Naida Reynolds

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Naida Reynolds was a pretty, dark haired girl with a pleasing figure who danced in the Earl Carrol vanities before trying to make her luck in Hollywood. Sadly, she ended up like most of her fellow chorines – a footnote in the musical genre, with no credits to her name.

EARLY LIFE:

Margaret Naida Reynolds was born on Verne Reynolds and Pearl Weddle, on November 29, 1911 in Kansas. Much later, the papers would reported she was a kin of the famous Reynolds tobacco family, but I have no proof of these claims. The family moved around a bit during her childhood, living for a time in Kansas City, where her younger brother, John, was born in 1913, then moving to New Mexico before returning to Kansas City for good.

The family lived with her paternal grandparents in Kansas City in 1920. Naida grew up in the city  and attended elementary there. She also danced for fun on the side, but as time went by, it was increasingly obvious to Naida that she wanted to become a professional dancer. Her wish was so strong that she quit high school after only one year to dedicate most of her energy to dancing.

As the story goes, Naida won a Schubert contract, moved to the East Coast and danced in the Earl Carroll Vanities in New York city starting in 1931 (two other Kansas city alumnus were also at the Vanities at that time: Harry Sotckwell and Claire Curry). At some point, she went to the West coast to try her hand in Hollywood.

CAREER:

Despite her enviable dancing skills, Nadia made only two movies in her all to brief Hollywood career, and in both she was a chorine whos eonly role was to dance, dance, dance. Due to the the sheer slimness of her filmography, I will take a deeper look into both of her offers.

By the mid 1935, the golden years of 1930s musical were gone. Busby Berkeley had already made his best movies, and it was all downhill from there. Yet, Gold Diggers of 1937 has the the dubious honor of being one of the last movies “before” the going went totally down. The stars are typical Berkeley “constants” – Joan Blondell and Dick Powell. It’ basically more of the same from Berekely as far as the plot goes (which is not good, as most of his plots are puff, blink and you’ll miss them)  and nothing else measures up to the golden standard of the previous work. The comedy is contrived, the actor uninspired, and the musical numbers are mostly bland (there are a few exceptions, however). I would be too severe to say it’s a bad movie, it’s not, it’s just not a really good one. Still, if you like musicals and especially if you like Berkeley, it’s worth giving a shot.

NaidaReynolds3Naida’s second and last feature is Strike Up the Band. it’s a Judy Gardland/Mickey Rooney movie, but not a particularly popular one nor well remembered today.  Yet, it’s a very good one (the weird thing about Hollywood, quality sometimes realy does not count). The plot is simple enough: (taken from IMDB): Jimmy (Rooney) and his best friend Mary (Garland) unite the music loving kids in town with the dream to be in Paul Whiteman’s band. When their school doesn’t help, they decide to raise the money on their own. However, the many ups and down of growing up including first love, personal goals, and the serious illness/injury of a close friend causes them to think about what’s really important.

The happy go lucky feeling of a small town in the 1930s, the breezy song and Busby Berkeley dance direction make this movie a true treat for the fans. Mickey and Judy are, as usual, balls of energy just waiting to ignite, so great is their charm that even if the movie was a lesser version of itself, they could make it work. Worth watching more for the emotion than for any intellectual reasons, it strikes a cord and leaves the viewer with a nice, warm feeling inside. If you are not expecting a cerebral experience, go for it!

Naida worked in Hollywod for a few years more before retiring, but did not make a credited movie appearance.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Naida was as much in the papers as a typical chorine-turned-actress was in those days,often featured with . She was notable for a series of articles where she showed her exercise routines. She maintained her enviable figure by doing exercises on her tummy, and she claimed more muscles are active in that position.

NaidaReynolds4Naida married Clarence S. Friend on July 11, 1937. His occupation was listed as a movie property man. They met on the sound stage while both were working on a musical film and dated for three months before getting engaged. Friend was born on September 3, 1910, in Iowa, and actually had no credits at that time.

The marriage was short lived, and They divorced in 1939. Firend went on to work as a set designer and art department member on a number of movies and a greater number of TV shows. He married Barbara Nail in 1961 and died on June 27, 1970.

On October 1940, Nadia was again mentioned in the papers, this time because she was a guest at one of the col parties thrown by the popular younger crowd – Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney:

Mickey dances to his own music and to hot numbers from his new picture. Keeping pace with him is no task for Naida Reynolds, who often helps director Busby Berkeley teach new steps. Sometimes she works as an extra. There is much less drawing of social lines at a party like this than in Hollywood parties given by adults. Here, friendships have little to do with salaries.

NaidaReynolds2Naida remarried to Ralph Ellson Donerly on April 2, 1951. Donerly was born on June 26, 1920, in New Yersey, to Raymond and Mayzie Donerly. By the mid 1950s Naida was long retired from Hollywood but continued to dance as a hobby. In 1958, she hit the papers when dancing at a charity concert for funding the California Home for the Aged (other old Hollywood personalities who graced this manifestation were Chuck Ryan and Slim Lee).

Naida Donerly died on January 7, 1986, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Her widower, Ralph Donerly, died on August 1, 2007, in Blue Diamond, Nevada.

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June Brewster

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June Brewster is somewhat remembered today. Just not for her acting achievements (which were not insignificant). Sadly, she is much better known as the wife of leading Las Vegas casino owner, Guy McAfee. A seasoned chorus girl when she landed in Hollywood, June had as much chance to succeed as any chorus girl who came to Tinsel Town in the early 1930s. Yet, after a promising start and a burning passion to make herself a serious actress, she took the other route and gave it all up to move with her husband to Nevada.

EARLY LIFE:

Kathleen Elizabeth Anderson was born on August 13, 1909, to Frank E. and Thena Anderson, in Decatur, Illinois. She was the eight of nine children. Her older sisters were Opal, Marguerite, Greta, Mildred and Lena. Her older brothers were Kenneth and Virgil. Her only younger siblings was a brother, Edwin.

Little is known about June’s childhood. At some point, she left for New York and became a chorus girl. She lived a hectic life for three years, and then departed for Hollywood.

CAREER:

June started her career in The Sport Parade, a formulaic, off the mill sport movie about football. I would usually tell: only for the die hard fans, but, on second taught, there is a redeeming feature: if you like Joel McCrea half naked, this is a movie to see! Marian Marsh, a pretty and charming but underrated actress, plays a convincing leading lady, but the love triangle is highly contrived and she seems out of place in a movie like this. There is also a strong homoerotic undercurrent, not something Hollywood could dish easily ever again after the Production code took effect.


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Goldie Gets Along is a Lili Damita vehicle, and a dismal one at that, but not for the reasons one might suspect. I always imagined Lili as a talentless hack who got famous because of Erroll Flynn. Yet, after watching a few of her movies, it’s clear to me she is  a woman of great personal charm. While she was not a top actress the camera loved her and she successfully lifts up any movie she appears in. Yet, in this movie, the trying dialogue, stupid story and her leading man, Charles Morton (Who? Well, exactly that!) make her fare much much worse that she deserves.

Professional Sweetheart is a mixed bag – on onehand, it’s a semi charming romance movie, on the other hand, there is nothing especially worthwhile about it. Ginger Rogers, who plays the lead role, is a legend for  a reason – and she was just starting here, young, vivacious, crackling with energy.

Melody Cruise is a movie that could have been made only during the Pre-Code times. And June, in a meaty role, does exactly what you expect from a free-wheeling, morally flexible pre-code dame . As one reviewer wrote:

Naughty pre-Code elements are embodied, literally, in the presence of Vera and Zoe (Shirley Chambers and June Brewster), two party girls who pass out in Ruggles’ cabin after the bon voyage party instead of leaving the ship. When told their clothes have been thrown overboard, Vera reminds Zoe: “It’s possible, Zoe. You know whenever you get a few drinks in you, you always want to take your clothes off.”

Stolen by Gypsies or Beer and Bicycles is a forgotten comedy short.

Flying Devils is a typical run of the mill low budget movie, with a thin script and B class actors. However, it’s unfair to label it as bad – the airborne sequences, despite not being filmed exclusively for this movie, are well made, and the movie rolls out dynamically, never having a dull moment. June also plays a prominent role.

Headline Shooter is the type of a movie I love. Why? Well, passionate battle of wills between man and a woman, the cat-and-mouse games and a general scheme of trying to outsmart one another are some of my favorite movie themes in general. While “His girl Friday” remains the staple of the genre, several years before we have Headline Shooter with a similar premise, just not so strong in the acting department. Both William Gragan and Frances Dee are adequate, but as one reviewer wrote “you’ll miss Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell.”

June than appeared in several shorts, So This Is Harris! and Flirting in the ParkBridal BailContented CalvesThe Undie-World

June was uncredited in Rafter Romance, the original “living close but never met” romance movie. Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster are the couple who share the same bed just use it at different times – she during the night, he during the day. It’s a cute, fluffy romance movie, the likes we have seen many times.

Bombshell is the essential Jean Harlow movie. While Jean was no great actress who could tackle Shakespeare easily, she was kinestetically so sophisticated, so intrinsically talented that she is truly one-of-a-kind, unique, never to be repeated again. The way Harlow moves and talks is something  else. Jean aside, the movie benefits from a very good script and a great supporting cast. A sharp and witty satire on the studio system, it’s funny but at the same time devastating (oh yes, they really did this to people, you know), with luminaries like Frank Morgan, Franchot Tone, Pat O’Brien, Una Merkeln, Ivan Lebedeff, Isabel Jewell, and the list goes on!

JuneBrewster6Meet the Baron is a comedy with very mixed reviews. You can think of it as a sterling example of a wacky 1930s comedy with far fetched but humorous stories and a assortment of great comedic stars, or you can see it as a moronic effort without a sensible plot (just gibberish mashed together) and with mediocre comedy talents. Any which way you chose to see it, it made no wonders for the careers of anyone involved in it.

Hips, Hips, Hooray! is a Wheeler and Woosley movie, and a good one at that. So watch if you like their brand of comedy.

Success at Any Price. Now come the real, buried gems of the 1930s. The Depression era story of a young man who wants “success at any price” and his way to the top is more than a didactic morality story. It’s a story about choice, about people and what they are inside, about the ability to understand others. Douglas Fairbanks Jr., more famous as the son of Douglas Fairbanks Sr and later a UK socialite, is surprisingly good as the anti hero Joe Martin. I never thought much about him, but boy was I wrong! Again, he’s no Laurence Olivier, but played this part very well. Genevieve Tobin, an actress I admire, gives her usual “party girl” vibe and is excellent in her role of a kept woman who just changes her “sponsors”. A true sweet treat is Colleen Moore, the former silent movie megastar, now a dowdy woman int he mid 30s, but still you can feel the charisma that made her the “it girl” ten years before. That is a trait many stars have, and has nothing to do with age nor with looks – the magnetic look, the electricity, the passion.

Private Scandal was one of the few chances that June had a chance to shine on the screen. As a reviewer wrote:

This film is an ensemble piece, especially as the story progresses and the characters are quarantined at the office. Fittingly, Cody has assembled a memorable staff of employees. In pre-code thirties style, there is the less than polite receptionist June Brewster, who is really too wise for her job but lacks the conscientiousness to perform it. The head of the sales force is married man Jed Prouty, who has an eye for Brewster. Anytime is a good time for a drink with him: “Hey, hey,” Brewster responds when he repeatedly calls her away from the switchboard. Third wheel Harold Waldridge, who has a gambling habit he cannot afford, is wise to them, calling them Frankie and Johnny. Zasu Pitts seems to have an affinity for the restroom. Elderly Charles Sellon is on hand, either to be abused or to speak insensitively to Waldridge. And let’s not forget the sweet young lovers Phillips Holmes and Mary Brian.

June seems just like the right type to play the brassy secretary.

JuneBrewster4F-Man is a below average wannabe comedy. In short, as a reviewer wrote: The comedy is weak, the plot is predictable (especially for anyone who’s seen ‘The Monster’), and most of the performances are lifeless.

The Case Against Mrs. Ames is a solid Madeleine Carroll movie. A weepie at heart, it manages to escape the typical sentimentalist fare similar movies fall into. of course, Madeline shines int he lead role, and it remains one of her most compelling performances. June even has a credited performance in this one!

Spendthrift can only be remembered today as the official movie debut of Hendy Fonda, but even so, it’s a uninteresting, bland film not especially worth anyone’s time.

She’s Dangerous are proof that many, many movies from Hollywood’s golden years were not classics, or even good movies. As a reviewer wrote: “This is obviously a generic plot line with some interesting character performances and some singing by Walter Pidgeon, but not much else to recommend it. The result is extremely predictable, one of those bottom-of-the-bill features that really deserved to be there, and a leading lady obviously not destined for bigger things” The lady in question was Tala Birrell, a beautiful woman for sure and a mysterious figure, but not a talent by  a far stretch of the imagination. She was another Garbo-imitator that never made it (do imitators ever make it? Usually not, but Hollywood never seems to learns this lesson!).

The Lady Escapes is just another one of Gloria Stewart quickies from the 1930s. This one is almsot completely forgotten by the looks of it. While I generally like Gloria and find her a decent actress, she was sure in a lot of below average fare in the 1930s. While this is one is not really bad, it’s not something you could remember Gloria by.

JuneBrewster3Blonde Trouble is an Eleanore Whitney/Johnny Downs pairing. Thus, it’s not a good musical. As I already wrote several times in the blog, Eleanore was a likable girl and good singer and dancer, but not a talented actress and had no star charisma. Those women should not be given leads in movies of this caliber. For a musical star, you need someone like Judy Garland, someone with that “certain something” to keep the viewer enraptured. Since musicals never have a deep plot, if the stars are bad and the music is mediocre, it means most certain failure.

Partners in Crime is a lost and completely forgotten crime movie. Love Is a Headache are those simple movies made not for the artistic merit but just for pure fun. Gladys George plays a fading actress who adopts two children for the publicity. The children are played by Mickey Rooney and Virginia Wiedler, both juvenile classics. The press agent is played by Franchot Tone, an actor I absolutely adore (while a strong actor by himself, he is at his best playing foils for strong female stars. George, while not in the star caliber of Joan Crawford or Bette Davis, was nonetheless a diva personality and plays the part convincingly.)

June’s last movie came in 1938, Thanks for the Memory. It could seem like a typical Bob Hope vehicle at a glance, it’s definitely more low key and subtle than that. Too bad Hope made but a few movies like this.

June gave up Hollywood to go live with her husband in Las Vegas.

PRIVATE LIFE:

A newspaper article written about June in 1936 is spot on about her life so far and what she wants to do with her career:

Keep your eye en June Brewster, If you’re interested in the careers of screen youngsters who will be the stars of tomorrow. June isn’t exactly a youngster. She has attained the mature age of 24, but she may rightfully be classed as a movie neophyte and I’m predicting that she will become one of the important figures in the celluloid world in another three years.

All you have  to do to be convinced that this auburn-tressed actress has a brilliant future is to talk with her for a couple of hours —listen to her ideas, her plans, and watch her during her dally routine work. No talented girl with such ideas and they will to carry them out could fall. And June has talent. For that We have the word of Laura Hope Crews, veteran star of the legitimate stage, under whom she has been studying.

Socially this attractive redhead is one of the most popular girls In the film colony. She is invited everywhere, but attends few functions. Before becoming a soda figure she wants to be able to meet the start on their own pita. So she now is devoting her time to studying. It is hard to see how a girl with such ideas—Ideas that the has worked out for herself, not any that have been put into her pretty head by others—and a  will to carry them out could fall. And I believe that” June will stick to her guns. “Certainly, I’m dressed better than any woman here, but this crowd so flat they don’t even know It.’

“I don’t care particularly whether I attain stardom, but I do want to be known as a really fine actress,” June told me. “That is my whole aim in life. Everything else is secondary. And I am not going to give up until I achieve my goal. “I’ve had my fun, have experienced just about every thrill life holds for a girl. As a show girl On Broadway, where we were rated according to the fur coats we wore and the parties we attended, my one big thought was to have a good time. “And I did for three years. Then I decided that there wag nothing in such a life, that genuine satisfaction could be obtained only through achievement.”

Holding firmly to this thought, June made her debut In picture at the RKO stuido about a yea ago. A charming girl with a beautiful face, a. million-dollar figure and three years of Broadway experience behind her, she had difficulty in getting a. contract. “However, that’s about all I did get. Although her bank account flourished, she wasn’t getting anywhere. So she prevailed upon studio officials not to extend their option on her.  “As soon as I was free from the studio, I went to Miss Crews and practically begged her to coach me,” Miss Brewster relates, think one of the happiest moments of my life was when she consented I now have been working wit! her for several month* and finally feel as though I am getting some where. “I am in no hurry to get another part in a picture. I am learning more about acting every day an that is what counts, because it means that when I do get a par I will be able to turn in a real performance, “in my opinion, the building e a career may be likened to construction of a house. If a house has a solid foundation, it will stand for years. So it is with a career. And I am building lay foundation now.”

 

JuneBrewster1Unfortunately, things didn’t quite go that way – she traded her career for marriage. June married Guy McAfee in 1936. McAfee was born on August 19, 1886, in Winfield, Kansas. He was married once before, to Marie McAfee, who worked as a madame (that must have been an unusual marriage!).

McAfee is surely an interesting character, and the reason why Juneis remebered (at all) today. Playground to the stars summs up al the information you need to know about this man:

Guy McAfee was one of the preeminent crime bosses in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 1930s. He spent his early career as an LAPD officer, rising to captain on the vice squad. In the 1920s, he married a madam named Marie, who worked in the sphere of crime lords Albert Marco and Charlie Crawford, top operators in a powerful organized crime racket known as “the Combination” and, because of its entanglements in civic institutions, “the City Hall Gang.” McAfee left the LAPD for a much more lucrative career as a vice lord and soon controlled a criminal operation that included dozen of brothels, bootleg liquor operations and the most lucrative underground casino in town, the Clover Club on the Sunset Strip.

A wave of reform swept the city in the late 1930s, resulting in the recall election of Mayor Frank Shaw, who was defeated by Fletcher Bowron, a former journalist and sitting judge in superior court. Once in power, the forces of reform targeted operations like McAfee’s, and he quickly decided to move east to Las Vegas, where gambling was legal. In an interview with a newspaper there in 1939, however, McAfee, who was by then remarried to actress June Brewster, denied he’d been driven out of Los Angeles:

“I came to Las Vegas because I’m happily married, have a great sized stake and have decided to operate in a community where my business of gambling is a legal proposition,” McAfee said. “I’m not saying the Bowron administration made it too hot for me, for that wouldn’t be strictly true. I’ve cut myself a slice of a new kind of life. Get this straight, no one ran me out of Los Angeles. I’m pulling out because I want to and no other reason.”

His first investment in Las Vegas was the Pair-O-Dice, a casino south of downtown — an area he is credited with naming the “Las Vegas Strip,” a nod to Hollywood’s far more glamorous Sunset Strip. He soon controlled a number of properties along the highway and on Fremont Street dowtown, including the Golden Nugget, which he built in 1946.

June Brewster hated Las Vegas,” he said. “She had been a star in a New York in a sexy revue and went to Hollywood. She was really into nightlife and the big city, and even Hollywood was a step down for her from N.Y.C. (Las Vegas) was a dump as far as she was concerned.”

Despite the letdown, the marriage remained strong. After being unable to concieve, June and Guy adopted a baby girl, Kathleen Elizabeth McAfee, in 1943.

JuneBrewsterGuyMcAfeeMcAfee was allegedly not a nice person. However: “He also seemed to mellow a lot as he got older He turned into more of a human being at the end of his life.” In his later years, he did a lot of charity work and was a supporter of the Elks Club’s Helldorado Days. His and June’s marriage seemed solid enough to last such a long time in such a city full of temptation.

McAfee died in 1960. Left a wealthy widow, she continued living in Las Vegas and did not remarry.

Kathleen McAfee died on November 2, 1995, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Some of her things went on auction after her death. As I found on the internet, on the page Mark Lawson Antiques:

Also of special interest at the auction will be the items from the estate of Guy McAfee, originator of the moniker “the strip” for the Las Vegas Main Street and founder of the Golden Nugget Casino. Featured will be a massive gold nugget necklace given by McAfee to his wife, Hollywood starlet June Brewster McAfee, on the day the Golden Nugget Casino opened in 1946, and estimated to sell for $10,000 to $20,000.

June also has the dubious honor of having a video game character modeled after her. The game is L.A. Noire, and the character’s name is June Ballard. You can read more about the character on this link: LA Noire Wiki. A good or a bad thing? Let time answer that question.

Geneva Sawyer

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Geneva Sawyer never made an impact as an actress, but turned around her career by becoming the only female dancing director and choreographer in Hollywood – and a highly successful one at that. Known as a woman who could teach even the clumsiest actor/actress the most complicated dance moves, she educated a whole lot of classic stars and earned her keep in Tinsel Town for more than a decade.

EARLY LIFE:

Geneva Norma Sawyer was born on October 26, 1910, in Colorado, to Thomas Sawyer and Norma Spence. Her older sister, Frances, was born in 1909.

The family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where Geneva grew up and attended high school. She started dancing in her early teens, and was soon a formidable tap dancer. Her parents divorced in the mid 1920s.

Norma, Frances and Geneva moved to California in the late 1920s, and in 1930 were living in Los Angeles. Geneva was dancing professionally by this time, making good money. After appearing in revues and nightclubs, she got into movies at 20th Century Fox.

CAREER:

Like many fellow dancers, Geneva landed in Hollywood hoping for serious dramatic roles, but keeping in the chorus to work steadily.

It’s Great to Be Alive is one weird, weird movie. As a lover of the mindscrew genre, I like confusing, multilayered movies, but not all jigsaw movies are good ones. As one reviewer wrote:

“It’s Great toGenevaSawyer2 Be Alive” is basically a dirty joke, spun out to second-feature proportions. It’s worth seeing, just to get an idea of how weird Hollywood movies could become during the Depression. Just listen to the premise: “An aviator who crash landed on an island in the South Pacific returns home to find that he is the last fertile man left on Earth after an epidemic of masculitus.” What? No comment needed. On top it all, it’s not a very good movi either.

Arizona to Broadway is another one of those movies that have all the right elements but none fo the right combinations. We have a plethora of good actors, from the leads to the supports, a not to shabby story and even some music numbers, but in the end, you get nothing really. The comedy never comes, Joan Bennett is wasted in a simplistic role, and simply, it’s just not good.

Dancing Lady is a hit 1930s Joan Crawford musical. Let’s face it, Joan was god in anything she appeared in,. She had the sass, and be it drama, comedy or musical, it showed on the screen. She carries the movie, but has more than decent support: Clark gable, Franchot Tone, Winnie Lighter. While the plot is basically a rags to riches Cinderella story Joan did a hundred times in the movies, . I’m a sucker for movies where the lady is recultant to get involved, but the man is so smitten, he would chase her to the ends of the earth to get her to say “Yes” (especially if the man is Franchot Tone – love that man!!!). So yes, I prefer Franchot in this movie to Clark, but both do their job admirably. There are some good dancing sequences, and a special plus to see Fred Astaire in one of his earliest movie appearances.

Ginger gave Geneva the biggest role of her career up to them. Now, we all know that Jane Withers was a dead ringer for Shirley Temple, and that she was signed for that sole reason – to become a child moneymaker for Fox. The question: is Jane Withers better than Shirley? It’s open to debate and of course, depends on the person you ask, but there is no denying that Jane had something, that she was so sparkly, vivacious and happy-go-lucky that it’s impossible not to like her. Ginger, in the best vein of Shirley Temple movies,  is cute, touching, endearing, no big brainer, but it plays on your emotions more than your intellect at any rate. It’s great that an old school top line character actor, O.H. Reggie, is given a chance to shine as Ginger’s uncle, a brilliant Shakespearan actor, but an alcoholic to boot. It’s a simple, slice of life story, and if you like such movies, worth taking a look.

Music Is Magic – the same old story. It’s one of those movies you don’t watch for the movie itself, but rather for the things in it: the stars, in this instance. Here, we have Bebe DanGenevaSawyer3iels and Alice Faye, both dependable, sturdy actresses, giving fine performances. 

Captain January is one of the most beloved Shirley Temple movies today. As I am not generally a fan of movies with cute leading ladies who melt the hearts of the audience despite a thin script, I’ll try to abstain from my comments. Shirley was sure cute and likable enough, but I generally rate her int he same category as Sonja Henie and similar astars, who had the ropes to enchant viewers, but never made great movies.

To Mary – with Love is an atypical movie for Myrna Loy of the period. Loy, known for playing comedies, was finally given a chance to play a serious dramatic role. Un cinephile blog, who reviewed the movie, wrote this very illustrating passage about it:

Myrna Loy wrote in her autobiography that this film was a welcome dramatic change from all the breezy characters she had been playing at MGM (she was loaned out to 20th Century to make this. Loy had great range as an actress and it is a very nice welcome change to the light characters MGM constantly had her playing since her success in The Thin Man. She was so moving in the scene at the hospital where she just quietly turns her head away from Warner Baxter after she hears the news their baby died. Years later Loy met up with the producer of the film and he told her “You didn’t become hysterical. All you did was turn your face away from him. You turned your face to the wall and it was devastating.” And let me tell you because she turned her head the scene did become devastating. This whole scene could have been played so overdramatic had it been any other actress but Loy was not in the habit of over acting. She replied to the producer “I just felt that was what I should do. I didn’t want him to see what was going on” and she goes on to say “Oh I could have cried all over the place in many of my films, but it just didn’t feel right” and she was smart for never doing so. In the fifty films I have seen of Myrna Loy’s I think there were maybe three times she ever over acted a scene and she does so in this one when Jack tries to explain Kitty’s compact. The over acting does not fit her at all and when she does it is humorous.

Kudos to Myrna, as the 1930s Hollywood really had a general problem of their actors overacting even the most trivial roles. The more 1930s movies you watch, the more I understand this. While you can give excuses with the old “it was a transition period, it took time!” I still think that

On the Avenue is a gorgeously photographed film that didn’t quite make it. Yep, it’s another movie that had all the right cards, but did not come tot he winning hand. The tunes by Irving Berlin are superb, the cast is above the fold. So why? Nobody knows. While I’m not a true fan of musicals, I would watch the movie for Madeleine Carroll alone (as I already said, I love Madeleine, such a lovely, strong actress!):

GenevaSawyer4Geneva’s last acting job was in Johnny Apollo. It’s another “straightening up act”, this time not for Myrna Loy but for Tyrone Power. Power was a pretty boy who was cemented as a swashbuckling, charming star of action movies from his earliest roles, and was stuck int he mold for quite some time. Johnny Apollo gave him a chance to uise his dramatics muscles. Tyrone plays a trust fund baby who ends up with nothing after a lifetime of hedonism and devil-may-care attitude. of course, in a typical overtly dramatic Hollywood style, he ends up a gangster and so on.

Though Power, in the lead, stays less than persuasive as a menacing mobster – he’s too much of a pretty-boy, and lacks the acting resources to turn himself into a pretty-boy psychopath – the rest of the cast compensates

But, this did not mean the end of Geneva’s career in Hollywood. In fact, she entered a even more lucrative field, being a dance director. by 1937, she was the only female dancing director in the city, a great achievement! How did this happen? Well, Shirley Temple, the leading star of the time, was tutored by Bill Robinson, one of the foremost tap dancers of all times. When Robinson embarked on a vaudeville tour, Geneva was chosen to replace him as Shirley’s tutor. Being connected to Shirley in any way possible at that time was a winning ace – and soon, after Shirley reacted favorably to Geneva, she was promoted to associate dance director, and later just to dance director.

Some of her coreography credits are: In the Meantime, DarlingHome in IndianaBlood and SandDown Argentine WayThe Blue Bird, Swanee RiverThe Little PrincessThe Arizona WildcatStraight Place and ShowHold That Co-ed, Little Miss Broadway, Josette, Battle of Broadway, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Sally, Irene and Mary In Old Chicago Love and Hisses

Geneva’s last credit is In the Meantime, Darling, a movie that is neither a comedy nor a musical. Like many Jeanne Crain’s movies, it has an moronic name, but deals with some serious issues (it is a Otto Preminger movie after all!).

Geneva retired from Hollywood in cca 1944.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Geneva was quite superstitions – she never went to dance without her “lucky” penny in one of her dancing slippers. She was educated in the Fox FIlm School for newcomers when she first hit the movies. In the early 1930s, she gave this beauty tip in the papers:

A good bleach that is not harmful to the skin is a mixture of lemon juice with glycerin and rose water in equal proportions. First wash the face or hands with tepid oatmeal water and then apply the mixture.

Geneva married Los Angeles businessman (specializing in real estate) James J. Warrick in about 1934/1935. They divorced in January 1936. She testified in court that he kissed a maid on New Years Day 1936, and then admitted he did not love her anymore.

GevenaSawyer1She continued her bacholorette life not long after, dating Dick Foran and Malcolm St. Clair in 1936. In 1938, she was seen around town with the 20 Century Fox executive, Sam Ledner. Later that year, her beau was Nat Young. In early 1939, she was associated with Frank McGrath.

Being a dancer was not an easy job, and Geneva was outspoken about it to the papers. She told abut the threat of muscle knotted legs (they had two masseuses on the film sets at all times), and in 1938, she was doing a tap dancing routine on the glass table when the thing cracked and she had to have six stitches in her knee. During her chorine years, or whenever she was actively dancing, she went once a month to a chiropodist. She held her legs in high regards, even telling a reported once: “Women make a serious error when they spend hours on their face and forget about their legs”, claiming that men love the legs just as much.

In 1936 while still a chorine, Geneva gave an interview to the press. She said:

“I’ve been in stock in this studio for 22 months and it’s true I sometimes wonder will I ever get out of the line.  I’ve had bits in a few pictures but mostly I’ve just been atmosphere or in the chorus. We get 75$ a week on a guarantee of 20 weeksor work over a period of six months. The studio can lay us off when is pleases and call us in a moments notice. I figure my pay has averaged about $56 and some cents.
But, I’m not going to give up. Why. I’m a success already and I can prove it. I’ve received six fan letters, five of them from friends who saw me in Ginger, the other from Oklahoma oil worker who saw me in the line in Redheads on Parade. You wait and see – I’ll be doing picture with Ronald Colman and Warner Baxter yet!”

This tongue in cheek attitude, while sometimes annoying, pushed Geneva to exit the chorus girl area and achieve higher echelons of movie work.

As somebody who actually made it as a dancer in Hollywood, Geneva took a motherly interest in the younger chorines. Always full of sage advice, she took care that they ate properly and were not underweight (she even issued a edict that the chrorus girls but get fatter or the wouldn’t be permitted to dance – as the majority of the were underweight.) She was also very encouraging but realistic, often explaining in interviews how the life of a chorus girl looks like, how there are periods where work is abundant and periods when the work is scarce, and even encouraging them not to give up on their career if they get married.

Geneva dated Freddy Fox, brother of Virginia Zanuck, for about two years in 1941 and 1942. When he joined the army to fight in WW2, she often telephoned to him overseas. Later, he gifted her with a diamond and ruby necklace. The relationship was pretty serious, but did not culminate in marriage.

Geneva married Ward Allen Soladar on June 4, 1949, in Thurston, Washington. Soladar was born on July 3, 1917 in New Yersey. He moved quite a lot with his mother, and attended college in Monroe, Florida in 1940.

The couple lived in California. By this time, Hollywood was but a distant memory for Geneva, but she continued dancing, mostly as a hobby this time around.

Geneva Soladar died on September 3, 1965, in Orange, California.

Her widower, Ward Allen Soladar, died on June 28, 1990 in Glendale, California.