Terry Walker

TerryWalker

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

EARLY LIFE:

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

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

CAREER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rubini died on December 2, 1989.

 

 

Janice Logan

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

EARLY LIFE:

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

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

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

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

CAREER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

Laura Wagner writes in the article about what happened next:

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

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

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

In January 1940, Janice was seriously ill from influenza, but managed to recover in time to continue her film work. In February 194, she was called the best undressed woman in the States by a group of college students who wanted to parody the “best dressed” title. Her runner up was Marlene Dietrich (some runner up!).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her former husband Jackson Reade died in October 1981.

 

 

 

Tina Thayer

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Tina Thayer had excellent newspaper coverage. She had several high profile roles and was praised constantly by the critics. So, what happened? While the answer is impossible to formulate, the fact is that she left Hollywood in 1944 and ended up as obscure as actresses who never made a credited role.

EARLY LIFE:

Thelma Thayer Gibson was born on November 2, 1923 in Boston, Massachusets, to Manual Flanders Gibson and Florence Emsralda Fogg. Her parents divorced in the late 1920s, and Tina and Florence went on to live with Florence’s mother (also called Florence) in Worchester, Massachusests.

Tina’s mother, who was college educated, ran a singing school in Worchester, and Tina, naturally, took up singing from an early age. The mother-daughter duo moved to Boston when Tina was 8, and later to New York when she was 14 years old.

She got into acting by a random act of fate: while on vacation in Provincetown, Massachusetts, she was spotted by a theater director, and given a chance to act. Always a fan of acting, and more interested in it than in singing, Tina was ecstatic at the given opportunity. Her role had only 2 lines of dialogue, but she poured her heart and soul into it, and the critics took notice of her.

Tina returned to New York after her experience, and enrolled into dramatic school under the guidance of her aunt, Draja Dryden, a concert pianist and screen actress working in France. She was a great believer in Tina’s talent and her biggest champion. Soon, she was appearing in Broadway opposite stars like Ruth Chatteron, and this pushed her into Hollywood.

CAREER:

Unlike many other actress of this site, Tina was truly a contender for stardom, not just the recipient of empty promises and meaningless publicity. While she was never cast in leading role in big budget movies, she was given leads in solid B movies and could have achieved much more. It’s hard to say exactly what went wrong with her career, but that’s Hollywood for you – like magic, it’s impossible to understand and analyse (talented actors never get anywhere, and those less talented end up big stars, and many other simply wierd examples).

She made her debut in Girls Under 21 , a movie about juvenile delinquency (Tina played one of the delinquents). Despite it being a low budget programmer (running at 64 minutes) it moves at a brisk pace, has many snappy, funny, irreverent lines, and its ending is surprisingly socially sensitive. Rochelle Hudson is very good as the leading lady (now, Rochelle is a real example of a very talented lady who never got past these kind of movies).

TinaThayer4Meet John Doe is the best known movie on Tina’s filmography, and one of the classic of 1940s world cinema.
It a finely crafted meditation about manipulation by the media, democracy, organised religion and simply, life choices. Like all Capra movies, despite it’s blatant criticism, it’s an inheretly optimistic one, giving the viewer the feeling that it can be better if one tries. The actors make this movie a stand-out classic. Barbara Stanwyck is the true American epitome of a sharp, smart woman. She’s no lady, but her gutsy ways make her a very vibrant, assertive character, a reporter trying desperately to climb up the newspaper ladder. Gary Cooper, “Coop”, was at his best playing normal, everyday guys who show surprising courage when the going gets rough, and find that resilience and inner strength they had all the time, but never had the chance to manifest.

Next came an expected letdown in A Yank at Eton , a Mickey Rooney vehicle and a spiritual successor of A Yank at Oxford. Rooney is the typical plucky, althetic and funny self, with a fine supporting cast. The movie is a thingly veiled remaking of Boyswtown, another Rooney classic, and while it’s nowehre the quality of that film, (or indeed many other similar movies) it’s a fine treat for old movie fans.

Secrets of a Co-Ed was the leading role Tina was waiting for. And it’s not the worst one by any strench of an imagination. But, is it a really good one? No to that account too. The plot actually has some potential: A free-spirited college girl insists on carrying on her romance with a young mobster, scandalizing the town and going against the wishes of her father, the town’s most prominent attorney. While cast in a role that doesn’t ask for any acting bravura turns, we still see the type Tina could have played with much gusto in the future had she remained in Hollywood: outwardly sweet, nice, on the inside, complete brats. Tina’s father, played by Otto Krueger, has the best role in movie and plays it very well (sadly, another actor who never got to first base despite a bevy of talent).

TinaThayer2The Pay Off is the typical crime movie quckie of the period. The script is full of snappy dialog, some of it having to do with the plot, some just clever filler. Worth a look for those of us who like rapid-fire dialog and don’t mind a few clinkers or clichés. Most of Tin’a thunder got stolen by Evelyn Brent, once a great silent star, and a low tier actress in the 1940s.

Jive Junction is another wartime quickie made purely as escapist fare. It’s a no-name cast with forgettable musical numbers and a non existent plot. With nothing much to reccomend it, it slid into total obscurity over the years. Tina’s career was by now going nowhere, and unless something big hapened anytime soon, she was doomed to either quit Hollywood or to remain in the B tier for a long time.
Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret was not a bad movie, in fact it’s one of the best in the long running Henry Aldrich series. Tina played a supporting role that got her nowhere.

Ready to give up her Hollywood career to start a family, she broke her contract after this and never acted in a movie again.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In a smart publicity move, Tina was introduced as the next love interest of Mickey Rooney, only to reveal it the end that she is not a real love interest, but rather a movie love interest. It was noted how she was a perfect leading lady for Rooney, since she was lower than him by two inches (when several of his other leading ladies were taller than him).

Thayer married Lester Koenig on August 27, 1942. She was just 18 years old when it happened.

Koenig was born on December 3, 1918, New York City, New York. The marriage was a short lived one, and the two divorced in 1944. I quote IMDB on what happened to Koenig after that:

Although never a card-carrying communist himself, Koenig was blacklisted because he refused to name names. The result was that he unable to work in the film business. He began producing jazz records on Commodore Records with some of the best West Coast musicians of that time, among them Art Pepper and Ornette Coleman, whom he was the first to record. K

Koening married two more times, and died on November 20, 1977.

TinaThayer3Tina ended her movie career in 1944, moved to Neew York, gave up acting, and took up newspaper work. She joined the Milton Rubin press agent staff, and bought an apartment on the Madison Avenue (Mad Men anybody?). She suffered from bad tonsillitis several times and was living an high class, “urbane” lifestyle many women of the period went after. She most certantly deserved it.

Tina married Eric Wyndham-White on November 1, 1947. They honeymooned in Havana later in the month.

I will quote Wikipedia on Eric:

Born on the 26 January 1913, White was educated at the Westminster City School and the London School of Economics. He graduated as a LLB with first class honours and in 1938 was called to the bar by the Middle Temple.[1] He was an assistant lecturer at the LSE until the Second World War started when he moved to the Ministry of Economic Warfare.[1] In 1942 he became the First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington.[1]

In 1945 he became Special Assistant to the European Director of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration.[1] He became involved in the forming of a secretariat for a new international trade organisation, theGeneral Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in 1948 and became the first Director-General.[1]

Tina and Eric had two daughters, one of whom is named Carolyn (I could not find the name of the other daughter). Carolyn was educated in Geneva, Switzerland, leading to the conclusion that the family moved a lot in the 1950s and 1960s.

Tina divorced Eric sometimes in the late 1960s. She never remarried, and moved to New York City.

Wyndham White died from a heart attack while swimming on January 27, 1980, in Spain.

Tina Wyndham White died on December 27, 2003, in New York City.

Maxine Fife

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Maxine Fife was a beautiful blonde who was touted as a future star and ended up nothing but a footnote in Hollywood history. A common enough story in Tinsel Town, sadly.

EARLY LIFE:

Maxine Elinor Fife was born on to Raleigh Oscar Fife and Maxine Elinor Anderson on September 19, 1925, in Los Angeles, California. Her father was  native of Kansas, and a college educated engineer, already 45 years old when she was born. Her mother (whose name she bore) was from Missouri and 38 years old. She was their only child.

Maxine had the peculiar fortune to be a class mate of her two future movie co stars, Diana Lynn and Gail Russell. She went to kindergarten with Diana, and Daina used to accompany Maxine on the piano. She and Gail Russell met at the Faifax High School. The two were star struck teens, and often discussed movies during their lunch break. Imagine that :-P

Maxine attended Hawthorne Elementary School and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1943. That same years she enrolled into University of Southern California. To earn extra money, she was working as an usher at a movie theater in Beverly Hills, California when Zeppo Marx noticed her. Zeppo became her agent and negotiated a contract with 20th Century Fox Studios. So, when Hollywood knocked on her door, she canceled her enrollment and embraced her new found movie work with both hands. Thus, her career started.

CAREER:

Maxine was uncredited for the most of her career, but she appeared in some fine movies! Her very firts one, The Story of Dr. Wassell, can certainly be a feather in her cap. No, it’s not masterpiece nor is it the bets movie mae by the legendary Gary Cooper, who played the eponymous Dr. Wassell, but nobody can say nothing truly bad about this one. It’s poignant, powerful, beautifully made by Cecil B. DeMille (and as viewer wrote on IMDB, it’s not  a typaical DeMielle movie, and many who dislike DeMille and his over the top epics could like this movie). Laraine Day is touching as Wassell’s love interest.

MaxineFife2Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret, from the Henry Aldrich series of comedy movies, is one of the better entries and features some fine comedic moments by Jimmy Lyndon. Hail the Conquering Hero is a true shining comedy classic, a Preston Sturges vintage with a great cast, simple but effective story and, like every good comedy, a message. A special plus for Ella Raines, one of the most intriguing, unusual actresses to grace Hollywood in the 1940s.

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay paired Maxine with her two childhood chums, Gail Russell and Diana Lynn. It’s a breezy, nice, cute movie, one that leaves you with a simple on your face after watching. Russell and Lynn play real life women (Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough) who both have their first taste of romance on board a ship bound for Europe.

One Body Too Many is an unusual comedy/horror movie, and mostly a showcase for the comedy of Jack Haley. Watch out for Bela Lugosi in a small role! Nothing to rave about, but certainly pleasant. Here Come the Waves is a Betty Hutton/Bing Crosby pairing, a good enough movie worth watching but not much more.

Maxine’s next few movies were not her bets moments. Practically Yours is a tedious screwball comedy, saved only by the sheer star power of the leads, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. Bring on the Girls is a paper thin plot comedy with only a few good moments thrown in. Watch only if you are a fan or Eddie Bracken or Veronica Lake.

A Medal for Benny is a movie largely forgotten today, and while it’s mostly lackluster fare, it features an Oscar nominated performance by the character actor legend J. Carroll Naish and a fine turn for it’s leading lady, Dorothy Lamour. In a strange twist of fate, the movie resembles Hail the Conquering Hero very much, and Maxine is the only actress to appear in both movies (albeit uncredited!).

Incendiary Blonde is a biography of the legendary Texas Guinan (what a woman that was!). It’s, basically, a typical biopic of the 1940s – take a real person, turn it into a saint, polish up their life story, cut away all the unpleasant things, add a song or two and whoa, we’ve got a winner! Well, not quite, but the movie gives Betty Hutton a chance to really act, and remains one of her most powerful performances.

After this, the quality of the movies Maxine appeared in turned upwards. Road to Utopia is one of the best Bing Crosby/Bob Hope pairings,   The Late George Apley is a wonderful vehicle for Ronald Colman. I’ll say it openly, I’m a sucker for all thing Colman, and this si such a stunning movie! No, it’s not a classic, but it’s a fine outing for Colman in his twillight years.

Copacabana is a weak Grouch Marx/Carmen Miranda movie. Maxine’s last foray into movies was A Song Is Born, a mid tier Danny Kaye vehicle.

That was all from Maxine as far as Hollywood was concerned.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In August 1943, Maxine was dating the handsome George Montgomery, who was also involved with Dinah Shore. Guess which girl he married? Well, let me tell you, it ain’t Maxine. Still, the relationship was not a very brief one, and it lasted for at least six months, so Dinah obviously got some hard competition from Maxine.

In 1944, Maxine was very active in the war effort, touring army bases with fellow actresses. Maxine also got married on September 20, 1944, in Beverly Hills. Her groom was Forrest Fitzpatrick Cory. She was not yet 20 years old.

Forrest was born in 1920 in California, to Mr. and Mrs. Martin Cory, of the prominent Fresno Cory family. He attended Menlo Junior College and Stanford University. He served as a pilot in the US army in WW2, and flew over 50 missions by the time he married Maxine.

Their only child, daughter Maxine Elinor Cory, was born on July 14, 1945.

In an interesting twist of events, Maxine divorced Cory in 1946. Shortly after the war ended, she started working as the secretary of Paul Laszlo. The two fell in love.

Paul was born as László Pál in Debrecen, Hungary, on February 6, 1900, to László Ignác and László Regina (née Soros). His family later moved to Szombathely, Hungary. He had three sisters and two brothers; two of his sisters and both of his parents died in the Holocaust. László completed his education in Vienna, Austria before moving to Stuttgart, Germany, where he rapidly established himself as a prominent designer. Sadly, the rising tide of anti-semitism and Nazism made László’s position dangerous. In 1936 he fled Europe for the United States to escape the Nazis. He settled in Southern California, and established an office in affluent Beverly Hills, California. Despite having no money, he immidiately bought a fancy car and became a member of every prominent clubs. This, combined with his prior reputation, made him an instant hit with the wealthy political and acting elite. He married Anni M. Jurmann in 1938.

Maxine and Laszlo were to be married in July 1948, but she chickened out and remarried her former husband, Forrest Cory. Well, guess what, second chance marriage should not happen just months after the first divorce – usually it takes some time for people to understand what went wrong. Her son, Garth Martin Cory, was born on March 15, 1949. Maxine and Forrest separated just months after Garth’s birth, and she got involved with Laszlo again. Maxine was soon left pregnant by Laszlo, but could not gain her divorce soon enough – their son, Paul Peter Laszlo, was born on June 7, 1950, before they were able to get married. On June 15, 1950, she finally married Laszlo.

The family lived in Brentwood, California, and mingled with the higher ups. Laszlo was a man notoriously devoted to his own style, declining to work with such stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Streisand when he felt his vision could be compromised.

Laszlo’s secretary after the war, Maxine Fife, was a high school girlfriend of Henry’s who had some bit movie parts while going to Beverly Hills High and shortly after the war. Laszlo ended up marrying Maxine soon thereafter and having a son they named Peter Paul. Julius Shulman’s log book indicates that he photographed Peter Paul’s baby portrait for Maxine on July 17, 1947.

Laszlo retired in 1975, and they sold their beloved Brentwood home and moving into the Park Plaza luxury condos he designed on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.

Laszlo died at age 93 on March 27, 1993. Maxine did not remarry. She suffered from dementia in her later years.

Maxine Fife Laszlo died on December 8, 2008,  in Solana Beach, California. Her former husband, Cory, died in 2012.

Adele Jergens

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Adele Jergens is undoubtedly one of the better known actresses featured on this site. There is plenty of info about her on the internet, and her career is well covered. So why choose her? First, she is obscure to the general audience of today. Second, Adele was such a likable, interesting actress, a gal who could have gone much further had some opportunities knocked on her door. Actresses who suffered similar fates were a dime a dozen in Hollywood – and I hope to profile more of these as time goes by. Adele is first on the list.

EARLY LIFE:

Adele Louisa Jurgens was born on November 26, 1917, in Ridgewood, Brooklyn, New York City, New York to August and Marie Adele Jurgens. She was the only daughter among four sons.

Adele grew up as a tomboy, playing baseball with her brothers. However, her home life was anything but easy – her father was a difficult man and could barely afford to support the family. Adele attended Southside High School in Brooklyn, and graduated from Grover Cleveland High School.

Adele took ballet classes, but deemed her temperament ill suited for the art, so took to dancing in burlesque. At 14 she won a scholarship to Manhattan’s Albertina Rasch Dance School. Naturally gifted and very ambitious, she was barely years old when she got the nickname “the girl with the million-dollar legs”.

Soon, her hard work paid off and she was steadily working as a chorine in Brooklyn Fox Theatre and the Ziegfeld Follies. To supplement her income, she signed with the John Robert Powers modelling agency. She also worked briefly as a Rockette, and was named the city’s leading showgirl. She was an understudy of the legendary dancer, Gypsy Rose Lee.

Adele hit it big when she was named “Miss World’s fairest” at the 1939 World Fair. Not long after, she was to become a famous war time pin up. This catapulted her into Hollywood.

CAREER:

There are several well written accounts of Adele’s career, much better than any I could write about, so I decided to put a link to this fabulous pdf on Alan K. Rode’s site. Check it out by all means! Adele was one of the legendary femme fatales during the golden age of film noir and she acted opposite quite a number of hefty actors! She even played Marilyn Monroe’s mother in a movie! Another great article about Adele is on the Films of the golden age site. Go and read it now :-)

PRIVATE LIFE:

In an interesting twist of fate, Adele was often compared to Virginia Mayo in terms of looks – both were round faced, soft looking blondes – and in real life, the two were good friend, dating from their shared New York chorus girls days. Despite being physically similar, they were diametrically opposite when personality was concerned – Adele was a boisterous, simple, gregarious girl who liked to have fun and dated guys by the bucket load from her earliest years – Virginia was a quiet, unassuming girl who rarely went out, was very devoted to her family and did not have any serious beaus.

Adele first hit the papers in March 1937, when she was dating George Hale. Hale had a fine eye for ladies, and specialized in finding diamonds in the rough. He allegedly took Adele from a Brooklyn high school play and launched her into a full fledged chorus girl. Adele was liked by the boys and dated constantly during the late 1930s.

In 1939, while making a picture for Columbia, she was allegedly infatuated with a Brazilian businessman. In 1940, she added Franchot Tone and Burgess Meredith to her line of erstwhile admirers. On an ironic note, George Hale had been dating Adele for two years by then, but was too busy to commit, introduced her to Tone, claiming he was a perfect gentleman, just the kind to make a woman feel nice and to take her out. Then Franchot and Adele hit it off and dated every night! George was left dangling…
AdeleJergens8By August 1940, Adele was fed up with Franchot, and was one of many girls that Victor Mature dated (along with Betty Grable and Phyllis Brooks). Drop in a few dates with lothario Bruce Cabot in the mix.

In 1941, Adele first dated Al Jolson (funny, considering that her former boyfriend Hale was suing him!), and then Orrin Lehmann fell for her like a ton of bricks. No luck for Orrin – Adele liked Al better and dated him for several months. Jolson lived the prestige California-Florida-New York relation, and this gave Adele the perfect opportunity to date other swains while he was in another town – and often a different man every night! Plus, she also went on tour with him, just to keep close. Oh Al!

They had a brief tiff in May, got together again, and Jolson asked Adele to marry him in June. Yes, it was that serious for Al. But was it for Adele? While she said yes to his proposal, no wedding date was set, and Adele enjoyed a sojourn in South America in August. On board with her were other pretty showgirls, like Nancy Hill and Peggy Healy, and the famous Brazilian money bags, Joege Guinle. Imagine the fun! She came back to Al, naturally, but it did not yell. They broke up in September.

In October, Adele caught Tony Martin’s fancy. They were a charming couple, dancing together in Los Angeles nightclubs. In Early 1942, she was seen with Horacee Schmidlapp, a decidedly non handsome, but rich and charming fellow, future husband of Carole Landis. He gave her a fur coat (how can any woman resist a fur coat!). But, her real heartthrob remained a mystery – a columnist even teased that his real identity would cause quite a splash. This man gifted her with a mink coat and a bracelet (she obviously had several mink coats).

In April 1942, Dorothy Killgallen wrote a long piece on Adele, the proof of her then popularity. We learned that she is the most dated chorus girl, and that many of her admirers were rich and famous (duh!), and that many of them want to marry her after the first few dates. Obviously Adele was not swayed by money that easily, and turned them down quite a few (something I admire her infinitely for… GO ADELE!). Once an admirer asked her to pinch him so he could he sure he was not dreaming, and she pinched him so hard, it proved to be their last date :-) She was a big eater, enjoyed fine food, and her mother served her breakfast in bed every day at 11:30. She lived in Upper Manhattan, her father worked in a real estate office. Her nick name was Addie.

AdeleJergens2She preferred men in their thirties, and they have to be good conversationalists. She does not care if they are good dancers or not. She impressed Franchot Tone by her eating habits – he called her “Beauty and the feast”. Adele is a fine singer, does not like cocktail parties and prefers golf, horseback riding and loved to travel. She goes to work in IRS, but goes back mostly in her admirer’s limousines. She drinks tow bottles of beer a day, never drinks more than two cocktails, can drink a lot of champagne and smokes in moderation. Her favorite drink is a Black and White and Soda.

Her favorite people are Roosevelt, Buddy De Silva and Eddie Cantor. Her favorite movie is Gone with The Wind, and she loves to read, especially Marcel Proust, but never has time to read any more (was this really true remains to be seen). One day she wants to be married, and her future husband has to first and foremost be a nice guy, his wealth comes way second.

During that time, Adele was madly in love with a saxophone player from the Freddy Martin band. Feted by playboys and millionaires, and she loved a hard working boy, so cute! The relationship lasted until the end of summer.

Now, we come into a very sketchy and muddled part of Adele’s life, and understandably so. Somehow, she met a Washington DC bigwig. A married bigwig. The two started an affair in early autumn 1942. While they were low key, word was soon to spread that somebody high up in Washington was dating Adele. The news broke in January 1943, but he could not be named. By April 1943, Adele told friends that he would divorced his wife and marry her. No such luck, the unknown man chickened out and they broke up. Adele was heartbroken, but marched on.

By June, she was involved with an East Coast meat packing millionaire. In January 1944, Adele cut short her Hollywood career to go back to New York, to be close to a certain bandleader. By September he was ancient history, and RAF ace Willy Bidell took his place. By October, Adele was back in Hollywood, and in a weird twist of fate, the bandleader she originally pursued now pursued her and moved to Los Angeles. Unfortunately, the housing in Los Angeles was so scarce that Adele and her mom, who was chaperoning her, had to sleep in a wardrobe room on the lot!

Ray Sinatra, Frankie’s cousin, was the next stop in Adele’s amorous adventures. The press claimed the two would get married in January 1945, but she debunked them by saying that Ray was already married to his wife. What a bummer! She continued with Jerry Marks, but left him after a few short dates – sadly, Marks carried a torch for Adele for some time afterwards!

AdeleJergens3Adele liked her new life in Hollywood. She noted that, while living on New York, she never got up before noon, even if there was  matinee performance that day. In direct contrast, now she had to get up at 6 so she could be at the studio at 7, and work until 6 pm. She had to go through make up, hairdressing and costume fitting, and the filming was pretty strenuous. After work, she would only have time for dinner and maybe an early show, but she was firmly in bed before midnight. Her studio wanted to build her to become a rival to Maria Montez – considered the most mesmerizing, seductive girl in Hollywood of that time. Predictably, the papers also build a rivalry between her and Yvonne de Carlo. Petty, but it’s a story we’ve seen a hundred time in Hollywood and will probably see  hundred times more. She was also revealed to be a serious ice cream lover.

In April 1945, Adele was seen with producer Ross Hunter, the former date of Jane Withers.  Yet, Ray Sinatra was always dangling in the background. He had been separated for many years from his wife, but could not get a divorce. The papers were abuzz with the news tat he wanted to marry Adele, but had to wait for his divorce to come through.

In 1946, Adele dated Jack Dennison, Bill White, producer Raymond Hakim and Ray Rossbach (related to baseball great Hank Greenburg by marriage). She was also visited by her old flame, Orrin Lehmann, in August. She went back briefly to New York after this. October was reserved for Morton Downey. On a funny note, Adele had to dash before midnight to catch a tram that would take her to her brother’s Long Island home. She left to Chicago first, for four days of fun, before returning to Los Angeles.

In March 1947, she was going steady with Tom Cassara. The affair lasted until July 1947, and it was from the looks of it, a serious one. Phillip Reed was her escort in August. Ross Hunter briefly came back to her life about that time. Some hand holding in the public, but not much more. Soon, she was at hand to console Milton Pickman – Pickman was sacked by his fiancee, Nan Wynn. In November she resumed her romance with director Jackson Halliday, whom she sort of started to date in June.

AdeleJergens7In early 1948, she dated actor Robert “Bob” Scott, and then took up with actor Ron Randell. Soon, Don McGuire was added to the roster. Scott ended up the most serious of her beaus, and friends were pretty sure the two would end up betrothed. Just when you thought, that’s it, Adele is finally going to get married, puff, another man enters the scene – Judd Downey, the legal eagle of Los Angeles. He took over the marriage sweepstakes from poor Bob, and now he was allegedly to become Adele’s husband. In April, the papers were pretty sure the two would wed. Yet, by June she was dating architect George Hyam and there was no additional mention of Downey. As they say, easy come, easy go. Also worth noting is that Hyam designed several dresses for Adele. Not long after, Adele changed her hair color from blonde to brunette.

Milton Berle briefly took over from Hyam in late July, but by August she was already seen another man, Clinton Bagwell. Scott Brady also entered the scene about that time. Adele was sent everywhere in Hollywood by her studio for publicity – for instance, she was there for a drug store opening, and won a specially made lotion!

In 1949, Adele continued her man enchanting ways. She and Johnny Gibbs were often seen at the nightclubs, and especially loved to hear Liberace playing the piano. She was still seeing George Hyam on the sly. Adele was also a tennis fan and often attended tennis events at the Wiltshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. In 1949, something nasty happened to Adele – she wanted to enter an eleator, and stopped herself at the last moment – the elevator shaft was empty! Despite the shock, she attended a charity function at Ciros later and modeled clothes to raise money. Ron Randell then entered her life again. Like her, he was a former Columbia contractee who went on to free lace. In August, Adele developed a crush on a Brazilian businessman, but nothing came out of it. In September, she was robbed and the thieves made way with several of her mink coats and jewelry. Later that month Adele ended a short romance with a wealthy San Francisco man and returned his diamonds (in a bucket :-P)

Also in 1949, Adele was involved with Ronald Reagan - and the same old stories happened again – Ronald was crazy for Adele and wanted to marry her, but she was not to keen on the idea. It seems that the right man, her prince on the white horse, had not yet come.

AdeleJergens51950 started on a working note. Adele worked so hard she fainted on the set of one of her movies. The doctor ordered rest and relaxation afterwards.  She was even in “negotiations” with the handsome, wealthy Robert Goelet Jr. about appearing in one of his movies filmed in Rome. She also volunteer in a cancer clinic without much fanfare and danced with the Fashionettes, a troupe that donated all it’s earnign to charitable cuases.

By mid 1950, her romance with her one time co star, Glenn Langan, was out. The girl who was a constant bachelorette for years and whom no man could tame had finally found her match. Langan, who was neither rich nor especially popular, caught her heart. In this regard, Adele was truly one of the few actresses who claimed they were not after wealthy man, and they really were not  – and this proves it.

The romances blossomed nicely for the second part of 1950 and early 1951. One reported even wrote that Adele has two shadows now – her own and Glen’s. After a small tiff in May (the papers were cryptic about their separation, like even the gossip columnists did not believe the two were over for good). In July, Adele was even seen with another man, Mickey Stokey, a TV personality. My own guess was that she tried the oldest trick – making Glen jealous, as they were not over with each other.

Adele attended the marriage of actress Sally Forrest and Milo Frank and cached the bride`s bouquet. It was a dead give away. She married Langan on October 6, 1951.

AdeleJergens6Their only son, Tracy T. Langan, was born on September 11, 1952. Adele took it slowly after this, semi retiring with her family in Encino.

She and Langan had a happy marriage that lasted until his death on January 19, 1991. She never remarried.

Her son Tracy was an active, much below member of the Hollywood community along with his wife Cynthia. As a Mr. Roy Wagner posted on Tracy’s imdb page:

One of the greatest and most legendary figures in the history of camera support. Tracy was instrumental in the success of so many directors of photography, including myself. No matter what the cost he would make sure that your project had what was necessary to do a good job. I would not have the success that I have had without his extraordinary assistance. He was the backbone of Panavision.
Roy H. Wagner ASC
director of photography

Adele’s health started to fail in the late 1990s. In 2001, Tracy died. It was a huge blow for her, one from which she never recovered.

Adele Langan died on November 22, 2002, just weeks before her 85th birthday.

Eleanor Bayley

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Perpetually cast in the lightweight musicals of the late 1930s and early 1940s, Eleanor Bayley was the eternal dancer, always seen in the background and never truly noticed by the viewer. After a steady although unspectacular career, she retired to raise a family.

EARLY LIFE:

Eleanor Bayley was born on January 4, 1916, in Atchison, Kansas, to Trace R. Bayley and Gwendolyn Bayley. Her younger brother Hale was born in 1924. Her family was a staple of the city, being there for many generations.

Growing up and attending high school in Atchison, she dreamed of becoming a dancer and actress. She even made a notebook detailing these dreams for an English project.

Eleanor finished her high school days in Hollywood, and danced in all the schools’ production and took dancing classes from Moscow brothers, who were also among the dance teachers to Ted Shaw and Ruth St. Denis. She got her firts taste of the real dancers life when she got a job as a troupe that gave 5 shows daily at the Paramount theater (between movies). Soon she moved to Grauman’s Chinese theater, and became a part of a vaudeville troupe that traveled all around the US and Canada. She returned to Hollywood full time in 1933, and got a contract with Warner Bros, becoming one of the Busby Berkeley girls.

CAREER:

Eleanor made several very good movies at the very start of her career. The golden string started with Footlight Parade, a snappy, sharp musical with James Cagney, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler and Dick PowellFashions of 1934 is one of those sophisticated comedies they don’t make anymore today. A special plus is seeing Bette Davis in posh frocks with long blonde hair (have to see it to believe it!). Dames  gives us the best of Warner Bros 1930s musicals – plenty of witty comedy, great ensemble cast and f course, lavish dancing numbers choreographed by Busby Berkeley. It rarely gets better than this as far as the genre goes. And then, in her next movie, it did get better – Gold Diggers of 1935 are, as one reviewer summed it nicely, Good music, lots of beautiful girls and an inane plot, humorously acted out by a talented cast.

EleanorBayley2Sadly, the golden string was finished here, and some mediocre movies followed. Shipmates Forever is a Navy musical, a special sub genre of its own, but it’s not a typical example of the genre, giving us a more nuances, realistic portrayal of military life, but herein lies it’s problem – is it a carefree musical of a serious study about Navy men? The movie tries both and it fails. While not a complete waste, it’s below the usual Powell-Keeler musical of the time.

Both Colleen and Gold Diggers of 1937 show us just how the golden years of Warner Bros musicals was waning. Again, while not complete wastes of time, it’s a movie you see once and forget after two days. Over the Wall  is a pretty weird musical – a man lands into jail, lives his days full of rage and anger, only to discover he has a fine singing voice and becomes a singer. Yeah folks, they made a movie out of this silly story. Dick Foran, the singing cowboy, plays the bitter, twister fellow with a voice of an angel. Ha ha!

Girl from Avenue A is a forgotten Jane Withers movie. Joan of Ozark is an idiotic romp where Judy Canova playing her usual character, works as an anti Nazi agent. When she did it all, including hunting down Nazi criminals. What to say? if you like Bob Burns/Judy Canova comedies, maybe worth a look, otherwise avoid.

0024Footlight Serenade was a better movie, one of the first breakthrough roles for Betty Grable. It’s a nice piece of lightweight entertainment, with an interesting cast – the vivacious Betty, sharp Jane Wyman, charming, handsome John Payne and gruff, crass Victor Mature (who always played the same character over and over again – but at least he knew he was a limited talent and never denied this). Springtime in the Rockies is one of those movies that has neither the script nor the top direction, but the music and the actors make it an enchanting experience.

Du Barry Was a Lady, while not a master piece by along shot, is one of the most lush, beautiful looking musicals ever made. The gentle pastel colors create such a dreamlike, blurry feeling  so the viewer is transported into a heavenly place while watching it. I Dood It is a simple, pleasing Red Skelton/Eleanor Powell movie with some great supporting cast (Gloria DeHaven, Lena Horne!!).   Broadway Rhythm, on the other hand, is a below average musical. The reasons are plentiful: average music and leads with zero chemistry and charm. George Murphy was a great second banana, but never good enough for a leading man – the same goes for Ginny Simms.

Ziegfeld Follies needs no introduction today. The Harvey Girls is everything a light entertainment movie should be – good music, good actors, a solid script.

Eleanor gave up movies afterwards to raise a family.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Eleanor’s favorite actor was James Cagney, she considered Judy Garland a great person and highly strung, Marjorie Main being a germ fanatic, enjoyed jitterbugging with George Murphy. Among her most treasured memories from Tinsel town was the time she was invited to San Simenon, Heart’s huge castle above Los Angeles. Eleanor was appearing in a movie Heart was producing for his mistress, Marion Davies. Eleanor noted how Hearst spared no expenses when Marion was concerned, building lavish sets and buying whole department stores for her dressing room. Marion herself was extremely generous, giving the girls who visited her dressing room anything they liked from the racks.

EleanorBayley3A beautiful blonde with porcelain skin, Eleanor was a popular girl in Hollywood. She started dating Eddie Foy Jr. in 1933, when she was barely 17 years old. The two wed in April 1935. Eddie Foy, born on February 4, 1905 in New Rochelle, New York, was the son of Eddie Foy Sr.  and one of the “Seven Little Foys”.  Throughout the 1930s and ’40s he appeared in dozens of B movies. He closely resembled his father, and portrayed him in four feature films.

The marriage did not last and couple divorced in October 1937. Eleanor continued to date, hoping to find the special man who would become her husband number two.

She married Philip Duboski, then a professional football player, on January 1940 in Yuma, Arizona. Their romance started when he was playing guard and halfback at the USC football team.  Duboski went on to serve in the US Air Force during WW2.

Duboski was born on November 19, 1916, in Beloit, Wisconsin, to Mr. and Mrs. John Dubosky. Highly athletic, he played both football and basketball before graduating from high school in California and enrolling into USC. He planned to go into the oil industry after the war. But fate had other plans in store for him.

Eleanor’s second marriage proved to be a happy one. The couple had four children. Dolynn Duboski was born on July 22, 1946 in Los Angeles County, Phyllis Anastasia Duboski was born on March 8, 1948, John Bayley Duboski (their only son), born on May 17, 1949 in Los Angeles County, and Deborah C Duboski was born on October 10, 1957 in Los Angeles County.

Her husband worked in the Los Angeles Police Department until 1963, when they moved to Strathmore, where they bough some land in 953. Her husband became a a farmer, in addition to teaching on the Porterville Citrus High School. She was active in the civic community, serving on boards of several schools and teaching children how to dance. She also kept in touch with other Busby Berkeley girls, and they often had meetings in California to reminiscence about the old days. The Duboskis moved to Porterville in 1974.

Eleanor Dubovski died on June 29, 1976. Her former husband, Eddie Foy Jr. died on July 15, 1983.

Her widower Phil Duboski remarried to Patsy Lou Gill in 1980. He died on April 16, 2003, in Tulare, California.

PS: Happy New Year!!!!

happynewyearannMiller

Merle McHugh

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Merle McHugh was a girl who had connection in Tinsel town, her father being a prominent newspaperman who was a friend of Hedda Hopper and other social columnists. She was pretty, not without talent and had some stage experience. What went wrong? It’s the million dollar question nobody knows the answer to, but bottom line is, Merle McHugh made only two very brief appearances in movies before sliding into total obscurity.

EARLY LIFE:

Merle McHugh was born in 1927 in New York to Eugene “Gene” McHugh and Merle Trillard. Her father was the managing editor of the New York Daily News, and her mother was born from an union of a Frenchman and an English lady. Merle was a beautiful child much loved by her parents and nicknamed Scoop.

Merle started working as a copyright girl at the New York Daily News, courtesy of her father. Yet, Merle was unhappy with the job and wanted to go to the stage. She took lessons in Shakespearean theater, but wisely pondered that maybe going to the chorus gave her better chances at reaching her ultimate goal, Hollywood. She modeled on the side to make extra money.

In late 1945, Merle was a Broadway newcomer at the Latin Quarter, vying for bigger and better things. She came to some prominence in 1946, when she was firts mentioned in Walter Winchell‘s column. Pretty soon, she was summoned to Hollywood to have a screen test with MGM. Unfortunate before the scheduled flight, she fell and dislocated her spinal vertebrae, resulting in a period of six weeks rest, wearing a neck brace. The injury was quite serious, as she went to consult a specialist in Norwalk, Connecticut, where she lived with her uncle and aunt, Edn and Jay Erman, (Edna was her mother’s sister), for a week. While there, Walter Pidgeon, famous actor, who who knew her from New York, send her flowers and a note wishing for a speedy recovery. Not a girl to be easily discouraged, she patiently waited until she was better and was off to Hollywood in May 1946.

CAREER:

Pretty slim in this department, Merle made only two appearances in movies, and both uncredited. As I said several times already, what a waste!

Copacabana is a Grouch Marx/Carmen Miranda movie that only works when Groucho is playing his usual Marx brothers persona, and when Miranda is doing her electric musical numbers. The rest – the story, supporting characters, and more or less everything else – falls flat like a deflated balloon. Merle plays one of the Copa girls, and, of course, she simply drowns in the sea of pretties.

In Living in a Big Way, we have all the right ingredients for a hit – Gregory LaCava in his last credit, Gene Kelly at the time when he did hit after hit, and Marie McDonald, no great actress but a vivacious, endearing presence in most of her movies, with a body to die for (hence her nickname, The Body). The end result is only barely passable, and considering who is involved in it, it’s pretty much downright bad. Okay, maybe it’s not that bad – it can hardy go into the Hall of Worst Movies Ever Made, but could have been so much better. Saving grace of the movie is definetly Kelly, always sensually elegant in his dancing and a true gentleman in his demeanor.

Merle found no further luck in Hollywood, and left the film world for good.

PRIVATE LIFE:

When Merle hit Hollywood, she was chaperoned everywhere by a family friend, Lieutenant Charles Sweeney, the man who dropped the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Another man who liked her was composer Sam Coslow, who wanted to write a song especially for her in her firts feature, Copacabana. Of course, he did not, but at least he tried :-)

Like many starlets of the day, Merle tried the “less clothes, more flesh” approach to achieve any level of recognition. As she told a TV presenter, “Nothing succeeds like excess”. Of course, this is for the most part a wrong way to gain fame and fortune, Merle ultimately failing a victim to it, getting a bit of newspaper publicity but making no lasting impression on nobody.

In 1952, long after her career was over, Merle made headlines by getting sick on a yacht owned by her then boyfriend, wealthy East coast socialite Eric Piper, and having to be rescued by the Coastal guard via a plane. The plane was flying at five feet over the waters, and a raft was dropped down that paddled to the Sandpiper. She was taken into the Salem Hospital. She was suffered internal hemorrhaging, but was said to have been fine later that same day. The Sandpiper, an auxiliary yacht (known as a ketch to the sea wolves), a 65 foot beauty, was sailing to Sciatuate, Masschusets.

Merle announced she would marry Piper as soon as she left the hospital. Piper was a good catch by anyone’s standards, not too old (he was 42 then), and a member of the Boston Brahmin. I found no traces of the union, so while it is possible it took place sometime, I highly doubt it.

In 1958, Merle married Jack Leon Medoff. Medoff was born on June 21, 1924, in Massachusetts to Katie and David Medoff.

The couple had two daughters, Marlene and Marilyn Susan Medoff. The family lived in New Yersey.

Medoff died on August 7, 2001.

Merle Medoff is very probably alive today and living in Closter, New Yersey.

 

 

Gwen Kenyon

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Blue collar, hard working girl who made it in Hollywood on her sheer willpower, Gwen Kenyon never made a classic nor carried a movie, but outdid many other starlets who gave up too soon or never believed they could succeed. While she did retire at a young age to raise a family, she still has over 50 movies under her belt and a few leads to warrant her at least a small degree of cinematic greatness.

EARLY LIFE:

Margaret Gwendolyn Kenyon was born on January 22, 1916, in Los Angeles, California, to William S. Kenyon and Margaret Spencer. Her mother was a former actress who retired prior to marrying her father. Her older sister Thelma was born on October 24, 1901. her parents were both from Michigan and came to California sometime in the early 1910s.

Gwen grew up in Los Angeles, with Hollywood just around the corner. Unfortunately, her parents divorced when she was but a girl, and she became the sole caretaker of her family by the time she was 12 years old, supporting herself and her mother. She did all sorts of odd jobs: selling candy, helping actors and actresses with their fan mail, working asa doctor’s receptionist, as a nurse, and finally as a theater usher. All this while still attending high school! To add to her list of chores, soon she was doing all the paperwork and keeping the books in theater. Her mother was bed ridden and Margaret also had to keep the household. She credits this with teaching her how to manage her time and be very efficient.

On the side, she did some ballet dancing and dreamed of becoming an actress. After graduation, she danced in a theater, and was noticed by a talent scout who persuaded her to enter the motion picture world.

CAREER:

Gwen was an extremely proactive woman at the time most women were expected to be gentile, passive and pliant. Taught by her grim childhood experiences, she took every chance that landed her way with both hands and fought tooth and nail for her roles. Fittingly, she was physically stronger and more robust than the average delicate actress, and was often photographed doing exercises for the papers, more than any other starlet of the times.

GwenKenyon3The story goes that she nagged the gate man at MGM to let her trough and finally she sneaked in when he was answering his phone. This spunky move got her a chance to become a chorus girl. Without any experience, she answered casting calls to sing, dance and even sky dive. She was really one of a kind!

Gwen appeared in more than 50 movies during her 10 year career. Thrill of a Lifetime is the typical musical where the back story is absurdity itself but the musical numbers are well made and make the movie. And, typical for this type of movie, the lead often ends up the least interesting part of the exudation. Who would even look at Lief Ericson (handsome but never a good actor) when you have luminaries like Eleanore Whitney, Yacht Boys and Ben Blue on the screen?

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, a input into the Bulldog Drummond series, is again centered over the bad guys attempt to thwart Bulldog’s marital plans (the explosives they are carrying are secondary to this, the most malicious of all deeds). Poor Phyllis Clavering, always waiting for Bulldog and always the bad guys appearing just before she is about to catch her prize. Joking aside, it’s a solid entry, with John Barrymore, generally a superb actor, giving a good performance as one of the good guys. Bulldog is finely played by the handsome John HowardDaughter of Shanghai is a movie very important or minorities and women in Hollywood – it features an Asian leading lady! Anna May Wong, the alluring siren seen in more than 60 Hollywood movies, gets a rare opportunity to play the lead. One can forgive the movie even if it’s not a master piece (due to the story and the characters), but it ends up a surprisingly well made film. Good plotting and very good acting roster make it an unique experience for not only B movies but female lead movies.

True Confession is a interesting blend of black and screwball comedy, with Carole Lombard playing the first prototype of a scatterbrained wife. Wells Fargo  is an unusual western about the early riders of the  US Post Office. Featuring the off screen life couple, Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, it’s quite realistic for the time and worth your money.

The Buccaneer is a typical Cecil DeMille film – historically inaccurate, with lavish production values, large cast and technically well made. Frederic March, while not the best choice of actor to portray what is basically a swashbuckler character, still does a decent job. The Big Broadcast of 1938 is one of the Broadcast series of movies, a flimsy excuse to showcase the studio talents like Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour and so on. Scandal Street is a forgotten movie.

GwenKenyon2Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a superb Ernest Lubitsch movie. While the verdict about the movie is well divided, I for one loved it and it figured much better than some of his other movies, like Design for Living. Cocoanut Grove is a nice little musical with Fred MacMurray showing he can do comedy easilyYou and Me is a scramble of opposing movie genres – crime, musical, melodrama, propaganda… And so on. Made by the great Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, the bottom line was that crime does not pay, but the results are mixed. Worth watching, if nothing to see how an experimental mainstream movie looks like.

Tropic Holiday is a light and funny musical with Fred MacMurray. Sing, You Sinners, with a highly misleading title, is actually a above average Bing Crosby musical. Thanks for the Memory is a typical Bob Hope comedy of the era, quick on the wit and banter and hardly a master piece. The enchanting Shirley Ross is a welcome addition to any movie, including this one.  Say It in French is a breezy, elegant comedy farce, sadly forgotten today.

Artists and Models Abroad gave Gwen slightly more prominence (she plays Miss America and one can actually take note of her!) but it’s still a lightweight, simple Jack Benny comedy. Similarly, St. Louis Blues is another lightweight but amusing musical.

Disbarred is a thriller made after a book by the man himself, Edgar J. Hoover. The studio made a few of those, and this one is worse off than the rest, being an uninspired, dull movie. While the premise was an original one at the time (crooked lawyers and how they damage the society), it’s laden with cliches and the script writing is sub par.

Cafe Society is a typical social disparity movie, pitting the high class Madeleine Carroll (always a welcome sight for sore eyes) against the working class Fred MacMurray. King of Chinatown is one of the Anna May Wong movies of the time, usually with the same cast and similar characters (mostly Caucasians portraying Asian characters). I’m from Missouri is one of the many Bob Burns comedies, Bob playing his usual Midwestern hick. Unmarried, a tearjerker with moment of prize fighting mixed in (yes!) is more notable as one of Helen Twevetrees’s last movies than any artistical achievement.

GwenKenyon1Dancing Co-Ed is one of those movies anyone watched not for the sumplistic story, but for the impressive roster of supporting players (brace yourself – Ann Rutherford, Lee Bowman, Artie Shaw, Richard Carlson, and the list goes on!). Lana Turner, while no big actress, is her usual charming self and makes it worth a passing glance. All Women Have Secrets is a mediocre drama about the woes of college kids. Free, Blonde and 21 is a female heavy movie, following the lives of girls who live in an all girl hotel. Each actress is typecast to her usual fare (Lynn Bari as a B class Claudette Colbert, Mary Beth Hughes as the bad girl and so on…) so no big surprises here.

Turnabout is truly the proof how even not so sterling movies can become embedded into one’s brain. With an unusual story line and a few talented actors (Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis) it raises above it’s own mediocre quality. This is a phenomena rarely seen in Hollywood, so it’s worth watching for that alone.

Under Age, about teenage delinquency shows that even early in his career, director Edward Dmytryk was a rule breaking man – even under the heavy eyes of the censors, he pulled so much delicate questions under the radar (including prostitution). Not a well know movie today, but an interesting one worth watching. You’ll Never Get Rich is a classic Rita Hayworth/Fred Astaire movie, and one of the most remembered movies on Gwen’s resumee.

Niagara Falls was one of the many Hal Roach vehicles for his special favorite, Marjorie Woodworth – and all went kaput without fail. While not a waste of film reel, the mundane, simplistic movie only reveals how Marjorie was never more than adequte as an actress, and never gives us enough of the true comedic talent, Zasu Pitts.

Confessions of Boston Blackie,  one entry into the long running series, was described like this by a review: “Interesting plot has to do with the missing body of the dead man and how it was accomplished with a phony statue. The story follows the usual Boston Blackie formula and this one is not quite on the same level with the first Blackie film. Still, for detective fans, it manages to move briskly within its short running time.”

Man from Headquarters is a movie in the genre typical for the early 1940s, a crime movie that’s not a comedy but that some elements of it. A typical high budget time waster, easy on the eyes but nothing to rave about. Lawless Plainsmen is a low buget western that finally gave Gwen a leading female role.

So’s Your Aunt Emma!  is an interesting movie if nothing else – a moronic plot plot was saved from total ruin by Zasu Pitts’ sweet character. Despite it’s paper thin budget, it’s a very enjoyable little comedy mixed with a bit of film noir.

What to say about The Corpse Vanishes? Read the summary and judge for yourself: A scientist, aided by an old hag & her two sons – a malicious dwarf and a brutish moron, kills virgin brides, steals their bodies, & extracts gland fluid to keep his ancient wife alive and young.

GwenKenyon7Shorts gave Gwen a chance to show more of her talents thanin full lenght movies. She made How Spry I AmCollege BellesPiano MoonerSocks AppealTwo SaplingsA Maid Made MadBlonde and Groom, Quack ServiceHe Was Only Feudin’. While shorts are all forgotten today, at least she had some exposure to the general public back then!

Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher is a low budget crime movie, not better or worse than al the others like it. Sarong Girl, one of the few movies by stripper Ann Corio, is a notch better than one would expect for such a programmer quickie –  a silly but endearing plot, great comic turn by Irene Ryan, an appearance of comic Mantan Moreland and nicely done musical numbers. The direction and editing is brisk and well done.

Gals, Incorporated is basically a long string of band performances with a thin story squeezed in between numbers (like many musical of the era).  Wintertime is a Sonja Henie movie (which you know I adore :-P), so no comment about that.

Riding High is Dick Powell’s last movie for the studio, and one of his dullest. Thus begins the last period of Gwen’s career, and by far the most succesful. Tornado is a finely scripted, surprisingly well made disaster movie with a touch of Cecil B. DeMille in it.

Phantom Lady is a special kind of movie. Not known outside a narrow circle of film noir aficionados, it’s still a compelling, interesting piece of work. Reasons? Several! First and foremost, it was made by Robert Siodmak, a director well versed in German expressionism.

As one reviewer wrote: “Siodmak’s use of sex, light, shadows, and music is truly remarkable as he tackles this genre. The shadows, lighting effects, and camera angles are all effective. But the highlight of the film takes place in a nightclub with a very sexual drum riff by Elisha Cook, egged on by an excited Raines. It’s this scene that brings “Phantom Lady” into new territory.” Performances by Ella Raines and Franchot Tone elevate the acting quality above the usual B fare. While it’s not a film noir classic, it has plenty to offer.

GwenKenyon8Charlie Chan in the Secret Service  is one of the technically most advanced from the Charlie Chan movie series, nt to be missed by any fan of the detective.

The Great Mike is a forgettable family movie about a boy and his racing horse. Three Is a Family, a wartime woman’s picture, was only midly amusing and gathered no laurels for anybody involved.Here Come the Waves is notable for pairing Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton, and a decent pairing it is, but the movie is not a top achievement for neither. Still, Gwen has a prominent role in this one, certainly a uppity compared to her previous minimal assigments.

Yet, just when she started getting billed parts, Gwen made her swan song in 1945, named The Cisco Kid in Old New Mexico . It’s a below average entry into the Cisco Kid series, with Gwen playing the female lead. Perhaps she could have embedded herself into the world of low budget westerns, but she rather chose to retire and devote her life to family matters.     

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1937, when she was only 21 years old, Gwen dated David Niven. Niven, while not particularly handsome, was suave, with a butter like voice and knew his way around women. Sadly, he was also a firs class philanderer who played the field. Of course, the romance ran its course a short time later.

GwenKenyon5Gwen’s second serious Hollywood beau was Glenda Farrell’s cousin, Dick Farrell, but that too did not last long. Next was Buddy Westmore of the famous Westmore make up clan. In late 1938, papers were abuzz with the stories that Gwen will marry Robert Heasley of Beverly Hills, but the two never did get to the altar (but they were engaged for a few months).

Gwen then became a notch on the belt of Artie Shaw, who dated them all (and married many of them!). A more serious and mature relationship was John Howard, handsome young actor. The were pretty close in early 1941, but as most Hollywood romances, it fizzled out before reaching the matrimonial stage.

Bill Orr, agent extraordinaire, was for a time also serious about Gwen and even told pals the two were altar bound. The romance was serious and blossomed for a time, but by1942 they had broken up.

Gwen married Morton Scott in July 1943 in the Shatto Chapel of Los Angeles First Congregational Church in a 150 people ceremony. Her sister Thelma was the maid of honour. The couple honeymooned in Santa Barbara and went to live in Studio City.

Morton Scott was born on January 17, 1912 in Los Angeles. He graduated from Stanford University. He worked for the Republic Studio and composed musical scores mostly for B class westerns.

Gwen gave up movies not long after the marriage, in 1945. Their only child, Gayle Scott Kenyon, was born on February 1, 1946.

Gwen’s husband died on April 15, 1992, in Santa Barbara, California.

Gwen Scott died on October 18, 1999, in Montecito, California.

 

Melba Marshall

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Good looking chorine with an unremarkable career that ended her Hollywood sojourn a happily married woman with two beautiful daughters, making her a decent example of a typical late 1930s Hollywood starlet.

EARLY LIFE:

Melba Mae Kruger was born on August 9, 1914, in Rochester, New York, to John Marshall Kruger and Nina Gamble.

In 1920, the small family was living with her maternal grandmother, Ella Gamble, with her first cousin, and a boarder. Sadly, her parents divorced in the mid 1920s and her mother went on to marry Charles H. Fick. Nina and Mae moved to Chicago, Illinois, to live with Charles.

Melba was not a big lover of the academical life, and gave up high school after the second grade. She ran away from Chicago, moved to New York, and danced in Earl Carroll shows and Manhattan nightclubs.

Melba got her first movie job using a sly trick. Getting, via friends, to Busby Berkley, she told him she’s a friend of Dick Powell. Delighted, Busby casts her in his newest movie. The ruse was soon found out, but she was forgiven and remained in the cast. Thus her Hollywood career started.

CAREER:

While IMDB has a page for Melba, the page is empty. Yeah, you heard that right, it’s empty. So I have no factual information about the movies Melba appeared in. Yet, she was for sure in the above mentioned Busby Berekely movie, The Big Broadcast of 1937, but was not credited in the movie’s imdb page.

While it is possible that she was only used for publicity purposes and was never officially in the movie, and that indeed she never made a movie appearance, I hope for her sake it’s not true and her appearances remain buried by the veil of time.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Melba started dating George Scott Barnes, noted cinematographer, in mid 1938. Barnes was already married twice before, to Joan Blondell and Elizabeth Wood. If his later obituaries were to be takes into account, he was married not two but at least four times (allegedly one of his former wives was named Ethel). The relationship went from strength to strength, and the two married sometime in 1939. Later that year, Barnes was sues by his former wife, Betty Wood, for the support of their son, Carlton. That should have been a red flag for Melba, but she stood by her man.

MelbaMarshall2Garnes was born in 1894, making him 20 years older than Melba. Barnes was well known as the silver tongued Romeo among the Hollywood crowd – while not at the least handsome, he was soft spoken and very gentlemanly. He mingled with the high class, and knew everybody there was to know. His specialty was the soft focus camera technique, a technique made especially to flatter a woman’s face. No wonder so many women fell for him. There wasa dark side to his genious,  however. Like many “smooth” men, he was an egoist and a hard task master, rarely submitting to anything less than what he decided was his preference. He made his former wife, Joan Blondell, have two abortions, and their marriage was a truly miserable one.

Their first daughter, Barbara Ann Barnes, was born on April 16, 1940. Their second daughter, Georgene S. Barnes was born on May 7, 1942. The marriage did not last, however, and the divorced in about 1945.

Melba married noted composer Arthur Quenzer in 1947. Quenzel was born on  October 20, 1905 NYC, NY, to Hary Quenzler and Rose Coughlin. Prior to 1930, Quenzer married his first wife, Helen Gehring. He divorced her in about 1936.

In 1938, Quenzer married Marcoletta Hellman and lived with her father in Los Angeles. His first son, Peter Dennis Quenzer, was born on March 26, 1940. His second son, Michael Arthur Quenzer, was born on December 4, 1943. Quezner adopted her daughters upon the marriage.

Quenzer got his five minutes of fame by composing music for movies like Swiss MissThe Cowboy and the Lady  and DumboThe family lived for a long time in North Hollywood, where her husband headed the California Academy of Music. Georgene, known as Gene to her peers, followed in her mother’s footsteps by becoming a well known model in the area, winning her first title by the time she was 16 years old. She attended Reseda High School.

Her former husband George Barnes died in 1953.

Melba Mae Quenzer died on December 10, 1979, in Los Angeles, California. 

Her widower, Arthur, died on January 29, 1986 in Nevada. Together are are interred in the Hollywood Forever Cemetary.

Harriette Haddon

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Pretty chorus girl who made countless uncredited appearances of many 1930s movies in Hollywood, Harriette Haddon was a true working gal for a time, before marrying into Hollywood royalty and leaving the industry for a family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Harriette Jane Northfoss was born on October 13, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, to Victor Northfoss and Jessie Blanpied. Her father, born in Minnesota, worked as a interior decorator. Her mother, born in Kansas, was a librarian.

Harriette was the couple’s only child, and grew up in Los Angeles, the city that would soon become the hub of most of the US film industry. She began dancing as a youngster, and was a sure bet to become a dancer. After graduating from high school, she entered movies in 1932.

CAREER:

Harriette’s career lasted for 15 years, and can be divided into roughly three chapters.

She started as a fresh faced, naive girl barely 17 years old, when she signed with Fox Film Corporation. Make no mistake, her career would always remain a marginal one for Hollywood, but quality of the films wildly varied. Between 1932 and 1936, Harriette worked only part time in movies an dit showed. The Trial of Vivienne Ware was a hectic, well plotted 1932 quickie, less than an hour long, with some very good actors (Joan Bennet in an early appearance, Zasu Pitts and Skeets Gallagher). She did not fare so well with her second movie, a truly wierd one, It’s Great to Be Alive. The story is center on the last fertile man in the world! Guess no more needs to be said… Arizona to Broadway was one of those comedies that have al the right ingredients but fall flat in the final run. Joan Bennett again (he girl sure made some strange movies early on…)Stand Up and Cheer! is a Shirley Temple movie with only 5 minutes of Shirley Temple. The rest is taken up by Warner Baxter as a theatrical producer whom Franklin Roosevelt appoints a tas the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. it’s a basically a pastiche of musical acts not worth your money.

Harriette Haddon1Kentucky Kernels is an average input into the Wheeler and Woosley comedy series. if you like them, you’ll like this, if not, don’t even come close. Similarly, College Rhythm is another one of the endless college campus movies of the early 1930s. Nothing to yell about, but not the worst either. Interesting if nothing than for seeing the Bing Crosby wannabe, Lanny Ross, who had a brief career and never managed to live up to his potential. The Lottery Lover is a lightweight romance movie, with a lukewarm script and mostly decent actors (Lew Ayres, Peggy Fears, Pat Paterson). Star for a Night was by far the most serious movie of this part of Harriette’s career. When the blind mother comes to visit her children in America, hoping to find them all well off, quite a different scenario occurs. Great actors like Jane Darwell and Claire Trevor light up this realistic movie. The next one, Rose Bowl  is, again, a college campus movie,with a convenient love triangle. Yawn. And more of the same in College Holiday, but at least it’s a very fun, feel good movie with several wacky performances (the crazy professor is here, and the crazy old rich lady played by Mary Boland). And Gracie Allen, George Burns and Jack Benny together are always a good combo.

Thus begins the second phase of Harriette’s career. She started to focus on her Hollywood career more, and do less nightclub work. With what results? Not so good, I’m afraid, but she had had several good credits to her name.

In 1937 only, Harriette made 8 movie! Turn Off the Moon is a Paramount 1930s musical, and as we already noted, Paramount was not the best place for musicals back then. While tolerable, they are barely able to hold a candle to the superior studios like Warner Bros and MGM. The stars (like Charles Ruggles and Ben Blue) do try but it’s never quite enough. Mountain Music  is one of the hillbilly musicals that could be absolutely hilarious when made by the right people. And here we have big mouthed by infinitely charming Martha Raye and the rugged Arkansas bum Bob Burns in a funny romp worth watching. Thrill of a Lifetime is the typical musical where the back story is absurdity itself but the musical numbers are well made and make the movie. And, typical for this type of movie, the lead often ends up the least interesting part of the exudation. Who would even look at Lief Ericson (handsome but never a good actor) when you have luminaries like Eleanore Whitney, Yacht Boys and Ben Blue on the screen?

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, a input into the Bulldog Drummond series, is again centered over the bad guys attempt to thwart Bulldog’s marital plans (the explosives they are carrying are secondary to this, the most malicious of all deeds). Poor Phyllis Clavering, always waiting for Bulldog and always the bad guys appearing just before she is about to catch her prize. Joking aside, it’s a solid entry, with John Barrymore, generally a superb actor, giving a good performance as one of the good guys. Bulldog is finely played by the handsome John HowardDaughter of Shanghai is a movie very important or minorities and women in Hollywood – it features an Asian leading lady! Anna May Wong, the alluring siren seen in more than 60 Hollywood movies, gets a rare opportunity to play the lead. One can forgive the movie even if it’s not a master piece (due to the story and the characters), but it ends up a surprisingly well made film. Good plotting and very good acting roster make it an unique experience for not only B movies but female lead movies.

Harriette Haddon2True Confession is a interesting blend of black and screwball comedy, with Carole Lombard playing the first prototype of a scatterbrained wife. Wells Fargo  is an unusual western about the early riders of the  US Post Office. Featuring the off screen life couple, Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, it’s quite realistic for the time and worth your money.

In Old Chicago, one of Harriette’s better known movies, is certainly a mixed bag. With a big budget, big stars it should have been a sparkling cinema hit, and it does have some fine parts, but it collapses under its weight before the credits are out. Everything seems to just be the interlude for the great Chicago fire playing for the last 20 minutes of the film. Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye – all secondary. Sad.

The Buccaneer is a typical Cecil DeMille film – historically inaccurate, with lavish production values, large cast and technically well made. Frederic March, while not the best choice of actor to portray what is basically a swashbuckler character, still does a decent job. The Big Broadcast of 1938 is one of the Broadcast series of movies, a flimsy excuse to showcase the studio talents like Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour and so on. Scandal Street is a forgotten movie.

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a superb Ernest Lubitsch movie. While the verdict about the movie is well divided, I for one loved it and it figured much better than some of his other movies, like Design for Living. Cocoanut Grove is a nice little musical with Fred MacMurray showing he can do comedy easilyYou and Me is a scramble of opposing movie genres – crime, musical, melodrama, propaganda… And so on. Made by the great Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, the bottom line was that crime does not pay, but the results are mixed. Worth watching, if nothing to see how an experimental mainstream movie looks like. Give Me a Sailor is a funny little musical about a love quadriple (Bob Hope, Jack Whiting, Martha Raye, Betty Grable). The Arkansas Traveler is a one man movie, a showcase for the many talents of Bob Burns.

Illegal Traffic is a formulaic, uninteresting crime movie with Robert Preston.  Say It in French is a breezy, elegant comedy farce, sadly forgotten today. Zaza is a little known George Cukor movie. While not his best by a long shot, it’s not his worst either – despite the story being a typical Camille rip off (married aristocrat loving a dance hall girl) he has very capable leads (Claudette Colbert and George Marshall) and even better supporting cast (Constance Collier, Bert Lahr, Helen Westley). Paris Honeymoon is a watchable but unmemorable Bing Crosby musical. Similarly, St. Louis Blues is another lightweight but amusing musical. Cafe Society is a typical social disparity movie, pitting the high class Madeleine Carroll (always a welcome sight for sore eyes) against the working class Fred MacMurrayKing of Chinatown is one of the Anna May Wong movies of the time, usually with the same cast and similar characters (mostly Caucasians portraying Asian characters). 

Harriette Haddon3Never Say Die is another Bob Hope/Martha Raye comedy. The two worked well togetehr and could salvage even pretty bad script writing. Undercover Doctor is a thriller made after a book by the man himself, Edgar J. Hoover. It’s nothing to rave about, but it does make a nice afternoon viewing. Man About Town is a typical Jack Benny musical comedy, where he always plays the same old,same old character (as one reviewer nicely wrote: “Different aspects of his cheap tightwad and his narcissistic would-be great lover popped up in many of his films, even his best ones”). A Yank in the R.A.F. was one of the better propaganda piece movies to come out of Hollywood, with real life lover Tyrone Power and Betty Grable playing the leads. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break  is the last W.C. Fields leading vehicle, and one of his best known and most enduring movies, well known today.

What to say about Thank Your Lucky Stars ? As the summary goes: “Two producers are putting together a wartime charity show with an all-star cast but the egotism of radio personality Eddie Cantor disrupts their plans.” Plenty of talent, a flimsy story, but nicely done. Casanova in Burlesque is a Joe E. Brown comedy, totally obscure today. The lively music, colorful locations and all around cheerful atmosphere is the saving grace of Harriette’s next movie, Brazil. The bland leads (Virginia Bruce and Tito Guizar) are overshadowed by the mentioned elements, and Edward Everrett Horton cannot take a wrong step in my book.

 Earl Carroll Vanities is a sad excuse to showcase the lucious Vanities, with a sorry plot and no good actors. It was time for some B westerns for Harriette. Bells of RosaritaMan from OklahomaSunset in El DoradoDon’t Fence Me InRough Riders of Cheyenne and Dakota are all B westerns, with varying degrees of success. Most of them are Will Rogers/Dale Evans, pairings, but we also have an early John Wayne/Vera Ralston movie (Dakota).

Harriette made several more movies in 1945 before she retired for good. The Cheaters is a touching and delightful film, perfect for Christmas family viewingHitchhike to Happiness is an uninteresting Dale Evans musical (yeah, you heard that right, before she became Mrs. Rogers, Dale was a promising musical movie alumna)Behind City Lights is a completely obscure but possibly interesting crime/drama.

HarrietteHaddon4Love, Honor and Goodbye is similarly forgotten. The fluid, well plotted The Tiger Woman (with the seductive Adele Mara as the nominal character) is a lost treasure of the 1940s B movies. Like one reviewer wrote, “Republic features were almost always entertaining, economical, professionally made, well-cast, and tightly paced”.

An Angel Comes to Brooklyn is an absurd, so bad it’s almost funny category of a movie. Just to taste it, here is what one reviewer wrote:

High up in Actors’ Heaven—where those actors who have taken their final curtain on earth still maintain a lively interest in theatrical activity—there is a bell which has been named Minnie. When a struggling young actor on Broadway has sufficient faith in himself—if he believes strongly enough in his ability and talent—then Minnie rings out clearly, signaling that the time is right for an angel to leave Actors’ Heaven and go down to earth to help a worthy, but-as-yet-successful actor or actress.

Ha ha ha. The joke’s on them at any rate. Obviously not worth watching.

That was all from Harriette.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Harriette started her Hollywood career in 1932, but also went on to seek more luck in other venues – one of them was night club performing. She was so good she ended up in London in early 1935, and was popular with the night club going public, but visa problems forced her to return to the US (and consequently Hollywood) before the year was over. There were signs, here and there, that Harriette could become more than a uncredited chorus girl, her name mentioned in the papers a few time, but it all ended up zero.

Harriette Haddon5In 1939, Harriette was involved with Jackie Coogan. A former child actor, . The misfortune of such a match was that Jackie was just getting divorced from Betty Grable, and he carried quite a large torch for her some time after the divorce took place. Not even Harriette could alleviate it, and the two broke up in 1940.

Harriette married Hilliard Herbert Marks on November 23, 1942 in Jack Benny’s Beverly Hills home, just before he joined the US army to fight in WW2. Harriette was photographed for the papers in February 1943, still a newlywed, knitting garments for her corporal hubby.

Marks was born on June 29, 1913, in Seattle, Washington, to David Henry Marks and Esther Wagner. His older sister, named Sadie Marks, was to become Mary Livingston, a famous comedian and wife of Jack Benny. Benny proved to be one of the most important men in Marks’, and in effect, Harriette’s life.

Marks returned dot he civilian life in 1945. Harriette gave up her career in 1945 to take care of her family. Their first child, son Phillip Haddon Marks, was born on October 19, 1948. Their second child, a daughter, Victoria Jessica Marks, was born on February 23, 1952.

THarrietteHaddon7he Marks enjoyed a hefty Hollywood social life, mingling with Benny and his inne circle. Mary Livingston, Harriette’s sister in law, was an interesting woman herself. Mary’s adopted daughter, Joan Benny, wrote about her after her death:

She had so many good qualities — her sense of humor, her generosity, her loyalty to her friends. She had a famous, successful, and adoring husband; she had famous, interesting, and amusing friends; she lived in luxury; she was a celebrity in her own right. In short, she had everything a woman could possibly want. When I think of her it’s with sadness because I wish she could have enjoyed it all more

The Marsks divorced in January 1967 after more than 20 years of marriage. Marks remarried in 1971 to Virginia Amber Morrison. He died on August 19, 1982, in California.

Harriett did not remarry, and lived the rest of her days in California.

Harriette Marks died on March 1, 1999, in Los Angeles, California.