Francine Counihan

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Overshadowed by her more popular sister (Anita Colby), Francine Counihan was still a well known model of the 1940s and 1950s, who, with several fellow models, helped usher the golden age of modeling and made an lasting impact on the US advertising world.

EARLY LIFE:

Francine Lynn Counihan was born on November 18, 1915 in Washington, DC, to Daniel Francis Counihan and Margaret Ann McCarthy. Her father, nicknamed Bud, was a cartoonist for the New York Evening World and the artist for the Betty Boop series. Her older sister Anita was born on August 5, 1914.

They family lived in Washington, DC. The girls mother, Margaret, was a very conservative and strict disciplinarian: they were bred to be perfect ladies, always thinking of propriety, with a perfect carriage and maintaining their decorum at all times. It was forbidden to swear or use any “unladylike” language.

Under Anita’s tutelage, Francine started modeling in 1935. As she later reccounted:

Colby started me in ’35. Conover said, ‘Have her come with you on one of the jobs and I’ll talk to her.’ I was eighteen, and Colby was nineteen. Conover said, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t start modeling. There’s so much money in it.’ Well, in those days it was five dollars for an hour and a half. So I went to Powers. He was very interested in people, and he was interested in you being successful. He was a great morale builder. I went into everything. Fashion shows; Sears, Roebuck; Vogue; Harper’s Bazaar; all the catalogs. I went to Canada, and I went to Arizona—any place that there was money.

The girls were social butterflies of New York, frequenting all the places high society cold be seen in: Twenty-one,’ Stork Club, El Morocco, Plaza Hotel. Yet, when they went for dates, it was forbidden to go without a chaperone – if Francine wanted to go out with a man, she had to find a date for Anita so they could chaperone each other. Imagine the many awkward situations that came out of this!

Anita decided to try her luck in Hollywood (she would have better luck as a heartbreaker than an actress), and Francine followed suit.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

Francine5Her first  credit is  Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting roles in A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Francine was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Karen Gaylord and so on.

Francine returned to New York after this and never had another Hollywood role.

PRIVATE LIFE:

On January 5, 1936, at just 20 years old, Francine married Robert J. Riordan in Manhattan, New York. Riordan, born in 1912, was the son of a banker, who finished 2 years of colledge and never graduated. The couple lived in New York, and soon Francine was the main breadwinner in the family.

Their son Robert J. Riordan Jr. was born on October 11, 1936. Their daughter, Francine Lynn, was born in 1940.

FrancineCounihan2Francine continued to model, but only for the money. As she told author Michael Gross for his book, Model, the ugly business of beautiful women:

Colby was more glamorous than I was. I thought glamour was fine, but I wanted the money. She was doing a lot of Vogue and a lot of Harper’s. I was more commercial, and she was more high-fashion. I made a lot of money. See, for me, being a model wasn’t as important as the money. I had a seven-room apartment in New York, I had two children in private school.

Francine and Robert’s marriage was not a stable one and they separated in 1941. They remained separated for six years, until 1947. In the interim, Francine occasionally dated somebody who caught her fancy. In 1946, she was a duet with Richard Carolson, just out of the army.

Francine varied the color of her hair through her long modeling career. She was originally a light brunette, but changed the color to ash blonde in the mid 1940s. She got back to blonde in 1949, just before the end of her career.

Francine married John B. Okie in 1949. Okie was born on August 27, 1914, in Marshall, Virginia. He was an OSS operative during World War II and an international businessman afterwards. They met when Francine and Anita sailed to Europe on a luxury ocean liner (wth many other dignitaries like Rita Hayworth, an Indian maharaja, the Churchills and so on). Churchill was pretty impressed by the sisters, and even gave them a signed copy of his book about painting! There is a funny story concerning the camaraderie between the sisters and the maharajah: he was a free wheeling, great spender type of a fellow, but his government forbade him to spend any more more on women an d gambling as he was deeply in debt. Known for showering ladies with jeweles, he met the two sisters, liked them a great lot, but could not give them the customary rubies or diamonds. The girls, when they came to England, as a consolation, they send him a crystal nipped from a chandelier!

Lets go back to Fancine and John. They lived for a time in Connecticut, before moving to Kent, Rhode Island. Thier mansion in Kent featured a huge swimming pool beyond a set of magnificent floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

FrancineCounihan1Okie was not ecstatic about his wife modeling, and persuaded her to give up that life in 1950. Conover owner her a load of money, but she gave up on ever trying to get it from him. She retired for good after 13 years as a model (a pretty long time for such a fickle job).

Francine Okie died on November 14, 1994, in Kent, Rhode Island. 

Francine’s widower John Okie died on February 6, 1999 in Kent, Rhode Island.

 

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Cornelia Von Hessert

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A member of a fabulously rich family, Cornelia Von Hessert was born with the proverbial silver spoon in her mouth. She was materially well covered – but everything else proved to be anything but milk and honey for the heiress. Difficult parents, an unhappy marriage and several family tragedies marred her life, but she survived it with stunning resilience to finally find solace in a happy and satisfying marital life with her last husband.

EARLY LIFE:

Cornelia Fitch Baekeland was born on November 6, 1919, in Denver, Colorado, to George Washington Baekeland and his wife, Cornelia Fitch Middlebrook, the eldest of three children. Her younger brothers were George Middleton “Brooks”, born on February 7, 1921, and Frederick Baekeland.

The Baekelands were a insanely rich family, and the reason was Cornelia’s grandfather, Leo Baekeland, a Belgian chemist, invented Bakelite, the world’s first plastic, which was used in everything from radios and records to artificial limbs and atomic bombs. At the time of her birth, Cornelia’s father was studying to become a geologist at the Colorado School on Mines. He attended Cornell University for two years before serving in the Air Force in WW1,when he met Cornelia and married her. He served in Italy during the war.

Cornelia’s father was a strict, mercurial man, as many of his class shallow, born in the wrong time and place. He was very capable in some matters (he was adept at handwork) but totally hopeless in the matters of emotion and heart. Despite their initial love, he never felt any real rapport with his wife, and the romantic Cornelia suffered for the great part of the marriage. One winter, during a sojourn in Florida, Cornelia Sr, fell in love with Penrose Halliwell, another socialite. Penrose was married, but that did not stop Cornelia from divorcing George and becoming his mistress. That happened in 1935. She had to give up custody of the children, and lived on 3 000$ of alimony a year. Penrose was married and could not marry her before his wife died – so she lived as a bachelorette and was admired by many men.

Cornelia was a famous beauty, but also a difficult, “prima donna” personality. Yet, Cornelia Jr. and her brothers were utterly devoted to her, and when their father remarried, were pretty hard on their new stepmother at first. They mellowed in time, as the new stepmom was a gentle, beautiful woman with a great ear for music.

Little Cornelia was a beautiful child with a wonderfully developed imagination. She was ful of potential and flourished in boarding schools, developing her skills in the arts, but her father, in a very old fashion thinking set, seemed Cornelia’s education irrelevant to her education and demanded she return from boarding school home. This left an lasting impression on her, as she felt her wings were clipped – and predictably, she married the first man who offered her marriage just to run away from such a domineering father.

Cornelia allegedly studies law for a brief time before setting into a socialite life. Yet, her highly active nature propelled her into the modeling industry. Then in 1943 she was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

Her first  credit is  Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting roles in A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Cornelia was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

Cornelia did not need to appear in any more movies, and she never did.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Being beautiful and a heiress, Cornelia was a sought after marital prize. And a big plus to the ardent pursuers was the fact that Cornelia wanted to get far away from her father as possible, as soon as possible.

She married her first husband, Gerhardt Von Hessert on June 7, 1939, when she was just 19 years old. Hessert was born, with the title of Baron, on August 18, 1906, in Germany. He was a successful bobsledder, even participating in the 1932 Winter Olympics.

Their son Christian Hendrich was born in 1941. They lived in Ridgefield, Connecticut, in a wealthy community. Sadly, the marriage did not work, and they divorced in the mid 1940s. Hessert died in 1994.

Cornelia married her second husband, Hanns Ditisheim on July 1, 1946. Ditisheim, born on May 3, 1901 in Switzerland, was Von Hessert’s best friend. Time magazine perfectly summed up Ditisheim:

Manhattan Investment Banker Hanns Ditisheim, is a spruce, Swiss-born millionaire with a speculator’s sharp eye for an underpriced stock and a burning desire to control a big company…

Hanns, handsome, dashing and loaded with European charm, came out of nowhere to become a major power broker in the investment banking world. The couple lived where Hanns’ business took them, but ended up in Tarrytown, New York, where Hanns purchased an apartment building block.

In March 1961, despondent over his failing health, Hanns committed suicide by jumping off the roof of one of the buildings he owned in the Bronx. He left a note indicating that he had no financial woes but rather health ones.

BagarottiCornelia married her third husband, Giovanni Bagarotti, on June 12, 1964. The Rev. Gregg Brewer of the Christian Com­munity Church in New York performed the ceremony at the home of the bride. Bagarotti, born on July 9, 1899 in Italy, was a famous violinist and well known interpretation of Johannes Brahms , Ludwig van Beethoven , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , Johann Sebastian Bach and many more. He was friend with the famous pianist Edwin Fischer and often played with him. He was active mostly in New York but lived in Seal Harbour, Maine. He was married once before to an American born woman, but she died in the late 1950s.

Cornelia’s family became a center of a huge scandal in 1976. But first, let’s go step by step. In the early 1940s, while still married to Von Hessert Cornelia introduced her younger brother Brooks to Barbara Daly, a beautiful New York model. Brooks was a handsome but conceitful young man, allergic to any kind of work and fashioning himself a writer.  Barbara came from a problematic background. Born and raised in Boston, her mother Nini had had a mental breakdown a few years before Barbara was born. In 1932 when she was aged 10, her father Frank committed suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning from the exhaust of his car in the garage. After the life insurance payment had been collected, Barbara and her mother moved to New York City, taking up residence in the Delmonico Hotel. Becoming a young socialite, Barbara was hailed as one of New York’s ten most beautiful girls, gaining her regular modelling contracts with Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, and resultant invitations to high society parties, allowing her to date various wealthy admirers. She also suffered mental health problems like her mother, and was a private patient of psychiatrist Foster Kennedy

Their highly dysfunctional marriage was a roundabout of ups and downs, always with a bottle of champagne in tow. But the couple had fabulous friends, and their boozed-up bacchanals in Manhattan and Paris attracted bright stars from the world’s roster of hip bourgeoisie: Greta Garbo, Tennessee Williams, William Styron, Yasmin Aga Khan, and a myriad of aristocrats.

BarbaraDalyTheir son Anthony was born in 1946. Here the true problems start. The boy, raised by two irresponsible pelasure seekers, grew up to become a mentally unbalanced, unhappy individual. To shorted it up, I quote New York Times:

When Tony is still a boy, the family takes up a gypsylike existence, flitting to and from East Hampton, Cadaques, Zermatt and other resorts. When Tony is 22, Brooks runs away with the only girl Tony has ever brought home. Mother and son unravel. Barbara falls into a boozy ”look of old furs and feathers – like a Jean Rhys character,” has affairs (and a hysterical pregnancy) and, we are told, in a campaign to wrest him from his homosexuality, sleeps with Tony. Tony takes drugs, attacks his mother at least twice and, in 1972 in London, stabs her through the heart with a kitchen knife. He is put in Broadmoor, a Dickensian English hospital for the criminally insane. In 1980 he is freed and returns to New York, where he commits another hair-raising crime and meets a macabre demise.

Tony killed himself in 1981, while still in the psychiatric ward. He tried to kill his 87 year odl grandmother, Nina Daly, just several months before. What a sad, sad story. It was later made into a movie, called Savage Grace, with Julianne Moore and Eddie Redmayne in the lead roles.

Yet, Cornelia escaped the whole sordid business and lived quietly with her husband in Tarrytown. Their was a happy marriage, and it lasted until Baragotti died on June 18, 1994, at the age of 94, in Tarrytown.

Cornelia’s only child, son Christian Von Hessert, died on April 1, 2001, in Canada. Except Cornelia, he was survived by his wife, Donna Christine Smith and their three children.

In the new millennium, many of Cornelia’s belongings were auctioned off at prestige auction houses like Sothersbys.

Cornelia Bagarotti is still alive and lives in Tarrytown, New York.

Peggy Lloyd

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As the daughter of one of Hollywood’s richest citizens, Peggy Lloyd could have had an “easy living” kind of a life. Yet, she stubbornly chose to become her own, independent woman, and fought tooth and nail to make a decent living in Hollywood for herself and her children.

EARLY LIFE:

Gloria Gabrielle Freeman was born on April 15, 1925, in Los Angeles, Califronia, to single mother Gloria Freeman.  Her father (whatever his name was) was allegedly from Nebraska and her mother from Pennsylvania. Miss Freeman gave up Gloria for adoption soon after birth. She was put in a Pasadena orphanage.

Peggy was adopted at the age of 5 by Harold and Mildred Lloyd. Harold Lloyd was a famous comedian, and the richest man in Hollywood – he was a shrewd investor and canny businessman. They already had two children, a son, Harold Lloyd Jr. and a daughter, Mildred Gloria, whose companion Gloria was destined to become.

They renamed her Marjorie Elisabeth, she was nicknames Peggy almost from day one.

Peggy lived the high life as Lloyd’s daughter – she was chauffeured to school in a limo, and the family lived in the fabulous Lloyd estate (Green Acres, one of the first mansions in Beverly Hills) that had it’s own nine hole golf course and an Olympic sized pool.  In 1930, after the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby, Lloyd became paranoid about the safety of his own children. As Gloria Lloyd later said to a journalist:

 “That was a scary time because we were old enough to know what was going on. We had two guards outside of our room with guns in holsters. Nice guys – they made fun for us children. But they used to go with us wherever we went, even to the tennis court. One taught me how to rollerskate. We weren’t allowed to go many places. So it was a very sheltered childhood.”

By all accounts, Harold and Mildred, as parents, were generous to the point of overindulgence. I quote Gloria’s independent obituar:

“The children even had a private zoo. But Harold insisted they learn the value of money. At 13, Gloria and her friends had a lemonade stand on Benedict Canyon Drive. They charged a dime a glass, but Mildred made sure they gave the profits to the church.When Gloria and Peggy were students at UCLA. Lloyd ran the family on strict Victorian lines. Drinking was forbidden. Pocket money was limited to $30 a month while the girls were at college, and they were expected to travel there by bicycle.

“As we grew up we had to be heavily chaperoned. It seems a little strange now, but we went out on dates with the chauffeur and the governess. Boyfriends came to the estate and were screened by Clementine, our housekeeper for 45 years. We felt like a Hollywood royal family.”

Peggy attended Westlake School for Girl and, as mentioned in the quote, enrolled into UCLA and USC, majoring in art.

Despite the family’s wealth, Peggy wanted to work and carve her own mark on the world. Being a very beautiful woman, it was only natural that she try her hand in modeling. Soon, Peggy was all over the papers, modeling clothes and advertising for this and that. In 1943, she landed a role in Cover girl, and started her career in Hollywood, the town where she was practically royalty.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

PeggyLLoyd3Her first  credit is  Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Peggy was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

After her death, Peggy was featured in an American Masters episode about her father, where she talked about their relationship and how was it to growing up in such an environment.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1946, Peggy made it in the California debutante book, along with her sister, Gloria, and Shirley Temple.

PeggyLLoyd4Peggy married movie producer Almon Bartlett “Bart” Ross on April 17, 1948. Ross was born on July 5, 1923, making him just two years older than Peggy. His father was a well known doctor in Beverly Hills. Their son David Lloyd Ross was born on May 26, 1950. They separated and divorced in 1953. In 1954, Bart married Erin Considine, another daughter of well heeled showbiz parents (her mother was Carmen Pantages, of the Pantages dynasty, and her dad director John Considine Jr.). That marriage did not last either, and he married lastly to Mary Carmenla Clark in 1961. He died in 1970.

After her divorce, Peggy refused to return to the Lloyd’s house, and instead took an apartment with a friend and started a career as a Hollywood gossip columnist. She had to learn everything from a scratch, but Peggy was a smart, sharp woman and quickly paved her own way. She was proud to be able to support her son all on her own.

Peggy had a one sided crush on society columnist Jim Copp. One of her first dates after her divorce were Don Taylor (then freshly divorced from Phyllis Avery) and Bob Fullerton. She let her hair down, driving in a fiee truck around town with her friend Ginny Simms. In late 1953 and early 1954, she had a serious romance with Dick Ogden, but he left her and she carried a torch for several months afterwards. Peggy dated first Harry Crocker and then Herbert Hirschmoeller for a brief time in the 1955, and then met her next husband, a young actor Robert, “Bob” Patten.

PeggyLloyd1They married on March 3, 1956, in Las Vegas. Patten was born on October 11, 1925 in Tacoma, Washington. He came to Hollywood in 1925 and was to become a major character actor in showbiz. The real marriage lasted only 8 months, and her friend Betty Plant even testified that Patten told her he could not stand Peggy any more, since he disliked “good wives”. They won a divorce in December 1956, and afterwards Peggy found out she was pregnant. This did not change her decision about her marital state – they did not remarry. Their son Robert Patten Jr. was born on August 3, 1957 in Los Angeles.

As Harold Lloyd’s daughter, Peggy was very active socially. She knew everybody who was somebody from the movie colony, and was a good friend with Charlie and Oona Chaplin, giving many interview about the couple. Peggy also gave many soirees at her home in San Fernando Valley, hosting many a famous people. She was on good terms with her sister and brother, and the only child who remained in normal contact with the elder Lloyd and Mildred.

BettyJaneHess2I was very impressed by Peggy, as she became a  publicist and refused all help from Harold for financial support. She candidly told a reported that “I am over 21 and mom and dad are not responsible for my mistakes.” Bravo for Peggy! A very down to earth, normal millionaire’s daughter! Peggy later worked in a variety of other jobs: as a talent scout for a radio DJ, restaurant hostess, bookkeeper for an advertising agency and saleswoman.

Peggy tried to find her birth mother in about 1972, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. This started a trend in the papers, where adopted children seeker the truth about their birth parents. I don’t know how exactly it transpired, but Peggy met with her birth mother, then known as Dorothy Callison.

Peggy did not remarry and lived the rest of her days in California.

Marjorie Elisabeth Lloyd died on November 18, 1986, from lung cancer in Newport, Orange County, California.

Her former husband Bob Patten died in 2001. The last surviving Lloyd sibling, Gloria, died in 2012.

 

Martha Outlaw

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With beautiful, exotically slanted eyes, a well sculpted face and a slim but womanly body, Martha Outlaw was the paragon of a stunning 1940s woman, ending up a highly successful model, a failed actress and in the end a happy family woman.

EARLY LIFE:

Martha Rascoe Outlaw was born on April 29, 1914, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Edward Ralph Outlaw and Louise G. Greenleaf. Her older sister, also named Louise, was born in 1908. Both of her parents were from Elizabeth City.

The family lived in Elizabeth City until the 1930s. Martha’s dad Edward was a college educated boat captain who worked in the Texas oil industry. In his spare time, he was a passionate lover of early American history and was well known collector of the Pasquotank area (where Elizabeth City is situated) local stories. The stories were later privately published by Martha’s mom Louise in a book named Old Nag’s Head (this was to in 1954, after Ralph’s death).

The Outlaws were a well liked, popular local family, and both Martha and Louise were local debutantes, making social column notices in the paper and flirting with local boys.

Martha wanted a career, and decided upon a modeling one. She started modeling in cca 1942, pretty late, when she was almost 30 years old. She was soon a sought after model, and in 1943, was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

MartthaOutlawHer first  credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Helen was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

MarthaOutlaw8Martha appeared in one more movie, albeit uncredited. But, it’s a pretty good one – Since You Went Away, a WW2 classic. Unlike many other WW2 movies, it has nothing to do with the battleground but all to do with the people left behind, just as much victims of war as the soldiers were. While this is not a master piece, not by far, as it is marred by cons typical of the patriotic WW2 movies (too preachy, a bit unrealistic, too sentimental), it still features some superb performances and that is its core strength that raises it above the typical WW2 propaganda film. Claudette Colbert, Jennfier Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley are all solid performers and all give spirited performances. All in a all, a promising start. Yet, it was as much a start as it was the end of Martha’s career.

Martha left the film world to become a wife and mother after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1942, Martha dated James McKinley Bryant, the well known cafe society broker and author. They actually dated for almost a year but broke up before she departed for Hollywood.

MarthaOutlaw3In Hollywood, Martha suffered an appendicitis attack in October 1944 and lived in a single room with fellow starlet, Karen Gaylord. Gaylord even had problems when she wanted t marry her love, Ted Knoll, since there was a shortage of housing in Los Angeles then (during the war).

Martha married Henry Edwards Huntington II on May 17, 1944, while he was in the Army Air Force. He was the grandson and name sake of Henry E. Huntington, famous millionaire philanthropist. Born on January 3, 1921, his father was Huntington’s only son, Howard Edwards Huntington, and his mother was the former Louise Thayer Green from Berkeley, California. He was the youngest of six children (his siblings were Elizabeth,  Margaret, Harriet, Howard and Leslie). Sadly, Henry was just one year old when his father died.

The couple lived a lavish life in California and had two children, two sons, Henry III, born in 1945, and Edward “Ted”, born on August 25, 1947.

Martha separated from her husband in November 1951, and sued him for divorce in December 1951. She claimed he took 9,000$ dollars from their shared account and left California without providing any means for her or the boys. There was a bit of push and shove since Huntington, in hopes of getting a swift divorce, moved “permanently” to Nevada, became a Nevada resident, and filed for his own divorce proceedings. He charged Martha with mental cruetly and was awarded a default divorce in March, but since Martha signed a separate divorce petition, there was a bit of a wobble. In the end Martha was awarded 2900$ monthly temporary alimony in January, and the final divorce decree was given in June 1952. Martha even hired two private detectives to tail her husband, who laid low in Nevada, but they never did manage to catch him. Martha testified that Huntington could frequently get her up at all hours of the  night so he could tell her about his “conquests”, and that he abused her verbally.

MarthaOutlaw6.comHuntington tried later to nullify Martha’s California divorce by his own Nevada divorce, but the judge rules it as a sham. All in all, the show dragged on for a while…

In the meantime, Martha wisely choose to give up on the whole sordid game and married Secondo Guasti III, scion of a well known California wine making family, on April 17, 1954. It was true love, since Martha gave up her 1,000$ alimony after the marriage (Huntington only had to continue paying 600$ per month for their two sons). Guasti was Martha’s junior by 10 years, being born on October 13, 1925. His grandfather was Secondo Guasti I, founder of the Italian Vineyard Company. Secondo came from Italy to the US in 1881 and slowly built his business from the ground up. Within 20 years he had founded his own vineyard and town, and his name became synonymous with Southern California wine. A simple testament to his success – penniless when he arrived, Guasti later lived in a mansion on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles that was said to have cost $500,000 to build.

His father was Secondo Guasti Jr, Secondo Sr’s only son (he also had a daughter). Secondo’s mother was a well known gourmet cook who combined several ethical cuisines into a compact new cuisine, and wrote cookbooks. Sadly, Secondo Guasti Jr. died in Santa Barbara on April 6, 1933 at the age of 42. His widow remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. Secondo later moved back to California.

Martha and Secondo had a happy, fulfilling marriage and were socially prominent in Pasadena, often giving their famous gala parties for friends. The charmed life lasted until Secundo’s death in 1973. Martha’s former husband, Harry Huntington, died in 1978. He remarried in 1954 to Lucille Barnes Noonan.

Martha continued to live in California, and was very active in the local community.

Martha Guasti died on December 30, 2002 in Santa Barbara.

Helen Mueller

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Beautiful model whose movie career never happened, but who became a leading philanthropist in the New Jersey area, Helen Mueller is certainly a woman living an interesting life.

EARLY LIFE:

Helen Irene Mueller was born in August 1919 in Bloomfield, New Jersey, to Emil Mueller and his wife, Gertrude Mueller, the youngest of three daughters. Her older sisters were Marguerite V., born in 1913, and Hildegarde, born in 1915. Both of her parents were born in Germany and immigrated to the States in about 1903 and 1904.

Helen grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey. There she graduated from Bloomfield high school (but opted not to go to college).

Helen’s father died in the 1930s, and her mother took up nursing to support the family. Her sisters married and left the family home, and in 1940, Helen and her mother were living together in Bloomfield, New Jersey. Helen was working as a professional photographer’s aide. Her knowledge of the photography process helped her carve a career as a model, and she left for New York in cca 1941. She quickly rose in the modeling ranks, and was posing for Norman Rockwell and regularly appearing on magazine covers. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to appear in Cover girl, a Rita Hayworth movie, and left for the West coast.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

HelenMueller4Her first and only credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting roles in A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Helen was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

PRIVATE LIFE:

I was surprised to see just how many models actually had low-key love lives and married normal guys. I always imagine them as glamorous gals who ended up with crem de la crem of society (Conover once remarked that he wasn’t sure was he running  a marrying agency or a modeling agency). Yet, there undoubtedly was a string of models who married high up and made news with their romantic exploits. Helen was on the threshold between these two : the girls next door and the glam queens. Why? Let us find out!

Helen hits the papers in 1941 as a serious romance of a famous illustrator Jon Whitcomb. Whitcomb had just left a short and bitter marriage to Mary Brian months prior, and of course the “serious romance” led nowhere.

HelenMueller5Well, for a time in 1943, Helen was in all the papers as the prospective bride to be of Mickey Rooney, that well-wed but well-loved cad. Rooney needs no introductions – a genius all around performer, he was one of the best examples of the triple threat: an actor, dancer and singer rolled into one. By 1943, he was already married once, to Ava Gardner, but the marriage was pretty short. Helen and Mickey met in the early 1943, by April were a constant couple, and in August he organised her a birthday party and even gifted her with a ruby bracelet! They were frequently photographed at the Mocambo night club and at the premiere of “For Whom the Bell Tolls” . It must have been love for Mickey, as he tried to persuade the pretty model to marry him in January 1944. During the whole month of September and October Helen was trying in earnest to fight off rumors that she would wed Mickey, claiming that she was engaged to another man.

And engaged to another man she was. Helen announced her engagement to Bill “Wild Indian” Geyer in May 1943, before things with Mickey really heated up. She vehemently tried to deny that she was in a serious relationship with Mickey and that she would wed Bill regardless. She and Bill married on March 15, 1944, in New Jersey.

Now, Geyer is a very colorful, interesting man. I quote http://www.njinvent.org/ web site for information about Bill’s father, also called William Geyer:

William Geyer arrived in the United States from his native Germany in 1910 at age 17, earning his passage by peeling potatoes on the ship. He had no money or command of the language but put his skills to work as a glassblower at Westinghouse, making lamps for 15 cents an hour.

By 1918, at age 25, he established Scientific Glass Apparatus Co. in Bloomfield in the back bedroom of his home. After the business spilled onto other parts of his property, including the chicken coop, he established his first factory in Bloomfield, about 500 feet from his home. Several skilled craftsmen manned the plant, producing custom-made glassware for local laboratories.

Geyer was the inventor of automatic burettes, metal-clad joints, melting point thermometers and other items now considered standard equipment in laboratories. He was also responsible for the development and production of interchangeable glassware in the United States.

He was honored with the Kiwanis International Legion of Honor Award.

His son “Indian” Bill Geyer, who was an All-American running back at Colgate University and a professional with the Chicago Bears, succeeded his father as president of Scientific Glass, now an international company with annual sales in excess of $7 million. He was resident of Bloomfield.

Here are some more bits about Bill – it’s easy to see what an interesting character he was:

–       Colgate football – 1939, 1940, 1941
–       1942 East-West Shrine Game
–       Selected in the 11th round of the 1942 NFL draft by the Chicago Bears
–       Chicago Bears – 1942-1943, 1946
–       He paid for his own plane and training after being rejected for Colgate’s civilian pilot training course in 1940 because of an eye injury
–       He was turned down by the Navy in 1941 because of the same injury, so he had surgery to correct it
–       Returned to Colgate in 1943 for aviation training and took math courses from Andy Kerr
–       Gunnery officer in the Navy in World War II
–       Played with a Navy football team in a game against the Army in the Philippines in 1945
–       Returned to the Brooklyn Armed Guard Center in 1945 after commanding a gun crew

Bill was a very industrious, hard working man. He served not only heads a prospering manufacturing company, with factories in many states, but also held such honors as the vice-chairmanship of the Colgate University Board of Trustees and the presidency of the New York Touchdown Club.

HelenMueller2Helen and Bill had, by all means, an exciting, harmonious marriage – in short, a marriage anybody could wish for. They had more than one child, but I am unfortunately unable to find their names (if anybody has this information, please email me so I can put it here). They were a perfect team, doing extensive philanthropic work together, flying in their Cessna airplane, attending charity events, mingling with students at Bill’s alma mater, Colgate University, and making long sojourns in Africa to go hunting.

Due to their shared philanthropic work, Helen is a living legend in New Jersey, as the local web page (http://patch.com/) quotes about her:

Helen Geyer has served for many years as a valuable volunteer to the YMCA of Montclair. Over the years she served on the Ladies Auxiliary and in addition to many other special events she assisted in transforming the gymnasium to look like that of the theme of that year’s fundraiser. She assisted with inviting “the right people” to the table for each event and funded several projects over the years. More recently and more significantly, Mrs. Geyer generously funded the renovation of the 159 Glenridge Avenue property. In 2007, the branch of the YMCA intended to serve our youth population was officially named the Helen & Bill Geyer Family Center of the Montclair YMCA. We give many thanks to Helen for her philanthropic spirit.

Bill Geyer died on June 4, 2004.

Helen Geyer is still alive and lives in Montclair, New Yersey. 

 

 

Betty Jane Graham

Betty Jane Graham3

Stunning cover girl who almost nagged a spot in the B western roster, Betty Jane Graham took the family route and retired before reaching any true milestones.

EARLY LIFE:

Betty Jane Graham was born on December 24, 1917, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Henry Duncan Graham and his wife, Edna “Mae” Kelley. Her older sister was Muriel Graham, born in Wisconsin in 1913. (IMDB lists her DOB as 1920, and she doubtlessly tried to make herself look younger when she hit Hollywood, but the 1930 census lists her at 12 years old, so that sounds about right).

Her father was a Wisconsin native who wed her mother, an Illinois native in the early 1910s. The family moved around a lot, first living in Wisconsin, then living in Minnesota where Betty was born, moving to Indianapolis, Indiana, then Kansas City, Missouri and in the end settling in Emory, DeKalb, Georgia. Her father, who was college educated, was a film industry sales manager, including his longest and last employment with Universal as southern district manager. The family, while not rich, was well off.

Betty changed schools a lot as a child, and developed a special interest in the performing arts. She decided to become an actress, and went on to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. To make extra pocket money, she started modeling and was soon a sought after model. In 1943, she was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover girl, a Rita Hayworth movie.

CAREER:

Betty originally came to Hollywood to appear in Cover girl. I repeat the story again:

Betty Jane GrahamHer first credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Betty was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

Unlike many of her fellow cover girls, Betty stayed in Hollywood for a longer run. Her second (uncredited appearance) is in Louisiana Hayride, quite a predictable and ultimately unfunny comedy with Judy Canova in the lead. When Judy’s the lead, it’s clear what kind of a movie it is – featuring hillbillies and showing their (mis)adventures around the US. While Judy is as good as ever, the movie lacks everything else – a good story, common sense and originality. The supporting actors are also only so-so.

Betty Jane Graham2Like fellow model Eileen McClory, she appeared in They Live in Fear, a WW2 propaganda movie about a German intellectual who escapes Nazi Germany after seeing his professor being killer in the Dachau concentration camp. His life in America is soon threatened by a careless mistake of a colleague. Like many of the propaganda movies, it’s zero art and all “giving a message” film, but that’s what is to be expect of it. Plus, it gives Otto Kureger, a superb actor, a chance to play the lead (he was mostly a support in A class movies). The movie is little seen today and can be tagged as sadly mediocre.

Betty reached the pinnacle of her career with Rough Ridin’ Justice, a B western where she played the lead. From an uncredited extra to the lead in just one step, whoa, and to add a bonus, it’s a decent, well made B western. The story is interesting enough, and the movie flows seamlessly from beginning to the end. Betty got kudos from the critics for her performance, and should have stayed in B western movies if she wanted to continue her career.

Yet she did not, opting to retire to raise a family, and thus it was bye bye Hollywood.

 

PRIVATE LIFE:

Betty did not have a tumultuous love life, nor did she make any shocking newspaper headlines.

Betty Jane married her first and only husband, Robert Defiel, on July 23, 1944, in Los Angeles. Robert Matthew Defiel was born on July 15, 1916, in Minnesota to Matthew J. Haller, a prominent civil engineer, and Caroline E. Linder. An insurance broker by trade, he was married once before to Ani Kaster in October 1942, but they were divorced in 1943. His brother, George, was to become the president of Colorado and Southern Railway and Fort Worth and Denver Railway.

Betty Jane gave birth to her only child, daughter Kellin Graham Defiel, on August 21, 1947. Both Betty and Robert were actively involved in running their business, which specialized in construction bonding. Defiel became a distinguished citizen of Claremont, and was active in the local politics – he endorsed his friend Fred Warner Neal for Congress in 1968. Robert was a golfer who played golf at Red Hills in Rancho Cucamonga, and Betty Jane preferred tennis and swimming. Both were sailors. The family moved around, living in Laguna, then Oregon and Palm Springs.

Her daughter married Kenneth Scudder in 1995.

Betty Jane Defiel died on July 1, 1998, in Palm Springs, California.

Her husband remained in Palm Springs, where he died on December 24, 2007.