Alma Lloyd is the proof that even the daughter of a well known director can’t really succeed in Hollywood if that “something” doesn’t happen. Her famous father aside, she was a pretty girl with beautiful curly hair and a trained actress – Alma had all the cards to win, but like many other talented girls, ended in total obscurity.
Alma Katherine Lloyd was born on April 3, 1914, in Los Angeles, California, only child of Frank Lloyd and Alma Haller. Her father, a Scotsman by birth, was to become a prominent director in Hollywood and win two Oscars. Her mother, Alma was noted as a performer at the musical comedy stage.
Alma was nicknamed Jimmie from earliest childhood, and grew up surrounded by the people from the movie industry. Her very first role was at the age of 6 months, when she had an uncredited appearance in a picture featuring her father as a villain.
Alma took a hiatus from Hollywood then, having a normal childhood, only continuing her movie output at the age of 9, when she appeared in Oliver Twist with Jackie Coogan.
In 1930, the family was living in Los Angeles, and Alma was sure she wanted to become a proper actress. After high school graduation, she decided upon a training at the Pasadena Community Playhouse to gain some experience before entering the movie scene once again. She played a season of summer stock in Martha’s Vineyard, and acted for the New York Theater Guild in George Bernard Shaw’s “The Simpleton of the Unexpected Isle”. In 1934, she felt she was ready to conquer Hollywood, and returned home.
Alma had a new Hollywood start with Jimmy and Sally, a typical Fox comedy of the age with James Dunn and Claire Trevor. Nothing grand but not too shabby either. Stars Over Broadway is a darker, grim musical with an unique brand of elegance, featuring several very good singers who never made it to top tier despite their obvious talent (Jane Froman and James Melton). Alma is uncredited here, but at least she appeared in a Busby Berkeley film! Dangerous, the highly charged drama that bough an Oscar for it’s female star, Bette Davis, was a step up for Alma, and indeed her next features find her credited. Freshman Love, a simple but charming college movie, had her as a pretty co-ed, and Song of the Saddle veered her towards the musical western genre, not the best place for an actress to be (if she wanted to have a proper career that is).
Colleen, a Ruby Keeler/Dick Powell movie, and not one of their stronger ones, again had her in the uncredited roster – a trend with continued in the nutty comedy with a great cast, Snowed Under, and The Singing Kid, a movie best known as Al Jolson’s parody of Al Jolson (in other words, a self parody).
Alma got a promotion (sort of) again with a credited role in I Married a Doctor, the idiotically named adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Main Street. All fans of Pat O’Brien have to watch this little gem where Pat gets to show his acting chops, supported by top tier talent like Josephine Hutchinson and the tragic Ross Alexander. The novel was a story of a city bred, forward thinking woman forced to live in a narrow minded small town – the movie misses several points, making the wife an annoying ditz who irks the townspeople.
Times Square Playboy, a half baked comedy with Gene Lockhart, The Golden Arrow the pedestrian, not-different-than-a-millions-of-others romantic comedy and Bullets or Ballots, a very good gangster movie with an outstanding cast, again had Alma uncredited. The Big Noise could have been Alma’s big shot to the stars as it was her first female leading role. Unfortunately, it ended as being a pleasant B movie and nothing more. Most of the notices went to Guy Kibbee and Warren Hull and Alma is barely even mentioned in the reviews.
It was back to the uncredited gang again with The White Angel, a admirable Kay Francis movie about Florence Nightingale. Public Enemy’s Wife, another predictable Pat O’Brien movie, followed. Anthony Adverse, an entertaining adventure romp with Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland proved to be her best known film of the mentioned. Alma’s contract was not renewed after this, and she decided to freelance.
Not much luck there. Due to her father’s influence, she had a small role in If I Were King, the expertly made biopic of the poet Francois Villon with the impossibly suave Ronald Colman in the lead and our favorite swashbuckling bad buy, Basil Rathbone, as a strong support. Alma took a hiatus after this, and only returned to the sound stage in an uncredited bit in Bullets for O’Hara, a movie that clearly shows that it’s star Joan Perry was much better off marrying Harry Cohn than resuming her movie career.
Alma retired to raise a family afterwards.
Alma’s own parents, Alma and Frank, remained married for 32 years in Hollywood, somewhat of a rarity. Sadly, when they decided to retire to a farm in 1952 she died not long after, and he returned to film-making, married his third wife, and worked until his death in 1960.
As most young starlets, Alma was a press favorite and was even names as one of the girl who were shopping for stardom in 1938. As we can attest today, that stardom bit never came, but publicity for the girls back then was good, and actually a few of them went on to have decent careers (Marie Wilson and June Travis).
Alma dated Kelly Anthony, the son of a distinguished Anthony family, in 1936, but she chose to pursue her career instead of getting married.
Alma married Franklin Gray, a Hollywood screenwriter, in about 1938. Gray was born on January 11, 1912, in Kansas. The couple lived in Beverly Hills in 1940.
Alma and Franklin had four children: Christopher Jameslloyd Gray, born on January 17, 1942, Antonia Katharine Gray, born on August 2, 1947, Jonathan Franklloyd Gray, born on May 26, 1951 and Miranda Jane Gray, born on October 26, 1954. They lived in Monterey, California, in the 1950s.
Franklin Gray died on July 18, 1979 in Santa Barbara, California. Alma did not remarry afterwards, and continued to live in Santa Barbara.
Alma Loyd Gray died on June 14, 1988, in Santa Barbara, California.
PS: Happy New Year everyone! All the best in 2014!