Leila Ernst

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After Whitney Bourne, we have an another debutante who wanted more of life than fancy tea parties and golf. Leila Ernst was a Boston blue blood who gained ever lasting recognition on Broadway with her role in the original production or Pal Joey, but did not continue her winning row, which ended after just one movie , in Hollywood.

EARLY LIFE:

Laila Semple Ernst was born on July 28, 1922/1920, in Joffrey, New Hampshire, to Frederick Steinmann Ernst and Roberta D. Ernst. Her father, a WW1 veteran, served as a head master at a prestigious all boys school in the city. They moved to Salem, Massachusetts right after 1923 started. Her younger brother Frederick Jr. was born there a year later, in 1924. The family moved to Wellesley, Norfolk, Massachusetts in the late 1920s, and were prominent in the Chesnut Hill social set. Leila traveled with her parents from her earliest days – she was in Europe before she turned 8, visiting Monaco and France.

getimageComing from a solid upper middle class family, Leila had a top notch schooling, shuffling between private schools in England, France and Italy, and, after coming of age, getting her very own place in the Back Bay Society of Boston. Being one of the oldest WASP society enclaves in the US, the Boston set was highly prestigious and Leila was a sough after debutante. Yet, the life of leisure proved too unsatisfying for the energetic girl and after getting the acting bug she enrolled into Walter Hartwig’s Junior Colony Theater School. Her talent did not go unnoticed and in 1937 she was given a big chance of playing opposite the theater’s professional team, led by Donald Cook, in a play named “Soubrette”. A Paramount executive saw her and steered her towards the New York office. To prepare for a movie career, she enrolled into Boston’s Leland Powers School for Radio . Reta Shaw was one of the more famous actresses to come out of that school. After one term at Powers, she got real acting experience in the Mercury Theater (led by Orson Welles), acting in stock in Maine. There George Abbott heard her, and tested for his upcoming play, Too Many Girls.

CAREER:

Leila had much better luck on Broadway than in Hollywood. After some brushing up in summer stock, she got her first real role in Too Many Girls in 1939. At the tender age of 17, there she was , on the sure road to stardom. And for a time, she did not disappoint. She took her theater career very seriously, and was very dedicated to it.

ecnbr6v1gogxrbveIn the interim of her theater work, Leila made only one movie in Hollywood. It was a leading female role in Life with Henry where she was surrounded by some pretty famous thespians – Jackie CooperEddie Bracken and the gossip queen/actress Hedda Hopper. The movie is not a bad piece of work, one in the long running series of the Henry Aldrich adventures, but it was quickly forgotten.

Leila was very level headed about both Hollywood and the movie business. She refused to stay as a contractee in California, and went back to summer stock right after the movie was finished. Despite the fact that she liked Hollywood and doing movies, her chief desire was to gain stage experience, and she knew she could not get that if she was tied to a studio for a prolonged period of time. Her plan was to work for two years on the East coast before trying her hand on the West coast yet again. She rubbed this method into her costar Jackie Cooper, who left movies for a period after Life with Henry to experience stage life and become a better actor. The two went into a semi partnership to appear in Maine summer stock.

indexAnd then, after some summer stock, Leila got her big break. In December 1940, Pal Joey opened on Broadway with her, Gene Kelly and Vivienne Segal in the leads. Leila played Linda English, the nice, naive showgirl, Segal’s rival for Joey’s love. The show is a musical theater staple even today, and got made as a movie in 1957 (sadly with no actors from the original run, but with Rita HayworthFrank Sinatra and Kim Novak in Leila’s role). The play lasted for a year and after it ended in November 1941, Leila opted for semi retirement with her new husband.

In early 1943, there were reports that RKO was giving Leila a large build up to become a comedienne in the class of Carole Lombard, but it all amounted to nothing, and she left the West coast not long after. She was back on the stage in June 1943 in Doughgirls. A funny farce about wartime Washington, it was a decent comeback vehicle, and Leila was once again ready for the big spotlight. She continued touring with the play in 1945.

tot5k71auo817kaoIn 1946 she hit the Broadway stage once again with Truckline Cafe, starring in February 27, 1946. Tons of highly revered names were involved in it: Maxwell AndersonHarold ClurmanElia KazanMarlon BrandoKarl Malden and  David Manners among others, but it was a failure, closing after only 13 performances. Today it is best known as one of Brando’s earliest stage credits.

Leila’s last Broadway credit was If the Shoe Fits, a short lived musical that closed after a few performances – but Leila at least played the dream role for every woman – Cinderella.

Leila withdrew from the acting life after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Papers tried to make the most out of her blue blood background. She was hailed as a “blonde Boston ball of fire” who “shocks old Boston dowagers with her crazy tomboy antics” in Hollywood. Example: Leila dated Victor Mature, the muscle man of Hollywood. For one, Mature, who came from a humble background, had a special taste for fine bred ladies (three of his wives were debutantes), and for the other, they were even named “Least likely to romantically succeed” by the papers. The press got that right (what a shocker! :-P), as they broke up soon after. The same year she had a unnamed Boston admirer who only saw her photo, but was ready to date her anyway. No info is given to what happened next.

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Leila married Stacy Beakes Hulse Jr. on July 1, 1941, in the Church of the Transfiguration (commonly known as the Little Church) in Manhattan. Hulse was born on April 25, 1920 in New Haven, Connecticut to a prominent family, attended the private Belmont High School, studied at Harvard, majoring in business and specializing in American colonial history. Afterwards, he would go on to work in the finance world.

Alas, the marriage was not meant to last – they separated in late 1945 and divorced in 1947 in Dade, Florida. Hulse died in 1988 in Maryland.

In 1946, before her divorce (but while she was separated from Hulse), she started dating Edgar Luckenback, a Palm beach man from a prominent shipping family. The relationship lasted until mid 1947. After this, she was seen with Victor Carbone and was suppose to marry him in 1948, but nothing came out of it. Right after came Bruce Emmings, a British business executive, but that too did not lead to marriage.

Leila’s last acknowledged beau was James Veitch in 1952. What happened to her afterwards is a mystery.

She is allegedly still alive today, at the age of 91.

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Alice Jans

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Alice was a talented dancer who landed a Hollywood contract. Her story is shared by the vast majority of dancers-turned-actors: after appearing in countless musicals in uncredited roles (mostly as chorus girls) they were dropped by the studio, often going into retirement. Cases of international success like Cyd Charisse  and Ann Miller were few and far between in the sea of thousands of young hopefuls who wanted to taste stardom. Still, in her defense, being a Busby Berkeley chorus girl is truly something to be proud of!

EARLY LIFE:

Alice Katherine Jans was born on July 11, 1912 in Jefferson, Iowa, to Hugo Gustav Jans and his wife, Genevieve M. Givens. The family moved to Spring Lake, South Dakota, where her bother Robert was born a year later.

The family moved to Creston, Iowa, in cca. 1922, Alice had her first taste of showbiz in Creston, attending dance classes and deciding to become an actress. She finished two years of high school before departing for Tinsel Town.

By 1930 she was living with her mother in Los Angeles, and was listed as a dancer by profession. Her dancing talent led her to a career in movies the next year, 1931.

CAREER:

Alice was primarily a dancer, but her road in Hollywood started on a completely different note. Signed by RKO, she was put into dramatic movies. All of her appearances are uncredited.

5i2uj1zpknb22bpHer start was not a particularly good one: Too Many Cooks was a slow moving, uninteresting move with Bert Wheeler and Dorothy Lee (without their frequent partner Woosley). The movie is the type only Wheeler’s fans can watch, as for anyone who is not into his “man -child” act the film is simply unbearable. She Wanted a Millionaire, her next feature, was marginally better, but comes off more a didactic work condemning women who want to marry rich than a subtle film showing how everyone can make wrong choices in life. Still, the pairing of Joan Bennett and Spencer Tracy is an exceptional one and today it gives the movie a more prestigious veneer than it deserves.

Alice’s first musical, 42nd Street, was a good one. The movie is worth watching just to see the great Warner Baxter at his best, but even if you push him aside, the gorgeous, scantly clad chorus girls (Alice was one of  them) and interesting choreography by Busby Berkeley make it and a totally different experience from the saccharine, sometimes artificial musicals of the 1940s and 1950s.

tumblr_m55qyjG80I1qzx4bjo1_500Her next two movies were top ones. The Little Giant gave Alice a chance to appear in the same movie as the great Edward G. Robinson, and the actor is a “tour de l force” by playing a former racketeer who wants to enter genteel society. The other movie is Picture Snatcher, a showcase for Jimmy Cagney, an actor always in impressive acting form.

Alice’s three last movies were all musicals. Gold Diggers of 1933 is perhaps the best of the Busby Berkeley musicals. It has everything: a perfect cast, tons of chorus girls, great music and dance parts. Her next film, George White’s Scandals is a collage of  sketches, revues, black-outs and singing and dancing turns, bound together by a flimsy story (a backstage romance, blah blah blah, the most boring part of the movie actually…), but with a name like that, it would be unrealistic to expect a Shakespeare play.  For people who like that kind of stuff, it’s paradise (I prefer my movies with plot, thank you). George White’s 1935 Scandals was a lesser version of the former – also a pastiche of the George White revue, it had a slightly better plot – but only slightly, as the story is a cliche seen millions of times before (and after – a talented girl from the mid west goes to the big city and yadda yadda yadda). The musical part itself is not as good – there are no catchy songs, and despite being Eleanor Powell’s debut movie, dancing parts were mediocre.

Alice never acted again after this, leaving Hollywood aged (only) 23.

PRIVATE  LIFE:

Alice’s peak year in Hollywood was 1932. Recently “discovered”, she got publicity for her dancing skills and was famous enough to actually give beauty hints! The hint she gave was:

“Few persons, I believe, know how to get the greatest value from bath salts in a tepid bath. Since they will not dissolve well unless the water is hot – too hot for the body – place the amount desired in a cup of hot water, dissolve, and then put into the bath. Much the same method gives me pleasure when applied to soap instead of baths. I often come home tired after a long day at work, dissolve a whole bar of soap in hot water, and then revel in the luxury or a whole tubful of frothy studs.”

20130311213055-00db5e23-meNow, how Alice was discovered is another typical Hollywood lackluster story. The pretty youth, appearing as an extra in movies for RKO, was noticed by Douglas Fairbanks and director Al Freen because of her rhumba skills. They demanded she get meatier roles in more prestigious movies. Did it make the papers? Oh yes. Did it make her more popular? By all accounts yes, it was the first time anybody ever heard of her. Did it make her career in the long run? Heck no. It faltered just as quickly as it raised.

Like a large number of starlets in the early 1930s, she modeled clothes and was pictured doing various physical exercise for the benefit of her fans. It was later claimed Alice was tutored in several languages (English, Russian, French, German) to be able to do foreign versions of movies. She was 162 cm tall.

Surprisingly, her private life was not as covered. Alice married Dean Spencer, a sound engineer, in 1933. The marriage ended prior to 1937. Spencer did not work in the industry then, but after their divorce he turned to the seventh art and made his fist and only acting role in God’s Country and the Man, a Tom Keene western. In the late 1940s, he became a sound technician on several low budget movies.

Alice married her second husband, John A. Burns, on April 13, 1937. Burns was born in 1907 in North Carolina, eldest of three children, grew up in Montanamoved to California, finished 1st year of college before giving up on official education. In 1940, they lived in San Diego, Alice by then retired for at least 4 years, and had no children. Burns was drafted in 1942 and several photos of him wearing a military uniform exists on the net. 

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In 1943, when she was notified that her husband was missing in action, Alice joined the WAACs.  It was later learned he was a prisoner of war in Japan. She was given an assignment at the WAAC admin center in downtown Des Moines after she finished her basic training at Fort Des Moines.  

It is unclear did Burns died of they divorced after he returned from the war.

Alice married her third husband, Donald Andrew Baker, on November 29, 1946. White I cannot be 100%sure, I assume that Baker was born in 1916 in California. Again, no information is given about the marriage, but they divorced prior to 1957, when Baker married Bernice Wilhoit. Baker died in 1999.

Alice married for the fourth time to a Mr. Blood.

Alice Jans Blood died on June 21, 1992 in San Bernardino, California.

Whitney Bourne

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One wonders what could have been if Whitney Bourne, a WASP socialite, truly wanted to become a movie star. Yes, it’s a road paved with obstacles and takes a tremendous amount of courage and willpower, is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards are plentiful for those who stay for the ride and manage to keep themselves in line. Whitney, unfortunately, did not go the whole way. IMHO, she was an incredibly beautiful, talented woman who had it all to succeed, but her breeding never really let her go to the lengths she otherwise could have.

EARLY LIFE:

Helen Whitney Bourne was born on May 6, 1914/1913 in New York City to George Galt Bourne, the son of a sewing machine magnate, and his first wife, Helen Whitney. She was born to the crem de la crem of New York society, and as a female offspring, was designed to be a socialite from her very first breath. G.G. Bourne was a partner in the stock brokerage firm of Talcott, Porter & Co.

Her parents divorced in 1924, with both of her them remarrying – her father to Nancy Atterbury Potter, and her mother to the immensely wealthy Harvey D Gibson. Gibson was formerly wed to Carrie Hastings Curtis, but had no children. They lived in Oyster Bay, Nassau, New York with seven (!!!) servants.

1cno77kyj0dp77ycDue to her seductive, regal looks, Helen was a sough after debutante and appeared often in the social columns of her time. In 1933, she was named one of the best dressed women in the US:

“Whitney Bourne is the authentic personification of smart Park Avenue in 1933. Sleek, sophisticated and very modern, she suggests wit, glitter, sparking conversation and a sip of champagne. To simple clothes she give s a wise interpretation and in evening attire she is enchanting.”

Helen was a passionate skier and went skiing to San Moritz often, and was adept at playing both golf and tennis, winning tournaments in both games. Whitney was a reining queen of Palm Springs societya in cca. 1934. Yet, her desire to act outweighed her lofty lifestyle as an socialite, and, by 1932, her beauty warranted her a half hearted run of Broadway, which lost her a position in the social register. Her parents tried to get the silly idea out of her head, and sent her to a Paris convent, but it did nothing to hamper her spirits, and Whitney was back acting again in New York. 

Under the contract with MacArhur and Hecht, she went started movie acting in 1934. 

CAREER:

Whitney had a pretty decent career in Hollywood standards. No, she will never make the annals of Hollywood history, but was she credited in all of her appearances (except one)? She was. Did she play leads? She did. She she get the publicity? Yes.

Her first foray into acting was a Broadway show, Firebird, in 1932. She returned to the stage for a short stint in John Brown in 1934.

Whitney’s film career lasted for five years and she averaged two movies per year, so her total output is 10 features. No, it’s impossible to find a hit or indeed a well known film among those, but the majority of them were under the pole, less known movies of decent quality, with interesting plots and dependable actors.

pic_whitneybourne_02Whitney had the honor of appearing in the movies directed, written ad produced b the great writing team, Charles MacArthur and Ben Hecht. While as writers they were some of the best things ever to get out of Hollywood, as a director/producer duo they left much to be desired. So, out of the 5 movies they made, only 2 are worth a dime. Whitney made her debut in such a movie – Crime Without Passion. An interesting spin off to the eternal crime and punishment concept, it is a tightly plotted, well executed movie with a superb performance by Claude Rains. Whitney is nice looking, very elegant and elusive as Kathy Costello. The movie is Rain’s all the way, thus there is no real opportunity for Whitney to truly shine as an thespian – in addition to this, she was overshadowed by Margo, also making her movie debut, giving a very uneven performance as the female lead. All this aside, it was a good start for a potentially notable Hollywood career.

Just as Crime without passion was a good (if a bit pretentious) movie, Whitney’s next one, again by MacArthur/Hecht, was a complete dud. Once in a Blue Moon  is a proverbial hot mess, with tons of things mashed together with no common sense, so the less said about it, the better.

She had an uncredited short appearance in The Prisoner of Shark Island , a less known but fine movie by John Ford. In the meantime, Whitney went to London to appear in several stage shows, and by the way made a movie, Head Over Heels in Love, a low budgeted musical starring Jessie Matthews.

$(KGrHqR,!pYFDZ2I3bVOBQ-Cn+02ew~~60_57After returning tot he States, as a contractee for RKO, Whitney appeared in a string of their movies.  An aviation movie dealing with professional fliers, Flight from Glory was a mediocre potboiler with an extraordinary villain, and Whitney played the only female in the cast. Living on Love, a considered lost for decades, was a weaker remake of Rafter Romance, but it still retained the fluffy, happy feeling of the original. Double Danger, where Preston Foster plays a jewel thief, showcased Whitney at what she did best – looking regal, fabulous and elegant with people surrounding her who behaved and looked the same way. No big artistic achievements, but it gets the wheels rolling.

Blind Alibi, Whitney’s last leading role, could have been a goo movie – but it’s not. Aside for the thin budget, it is ruined by an implausible story and an absolute precedence on showing off the studios canine star, Ace the Wonder Dog. Whitney and the male lead, the rather wooden Richard Dix, have some deliciously witty repartee lines in the beginning as a feuding couple, before the movie turns into a over-the-top farce with Dix having to impersonate a blind man with Ace as his watch dog. The movie shows just how deadpan serious and powerful Whitney could be an woman fighting for her own, and how easily she gained the upper hand with her effortless charm and charisma. Sadly, none of this was to be taken advantage of.

Whitney only appeared in supports from then on. The Mad Miss Manton is an entertaining romp with Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, not the best effort for either, but it is the type of small movie everyone enjoys watching.

Beauty for the Asking is a a typical women empowerment movie, as it still falls into the Hollywood paradigm, unable to truly show liberated women without men. The story o two girls who get rich via their hard work a man both love still puts more emphasis on romance instead on the action, but it’s not a bad one all around and Lucille Ball gives a spirited, fine performance.

Whitney retired from the movies that year, and never acted again.   

PRIVATE LIFE:

Whitney was the perfect marriage material in the 1930s and 1940s – there was nothing not to like about her – she was from a blue blood family on both sides, wealthy, well bred and read, adept at sports, an elegant dresser, drop dead gorgeous, and very charming. Naturally, boys and men came crashing through the door the moment she had her social debut. She also gained plenty of press during 1930s. Information about her clothing and habits sprung like weed from he papers. For instance, it was revealed she had a passion for heavy, moody music, and that she ties her ribbons on top of her head, like a schoolgirl. She was likened to Doris Duke (only a slight resemblance is visible). She lived in a swanky Bel Air mansion during her Hollywood years.

Among her earliest beaus were man from her own social caste, Woolworth Donahue, and Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, in cca. 1934/1935.

WhitneyBourneHarpersBazaarOctober19In early 1937, she was the target of the socially upward mobile bogus prince, David Mdvani, who married a string of wealthy women. Luckily, she did not fall for his hollow charm. By May, she was dating actor Douglas Montgomery. In July, she switched to Miles Mander, a well known English director who gave Madeleine Carroll her first chance at stardom (the guy had great taste in women!). Her next was Robert Wyler, brother of William, in October 1937.

Whitney married Stanton Griffins, multi millionaire producer/ambassador to the UK in July 1939. They surprised everyone, to put it mildly. For one thing, Stanton was almost 25  years her senior, and for the other, Whitney had a bevy of suitors before, and never was Stanton a leading contender. All this aside, Whitney chose well, as Stanton was very wealthy, socially prominent and seemed genuinely in love with her. They honeymooned in Europe, England and France to be more precise.

Stanton was born in Boston, Suffolk County, Mass., on May 2, 1887. He was a Democrat, served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and was to have the ambassadorial position in several countries: Poland, 1947-48; Egypt, 1948-49; Argentina, 1949-50; Spain, 1951-52. 

Whitney gave up movies to become a society matron, a lively, free spirited one, giving away lavish soirees and getting medals in water skiing championships.

For whatever reason, the marriage did not work out, and by October 1940 they were divorced. Yet, on a peculiar note, they remained in extremely cordial relations, and there were rumors every once in a while that Stanton and Whitney could re-marry, as they went out socially for years. Rumors were especially persistent in cca. 1951, but they never did, as both moved to on to other marital partners.

During her divorce sojourn in Reno, Whitney joined the Reno Red Cross, and worked for the war relief. She even ended up in Liverpool at some point during the war, working as a nurse and giving out coffee and doughnuts to soldiers. There she met her co-star, Van Helfin. The press also noted how she gave a pint of blood for the British red Cross and fainted afterwards!

6imph7bz1le4i6plWhitney continued dating in 1941, taking up with her old beau, Douglas Montgomery. There were talks of an impending marriage, but then Whitney re-met Winthrop Rockefeller in September.

Ever for a girl of Whitney’s stature, manor born, famous and wealthy, Rockfeller was an object of awe due to his family lineage. Things moved fast from there, and Whitney was again mentioned in the marriage columns in the papers, this time as a possible marital bet with Rockfeller. Things turned around in January 1942 when she had to undergo an appendectomy, and started dating Oren Root, then a lieutenant in the US army. Playing the field, Whitney dated Root and famous comedy writer Charles Butterworth in a parallel for a time, and then shed Butterworth to go back to Rockfeller, all the still maintaining her idyll with Root. Also add Amon Carter, a casual escort, in early 1942.

In May 1946, there were reports she would re-marry Griffis, and PHAM, a month later she was re-married – just not to Stanton, but to Arthur Osgood Choate jr. Again, Whitney choose well – Choate was the son of a well known investment banker, Arthur Osgood Choate Senior, and Anne Hyde, a pioneer girl scout. He served in the army during WW2, and was to become a executive committee chairman of Clark Dodge & Company, investment bankers. They honeymooned in California.

Her only child, a son, Arthur Bourne Coate, was born on April 14, 1948. Yet, by this time, the writing on the wall was clear enough, and even the birth of the baby could not remedy things – Whitney and Choate divorced in 1949.

Stanton dated her even before the ink was dry on her legal papers, but he was also going half steady with the actress Annabella, former wife of Tyrone Power. Whitney dated socialite Jimmy Stewart in 1951.

She married Roy Atwood in 1956. They were separated but not divorced at the time of his death in 1963.

Whitney Bourne Atwood died on December 30, 1988 in New York.

Suzanne Ridgeway

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EARLY LIFE:

Suzanne was born as Ione D. Ahrens on January 27, 1918, in Los Angeles, California, to Ione Guinevere Campbell and Mr. Ahrens. She had an older brother, Frank. Sadly, by 1920, her parents were living apart and she lived with her mom, brother, grandmother Alice Davis Campbell and uncle in Los Angeles. Ione’s late grandfather was born in Scotland and came to America in the late 1880s, married Alice, and lived in North Dakota where his five children were born. In cca. mid 1900, they moved to Bakersfield, California.

On October 13, 1923, the elder Ione married Guy Rigway, and he adopted the children – their names were changed from Frank to William and from Ione to Dorothy. Thus, under the name of Dorothy Rigway, Suzanne continued living in Los Angeles with her parents, brother and grandma. Her younger half brother, Robert, was born in 1924. Suzanne was educated in Los Angeles, and started her career before she graduated from high school. Her stepfather died in the late 1930s, and she went to live alone in Hollywood in cca. 1938. Her brothers lived with her mother and grandmother in Los Angeles in 1940.

CAREER:

Suzanne was a true professional actor, a one that, despite the obvious back of success in his career, marches on just like millions of other people and does what she is given with the best of her ability. I applaud her, as she, along with Bess Flowers and a few others, proved that you did not have to be a star to make a living in Hollywood for 20 years – in fact, you did not even need to get billing to work steadily and earn your paycheck.

With a lofty filmography of over 150 movies, it would be too daunting  a task to analyse every and each one of her movies.

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Today, she is best known for her work with he Three Stooges.  Some of the movies are Rumpus in the HaremA Missed Fortune, and A Merry Mix Up. Often playing tall, lean chlorines dresses in skimpy outfits, Suzanne was a great foil for the thee wackos.

For most of he 1940s, Suzanne was featured in prestigious movies, starring great actors and actresses of the day. She was in absolute classics like Gone with the Wind , The Lady Eve , Citizen Kane , The Best Years of Our LivesGilda  and It’s a Wonderful Life – how many other people can say they appeared in at least two of these five movies?

She was also featured in less known, but top notch films like Panama Hattie , The Story of Dr. WassellMonsieur VerdouxArch of TriumphThe Luck of the IrishSorrowful Jones and so on.

But, by 1950s, the movies she graced with her perky presence decreased in quality, but stayed high in volume. She managed about 13 appearances in movies a year (with a special note she made 20 appearances in 1953, her peak year! Very impressive!). Some movies are very interesting ones: the gritty, dark edges film noirs Quicksand and Born to Be Bad, proto feminist films featuring independent, strong female leads like Anne of the Indies (Jean Peters in one of her best roles), Golden Girl  and Calamity Jane, and very good comedies with old, reliable stars (My Favorite Spy and Ma and Pa Kettle on Vacation).

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Yet, many of them were Z class productions with ridiculous plots seemingly written by 7 year old children – Siren of BagdadMesa of Lost Women, Bengazi (just to name a few). And yes, there were a few stellar movies well remembered today: Show Boat, Strangers on a Train and The Man with the Golden Arm.

In 1957, Suzanne left Hollywood for some TV work in New York. She did guest parts in Suspicion  and Perry Mason, and returned to Hollywood to have a minor role in Cowboy, a Glenn Ford western.

Suzanne, after almost 20 years in Hollywood, was finally credited for her role in The Purple Gang, a decent gangster movie set int he 1920s with a solid cast of B actors – Barry SullivanRobert Blake and Elaine Edwards. Acting under her married name, Suzy Marquette, this was to be her last foray into the 7th art. She retired in 1959.       

PRIVATE LIFE:

Publicity to promote Suzanne possibly harmed her in the long run, as it happens every so often with a starlet who become a guinea pig for an elaborate, genius scheme, thought up by publicity experts (and Hollywood was full of them, but only a few were worth a dime). They showed her as… not beautiful, not accomplished, nor funny… But … Wait for it… STUPID.

wmzxrvr73790zmr9Suzanne became one of the most quoted personalities in Tinsel Town thanks to her totally moronic sentences. Examples: “I am French on my mothers side and German on my stepfather’s” and so on. What were they thinking when they did this? Not even the actresses who played dim witted fools had this kind of treatment.  It did nothing for her career after the initial burst of publicity.

Suzanne started dating MGM comedian Rags Ragland . Rags was good foil for her stupid persona, as he was a funnyman, bit nutty himself, who understood her whims and actions. Rags was a former boxer and burlesque man, wed once and father of one when they met. Well known for his libido and prowess in the sexual arts, one of his many conquests was the intellectual stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee. They dated for more than a year but broke up in late 1942. Rags tragically died from uremic poisoning in 1946, right after an alcoholic bender in Mexico with Orson Welles. Frank Sinatra sang at his funeral.

Suzanne married Jacques “Jack” Marquette, then a cameraman, in cca. 1944. His first cousin was the wonderful actress Pat Morison, still alive in 2013.

Jacques R. Marquette was born in New York City. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1919, where he later graduated from high school at Hollywood High. He then worked as an assistant to his older brother, who worked as a news cameraman. During the Second World War he worked as a cameraman for the United States Air Force . He then accepted an offer of $ 69 a week as a technician at the Techni Color Labs. He founded  Marquette Productions in 1957  to produce low-budget films. He debuted as a cinematographer in Nathan Juran horror film The Eye of Satan . In 1958 he turned to Teenage monster his only film as a director. 

Sadly, Jacques and Suzanne divorced in 1945.

Suzanne Ridgeway Marquette died on May 6, 1996 in Los Angeles. She was cremated and her ashes were spread over Point Fermin.

Pat Clark

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There were quite a few “girls about town” who decided to try for an acting career. As most of them had beauty in spades, at least their appearance netted them a contract with a studio. Yet, as most of them were not hard bitten to cling to any chance given to become true working actresses – they lasted only a few short years. Pat Clark was one of these group of women, a true knockout who never amounted to much in her acting career, but made headlines via her private life.

EARLY LIFE:

Patricia Cecelia Clarke was born to George L. Clarke and Cecelia C. Clarke in 1925 in New York City. Her younger brother George E. was born in 1930. Her father was a military man. The family first lived in Orange, New York, and then In cca, 1937 moved to Los Angeles. In 1940, they were living in 756 1/2 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, California. Pat graduated from high school in Los Angeles, and due to her catlike brand of beauty, found success as a girl about town early, prior to 1944 – she already had a mink coat in 1943, a sign of great social standing back in the 1940s and 1950s. That year she started her social life in the Hollywood circles. Soon, she was touring with the “Room service” show and this pushed her into an acting career with Warner Bros.

CAREER:

Pat has a slim filmography, but quite a few of the movies she appeared in are hidden or forgotten gems worth discovering. Needless to say, she was uncredited in all of her roles except one (let me get to that later).

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20 year old Pat got her first taste of film making in Hotel Berlin. At a time when Hollywood shamelessly belted out propaganda movie of  the “us against them” type, Hotel Berlin tried to shake off that rigid outlook on the morality of war, and showed Germans in a better light, trying to explain that not all of them are Nazis. Of course, it was easy to make this movie when the victory for the allies was definite (and not during the dark days of the war), but the movie tries and succeeds to some degree in it’s cause. The cast is very impressive, made out of highly capable actors stuck in B movies – Faye EmersonHelmut Dantine and Andrea King.

Pat’s next movie was one of the long string of WW2 women empowerment movies, Pillow to Post. Ida Lupino, a true acting dynamo, fittingly plays a woman who can do it better than a man can. This theme of a highly capable working girl at odds with her society role of a homemaker was further explored in Too Young to Know, where it was Joan Leslie who was torn between her GI husband and her career.

Pat was transported to lighter fare by getting a role in Night and Day, a sugar coated and highly dubious version of a Cole Porter’s biopic. When Cary Grant play s a guy who looked more like Quasimodo than James Bond, you know just how over the top it really is.

The Big Sleep, one of the best film noirs ever made, could have been the impulse Pat needed to enter a higher sphere in Hollywood. The role of the mysterious, seductive Mona Maris was perfect for Pat’s general looks and attitude (both were girls about town who seduce powerful men), but due to some executive meddling her shots were deleted and she was replaced by Peggy Knudsen. Neither she nor Peggy went on to have great careers, but Peggy is much better known today and had a filmography several notches above Pat. One often wonders what could have been if Pat’s role was left intact…

372349958_8b5bf5af2ePat made only one more Hollywood movie, Cass Timberlane, basically a story about a mismatched couple played by Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. He is a straight laced judge living his upper crust life, and she a girl from the wrong side of the tracks spending her days playing baseball, a primarily masculine game. While not as deep and poignant as the book, the movie is still a study of marriage, class differences and societal pressure extorted on every man and woman.

Peggy’s last appearance was in El marqués de Salamanca.a forgotten Spanish speaking movie.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Pat was the typical girl around town when she arrived in Hollywood in 1943. News of her movie career were slim, but the news of her romantic escapades were rich and frequent. In 1944, she posed for a series of columns by Josephine Lowman on how to lead a healthy and happy life. Pat exercised, went to bed early and so on. One wonder if she really that in real life.

5cx60g1uhtf66fuPat’s first conquest was Luis “Doc” Shurr, a very influential agent who discovered Kim Novak among others. In June 1944, they were a solid altar bet, but he left her sometime after August 1944. In November 1944, as a gag she announced she would marry Ali Ipar, later the husband of the evanescent Virginia Bruce. Te newspaper  blew it over and she had to deny it for weeks afterwards. In December 1944, she started going out with producer Bill Girard. He proved to be a more stable man in her life, but it was not a smooth road – in February they had a very public tiffing accident in a club – he went home and she spent time with other men. In April she was seen with the bon vivant Bill Holmes, but was soon back with Girard, dating him all the way to mid 1945. In June 1945, she took up with Steve Stanford.

In January 1946 she was seen with a war hero, Jeff Jones. Not long after, she landed in hospital with an unknown ailment, and as soon as she left the sick ward she snatched the prominent West coast socialite, Dick Brown.

In 1947, she was beaued by Peter Shaw, who was to become Angela Lansbury’s husband. After Dick came Arnold Kunody, insurance man who also dated quite a few pretty actresses (Andrea Leeds being his most famous escort). In 1948, she visited Spain and went back to the States and the arms of socialite Billy Bapst. Yet, Spain stayed in her heart.

In 1950 she was noted a Madrid twosome with Don Luis Dominguez.

In December 1951 Pat finally wed, and wed well she did – her husband became Rene Max Toriel, one of the richest living Egyptians at the time. They met in Paris in December 1950, and Rene followed her to California in September after a long distance romance (allegedly he came to have a good time). He dabbled in the cotton business.

Toriel was born in about 1920 in Egypt. Little was written about their marriage, but it obviously failed spectacularly just months after the ceremony, as by January 1953, she had already ripped al of his clothes into pieces (the start of every marriage drama, it seems). In February they had reached the “I don’t care stage”. In March 1953 she was in New York, and so was Max, but they tiffed again and she stayed with another girl-around-town, Selene Walters, and not him. By mid 1953, Pat was still Mrs. Toriel but dating other men with an alarming frequency.

In 1953, she was seen on oilman Bob Calhoun’s arm. She then made a minor scandal as she slapped a man at a bar who annoyed her. Ditching Calhoun, she took up with Richard Melvin, a so called Florida sportsman (in other words, a wealthy socialite with a hefty inheritance and no day job), who was inconveniently married to June Horne, the ex wife of Jackie Cooper (everybody is connected in Hollywood, one way or another).  Pat was in the middle of a nasty feud between them, but did not give up and  continued to date Melvin for some time after. In August 1953, she was seen with an another wealthy Egyptian, Gaston Hakim (yep, he allegedly owns a few pyramids…Yep, the papers back then sure knew how to be annoying).

Pat_Clark_3She as briefly involved with Lee Trent before taking up with Pierre Lamure, author of the Moulin Rouge book, but by Feburary 1954, they were in a middle of a huge quarrel that had the tongues wagging. Despite their separation, his wife’s many flings did not leave Toriel immune. He also came to blows with Pat’s latest admirer, Wally Berman, in February 1954. Not long after, she got a legal separation in New York and left for Los Angeles. He followed her there, and the two seems to make up,if only briefly.

In may 1955, her furs were stolen and she offered a large reward for their safe return, seeing them in a more nostalgic light than pure garments.

In July 1955, Patricia almost died when she could not exit her apartment after an fire broke out. A broken key in one of four locks designed to keep out burglars was the culprit. Luckily, she survived and recovered quickly. In 1956, she raised some journalistic dust by dating a dashing army colonel (sorry, no name given). He was allegedly the youngest colonel in the army, but she still dated men on the side, notably rich Venezuelan Francisco Diaz.

In 1957 she dated Jimmy Donahue, wealthy heir. Pat continued to generate news in society columns for some time after (she was seen in Chicago in 1957, she was barred from the Mocambo club in 1958 along with a fellow socialite Marian Schaffer, who was sitting a tad bit too close to Pat’s escort, she flew to Los Angeles for two hours just to go for a gown fitting and so on.) That same year she finally divorced Rene Max Toriel in Putman, Florida. In August 1957, she dated Charles Conway, the Ziegfeld Follies producer. The man got around, also dating Dody Marshall in parallel.

Pat Clark Toriel remarried to James Phillips in August 1958. Phillips was a wealthy Wal Street broker, son of Herman Phillips, part owner of the Sherry Netherland hotel. He was divorced from Terry Allen just months prior. Unbethest to the general public, Phillips and Pat had been lovers for a long time by then. He lavished her with jewels. Their daughter Maria Cecelia Phillips was born on June 9, 1959.

In an article for the Observer magazine, published in 1998, Phillips said  that Pat “was kind of a neurotic person” who at one point was “hooked on all sorts of stuff like sleeping pills.”

The same article mentions that Pat died young, but it does not give the exact time and place.

Kay Harris

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Now, here is an actress who actually had a career in Tinsel Town, playing leads and supports in movies that were not blockbusters nor works of art, but still were bread and butter to thousands actors, actresses, directors and other Hollywood personnel.

EARLY LIFE:

Katherine Harris was born to James and Agnes Harris on August 18, 1919, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. Her siblings were John (older brother), James (younger brother) and Martha (younger sister). Her father was the vice-president of Milk Products Co, so the family was well off and employed a maid, Josephine.

Katherine attended Elkhorn high school and graduated in 1937. She moved into the amateur theatrics arena by doing summer stock for two seasons. After a year at Milwaukee Downer and another at Carlton college in Minnesota, she did bit work with the Belfry Players and the Grand Detour.

$T2eC16dHJGIFFoVWjJFTBS,MuhgLCw~~60_12In 1940, Kay was getting ready to enroll into University of Wisconsin, when her aunt, Marsha Wheeler, a member of the staff at the Station WSAI in Cincinnati, offered Kay a position as her personal secretary. Kay accepted and wired her parents to cancel her dormitory room and she moved to Cincinnati to start working.

Kay was by pure coincidence – Penny Singleton, the actress playing in the Blondie series, was vacationing there with her husband, producer-director Robert Sparks, and they were giving  a joint appearance at the radio station Kay worked in. Penny noticed the pretty girl, and persuaded her husband to test her for the role of Tillie the Toiler, another popular comic book series heroine, previously played by Marion Davies. Kay took the plunge, bough a round trip to Los Angeles, asked for a two week leave from work, and departed. She tested for Tillie, and got the role which catapulted her towards a Columbia contract.

CAREER:

Kay had a much better career than most starlets on this site. No, she was not in the big league with Barbara Stanwyck and Claudette Colbert, nor was she ever a well known B actress like Marguerite Chapman, but she worked regularly from 1941-1943 and did a few decent movies with strong roles – thus, no uncredited and -blink-and-you’ll-miss-me roles.

Kay’s first movie was a lead in Tillie the Tolier. Sadly the movie is both forgotten today and hard to find, almost a collector’s item, but back in 1941, the plot and Kay were critically applauded. Based on a famous comic, Kay plays the eponymous Tillie, an adorable but clumsy girl who almost shipwrecks a business, only to singlehandedly rise it from the ashes in a triumphant outcome.

Z35ER2Kay made a big return to Elkhorn, where the world premiere of the film was help to great fanfare and newspaper interest. After spending the summer there, it was back to Hollywood for more legwork.

The rest of her career was undistinguished but solid. Her next was Parachute Nurse, a woman empowerment movie typical for the WW2 period with the ever reliable Marguerite Chapman in the lead. Kay has an interesting role of a fellow parachute nurse. The string of WW2 themed movie continued in Sabotage Squad, a anti-Nazi spy movie with the muscleman Bruce Bennett – and Kay was once again the leading lady.

Lucky Legs put her in a female troika with Leslie Brooks and Jinx Falkenburg, both stunningly beautiful and better known actresses. The movie is very obscure today. Her next movie is easily her worst, The Spirit of Stanford – a badly made, amateur drama about about college life. Frankie Albert plays a over-the-top, infinitely annoying I-am-better-than-you college grad who miraculously changes his ways for a woman. Been there a thousand times, seen better.

After this, Kay was in a similar football/college movie, Smith of Minnesota.- and then hit rock bottom by being a low class western leading lady in Robin Hood of the Range and The Fighting Buckaroo. Better than uncredited fare, it still signaled a downward spiral for her that ended as it usually did for actresses in 1940 – by retirement.

On a high note, Kay ended her film career by choice and not by necessity, as she still was a leading lady, no matter what type of movies she made, and could have pushed for at least several more years, especially during the war when actors were scarce and actresses were expected to take a large burden of the movie making process.       

PRIVATE LIFE:

Kay started dating right of the bat in Hollywood. Her first admirer was Jack Clark, manager of the Plaza Hotel, in March 1941. Already in April she turned the head of Ken Murray, $(KGrHqUOKkUE3V,GknS3BN7s05E82g~~_3famous impresario. he gave her a welcome party to Hollywood and introduced her to a large number of film people. She broke his heart by leaving him for Cliff Edwards, another admirer.

Kay married her first husband, Henry Freulich, a cameraman, in 1942. He was born in 1906 in New York and worked in Hollywood since 1930s. Already in January 1943,she was on the way to Reno for a divorce. Freudlich went on to become a noted cinematographer. He married Adele N. Roy in 1961. He died in 1985.

Kay left Hollywood in 1943, and as a result, her newspaper output was severely diminished, and I could not find any further information about her life.

IMDb claims that Kay Harris died on October 23, 1971, somewhere in California. I could find no much Katherine on the Social Security death Index – another mystery. Whatever happened, I just hope she had a good life.