With over 30 movies to her (un)credit, Diana Mumby, a pretty and talented chorus girl, worked regularly in Hollywood for almost 10 years, and had a much better track records than many of her contemporaries.
Diana Sootheran Mumby was born on July 1, 1922, in Detroit, Michigan, to Gerald Mumby and Gladys Wright. Her father was an English RAF officer, and her mother a born and bred New Yorker. Her parents divorced not long after her birth, and she was shuffled between her father who lived in England and her mother, who moved to Los Angeles.
In 1930, Diana and her mother (who attended college but did not graduate and worked as a nurse) lived in Los Angeles with a lodger. Gladys remarried to Mr. Johnson sometime in the 1930s,but they were living apart by 1939. Diana attended high school in Los Angeles and graduated in 1940, still living with her mother at the time.
She started her career as a chorus girl not long after graduation. She became an Earl Carroll girl and dancer for several years before getting into movies.
Diana spent most of her career in musicals, not surprising considering she was originally a dancer, and was never ever credited, despite being a Hollywood fixture for at least 8 years.
Since she has a rather big filmography, consisting of 33 movies, and can be easily divided into three stages.
Diana originally made her movie debut in a 1940 movie, A Night at Earl Carroll’s, where she played one of the chorines, but that did not warrant a movie career and after that she did not act for four years, working as a dancer in the interim.
She truly started to act in 1944, and until 1946 she appeared exclusively in musicals. We have Up in Arms (AGAIN!), where she was a Goldwyn girl, the slight but charming Two Girls and a Sailor, It’s a Pleasure a typical Sonja Henie movie (no brains, but skating), Earl Carroll Vanities, one of those musicals with a hugely implausible story that are just simply fun to watch, the exotic and breezy A Thousand and One Nights (that type of a movie was a huge hit with the audiences that did not have easy access to all the information and photos about the faraway lands that we have today), the foul mouthed George White’s Scandals, the so obscure we don’t know what to say about it An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, the silly and slightly amusing Cinderella Jones, a Danny Kaye classic The Kid from Brooklyn, a three-girls-seeking-husbands movie, Three Little Girls in Blue, and a witty and sharp but ultimately forgotten musical The Thrill of Brazil.
What to say about this string of movies? While not bad at all, it is clear that she missed all the big, famous musical and settled somewhere in the musical mid tier, but at least she worked regularly and paid her bills.
Thus starts the second part of Diana’s career, where she got out of the musical cave and steered more towards straight drama and comedy movies. She kicked it high by appearing in The Razor’s Edge, one of Tyrone Power’s best movies, and generally one of the best movies of that year. More than a film about social problems, it’s a story of a man’s search for meaning, something much deeper than his social standing and his material wealth.
Out California Way is a low budget western, one of many, many many such movies. Winter Wonderland is a forgotten Disney mumbo jumbo. A Song Is Born was a short veer back into the musical arena, but it was back to drama and crime movies in Alias Nick Beal, the Faust story with a modern twist and a superb cast with Ray Milland and Audrey Totter. Air Hostess was a typical light fare with three female leads trying to navigate their complicated professional/love lives. Beauty on Parade is an obscure drama about unfulfilled lives and wasted potentials serves as a good illustration of the husband/wife relationships back in the day.
Let’s Dance is a Fred Astaire musical, and that fact alone elevates it to a very high level of movie making. Let’s be realistic, any movie with Fred in it is worth more than some better movies with lesser names today. The movie is far from a work of art, but fits the bill of an entertaining, fluffy film very well. Fred and Betty Hutton were a very interesting pair: he was technically flawless and very graceful, but she had the pizzazz and the magnetic pull that pried all eyes to her. Fred really has to work hard to keep the attention off of Betty, a refreshing change to his usual dominance on the dance floor.
Diana continued the line with Bowery Battalion, the good enough entry of Bowery boys comedy series, The Lemon Drop Kid one of Bob Hope’s better 1950s comedies, and finally I Can Get It for You Wholesale, the prototype of the serious, theatrical, glossy 1950s dramas (featuring Susan Hayward, who next to Lana Turner was the queen of such roles).
G.I. Jane was an unusual but highly diverting musical, just one of the many forgotten gems in the Hollywood low budget vaults. The Model and the Marriage Broker is an unjustly overlooked George Cukor movie. It has much to offer and an interesting choice of thespians – with Thelma Ritter being the absolute queen of the cast! The Las Vegas Story is a formulaic crime movie of the 1950s, using the ever lasting love triangle cliche to get together Jane Russell, Victor Mature and Vincent Price.
A Fool and His Honey is a comedic short of no great merit, Something to Live For, a George Stevens drama, is a somber, dark movie showing complex people in complex relationships – but it’s very predictable and has too many holes in the plot. Up next: when you have a movie called Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, I think everybody can guess what kind of a movie it is. While not the worst movie ever made, it’s still a muddling mess.
Sound Off is a pedestrian Mickey Rooney musical, and We’re Not Married! boasts such an impressive cast that even the mediocre quality of the movie can’t hamper it down. I mean, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe and Mitzi Gaynor all int he same movie, priceless!
Diana took a hiatus after this, and returned in 1955 with Son of Sinbad, just one of the many “adventure on the high seas” that overcrowded the 1950s. Coincidentally, her last movie was also the last movie of Humphrey Bogart, The Harder They Fall, a superb study of the behind-the-scenes of the boxing world in the 1940s.
Diana was a seasoned chorus girl who hit the papers before she hit the movies, appearing in the Florentine gardens and in various musical revues as early as 1941.
In 1944, MGM contract player Lorraine Miller sued a distributor for using her photo and labeling it as Diana’s photo and circulating it amogn the GI-s. How did this happen I have no idea, as Diana herself was a very attractive woman who surely did not need a stand in for any pin up poses she did (as a testament to her pin up prowess, she was in the Yank Cover Weekly).
In 1945 she was voted the Prettiest girl in the world and by her fellow pin up girl/chorines, no less! Truly, Diana had the perfect look for the 1940s/1950s pin up girl – a pleasing, round face and a lean, elegant figure.
In late 1945 Diana married Richard Allord, who was married to Marie McDonald for a brief time in 1940. The marriage proved to be equally brief, ending in 1946. She wasted no time in looking for a beau, and came very close to getting married to millionaire Eddie Torres in November 1946.
Diana married James Carlos Hernandez on September 30, 1951. Born in New York in 1920 to Frank Hernandez and Edna Considine, he attended college while living in Westchester, New York, and served his country in WW2. Their son, James Carlos Hernandez, was born on September 4, 1954.
Diana and James divorced in September 1968. Hernandez died in 1998.
Diana Mumby died on may 19, 1974 in Westlake, California.