Sweeney. In late 1936, Gayle the papers pegged Gayle as a Californian bride to be. We never learn the name of the lucky fella, and it seems the marriage did not happen. In April 1937, she was seen with C. Vanderbilt Jr., who was till convalesing from his car crash. Sadly, Vanderbilt was quite the ladies man, and Gayle was probably just another notch on his (pretty big) belt. In May 1937, Gayle dated the clean cut, perfect American Yale boy, Larry Kelley. This was just what the society of the time expected from a girl like Gayle – date such a steady, dependable guy, get married, have kids. Yet, it seems Gayle was not quite the type to take that advice…

In February 1943, it was reported that the luscious Gayle was dating Al Busiel, the millionaire cosmetics firm executive. The two weer wed in early march 1943.

Alfred Hamilton Busiel was born on 1900, in Chicago, Illinois, to Aaron Cohen and Miriam Cohen. His siblings were Simon Cohen Coates; Esther Wallace; Ida Patten (Padnos, Cohen); Otto (Abraham) Jay Cohen; Syma Busiel; i Florence Hamburg. He was a savvy businessman and became a executive with the lady Esther Comspetics company by the time he was 40 years old. 

Gayle4He was married once before to Carolyn Busiel, and had a daughter with her. Unfortunately, Gayle and Al’s marriage was a catastrophe from the very beginning. At the time when most newlyweds experience bliss as they will never experience again, Gayle and Al quarreled constantly. Busiel tried to remedy it with expensive gifts, but hey, we all know that never works, right? By September, it was more or less all they could take, and a separation occured. In November, it was in the divorce court.

Some dust was raised int he papers due to the divorce,  but than again, the papers just loved it when a showgirl marries a millionaire after a short courtship and then divorced him not long after. They preyed over such opportunities like vultures. Gayle accused her husband of running away fromt he couple’s shared home with some valuables and the horses her gifted her (WHAT? How?!). After some tiffing, Gayle was awarded a handsome sum (undisclosed in the papers, unfortunately), but had to return the 50 000$ necklace he gifted her. Some fine gentleman he is!

After his divorce from Gayle, Busiel married Suzette Childeroy Compton, a noted writer and member of the jet set. It was her second marriage. Busiel died suddenly in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1951.

Little is known what happened to Gayle after the divorce. She gave up her career, and slipped into total obscurity. I have a nagging feeling I once read that she dated George Raft in the 1950s, but I could not find that newspaper article anywhere. I have no idea if she ever remarried, but she died with her maiden name, signaling she was single at the time.

Edna Gayle Mellott died on in December 16, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.


Terry Walker


Likeable, pretty blonde ingenue who started a singer and ended up as a low budget western lead.  Well no, that’s not quite all you can say about Terry Walker. Why? Because, she was “Twice born” in Hollywood – first under the name of Alice Dahl, and then under the name we all know her. Proof that good publicity can change your identity (literary!), Terry Walker and her dual career are great studies of the way Hollywood works and how far it’s ready to go to make someone a success. Hers is a benevolent example, but it’s clear how much illusions, lies and deception play a large part in the Hollywood star machines.


Theresa “Terry” Norberg was born on January 7, 1913, in Petersburg, Alaska to Adolf and Alice G. Norberg. Her younger brother, born in 1918, was called Zach. Her father was born in Michigan to Norwegian parents, and moved to Alaska in the early 1900s.

Terry was determined to become an entertainer, and was early to start, leaving the family home in the late 1920s, when she was little more than 17 years old (I have no idea if she graduated from high school). She was soon making her living as a lounger singer in Los Angeles, and entered movies under the name of Alice Dahl in 1933.


For all purposed, Terry started her career as Alice Dahl. Her career as Alice was pretty much unremarkable, but hardy a complete waste. She was given leading roles right off the bat, playing in low budgets westerns The WhirlwindDeadwood Pass and Coyote Trails. I wrote enough about what happends when an actress scores it big in the low budget westenr territory. Not a bad start, but usulaly something extra has to happen to push her career out of the rut. In the meantime, Alice appeared uncredited in several other movies – an early mystery talkie, The Phantom Express, western comedy Thrill Hunter, musical George White’s Scandals, the psychological drama Jealousy, and the Laurel and Hardy classic, Babes in Toyland. Alice had more prominent roles in anther railway mystery, Twisted Rails, and a boy-dog movie, When Lightning Strikes. She also made two comedic shorts, Horses’ Collars and His Old Flame, and ended her career with the great Edward G. Robinson/Jean Arthur comedy, The Whole Town’s Talking.

Then some Hollywood magic happened. A nifty publicist decided to make Terry a star – but Alice Dahl was obviously not star material, so he remedied it by simply changing her complete persona. He even went so far as to claim that Terry had been living for 10 years in Hollywood and that nobody noticed her before this. Quite fishy. Yet, it worked, and Terry Walker was born, to have a slightly better career.

Terry skipped the uncredited grooming period and embraced supporting roles from the start. her firts movie was And Sudden Death. Like most of the quickie movies clocking at below 70 minutes,  is a mediocre fare at best, and a formulaic, uninteresting fare at the worst. Luckily, it was graced by two charming leads, Randolph Scott and Frances Drake, who elevate it slightly. Yes, it had a predictable plot and no great dramatic value, but it’s not a worst case scenario.

TerryWalker323 1/2 Hours Leave is one of those idiotic WW2 musicals with a stupid plot and forgettable music. It was Terry’s first chance to play a leading role, however, and it’s notable if nothing than for that fact. James Ellison plays such a dummy it’s impossible to like him, let alone believe that such a man can be a competent soldier. Terry got some kudos as being a lovely and talented songstress – but no mentions of any acting accolades were given (as her role required none, it’s not surprising).

Mountain Music is a typical Martha Raye/Bob Burns musical. if you like hillbilly humor, by all means, go ahead! Blonde Trouble is an Eleanor Whitney showcase that failed – Eleanor was one of the few girls pushed into massive publicity but  didn’t have the pizzazz to make themselves real stars. The musical is completely forgotten today.

Eleanor continued to appear in mid tier, good but not much more movies: This Way Please, a Betty Grable/Charles Rodgers low budget musical, Federal Bullets a movie about the G men with Milburn Stone in the lead (where Terry again plays a prominent female character), Delinquent Parents the very low budget but surprisingly decent weepie dealing with the aftermath of adoption, the uninspired, muddled musical western On the Great White Trail (where she again was the leading lady), comedy short, America’s Safest Tire.

By this time, terry was pushed into westerns and firmly got stuck in them. While it is a redeeming feature for a few actress, bread and butter for most, it’s a kiss of death for anybody who wants a serious, dramatic career. While I have no idea what exactly Terry went for, she did not get that revered, high quality career. The westerns, all low budget, and all more or less the same to a person ignorant of the genre (like me) are Billy the Kid in TexasTake Me Back to Oklahoma and The Medico of Painted Springs

TerryWalker4On the other hand, the rest of Terry’s filmography is more diverse. Invisible Ghost, a horror thriller with a genuine creepy atmosphere but not much else (and let’s not forget Bela Lugosi). Dangerous Lady is, as the reviewer wrote, “Cheap Thin Man ripoff from PRC attempts to use Neil Hamilton and June Storey in the roles of sophisticated detectives, and they are good. The rest of the cast, alas, isn’t up to their acting ability and make a mess of the story. Some interesting early film-noir photography and the leads make this watchable.” Hellzapoppin’ is a very good “chaotic” comedy int he vein of the Marx brothers with the comedic duo Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. And then, like many of her contemporaries, Terry gave up her career for marriage.

Let’s be clear, Terry was not an actress who retired because she was a talentless hack or her career was in shambles. In fact, she could have had a decent careerin the mid tier, and made a living in Hollywood for at least a few more years. While she was not a top acting talent, she was pretty enough, had a good singing voice, and enough charisma to go by (many have succeeded on less). But, she chose marriage over her career and that was that.

Terry returned to the movie set just one more time, in 1944, to act in Voodoo Man, a horror with all the typical cliches – Bela Lugosi playing a quack scientist (who wants to revive his dead wife), Keith Carradine as his dimwitted henchman, Henry Hull as the local sheriff and a tons of pretty girls who just scream (and Terry is among them). This did not lead to further movie offers, and Terry retired for good.


When in transition from Alice Dahl to Terry Walker, a whole web of stories was spun to make it seamless. Her past was forgotten, as were her previous roles and she started from a blank slate. She even had a story about how she was discovered! The story goes: In late 1935, Terry posed for Norman Rockwell, eminent photographer whose subjects often end up as movie starlets, and the painting was used in a cover for a national magazine. Nothing big happened and she continued her singing career. At some point in early 1936, she got a gig in Miami. While she was on the East Coast, a talent scout saw the Rockwell painting, liked what he saw and tried to find the girl. Rockwell  only knew her name, but had no idea what happened to her. Messengers were sent to her home town in Alaska, then to New York City, Phoenix and Syracuse. The chase continued with little success. When he finally located her in Miami, she was asked to return to Los Angeles to take a screen test. After passing it, she signed with Paramount. Nifty story for sure :-)

Terry got involved with the violinist Jan Rubini in about 1935, while she was still Alice Dahl. When she was resurrected as Terry Walker, she made two movies in Hollywood, and then took a six month hiatus to go to New York and try for a six months trial marriage period. The press ha no idea who the guy was, and there was much speculation over the nature of this unusual decision. And with good cause, it seems.

Basically, there were several problems with this whole set up. The biggest problem was that Rubini was married to Adel Rubini – and she was not thrilled. They made the papers in 1937 when Mrs. Rubini sued Terry for alienation of affection (or something similar, you get the point). In a plot worthy of soap operas, Terry wanted to marry Rubini, but he was reluctant. Unfortunately, it had little to do with any amorous reasons – it was more a matter of figures. After weighting his options, Rubini got his math right – it would be too expensive to divorce Adel now, since she would take pretty much most of his property. The two reconciled and made a pact that he must not be unfaithful to her for the next two years. If he keeps his end fo the bargain, he gets their (formerly) shared property back. I was thinking, reading this, okay, so he and Terry were over and he was back with his wife for good. No! Poof, several months later there are reports that Rubini is divorcing his wife to marry Teresa. They finally did marry in 1940.

Several sources lists Rubini’s birth year as 1904, but that cannot be valid – his son was born in 1919! It is more likely Rubini was born in the early 1890s, but since he was born in abroad, he conveniently made himself at least 10 years younger when he came to the US. (there is another source that claims he was born on April 5, 1897 – this is way more probable. He could have been 22 when his son was born – very much plausible for that time).

TerryWalker1Anyway, his life story: Jan Child Rubini was born in either Switzerland or Stockholm, Sweden to an Italian father and a Russian mother, he was a musical prodigy, playing the violin from early childhood. He moved tot he US at some point, and married Diane D’Aubrey in the early to mid 1910s. Diane was older than Jan – she was born on November 11, 1889 in Michigan. Their son Jan Mario Rubini was born on April 29, 1919 in New York. Jan and Diane divorced (have no idea exactly when, but prior to 1928). He moved to Australia at some point, and there met his second wife Adele Crane (she appeared with him in a musical show). He and Adele married in 1929.

Terry gave up movies to raise a family with Jan. The couple had two children, two sons: Michel Rubini, born on December 3, 1942, and David Alan Rubini, born on December 15, 1945. Terry had a miscarriage in 1953. Both children were musically inclined: David ended up a prodity at the piano, and Michel played the violin at only 4 years old.

I quote IMDB for information about terry’s older son, Michael:

Michel Rubini was born into a musical family on December 3, 1942 in Los Angeles, California. He started playing piano at age three and began his professional music career as an accompanist to his violinist father Jan Rubini. Michel started playing blues and gospel music at age thirteen and left classical music behind at age eighteen to focus instead on blues, jazz, and rock’n’roll. Rubini was a much sought after Los Angeles session musician in the 60s and 70s; among the artists he has performed on albums for are Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Frank Zappa, Barbra Streisand, and Sonny & Cher (Rubini also arranged singles for Sonny & Cher as well as Maureen McGovern). While working for the legendary Motown label he produced and arranged albums for such artists as Junior Walker and Thelma Houston (he also co-wrote three songs for Houston’s album “The Devil In Me”). Moreover, Rubini has toured extensively with several groups that include Seals & Croft and Loggins and Messina. Michel has not only composed the scores for such movies as “The Hunger,” “The New Kids,” “Band of the Hand,” “Manhunter,” and “Nemesis,” but also composed the scores for episodes of a handful of TV shows that include “The Hitchhiker,” “Capitol,” and “Tales from the Crypt.” He has recorded two solo albums and runs the Rubini Gallery of Fine Art. Rubini spends his spare time between his homes in Porta Vallarta, Mexico, Palm Springs, California, and Oahu, Hawaii.

Rubini was a prominent musician of his time, and performer all over the world. Terry followed him dutifully, often with the children.

The Rubinis divorced in the early 1960s. Rubini remarried (for the fourth time) to Helen in 1965. Terry never remarried, and continued living in California.

Terry Rubini died on May 8, 1977 in San Diego, California.

Rubini died on December 2, 1989.



Janice Logan


Janice Logan was an actress much preferred by her studio, Paramount, and excepted to achieve a top career. Despite the initial burning desire to become a great actress, she changed her priorities and decided to get married, leaving Hollywood behind. It is clear not many actresses were given a chance that she was given, and ever fewer of them chose to forgo it – but the question remains, could Janice have been a true acting tour-de-force? Could she had become the next Bette Davis or Joan Crawford? Since she gave up to soon, before acting in a substantial movie, we can never tell. What we have today shows us a pretty and charming woman, but no great actress. Maybe, if she could have developed her skills… Yet, as I said, we will never know. PS: Much of the information has been taken from Laura Wagner’s superb article about Janice (you can read the article here). Thank you Laura for introducing this fine actress to me :-)


Shirley Logan was born on May 29, 1917, to Stuart Logan and Gladys Goodrich in Chicago, Illinois. Stuart Logan, born in 1887, was the son of Frank and Josephine Hancock Logan, both members of prominent Chicagoan familes. He was working in the investment firm Logan and Bryan at the time. Her mother was from an equally prestigious family, her father being Horace Goodrich.

They married on November 1, 1910, and three daughters followed: Phoebe (born on December 24, 1911), Shirley (born May 29, 1917), and Laurette (born on October 17, 1918). A double tragedy struck the family in 1922 – first, Gladys gave birth to a stillborn son on February 5, and then died on July 15.

Stuart married to Lulu Logan sometime after 1925. As a member of the upper class, Shirley was nothing if not well educated – first at Rosemary Hall in Greenwich, Connecticut, and then  Fermata Preparatory School in Aiken, South Carolina. Like many ladies of her generation, she ended her educating at a woman’s liberal arts college, Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York. She was popular on the campus, and was even voted the best dressed woman.

Already bitten by the acting bug from an early age, after graduation Shirley started acting for a Connecticut stock company, when a talent scount noticed her and suggested she try movies. Shirley landed in Hollywood in early 1939, and her journey began.


Janice appeared in only six movies, and only four were made in Hollywood. Now, this truly is a wasted talent, since Janice was not just an uncredited face, but a leading lady who showed much promise.

JaniceLogan5Janice was at the right time at the right place, and was a member of the Paramount Golden Circle almost from the moment she signed with the studio (the other in the circle were, Louise Campbell, Joseph Allen, Judith Barrett, Patricia Morison, Susan Hayward, Robert Preston, Ellen Drew, William Henry, William Holden, Betty Field, Jayce Mattews, Evelyn Keyes and so on…). When we take the sum of all parts, most of the golden circle never broke into stardom, let alone became lasting Hollywood legends (only William Holden and Susan Hayward did this. Patricia Morrison, Robert Preston and Evelyn Keyes became well known thespians, but never legends, Ellen Drew and Betty Field did some notable B work, and the others did not even scratch the surface).

Janice made her debut in Undercover Doctor, an Edgar J. Hoover penned extravaganza. No, not really an extravaganza, but it’s an interesting experiential that ultimately fails to do its job. It’s neither suspenseful nor dramatic, and falls flat in terms of script writing and acting. Worth watching only if one is interested in Hoover and his work.

Janice appeared with Betty Field, a fellow Paramount Golden Circle, in What a Life . Everybody known this type of a movie – they are small, colorful, low key, feel good movies with no big plot or incredible acting achievements, but solidly done and with a positive message. So, if you are all for that kind of films, by all means go ahead. Janice is overshadowed by Field, who had a better (and much longer), so the comparisons are hardy fair.

JaniceLogan2Now, if Janice will ever be remembered, it’s because of Dr. Cyclops. A weird movie if there ever was one. We have the lead, a crazy scientist, Dr. Cyclops, who summons three scientists (Thomas Coley, Janice Logan, Charles Halton) to his remote South American laboratory to seek their advice on his secret project. Janice has the good luck of playing the only female role, making her feminine center of attention, but it’s Albert Dekker’s movie all the way. Dekker was unusually the second banana in movies, not being conventionally handsome, but he was a fine actor who could give a very nuanced performance when he was given the chance. His Dr. Cyclops is a powerfully tragic figure, someone you equally pity and hate. To make things even worse for Janice, it you put Dekker aside, the special effects draw much more attention than any of the supporting cast. They are very good for the time, and deservedly got an Oscar nomination.

Opened by Mistake is one hot mess. The movie itself is so obscure it doesn’t even have a summary in IMDB, but I dug up some newspaper reviews from May 1940 and looked it up on Wikipedia, and boy, what a plot! A guile hero who just wants to go on vacation, a crate “opened by mistake” hiding a body, Janice playing a woman who is trying to find a million dollars hidden in a similar crate, a banker who stole those million dollars, the cops hot on their trail, mistaken identities, one nasty publisher, so on and so on. The convoluted plot does nobody any favors, and the mix and match obviously did not work this time. No, it’s not the worst you could find, but not the best either.

Janice left Hollywood for private reasons after this movie. It’s a shame, as she was truly on the way up, and could have been another Susan Hayward. Or maybe not, but we’ll never know now.

Janice made tow more movies, but they are Mexican production and are largely forgotten today (Summer Hotel and El as negro ). That’s all.


Janice was 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighted 118 lbs, and was called “a perfect model” in 1939 by a bunch of photographers. Janice had luxurious, naturally curly hair but like many curly haired woman, wished it was straight (calling it bothersome).

Janice was hailed as a Chicago debutante who decided to make her fortunes in Hollywood. She undetook a European vacation before she came to Tinsel Town, yet, the papers managed to neglect her rather colorful history that included a youthful marriage abd more.

JaniceLogan3In June 1936, Shirley was married to Jackson Reade, a New York stock broker. Reade was born on May 24, 1900, in Pennsylvania, making him quite a bit older than Janice. He lived in New York City from 1919.

Laura Wagner writes in the article about what happened next:

“Seven months later, Shirley’s father and sister Phoebe persuaded the teenager to leave her new husband and live with Phoebe in Los Angeles. Two months later, Reade filed a $150,000 “lost-love suit” against the Logan family. He claimed they loved each other and wrote letters constantly, but they were being kept apart; he was convinced that his pregnant wife was “being kept a virtual prisoner because she wishes to see me.” His case was thrown out of court and the marriage was annulled. On March 10, 1937, Shirley gave birth to a daughter, Phoebe, who was to be raised by Shirley’s sister Loraine.”

As I said, all of this was hushed when Shirley became Janice and took a new identity. In an early interview, Janice told the press: “I thought when I finally got a motion picture contract, that I was through with schools. I had been in six or seven of them and I thought that was enough. But I didn’t know Hollywood. Today, I’m an actress, but I still go to school. In Hollywood, my education started all over again. I had to go to Paramount’s dramatic school. I took lessons in hair dress and make up. I even learned how to walk, stand and sit gracefully for the benefit of the camera. In the wardrobe department, I learned what clothes to wear – and how to wear them. It seems the studio insists all its younger players to take dramatic coaching when they are not in a picture. I’ve found there is plenty to learn.”

While filming Dr. Cyclops, Janice suffered a wardrobe malfunction – while running around clad only in a sheet, the sheet caught on a nail and she was left naked for a brief while. To stop this from occurring in the future, Janice wore sarongs from then on.

In January 1940, Janice was seriously ill from influenza, but managed to recover in time to continue her film work. In February 1941, she was called the best undressed woman in the States by a group of college students who wanted to parody the “best dressed” title. Her runner up was Marlene Dietrich (some runner up!).

JaniceLogan4Janice, however, was not happy with the title, fearing what her parents would say if they heard of it. She needn’t have feared – her father was in good humor about it, even teasing her to the press. Not long after, Janice threw a party for nine men that helped her in her quest for cinematic immortality. It was a good publicity play, but Janice seemed like a genuinely nice woman: cameraman Henry Hallenberger, who shot her first Paramount test, said, “I’ve been at Paramount studio for 23 years, and this is the first time an actress has invited me to have my picture taken with her.”

Yet, just as her star was rising, other plans took precedence. Janice met and fell in love with french journalist, Jacques Schoeller. Schoeller came to New York from Europe on the Ille de France and they met while he was in the US. He returned to France at some point in the early 1940, and soon Janice lost all trace of him.

This was sad but understandable – Jacques was in a country soon to be engulfed into chaos of WW2. Janice was so distraught over the fate of her fiancee that she suffered a series of medical maladies – when the situation did not improve, she was made by the doctors to take a three month leave from work. She did not plan to return to the movie lot (opting to get married instead), and, in a very generous gesture by the studio, was given a special contract that stated she could return whenever she was ready to resume. This showed just how good Janice was, and how much the top brass wanted her to continue her career. Sadly, it was not meant to be.

JaniceLogan6In May 1940 she went to Europe to find Jacques. What exactly transpired in Europe is unknown (why was Jacques missing? How did she find him? Where?), but the two reunited and married on November 25, 1940, in Bougival, a Paris suburb.

Jacques Charles Marie Schoeller was born on August 11, 1909, making him 6 years older than Janice, in Paris, to Rene Schoeller and Suzane Feraud. He traveled a great deal, often to Mexico. They returned the States in February 1941 on board the Monterey, and went on to live in Chicago.

She adopted her husband’s lifestyle and traveled a widely. She visited Mexico several times in the 1940s. She and Schoeller divorced at some point.

Laura Wagner wrote that Janice married Thomas Bell – I could not find any mentions of the union, I just know that it was sometime after 1955. The couple allegedly moved to Glendale, California.

While I could not find a death certificate, Shirley Bell died on October 23, 1965, in Glendale, California, in a house fire.

Her former husband Jackson Reade died in October 1981.