Maxine Fife was a beautiful blonde who was touted as a future star and ended up nothing but a footnote in Hollywood history. A common enough story in Tinsel Town, sadly.
Maxine had the peculiar fortune to be a class mate of her two future movie co stars, Diana Lynn and Gail Russell. She went to kindergarten with Diana, and Diana used to accompany Maxine on the piano. She and Gail Russell met at the Faifax High School. The two were star struck teens, and often discussed movies during their lunch break. Imagine that 😛
Maxine attended Hawthorne Elementary School and graduated from Beverly Hills High School in 1943. That same years she enrolled into University of Southern California. To earn extra money, she was working as an usher at a movie theater in Beverly Hills, California when Zeppo Marx noticed her. Zeppo became her agent and negotiated a contract with 20th Century Fox Studios. So, when Hollywood knocked on her door, she canceled her enrollment and embraced her new found movie work with both hands. Thus, her career started.
Maxine was uncredited for the most of her career, but she appeared in some fine movies! Her very firts one, The Story of Dr. Wassell, can certainly be a feather in her cap. No, it’s not masterpiece nor is it the best movie mae by the legendary Gary Cooper, who played the eponymous Dr. Wassell, but it’s imposible to say anything truly bad about this one. It’s poignant, powerful, beautifully made by Cecil B. DeMille (and as viewer wrote on IMDB, it’s not a typical DeMielle movie, and many who dislike DeMille and his over the top epics could like this movie). Laraine Day is touching as Wassell’s love interest.
Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret, from the Henry Aldrich series of comedy movies, is one of the better entries and features some fine comedic moments by Jimmy Lyndon. Hail the Conquering Hero is a true shining comedy classic, a Preston Sturges vintage with a great cast, simple but effective story and, like every good comedy, a message. A special plus for the movie is Ella Raines, one of the most intriguing, unusual actresses to grace Hollywood in the 1940s.
Our Hearts Were Young and Gay paired Maxine with her two childhood chums, Gail Russell and Diana Lynn. It’s a breezy, nice, cute movie, one that leaves you with a simple on your face after watching. Russell and Lynn play real life women (Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough) who both have their first taste of romance on board a ship bound for Europe.
One Body Too Many is an unusual comedy/horror movie, and mostly a showcase for the comedy of Jack Haley. Watch out for Bela Lugosi in a small role! Nothing to rave about, but certainly pleasant. Here Come the Waves is a Betty Hutton/Bing Crosby pairing, a good enough movie worth watching but not much more.
Maxine’s next few movies were not her bets moments. Practically Yours is a tedious screwball comedy, saved only by the sheer star power of the leads, Claudette Colbert and Fred MacMurray. Bring on the Girls is a paper thin plot comedy with only a few good moments thrown in. Watch only if you are a fan or Eddie Bracken or Veronica Lake.
A Medal for Benny is a movie largely forgotten today, and while it’s mostly lackluster fare, it features an Oscar nominated performance by the character actor legend J. Carroll Naish and a fine turn for it’s leading lady, Dorothy Lamour. In a strange twist of fate, the movie resembles Hail the Conquering Hero very much, and Maxine is the only actress to appear in both movies (albeit uncredited!).
Incendiary Blonde is a biography of the legendary Texas Guinan (what a woman that was!). It’s, basically, a typical biopic of the 1940s – take a real person, turn it into a saint, polish up their life story, cut away all the unpleasant things, add a song or two and whoa, we’ve got a winner! Well, not quite, but the movie gives Betty Hutton a chance to really act, and remains one of her most powerful performances.
After this, the quality of the movies Maxine appeared in turned upwards. Road to Utopia is one of the best Bing Crosby/Bob Hope pairings, The Late George Apley is a wonderful vehicle for Ronald Colman. I’ll say it openly, I’m a sucker for all thing Colman, and this si such a stunning movie! No, it’s not a classic, but it’s a fine outing for Colman in his twillight years.
That was all from Maxine as far as Hollywood was concerned.
In August 1943, Maxine was dating the handsome George Montgomery, who was also involved with Dinah Shore. Guess which girl he married? Well, let me tell you, it ain’t Maxine. Still, the relationship was not a very brief one, and it lasted for at least six months, so Dinah obviously got some hard competition from Maxine.
In 1944, Maxine was very active in the war effort, touring army bases with fellow actresses. Maxine also got married on September 20, 1944, in Beverly Hills. Her groom was Forrest Fitzpatrick Cory. She was not yet 20 years old.
Forrest was born in 1920 in California, to Mr. and Mrs. Martin Cory, of the prominent Fresno Cory family. He attended Menlo Junior College and Stanford University. He served as a pilot in the US army in WW2, and flew over 50 missions by the time he married Maxine.
Their only child, daughter Maxine Elinor Cory, was born on July 14, 1945.
In an interesting twist of events, Maxine divorced Cory in 1946. Shortly after the war ended, she started working as the secretary of Paul Laszlo. The two fell in love.
Paul was born as László Pál in Debrecen, Hungary, on February 6, 1900, to László Ignác and László Regina (née Soros). His family later moved to Szombathely, Hungary. He had three sisters and two brothers; two of his sisters and both of his parents died in the Holocaust. László completed his education in Vienna, Austria before moving to Stuttgart, Germany, where he rapidly established himself as a prominent designer. Sadly, the rising tide of anti-semitism and Nazism made László’s position dangerous. In 1936 he fled Europe for the United States to escape the Nazis. He settled in Southern California, and established an office in affluent Beverly Hills, California. Despite having no money, he immidiately bought a fancy car and became a member of every prominent clubs. This, combined with his prior reputation, made him an instant hit with the wealthy political and acting elite. He married Anni M. Jurmann in 1938.
Maxine and Laszlo were to be married in July 1948, but she chickened out and remarried her former husband, Forrest Cory. Well, guess what, second chance marriage should not happen just months after the first divorce – usually it takes some time for people to understand what went wrong. Her son, Garth Martin Cory, was born on March 15, 1949. Maxine and Forrest separated just months after Garth’s birth, and she got involved with Laszlo again. Maxine was soon left pregnant by Laszlo, but could not gain her divorce soon enough – their son, Paul Peter Laszlo, was born on June 7, 1950, before they were able to get married. On June 15, 1950, she finally married Laszlo.
The family lived in Brentwood, California, and mingled with the higher ups. Laszlo was a man notoriously devoted to his own style, declining to work with such stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Barbara Streisand when he felt his vision could be compromised.
Laszlo retired in 1975, and they sold their beloved Brentwood home and moving into the Park Plaza luxury condos he designed on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica.
Laszlo died at age 93 on March 27, 1993. Maxine did not remarry. She suffered from dementia in her later years.
Maxine Fife Laszlo died on December 8, 2008, in Solana Beach, California. Her former husband, Cory, died in 2012.