Opera stars sometimes made it in Hollywood. Kathryn Grayson. Rise Stevens. But, they sometimes did not. Inez Gorman is the poster child for an opera star that had it all – the looks, the voice, and the acting chops, but never did get anywhere.
Lillian Inez Gorman was born on October 31, 1912, in Boston, Massachusetts, to Prof. Frank C. Gorman and Adelaide Florence Tenfry. Her younger siblings were Jeannette, John and Harry.
Inez came from an family deeply in the academics – her father was a supervisor for several music school. Being a musical appasionato, he rubbed it off all his children, but Inez was specially affected. She sang from he time she could talk -but, paradoxically, this fine art did not make Inez a feminine, girly girl. In fact, she was a notorious toyboy, beating her brother at sports with comparative ease, climbing trees and doing all the standard non-girly things one can think of. The family moved to Bessemer, Michigan, in about 1922.
While living in Bessemer, Inez racked up an impressive list of events she enlightened with her singing voice, starting in 1925, and did some amateur theatrics at her school. Inez’s first real public performance came in 1930, when she sang in a chorus of 400 people for a huge Chicago crowd. She was also Miss Bessemer in county fairs. It was pretty obvious Inez was the belle of Bessemer, the most accomplished, beautiful girl in a small town, the symbol of hope, somebody who could do things outside the confinements of Michigan and even attain nation wide fame. Yet, often these girls grow up, and the momentum they had simply passes like water down the drain.
With Inez it was the opposite. As time went by, she blossomed into a pretty looking lady, and it was obvious she had the chops to go into showbiz. Despite winning two beauty contest in Boston, she opted for the family trade and went into the education field by studying at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, where both of her parents graduated.
It was during her college years that she was offered to joint he Ziegfeld Follies, but the steely NO from Mr. and Mrs. Gorman put an end to that. Inez graduated in 1934 and went to New York to further her budding career. She did bit work here and there, often being a piano accompanist. Landing a stint at the Metropolitan Opera, and earned some reputation by playing in Wagner’s only comic opera, Meistersinger, in 1936, her official opera debut. Her reviews were good, and Inez was going for bigger and better things.
In April 1936, an executive read a blurb about the newby singer, liked what he saw, wired his eastern representative and went to New York to meet and appraise his new investment. Inez made the grade, and was signed by 20th Century Fox.
One word come to mind when we take a look at Inez’s career: weird. She was signed by 20th Century Fox in 1936, and it as no normal contract – her salary was much higher than a normal newcomers, all due to the fact that she was a notable opera singer. In an almost cruel twist of fate, Inez never appeared in front of the camera for the duration of her contract, forever wasting a chance to see her in her prime years in a movie, to hear her voice when she was young and vital.
In a city that thrived of youth and rejects anything timely (especially women), Inez surprisingly she made her second coming when she was almost 40 years old, in 1950, signed by MGM. Yes, her roles were all minuscule and uncredited, but she is there, and actually visible in most of them.
Her whole career, thus can be summed up by the kind of movies MGM made in the 1950s: happy-go-lucky, lightweight, simple and pleasant. But that is it. No meaty dramatic parts, no real life situations, no truly climactic moments… But as escapist fare, it flies high!
Inez’s first movie was her only truly serious one, No Questions Asked, a late film noir. Since it’s not their usual fare, no big names appear, nor did the film become any sort of hit or got noticed in any way. What a pity, as it tackles a mature, delicate matter, but manages to miss it’s target in the in the end. Nice to see the lush Arlene Dahl in color tough…
Then it was back to lighter fare. Strictly Dishonorable, a showcase for Enzio Pinza, boasts no profound story line nor complex, multilayered characters, but as a musical extravaganza it makes the grade.
Love Is Better Than Ever is an early showcase for Liz Taylor, another light-as-a-feather escapist film. Liz is at the peak of her beauty here (a phase that was all too brief, lasting only until her late 20s – by the time she met Richard Burton, she was slowly decaying and never regained her original beauty – while it is true that Liz aged the same as anybody else, take a look at some of the other actresses who kept their top looks well into their 40s – Claudette Colbert, Jean Arthur, Olivia DeHavilland), and is very good as the girl who will do anything to get her man. Larry Parks, the man she wants to badly, is only adequate as a misogynistic, sarcastic character, but Liz is a woman of an industrial rubber band strength and just bounces back after anything he throws at her, ready for the kill.
Singin’ in the Rain is a classic that needs no further introductions. Dream Wife is one of Cary Grant’s lesser comedies, but I can think of much worse ways to spend an hour and a half. And Deborah Kerr, who can do no wrong in my eyes, is the leading lady. Give a Girl a Break, her last movie, is a unfairly unknown musical with a great cast – Grower and Marge Champion, Bob Fosse, Debbie Reynolds. Her MGM contract expired and past her prime, Inez gave up the movies and settled into a normal married life.
Inez started dating Ernest Ralph Orsatti in 1937. Ernest Orsatti was a former baseball player, member of the St. Louis Cardinals, who worked in Hollywood as a producer in tandem with his better known brother, Vic Orsatti.