Mildred Coles

Mildred Coles2

Pretty looking, demure Mildred Coles was just a student when the big, fat doors of Hollywood were opened to her, and the whole world seemed to be at her feet. Yep, that is what it looks like when you are 19, have just signed a contract and were expected to make tons of movies opposite well known stars of the day. Sadly, even this success story (and it is a success story, not many girl get to this step!) did not warrant a continuation, and by the mid 1940s, she was down to low budget movies and westerns, and in the end, retirement before the age of 30.

EARLY LIFE:

Mildred Blanche Coles was born on July 18, 1920, in Los Angeles, California, to Thomas R. Coles and Josephine Elizabeth Warrick. Her Ohio born father was a vice president of a company and her Illinois born mother a housewife. She was their only child.

Mildred grew up in Van Nuys and attended Van Nuys High School. She was nicknamed Milly by her parents, and, despite growing up in a well off homestead, helped her mother around the house, washing dishes and cooking.

Mildred attended Occidental Colledge in Los Angeles, and there she was noticed by a Paramount talent scout, who signed her in 1938 and thus her movie career started.

CAREER:

Mildred had a few uncredited roles when she first came to Hollywood, and in pretty high flying movies at that: Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever, the absolute classic The Women, where she played a debutante, and 5th Ave Girl, a charming movie with Ginger Rogers.

As a part of the publicity gag, Mildred changed her name, briefly, to Gloria Carter, and appeared as the character with the same name in Our Neighbors – The Carters. This could be a forgotten movie, as it had no reviews on IMDB, and there is not even a summary written for it. I could only find Music with cues for the picture released in 1939 (you have it on the Internet Archive).

MildredColes3From then on, Mildred got up on the Hollywood ladder, slowly but surely. She appeared, uncredited, in Ladies Must Live, a bubbly but ultimately moronic B romance movie for Warner Bros, alongside Wayne Morris and Rosemary Lane. The next was Money and the Woman, a crime programmer (shorter than 60 mins), with Jeffery Lynn (an actor I admire) and Brenda Marshall in the leads. The plot is a bit above average, showing how you can steal money from the bank without staging a heist of a gun robbery. Still, is levels out to a standard programmer fare in the end.

No Time for Comedy  still had her in the uncredited tier, but it was a step up. This is no B movie, but it’s not easy to appraise it. The plot concerns a comedy writer trying to “mature” and try and write a tragedy, with tragic results. As one reviewer nicely put, it’s a uneasy mix of drama and comedy, a tricky meta genre Hollywood likes to do even today. It’s notoriously hard to pull off, and while not completely off the mark, the movie isn’t as successful as it would like in the balancing act. The cast is superb – Jimmy Stewart, Rosalind Russell, Charles Ruggles, Genevive Tobin, and are the real reason to watch this movie.

Mildred’s next venture into the uncredited territory is A Dispatch from Reuter’s, a biopic showing the life of Julius Reuter, who created the first world wide information system. The man strength of the movie is Edward G. Robinson in the lead role – like in most of his movie work, he’s magnificent and almost impossible to outshine. While not completely accurate (what do you expect from Hollywood biopics?), it’s a well made movie, moving at a brisk pace and with superb editing. The rest of the cast is very solid: Gene Lockhart, Otto Kruger, Nigel Bruce, Albert Bassermann and Edna Best. Eddie Albert, an actor I adore, who plays Robinsons’s assistant, has the most thankless role int he movie.

Santa Fe Trail  is a famous Errol Flynn western. I dislike westerns and am hardy the one to judge them, so I’ll just skip this one. I like Errol and find it hard to imagine him as a cowboy, but hey, he made several highly popular westerns in the 1940s, so he must have made something right!  She made a short comedy reel, March On, Marines, with Dennis Morgan, the singing Irishman of the 1940s. It’s a typical saccharine, over idealized portrayal of marine life. She made an appearance in Cliff Edwards and His Buckaroos, and was uncredited int he superb Gary Cooper movie, Meet John Doe, perhaps the best movie she appeared in.

Mildred finally caught her moment of fame in Play Girl, a Kay Francis comedy. Make no mistake, Kay was way past her prime in 1941, and her movies were not top moneymakers, this one being no exception. The plot, as it goes is, as taken from a reviewer on IMDB: “An aging “gold-digger” Grace (Kay Francis), realizes that she’s too old (over 30) to hoodwink vain older men. She takes on a destitute nineteen-year-old Ellen (Mildred Coles), and grooms her to be her successor.” The movie gives some subtle hints of the dark side of “high class call girl” living, but it’s a light comedy at it’s very heart. Kay overshadows just about everybody else, including Mildred. Let’s be fair, as the ingenue, Mildred has a much drier, less interesting and meaty role than Kay. This is always the case where there are female dual roles in movies. Yet, it was a good start for Mildred, and she had something to look forward to.

MildredColes6Whatever you can say about the movie, Mildred was never uncredited again, a feast in itself in Hollywood, where one day you are the king, and the other day a pauper. Maybe her way was started. Her next leading role was in Here Comes Happiness.  The plot is a copy-paste of “It happened one night”, with a rich heiress trying to wiggle out of the gilded cage she lives in and enjoy her life at the normal middle class level (without her intended knowing she is a heiress, of course!). It’s a typical slow moving, gentle movie of the time Hollywood rarely makes anymore – no surprises, no big names, simple plot based on misunderstandings. MIldred is good enough, and so is her leading man, Edward Norris.

Hurry, Charlie, Hurry is a Leon Erroll vehicle all the way. Like in most of his movies, Errol tries to escape form his wife, telling her he is going there and there and doing this and that, but in fact going the totally opposite and way and doing something totally different. This time, he tells her he meeting with the Vice-President but goes on a fishing trip. He befriends some Native Americans and the fun starts when they come to visit him. Mildred plays the long suffering wife here, but, make no mistake, it’s Errol’s movie and Mildred is little more than a nice set piece.

After such a let down, Mildred got slightly bigger fish to fry. Lady Scarface is an interesting movie, if nothing than for the role of gender in its plot. Lady Scarface is, of course, a woman, played by the delicious Judith Anderson, and a hard core mob boss, who hold court with an iron fist over her group of petty criminals. Women rule in this picture, and man are mostly useless – as exemplified by the feeble tries of the male police officers to nab Lady Scarface. While it’s not a very good movie, with a thin plot and B movie values, it is Judith Anderson that makes it a worthwhile experience.

Mildred took up comedy afterwards, quite a change from her previous fare. Scattergood Meets Broadway is a mediocre, little seen comedy with Guy Kibbee in the leading role. Sleepytime Gal is a typical Judy Canova movie – if you like her brand of humor, than this is definitely a above average movie for you, if not, don’t watch it. Judy always played the same variation her her screen persona, but she sure had charisma and could hold together even the weakest of plots (this movie is not particular exception).

So This Is Washington is a typical wartime production of the early 1940s. The main plot concerns the contract of small town America and the big town America, and yet, it reached a nice conclusion of unity and how it’s not that important where you come from. It’s a nice, breezy and semi funny movie, and it takes some knowledge of the times to truly enjoy it. Chester Lauck and Norris Guff as the two leads, are a passable comedy duo, the predecessors of the two man comedy duo still prevalent today (just watch Dumb and Dumber!). Mildred plays a secretary, but it’s not big role, as she’s showed behind the spotlight held by the two main stars.

MildredColes5What was once a promising career was slowly melting by this time, and Mildred started going (GASP!) westerns. I said it lots of times, and I’m gonna say it even more – for most actresses, this is the sure way to movie work rock bottom. Same here. Already her first, Song of the Drifter  is a an completely unknown musical western. The rest of the westerns Mildred made are: Oklahoma BadlandsMarshal of AmarilloBack Trail and Desperadoes of Dodge City. I have no patience to even try to pretend I’m interested in them, so excuse me for the lack of info :-) .

In between the westerns, Mildred squeezed some B (maybe C) level movies that she is best remembered for today. Bob and Sally is her crowning achievement. But is it a good thing? No, I don’t think so. This story is similar to the story of Thelma White, an actress remembered today only because she acted in a exploitation movie int he 1940s (in her case, Reefer Madness). Yes, unlike many other talented actress, she is remembered, but is that remembrance good? Let’s get back to Bob and Sally. Here is a brief synopses of the movie I found on this page:

The problem of young girls who embark on sexual relations without advice from their parents, who are too embarrassed; one has a still born baby after syphilis; the other an abortion and nearly dies.

Yep, you do the math. Is it a master piece with a compelling story great performances and good production values? I don’t think so. Should Mildred, not a wholly untalented actress, and certainly a nice looking girl, be remembered for? It’s hard to say, and depends on hos highly one values “notoriety”. At least she is remembered today (even that is open to discussion, ask a normal classic movie fan if he knows who Mildred Coles is and wait for the answer!)

MildredColes7A better movie (IMHO) and a much better fit for Mildred was Blonde Ice, a low budget thriller wholly elevated to a new level due to the great performance by the leading lady, Leslie Brooks. The plot deals with a lady who murders her way up the social scale. No, she can’t truly parallel the great Jean Gillies in Decoy, a another movie by the same director, Jack Bernhard (boy, did he like his women fatal!), but she more than holds her own. The movie is not as good as Decoy at any measure, but as I said, it holds it’s own in the story and acting department. Interesting to note that Leslie Brooks married Russ Vincent, the man who plays a sleazy blackmailer in the movie.

Mildred’s last movie, Bungalow 13, is another little known crime caper. The lead is played by George Sander’s brother Tom Conway, sadly always in his career a “poor man’s George Sanders” (playing charming but rough detectives). The plot is typical of the genre, and features detective Christopher Adams, who chases a precious antique jade lion through the Mexican cafes, auto courts, and the seamy side of Los Angeles. Heard that one before? A hundred times for sure! For the fans of 1940s crime movies it’s a treat, for others not even worth watching.

Mildred knew that, by this time, there was little chance of her getting to first base, and gave up her career not long after.

PRIVATE LIFE:

When Mildred entered Hollywood in 1938, she was almost married, and thus, no big scandals nor romance items for her. Well, who washer intended?

ca. 1940 --- Actress Mildred Coles Wearing a Swimsuit --- Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

ca. 1940 — Actress Mildred Coles Wearing a Swimsuit — Image by © John Springer Collection/CORBIS

Mildred married attorney John Rodney Frost on June 18, 1939, at not yet 19 years old. Frost was born in October 9, 1913 to Winter R Frost and Faith Orton in Utah. He graduated from Freemont High School in Los Angeles, received his A.B. degree from U.C.L.A., and graduated from U.S.C. Law School. He managed a campus milk route to pull himself through college.

In 1940, Frost became a Douglas Aircraft Co. wage and salary administrator negotiating with unions, and spent much of his time in Washington.

Mildred was mostly in the papers due to her (soaring then failing) career. I do know that she had a appendectomy in 1941. The Frosts had four children: Josephine Faith Frost, born on May 14, 1942, Susan Elizabeth Frost, born on October 21, 1944, Jacqueline May Frost, born on March 5, 1949, and Sally Anne Frost, born on September 6, 1950. After the birth of her third daughter, Mildred effectively retired from movies and take care of her family.

The Frosts divorced on January 27, 1979, in San Diego, California. Frost died on December 4, 1985 in California.

Mildred remarried to a Mr. Call sometimes in the 1980s.

Mildred Call died on August 31, 1995, in Paradise, Butte County, California.

 

Kathleen Fitz

KathleenFitz

After researching Kathleen Fitz, I can honestly say I am much impressed by this woman. While she did not have a big Hollywood career, she was a rich and varied life in other areas, some of them much more important than Tinsel Town. Smart and capable, Kathleen tailored her own destiny, was a tireless worked dedicated to her craft and later a devoted wife and mother.

EARLY LIFE:

Kathleen Adkisson Fitz was born on August 7, 1908 in Texas, to Theophilus Fitz and Mineola Adkisson. Her mother was previously married and gave birth to Kathleen’s older half brother, Joshua Westmoreland, in 1900.

Kathleen was brought up in a artistic and progressive family: her father, Theophilus, was a trained musician and held the spot of dean of music at the Colorado College of Education. As a result, Kathleen grew up in Denver, and was involved in music and the arts from her earliest years. In the late 1910s, the family moved to Los Angeles.

Kathleen was a serious, career minded woman with a strong strike for the academics. After attending high school in Los Angeles, she graduated from Leland Stanford University (where she regularly appeared in the college plays, including  “A kiss for Cinderella” in 1927, and was in the Alpha Phi sorority), and got her M.A. degree from University of Wisconsin. She was also very close to her family – in 1930, they still lived together in Los Angeles with Joshua’s wife and small daughter.

In the early 1930s, Kathleen worked at the University of Wisconsin on her pHD, at the department of education. She was very active in the drama department, staring in several shows: “Cyrano de Bergerac“, “The insect comedy” and “Pygmalion” (as Eliza Doolittle). Soon, her love for the theatricals overshadowed her devotion to her doctoral thesis, and she left it all behind to go and study in the famed Pasadena Community Playhouse. This paved her way to Hollywood in 1933.

CAREER:

Kathleen only made one movie in Hollywood, Eight Girls in a Boat in 1934. Now, here is a film you can see in two ways: as an excuse to show off eight of well-developed ingenues in shorts, tight blouses and bathing suits. This automatically means the movie is a shallow albeit fun exploitation of young. On the other hand, one can see it a a drama dealing with a “quite commonplace theme of illicit motherhood with considerable delicacy and tact” (taken from this review here). However you choose to look at it, there is no denying that Dorothy Wilson was an actress of great warmth and gentleness that never amounted to much (maybe I can do a profile of her sometime int he future). It’s hard to say why, as she was not shunned in the uncredited tier as most of the girls were – she actually had her share of leading roles. Ah, the fickleness of Hollywood!

After her movie career ended, Kathleen remained very active in the theater. She was a partner of Norman Bel Geddes, noted stage designer and father of future actress Barbara Bel Geddes. She appeared in his production of Iron Men in the mid 1930s.

Soon, Kathleen moved East to play the daughter of Walter Huston in Dodsworth”, and decided to stay in New York. She appeared in a myard of plays like “Three man on a horse”, “Boy meets girls” and “Brother rat”. In 1938, toured all around the States with the play “Yes my darling daughter”.

In 1939, she returned to the West Coast, and started doing dramatic serials. Soon, she was a cast member of NBC’s “One Man’s Family” and contiued to work in the medium.

PRIVATE LIFE:

The first think I noticed about Kathleen that she was not a typical starlet. Let’s face it, starlets are a staple of Hollywood from the late 1900s to today – their appearance varies, but the modus opeandi is always the same. Young, fresh and typically armed with little more than beauty, they don’t dream of any great artistic achievements, bu want the fame and fortune. Kathleen was a serious, mature woman when she entered Hollywood, 26 years old. She was not a sexpot nor a dancer, never worked as a chorine, and ideologically was a dedicated actress. Accordingly, she never made any scandalous splashes in the papers.

Kathleen was quite popular while in college. In 1929, she was the girlfriend of Charley Paddock, a Olympic sprinter who held the record for the 100 yard dash at the time. Later that year, she was often seen with the slightly younger student, William “Erny” Lusby. Lusby actually took one of her classes and was so enchanted the two continued to see each other after the classes were over.

In 1936, Kathleen enjoyed a hot and steamy relationship with Stephen Fuld, who worked in the B casting at Columbia. Fuld was born in 1908 in New York, and their was a serious that almost led to the altar. They broke up for unknown reasons in mid 1937. Fuld died in 1942, serving in the US army during WW2.

Renown actor Eddie Albert became Kathleen’s beau in mid 1940. They turned serious pretty soon, and were spotted at various places in Los Angeles. Sadly, after a long courtship, they broke up in late 1941. I love Eddie Albert (he’s a riot in Roman Holiday. I’d rather choose him than Gregory Peck any day, and I love Gregory Peck, so you can imagine how delicious he is there :-) ) and somehow think he and Kathleen would have been a great pair! Eddie went on to marry the alluring actress Margo in 1945.

By that time, her parents were divorced, her father went on to live in Missouri as a lodger, and her mother was living with her.

Kathleen married Christopher William Hartsough on March 7, 1942. After the wedding, they went to Pensacola where Christopher joined the United States Navy Medical Corps. Christopher was born on February 18, 1908 to Christopher W. Hartsough and Mae Miller. He studied medicine and worked as a doctor before the war.

Kathleen gave up acting to devote herself to raising a family. The couple settled in San Diego, California.

Their daughter and only child, Kathleen Hartsough, was born on January 28, 1947.

Christopher Hartsough died on 23 October 1956 in Durham, South Carolina. Kathleen never remarried, and moved to Washington state at some point.

Kathleen Hartsough died on April 22, 1998, in King, Washington.

Suzanne Dadolle

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Suzanne Dadolle’s story starts like a romance novel. A beautiful girl meets a charming movie star. They fall in love, spend many weeks together and enjoy a stunning courtship. Yet, unlike most romance novels, it ends on a bitter note. Well, that happens when you romance Clark Gable in the 1950s!

EARLY LIFE:

Suzanne Dadolle D’Abadie was born in 1926 in Turkey. She grew up in Algiers (then a French colony) where she spend the early years of WW2. In 1944 she returned to Paris, was enrolled as a Wave in the French Navy and was soon promoted to a member of the personal entourage of general Charles De Gaulle, the future president of France.

After the war was over, Suzanne chose to work in the hostess industry. For a season, she worked as a hostess at the Deauville Casino and then returned to Paris and started modeling full time. In 1951, she wen to the United States to demonstrate French luxurious products and dresses under the patronage of Frank Burd, a hosiery firm executive. The article, dating from 1951, described her as a “ice cool blonde”, very diplomatic in her approach to people. Of New York, she said: “I love it here. I feel, for some reason, safe. This is a beautiful city, and any time of day you can see the blue sky, and your nylon lingerie, it is superb”.

CAREER:

Suzanne appeared in only one movie, and she was a mature woman by that time, not a youthful starlet. The movie is a fashion plate movie (you expected something else?) . The name: A New Kind of LoveExcept Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, a stunning Hollywood couple if there ever was one, we have Thelma Ritter, Eva Gabor and George Tobias. Add to this impressive roaster of actors a solid script, great jazz music and some snazzy wardrobe, and you get a above average viewing experience. No, it’s not a masterpiece like Citizen Kane or Gone with the wind, but it certainly holds its own.

Suzanne never made another movie again (what a shame!)

PRIVATE LIFE

Now comes the meaty part of Suzanne’s life. Her affair with Clark Gable. I have to admit, the more I read about Clark and his affairs, my opinion of the man plummeted. I still think he was a good man and devoted fiend, and he sure did not treat his women nicely.

SuzanneDadolle6Lets start from the beginning. We all know the basics: Clark Gable was a real life Rhett Butler (whom he played so masterfully in Gone with the wind). Women adored him. He was married twice to older women, but constantly strayed. He liked his ladies to be blonde, athletic but feminine and sophisticated. He enjoyed steamy affairs with Joan Crawford and Loretta Young (who bore him a daughter, out of wedlock). Yet, the firts wife who truly stood toe to toe with Clark was his third, comedienne Carole Lombard. Sadly, she died in January 1942 in an airplace accident. He never truly got over this tragedy. He went into active military duty, serving in the air force. After he returned to Hollywood in 1945, he dated up a storm with a large number of women. Terribly lonely and with a drinking problem, he impulsively married in Lady Sylvia Ahsley in 1949. Despite a short period of happiness, the marriage was a fiasco. In May 1952, Clark sailed on the to Europe, not planning to return until December 1953.

Suzanne met Clark on a cocktail party in September 1951 (as she later claimed). Now this is some sketchy information, as he was not in Europe at that time, and the only chance of this really happeneing was that she was in the States back then. Suzanne was for sure in the States in January 1951, but in September? Have no idea. But, for appearances sake, let’s believe it. They re-met when he came to Paris in May 1952. He had a month off before starting a new picture. She was an Elsa Schiaparelli model at the time. He fell in love with her at first sight and asked her out right away. The early stages of courtship started. So, how did Clark woo Suzanne?

He plunked down $3,000 for a Schiaparelli – designed evening gown which Suzanne was modeling for the famous Parisian designer in her celebrated salon in Paris. Glamorous Susie got the gown, Clark got the kick out of surprising her with it. How can a girl resist such advances? It was easy to see why Clark fell for Suzanne. Tall, willowy and chic, she was a true haute cuture mannequin. As I already wrote, Clark had a strong preference in women: blonde, high born, sophisticated, but with a wild side. Suzanne fit this model, physically, to a Tee – however, like his former wife, Sylvia Ashely, she was a lover of jewelry and a fashion plate in real life. That was not such a good combo (Clark was notoriously tight fisted when others were concerned).

What followed were magical months where Suzanne and Clark lived the Parissiene life to the fullest.  I quote this great site about Clark Gable, Dear Mr. Gable: “They cruised around Paris, dined alfresco at cafes, drank wine, walked arm in arm down the street like tourists”. Suzanne introduced him tot he lively nightlife of the capital, but also tried to work on cultural upbringing -she took him to the opera, museums and recitals. The also boated around the Seine frequently, like any other couple in love. In mid June, he had to move to London to start filming a movie with Gene Tierney.

SuzanneDadolle8Clark got himself a sports car, one of a kind Jaguar, while in England, and had fun driving it around. He got on splendidly with Gene Tierney, his co-star, but did not forget Suzanne- he went down to Paris almost every free weekend he had to meet with her again. They spend Bastille Day together, dancing on the streets, drinking wine, shouting with the crowds in the cafes, and going for onion soup the morning after. Clark returned to France on September 20, bringing his Jaguar with him. He and Suzanne started a slow descent to Rome by car, crossing Switzerland. They stayed for three weeks at the exclusive Villa d’Este on the lake Como, where he played golf and she took it easy, sunbathing and swimming. They finally got to Rome and spend a few days there as carefree tourists. Sadly, Sam Zimbalist called Clark in the middle of their idyllic sojourn, and he had to fly to Nairobi on October 31 to start filming Mogambo. Suzanne was left to return to Paris alone.

The pair made headlines for the first time in the US in November 1952, after they separated for the time being. They were spotted together in a restaurant in Rome. Since Clark was away in Africa filming, no further news were given of them for a long time. While I have no idea what Suzanne was doing during that time, Clark was romancing Grace Kelly on set. Grace fell hard for Clark, but he did not return the sentiment – he was there to see her off on May 19, 1953, when she boarded the plane from London to New York. Clark returned to Paris right away, and continued to tour European sights with his old friends, the Menascos, and Suzanne. They visited Switzerland, France and Italy (especially Florence), and often stopped at small towns to soak up the atmosphere.

Later in May, they were photographed in the Hostarirr Dell Orso,  prestigious night club in Paris. By July, Clark installed hismelf in the Hotel Rapahel in Paris, he and Suzanne going as strong as ever.

Soon, the upper classes of Paris were sure that Gable was going to marry Suzanne – but Dorothy Killgallen, ever the acerbic wit, branded them hopeless romantics and said she very much doubted Clark would do it. It sounded very harsh and much too unkind at the time, when everything was still possible, but sadly, Dorothy knew Clark too well. Indeed, he would never marry Suzanne, and the story ended on a bitter note.

SuzanneDadolle3Clark was not the only one trying to get into Miss Dadolle’s good graces – Aly Khan, the notorious playboy dating Gene Tierney (who was o staring with Clark in the movie Never Let Me Go), was also interested in her. Allegedly Suzanne resisted as long as she could, but gave in after some persuasion, and went on a few dates with the dashing Prince. There was s rumors that Gene Tierney walked out on Aly Khan in Paris when he walked into a cocktail reception at the American Embassy with Suzanne on his arm.

After Clark returned to Paris full time, he introduced Suzanne to Hedda Hopper – both looked stunning as they returned from a Capri holiday. Suzanne affinity for wearing pants during the day and toreador pans for the evening was also noted in the press, calling her a modern day Marlene Dietrich. Louella Parsons called Suzanne one of the prettiest women she had ever seen. In August, they departed for the Medoc house of Alexis Lichine, to escape from the heat and the snoops. It all seemed fine and dandy between the couple.

When they returned to Paris later in the month, Clark started to call her “my future wife.” I can very much see why Suzanne really tough that she had snagged her man. Who calls a woman this and then breaks off with her on the first sight of trouble? In September, there were early reports that Suzanne had accepted Clark’s proposal of marriage, and that it would all be made official in two weeks. In early October, Suzanne gave off the first interviews where she coyly talks about marriage, not denying nor confirming it. She claimed Clark had to wait a bit before getting his final divorce decree, which was not valid information since he was already divorced by that time from Sylvia Ashley.

SuzanneDadolle4As modern screen wrote about Suzanne (the information is double faced, so I’ll leave it to you to make up your mind about it):

An entirely different kind of girl is Suzanne Dadolle. She seems to be the one most in love and most
interested in marriage. She has devoted her time to Clark Gable for over a year, and although he was reserved about her at first, they were later seen together constantly. Toward the end of last summer, you could find them practically any evening, dining out at any of the cafes in Paris along the Champs Elysees.
There are friends who say that Clark intends to make his Suzanne the fifth Mrs.
Gable, that as recently as September he was introducing her to friends in Paris as “my future wife.” Others insist it’s just a fling. “I’ll give you even money,” a friend of his says, “that when Gable shows up in South America for his next picture — that is, if he does show up— he will be still single. I know the guy and I’m telling you that he was burned in his last marriage and he doesn’t want to try it again.”
However, Clark himself said he had absolutely nothing against marriage and that if the right girl came along — “someone sophisticated, attractive, and of course, someone with whom I was in love, I wouldn’t mind getting married one bit.”

Clark was in Amsterdam, Holland, making his last movie for MGM. But, if Suzanne expected Clark to dash from Amsterdam to Paris and make a joint statement, she was to be bitterly disappointed. Clark literary backstabbed her by claiming Suzanne was just after a bit of publicity, saying he was not in love with anybody and that he would certainly not get married any time soon. I have no idea if the two ever met again during the rest of his Europe trip, but Clark soon went back to the US (back to his farm), and Suzanne was left behind in Paris. Yet, rumors stubbornly persisted as to the fact that he would take Suzanne with him and make her his bride early in 1955. No such luck.

Now, time for a short analysis. What exactly happened? Well, Clark did. Trust me, after seeing Gone with the wind for the first time back in the early 2000s, I adored him. Who didn’t find Rhett Butler exciting? But, the more I grew up and matured, and of course the more I read about Clark, I changed my mind drastically. Yet, he was charming and alluring, but Clark was one difficult personality. I personally could never warm up to his kind of a man: traditional, hard as stone, set in his ways, expecting a woman to bend to him. It was no secret that Carole Lombard did everything to make him happy, expected little in return, and tolerated his extra marital adventures. The more I read about them, the more I asked myself: what did Carole see in him? She was a such a vivacious, charming, unusual woman, she could have had any man she wanted. Behind the Rhett Butler facade, Clark Gable was far from a perfect man. His career came first and even his romances took the back seat to it. Well, to each his own – there is no doubt there were were partners who could be perfectly suited for Clark, but the problem is that he was attracted to strong, high born, independent women who were not the ideal candidates for a man like him. Joan Crawford, a lioness in her private life and career, and a great love of Clark’s, saw this early in the relationship and refused to marry him because of it. All for the best, IMHO – they would have ended up divorced before the years was out. So, let’s be a bit brutal – Clark led Suzanne on, living a highly romanticized, idyllic life for almost a year, and when she wanted something more, he brutally dropped her. While there is a possibility that he told her, point blank, he would never marry her, but she refused to believe him and thought to the last she could change him (ah, common mistake!), I somehow doubt it. The point is, Suzanne was given the sack after a great romance.

SuzanneDadolle1Suzanne lived in a half fantasy world for a time after, hoping that Clark WOULD marry her, even dreaming of Verona, Italy, as the perfect place for that. Yet, when Johnny Meyer, world class cad and Howard Hughes’s right hand man, came to Paris, they had a brief but passionate fling. By Late December, there was no hope for a reconciliation. In January, the papers were abuzz with the news that Suzanne was coming to the US to join Clark. False! With every new interview Clark just cemented what Suzanne must have known by then – he would not marry her. Yet, in June 1954, Suzanne, perhaps hoping against every reason, sailed for the US. She was to stay with Johnny Meyer, her old flame.

Suzanne landed in New York, and did good as a model. Clark allegedly long distanced her and even asked her to visit him in California, but she refused, quite liking it in New York. Then, in December 1954, she finally did go to Los Angeles, to try her hand at TV and continue modeling. She had a uneasy encounter with Kay Spreckles, the former model who would become Clark’s Wife Nr. 5, at the Beverly Hills hotel. Clark was in Hong Kong at the time, filming Soldier of Fortune with Susan Hayward.

Eve after Clark returned, nothing big happened. Taken from this great site (with a good page about Suzanne!!!)

To date, The King and Suzanne have encountered each other only twice. Once on the set at 20th Century Fox where Gable was doing a luncheon scene in a Hong King restaurant with Susan Hayward (late that day he drove Hayward home) and once in La Rue’s restaurant. Gable was dining there with Kay Spreckels when Suzanne came in with contractor Hal Hayes.
Since Hayes used to date Kay, and Gable used to date Dadolle, there might have been some embarrassment. But Kay handled the situation tactfully. She walked over to Hayes’ table and was introduced to Suzanne. Gable nodded pleasantly, and the encounter came off without incident.

Luckily, Suzanne was far from idle while in Los Angeles. She modeled for Orry Kelly and was active romantically. Her newest swain was producer Brynie Foy, and they became serious quickly – the papers reported their matrimonial intentions as early as January 1955. Sadly, the relationship was soon broken, and she went on to date socialite Dick Cowell. In April, she was taken to Nassau by a new ardent admirer, Lord Astor. However, she was soon back with the ever loving Cowell.

In May, she was seen with Irving “Swifty” Lazar. By August 1955, Suzanne was the highest paid model in the US. However, at some point, Suzanne returned to Paris and worked in the fashion magazine industry. She wrote articles for Harper’s Bazaar, among them a guide to traveling in Provance.
Sadly, I have no idea what happened to Suzanne afterwards, or if she is alive today.

Mary Landa

MaryLanda4

A seasoned dancer specializing in Spanish dances, Mary Landa landed in Hollywood during the war, working steadily for  a few years and never achieving nothing of note. However, she proved her mantle in the war relief work but sadly fell into obscurity a short time later.

EARLY LIFE

Maria “Mary” Landa was born in 1918 in Viscaya, Spain, to JuanJohn” Landa and Claudia (Clandia) Arrizabalaza. Her parents were of a proud Basque sort, and her father worked as a sheep man. The family moved to the United States in August 1920, and settled in Pocatello, Idaho for a time. Her younger sister, Helen Victoria Landa, was born there on February 7, 1922. In 1927, they moved to Salk Lake City, Utah, and the same year her parents opened up a boarding house for their fellow Basque expatriates, called “Hogars“. In Spanish, Hogar means hearth. A guest described her father as a “tiny man with a powerful voice. He had all the connections. He was like a Basque ambassador.” Her younger brother John was born there on July 28, 1929. In 1930, Mary lived with her parents, her younger sister and brother, two servants and a handful of lodgers in Salt Lake City. Her mother was an expert cook, cooking all the traditional Basque recipes: rich soups, chunks of breaded liver, pigs feet and and thick buttered slabs of bread washed down by flagons of red wine and coffee laced with Spanish brandy. Her parents often joined their guests for evening card games. It was a happy, very close knit environment that Mary and her siblings were raised in.

Mary was a very artistically gifted child, excelling at drawing and dancing. I 1930, her sketches won her the second place at “School Begins” sketch contest. She also learned the traditional Spanish dances from her mother. She attended West High School in Salt Lake City, and she was always dancing at all the revenues and shows at the school.

In 1933, barely 15 years old, she started to dance for real money at the “Brass Rail”, a nightclub in Salt Lake City. Step by step, she got to California and started her Hollywood career.

CAREER

As per her career prior to arriving in Hollywood, M;ary played chorines and dancers,a and was mostly uncredited. Murder on the Waterfront is a D class movie, less than an hour long, with a over stretched plot and no imagination whatsoever. The only thing to recommend is the tolerable cast, but even that’s not reason enough to watch it.

MaryLanda1Thank Your Lucky Stars is a better than average wartime extravaganza. Eddie Cantor sure knew how to make them! Destination Tokyo – Made during the height of the war, and before it was a foregone conclusion that the Allies would prevail, it shows a surprisingly detailed (if romanticized) portrayal of life in the “Silent Service”. The characters are finely drawn with a craftsman director’s skill, and are the archetypes for subsequent films, not derivative cartoons. The cast is superb: Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale to name a few.

In Our Time is a love story with a kick. The leads are played beautifully by Ida Lupino and Paul Henreid, and the story slowly moves towards some serious issues of the day, touching upon politics and WW2. The movie is expertly directed and the cinematography is on par with the other elements. Here we truly have a small but well crafted movie from the golden age of Hollywood.

The Mask of Dimitrios is a Jean Negulesco classic. Whenever I hear Jean’s name, I think of sophistication and elegance. Truly, Jean was a man of these traits, and his movies carry that mark with an ease of a bird flying. Even when the themes are less than “elegant” (here we have a murder case),he manages to enlighten it with superb visual style. And the cast is very, very good – Sydney Greenstreet, Zachary Scott, Faye Emerson.

The Doughgirls is a ambitious farce about wartime Washington, made after the successful Broadway show of the same name. Sadly, the movie is not as effective as the play – the performances are to hammy, and the silly plot goes out of hand and manages to confuse more than amuse the viewer. Yet, anybody who likes all women pictures should watch it – if nothing than for Ann Sheridan, Alexis Smith, Jane Wyman, Irene Manning and Eve Arden.

Cinderella Jones. Again this idiotic movie. I have nothing more to tell about it. Simply avoid.

Impact is an interesting, if unusual film noir. While the plot is far fetched – a rich man becomes the target of his money hungry wife and her equally money hungry lover – and escapes to a small town, pretending to be a normal citizen, and falls in love with a good girl. See where this is going? But still, the cinematography and overall directing is good, and the performances are above average – when you have Bryan Donlevy, Chrles Coburn, Helen Walker and Ella Raines, it’s no wonder they are!

Mary gave up moves afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary specialized in exotic dances – be it from Hawaii or from Chile, she knew them all! She started her career in Utah in about 1935, and dancing in the “Rio nights”, a colorful stage revenue.

MaryLanda2Mary Landa married dancer Robert “Bobby” True in the late 1930s. They divorced, amidst a furor of newspaper articles, in February 1941. Mary claimed he insulted her friends causing her great mental anguish, but it was the fact that he called her an “old duck” that was the last straw. He later headed the Bobby True Trio and made some movies.

In January 1944, Morton Downey proposed to Mary. She did not accept him immediately – she took a few days to mull over it. In the end, she declined his offer. Why? Well, Mary knew that, in 1943, there were other things she should do.

In May 1944, Mary undertook the most arduous, serious activity for the war effort – with Ann Sheridan, Ruth Deans and Ben Blue, she undertook a six week tour or American army bases in China and India. Mary, who served as a dancer, was very dedicated to her patriotic duty, as they traveled through perilous terrain and lived in scarce circumstances during their travel.

Yet, in October 1944, an Associated Press release seriously accused Ann and her troupe of being unprofessional during the tour – they allegedly complained about the food, told corny jokes and even cut the tour short. Mary was the first to spring up and defend the group, claiming the reports are all false and untrue. She shot back to her critics:

“C and K rations are not the ideal repast, but we realized that it was the best food possible at those camps, and there was never any complaint from the troupe. After out eight week stay in the jungles of India and China, we were hospitalized for five days. I had an unhappy combination of flu, dysentery and sandfly fever, and, furthermore, the boys are complaining about “corn” in the routine, they should tell it to the censors.
We encountered four inch long grasshoppers never seen before and they hampered our performance on the stage.
The editor in New Dehli – a paradise compared to Burma – refuses to recognize the difficulties of entertaining in the Burma and Chinese jungles. It is really too tough for civilians and yet Ann did all she could to make those boys happy.”

MaryLanda5Kudos to Mary, as I can only imagine the impossible circumstances the troupe had to perform in. Of course, the soldier had it even worse, but any input from people who could have just simply remained in the safety of the States should be applauded, not criticized. They were not perfect but hey, who is?

There is a funny anecdote about Mary from the trip. While staying in Cairo, Mary met Prince Michael of Greece. Like any normal girl, she was star struck by the suave royal, and was over the top happy when he asked her for a early morning luncheon one day. Sadly, the hotel bell hop failed to wake Mary up on time, and, when she finally did get up, she was 30 minutes late and not dressed! So, to placate the situation, she wrote the most polite, respectful letter she could:

“Your highness. I left a call but they neglected to wake me! I beg your highness pardon from the depths of my shattered heart. Could you forgive me? If you say you will wait another 15 minutes, I’d love having a talk. O, Dear Prince.” (Not even Hamlet could have put it better :-P )
All she got was a reply: “Okay Pete”. Well, that was funny :-)

Mary went on a 7 month tour of Europe in early 1945. She returned only in December 1945. She truly was dedicated to serving her country during difficult times. Mary falls from the radar from then on and I have idea what happened to her.

What I do know, is that the Hogar boarding house was sold off after her father’s death in 1977. her widowed mother, than in her late 80s, went to live in California with her son and daughter (sadly, Mary’s sister Helen Victoria died in 1949, at 27 years old), so Mary was probabyl living a family life in California in the 1970s. Her brother died in 1984, her mother in 1985, but I have no idea where she was.

I just hope she had a happy life.

 

Joy Barlow

JoyBarlow4Her career was minor and she never had a truly satisfying role, but Joy Barlow will forever be remembered as the juicy, innuendo laden taxi cab driver from The Big Sleep, which is much more than most of the girls featured on this site can claim.

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy June Thompson was born on May 18, 1924, in St. Paul, Minnesota, to Wilton J. Thompson and Eve Thomspon. Her father was from Iowa, her mother a Minnesota native. She was their only child.

The family lived in St. Paul, with the Wood family, for a time, and then moved to California after the Great Depression hit. In 1940s they were living in Los Angeles, with Wilton working as a foreman, and her mother a housewife. Dorothy graduated from high school in the city. Dorothy was greatly interested in dancing, and by the time she was in her early teens, she knew she wanted to become a dancer/actress. She got her first serious taste of showbiz by becoming an Earl Carroll chorus girl in 1939. This prestigious position catapulted her to movies by 1942.

CAREER

If you like  blends music, comedy, and a Cajun flavored atmosphere, than Louisana Purchase is a movie worth watching. Mirroring real life and the dealing of Huey Long, it turns a serious story into a half baked comedy plot. More worthy for the atmosphere than anything else, it’s still not a omplete waste of time if you watch it. To me, a added bonus is Vera Zorina, the stunning ballerina who made a few movies in Hollywood in the 1940s. Anyone interested and George Balanchine and modern ballet knows her as one of his muses (and the second or his four wives).

JoyBarlow5Call of the Canyon is a typical Gene Autry western. What more do I need to say? Thank Your Lucky Stars is one of those star studded, wartime extravaganzas made more for the morale than for the art. Surprisingly, it’s a good movie, effortlessly lead by the ever magnetic Eddie Cantor.

Joy continued appearing in war related movies in Destination TokyoMade during the height of the war, and before it was a foregone conclusion that the Allies would prevail, it shows a surprisingly detailed (if romanticized) portrayal of life in the “Silent Service”. The characters are finely drawn with a craftsman director’s skill, and are the archetypes for subsequent films, not derivative cartoons. The cast is superb: Cary Grant, John Garfield, Alan Hale to name a few.

To Have and Have Not is a classic, and much has been written about it. While I certantly prefer the later pairings of Bogart and Bacall, it does not diminish its stature of a superb film noir with a great cast.

After a not too shaby start, Joy fell into the musical category from then on. Earl Carroll Vanities is a sub par, bland musical whose only strong points are the stunning dancers.The Horn Blows at MidnightWhere Do We Go from Here? and George White’s Scandals just continue the endless line of musicals with a paper thin plot but likable enough music and dance scenes. Joy briefly returned to the western genre in Don’t Fence Me In, a semi decent Roy Rogers movie (as I said multiple times, I am FAR from being a western fan so the less I write about it, the better). Then, it was back to some mainstream fare. Cinderella Jones is a stupid movie with Joan Leslie. I like Joan, but the movie is way too idiotic to be worth watching, even for Joanie.

JoyBarlow7Now comes the crowning moment of Joy’s career. The Big Sleep. Taxi Driver. This bit of dialogue is all you need to know just how GREAT this very brief role is. Remember, Joy plays the taxi driver, and Humphrey Bogart is Philip Marlowe, the main character and detective extraorinaire (actually not, he’s far from Sherlock but has other aces up his sleeve).

Taxi Driver: If you can use me again sometime, call this number.

Philip Marlowe: Day and night?

Taxi Driver: Uh, night’s better. I work during the day.

What more is there to say? This is such a short but perfectly times, delicious scene, the kind that makes this movie much more than a very good film noir. Gotta love Howard Hawks! The rest of the movie is just as good. The plot is too complex and asks for repeated viewings, but I since I love complicated, intricate stories, it’s a true PLUS for me.

After her crowning moment, Joy appeared in a mixed bag of films, mostly B class ones, and never again achieved anything even approaching The Big Sleep. The Trespasser is a Dale Evans vehicle. Here we have a perfect example of a well plotted movie suffering from a “star” appearing in it – namely Dale. She puts forth absolutely nothing to the movie in terms of plot nor any advancement. She is too shrill and unladylike to work in a movie that is not a western and where she is not paired with Roy Rogers. Too bad  – the could have been a decent B crime movie if she was just left out of it.

JoyBarlow¸1Blackmail is a movie so bad it’s good. I laughed out out when I read this review on IMDB:

Ricardo Cortez, who must have been in almost every film ever made, is being blackmailed for something about incriminating pictures (naughty, naughty) by at least two people. So he makes the mistake of hiring Marshall to put a stop to the nonsense. Murder ensues, people fight, shoot each other, fall into swimming pools and cause general mayhem. All’s well that ends well and the film ends. You may want to jump in the pool after enduring this mess but frankly,it’s worth the laugh to watch it………maybe even a couple of times. A true misfire, if there ever was one.

Now don’t tell me you are not at least bit interested?

Two Guys from Texas was one of the string o movies Warner Bros made with the new Hope/Crosby pair, Dennis Morgan and Jack Carson. As one reviewer superbly wrote:

A large part of the dialog in their films was ad-libbed, something that Jack and Dennis either could not do or were not allowed to do. No, the songs are not all that memorable and, no, Dennis Morgan doesn’t have as good a voice as Bing, but while the songs are forgettable they are still pleasant. Jack Carson was a good actor and a fair comedian, but he was never as funny as Bob Hope.

As you can imagine, the movie did no favors to anyone involved, least of all to Joy, who plays a minor role as it is.

JoyBarlow3The Decision of Christopher Blake basically deals with problems Hollywood, always trying to achieve that “pink glasses outlook” on life, rarely tackled – divorce. But, let’s leave the “basic” behind – it what the studio brass does with basic stories that interested us. It turns into a mushy, over the top drama stories. Yes, I understand that many mundane topics are not good movie material, but divorce in itself is emotional and climactic enough, without any added soap opera elements. Wen are they gonna learn? On thebright side, we have Alexis Smith, an actress I find very interesting, whose appeal is actually very “inverted” – never a strong talent, she had that brand of icy charm that always worked wonders with her co stars.

Look for the Silver Lining! I love that song, and the musical, about the life of, while not as good, is not a bad piece of art either. June Haver is her usual graceful self, and Ray Bolger is definitely one of the most prominent tap dancers ever.

Just Across the Street is the kind of light comedy you rearly see today. While it’s an obscure movie no doubt, it’s a great example of the genre, with very good leads. Ann Sheridan she was a superb light comedienne, always had that tough edge to her that made her unique and interesting (most light comediennes are not as masculine as Sheridan was). She is matched very well by the underrated John Lund, a truly good actor that never made a name out of himself. The supporting cast is drool worthy: Robert Keith, Cecil Kellway, Natalie Schafer. With a cast like that and clever mistaken-identity romantic plot, it’s truly a forgotten gem.

Joy retired from movies after this.  

PRIVATE LIFE

Joy entered the Hollywood tabloid scene in mid 1940, when she was barely out of high school, but already a seasoned Earl Carroll showgirl. She served as a model for the Goodrich seal-o-matic safety tube. A bit funny for sure, but it was a beginning of a almost a decade long “tabloid career”. For instance: a few months after that, this short anecdote made the columns: “Dorothy Gill and Joy Barlow were discussing romance backstage. Said Dorothy “I always judge  a man by his kisses. After all, kisses are the language of love.” Sighed Joy is response: “Then my boyfriends must be deaf mutes!” Not really funny, but Joy was slowly building up publicity.

JoyBarlow6Joy also headed, as an elected president, “The Million Dollar Babies”, a tongue-in-cheek organization whose sole aim was to pair wealthy gents with nimble young Earl Carroll showgirls. While mostly seen as a joke, we all know it’s far from being one. Earl Carroll girl dated millionaires by the shovel load. Let’s just hope that Joy was an able president and did much for the conditions of gold diggers in the early 1940s :-P On the flip, serious side, Joy was very active in the war effort work, knitting sweaters for the soldiers and touring army bases along with her fellow chorines.

Joy was popular with the boys for sure. In 1941, she was dating Dick Purcell. Her big, serious romance was Vaughn Paul, the former husband of Deanna Durbin. The two started dating in early 1944 and dated for about eight months. After breaking up with Vaughn, Joy dated Curly Richards for a brief time in late 1944. Then, Joy hooked up with a man from her past – Herbert Ahrens. Theirs was a cute romantic story. Both natives of St. Paul, Minnesota, they were childhood sweethearts, but lost touch after she moved to California. Then, WW2 started, and Herbert went to attend a Navy preflight school in Oakland, where they met again. They were quick to reconnected and one thing led to another. Thus, Joy married Herbert Neal Ahrens on November 15, 1945. Ahrens had to return to active duty right away, and the had to wait for him to get a discharge in order to have a honeymoon. Arens was born on September 13, 1920, in , to Hebtert N. Ahrens and Myrtle Vassal. During WW2, he was 1st Liutenant, US Marine. Sadly, the marriage was not to last.

Joy81947 was, romantically, a busy year from Joy. By April she was separated from her husband for good. They tried for a reconciliation for a few times, but it amounted to nothing. She was involved with Tommy D’Andrea in September and started to date Ray Montgomery in November. Joy’s marriage disintegrated fully during this time, and by 1948, she and Ahrens were divorced. Herbert died on May 13, 1968 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The last we hear about Joy from the papers in late 1947 – she had just gotten a chance to appear to a greater effect in a movie, and a big Hollywood future was before her. Well, that sure proved to be a lark! She made her last movie in 1952, and retired after an unsatisfying career.

I have no idea what happened to Joy afterwards.

Joy Barlow died on May 2, 1995, in North Hollywood, California.

 

Aina Constant

AinaConstant1

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.

EARLY LIFE:

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.

CAREER:

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.

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

NaidaReynolds1

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.

EARLY LIFE:

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.

CAREER:

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.

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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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.

EARLY LIFE:

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.

CAREER:

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.


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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.

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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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.

EARLY LIFE:

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.

CAREER:

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.

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

ShirleyTegge

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.

EARLY LIFE:

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.

CAREER:

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.

PRIVATE LIFE:

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.