Considered the first Amazon glamour chorine, Elinor Troy, the 6’2” statuesque stunner with raven hair and dark eyes, truly was a knockout. Yet, she hardly remembered today and not for her slim achievements in the movie making area but her very colorful private life.
Elinor Edmonston was born on September 15, 1916 in Washington DC, to Eric Edmonston and Elsie Ashly. She was the oldest of three children: her younger brother Eric Jr. was born in 1917, and her younger sister Ruth in 1920.
Little is known about Elinor’s childhood, except that she grew up in Washington DC, and finished only the first two grades of high school. Allegedly she left Washington with the sole purpose of appearing in Busby Berkeley production. The man saw her, liked what he saw and signed her right away.
Elinor first appeared in a movie from 1937, Meet the Boy Friend. There is nothing worthwhile to mention about this late 1930s comedy – all the usual elements are here, including a moronic script, little known actors and pedestrian direction. Those movies are hardly worth watching today, with so many more worthwhile films on the stack!
Elinor’s next comedy, Nothing Sacred, is a gem in her filmography. A seminal comedy with Carole Lombard, the queen of all comediennes and the indomitable Frederic March, it possesses a fast moving, brutal but very effective humor native to the decade. The story is a satire at its best, dealing with how the media distorts facts and pushes towards sensationalism at every chance. As one review on IMDB wrote: “The writing cuts to the bone, exposing hypocrisy in all its forms. The film is as fresh today, and is as relevant to the culture, as it was when it was made.” Also watch out for a great supporting cast (Walter Connolly, Margaret Hamilton, Sig Ruman). They don’t get much better than this!
Kiss the Boys Goodbye is a completely forgotten Mary Martin musical. Martin was truly one of the actresses that were tops in the theater but never managed to arouse the same level of excitement in movies.
The Fleet’s In is a movie that boasts an incredible cast (William Holden, Dorothy Lamour, Betty Hutton – all of them went on to make bigger and better things) but everything else if sub par. Worth watching if only to see all of these luminaries in one place (that never happened again!).
The Falcon Takes Over is a movie that tries and to some degree, manages to mix opposite genres. We al know who Falcon is – the suave, charming Casanova solving crimes between his caviar and champagne. Yet, the story is taken from a Raymond Chandler book, “Farewell my lovely.” We all know that Chandler wrote gritty, dark, turgid stories full of flawed men, alcohol, murder and lethal dames. So, how do the two mix and match? The sophisticated Falcon and the working man Phillip Marlowe (to put it mildly)? However, the movie surprises and manages to mix and match the two genres not brilliantly but well enough to make it work.
Lady of Burlesque is certainly a more worthwhile movie, today considered a solid 1940s comedy. It deals with a touchy theme, the world of burlesque – and the murders that happen within. Considering Hollywood’s try to be as snow pure and happy go lucky as it gets (the reason I am not a big MGM fan!), this is quite a bold move, to make a movie about strippers. Here we directly see the innovative way writers an directors fought the production code that, at its most valiant tries, turned serious movies into predictable, black and white mushes with little grey undertones. Despite dealing with an unsavory world of sleazy men and nude women, the movie masterfully sweeps by without touching anything that could taint it. The script is witty and elegant, the direction in firm and masterful, and the girls give decent portrayals. Barbara Stanwyck, in the leading role, truly was one of the biggest talent of the golden age of Hollywood (and interestingly, she is an actress I don’t personally like but admire). As one reviewer on IMDB wrote: “The result was a movie that captured the seedy, underworld-edged world of burlesque without actually causing censors to yank it from distribution.”
Let’s Face It was once a risky Broadway play, but guess what happened when Hollywood got his hands on it? Yep,a watered down comedy. While it does slightly retain some of the edge of the original play, it’s “too little, too late”. If you put the serious artistic pretensions aside, it’s still a well crafted musical comedy with a solid cast – Bob Hope, Betty Hutton, Eve Arden. Bob and Betty are a fine couple with good chemistry, too bad they never made more movies. Music by Cole Porter is also a big plus.
One can watch Atlantic City if nothing than for the superb vaudeville/musical sequences. Where else can you see Louis Armstrong and his band on film, or a pre-fame Dorothy Dangridge doing her stuff? As typical for a musical, these sequences take precedence over the story and the leads. I personally dislike these type of musicals for this same reason, as story and characters are king in my book, but to each his own!
Lost in a Harem is the best movie Abbott and Costello did for MGM. The studio (about which I have wildly differing opinions about, but that’s a topic for a long discussion!) was based more on saccharine sweet musicals and comedy teams like the Marx Brothers and Abbott and Costello always fell into the backwater hole for them. This is obvious in the movies – they often stuff it with various bandleaders and their bands (this was not supposed to be a musical!) to give it a bigger appeal, and tone down the Abbott and Costello. Despite this, it’s a okay comedy, with some great sequences and a very oily bad guy (Douglas Dumberville).
See My Lawyer is a Ole and Chic comedy movie, their last. The plot is non existent, but the The Nat King Cole Trio and Carmen Amaya and her Troupe are more than enough reason to at least take a look at it.
Nob Hill is George Raft’s last leading role in a big production (he would fall into . It’s not a bad movie – whiel the plot is a rip of of several prior movies like Barbary Coast and Hello, Frisco, Hello, it serves as a well enough backdrop for character development. However, George gets a step down compared to his co star, the child actress Margaret O’Brien, and the same goes to his love interest, Joan Bennett.
Anchors Aweigh is a classical 1940s musical with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra. You like colorful, fun, lightweight fare? Then don’t miss this one.
Of Human Bondage is an adaptation of the famous Somerset Maugham novel, and sadly inferior to the better known 1938 version. Let’s be frank, Paul Henreid can’t hold a candle to the supremely talented Leslie Howard, and while Eleanor Parker is good enough as Mildred, but cannot top Bette Davis.
Health reasons made Elinor retire from movies after 1946.
Elinor had a very colorful private life. My own opinion of her is that she was a fiery girl with an attitude who easily got mad and did stuff she later regretted. She was also more than a little bit silly, not the type to think about the future and lived for the moment, but a very positive and giddy person.
She hit the papers in 1934, when Busby Berkeley called her the girl with a perfect figure. On February 21, 1934, Elinor married Charles Carrara. Carrara was born in 1891 in Italy to Carlo Carrara and Agnes Cirgretti, making him quite a bit older than Elinor. The marriage was dissolved by 1936. Elinor went to live with her mom Elsie afterwards, who was by that time separated but not divorced from her dad Eric.
Her first real scandal came in 1937, and concerning crooner Jack Doyle, the singing boxed nicknamed “Irish Thush”. His affections the subject of a 2,000,000 love theft suit, brought on by his wife Judith Allen against prominent socialite Mrs. Delphine Dodge Cromwell Baker Godde. Elinor was literary the collateral, as she was mentioned in the lawsuit as Jack’s sometime companion, a fish bowl dancer. The guy sure went around! The suit stretched on and on, with massive newspaper coverage (don’t the media just love these kind of things?). Of course, Elinor issued the mandatory denial, saying she was a good friend of the Doyles and that they spent a few pleasant evening together (the three of them, of course). Then another girl, by the name of Jeanne Manet, also came forward as his escort of the year before.
During this whole mess, Elinor dated Frank Fay, the former husband of Barbara Stanwyck. However, she was far from finished with Doyle. Doyle did indeed divorce Allen in April 1938, but he never did marry Delphine. Elinor and he continued to date. In October 1938, she made headlines again when she knocked out Doyle after he failed to appear at a rendezvous. Sure enough, he had a date with Japanese beauty Michi Taka, and when Elinor saw them two together, wham! A photographer was conveniently present to see that the whole story went right to the papers… Later, she claimed they were engaged – he denied it. Yet, they made up and she even went with him to Ellis Island to assist him in obtaining permanent admission to the US.
In 1939, Elinor met the man who would end up begin her ticket to fame – Tommy Manville. What to say about this guy? Let this text speak for itself (taken from Wikipedia):
Thomas Franklyn Manville, Jr., universally known as Tommy Manville (April 9, 1894 – October 9, 1967), was a Manhattan socialite and heir to the Johns-Manville asbestos fortune. He was a celebrity in the mid 20th Century, by virtue of his large financial inheritance, and his 13 marriages to 11 women. This feat won him an entry in the Guinness Book of World Records, and made him the subject of much gossip.
In October 1939, he paid a chartered plane to bring Elinor to New York – she was the only passenger. Imagine the cost! For five days afterwards they went from club to club, then finally got into a tiff and separated. Elinor had to take a cab after Tommy left her hanging in a club! The reason could have been Hoot Gibson, the virile western star. Hoot was the man of the hour in late 1939, and send Elinor an orchid a day. What a romantic!
Yet, by early 1940, she was seen with Franchot Tone in Florida. By February, she was again enmared by Manville, and rumors flew the two will wed. That was hushes quickly, and Elinor bought a mansion in Washington for her mother (imagine, how much chorus girls make!). Next in line was George Jessel, who was dating Lois Andrews in parallel (he married Lois in the end so you go figure!). Elinor was allegedly quite smitten with the charming George, even trying to book him a deal with a very rich old broker. Didn’t help there. Owning to her colorful love life, Elinor gathered some notoriety as a girl who was engaged “instantly” to a man after their first date, and the press even chided her for it!
Dashing Lyle Talbot took over as the leading man in April 1940. In May 1940, Elinor was back in Hollywood (finally), and guess who paid for the trip back. Why Manville, of course! He gifted her with a 2800$ car. Return ticket from Manville, to put it succintly. She got a spot at the Florentine Gardens and took up with writer Dick Purcell. By October she was back with Franchot Tone.
In November 1940, Elinor was en route to New York and Tommy Manville again. The idyll lasted for only a few days, Tommy the first to get cooled off. He gave her the chill for two weeks, and then she returned to Hollywood in January 1941, with six new fur coats. All the while, her sister Ruth was seriously ailing in the General Hospital in California, given 60 days to live due to insufficient funds to move her to a drier and warmer climate. Luckily, Ruth recovered and went on to marry W. D. Whitefield and appear on the stage under the name of Ruth Roy.
Elinor was dated by John Carroll upon her return, closely followed by George Sanders. Soon, however, Elinor was in the papers again, saying how she wants to get married and have children. Were her playgirl days the thing ot he past by then? Anyway, it’s fun to note that she sometimes got together with other Tommy Manville exes, and they all went to dinner and shows together.
In August 1941, Manville announced her was to be married to Mrs. Beverly Paterno – Elinor was quick to note that a redhead like Paterno could never understand Tommy and give him proper care, so she would fly to New York to be at had. Another beauty, Margot Haller, had the same idea. Meanwhile, back in New York Tommy moaned how he only loved Beverly and needs no help from either Margot or Elinor. I guess tis was a clever bit of publicity as nothing further was heard of it.
In October, Elinor was seen with Leif Erikson. In January 1942, she was again in New York to see Tommy. The saga continues it seems! There she romances John Payne. In April she was back in Los Angeles, claiming that Tommy proposed to her and that she “could have him any moments she wants”. When asked why they did not marry back in 1939, she said that he thought she was flirting with a guy in a nightclub and discovered that she could not cook. A very serious romance for sure! Whatever the truth is,they did not marry, and Elinor later claimed she was the only girl who said no to Tommy Manville.
In April 1943, she was serious about Bill Davey, a wealthy sportsman who gifted her with a diamond wristwatch. Later she tried to sell a script, titled Broadway Playboy, to the studios. Sadly, Elinor fell into some money problems, and had to sell the white fur coat to settle some bills she accumulated and to pay her fare to the East coast.
She worked at the Follies Bergere, and fell in love with the same guy like fellow chorine Dorothy Pinto, The two had a backstage fight over the guy (whoever he is!). In September, she almost married Lieutenant Howard P. Lane, a wealthy Connecticut man. Why did they postpone it? Sadly no information is given, but one can only guess… She was also the girl with the longest silver fox jacket in New York.
Not long after, Elinor became a recluse. She started to loan out her fancy fur coat collection to fellow showgirls in return for slacks. She got a steady boyfriend (no name mentioned) who even sent her a Christmas tree backstage after a show. The guy could have been Lt. True Davis, whom she dated for sure in January 1944.
In June 1944, she was back with a bankroll that would choke a horse (beats me what that means exactly!). Her former beau, Manville, went bankrupt in the meantime, sold a real size painting of Elinor in December 1944.
In October 1945, Elinor was recuperating from a series to health problem, but things seemed to look up. Well, not really. By November 1946, she was sure she would die unless she got 3000$ for treatment. The malady was tuberculosis, and the benefactor they hope to reach was Manville. There was no answer for Manville, and the only one ready to put money for Elinor was her old friend, Van Johnson.
She spend all of her time in bed, and to alleviate her boredom, a group of friends wished to buy her a radio photograph, but asked for donations to do so. By June 1948, she was a bit better and even ventured out, but it was not to last long. By August she was back in bed, and got some newspaper coverage in an article where she claimed her biggest worry was not her deteriorating state of health, but her missing Pekingese dog, Tinker, whom she misses very much (so typical of Elinor, who never seemed to be serious about anything). The situation did not approve sadly. Elinor slowly wasted away from TBC and there was nothing to be done about it. While Elinor was probably a silly chorine that lived from day to day, she was a good natured girl and nobody expected this tragic end to her life.
Elinor Troy died on November 29, 1949, in Hollywood, California.