NOTE: This is almost an “ad verbatim” transcript from a previous blog I am no longer running, so it’s not very original, but as Judith Arlen completely fits into the Obscure Actress niche, I’ll post it here again.
Judith Arlen was a complete enigma to me when I first started to write the piece. Except her status as the sister of the better known Ann Rutherford, there is nothing else I knew about her. Was she married? How was her career? Not a clue. Yet, the information on her is very very much scarce, and I barely know much more now, after some research. For instance, there are very few photos of her on the net.
Laurette Elizabeth Rutherford was born on March 18, 1914, in Los Angeles, California. Her father, John D. Rutherford was a operatic singer, and according to and the book WAMPAS Baby Stars, the biographical Dictionary, his professional name was Gilbertini. Her mother, Lucille Mansfield, was a silent actress, working for the Lubin studio. They moved to Vancouver, Canada, where their second child, daughter Therese Ann, was born in 1917. Not long after, they moved to San Francisco, where the couple separated, and Lucille returned to Los Angeles with her daughters. Judith was acting in stock since she was a girl, often next to her mother. She attended the same high school as her sister, the Fairfax High School in Los Angeles, where she graduated in 1932.
Even during her high school years, Laurette was active in showbiz, and she appeared in the papers for the first time in 1930. Walter Winchell noted her as a chorine in an unnamed Broadway show, and paid her a hefty compliment, saying she “is soothing and throaty in a manner that bodes good for her career.” The next time he see her, she is a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1934, when is 20 years old.
The bio we get about her is curt and not extremely interesting. She is noted as a native of Los Angeles who is a dancer, singer and actress, that she has some screen credit in movies by Paramount and Universal (not quote true but okay, she did have some uncredited performances), and that she frequently work on radio. by that time she had two “uncredits”, in Madam Satan, a Cecil DeMille classic, and What Price Innocence?, a Jean Parker movie.
Judith got the most attention at this time by far. As a WAMPAS, she was lauded in the press, and the girl were invited everywhere on social functions. They were, for example, Honorary Colonels of the American Region and so on. When she was once out of town, Ann, her younger sister, was doing some radio work, and answered the phone when Student Tour called Judith. She explained that Judith was not there, and that she was Joanne Arlen, her sister, and asked could she fill in? This is how Ann’s career started.
Sadly the WAMPAS momentum did not hold on. When looking at her filmography, it is clear there was an impulse in about 1934 – she was in Young and Beautiful, Kiss and Make-Up, No Greater Glory, but neither role was credited, giving her nothing to push her into bigger and better pictures (there were all B movies). There are no more pictures after that year, making her a Hollywood “has-been” at the age of 20.
After the offers dries up, she went to San Francisco for some radio work, and by 1938 she was back in Los Angeles, ready to try her hand at movies once again, living with her mother, sister and maternal grandmother on the 6th street. Due to her younger sister’s popularity, she began using the name of Judith Rutherford. Sadly, it did not belt out – her only credit under the new name was a minor role in The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show in 1954.
Where Judith did shine was her singing career. From 1934 all the way up to 1945, she was in the newspaper solely for this segment of her work. Known as “femme Bing Crosby”, She was a constant fixture on the nightclub circuit, on radio programs and sang with big bands. Since I know next to nothing about old American radio, I’ll not go into details, but there are both books and newspaper articles going into depths about that.
As far as her private life goes, there were no newspaper articles about her dating habits – so it is unknown whom she hooked up during her WAMPAS years. She did marry, on February 20, 1943 in Los Angeles, to movie executive/producer Abraham L. Simon, a New York native whose father and mother were born in Hungary and Poland respectively. Note that I am not 100% sure, but a David Anthony Simon, born on December 6, 1949, could be their son. The marriage lasted until Judith’s death.
Judith Arlen died on June 5, 1968, at age 54 in Los Angeles, California. Her widower, Abe Simon, died in 2000.