Jo Carroll Dennison

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Let’s move on to another Yank Cover girl – Jo Carroll Dennison. She  will forever be remembered as Miss America of 1942 first, and comedian Phil Silver’s wife second. But what about her acting career? That was slim, sadly, and very forgettable. Such a shame, for Jo Carroll truly seems like an interesting person, definitely worth checking out.

EARLY LIFE

Jo Carroll Dennison was born on December 16, 1923, in Tyler, Texas (or Florence, Arizona), to Henry Dennison and Carroll Brownd, who ran a vaudeville troupe. She was their only child. She was raised on the Medicine Show circuit, began singing and dancing at age 2 and traveled all around the States with the troupe. They lived in San Francisco and Santa Barbara for a time.

Jo was a fine cowgirl, handling a lariat pretty well, milk a cow and herd cattle, She attended Hale Center High School. After she graduated, She left the traveling show to start a secretarial career in Tyler, Texas. She went to a city college and worked as a stenographer at a law firm for 25$ a week – after her father died, Jo had to work to support herself and her mother (they lived with her grandmother in Tyler in 1940).

The full story of how Jo Carroll became miss Texas goes like this (taken from Miss America site):

While she was outside of a bank on way to a drugstore, Jo-Carroll Dennison was stopped on the street by the Vice President of Citizen’s National Bank in Tyler, Texas. He asked her to be “Miss Citizen’s National Bank” in the Miss Tyler Pageant held by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce. She declined. He insisted that many of the city’s finest young women were going to compete for the crown, and each girl could go to Swartz Department Store and pick out their own new swimsuit.

Eighteen, and on her own as a Student at Federal Institute, Jo-Carroll figured she could use a new swimsuit, so she became Miss Citizen’s National Bank and in short order, Miss Tyler. Her prizes were a scholarship to Federal and Flying lessons. She thought her pageant days were complete, when she was approached by the Tyler Junior Chamber of Commerce that they expected her to represent them in the Miss East Texas Pageant to be held in Dallas. She politely declined. She was made to feel as though it were her civic duty to her city, so she eventually agreed.

After she won the Miss East Texas Pageant she found out she was expected to go on to Miss Texas to be held August 16th at Austin Stadium with an audience consisting of soldiers from one of the largest Army camps in Texas, Camp Swift. Eight girls competed representing the points of the compass of Texas. Jo-Carroll won.

Jo Carroll won the title of Miss America in Atlantic City. She did a lusty rendition of “Deep in the heart of Texas” that much impressed the public. Movie man came knocking on her door right after, and she signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in November 1942.

CAREER

Jo Carroll signed with 20th Century Fox, and appeared in some good movies in that period – the only perh was that she was not billed! Her first appearance was in The Song of Bernadette, the celebrated religious movie about Bernadette Soubirous, a very powerful movie with an upbeat message about love. Jennifer Jones won an Oscar for her performance – I’m a big fan of Jennifer and find her a wonderful actress, and this is one fo her best for sure! Jo Carroll moved on to lighter fare in The Gang’s All Here, a slim in the story department, fat on the fun and colors musical. Think Betty Grable and Alice Faye musicals and you know what I mean – movies meant for enjoyment without too much thinking.

JoCarrollDennison1Jo Carrol started 1944 in Ladies of Washington, the typical “bad girl to good girl” story, where Trudy Marshall plays a selfish ma hungry dame that gradually becomes a better person after meeting soldier Anthony Quinn due to the shortage of wartime housing in Washington DC. What can I say, sound like a good movie but it’s impossible get a hold of it today. Something for the Boys is a below average musical tosh with Carmen Miranda as the only selling point. Heck, even Carmen and her incredible energy can’t save everything! No story and not enough good music, making it a dismal effort at best…

Jo Carrol appeared in Winged Victory, s well made wartime propaganda movie about the lifespan of a WW2 airman – the recruitment process, the waiting, the training, the battles… Impressive cast ( Lon McAllister, Edmond O’Brien, Martin Ritt, Red Buttons, Peter Lind Hayes, Karl Malden, Kevin McCarthy, Gary Merrill, Lee J. Cobb, and Don Taylor) and a more than able director (George Cukor) make this a winner – not a top f the shelf master piece, but good enough for what it wants to achieve.

JJoCarrollDennison2o Carroll appeared in only one movie in 1945 – State Fair. A throwback to the simpler times, it’s a simple, colorful movie with a lots of soul and great performances, especially by Jeanne Crain in the lead. She finished out her contract in 1946 with two movies – The Missing Lady, one of the Shadow (super hero originating from a comic) movie series (and not a particularly good one), and the superior The Jolson Story, an Al Jolson biopic with wonderfully talented Larry Parks as the man himself. Jo Carroll moved to New York to be at hand with her husband and sadly left her career behind.

Like many similar stories, Jo Carroll decided to return to showbiz after her divorce. The year was 1950 – she was off the screen for almost four years. She appeared, first, in Beyond the Purple Hills, this time as the female lead. But, you guessed it, it’s a low-budget Gene Autry western. While it’s a great thing to finally get a leading role, but in this kind of movie? Remember, the cowboys changed their leading ladies like socks! The horses were more important than the women (at least it seems that way to me). It’s a typical movie for the genre, nothing more, nothing less. Next on the line was Prehistoric Women, a do bad it’s good camp classic with plenty of scantily clad women running around, fighting each other and dinosaurs. What to say, this could actually be a step down from the low-budget westerns. Secrets of Beauty is a weird movie that doubles as a beauty manual – do you know why husbands leave home? Because their wives don’t take care of themselves! Listen to Ern Westmore’s advice and you’ll get it right! Absurd  but it could be much worse 🙂

JoCarrollDennison8Pickup is a very low-budget, but still compelling Hugo Haas movie, a Take on The Postman always rings twice, but with a nice twist (he knows she wants to kill him). The lack of a budget is very jarring, but Beverly Michaels is more than fine as the lady from hell. Jo Carrol’s last movie of the period was A Millionaire for Christy, is a breezy, feel good comedy without much artistic merit, but a great way to cheer yourself up after a ponderous day. Eleanor Parker and Fred McMurray are both good in the leading roles.

Jo Carroll did some TV work on the side, but her career after 1953. She got married and slid into happy obscurity. She did only one more feature in 1975, and that was all for now!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Jo Carroll won the Miss America title, she  stoutly pledged her own sacrifice — she would not marry for the duration of her title. And she did not. She noted to the press how she has plenty of beau – enough to date another man every day of the week – but that matrimony was not on her mind. Taking into account that she was only 18 then, that was some good reasoning. Instead, Jo Carroll toured the Army bases with much vigor, working for days no end. She later said of the experience (you can read the full article here):

“It was an extraordinary job. I went to military bases all the time and the soldiers were so enthusiastic and treated me with such respect. I was a symbol of what they were fighting for — like the flag or the Statue of Liberty. It had a much bigger connotation than just the title.”

JoCarrollDennison5Jo Carroll dated Ray Carter, who was a captain during WW2, in April 1944. Then she started dating Phil Silvers in June 1944. She married Phil on March 1945. She was 21, he was 33. Phil was born as Philip Silver on May 11, 1911, in Brooklyn, New York, to Saul and Sarah Silver, both Russian immigrants. His siblings were Lillian, Harry, Jack, Saul, Pearl, Michael, and Reuben. He worked s a comedian in New York from the time he was 11 years old – he made his first movie in 1941. By the time he married Jo Carroll, he was not yet the household name he would become later.

Jo Carroll gave up her budding career and followed her husband to New York, where he appeared in the Broadway show High Buttoned shoes. Phil went along with Jo Carrol’s mom marvelously, and they truly adored each other. He seemed very loved up when he talked about Jo Carroll to the papers. Sadly, Jo Carroll suffered from serious migrants, and Silvers did his best to find her the best possible doctor who would help her. No further information was given, I just hope she found something to alleviate the pain… Yet, despite the idyll, the couple separated in mid 1949 and divorced in early 1950.

So, why did Jo Carroll and Phil divorce? While it’s impossible to say exactly, ether were reports that Silver was a gregarious guy who like nothing better than to go out with his coterie and laugh and drink till morning. Jo Carroll found that too “crowded” and not intimate enough. They clashed over such little things, but, in the end, those are the little things that make a marriage either a success or a failure. However, this was just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem would emerge only later (to the public) – Silvers was a compulsive gambler. Jo Carroll later said of him: “We never lived expensively, or travelled, because he gambled everything away”

JoCarrollDennison7Silvers went on to become a major player in the 1950s TV comedy, playing Sargent Bilko in the Phil Silver Show. He remarried to Evelyn Patrick, a Revlon model, and had five daughters:  Cathy, Candance, Tracey, Nancy and Laurey. He and Evelyn divorced in 1966. Silvers died in 1985.

After her divorce from Silvers, Jo was beaued by producer P.K. Palmer before embarking on a serious relationship with Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie. They started dating in November 1950, and dated for more than a year,  ending in cca June 1952. In the end, she left him for no other than her former husband, Phil! They seemed pretty serious, but did not rekindle their relationship completely.

Trying to make something out of her showbiz career, Jo Carroll alternated between Hollywood and New York, and finally became a secretary at the office of Rodgers and Hammerstein in early 1953. In September 1953, she was dating Bob Joseph.  In mid 1954, she became a script girl on the Lux Video Theater.

Jo Carroll started dating Russel Stoneham in early 1954, and married him on October 15, 1954 in Santa Monica. Stoneham was born as Russell Charles Stoneham on April 18, 1920, in New York City, to Charles Stoneham and Margaret Leonard. His father was the owner of the New York Giants, married once before (his half-brother Horace was 17 years older than Russell). He died in 1936, and Russell lived with his mother and sister in New York. He worked for the CBS as a producer when he married Jo Carroll.

JoCarrollDennison6The family settled in California in 1954. Their son Peter R. was born on November 20, 1956. Their second son, John D., was born on June 5, 1961. Both of the children were born in Los Angeles. While retired from the movies, Jo Carroll still remained active in the beauty pageant world and appeared with some frequency in the papers. In 1970, she said of her life so far:

“I was immature in so many ways in my early 20s. I didn’t settle down in domesticity until I was 30. I doubt that I could have. Now I know what will make me happy, but without having worked, doing by jobs, traveling a great deal, being rich, poor again, I would have been discontented, I think. My life is now happier and more complete than I had ever hoped, and I always had great expectations.”

I generally agree with Jo Carroll here – it’s so much better to taste life and do things then settle down, when you know what you want and how to get it. Of course, there are examples of people who found their true “calling” very early, but those are (IMHO) exceptions and I find this to be the rule of the thumb – experience will teach you the best what way to go. By that time, Jo Carroll lived in Pacific Palisades with her family and was obviously very content. She was also on very good terms with Silvers, often acting as his confidante, as well as his travel agent.

JoCarrollDennison9Jo Carroll divorced Stoneham in 1981. He remarried to a Sharon ? right away, and divorced her in 1984. Russell died on March 12, 2002, in El Paso, Colorado.

After her divorce, she served as a community relations director for the nonprofit group, Hemet Hospice, during the 1980s and 1990s. Later, in the 2000s, she told an interviewer about her activities in those decades:

“I had a fantastic life and met so many interesting, talented people. I thought I should do something to give back, so I worked at Hemet Hospice for 11 years,” said Dennison,  “I feel it was truly the most purposeful, rewarding work I ever did. Working with the terminally ill, you learn so much about life.”

Jo Carroll Dennison lives in Idyllwild, California.

 

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Carole Gallagher

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Hello! I decided that January and February will be the Yank Cover girls month. I have already profiled several of them before (Diana Mumby, Juanita Stark, so on), some of the cover girls were major stars (Ingrid Bergman, Gene Tierney… ) so they aren’t interesting from an “obscure actress” standpoint, some are already profiled on other sites – and now come the lesser known starlets that are barely mentioned today. Carole Gallagher’s biggest claim to fame is definitely her marriage to the handsome cowboy actor Dick Foran, but who was the woman behind the facade? Let us find out!

EARLY LIFE

Carole Gallagher was born on February 24, 1923 in San Francisco, California to Lasher Barrington Gallagher and Carole Arlene Grogg. Her younger brother Ryan Russell was born on September 30, 1927. Another brother, Lasher Barrington Jr., was born on November 28,1928 and died the same year. Her younger sister Jacqueline Dolores was born on July 13, 1932.

Her father, Lasher Barrington Gallagher was born in San Francisco on March 11, 1895 to Robert Ferral Gallagher and Edith Barrington McTarnahan. Robert Ferral, the member of the large and influental Gallagher family that came to San Francisco from Pennsylvania in the 1850s, owned Gallagher – Marsh Business School in San Francisco. Lasher studied to be a lawyer and married to Viola Van Daalen in Dec., 1914. They divorced several years later. He had one brother, Leland, who was killed in an auto accident with his mother in June, 1916.
Lasher moved to Los Angeles around 1918. It is possible that he had a falling out with his father who remarried a teacher at his school less than a year and half after his mother’s death. In Los Angeles he married Carole and started a family with her.

Carole Jr. and her siblings grew up in an affluent environment in Santa Monica and she wanted to be an actress from early childhood. After graduation from high school she left for Hollywood, attended a drama school and was soon noticed by talent scout who signed her with MGM.

CAREER

Carole was signed by MGM in 1942 and started her career as a cutie in uncredited roles. Gangway for Tomorrow is a dated propaganda piece. We see the stories of five people working in a defense plant – how they got there, how they feel about their work and so on. It made lots of sense when it was made in 1943, but it’s hardy worth watching today. Carole then played one of the pretty, bouncy co-eds in The Falcon and the Co-eds. We all know what the Falcon movies are – a cheap man’s Saint, with George Sanders’s less charismatic brother, Tom Conway, in the lead (and boy, you couldn’t be more charismatic than George!).

CaroleGallagher1Carole’s movies got better with Girl Crazy, a Mickey Rooney movie made durign the height of his fame. As you can well imagine, acting in a Mickey Rooney movie meant something back then, even if you were nothing but a chorus girl. Anyway, it’s a great 1940s musical with Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland, the best of the genre from that time. MGM was yet to become a musical dream factory (it peaked in the 1950s) but this truly is the predecessor of the big kahuna. Thin plot, but endlessly entertaining, endearing and almost magical. Carole’s last movie under her contract was her only credited one, The Falcon Out West. It’s another Falcon movie, what more do I need to say? Typical murder mystery and so on. What goes for this movie is the impressive supporting cast – Lyle Talbot, Barbara Hale, Edward Gargan! Carole then terminated her contract to get married and raise a family. Like it often happens in Tinsel Town, it didn’t work, and she was back to the sound stage by 1947.

The movie was Hit Parade of 1947, and she played the girl in a mink coat (wanna bet she was uncredited 😛 ?). The formula for the something of (Some Year) – Follies of 1937, Big Broadcast of 1936 and so on is well-known – no story, just loads of musical numbers. This one is no different. Carole was cast next in Secret Service Investigator, a very, very low-budget crime story, with Lloyd Bridges and Lynne Roberts in the leads. The dialogue is fast and so is the action, but the sets and minimal and te overall impression is crummy. Carole was finally credited in The Denver Kid, but guess what (oh yes!) it’s a Z class Allan Lane western. Don’t ask me about the plot please (as the plot is more or less irrelevant in these kind of movies) As I said about a 100 of times, actresses should ask themselves, when they come to this point, is it really worth it? It seems that Carole really was asking herself this question by now…

CaroleGallagher3She was back in the uncredited tier in Homicide for Three, a really dumb, dull movie. The ridiculous story concerns with a young couple trying to find a hotel room, and when they finally do (after hours of fruitless searching), a murder occurs in that very room. Yawning already? And the two dim wits think they can solve the murder and instead of calling the police, they start to play Nick and Nora Charles… Ah, a total waste of time. Audrey Long as the female lead is endearing, but she’s far from the reason to watch it.

Blondie’s Secret is the 24th movie in the Blondie series, and it’s always the same old, same old. Only worth watching for Penny Singleton if nothing else. Carole made her swan song in Sands of Iwo Jima, a pretty good WW2 movie. John Wayne gives a very fine portrayal of a tough Sargent ruling his men with an iron fist – but battling his own demons at the same time (a portrayal that launched a hundreds of similar characters in movies). John Agar is less effective as the young rebel who wants to sit on his throne (Agar was never a strong actor in my book). It’s not historically nor battle correct, but it’s a powerful, moving movie that’s hard to forget. If only Carole could have appeared in more such movie,s maybe her career could have actually taken of… But sadly, this was the last we see from Carole, and she completely falls of the publicity radar from then on.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1940, Carole consoled Greg Bautzer after Lana Turner ran off with Artie Shaw (let’s not forget that Greg dated Joan Crawford at the same time…). By November, she was engaged to John Shelton – they celebrated in the Ciros nightclub and they had her mother’s approval. That turned out to be one big fat zero, as Shelton married Kathryn Grayson just a year later (and he managed to sandwich Lupe Velez in between! Boy was that Shelton something, ey?).

In mid 1942, Carole started dating Dick Foran, the handsome red-haired actor. The relationship quickly caught fire and they became inseparable. Foran was born John Nicholas Foran on June 18, 1910, in Flemington, New Jersey, on to a distinguished family: his father, Arthur Foran, was a Republican senator from New Jersey. He attended Princeton and started his career as a radio singer in the early 1930s. He was signed by Warner Bros in 1935, and played either supporting parts in big pictures and was the resident cowboy crooner. Foran was married once before, to socialite Ruth Piper Hollingsworths, and their 1940 divorce was a messy affair constantly dragged in the newspapers. They had two children: John Michael Foran (born May 29, 1938) and Patrick Foran (born on July 22, 1939).

The couple married on January 1, 1943, in Flemington, New Jersey home of Dick’s parents, and went to live in Hollywood. Their son Sean was born on February 14, 1944. However, the marriage was turbulent and they separated in September 1944, with Carole signing the divorce papers not long after.

CaroleGallagher4Howard Hughes wasted not a moment in courting Carole even before her marriage was irrevocably over. Howard had a “thing” for recently divorce, emotionally vulnerable women, and Carole was in the perfect spot for Howie back then…

In November, Carole got 200$ a month for herself and her baby boy. The couple tried reconciliation a few time during these long month, but always they ended up on the same spot they started – separation. Foran allegedly took the split extra hard, and carried a king-sized torch for Carole. They finally divorced in May 1945, after Carole testified that he humiliated her in front of other people, saying she was stupid, and that he struck her once during an argument. By the time the final divorce decree was given, Carole was dating another screen cowboy, Craig Lawrence. She also had a fling with Willis Hunt Jr, handsome playboy married in the past to Carole Landis. Dick went on to marry once more, to Susanne Rosser in 1951, and had another son, Thomas Foran on December 11, 1968. He died on August 10, 1979 in Panorama City, California.

Carole married her second husband Jimmie Ferrrara on November 27, 1946. Ferrara was born on May 11, 1920, in New York City to Soloadose Ferrara and Laura Settimo. He worked as a bit actor in Hollywood, appearing opposite some major stars – Humphey Bogart, Roy Rogers, Bill Elliot, although I can’t find his IMDB page. He dated Rita Hayworth for a while and they remained friends afterwards, and Rita even once snuck a bottle of bourbon into his jail cell after he got thrown in the brig for hitting an officer. He was also on friendly terms with Jane Russell. He was already married once before, to chorine Kathleen Corrinne Cartmill, in 1942, whom he divorced in 1944 or 1945.

With Jimmie’s approval, Carole tried to revive her career, but she never managed to make a role of any importance. Jimmie and Carole divorced in the early 1950s, and he married Margaret May Bartlett in 1954. His last marriage was to Delma Lee Collier in 1981. He was murdered on September 19, 1985 in Nevada – his wife, unhappy in their marriage, asked her lover, Rick Kosterow, and his friend, Donald White, to help her kill her husband. They ambushed Jimmie (after he came home from a vacation in Nevada) and shot him four times in the upper torso and face. The case was left unsolved for 22 years until 2006, when all three were trialed and sentenced. Delma Lee Troy (who remarried in the meantime) died in prison in 2015.

Carole married her third husband, ? McQuillan, in the late 1950s. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about the marriage, nor who the mysterious Mr. McQuillan was. The divorced sometime before 1964.

Carole married Leroy Vincent McPeek on October 11, 1964, in Nevada. McPeek was born on April 24, 1914 in Stanley, South Dakota to Clarence McPeek and Margaret Collins. He served his country in WW2.

Carole McPeek died on February 24, 1966 in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Leroy McPeek died on May 21, 1967 in Lompoc, Los Angeles, California.

 

Cindy Garner

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Publicized as the only newspaper gal who ever hit Hollywood, Cindy Garner hoped to become a mix of Lois Lane and Joan Crawford – but she was neither a top newspaper reporter during her brief writing career, nor did she ever become a great and respected actress. Yet, her story is an interesting one, very telling of how actresses tried to reinvent themselves to get to the top. Sometimes it worked, mostly it didn’t, but it always makes for some good reading.

EARLY LIFE

Elizabeth Dorothy Garner was born December 21, 1924, in High Point, North Carolina, to Douglas “Duff” and Eula Garner. Her older brothers were Neallei “Neal” Harrison, born on October 1, 1918, and Joel Martin, born on Mach 21, 1921. She attended elementary school in Robbins, where she got her first taste of acting – she appeared as a buttercup in the school play. She was bitten and there was no way back, but other things beckoned first.

Soon, her family moved to High Point, a bigger city, which gave Cindy more chance of developing her talents. She attended high school in High Point (sounds kinda poetic, doesn’t it?). Her first real claim to fame (at least locally) came when she wrote a play that was later staged by the senior class of the school. Why didn’t she act in it? In fact, Cindy’s mind wasn’t on acting that much back then – it was on writing.

Namely, Cindy, aged only 16, started writing a column for High Point Beacon, the weekly paper, named “Personality Parade”. Ambitious and ready for more, she met a impressario via one of her colleagues from High Point Beacon, and he persuaded her to try her hand at Hollywood. She decided to leave her small town to make good in movies. Not long after, she married a soldier stationed in California and went to Los Angeles with him in 1943. She started from the bottom, doing menial work until her big break came.

Cindy worked as a cigarette girl at the Hollywood hotspot Ciro. Afterwards she would recall how she was once tipped 20$ for a 1$ cigar by Hollywood legend George Jessel. It was during her tenure here that a talent scout saw her and arranged for a screen test. She started acting in 1944 as a Goldwyn girl.

CAREER

Cindy signed with Samuel Goldwyn, the collector of beautiful women who seldomly catapulted to stardom (of literary hundreds of girls who became Goldwyn girls, about 10 of them managed a more substantial career – I plan to profile more of them, so watch out).

CindyGarner2Her first movie was Up in Arms, and as I already wrote countless of times, I’m not going to waste any more words on it. She again played a showgirl in Show Business, a pastiche of vaudeville numbers one after another, with no plot to speak of. Fans of Eddie Cantor could like it, but it’s not a movie worth bragging about. Cindy finally landed in a more worthwhile movie with Since You Went Away, the classic family in wartime film. The brain child of David Selznick, its best known today for its august cast – Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley and so on. Showing the daily life of families left behind during WW2, it’s sincere, well acted and written – if it is a bit syrupy on the edges, remember that it was made during the war, and people needed their Mrs. Minivers and other light-beats-the-dark characters very, very much. This is classic Hollywood at it’s best – it’s not a superbly inspired, artistic movie, but it’s perfectly made for the source material and does it’s job more than admirably.

CindyGarner4Cindy was out of musicals and into serious movie fare now. She appeared in You Came Along, a pretty good romance movie. The cast is a mixed bag – Robert Cummings, Dom DeFore, Lizabeth Scott – but they pull it off nicely and we have a pretty mature, not too sugary romance set during WW2. This time it’s not the domestic life but rather the aviation world. This was followed by A Scandal in Paris, one of the early Douglas Sirk movies. Headed by the king of wit and irony, George Sanders, it boasts a mid level cast (Carole Landis, Signe Hasso, Akim Tamiroff) but the main selling points are George himself and the witty, sparkling script laden with no many innuendos and moral ambiguity it was impossible for any censor of average intelligence to actually make out what is happened between the scenes and try to “trim” it. The result is a flawed but very amusing romp about the rise (and rise!) of a criminal mastermind – he becomes the chief of police! – and the very nature of morals and ethics. Sirk is a very European director, despite all of his later day US melodramas, and it’s nowhere as obvious as here. Cindy’s last movie under her contract was Till the End of Time – another movie dealing with the GIs-return-home scenario. While Since you went away was a general crowd pleaser (but very well made) – this ia a more subversive, less “sugary” movie, with a realistic plot and very complex characters. Yet, where Since you went away had a first class cast – here we have actors like Guy Madison, who, while a pretty boy by all standards, was a mediocre actor at his best. Luckily, we have Robert Mitchum and Dorothy McGuire to make it up for his shortcomings.

CindyGarner3After her career soured in 1946, Cindy took up modeling and became a fixture in the Los Angeles modeling scene, all the time hoping for another try at movies. She appeared in magazines like Esquire, Hit, Modern Romance, Modern Screen and so on. Also she allegedly appeared in productions staged for soldiers at army bases, sharpening her acting skills.

The patience paid off – after five years off the screen, she was again given the chance to act – Universal International signed her for a seven year contract in 1951. Her biography was slightly modified – hoping the public had short memory (and it does!), they claimed she had been in Los Angeles for just two years, doing modeling work, managing to neglect the fact that she was a Goldwyn girl once and that she has some movie experience. Not to mention her marital state (this was carefully hidden from the press, as they liked them young and unmarried back then)!

Her first UI movie appearance was in Week-End with Father, a cozy, simple family movie about two widowers with children who meet while going camping. Guess how it ends. Good cast is headed by Patricia Neal and Van Helfin. This is a kind of likable movie with no big depth that most of us probably enjoy to watch on occasion, and the kind that it’s truly hard to stumble upon today. It really is a movie from different times – but that’s okay, the world changes and the movie industry had to change with it… Cindy appeared as a stewardess in Meet Danny Wilson, a movie as similar to Week end with Father as it is different from it. The story (a nightclub singer tries to break into the nightclub circuit, and gets mixed up with some criminals and finds love along the way) may be more hard-boiled, but it’s still a light early 1950s movie with plenty of charm and not too much depth. It’s a very good vehicle for Sinatra – he gets to sing a bucket load of songs and the character he plays is an expy of himself (don’t tell me you didn’t get it :-P). Shelley Winters, a good but abrasive actress (her autobiographies are fun to read but one can easily notice that Shirley, despite all of her talents and wit, had a huge ego…), plays his romantic interest.

CindyGarner8Her next movie was Flame of Araby is a typical desert epic Universal churned out frequently after achieving great success with his Maria Montez/Jon Hall pairings. Here we have Jeff Chandler and Maureen O’Hara, better actors than both Montez and Hall, but boy, this genre doesn’t ask for great Shakespearean actors – it asks for some nice eye candy who doesn’t look ridiculous while prodding around the desert. Chandler and O’Hara try and manage somehow – and the art direction and cinematography are wonderful, you can see they have plenty of experience in that department – but as always, the story and the overall dynamic fo the movie is lacking. All style, little substance.

Cindy finally got her credited performance in Red Ball Express, where she plays a Red Cross worker. The movie deals with behind the lines machinations in WW2 – and I have to say, I always forget that war takes a lot of logistics just as important to the war cause as hand to hand combat. Jeff Chandler is a leader of a motley crew of former truckers that supply the Allies with weapons in Europe during the height of war. The sure reason to watch this movie is however not the story but the fact that Sidney Poitier has a meaty role in it – and boy, Sidney is worth watching anywhere! The rest of the cast is plenty good with Chandler, a solid actors, of course Poitier, and Alex Nicol, Hugh O’Brian, Jack Kelly and so on. While the movie does steer towards the clichéd war movie of the 1950s, it’s still a decent effort.

Cindy’s last appearance was in a movie that debuted in cinemas after she left Hollywood, Ma and Pa Kettle at Waikiki, one of the last in the long running series, with our favorite hillbillies in, where else? but Hawaii.

That was all from Cindy as far as Hollywood goes.

PRIVATE LIFE

Cindy was 5’4”, tipping the scales at just 100 pounds. She was renown for her fair complexion – she revealed that her secret was “washing your face with buttermilk every night before going to bed,” an old advice given to her by her mother.

CindyGarner5Cindy was married to a North Carolina soldier who was stationed in California, and she followed him there. The marriage was short-lived and they divorced before she started acting.

Cindy married to a Mr. Marshall in 1946 (I can’t find any information about the man, but he was allegedly from a showbiz family and well off). Their daughter, Cathy Jo Marshall, was born on January 25, 1948.

In 1951, she lived alone in an apartment in North Hollywood (where was her daughter??), and was active in the war effort work – she traveled to the Fairfield-Susan Airbase near San Francisco every weekend to entertain the troops. She sang a lot of standards and did skits for them. Kudos to Cindy for thinking of the servicemen more than herself – when you work hard during the week, it’s even harder not to give up and just stay at home during the weekend. Cindy was also a typical outdoor type of a girl: she excelled at swimming, tennis and bowling. She was also a decent painter, and always had a black cat in the house as a pet, proving she was not superstitious. Like most writers, she was an avid reader and collected books of verse.

When she signed with Universal International, she underwent an ambitious training programme: four days n the week she studies dramatics with coach Sophie Rosenstein, twice a week she takes ballet and tap dancing lessons, and gymnastics once a week. Hailing from North Carolina, she was a fine horsewoman, but still chose to take raiding lessons the studio gave her.

CindyGarner6A funny think happened to Cindy and fellow starlet Judith Braun when they were traveling by train to Chicago. On the train was Francis X. Bushman, noted silent film player who had fallen into obscurity since the dawn of talking movies (he played Messala in the silent version of Ben Hur – and boy, did he look good in the roman grab!), and Betty Blythe, also a popular actress back then. When the foursome descended in Chicago, they were mobbed – but not by handsome young men wanting to see Cindy and Judith, but by grannies who went wild when seeing Bushman, the idol of their youth! Boy, I wish I was there to see it… Pretty funny…

Cindy appeared quite a lot in the papers in the early 1950s, and Universal International used her extensively for touring and publicity, and sadly not too much for movies. She had a nationwide tour with Frank Van, the famous ex boxer who served as a trainer for all Universal International concractees, and later one tour with the velvet voiced crooner, Kenny Baker. In 1952, we finally find out something about her private life – she was dating Rudy Ralston. The relationship lasted for about a year.

CindyGarner7UI terminated her contract in 1952, and she made one last uncredited performance in 1955. Her marriage ended bitterly. Alone, with no job and with a daughter of support, Cindy fell on hard times and it took a toll on her psyche. By 1954, she was mentally unstable and it was decided that she and Cathy Jo would go back to North Carolina – Cathy to live with relatives, and Cindy to go under the care of her mother. Unfortunately, there was little that Mrs. Garner could do for Cindy, and soon she was in and out of mental hospitals, undergoing electroshock treatments and unable to work. I can only imagine how difficult the those years were for Cindy, but the only answer then is to push on, keep going, and actively work to get things to roll.

Things did get better as time went by and Cindy managed to recuperate herself and continue to live normally. She married Jerry Gray in the 1960s or 1970s, and lived with him in High Point. Gray was born on February 2, 1935, making him 11 years Cindy’s junior. They divorced after 1992.

Dorothy Elizabeth Garner Gray died on January 2, 2002, in Sanford, North Carolina.

Jerry Gray died on May 22, 2004, in Trinity, North Carolina.

 

Madelon Mason

MadeonMason3

 

When I saw Madelon Mason on the cover of Yank the Army Weekly, I was intrigued. She had such a cute, gentle, girl-next-door vibe, unlike many other more “vampish” cover girls, and I had to investigate. Much like Rita Daigle, Madelon Mason never made any splashes in Hollywood, but she was a very succesful model in the 1940s, earning good bucks for her job.

EARLY LIFE

Madelon Samandl was born on  July 4, 1921 in Cleveland, Ohio, to Jerry Samandl and Virginia Conway. Her parents married on November 30, 1920, when Virginia was already pregnant with Madelon. Virginia, born in 1901 and just 19 years old, worked as a model before marriage. Jerry was the son of Czech immigrants, Johanna and Vaclac. They lived in their house when Madelon was born, and for the first few months of her life. Jerry had served in World War 1, and suffered from PTSP after his return. Jerry and Virginia separated when Madelon was a baby, but never divorced. Jerry went to live in Chicago.

Virginia and madelon moved to Virginia’s native Lowell, Massachusets after the separation. She grew up in Lowell, and graduated from Lowell High School there.

She continued her education in Boston (have no idea what college), where she entered the world of modeling. She changed her name to the more english sounding Mason. Before long she ended up in New York, and became a top flight Harry Conover model. She shaved 6 years from her CV and presented herself as a fresh-faced 17-year-old, when in fact she was 23 years when she started modeling. However, this was no great hamper to her – due to her porcelain beauty and natural ash blonde hair, Madelon was soon in the game. She was a top model by 1945, and this propelled her to a brief visit to Hollywood. Her mother always followed her. I’m not sure if she divorced her father – but I do know that, in the meantime, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, where many of his cousins lived.

CAREER

MadelonMason2Madelon is pretty slim in this regard – she only had one appearance that we know of, and a short feature at that! Dear Miss Gloria is a short comedy skit with Gloria Swanson, truly one of the most stunning divas ever to grace the silver screen (while some people just can’t take the pressure of fame and end up deeply unhappy, even dead – Gail Russell is a good example – some people thrive on it and became the most willing participants in the publicity game. Such personalities are much better suited for Hollywood than the gentle, sensitive ones – and Gloria was the woman whom Hollywood suited like a glove. When she was on top, she enjoyed it to the hilt, when the good times passed she reinvented herself. What a dame!). Sadly, the short is completely forgotten today and I have nothing to say about it. Better luck next time!

Her newspaper bio from the early 1950s state that she appeared in numerous TV shows, but I couldn’t find any credits, so there’s kaput again.

PRIVATE LIFE

MadelonMason1In her prime, Madelon was 5’6” tall and weighted 115 pounds. Madelon gave some useful advice to her readers:

“Make your bath a daily beauty treatment” suggests lovely model Madelon Mason. “Time spent in the tub can be made to serve a double purpose – cleansing and toning up – if you follow the bathroom routine of this model. After a day packed with appointments Madelon comes home, removed her make up, smears a coat of nourishing night cream and slips into a tub of ward water with a handful of lavender scented meal dissolved in it.

While she leans back in the tub and relaxes, the meal gently loosens minute articles of rough skin, leaving it soft and smooth when the briskly towels herself dry. Meanwhile, the cream is eradicating any drying effect the weather may have had on the skin.

With the stiff nail brush, Madelon scrubs her feet thoroughly, using lots of soap. The friction restored her circulation to normal, and the soap softens any rough patches of skin on the soles of her feet – thus preventing callouses and corns. Also, as an aid to circulation,she scrubs her back the entire length of her spine. A cool rinse, a sparkling of talcum, and she’s ready for an evening of fun!

In December 1945, Madelon was THE cover girl of the moment. She appeared on the covers of such prestigious magazines like Life, Yank, Seventeen and so on. Harry Conover called her “the wholesome, refreshing type of girlwho looks, just like the girl next door or down the street, but perhaps a little prettier. So she seems like an old friend to the boys whether they on the cover of a candy box, a magazne of a refrigerator ad”. He continued: “Madelon uses very little make up, doesn’t smoke or drink and doesn’t like nightclubs.”

MadelonMasonNewspaperTruly, Madelon was a homegirl, living with her mother in Manhattan, avoiding nightclubs and making very good money of her looks. She earned about 400$ a week during the height of her fame, much better than alternative jobs offered to women in showbiz – being a minor actress, or being a showgirl.  In 1951, she was named one of the overall beauties of the decade, along with such luminaries like Rhonda Fleming, Virginia Mayo, Blanche Thebom and Faye Emerson (while Rhonda and Virginia were incredibly beautiful women, I never found Faye to be a stunner – she was a woman with great personality and talent more than a looker, but to each his own).

While much of the publicity in the 1940s and 1950s was make-believe, Madelon truly was an earthy, calm person who never made any newspaper fodder. Her love life was a completely mystery to the public until she married her first and only husband, Frank Foster in late 1956. Frank worked in the lobster-shirt (a popular name for the shift that covers the late evening and early morning hours) of some newspaper (they just called it News – maybe New York news or something similar?). Madelon gave up modeling work to dedicate herself to family life. Sadly, I couldn’t find any information about who Frank really was, or did they have any children.

Madelon Foster died on September 14, 2011, in New York City, New York.

 

 

PS: Happy new year!! All the best in 2016!!!

NewYear