Rita Daigle

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I’m gonna finish the year and begin a new one with two model-turn-actresses with almost no credits! Ha!

Vivacious, exuberant and pert, Rita Daigle caught my eye due to her cover on the Yank Army Weeky Magazine. As many fans of classic movies know, quite a number of wonderful actresses graced that cover and I had no idea who Rita was so I decided to investigate. Sadly, I came to the conclusion that Rita did not have a movie career – not that she didn’t try, she even signed a contract at some point – but she had a highly lucrative modeling career. Let’s learn more about Rita.

EARLY LIFE

Rita Daigle was born on July 31, 1927 in New York City, to Raymond and Alice Daigle. Her father, who worked as an assistant manager in a hotel, was born in Massachusetts. Her mother was French-Canadian, a housewife. She was their only child.

The family lived in Manhattan with a lodger in 1930. Rita attended high school in New York and developed an interest in modeling from an early age, picking this vocation as her road to fame and riches.

Rita signed with the Walter Thorton Agency, a premier modeling agency of the time, on par with Conover and John Power Agencies. She was only 16 when she started doing the modeling rounds. Her claim to fame was being crowned Miss Stardust in 1944, beating more than 3000 other pretty hopefuls for the title. This was followed closely by being Queen of New York’s Press Photographers Ball. Riding on a wave of high publicity, she was signed to a movie career in 1945.

CAREER

RitaDaigle4Let me tell you right of the bat – I haven’t got any credits on Rita. She doesn’t have a page on IMDB, but I know that, unless the papers outright lied about it, Rita signed a contract with Paramount pictures in April 1945. There is a good chance that she, like many young and pretty starlets, never made a movie during their contract period. Also, it’s worth noting that her modeling career was much more lucrative than signing a contract as a starlet. If I were Rita, I would have chosen to return to New Yotk. Anyway, Rita really went back to New York and married by the end fo the year, thus ending any chance of working in Hollywood for the long run (her husband absolutely refused to work on the West coast, and her modeling momentum was slowly melting away).

Later, after her divorce, in about 1952, the papers called her an “actress”, but I couldn’t find any credits from this time (unless she changed her name) so it’s kaput again.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1944, when the 17-year-old Rita hit the papers, they claimed she was a native of Lowell Massachusetts (not quite right), that she was 19 years old (not quite right), and that she was the sweetheart of Liutenant Emile Bouchard, serving somewhere in England at the time. I guess the part about Bouchard was true, but their relationship ended not long after.

Rita married singer Jimmy Saunders in New York in December 1945. Saunders was born as Vincent LaSpada on June 9, 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He came from a large Italian-American family – the son of Fillipo and Lillian LaSpada, his father was a baker who owned a bakery on the 9th and Cross Street. He had seven sisters (Lucy, Rose, May, Grace, Helen, Carmel, Angelina).

RitaDaigle2In 1945, Jimmy was in top form, and so was Rita. For instance, in 1946, Rita was crowned Miss Rheingold, a great honour for any model in the 1940s (the very first Miss Rheingold, Jinx Falkenburg, was the only one that had any kind of a acting career). That year, she made about 45, 000$ from her modeling work, making her a pretty well paid woman for that time! Rita appeared in Yank the Army Weekly, Cosmopolian and Vogue (among others). She was nicknamed La Daigle, and played pretty coy with the papers, admitting her father was a innkeeper and refused to say what inn – she also admitted that she rarely drank beer (despite being Miss Rheingold). It was also noted that she met Jimmy while dancing at Pops’ hotel. Cute! Now more about Jimmy’s career. As his obituary on Philly.com notes, he was a popular big band singer of the time:

Jimmy Saunders, also known as Sonny Saunders and for a time as Marco Polo, sang with the bands of Harry James, Eddie Duchin, Ray Bloch, Sonny Kendis and Charlie Spivak. He co-wrote “Peach Tree Street” with Frank Sinatra and recorded such hits as “There Must Be a Way,” “Santa Lucia,” “You Belomg to My Heart,” “I Love You for Sentimental Reasons” and “You Are Too Beautiful.” He also was a featured vocalist on the “Lucky Strike Hit Parade” show.

Aside for their highly succesful careers, the LaSpadas had two children, two daughter, together: Diane LaSpada (born on April 15, 1947) and Linda LaSpada (born on December 9, 1948).

However, things in showbiz turn fast. One day a king, the next a pauper. Rita’s career, in a time when models lasted until they were 25, was hampered not only by her age but also by her wish to take care of her children. So, her modeling career was effectively over by 1950. Due to the sharp decline in popularity of big bands, so was Jimmy’s.

RitaDaigle5The tensions over their failed careers led to the demise of their marriage in 1951. Yet, during the court proceedings more dirty laundry made it’s way to the public. For instance, an article claimed that Saunders filed court papers asking a judge for help “ridding his household of a mother-in-law and a gossipy aunt.”

Rita officially divorced Saunders in 1952 – Jimmy never remarried. Rita marched on. There were rumors she might marry James Cecil when her Florida divorce came through. Nothing doing.

RitaDaigle3Rita married Raymond J. McGrover, probably in the 1950s. McGrover was born on December 9, 1905, in New York, making his a whole lot older than Rita. While unlike in age with Rita, like her he spent his entire life in New York City, Brooklyn to be exact. He became a noted lawyer and devoted much energy to his favorite pastime, bridge. He married Billie McGrover in 1930, and they had a child. Both Raymond and his wife were passionate bridge players, probably the best in Brooklyn, often winning tournaments. I found that very cute – they had a strong shared interest that probably got them together in the first place. However, they divorced in 1939 in Reno, and Mrs. McGrover charged Raymond with a very non descriptive “cruelty”. McGrover lived alone from then on in Brooklyn. In the 1946-1947 period, he was a member of the steering committee that very much reorganized the American Contact Bridge League.

Rita Daigle McGrover died on February 9 or 10, 1974, at the young age of 46, from cancer. She died in the city of her birth, New York. McGrover died there in November 1974.

Her former husband, Jimmy Saunders, died in 1990.

 

 

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Barbara Moffett

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Barbara Moffett, younger sister of the much better known Lili St. Cyr, was a stunningly beautiful woman whose expert riding skills landed her a brief flash of Hollywood publicity, a roles in a few movies, and that was it. Her movie career faltered, she continued dancing, then got married to a wealthy man and had five children. Sounds perfect? It did to me too, when I first started reading about it. But, behind the surface… Let me spoil it for you, but the story of Barbara Moffett is a tragic story. Most actresses I profile on this blog had (more or less) normal lives and most died past the age of 60. Barbara was just 60 years old when she died and her story is tragic. It’s a perfect example of what happens when a nice, meek and gentle girl ends up with the wrong man. While I am the first to sympathise with classic actresses and I certainly feel sorry for what happened to her (as you’ll see), I have to say that people must take responsibility for their actions and that most people in unhappy situations are there because they chose to (of course, there are those who truly are victims of circumstances, but we don’t need to go there for the sake of this post, perhaps some other time), so it’s much Barbara’s fault as it is her husbands. When you read stories like this, you understand why Margaret Mitchell, in her masterpiece Gone with the wind, so vehemently despised and criticized the role of a genteel southern belle. That trope just breeds women like Barbara – incredibly sweet, feminine, good-natured – but so fragile and delicate they are unable to live on their own, easily broken by either life or other people. If such a woman is able to find a man who will treat her like a flower and help her bloom – the world would be a much better place. Sadly, this does not happen every time. It did not happen to Barbara, and you’ll see where it got her.

EARLY LIFE

Idella Ruth Blackadder was born on April 11, 1924, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Idella Marian Klarquist and John Alfred “Ian” Blackadder. Her father was born in Scotland to a noble but impoverished family, immigrated to Canada when he was 19 years old and came to the US via Minneapolis. Her mother Idella was married twice before. Her first husband was Edward Van Shaack, South Dakota born traveling salesman. They had a daughter, Marie Frances (she later added Willis to her birth name, but it’s probably just a publicity stunt), born on June 3, 1917, known in the future as the burlesque legend Lili St. Cyr. Edward enlisted int he Army not long after and Idella divorced him. She was quick to remarry in 1919, to Lois Sherman Cornett Jr. However, she never revealed to anyone she was wed once before, opting to tell Lili her grandmother, Maud, was her mother. Too young and inexperienced, she felt she was not ready to bring a child into her second marriage.  She wanted a fresh start, sure that Maud could take great care of Marie. Wrong or not, life went on. The Cornetts had two children: daughter Bettaleee, born the same year, and son Louis “Jack” Cornett born in 1921. The Cornetts moved to Louisiana and then to Texas, but divorced in 1922. The Blackadders married the next year, on May 5.

Her younger sister, Rosemary, was born on August 19, 1925. She would become another burlesque star, Dandy Orlandoa and marry famous impressario Harold Minsky. Colorful family for sure! They lived in Minneapolis until 1927, where Ian worked in the linseed oil industry, then moved to Pasadena, where he worked as a garage mechanic. Unable to pay the rent and support his large family, Ian moved them to a less costly Eagle Rock. There Marie visited the family almost daily, and soon became a teacher to both Idella and Rosemary.

Idella inherited her love for horses from her father, whose father was an expert equestrian back in Scotland. He was instrumental in shielding the girls from household chores but pushing them toward being fearless horsewoman. Ian saved a large number of horses from the local glue factory, and “adopted” them despite a total lack of funds to keep them. Unable to buy a saddle, Idella learned to ride bareback, and became a highly accomplished rider before she hit her teen years.

Both Rosemary and Idella had a difficult relationship with their mother, who had grown bitter as a result of a life she never wanted – shackled with too many children and never enough money. Her marriage was also highly unhappy.  Interesting side note is that Barbara was considered the beauty of the family – Dardy was always second in her mothers affections, and their older sister, Bettelee, who was scarred in a traffic accident when she was a teen, was often shoved aside.

Dardy and Idella attended every rodeo they could and participated in many of them. The fact that both were six foot tall stunner, one blonde, other brunette, made them easily recognizable among the crowds. That, plus another fact, that Lili started to strip in the Florentine Gardens in Los Angeles, gave Idella the wanted boost to start dancing on the stage too. Soon, she was noticed by a talent scout and went to try her luck in Hollywood when she was just 18 years old.

CAREER

Slim pickings here, sadly. Barbara made her movie debut in Mexican Spitfire Sees a Ghost, one of the Mexican Spitfire series (duh!), playing  a secretary. As per usual, Lupe Velez, the Spitfire of the title, plays a secondary role – Leon Errol always steals the show with his double feature (altough he gets boring pretty fast). Perhaps the best role in the movie goes to Donald McBride, a who plays a deliciously over the top nervous man, ready to explode at any minute. The plot is moronic, involving a spooky old mansion, enemy agents and a formula for some kind of explosive device (you fill in the blanks). Not better not much worse than any other Spitfire movie, it will never endear to anyone who wants sophisticated, high-class comedy. But, it’s still far from a complete waste of time. Velez was a true “fire woman” and will not appeal to everyone, but to those she does, she’s the best of the lot.

BarbaraMoffett1Barbara then landed her only credited role, in Red River Robin Hood. Anyone who reads this blogs knows I’m almost allergic to low-budget western, and this one, almost completely forgotten, isn’t a sterling example of the genre that would make me rethink my opinion. Yet, it seems it’s not a totally bad movie either, firmy etched somewhere in the middle. The low-budget is a constant constraint, but the story actually seems level up from the usual insipid fare.

Barbara’s last film turned out to be her best – This Land Is Mine. Yep, she’s uncredited in this one, but it’s a very good anti-war movie, one of the best to come out of Hollywood at that time, with a superb cast – Charles Laughton, Maureen O’Hara, George Sanders, Walter Slezak and so on. It tells a story of a gentle school teacher who has to choose sides when the war comes into his peaceful village. Yes, it’s easier to remain on the sidelines, not fighting but watching, but Laughton soon comes to understand the old proverb “If you don’t involve yourself with politics, politics will involve herself with you”. Directed by Jean Renoir, one of the best directors ever to grace the seventh art, it’s an elegant, melancholy movie, perfectly made for the message it wants to send. Highly recommended!

Barbara returned to the nightclub racket after her movie career failed. She would retire from that career five years later, in 1947, upon her marriage to Louis Marx.

PRIVATE LIFE

Barbara was fairly publicised in the papers during her heyday in 1942, and her cowgirl image was especially put in emphasis. Compared to the great cowgirls of yesterday like Ruth Roland and Pearl White, she, along with Joan Barclay and Ann Summers were lionized as true successors of male western stars, most of whom were drafted for WW2. Of the three girls, only Joan Barclay had any success to speak of – but even she is but a footnote in Hollywood history today, known only to hard-code low-budget western fans.

BarbaraMoffett8In 1940, when she started her carer in earnest, she was seen around with Franchot Tone, who seemed to date every pretty girl in Hollywood (I think that almost half of the girls I profiled on this blog dated him at one time or another…). Of course, it never grew into a serious relationship…

In 1941, she caught the eye of Forest Tucker, who send her flowers. However, Tucker did the same with her fellow chorine Nancy Hale, and their relationship was quickly terminated. John Carroll came next. In late 1942, Barbara almost married the wealthy young Jay Gould, who would end up as the husband of the alluring songstress, Elena Romay. In 1942, the appears reported that Barbara was married to a Los Angeles businessman, but I found no records of such a union so I’ll have to go with the fact that the papers lied a great deal back then (and today?).

In 1944 she got mixed up with Errol Flynn for a brief time, and then he moved on (Errol never stayed ont he same place for too long, not even with his wives!) to Corky la Feuch, a Texas beauty queen, and she took up with famed wrestler, then a Lieutenant in the US army, Bob Gregory.  The affair lasted for some time, But Bob was hardly the only one interested in Barbara. She was also heavily involved with Harry Crocker, a dashing New York based millionaire.

Another admirer was Count Alfred de Marigny, a noted dissolute European noble who figured prominently in the Sir Harry Oakes murder (remember, it’s the major scandal in the Bahamas while Edward, Duke of Windsor was the governor. Check it on Google if you want to find out more). He allegedly wanted to come to the US just to be with her. Who know is it even remotely true, but it sound kinda mysterious and dangerous, right?

Then, in 1944, Barbara met Louis Marx. and here begins the most interesting part of our story.

BarbaraMoffett6Now, something about Marx. He was born on August 11, 1896, making him almost 30 years older than Barbara. Son of a poor family, in sheer deference to his matherially slim upbringing and with tons of willpower and determination, he became a millionaire in his 20s – with the help of his brother, he opened The Louis Marx Toy Company, which became the largest toy company in the world. His first wife, Renee, was a submissive woman who died in 1944 from breast cancer. They had four children together: Louis Jr., Barbara, Patricia and Jacqueline.

Marx wanted to marry again – and set his sight on Barbara. As Barbara was such a doormat personality, Lili took over the role of a “lifestyle lawyer” for her – negotiating not only her business deals but also her relationships. She persuaded Marx to give her a job as his social secretary, and even got her a fair wage. Barbara went wholeheartedly into her new position, changing her milieu of dancers and showbiz people for high flyers Marx involved himself with – politicians, military men, eminent artists. For Marx, this was a trial period to see if Barbara can do it – for Barbara, it was a refreshing alternative career. She liked to work and even enjoyed being a social doyenne. Marx also liked to impress her with his far-reaching influence and introduced her to high living, something she never experienced before – fast cars, expensive restaurants, jaunts around the world. Barbara was easily impressed, and combine that with an overwhelming desire to have a stable family – and she was under the older man’s spell.

BarbaraMoffett2After a long courtship, Marx was finally ready to web Barbara in early 1947. The decision was not an easy one – many of his friends viewed Barbara as a gold digger, and Lili herself was not thrilled with Louis, trying to dissuade her sister from dating in on a few occasions.

Barbara said yes, and plans for a big ceremony were under way. However, she had no idea of what she was entering. All the qualities that made Marx such an excellent businessman made him a difficult and often unlikable human being – egoistic, patronizing and a control freak, his greatest kick in life was being the puppet master everyone obeyed without a word. Yet, he was generous to a fault, loved his children without compare and was very devoted to his first wife. So, there is no black and white answer – Marx was a highly nuanced, grey personality. With the right woman, he could have been a great husband (June 2016: Note: After reading a great deal about domestic violence, I have completely changed my mind about this. And yes, while I could be wrong, I think that Barbara was a victim of DV. Marx (perhaps) never physically abused her, but trying to control somebody and ebbing at their self confidence is mental abuse. After researching Barbara and Marx, I was sure that they were terribly ill suited, that he needed a woman who wouldn’t take his c*** and would not let him push her around. However, today, I am sure that MARX WOULD NEVER MAKE A GOOD HUSBAND. People who abuse their husband/wives are simply not good spouses. This is a very relevant topic that should get more coverage, but not here. To sum it up, Marx treated Barbara badly. Barbara never had the strength to leave him.).
But Barbara was hardly such a woman. As for Barbara herself, she must have known to some extent, what his personality was – she knew him long enough – but she wore blinkers around such a man, who promised her stability and a family – so she caved in to his ever-increasing demands.

BarbaraMoffett5Barbara married Marx on March 29, 1947 in Miami, Florida. She wore a stunning brocade dress, her matron of honor was Lili – his best man was baseball legend Hank Greenberg.  They honeymooned in Moscow, where his good friend was a noted diplomat. When they returned home, Barbara moved into Marx’s huge estate in Scarsdale, New York. While many must have thought – she is finally Mrs. Marx, she can relax now – quite the contrary, her troubles were just beginning!

To accommodated her demanding alpha husband, Barbara completely changed her lifestyle. Gone was Barbara Moffett, the cheerful cowgirl, and in came the perfect wife Idella Marx. She never again used Barbara as a moniker – and to finish the transformation, she completely alienated herself from her showgirl past. This created a serious rift between herself and Lili. Marx himself is as much to blame – he tried to buy Lili off, giving her money to give up on her burlesque lifestyle and have a decent career. However, unlike the mellow, easily manageable Barbara, Lili was made from sterner stuff, and no man could tame or control her, least of all not her short, balding brother-in-law. I consider this Barbara’s fault – trick me once, shame on your, trick me twice, shame on me! (June 2016: I have changed to some degree my opinion of this too. Once you fall into the circle of abuse by a spouse, it’s hard to break it. While people have to take responsibility for themselves, I understand how how very, very hard it is to take the high road and leave such people. If they don’t want to change, then there is truly no other option that will benefit the abused person that to leave it all behind.) Giving in to his demands was her choice alone – not an easy one to make, for sure, but when he crossed the line for the first time, she chose to keep going instead of trying to remedy the situation. This is a very shortsighted tactic and always blows up at a later time, when the balloon inflates so much it has to pop.

Barbara miscarried twin daughters not long after her wedding and this caused her much grief. Ultimately, the couple had five children, five sons: Spencer Bedell (born August 1949), Emmet Dwight (born November 15, 1950), Bradley Marshall (born February 6, 1952), Curtis Gruenther (born August 27, 1954) and Hunter Bernhardt (born May 30, 1959).

Barbara’s marriage ended to be a tragic and sad story. Always a happy-go-lucky, simple and sweet person, unable to stand up to anyone, she was ill matched to the tyrannical Marx. He completely controlled her, not just financially but also psychically, and tried to mold her into his vision of what Mrs. Marx should have been. She was alienated from her family, without a career, drifting from one interest or hobby to another without doing anything substantial. She found only solace in her children and step children.

BarbaraMoffett4Then, something pretty bad happened in 1971. Barbara was always close to her stepdaughter Patricia, who had married to Dr. Daniel Ellsberg, a promising MIT graduate who worked in the Pentagon. It’s  a complicated story, and only somebody with full knowledge to the intricate US inner and outer policy of the time (the height of the Cold War) can understand it, so I’m not going to go into any detail (you can read more about it on Wikipedia and other numerous sites on the net), but, in a nutshell: Ellsberg, who became a anti war activist in the 1960s, leaked the top-secret Pentagon Papers and was put under trial for treason. Marx, a freverent anti Communist and right-winger, was absolutely furious. He refused to talk to either Patricia or Daniel ever again. The kind-hearted Barbara, on the other hand, could not envision doing a thing so far removed from her own nature. For the first time in decades, she did something she should have done much sooner – she defied Marx when he crossed the line. She was asked to testify against Ellsberg and she refused. She quarreled with Marx constantly afterwards, and the situation did not get any better as time went by.

Deeply unhappy, Barbara embarked on a few affairs with persons unnamed. Marx found out and left her, kicking her out of the house. They did not speak for the rest of his life. Barbara was alone, penniless and absolutely devastated. She was unable to take care for herself after years of living with someone who dominated every facet of her life. She found solace in Dardy, who lived alone in California. The two decided to live together again, and both hopes the arrangement would alleviate their fallen spirits. However, Barbara’s mental state only detoriated as the months passed. She spent her days crying in bed, unable to function like a normal human being. Dardy, sick from worry, finally persuaded her to visit a doctor. She was diagnosed as a maniac depressive and given shock treatment. On a sad side note, Barbara’s dad, Ian, also suffered from the same disease and killed himself in 1977.

BarbaraMoffett3However, the vicious circle only continued. Barbara would get a new drug, get electro shock treatment, get better for a month and then things would revert to the old hopeless state. Then another round od drugs and treatments, and so on. I can imagine how Dardy felt – she was the most resilient, realistic of the sisters and must have found the situation absolutely heartbreaking – her sister was wasting away, and there was nothing anyone could do to help her. Barbara’s children came to visit her sometimes, but Dardy found them to be a dissolute bunch, unworthy of having such a wonderful mother. It seems that all the years of mental abuse had caught up with Barbara, and she did not have the willpower nor the strength to move on.

The sad story reached its conclusion on March 25, 1986, when Barbara shot herself in the head with a revolver. It was a last desperate cry of a woman who didn’t know how to continue living. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered into the ocean. Marx had died in 1982, a lonely old man, after he was forced to sell his company in 1976 due to declining business profits.

Sadly, two of Barbara’s sons are dead today: Bradley died in 2002 and Emmett in 2015. Lili St. Cyr died on January 29, 1999. Dardy is still live and kicking, a true survivor of the family.

PS: Most of the info comes from the superb book on Lili St. Cyr, named Goddess of love incarnate, by Leslie Zemeckis. You can find more information about the book here

Kay Sutton

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This is going to be a bit longer than usual… What to say about Kay Sutton? Let’s take the indirect route. Women in Hollywood are a great indicator of the prevalent mind-set of the time, with regards to women and work. I understand that a large number of women who landed in Tinsel Town in the 1930s actually wanted to either get married well or simply to have fun. There is nothing wrong about this – to each his own, and it’s almost moronic and incredibly naive to think that only die-hard artists went to Hollywood to make art. Yet, what often irks me is when a woman openly declares she does it “for the art”, enjoys acting, that’s it’s more than a meal ticket for her – and then puff, two months later, and she is married and retired. The culture of blatantly lying to the press and using it as a tool for more popularity is nothing new in Hollywood – it’s been around from the very start, in fact. I am very ambivalent about Kay in this regard. She was an above average beauty, even for high Hollywood standards. She seemed like the sort who decided to act because she really liked it and wanted to carve her way in the field, which is great. Then she got married, left movies, divorced and returned to movies.

Okay, so she may have wrongly estimated her former husband, may have been dismayed by the reality of marriage and after getting burned, returned to work. Nothing to chide her about, its normal human behaviour to learn and change your plans as you go. During this time, she lamented in the press how she wants to have a career and that movies and marriage don’t mix. Okay, this makes perfect sense for sure, as a number of top actresses were never married for this very reason. BUT, after a few short years, she gets married and puff puff, she’s off again (this time for good)! Who is she kidding here? Why all the laments then when you were ready to throw it all away at the very mention of repeated matrimony?

The fact is, perhaps I am too harsh at the girl – if you watch her movies, it’s clear she was not a talented actress and had little to recommend herself except her beauty. It was a very big dilemma if she could have even survived in Tinsel Town for a long time. Then again, if she wanted to be a serious actress, why didn’t she work on it, why didn’t she take lessons? Oh, I give up! At least I think she did well for herself, all things accounted for…

EARLY LIFE

Katherine Warburton Sutton was born on June 14, 1915, in Irvington, New Yersey, to and William Warburton Sutton and Katherine Rutan Neumann. Both of her parents were from well off, higher middle class families. Sadly, the divorced when she was very young.

When she was about 4 years old, she was sent to live with her maternal grandmother in New York, where she attended elementary and high school. Due to her vivacious nature she was nicknamed Sunny. Kay planned to be a newspaper woman and studies journalism, but was pushed into acting by friend who tough she was just the right type for Tinsel Town. Kay liked the idea, and, determined to succeed at it, she went to Hollywood in the early 1930s.

CARRER

Kay started her career getting uncredited bit parts in a string of well-known movies: first Roberta, the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire (with Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott as the other romantic couple – and yes, it works), then the very good Jean Harlow vechicle Reckless,bland and forgettable musical Old Man RhythmRogers/Astaire movie (without Irene Dunne) Follow the Fleet, and ending it with the superb A Star Is Born (gotta love Frederic March!!). It seemed that Kay was on a very good path to some semblance of stardom.However, she retired to marry cameraman Edward Cronjager. The retirement was of short duration, and she returned to movies in late 1937, and by early 1938 was working in  her full capacity.

Night Spot is a pedestrian RKO one hour feature, about the night club racket, with Joan Woodbury and Allen Lane in the leads. Nothing to write home about. This Marriage Business was no better, another RKO quickie. It’s about a judge that had a spotless marriage registrar record – none of the people he married ever divorced.Throw in corrupt city mobsters and a budding young newspaper man, and you’ve got a hot mess. At least the underrated Victor Moore gets his time and place to be funny (something he was very good at).

KySutton2Kay was cast in a better movie when she appeared in Vivacious Lady, is an aptly named comedy, well written, well-directed and well acted. The storyline is simple (a college professor marries a chorus girl on a whim and later has difficulties admitting it to his parents) but you do’t need much more when you’ve god James Stewart and Ginger Rogers in the leads. They don’t make them like this anymore, it’s a true non complex movie with no big pretensions and lots of soul.

The Saint in New York was Kay’s first starring role. It’s the first of the Saint movies made by RKO in the 1930s and 1940s. Louis Hayward plays the hero – or the anti hero to be precise. We all know that with the establishing of the production code, much of the freedom of scriptwriters of Hollywood simply went out of the window. Movies often became predictable and insipid. However, a well versed writer and director could show, or hint, things that could not be said or shown on the screen. While this is not a movie of subtlety, Templar is a surprisingly dark hero, not averse to using less than noble ways to achieve his goals. While he is basically trying to do a good thing –  rid New York of a band of hard-core mobsters – the way he does it makes him no better than the guys he hunts down. He plots and kills mercilessly. I have to say, I was surprised by this, and it’s a nice surprise more than anything else. To see a hero fighting crime – a hero who is not your typical boy next door, a hard-boiled cop or a graceless mobster – perfect! Hayward is superb in the role. I have a soft spot for the guy – he’s an incredible mixture of elegance and menace. Sadly, it is more than visible here that our Kay, despite all her beauty, was not a great actress. She was okay, but had neither the charisma nor the acting skill to get on top. But all in one, to say about the movie: Recommended!

KAySutton10Kay had an uncredited bit in Having Wonderful Time, a cute, fluffy but plot thin comedy with Ginger Rogers and Douglas Fairbanks. Kay played a prominent role in I’m from the City, a Joe Penner low-budget comedy. If you like the Three Stooges, it’s a good comedy. If you don’t like them, it’s nothing more than an idiotic movie. Well, to each his own! Kay continued playing supporting roles. She was in Smashing the Rackets, a pretty decent movie about corruption in the district attorney’s office with Chester Morris in the lead and with the ever suave Bruce Cabot (in one of his better roles) as the bad guy.

A good thing of being a contractee of RKO’s in the late 1930s was the chance to appear in one of the Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movies. While not her first Astaire/Rogers movie, Kay had the honour of appearing in Carefree. What can I say, it’s a Rogers/Astaire musical, and we all know what that means. It’s a big plus of Kay’s filmography if nothing else. She continued to appear with prestigious stars – in The Mad Miss Manton she plays opposite Barbara Stanwyck, one of the best actresses ever to grace Hollywood. It’s a madcap and sharply written comedy, nothing more, nothing less.

Then, came the moment I dread to see in any actresses career – the moment she ventured into low budget western territory. When the horse is billed about you, you know it’s time to go! Kay’s foray into the wonderful world was Lawless Valley, opposite George O’Brien. The less I say about these movies the better, most fo you already know I’m far from being a fan of the genre. Beauty for the Asking is one fo the “serious Lucille Ball movies”, where Lucille was miles apart from the scatter brained housewife everybody came to live during the 1950s. The plot, while predictable, deals with a topic close to my own heart – a woman trying to do good in business in the 1930s. It’s inspirational stuff if nothing else, and there’s also Frieda Inescort, one of the most royal and regal actresses ever to grace the screen. Twelve Crowded Hours is a typical B plot boiler fo the time, with Richard Dix in lead, as a newspaperman trying to avenge a killed co-worker. Of course he was killed by a heartless mobster, and Dix goes on an tries to steal from the mobster and then he… Blah blah blah blah. You get the picture.

KaySutton3Not long after Kay appeared in her fourth Roger/Astaire movie, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle. She played the lead feminine role in S.O.S. Tidal Wave, what is probably a bad movie (listen to the plot, as one reviewer wrote in IMDB – The plot was pretty thin but still memorable for me. Suppose the mob wants to spoil the election and arranges for every station in town to play a live documentary or newscast about the tidal wave hitting New York. Everyone would be glued to the TV box and forget to go vote. Thus the ward bosses get out to vote against the mayor, district attorney? Whoever. Somebody with some alertness realized that a building which had gone down was still transmitting stock news on the ticker. Whoa, call New York, confirm,get the voters out.) Yeah, imagine, they made a movie out of it! No comment!

Kay was again uncredited in Call a Messenger, a minor movie about a reformed youth. She was credited in The Man from Montreal, but it’s another insipid potboiler. Finally something better came her way with Balalaika, a nicely done Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey musical. Nelson is a wooden actor, no doubt about that, but Ilona is a passionate woman and pretty good in her role. The director, set design and cinematography are all first class.

Kay appeared in The Man Who Talked Too Much, a movie version of the well known play Mouthpiece (about a district attorney who sends the wrong man to jail, becomes an alcoholic because of it, and then tries to turn his life around), but her scenes were later all deleted. The movie was later remade with Edward G. Robinson, and that movie, Illegal,is much better known. Kay was billed in Laughing at Danger, but the movie is almost considered lost and I have nothing to write about it.

Sky Murder was the last of the Nick Carter, Detective movies, and a pretty good one at that. Walter Pidgeon was superb as Nick, and had one of the best sidekicks in the business, played by Donald Meek. Next came Li’l Abner, a movie based on comic by Al Capp, about the citizen of Dogpatch. Yep, you have three guesses to try and nail down Dogpatch on the map 🙂 The later version, from the 1960s, is better known, and this one made no impact on anyone involved. Scratch and let’s move on.

Kay played a miniscule role in The Bank Dick, one of W.C. Field’s best (and best known) movies. Then came A Night at Earl Carroll’s, a movie with a truly moronic plot (mobsters trying top make Earl Carroll look bad so he’ll go bankrupt?) but lots of showgirls (what else can you expect from a movie with Earl Carrol in the name?). Maisie Was a Lady is the third in the ten movies about brassy showgirl Maisie Revier, played to perfection by Ann Sothern (she truly was the right type of actress for the role). The story is pure fluff, but the supports are wonderful, including Lew Ayres and the extremely sweet Maureen O’Sullivan.

KaySutton9You’re Out of Luck was the movie where Kay finally played another female lead. It’s one of the bunch of movies Frankie Darro and Mantan Moreland made, always playing best friend who get mixed up in all the wrong stuff. While not high art, there actually decent efforts and worth watching. The Trial of Mary Dugan is a little seen, almost forgotten remake of the better known Norma Shearer movie. Mary is played by Laraine Day, an actress I highly admire, but this one hasn’t got any good notices so scrap. Kay continued her string of uncredited performances with Sunny – it’s is a charming musical that gets totally bogged down by an absence of any coherent plot. Poor circus girl falls in love with a wealthy young man but his family disapproves… With a happy ending of course… Things just starts to drag and go nowhere and that’s about it. It is one of the few movies that British superstar Anna Neagle made in the US, so at least it’s not a complete no name movie…

Sergeant York  is a well known movie, one of the most famous ones Kay appeared in. Her role is uncredited, but hey, at least she was in the same movie as Gary Cooper! Kay ended her RKO contract with Flying Blind, a dismal effort at best. With a stupid story (spies from nowhere steal a plane and crash land it in the jungle, and out heroes have to survive all that, imagine!), below average acting and generally dull pacing, it’s, quite frankly, a bad movie. There are worse to be sure, but also much, much better.

In 1941, Kay married her second husband, moved to Hawaii with him and left movies for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Kay was 5’6” tall, weighted 120 pounds, had to do sports to maintain her figure and was a book lover.

Kay entered the scene in 1935. In August 1935, it was announced she would marry Ed Conjager, Hollywood cameraman, in September. She promised she would leave the screen after the marriage.

Kay married Edward Conjager on September 16, 1935, in Los Angeles. They went on a honeymoon the next day. Edward was born on March 21, 1904, in New York City, to Charles Cronjager and Mary Kenney. He worked as a cinematographer in Hollywood from 1925.

KaySutton4IMDB claims their marriage lasted for just two days, but this is not true for sure. Kay and Ed stayed married for almost two years, separating in May 1937 and divorcing in August 1937. Kay lamented to the newspapers “what’s the use of having a husband when you never see him” and blamed their career on keeping them apart. She then claimed that a woman cannot have a husband and a career, and that she would much rather take her career over matrimony. She won her divorce by saying that Edward called her a “lousy housewife”. Kay resumed her career after the divorce.

Cronjager went on to marry starlet Yvette Bentley in August 1942. His only child, Loretta Arele, was born on November 25, 1950. Sadly, Edward died on June 15, 1960 in Hollywood.

Kay wasted no time in finding a new beau. She dated Walter Kane, Howard Hughes right hand man, in August 1937, even before her marriage was officially terminated. They lasted until late in the year.

Kay started 1938 by dating Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt, a good catch on all accounts (except the looks maybe). But we all know that Al dated al the actresses, but in the end married only girls his own class (he married Manuela Hudson, a West Coast socialite, not long after)! I hope the actresses he dated knew they (probably) never had a chance. In November 1938, she was dating Joseph Hoenig, an investment broker. In early 1941, she dated Vic Orsatti (I repeat – who didn’t date Vic at that time and place?). Unusual for Orsatti, they lasted for a couple of months. She also revealed to the papers that she wore a round medallion of chased antique gold set with diamonds and rubies, suspended with an intricate golden chain.

In January 1941, she was seen with Carlos Barbe, noted Uruguay diplomat, then serving as a vice consul. Then, in March 1941, it was back to Vanderbilt, who was married at that time but separated from his wife Manuela. In April 1941, Kay was named the most beautiful brunette in Hollywood, beating the likes of Dolores Del Rio, Hedy Lamarr, Vivien Leigh and Joan Bennett, among others. Wally Westmore, the leading make up artist in Paramount, told the press how Kay combines a classically beautiful face with stunning body proportions and wonderful coloring. Kay sure was beautiful but can’t match, by along shot, the popularity of other brunette actresses mentioned here. In May 1941, she was dating Gene Markey the scriptwriter who married a string of stunning brunette actresses – Hedy Lamarr, Joan Bennett, Myrna Loy. Now tell me that Kay wasn’t his type!

KaySutton6By June she was dating Townsed Netcher, the department stone tycoon, and by July he was replaced by Nils Ashter, the handsome Danish silent movie star. The papers were at it, just how hot hot they were. Then, Kay surprised everybody by marrying Clifton Stokes Weaver, Honolulu restaurant director and sugar plantation owner. They met in April in Hawaii, dated briefly before she went back to Los Angeles and then lost touch for a while. He visited Los Angeles in June, called Kay to see how she was doing, and the rest is history! They eloped to Juma, Arizona, in early July, 1941. On a side note, Kay dated Nils almost to the day she got married. Well, that’s Hollywood for you!

Clifton Stokes Weaver was born on January 7, 1917, in New York, to Spencer Weaver and Emily Stokes. He was the second son and last child – his older brother Spencer Jr. was born in 1911. His mother died in 1930, and by 1940, he was living with his older brother and his wife Sarah in Hawaii, and attending college (could be Virginia Military Institute). He graduated in 1940, and after the war started served in the US naval reserve. We find more information about Clifton on the site Ventura Real Estate:

Clifton was a Partner in the largest Restaurant chain in Hawaii during the 40’s and 50’s, Spence Cliff Corporation. Their holdings included the Pioneer Inn and Lahaina Broiler on Maui, Hotel Tahiti and Hotel Tahiti Village in French Polynesia, and numerous Restaurants on Oahu including Queen Surf, Cocos (now the location of the Hard Rock Café in Waikiki), Tiki Tops, Fisherman’s Warf, and the Tahitian Lanai.

We move on to more information, especially about the brothers shared company, Spencecliff:

Their father, Spencer Fullerton Weaver Sr, was one of the nation’s leading architects in the 1920s. Known as Major Weaver; among many other projects, his firm designed the Waldorf-Astoria, the Hotel Pierre in New York City, the Biltmore Hotels in Los Angeles and Florida, and the Breakers in Palm Beach.  He designed and owned the Park Land and Lexington Hotels in New York. Their mother, Emily Maloney Stokes Weaver, was a noted tennis player; she won two national indoor tennis doubles championships in 1914 (with Clare Cassel) and 1918 (with Eleanor Goss Lanning.)

The family lived in an apartment on Park Avenue, New York and had a country estate known as ‘Spencecliff,’ in East Hampton, Long Island, NY.  (washington-edu). But that ‘Spencecliff’ is not the basis for this story – this story is about the partnership of brothers Spence and Cliff and the Hawaiʻi business they founded, Spencecliff Restaurants. Queen’s Surf (with its Barefoot Bar,) Tahitian Lanai, Coco’s, Tiki Tops, Fisherman’s Wharf, Senor Popo’s, Trader Vic’s, Kelly’s, South Seas, Ranch House … the list goes on and on.

It was a family operation, run by brothers Spencer (Spence) Fullerton Weaver Jr (May 18, 1911 – Aug 30, 1996) and Clifton (Cliff) Stokes Weaver (Jan 7, 1917 – Jan 23, 1992.) After a couple visits to the Islands, the boys moved and later, intrigued by the fleet of hot dog trucks in Long Island, they got into the food service business with a half-dozen ‘Swanky Franky’ hot dog carts in 1939; then, later set up a stand at Ena Road and Ala Moana in Waikīkī.

Then came the Patio Restaurant downtown and the Snowflake Bakery; the Weavers also had a catering contract to feed five-thousand at Hickam.After service in World War II, they formed the Spencecliff Corporation; it grew, and over the next few decades dominated the restaurant scene. They opened the Sky Room (1948) at the airport terminal at John Rogers Field (now Honolulu International Airport.)   In addition to the pre-flight airport presence, Spencecliff catered the food to airline passengers on ten major airlines, including American, JAL, Canadian Pacific, Qantas and Air New Zealand.At one time, the Spencecliff operation included 50-restaurants, cabarets, coffee shops and snack bars in Hawaiʻi, almost exclusively on the island of Oʻahu. It also operated two hotels, three bakeries and a catering service in Hawaiʻi and two hotels in Tahiti.  There were more than 1,500 employees.

Spence Weaver would later be inducted into the Hawaii Restaurant Association’s First Annual Hall of Fame in 2007. One of the most famous of their operations was the Queen’s Surf (acquired in 1949.)  They converted the former home of heir to Fleischmann’s Yeast fortune, Christian Holmes (Holmes also owned Coconut Island,) and turned it into Queen’s Surf; the home was originally build in 1914 by WK Seering of International Harvester Co. Later (1971,) the property was condemned and Queen’s Surf and the neighboring Kodak Hula Show were evicted and the Waikīkī beachfront area was turned into a public park.

In addition, to the nightclub, there were coffee shops – lots of them – as well as other family-favorites. Spencecliff was renowned for taking care of its employees, many of whom served for decades.  Reportedly, each employee would receive personalized card and a birthday cake from the company bakery the day before their birthday, then were given the day off on their birthday.
Then their ownership in the restaurant operations came to an end.  In the mid-1980s, increased rents and high interest rates affected Spencecliff’s bottom line; on July 14, 1986, they sold the operation to the Japanese firm, Nittaku Enterprises Co, for $6-million. Unfortunately, the new owners didn’t have the same understanding/appreciation for the operations and it slowly disappeared.

Kay announced she would leave movies to live on the sugar plantation in Honolulu. In January 1942, it was announced Kay was pregnant and awaiting the stork in May. Kay gave birth to her daughter Katherine Weaver in May 1942. By July 1942, two months after the birth of her, she was pregnant again. Their second child, son William “Billy” Weaver, was born in 1943.

KAySutton7Sadly, the Weavers marriage was not to last, and they separated in 1944 and divorced in 1945. You want to know the reason? Because Kay was dating up a storm with Dan Topping, one of the infamous Topping brothers. He served in a navy capacity in Honolulu, they started socializing and the rest is history. Dan was then still married to Sonje Henie. Sonja was allegedly seeing Van Johnson (yeah, like that happened) on the side, and both wanted to get divorced – Sonja could marry Van, Dan could marry Kay.

After some ups and down, the couple were married In Florida in March 1946 and went on to honeymoon in Clearwater, in his father’s summer home. Now something about Dan Topping (a short excerpt from Wikipedia):

Daniel Reid Topping (June 11, 1912 – May 18, 1974) was a part owner and president of the New York Yankees baseball team from 1945 to 1964. Daniel Reid Topping was the son of Rhea Reid and Henry J. Topping. Rhea Reid, the daughter of Daniel G. Reid, known as the “Tinplate King” for his vast wealth in the tin industry, was the mother of three sons, Daniel Reid Topping, Henry J. Topping (1914), and John Reid Topping (1921). Daniel Topping, along with Del Webb and Larry MacPhail, purchased the Yankees for $2.8 million from the estate of the late Jacob Ruppert on January 25, 1945. MacPhail sold his share of the team to Topping and Webb in 1947, and the two sold controlling interest in the team to CBS in 1964, after which Topping remained as team president until 1966, when he sold his remaining stake in the Yankees.

Topping also was co-owner, along with John Simms Kelly, of the National Football League‘s Brooklyn Dodgers starting in 1931, eventually owning the team outright. By the mid-1940s, Topping wished to move his football team from Ebbets Field into the newer and larger Yankee Stadium. Tim Mara, owner of the New York Giants, who played in the Polo Grounds, held NFL territorial rights, and refused to permit this. Topping moved the team anyway, joining the newly formed All-America Football Conference. Topping’s team retained most of its players during the jump and became the football New York Yankees. The team was not one of the AAFC teams admitted to the NFL in 1950, and folded.

By November the papers knew that Kay was pregnant. Their daughter Rhea was born in 1947. The Toppings lived the high life for the next couple of years, enjoying a lavish home in Park Avenue, right next to Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio.

By 1948, their marriage was in trouble. The papers were full of gossip about their the shaky marital state. In January 1949, it was reported the have allegedly reached a settlement. By February, they were reconciled. It lasted until November 1951, when they separated for good. While I don’t know the full extent of the settlement, I do know that Kay got their Palm Beach home. Some sources claim that Topping was the love of Kay’s life.

Life went on for Kay and she dated Gary Cooper in February 1952, during his Palm Beach sojourn. We all know that Cooper was a deeply unhappy man during his post Patricia Neal years, drifting from town to town, from woman to woman, and I guess Kay didn’t amount to much on his plate. The Toppings divorce was made final in June 1952, in Florida. Whatever we can say about Topping and his marriage to Kay, his love of sports rubbed of and she wanted to operate her own baseball team. She tried to buy a West Palm Beach India baseball team in 1953. Kay falls from the newspaper radar from then on, but a few bits and pieces of information could still be found.

Tragically, Kay’s son William “Billy” was killed in a freak Tiger shark attack off the Mokulua Islands, Lanikai, Oahu in 1959.

She married Frederick Moulton Agler on September 13, 1963, in Grosse Point, Michigan. Moulton was born on August 3, 1907, in . Detroit, Michigan, to Mary Eldridge Alger and Frederick Moulton Alger. Let’s just list, in short, the most important posts Frederick held in his life:

KaySutton8Republican. Candidate for U.S. Representative from Michigan 14th District, 1936; served in the U.S. Navy during World War II; secretary of state of Michigan, 1947-52; Republican candidate for Governor of Michigan, 1950 (primary), 1952; U.S. Ambassador to Belgium, 1953-57.Presbyterian. Member, American Legion; Elks; Sons of the American Revolution; Veterans of Foreign Wars; Military Order of the World Wars; Freemasons.

In 1929, Frederick married Suzette de Marigny Dewey, daughter of Charles Schuveldt Dewey. The had three children: David Dewey Alger (born 1943), Marie Suzette de Marigny Alger Howard and Frederick Alger.

Kay and Frederick lived in his Grosse Point home until his death on January 5, 1967. Kay never remarried to continued to live in Grosse Point.

Katherine Alger died on May 1, 1988 in Grosse Point, Michigan.

Her former husband, Clifton Waver died on January 23, 1992.

Earlene Heath

22 Oct 1933 --- Original caption: Miss Earlene Heath displays the latest fad, "the gator garter and bracelet," a fad that the fair sex will not take too seriously at first. Miss Heath suggested this idea while playing with the baby alligators on her first trip to the Los Angeles Alligator Farm. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Another chorus girl who tired and failed to do good in Tinsel Town 😦 Earlene Heath was a headstrong and determined woman who truly tried to make her best, but it’s hard to say did she give up too soon or just gave up a hopeless pursuit that would have gotten her nowhere. Anyway, she settled into domesticity after her Hollywood career was over.

EARLY LIFE

Earlene Marie Heath was born on May 1, 1914, in Dallas, Texas, to Earl Jarrell Heath and his wife, Annie Evelyn Newell. Both of her parents were natives of Texas – her father worked as a salesman, her mother was a housewife. She was the middle of three children and the only daughter – her older brother George Francis was born on November 19, 1910, her younger brother Earl Jarrel was born in 1918.

Earlene grew up and was educated in her birth town. After finishing business school, she became the secretary of an oilman (we are in Texas after all!). She was a passionate dancer but only did it for fun (as a hobby) and had no plans to go to Hollywood nor become an actress. However, a tiff with her boyfriend at the time changed all that. One day he told her that for a woman, being a dancer and actress o the screen is an unsuitable choice of vocation, adding that he would never let her be an actress if she were his wife. Stubborn to the bone and with a love for the theatrics, Earlene wanted to prove him wrong under any circumstance. Boldly she went to Denver, Colorado, to find work in the very field he so vehemently disliked. She got a job with the Tabor Stock Co., and did hard work for six months. With precious stage experience under her belt, Earlene felt assured enough to try Hollywood. Unfortunately, Hollywood is a closed gate community and since Earlene did not know an insider, no work came her way. She took any odd jobs she could and went to dramatic school on the side, hoping for her big break.

Her big break came after she was crowned Miss Ocean Park in August 1933. She became a member of the prestigious David Gould troupe, and she finally entered Hollywood.

CAREER

As a dancer turned actress, Earlene appeared as an uncredited chorus girl during most of her early career. George White’s Scandals was the perfect film where tons of gorgeous chorines can be featured without a valid reason. What can I say, I wrote about this movie so many times, and we all know the drift. Flimsy story but loads of good music and dancing sequences. Not the kind of movie I enjoy, but great escapism non the less.

Stand Up and Cheer! is a movie in the same vein. No story, just music music and dancing dancing! Warner Baxter plays a Broadway producer who is appointed by the U.S. president as secretary of amusement to cheer up the country. Tough job, but Warners got loads of talent to help him. Just name them: James Dunn, Madge Evans, John Boles (no talent for that one, just a wooden expression)… Shirley Temple became an overnight sensation thanks to this movie. I’m the first to tell you I don’t like “kiddie” movies (where the under-10-years-old kid is the main character, everything is sweetness and light, the script is lightweight and so on) and find most child actors uninteresting, but Shirley had something and it shone on the screen. While I’ll never watch her movies, I must admit she was a singular phenomena in Hollywood history.

Earlene_Heath_2Folies Bergère de Paris is a pure delight. Again, if you want some deep movie that’ll make you think, look away. Want some simple, elegant fun – walk this way! Maurice Chevalier, everybody favourite French cad, plays dual roles – one a nightclub singer, other a stiff upper lip banker, which creates havoc in his love life. Chevalier was a limited talent, but very good at what he did – nobody played debonair, charming French like he did – and this movie was tailor made to show off all his strong spots. He gets wonderful support from Merle Oberon and Ann Southern.

Reckless gets us into Jean Harlow territory. Tsis is one of Harlow’s best movies, based on the life story of Libby Holman (interesting woman, read more about her here). What starts as a breezy, fluffy love story turns into a serious drama dealing with issues like domestic abuse, fragile mental health and so on. Harlow is at top from here – these roles suited her like a glove. Much like Chevalier, she was limited, but boy, what she did well she did perfect! Franchot Tone, a wonderful actor wasted in so many movies, actually has something to chew on here. William Powell, Harlow’s real life lover, is the third wheel but decent enough. Earlene appears as one fo the chorus girls. Recommended!

Redheads on Parade is a totally forgotten movie today, so lets assume it made no ripples back when it was released in 1935. And now for the Three Stooges! Despite the fact that they appeared in the same movies before, with Healthy, Wealthy and Dumb Earlene than had the honour of having a role in a proper Stooges short. Wikipedia has a page about the short:

Curly wins $50,000 from writing a catchy jingle for a radio contest. The boys quickly spend their loot, and check in at the Hotel Costa Plente. Their suite is furnished with many expensive items which they systematically destroy. In the process, three gold diggers connive their way into the boys’ room, under the guise that they are three rich widows looking to remarry. This works perfectly, as Curly quickly discovers that all the tax deductions reduce his winnings to a minuscule $4.85. The boys hastily agree to marry the ladies, who soon find out the Stooges are broke and give them what for.

Sounds funny? It does! So, Earlene appeared in a pretty good Three Stooges short, and this is the highlight of her brief and unsatisfying career.

Earlene took some time off to raise her children, then came back in 1941 in Caught in the Draft. To put is short: It’s a Bob Hope comedy. If you like Bob Hope comedies, there is everything going for this movie. If you don’t, don’t come close. Comedy is a tricky subject to write about, since it’s so “subjective”, so as a reviewer said, one mans meat is another man’s poison. To some, Hope is the best of the best of classic Hollywood comedy, for others he’s a raving lunatic doing stupid movies. Here, Hope tries to escape a military draft by marrying a colonel’s daughter (nice plan Bob!) and then enlisting by mistake! Eddie Bracken and Lynne Overman are there for support and Dorothy Lamour is the love interest. I’m pretty much lukewarm about Hope – there are better, there are worse, but as far as Bob Hope movies go, this is solid.

Earlene ended her film career with Kiss the Boys Goodbye, a Mary Martin vehicle. Martin was a great musical theater star, but her “magic” never translated to screen properly and she never became anything notable in Hollywood. The movie itself is a decent enough musical about the search for an authentic southern belle to replace a movie diva. Don Ameche is as good as always in the male lead. Also take note of Oscar Levant!

Earlene faded into domestic obscurity afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE

Earlene long ditched the boyfriend who so enraged her she decided to try a serious acting career by the time she actually came to Hollywood, so I guess he never reaped the fruits of his “success”. She had found a more suitable man who not only understood her passion for acting and dancing, but shared it. Earlene married Hollywood director Otis E. Garrett on December 20, 1935 in Los Angeles. She was 21, he was 30. Garrett was born on March 29, 1905 in Washington State, to George Garrett and Helen Gregory Otis. He came to California in 1930 and started working in the film industry as an editor and scriptwriter.

The marriage was a tumultuous one from the start. They separated for the first time in December 1936, not ever a year after the wedding took place. Allegedly Earlene went to New York for a prolonged stage appearance and decided that her marriage was not worth saving. However, a small “unexpected factor” appeared – Earlene was pregnant. For the sake of their unborn child, the Garretts reconciled.

The Their son, Anthony Otis Garrett was born on July 31, 1937, in Los Angeles.  As we all expected, the birth of little Anthony did little to pacify his parents marriage. She sued her husband for divorce in February 1938. She claimed her woke her up when he came home late from parties, She would protest this atrocious behaviour, and he would swear at her. Yeah folks, this was Earlene’s grounds for divorce. I can’t imagine how the judge felt, hearing these stories. Poor, poor judge…

EarleneHeath3Then, the story repeated itself. By April 1938, Earlene was pregnant again and it was again decided to give the marriage a try.  Their daughter, Judith, was born on January 18, 1939. After little Judy made her appearance, did her parents marriage go into a new, revitalising phase? Guess what? NO! Surprise, surprise, it failed. Earlene was involved in a traffic incident in May, just proving how distressed she was. It was time to end things. The gears of divorce were working again.

In July 1939, she was awarded with 150$ a month temporary alimony. In September 1939, she sued her former husband for not paying his alimony, but he claimed she broke the rules of the settlement by living with her mother. This much was true – Earlene was living with her parents, two children and younger brother in Beverly Hills in 1940. It seems the drama continued.

I was quite shocked when I saw that Garrett died on March 24, 1941, less than two years after this. I have no idea what happened to him, nor how good/bad his relationship to Earlene was by that time – did they make up and enjoy a civil relationship, at least for the sake of their children? So many unanswered questions…

Life goes on and so Earlene moved on. She married Robert Colomb in 1943, not long after catching the bouquet at the wedding of Dorothy Lamour and William Ross Howard. Robert James Colomb was born on August 9, 1904, in Chicago, Illinois. He worked as a property developer in his birth town before moving to Los Angeles, California to try his luck in the real estate boom. Their daughter, Geraldine Marie Colomb was born on February 25, 1947, in Los Angeles. Earlene enjoyed a quiet life outside the limelight with her husband and children.

Earlene Colomb died on May 31, 1958, in San Louis Obispo, California, at the age of 44. Sadly, none of the Heath siblings lived to be over 55 years old – her brother George died the same year as her, on September 12, 1958 (at the age of 47), and her younger brother Earl died in 1978, at the age of 55. Her father died in 1957, her mother in 1966.

Her widower Robert Colomb died on August 14, 1984 in Ventura, California.

 

 

Victoria Faust

VictoriaFaust2

Victoria Faust had all required ingredients that, mixed together, could make her a bona fide star – she was beautiful, talented, college educated, a trained singer, with stage experience and, last and but not least, had a capable agent who was also her husband. Yet, after only three movies, she faded into obscurity and never had another film role. Why this happened remains a mystery to me even after researching all I could about her. But well, lets begin!

EARLY LIFE

Victoria M. Faust was born on July 25, 1912, in New York City to Reverend  Alfred Luke Faust of Richmond Hill, Queens, New York, and his wife, Victoria M. Lupton (yep, she was the daughter of a preacher man!). Her father was German born, her mother was a native New Yorker. She was the third of five children – her older siblings were Edna L ( born in 1908) and Alfred (born in 1910), and her younger siblings were Herman A. (born in 1914) and Ethel (born in 1916). They lived for a time in Queens, before moving to the Bronx in the early 1920s.

The family moved to Bridgeport, Fairfield, Connecticut, sometime before 1930. They returned to New York and her father became the minister in the First Methodist Episcopal Church. Victoria attended college and graduated, although I could not find which one or indeed what exactly did she study, but I do know she was hard bitten by the acting and singing bug and decided that is where her career lies.

Despite the prevalent notion that acting was not a honorable job for a woman, let alone a daughter of a reverend, Alfred was very supportive of Victoria from the very start of her career and actually helped her early on by getting her a singing spot at the prestigious Palace Elegante nigh club in 1935. Victoria was very close to her dad and they enjoyed a cordial and loving relationship for many decades.

That same year, Victoria sailed to Europe and worked part time as a model (posing for Vogue Europe among other publications) in order to pay for her music lessons in London. She returned to New York, and started working as a radio singer, gradually breaching onto the stage, but always hoping for a movie career.

In 1942, she was finally noted by producer Hunt Stomberg and signed to a long term contract.

CAREER

Victoria, to my utter astonishment, made only three movies, and not completely bad ones at that.

VictoriaFaustHer first and most famous movie was Lady of Burlesque, a movie I am astonished ever got made at that time and place. We all know that the late 1940s and 1950s were the time of the strongest Hays code, and boy, is Lady of burlesque a movie not tailor made for censorship! The plot concerns the murder of a “lady of burlesque”, and Victoria had the dubious honor of playing the murder victim. if nothing else, the movie is abundant with drop dead gorgeous ladies – if you count Barbara STanwyck out (I never considered her remotely beautiful, but a first class actress), there are Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Marion Martin, Stephanie Bachelor and the list goes on! Wunderbar! Eye candy aside, director William Wellman did a good job and directed a brisk, smooth and elegant production that never veers into high art territory but offers loads of fun, a witty script and great burlesque numbers! No nudity of course, but who cares!

Victoria’s second movie came two years later, with The Scarlet Clue. It’s a Chalie Chan movie, and we all know what to expect from such films, right? And yep, this is a Charlie Chan from the Monogram period, so you it’s easy to guess the level of quality the series received. The Scarlet Clue is better than the average Monogram Charlie Chan entry, with a slightly up level cast. The story if silliness personified, but the snappy dialogue makes it work somehow. The pace is quick and there is not a moment to lose. Sidney Toler is more than descent as Chan. All in all, nothing to write home about, but makes for some good mystery viewing int he age before we had TV series like Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot.

Victoria made one more uncredited appearance in Johnny O’Clock. It’s Robert Rossen’s first film noir, and it’s a pretty good movie overall (hey, it IS Robert Rossen!). The plot is a frequently seen motif of the post war period – the hero who walks the fine like between the good guys and the bad boys, and just tries to keep his head above the water. No heroics, no shining knights, just a man trying to live like he wants to live and not lose his head in the process. I’m not a big fan of Dick Powell (who plays the movies namesake), but he got better, IMHO, as he got older – instead of playing in idiotic musicals (with the supremely untalented but cute Ruby Keeler), he actually tackled some semi serious roles when he started pushing 30 +. He was actually a pretty good film noir anti hero, charming, sly but always with a darkness lurking behind that fading-pretty-boy face. His female support, Evelyn Keyes and Ellen Drew, are most very effective and both underrated actresses, IMHO. Like most film noirs, this one boasts great cinematography, and the script is full of great one liners. No, it’s not Rossen at his best, but it’s a worthwhile effort.

Victoria continued her career on radio and TV, but never made a movie again.

PRIVATE LIFE

Victoria married her first husband, George Gurskin, on May 23, 1934 in Manhattan, New York. Gurskin was born on August 24, 1909, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and Benjamin and Lucy Gurskin. He was college educated and a very assertive man – he became the president of his very own radio company by the time he was 22 years old. Soon after, he became a successful theatrical agent (in addition to being an business executive). It was Gurskin who decided to move himself and Victoria to Los Angeles to further their careers, and in 1940 they lived in Beverly Hills.

VictoriaFaust5There is a funny story about how Victoria met and fell in love with her next husband, actor Rick Vallin. First, something about Vallin. He was born as Eric Efron on September 29, 1919 in The Russian Confederation and came to the US while still a youngster (with his family). He started his acting career in a New York stock company in the early 1930s, when he was just 14 years old. After a long career on the stage, in early 1940 he joined the Pasadena Playhouse and got his first movie acting role opposite Sidney Blackmer. He played a variety of roles in B movies, mostly members of ethnic minorities, villain henchmen and so on. He was never destined to become a big star, but, like many other less known actors (and unlike many actresses) would work non stop in Hollywood for more than 30 years.

Victoria met Rick in about 1946, and soon he moved in with her and George. Boy, I can’t imagine what George was thinking when he let that happen – but let’s put three plausible explanations:
A) just a very gullible guy who pretended that everything was okay
B) he didn’t care at that point in his marriage anymore and just went along with it
C) he had a twisted sense of humor and enjoyed such strange arrangements.

Anyway, George was soon dating Margaret Withing – Rick and Victoria fell in love, and the whole tangled mess got untangled when Victoria and George finally divorced in 1947. George remarried Florence Halop in 1949, and had two daughters by her, Georgianna and Benita.

Victoria married actor Rick Vallin after the divorce was made final. Their daughter Victoria Luptonfaust Vallin was born on December 6, 1948. Victoria was finished with movies by this time, but she allegedly had her very own TV show. She was quite wealthy and lived well off.

In 1952, her father, Reverend Alfred Faust, was en route to California to baptize their daughter when fell ill in St. Joseph, Missouri and had to be hospitalized. Victoria came running to his bedside, and was soon joined by Rick. It sure seemed they had a good and solid marriage, but appearances can be deceiving, because, by that time, their marriage was in deep trouble. Her father survived, but the marriage did not. They separated in September 1952, and divorced the next year.

Now, what we do know is that Victoria remarried to a guy living in Mexico and moved there to live with him. I have no idea who they guy is or when did this happen. She lost contact with Vallin, so I have no idea how often he was his daughter. Sometime later, Victoria and her Mexican groom got divorced and she returned to the States, settling in San Diego and living in quiet retirement.

George Gurskin died on August 18, 1975. Rick Vallin died on August 31, 1977.

Sadly, Victoria’s namesake daughter, Victoria Vallin, died on November 15, 1993, in San Diego, at the age of 44.

Victoria Faust died on April 13, 1994 in San Diego, California.