Barbara Brewster

Babs

Barbara Brewster is interesting as an actress since she was only half the deal – always paired with her sister, Gloria, they were hailed as the most beautiful twins in Hollywood. While this was a good gimmick to get the into the spotlight, they had to either separate at some point if any of them wanted a serious dramatic career (how many serious movies can you name with twin sisters in the leads?) or make a funny duo ala Laurel and Hardy if they wanted to become comedy stars – they did neither and ended up a small footnote in Hollywood history.

EARLY LIFE:

Barbara was born as Naomi Jane Stevenson on February 19, 1918, in Tucson, Arizona, to Charles E. Stevenson and Ruth A. Hanan, a little bit older than her twin sister, Ruth Stevenson. The girls had an older brother, Edward.

Her parents divorced when she was young and she and Ruth went to live with their mother and help her run a small hotel in Encinitas, California. They attended Oceanside High School.

The twins were initially noticed at the San Diego County Fair by a Fox talent agent and signed to the studio. They were groomed as models and billed the “Most Beautiful Twins in America.”

CAREER:

Barbara really had an undistinguished, minor career. She and Gloria had a good star in Ditto, a Buster Keaton short, playing the female leads, but that quickly melted to nothing and she remained a third fiddle for the rest of her career.

3437093_detailBarbara was cast in several movies of the supremely untalented Sonja Henie (Happy Landing  and My Lucky Star) and more talented Shirley Temple (Little Miss Broadway) – which means she was in low calorie, fluffy musicals. Due to being half of twins, she and was often paired with the studio’s leading comedic teams – Ritz brothers (the poor man’s Marx brothers in Life Begins in College) and Walter Winchell and Ben Bernie (Love and Hisses and Wake Up and Live). Her three other movies were a Loretta Young vehicle, a sophisticated upper society comedy-drama, Wife, Doctor and Nurse, an funny and interesting satire on the political world, Hold That Co-ed , and the B class half-musical, Thanks for Everything.

Barbara’s two last features were some of her better ones. She had the lead in a short comedy farce, Twincupletsalong with her sister Gloria and future brother-in-laws Clarence and Claude Stroud (if only one set of twins is confusing, imagine then two!). Anyway, her sister fell in love with Clarence Stroud during filming, married him in 1941 and cut her career short. They appeared in only one more movie as twins, in The Flame of New Orleans . a decent vehicle for Marlene Dietrich, but not her top effort.

Barbara switched the coasts, moving to New York to try and become a Broadway actress. She had some degree of success in the medium, acting High Kickers in 1941/1942. This was also Gloria’s last work. Later she acted opposite Sophie Tucker and In 1945, Barbara went on to star with Montgomery Clift in “Foxhole in the Parlor” on the New York stage.

She retired in from all forms of show biz in 1946.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In an almost uncanny coincidence, she dated the other half of the Stroud twins, Claude Stroud, but it did not culminate in marriage as it did for Clarence and Gloria. It was perhaps more publicity than the real deal, but a funny tidbit of history.

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Barbara was then connected to Alex D’Arcy and Buddy Moreno, the singer with Griff William‘s orchestra. Then, in 1939, she hit the jackpot by getting serious with Rudy Vallee, then a big music star. Vallee was  well known womanizer and dated girls by the dozen – Barbara bit back by seeing Jack Warner Jr. The two broke up not long after, and she hooked up with Dr. Lee Spiegel, a respected Hollywood medico. They dated for about a year. In late 1940 Barbara started dating Blake Garner, another connoisseur of pretty actresses, Lupe Velez‘s former heartbeat.

Finished with Hollywood at that stage in her life, Barbara departed for New York and there met and hastily married Alfred Bloomingdale, a good looking heir of Bloomingdale’s department store fortune, in November 1941. She ended up in hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, in the early 1942, suffering a miscarriage.

Al and Barbara divorced in August 1943. Al went on to date Choo-Choo Johnson, and in the end married Betty Newling in 1946. Barbara then dated another richman, Huntington Hartford for several months.

Barbara entertained the GIs during the war, and it was when she met her next husband, a non professional Bob Demond. He managed a radio station in the pacific. He is the interesting story of how they met, taken from her obituary

“In 1946, she married radio and television announcer Bob LeMond, whom she met in New Caledonia on a World War II USO tour.

Bob LeMond, a special services officer in charge of Armed Forces Radio, said he had enthusiastically awaited her arrival. Her picture on a promotional brochure, which included photos of five other women who were on the tour, caught his eye. “I’ll take her,” he said, pointing to the future Mrs. LeMond’s picture on the bottom right-hand corner of the brochure.

Her ship came in a few days later, and the pair’s eyes locked as she walked down the gangplank. “She said, ‘Haven’t we met before?’ ” Bob LeMond recalled. “I said, ‘That’s my line.’ We shook hands, and we’ve been holding hands ever since.””

They married after the war was over, on Juy 27, 1946. She retired completely after this. Their first son, Robert West, was born on February 8, 1948. The second son Stephen was born on June 12, 1952, and third son Barry on October 23, 1953.

LeMondBarbaraBob worked extensively on the radio, serving a the announcer for CBS Radio’s “My Favorite Husband” (1948-1951) and  CBS-West Radio’s “Romance of the Ranchos” (1941-1942).

He retired in 1971, and they went on to live in Bonsall, California. All this time she remained close to her twin sister, Gloria and her family. The saw each other almost daily until Gloria’s death in 1996.

Barbara Brewster died on June 21, 2005, in Bonsall. LeMond died in 2008.

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