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.
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.
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.
Naida’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.
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.
Naida 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.
Naida 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.