A true female pioneer in low budget western movies, Paula Stone never managed to outgrow that male dominated genre to become a proper dramatic actress. Lacking in substantial roles, her career ended after just a years in Hollywood. Luckily, she expanded her expertise on other mediums: radio, television and the theater, and pretty soon she became a businesswoman worth admiring!
Paula Beach Stone was born on January 20, 1912, in New York City to Fred A. Stone and his wife, Allene Crater. Paula came from a very interesting family, as both of her parents were people in unusual occupation of that time.
Her mother, Allene Crater “Allie” was born Dec. 28, 1876 at Denver, CO, the fourth child of George E. and Alverah Hatten Crater. She had two brothers, Clarence L. and George Edwin, Jr. (a prominent international lawyer) and a sister Edith. Edith was married to the novelist Rex Beach. Edith and Allene were very close.
Her father, Fred Stone, was well.. Maybe it’s best to quote Wikipedia on the issue:
Fred Andrew Stone (August 19, 1873 – March 6, 1959) was an American actor. Stone began his career as a performer in circuses and minstrel shows, went on to act on vaudeville, and became a star on Broadway and in feature films, which earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Allene and Fred’s first daughter, Dorothy, was born on June 3, 1905 in New York. Paula was born while her father was touring the Midwest (he was in Duluth, Minnesota that very day). A telegram was send to him, congratulating him for the perfect baby girl who was born in 2 pm, weighting seven and a half pounds. The doctor was very happy with the progress of the baby, and called her one of the healthiest he had ever seen. Paula was born in the West Street home of Rex Beach, since Edith helped Allene during her pregnancy. Fred was immensely proud of his new daughter. As the tour continued, everybody wanted a piece of information about Paula, and she was often mentioned in the newspaper columns, making her a mini celebrity almost from the moment she was born.
Paula’s younger sister, Carol Montgomery Stone, was born on February 1, 1915, in New York. In 1920, the family lived in Dobs Ferry, Westchester, New York, with Allena’s parents and two servants from Ireland, Anna Lynch and Catherine Freany.
Paula’s career started early. From Wikipedia:
Stone made her debut in May 1925 at the Illinois Theater in Chicago, Illinois, in Stepping Stones. She was 13 years old. Her sister Dorothy made her stage debut at 16. Dorothy performed with Fred Stone at the Globe Theater inManhattan, in Criss-Cross in December 1926. Stone was then 14 and training to be a stage actress within two years. Her first ambition was to be a singer like her mother. Another sister, Carol, was 12. She also aspired to go into theater work.
Stone appeared with Fred and Dorothy in Ripples, a show which debuted in New Haven, Connecticut, in January 1930. The first New York show of the same production came at the New Amsterdam Theater in February. Stone and her father teamed in Smiling Faces, produced by the Shubert Theater owners in 1931. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel wrote the music and lyrics. The musical had its first night in Springfield, Massachusetts.
She did find time to graduate from high school in the meantime, but opted to become a professional actress right away instead of attending college.
Paula and her parents settled in Hollywood in 1935, where all three sisters and their father tried for an acting career.
Paula had a very powerful spring board into Hollywood, appearing as the female lead in the very first Hop-a-long Cassidy movie. While the franchise only got major popularity later, after several movies, making William Boyd a western legend in the league of John Wayne, Paula will be remembered chiefly for this achievement among old movie buffs. Needless to say her role is a decorative one, asking nothing more than to look pretty.
Hitting the western stride, she was cast in Treachery Rides the Range, a musical-western with Dick Foran. Moslty, nobody gets anything positive out of Dick Foran movies except for Dick Foran. In a nutshell: When Paula was in westerns of dubious quality, she was given leads. When she was in B class movies, she was a third tier support. Two Against the World, a Humphrey Bogart low budgeteer, proves this. While a step up from her usual western fare, she’s almost invisible in a small role. The movie itself is decent and the cast is very good, but it got her no new fans. The Case of the Velvet Claws, a Perry Mason movie with our favorite precode cad, Warren William, continued the trend of putting Paula in heavy support.
Trailin’ West, another western, had her as a female lead. If you squeeze your eyes and pretend it’s not set in the 19th century, it could have been a 1930s crime movie – we have all the ingredients – a secret agent (believe it or not, even back then!), a corrupt bad guy and an actor giving some minot comic relief. Too bad it’s a ridiculous movie all around, with secret agents behaving like headless chickens.
Paula was given a slightly bigger than usual part in the poverty row production, Red Lights Ahead. While not a complete waste of reel, it’s far from a good piece of work. Even it’s dirt poor production values could have been overlooked if the story and characters made sense – which they don’t. Paula plays one of the lazy, good-for-nothin’ grandchildren ff the main character who desperately tries to get rich. Sound familiar? Oh yeah…
Paula’s next tow movies were programmers where the acting parts are less important than the main plot point: Swing It Professor is a musical over saturated with swing music, with a new song appearing every five minutes and a mildly boring story, (but showcasing Paula’s fabulous tapping abilities!) and Atlantic Flight is all about then famous pilot Dick Merrill and his flying skills. The Girl Said No is a weird movie but not a bad one. it even semi successfully mixes a few genres and features a plot you don’t see everyday in movies. Paula is prominently featured in it, so it’s a plus. The story concerns a bookie who tries to reap revenge on a chorus girl by any means necessary, and all this mixed with a generous dose of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
Skyline Revue was a short comedy movie, made form a vaudeville skit, and who better to act in it than the daughter of one fo the best vaudeville comedians, Fred Stone. Convicts at Large is a movie that illustrated exactly what’s wrong with most low budget quickies – there DULL. They often have decent stories and even more often good actors, but were made like a pedestrian project, something done by the dozens daily. While I do understand that after years and years of making quickies one develop an “automatism mechanism”, the end results lose much of it’s quality and charm. This one made Paula’s career no favors.
Idiot’s Delight was actually a A grade, prominent production, Paula’s first. When the cast is headed by Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Edward Arnold, no more information is needed! Yet, while the movie is a standout in Paula’s career, I still put it in the “could have been great” category. The allegorical story does have that special magical touch and the cast is superb, but it never manages to quite catch the true grit of Sherwood’s play, the criticism of the man and the female, and the true meaning of the impending war). It ended a movie with an almost carefree flair. This often happens when plays are translated to screen, as movies are a medium that seeks more lightweight than the theater. Coincidentally, the movie was made in 1939, considered the best year in Hollywood ever, and got drowned in the mass of superior works.
Laugh It Off is a low calorie but endlessly charming musical, and a fitting end for Paula’s movie career. Her contract expired and she ventured into other areas, namely television, theater and radio, and was very successful in many of her endeavors. According to Wikipedia,
Stone toured in You Can’t Take It With You, Idiots Delight, and other plays. In November 1940 she was cast with Marcy Wescott for the Dennis King musical show. It debuted at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Stone took singing lessons. She was hired by WNEW in West Palm Beach, Florida, to broadcast the news and gossip of Broadway to servicemen. She wrote the scripts for this program and later secured her own show on the Mutual Radio Network. In 1950 she hosted Hollywood USA. The show related entertainment news and she interviewed celebrities. In 1952 her broadcast was known as The Paula Stone Program. She was affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1954.
Kudos to Paula and the sheer expansiveness of her professional life! Her last credited performance was a TV appearance in Play for Today in 1971.
Paula’s best friend in Hollywood was actress Patricia Ellis. They were about the same age and both were talented actresses that never got to top tier. In August 1937, Paula announced she was to be married to George Walker Mason, a Hollywood nightclub operator. Unfortunately, they broke off their engagement in October 1937, citing their busy schedules – she was working hard to become a star and he running his cafe.
Paula met orchestra leader Duke Daly in mid to late 1938. Duke lived the drifter’s life, going from hotel to hotel with his orchestra and constantly touring, mostly on the east coast, and officially living in Miami, Florida. Yet, the pretty Paula enchanted him so much he suddenly decided to buy a house in Beverly Hills and make it his permanent home. They were an active Hollywood couple, rubbing elbowed with the likes of Constance Moore and her husband Johnny Maschio and agent Henry Wilson and his escort, Joy Hodges.
After a couple of months of courtship, Paula married Duke on July 16, 1939 in Los Angeles, California ia. To sum it up:
Announcing that they would wed Sunday afternoon, Paula Stone, actress daughter of Fred Stone, and Duke Daly, orchestra leader, applied for a marriage licence. They disclosed they will have to combine their honeymoon with a business trip. Te wedding will take place next Sunday afternoon in the chapel of the Wiltshire Methodist church and will be performer by Reverend Willie Martin. The honeymoon destination depend on Daly’s gig – either Washington or Oregon.
After the marriage ceremony there will be a reception at the bride’s home in Beverly Hills. Bridesmaids will be the bride’s friends, her sister Carol, Patricia Ellis, Ann Shirley and Natalie Draper. John Payne will be the best man.
Duke was born as Linwood Alton Dingley in 1910 in Portland, Maine, son of George Dingley and Louella “Lulu” Dingley. He was married once before, to Dorothy J. Edwards, in 1932. He lived with his first wife in Portland, Marine, before moving to California for his career. He and Dorothy divorced sometime in 1936/1937. Daly had a minor Hollywood career, appearing in the movie Swing Hotel as a band leader.
They moved next door to John Payne’s house in Los Angeles, and Paula noted she was not ready to give up her career. Unfortunately, there was no honeymoon as Duke left his bride just days after the ceremony to go on tour – they would only be reunited during the Christmas holidays and take their honeymoon then. Th marriage continued in this vein for another year, with Duke constantly touring and Paula working in Los Angeles. Their opposing schedules left no room for a quality marital life. Since Duke was never home, at one point in 1940 Paula even left their marital home to live with her parents in their Beverly Hills home, along with her two sisters and brother-in-law. In December 1940, not surprisingly, they separated. Friends and family intervened, and they reunited in January 1941. From then on, the marriage went on smoothly.
WW2 was raging by now, and young men either joined the army voluntarily or were drafted one by one. Paula’s husband, Duke, joined the Canadian RAF in late February 1942.
Paula was active in Hollywood, doing radio shows and broadcasting Broadway and Hollywood chatter, partially to have something to do while her husband was away at war. She also occasionally went out casually with an old friend currently on a furlough, namely Jackie Cooper. A mean columnist criticized her for taking Jackie out when her husband was throwing bombs over Berlin. Instead of trying to understand that she in all probability tired to keep her mind of her husband’s status and in the process help a friend in need and give him some good time.
And there were reasons to be worried over Duke’s fate. He went missing in action in September 1942, and caused much heartache for his family, but was saved and continued to serve in Europe. Sadly,he was lucky once, and never again. He died in Europe, from unknown causes, on May 13, 1943, at the age of 33.
Paula was clearly in mourning and deeply distressed for a time, but as time went by, managed to resume her life. In late 1944, she met Michael Sloane, a publicity agent, and the two hit it off right away. They married in 1946. By this time, Paula was finished with movies and worked in other mediums extensively. Michael was a wonderfully supportive husband who loved to see his wife flourish and gave her much support.
Their daughter Paula Stone Sloane was born on May 15, 1948. The Sloane family maintained a happy and stable home life for the decades to come. There were no news of marital tiffs, and Paula was as devoted a mother as she was a successful businesswoman.
Paula Beach Sloane died on December 23, 1997 in Sherman Oaks, California.