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.

 

 

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2 responses

    • While it is largely a metter of taste, IMHO classic Hollywood churned out quite a large number of movies I would consider absolutely dismal. Shirley Temple movies, Sonja Henie movies, endless musicals with no story and bad music, soap operas with little to no emoptional value… But, as I said, taste is king!

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