Deannie Best

Deannie Best

Deannie Best is so obscure it’s hard to even find her photos on the net. A pleasant, clean looking brunette with a minor career, Deannie gave up movies too soon to make any real splashes in Hollywood.


Deannie Best was born as Willia Dean Doughty on September 25, 1926/1925, to Charles Dean Doughty and Willia Mae Peevey in Altus, Oklahoma. She was an only child. The family moved to Oklahoma City in the 1930s.

Nothing is known about her education, but Deannie left home early to become a chorus girl. She became a Goldwyn girl in 1944, and thus landed in Hollywood.


Deannie, who was signed by Warner Bros, appeared in four movies, Wonder ManThe Big Sleep , Three Little Girls in Blue , Shanghai Chest. Only her work in Shangai Chest is credited. Let’s be clear, to appear in the same movie as Humphrey Bogart or Danny Kaye is not a trivial thing and is something to be proud of, but sadly it does not make anyone a star nor warrants movie immortality. Deannie got lost among other pretty girls appearing by the dozen in all of these movies.

On a more optimistic note, she perhaps appeared in the best movies both Kaye and Bogart made (if you look up her up on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that both movies she acted in are rated very, very, very highly).

Her only credited movie, Shanghai Chest, is by all accounts a mediocre-to-low quality Charlie Chan movie with Ronald Winters as the detective. Playing the female lead,  the judge’s secretary, Deannie has little screen time, but gave a spirited performance. She got some kudos for it in the newspapers and books, but the movie was quickly forgotten and so was she.

She left show biz after this.


As a Goldwyn girl, Deannie was constantly part of publicity gimmicks early in her career – she and six other Goldwyn girls bought a young actor and became his managers – each owned 10% of him (what???). She was allegedly seated next to the eminent author James Hilton in an formal dinner, and this minor occurrence made it to the papers.

On the other hand, they worked selling war bonds and performed at military camps, for instance, she accompanied famous band leader Kay Kysler on his war bond tours in September 1945.

But, Deannie had a secret. She ceased being  a Miss even before she even got her first publicity – she married George Fred Balzer on April 12, 1944, in Los Angeles. The marriage obviously did not last and ended cca. 1945. Balzer himself was a much wedded man, as he had six wives: Dennie (1944-1945), Shirley Marguerite Mertz (m. 1947), Antoinetta (1947-1962), Vincenza (1966-1977),  and Hazel (1981-1984), and an unknown woman in 1987.

One of the first men she dated after her divorce was Willis E. Hunt, who would become her husband only years later.

castdeanniebestShe then briefly dated Stephen Crane, the former husband of Lana Turner, in 1947, and David May, the future husband of Ann Rutherford. She was also connected to the famous director Howard Hawks in late 1947, and somebody named John Finch. There were rumors that actor John Carroll would divorce his wife, Lucille Ryman, to marry her in August 1948. None of these flings bore any fruit.

In September 1948, Deannie married attorney Albert Pearlson. Peralson was born on April 13, 1912 in California. Both of his parentzs were Russian immigrants, who divorced in the 1920s. he lived with his mother in Los Angeles afterwards. he finished law school, and lived with his mother, younger brother and a friend in Los Angeles.

Despite the initial few days of bliss, they separated shorty after – already in october 1948 she stated dating actor Brian Donlevy, who was himself recently separated. She ended up in the hospital in November 1948, but as soon as she was out, she resumed her bachelorette life, without any mentions of her spouse.

Deannie and Albert divorced  in February 1949,  only to be remarried on March 7, 1949 after she went home to Oklahoma and he followed her.

Deannie disappeared from Hollywood after this. She and Pearlson separated for a few weeks in late 1952, but then reconciled. It didn’t last long – they divorced on February 14, 1953.

She married soldier James Neil Kennedy 10 days later, on February 24, 1953. Kennedy was born in 1927, to Neil A. Kennedy and Mary Calahane.

They had a child who was born prematurely and died in June 1953. She then got a job as a secretary to a businessman in Orange, California.

She and Kennedy divorced in March 1956 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Deannie remarried to a Mr. Decosta . Their daughter Dru was born on June 5, 1957. The divorce was equally swift.

Next time Deannie is mentioned in the press, in 1958, she is dating two Hollywood actors, Michael Dante and Lang Jefferies.

Deannie married her old beau, Willis E. Hunt, in 1965 in California.

The adopted son of a wealthy family and former Newport Beach yacht broker, Willis Hunt was married five times before. His fourth wife was Carole Landis. After his divorce from carole, he eventually left the yacht brokerage business and began operating a marine service business in Costa Mesa. 

The marriage seemed happy enoguh, altough temepestous due to passionmate tempers of both Deannie and Willis. Then, in 1969, something horrible happened. Deannie killed her husband with a kitchen knife durign an argument.

What exactly happened? Quoted from a newspaper article written by  Brianna Bailey for the Daily Pilot (you can find it on this link!)

“Stop. I don’t want to fight you,” Willia Hunt’s 13-year-old daughter from a previous marriage testified her stepfather Willis Hunt had pleaded that night, before her mother stabbed him twice in the chest with a butcher knife.

Dru told the jury she saw her step-father “crinkle up and fall” after her mother stabbed him and quoted him as saying “Oh my God…Dru,” the L.A. Times reported in November 1970.

Willis and Willia Hunt had been arguing over disciplining Dru on the night of his death, according to historical accounts.

Before the stabbing, Willia Hunt slapped her daughter, tore the telephone out of the wall and shouted at Willis Hunt, “I want to kill you. I don’t care if you have to spend the rest of my life in the penitentiary,” Dru said.

Dru went on to testify that her mother had tried to retrieve a gun out of a camper parked outside the Hunts’ home. The camper was locked, so Willia Hunt grabbed a butcher knife, Dru told the jury.

“She thought about this crime, and she did this crime,” Assistant Dist. Atty. Mel Jensen said at the trial.

Willia Hunt stabbed her husband with “sufficient force to cut a rib in half,” the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 10, 1970.

In contrast, the defense painted a picture of Willis Hunt as “drunk and unstable,” the Times reported.

Willia Hunt’s attorney, Sidney Irmas, told the jury that Willis Hunt picked up the knife and was killed as the couple struggled over the weapon.

The jury found Willia Hunt innocent in her husband’s death after deliberating for eight hours, the Los Angeles Times reported Nov. 11, 1970.

Willia Hunt hugged her friends and relatives after the verdict was read. She told the court that she had told the truth about her husband’s death.

“I just want to go home and rearrange my life,” she told reporters before leaving the courtroom.

I have no information about what happened to Deannie after this unhappy occurance. She was freed of al guilt, but what about her life afterwards? She probabyl remained in Costa Mesa.

Her former husband, Pearlson, died in September 1977.

Deannie died on May 16, 2000 at age 73 in Costa Mesa, California.


2 responses

  1. Very interesting, I may have learned a few facts, if this is all real. Deannie is/was my father’s 1st cousin and we grew up around her and Dru and a few of her men. I think we just all thought they were husbands or friends, but it was something we never questioned.
    She was very sweet, kind and so beautiful and I adored her. My Mother always told me John Carroll was at my baby shower and that would have been late summer or early fall 1950. I guess they must have still been seeing each other?

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