Elaine Shepard

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We are continuing our Yank Cover Girls marathon… This is taking much longer than I thought, but there are tons of girls to profile so I’m on it. One by one. My own calculations tell me I’ll be over with the girls in May or June… Anyway, back to Elaine. She has been one of the most unusual and intriguing women I have profiled so far… You wanna see why? Without spoiling too much, Elaine truly was a woman of the world who had great plans for herself and achieved some of them. It wasn’t an easy road – she was far from perfect, not a talented actress and only one of a large number of beauties that swarmed Hollywood at that time. She had impediments on every corner, but fought like a bull and did wonders with her career. She had an incredibly interesting life! Want to learn more? Well read on!

EARLY LIFE

Elaine Elizabeth Shepard was born on April 3, 1913, in Olney, Illinois, to Thomas J. Shepard and Bernice Shepard. Thomas was a widower when he married Bernice, and brought three children into the marriage –  Mable, Burl and Thomas Jr. her younger brother Elbert would be born in 1917. She was an imaginative, active, endearing child who always had big plans for herself.

However, the Shepherds did not have enough money to send Elaine to college, and money became even tighter after her parents divorced in the mid 1920s. So, by that time, Elaine decided to make her own luck. She started taking tap dancing lessons, and paid for them by doing housework for her tap teacher. However, after she graduated from high school, she decided against a dancing career, opting to become a secretary. She had to mortgage her piano to pay the 40$ of down payment for the course. So, she attended and graduated from McKeendre College in Lebanon, Illinois, and became a capable typist. Interesting in dramatics from her earliest days, she was active in college’s drama department.

After graduating from business college, Elaine started to work as a typist, but soon hit a slump and lost her job. Just at that time her mother, who suffered from serious respiratory problems, was ordered by her doctor to move to a less harsh climate than the one in Illinois. They packed their bags, and by sheer change, decided to move to San Diego. Elaine and her mom arrived therewith nothing but 86 cents in their pockets. That same day, Elaine wormed her way into a steady job – while having breakfast in a restaurant, she saw that the premonitory carried a pin from the same order that her mother belonged to (what order? Have no idea!). She used the connection and shed a few tears to get a job behind the counter.

A very active woman, Elaine was soon juggling two jobs – working behind the counter and ticket seller at a nearby cinema. She saw star struck not long after, ad started to seriously contemplate an acting career. But that was still a dream too far away at the moment. However, only patience and some will power was required, as Elaine was closer than she ever knew! She started modeling to earn more money, and won a day trip to Agua Caliente, where she won about 170$ at the gambling tables (and mailed it to her mother right away).

While working in the theater, she was noted by an agent who sent her to model in Palm Springs. While bowling there, she was noted by Mrs. Milton Bren, wife of noted producer. Impressed by Elaine’s beauty, charm and grace, she told her to contact her husband. Soon, Elaine landed in Hollywood and, due to her dancing background, started appearing as a member of the chorus for the studios, but never did any movies. It wasn’t until she was noted by choreographer Hermes Pan that she finally got in front of the camera.

CAREER

Elaine had a three part career in Hollywood – one from 1936 until 1938, again in 1940, then from 1943 until 1945. She made her last movie in 1951, but it was a sole effort after several years of retirement, so I did not count it as a stage.

ElaineShepard6Elaine’s first role was a lead in the Darkest Africa serial, the very first made by Republic studios, which would become a prolific serial movie maker in the decade to come. What to say? While acting in serials is in no way the top of the world for an actor, it’s better than acting in western serials… Anyway, Darkest Africa is a decent example – fast-moving and action-packed, with a  good lead (Clyde Beatty) and adequate support (Elaine is the love interest). The special effects are remarkable considering the year it was made and it’s not a bad effort, all in all. Elaine could have done much worse for her official debut.

I Cover Chinatown is a very, very minor movie that proved that the right director could make something out of nothing. The story is thin and the actors only mediocre, but director Norman Foster (and main actor, but less talented as actor than as a director) rises above these restrictions to produce a nice comedy/drama with horror touches. It was clear by this time that Elaine, despite her beauty, was not an actress who set the camera aflame. She was adequate enough, but that was hardy enough to warrant anyone cinematic immortality. She didn’t’ have that extra something, that pizzazz that made great Hollywood stars. Too bad…

ElaineShepard5Then Elaine did what I always dread when first looking at an actress’ filmography – she started in a low-budget western! Two of them to be exact… Law of the Ranger and The Fighting Texan. As always, the less said about these movies, the better…

Elaine than had a minor role in Topper, a hilarious Cary Grant comedy, about a couple of crazy wheeling ghosts who decide to stir their stuffy friend out of his comfort zone. The real strength of the movie is Constance Bennett however – her career was on the wane by 1937, but Connie was a stunning woman and enchanting actress. Not a great actress, mind you, but she had something going for her. She was unusually graceful but also hard core – like a fairy that will smack you over the head. So great… However, Elaine’s career was on the downs like by then. She appeared in Night ‘n’ Gales, a Our Gang short, as Darla’s mother… As you know, nobody ever watched the grown ups in those movies – its regular work, not anything that will catapult you anywhere…

Then came a promising movie… Professor Beware , the comeback vehicle for Harold Lloyd. Lloyd plays an archaeologist who falls for the daughter of a tycoon and finds himself fighting the forces of Wall Street and fate itself to get the young lady. Lloyd’s character is trying to fight an apparent curse from the tomb that he opened. I understand the situation Lloyd was n when he made this – as a major 1920s star, the expectations were VERY high (almost astronomical) and this movie, while a decent effort with some good moments, didn’t quite measure up to it. Yep, the movie was cursed way before it even hit the theaters. Elaine’s role was so minuscule that she wouldn’t have profited from it even if the movie were a smash, but this only cemented her already shaky status in Hollywood. The most damaged party was the pretty young leading actress, Phyllis Welch, who never made another movie after this one.

ElaineShepard3She squeezed only one more minor role in There Goes My Heart. At a first glance, it’s a It happened one night rip off, with the same story – but behind the facade, it’s a silly comedy with a superb cast. Frederic March has been a long time favorite of mine, and can do no wrong in my eyes. Virginia Bruce, not a typical screwball movie heroine, is pretty decent enough. The laughs go to Patsy Kelly and rest of the supporting cast is excellent (Claude Gillingwater, Eugene Palette, Arthur Lake, Alan Mowbray). For a light, funny watch, recommended!

Elaine went to New York and got discovered again, and signed with RKO. She appeared in only one movie – You Can’t Fool Your Wife. It’s a pedestrian, nothing out of the ordinary, even boring comedy movie with a lot of mix ups and that’s about it… Charming leads (Lucille Ball and James Ellison in this case) can sometimes save the movie – but not this one! With this, Elaine again gave up movie work… Only to return in Hollywood in 1943!

Her first movie this time around was The Falcon in Danger, the sixth in the series and second with Tom Conway as the hero. The movie actually had a pretty good plot (taken from imdb: A small airplane comes in to land at an airport but it drifts off course and crashes. The police investigate but find the plane empty – totally empty. The plane was meant to have a couple of wealthy industrialists on board as well as a shipment of money. When the daughter of one of the men (Nancy Palmer) gets a ransom note she goes to Tom Lawrence for help), but nothing else measures up – the actor are all B class, the interplay between Elaine and the other femme fatale, played by Jean Brooks, is lacking to put it mildly, and last but not least, Falcon’s fiancée, played by Amelita Ward, is one of the worst characters on this side of Jar Jar Binks

ElaineShepard2Seven Days Ashore is one hot mess of a movie – the movie officially stars Art Carney and and Wally Brown is supposed to be a straight comedy with the duo in the leads, but in the end more screen time is given to Elaine and Gordon Oliver, who play a straight romance movie. Then we have Marcy McGuire, the songstress, who plays like it’s a straight musical. Too much of everything but not in a good way. Forgettable movie in the end…

Elaine finally appeared in something of value – Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a very good war movie with a great cast (not all equally talented, but famous nonetheless): Van Johnson, Robert Walker, Spencer Tracy, Robert Mitchum, Phyllis Thaxter and so on…

Elaine had a small role in Ziegfeld Follies, a musical famous enough that I don’t really need to write anything about it. No plot, good music and dancing, great production values, and that’s about it…

Elaine put a stop on her career for the third time, and only appeared in one more movie – Fiamme sulla laguna, a forgotten Italian drama. And then, she’s gone (from the movies of course)!

PRIVATE LIFE

In Late October 1936, it was announced that Elaine would wed Terry Hunt, studio physical director, on Thanks Giving. The two were introduced by Frederic March, who was to be best man. The two did not wed in November 1936, but continued their engagement. However, it was a very short lived engagement (or a overly long one, depends how you see it), as by October 1937, they were broken up and both dated other people (Elaine was seen with Marc Connelly around town). Then, they did marry in late 1937. Ups and downs, ups and downs… Their marriage seemed to be more of the same…

ElaineShepard1In April 1939, Elaine was looted from most of her jewels by an unknown assailant. She is the Nth woman who was looted that I have profiled, so I guess a very powerful thief group operated in Hollywood in the late 1930s/early 1940s.

In early 1938, Elaine decided to try her luck in New York and forgo her acting career, even refusing a contact with Republic Studios. Sounds a bit daffy, as most models go the other route, but let’s think about it – signing with Republic studios meant you were to play female leads in Z class westerns. BAD! Elaine shrewdly knew what was coming for her if she aid yes to the contract, and knowing very well that she could make more money modeling, went east. Elaine seemed to enjoy the work very much, and was known as one of the most versatile models around. She could impersonate Hedy Lamarr, Carole Lombard, Joan Bennett like it’s nobody’s business. She was titled as “The perfect model” of 1939 by a group of esteemed photographers. However, when better studios started calling (namely RKO), she jumped at the chance to return to Hollywood and acting. Elaine had to remove her wisdom tooth around this time, and for a few days after she could not be photographed as her jaw was constantly “off focus”.

Elaine dated a Chicago attorney before returning to Hollywood, then ditched him to date Greg Bautzer. One attorney for another, but I guess Elaine knew that Bautzer dated every good looking girl in Hollywood, and she was just one of many. She and Greg actually lasted for a few months, which is a pretty good track record for dating the notorious Lothario (she made the rounds for her birthday in April 1940 with him, although her estranged husband Terry bought her a fur coat!). Around this time, Elaine disclosed the secret of her perfect figure to the press – she did the hot water shaker –  first she drank two glasses of water, then stands on her  head and shakes her body. Whoa Nelly!

In the meantime, Elaine separated from her husband, and her started dating Patricia Morison (whom he helped shed the pounds). They finally divorced in May 1940. By then, Hunt operated his own sports club. He and Patricia never did get to the altar (I love Patricia, she is such an incredibly beautiful, enchanting actress! So sad she never got the recognition she deserves!). Of course, the divorce had its ups and downs, the will or won’t they… For a time in early 1941, Elaine was ready to return to her former groom, but was also dating S. Rosenblatt on the side (who owned a chicken farm). Anyway, she and Terry continued to date for some time after the divorce was made final. I find this very perplexing, but I guess that two people can enjoy each other’s company occasional, but are just not cut out to be married?

ElaineShepard12In August 19412, she was on the cover of Cosmopolitan, wearing the wings of Noel Vincent, pilot. Oh dear, who knows what happened there… By July, she was dating Bob Ritchie, once the heart of Jeanette McDonald… In December, she raised men’s pulses by wearing a nude colored chiffon gown to a Broadway premiere. However, by February she was in the hospital, about to have a major operation, but I couldn’t find more information about it…

In May 1942, Elaine announced her engagement to Pierre Huss, International Wars Service Correspondent. Huss was in Tunisia, North Africa ta the moment, and asked her to marry him via cable. She cabled a positive answer back to him. Pierre wired her 1000$ to buy herself an engagement ring. Elaine spend the entire sum on war bonds. Around this time, Elaine returned to Hollywood yet again and was constantly yin the papers. She gave some tips of how to take care of your eyebrows:

First she sues cold cream, rubs a lot into her eyebrows, brushed them every which way and then, after removing as much as much cream as she can with a tissue, she bathes the brows with hot water – as hot as she can take it. Then she takes out the tweezers and removes the errant hairs with no problem at all!

Now, what exactly happened to Huss remains a mystery, but Elaine married George F. Hartman in a surprise ceremony in Mafra, Texas, on October 4, 1943. She came to Marfa in September to sell war bonds, and the two met – and were stunned to rem embed that his brother was Elaine’s childhood sweetheart back in Illinois, but they had not seen each other for years! Puff, and a month alter, they were wed! Unfortunately, the couple had only a few days together, as George was sent overseas to fight, and Elaine was summoned back to Hollywood to resume her career.

In the absence of her husband, Elaine was very active in the war effort, touring the country with her co-star Charles Ruggles and selling thousands dollars worth of war bonds. In May 1944, Elaine had barely seen her husband for more than 5 days and was hoping he was to return home soon. Sadly, her mother was just then struck by a car somewhere in Hollywood, and Elaine nursed her to health. In the meantime, Hartman got a Soldier’s Medal for rescuing his comrades from a burning tank, and met with Paulette Goddard in Spain, where he gave Paulette his Wing so she can give them to Elaine.

ElaineShepard10In 1945, George returned home from the war, and he and Elaine established a solid marriage, moving to Mobile, Alabama, where he was stationed. Opting to work in the world of aviation, George became a adviser to companies specializing in Air travel all around the World. So, in 1949, he was posted as a Turkish Airlines Adviser and the couple were living in Istanbul. Elaine hopped to Rome once in a while to make a movie (she also did the Billie Dawn role in Born Yesterday on stage in Rome) or go shopping. She was a champion bridge player, spoke some French, Italian and Turkish, and visited Orson Welles in Venice when he was playing Othello there. She later said about her experience in living in Istanbul:

“It was delightful living in Istanbul. The city is a lovely combination of old and new – modern buildings and those that go back centuries; cobblestone streets and modern highways. Our house was built in 1946 so Colonel Hartman and I had the same conveniences as we have here in New York. There was no servant problem., Constantine settled that. Of Greek, Italian and Turkish descent, he is a chef by profession but he did everything at out house. The only drawback was that while he spoke Russian Greek and Turkish he spoke no English. So we were forces to learn some Turkish. I finally acquired enough to get along at home and in the city. I I also learned enough Italian to get by with fellow workers in the picture.”

By 1951 they were home, and Elaine had a health scare – she went to the Red Cross to donate blood, but when the doctors saw her blood, she was immediately transferred to a hospital, where a tumor was discovered and operated on. She managed to recuperate pretty quickly. By 1953, the couple had settled in Washington, and were very active on the social circuits. Elaine was known for her parties (she even had a party with wild animals) and wrote a column, dealing with the Washington social scene, for the local newspapers.
Elaine and George separated in 1957, but lingered on and off. Thy even flew as a couple to the South Pole in late 1957 (imagine when Elaine canceled her lunch plans with Tedi Thurman, she told him “Sorry, can’t come, gotta fly to the South Pole! Can’t imagine how Tedi felt…). Unfortunately, the reunion didn’t work, and they divorced in 1958. She dated Aly Khan in 1958 (who didn’t)! Elaine continued working as a free lance writer, and fought tooth and nail to get commissions usually reserved for men. She also dabbled in masculine past times – she became a truly proficient poker player and won big money in some tournaments (she played with the biggies at Jack Hurdle’s apartments, among others). In 159, she was the only female correspondent (working for Women’s New Service) who traveled with President Eisenhower when he toured 11 countries. She also became quite chummy with Mamie Eisenhower, the First Lady

Elaine was especially impressed by India and president Nehru, whom she had the honor of seeing with his “cap off”. She dated Khrishna Menon while there. She also visited Congo. By late 1951, she was home again and started dating published George Little, and later was very much in love with a fellow correspondent, Russian Count Constantine Zernekau. She lived for some time in Paris, where she interviewed a large number of notables, among them Juraj Ganarin (and continued to date Zernekau).

ElaineShepard9In 1962, after 18 months of writing, Elaine’s book, “Forgive us our press passes”, was published. She was a hit with the readers, and the book was deemed a witty and sparkling read. Here is a Kirkus review of the book:

Though forgiveness may be in order on the title too, Elaine Shepard is a woman who has really been places and seen things. She reports on them with the verve of a young girl, perception of an inveterate newshawk, and the wit of a high-priced comedy writer. For only a few years, she has lived in the “”methodical havoc”” of the international correspondent, as a reporter for North American Newspaper Alliance and Women’s News Service syndicates (“”when Rosy — my editor — handed me my accreditation. I vowed that if I interviewed the devil himself, I’d stick to the facts””). She arrived in this “”honorable and coveted position”” via Hollywood, Broadway, John Robert Powers’ agency, diplomatic hostessing in major world capitals (as the former wife of an Air Force officer) and TV in Washington (Rosy “”did not share some people’s opinion that all actresses have the IQ of a marble””). Her book covers trips with the Eisenhower entourage, interviews with Castro and Gagarin, press conferences with Patrice Lumumba, and a short tour of duty in Russia (“”modern buildings can best be described as Soviet Gothic or Early Hallowe’en). Her material is thoughtful, interesting, and very, very funny.

Elaine continued her journalistic career. She was posted for a time in Haiti when Papa Doc Duvalier took over the reins of the country. In 1965, she was sent to cover the Vietnam war. In 1967, her second book, about her experience in Vietnam, called The Doom Pussy, was published. Here is a review:

The Doom Pussy crouches in wait for American pilots when they fly their missions over North Vietnam. Elaine Shepard has been there and seen the Pussy. She has brought back a bouncy recall of the men in the air and on the ground, whether flying into the jaws of the terrible cat or tearing shirts afterwards to let off steam. She came to know Smash, beseeched and sought after by the passionate Mercy Belle back in the States, and Nails, who beseeched and sought after her. She joined in their revels and their raids, moves from ribaldry and revelry at R&R (rest and recreation) periods to the tense and trying moments of combat. “”The sharpest Negro pilot in Vietnam”” died in her arms after they had been shot down and picked up; she saw Dickey Chapelle “”crumpled on her right side in the weeds and dirt like a broken doll.”” From such experiences is hard to be neutral, and she closes her book with George Washington’s words: “”If we desire to secure peace, it must be known that we are at all times ready for war.”” This is a book about the flyboys, held aloft by admiration for their courage and understanding of their off-duty flings. It has glamor and guts, and may well hit a market no other Vietnam book has, the ladies.

Also interesting to note, Elaine and first and foremost a woman who like do to shop – when she was in Vietnam, she cashed more than 40 000$ worth of money orders, and had to have her visa and passport revoked since cashing that much money violated military rules. However, this ended up being Elaine’s last big journalistic adventure.

ElaineShepard13Elaine dated some prominent men of that time – former ambassador Henry Taylor and Washington Redskins owner, George Preston Marshall (the former husband of Corinne Griffith). However, she did not remarry following her split from Hartmann. Elaine also had a long standing feud with fellow scribe Dorothy Killgallen – Dorothy wrote a blind item about a female reported who slept with Clark Gable to get an interview (the girl in question was Elaine of course), and later another blind item, when Elaine traveled around with the Eisenhower entourage (as the only woman), Dorothy accused them of doing wild orgies on the plane. Elaine sued Dorothy for slander, but Dorothy walked of victorious.

Elaine retired from active correspondent duty in the early 1970s, and slowly slipped of the newspaper radar. She moved to New York City for good and lived the rest of her days there.

Elaine Shepard died on September 6, 1998, in New York City, New York.

 

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Ramsay Ames

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I was unpleasantly surprised just how little information about Ramsay Ames in available on the net. She wasn’t an obscure actress back in the 1940s, and today she has a firm fan base, mostly made out of camp classic lovers. And, to top it all of, she truly was an interesting woman. My biggest pleasure in writing this blog comes from learning more about the lives of strong, interesting women who lived life their own way. Ramsay, for all her shortcomings, was one such a woman. She was a band leader at the time when women didn’t even play in bands, let alone lead them, and she left behind a life in Hollywood to expand her professional credibility. Well, I’ll try to remedy this lack of information! Let’s begin!

EARLY LIFE

Rita Rebecca Phillips Ames was born on March 30, 1924, in Brooklyn, New York,to Edouard Ames and his wife, Violett Phillips. (Her imdb, Wikipedia and other paged claim she was born in 1919. her social security death number also says this, but many other documents on Family Search claim her birth year in 1924. This corresponds to some ramification I have found about Ramsay in the papers, so I’ll take this year as a reference).

Rita Rebecca grew up in Jackson Heights, New York, in a well to do family. She attended a swank private school, Edgewood Park School and Walter Hillhouse School in Briarcliff Manor. However, Ramsay was just no cut out to be a socialite – she was a hyper energetic, lively girl, and had a burning desire to do something. So, at 15, she started modeling for John Powers agency. During one assignment, she had to wear a dancers grab and shimmy in a rhythm of some exotic tune – she liked it so much she decided to take up dancing at the Walter Hillhouse Dancing School. She trained with a partner for a few months then started to dance professionally. When they were dancing in Miami, he was drafted by the Immigration department, thus had to return to his native country somewhere in South America.

Stranded without a partner, unable to find anyone to replace him, Ramsay took up singing. Soon she was singing at the plush Stork club, and noticed by impresario Gus Martel. He gave Ramsay free reign of her very own band. He soon left for Las Vegas, leaving Ramsay completely on her own. Ramsay learned the hard way just how difficult it was to be a band leader, but managed to pull it through, even enjoyed her work very much. This was just before the attack on Pearl Harbor happened. Her band played in places like Stork, La Conga and Famous Doors club.

However, WW2 started and most of her band members were drafted. Left with just an “anemic piano player”, she was highly unsatisfied with the situation. To make things worse, she was nursing a bad back injury and couldn’t dance as well as before – she decided enough was enough and returned to modeling. In 1943, she went to California to visit her ailing mother.On the airport she met Harry Cohn, the president of Columbia, who told her to call him when she landed in Hollywood. She did contact him and somehow got a contract not with Columbia, but with Universal. She started her career in 1943.

CAREER

Ramsay was the local queen of the Bs in the early 1940s, enjoying a semi successful career.

Ramsay had the luck to actually have a credited performance in her first movie – Two Señoritas from Chicago. This is very much forgotten today, and it has exactly 0 reviews on IMDB. What can I say, it’s a typical low-budget comedy of errors with a cast of fine but B level actors: Ramsay, Ann Savage, Jinx Falkenburg.

RamsayAmes4Ramsay next appeared in Crazy House, as did many other Universal International stars. It’s a Ole Olsen – Chic Johnson film, a typical anarchic comedy in the vein of the Marx brothers. It’s one of the their best efforts, with an actually pretty decent mix up story and some good gags. Percy Killbride kills it as the old man who everybody think (including himself) is a millionaire but is actually broke (love Percy!). Ramsay and her band have a short cameo.

Ramsay ended 1943 with Calling Dr. Death, a mind-fuck movie before the term was even coined. The plot roughly (taken from IMDB): Dr. Steele (Lon Chaney Jr.) is a psychiatrist married to a cheating wife who refuses to give him a divorce. He’s in love with his nurse (Patricia Morison) who loves him back. Then he blacks out one weekend and awakens to find his wife was brutally murdered. Did he do it or is he being set up?

The movie glides like a surreal ship down mystic waters, full of symbolism and mystery, giving you the sense that nothing is what it seems, like the viewer himself is hypnotized. It’s more mesmerizing than high quality, but truly an interesting viewing experience. Ramsay plays the cheating wife, and while she’s stunning to look at, she’s a wooden actress. Unfortunately, this would not change much in the future.

1944 was the best year for Ramsay’s movie career. She made 7 movies, among them her best known. She was in Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, a escapist Oriental fare that bloomed during WW2, often with Maria Montez and Jon Hall in the leads.  Ramsay Ames is the (quote from IMDB): incredibly HOT, sexy and traitorous lady in waiting Nalu who betrays her mistress, played by Montez. What can say about these movies? I think we all grew up watching this camp classics that aren’t worth a dime as far as any artistic pursuit is in question. On the other hand, they are fun, unpretentious and colorful, more than enough to warrant repeated watchings over the years.

Ramsay was uncredited in Ladies Courageous, a (watch for this) propaganda movie for men and anti propaganda movie for women. While I haven’t watched the film, based on the reviews, it’s clear that the main aim of the movie was to dissuade women from becoming pilots! Loretta Young, Geraldine Fitzgerald and Diana Barrymore play three mentally and emotionally unstable pilots who do some crazy stuff (and not crazy good but crazy bad) in the air. Weird, weird, weird movie.

Hat Check Honey  is a completely forgotten comedy, so there is nothing to write about. Follow the Boys is one of those WW2 all-star extravaganzas that did nothing for anyones career, but served as strong morality boosters.

RamsayAmes6Ramsay was back on the horror track with Ghost Catchers, another Olsen and Johnson comedy. They play themselves as entertainers whose nightclub is next to a haunted house. It’s a silly, uncomplicated, almost dumb movie, but it fits the bill of a 1940s funny movie. Unfortunately, Ramsay fall such a minor role that she’s barely even seen in it.

Ramsay’s (all time) best known movie came next – The Mummy’s Ghost. Most people today remember Ramsay as the main selling point of the movie. She has several highly effective scenes, and her character doesn’t quite end up as one would expect from 1940s Hollywood. Make no mistake, it’s still a low-budget quickie without any truly artistic merit, but then again, this is Universal and these are the movies they made.

A Wave, a WAC and a Marine is a slightly above average women’s comedy about women helping the war effort. Most of the loads is carried by Elyse Knox, Ann Gillis and Sally Eilers, but Ramsay actually had a pretty good role in this one (compared to her previous roles of course).

In 1945 Ramsay signed with Warner Bros, and started appearing in higher quality movies. Mildred Pierce  was her very first Warner Bros role, and I don’t think this movie needs any introductions (Joan Crawford!!). Just when it seemed that Ramsay was going up, PUFF! She appeared in only one more movie (Too Young to Know ), before Warner Bros dropped her.

And it was time to start doing low-budget westerns. As I noted numerous times before on this blog, an actress has truly hit acting rock bottom when she starts doing westerns where the horse is billed above her! Okay, this is a slight exaggeration, but the point is – women rarely fared well owning to their roles in such movies.

Ramsay appeared in two movies with Gilbert Roland portraying Cisco Kid – The Gay Cavalier and Beauty and the Bandit. What can I say? Roland sure is a handsome man and not that bad of an actor (like many other pretty boys – John Gavin spring sot mind) but I’ll never (and I am sure there are plenty like me) spend my time watching such movies.

Below the Deadline, a low-budget crime movie, in between the westerns. It’s a curious movie, made on a shoestring budget but very compact, without a sentence to waste and with some flair that resembles a film noir (not quite there, but not that far). The plot (taken from IMDB): This one starts out with gambling rackets boss, George Meeker being warned to stay away from a rival’s clubs. Of course the viewer knows this is going nowhere good for Mister Meeker. And right they are, as Meeker is given a severe lead overdose one night exiting a club. Now we have the just returned from the Air Force, Warren Douglas, putting in an appearance. Douglas is the brother of the just ventilated, Meeker. He grills the mob lawyer, Paul Maxey for all the info on the mob, and who was responsible for his brother’s death. Maxey suggests Douglas cool down and learn the business before he goes headhunting. On the way he gets hooked up with Ramsay, who works in the casino but a girl with a heart of gold. Compared to Ramsay’s other movies, this is Nobel league, and one of the best things she made. This is more sad than not 😦

Ramsay was back in musicals with The Time, the Place and the Girl. One reviewer succinctly wrote all that need sot be said about the movie: It never rises above being a pleasant little “let’s put on a show” musical, it does feature a few sprightly song numbers that are easy on the eyes and ears–and all of the performances are genial and appealing. Sadly, Ramsay’s role was minuscule, blink and you’ll miss me. She was top billed in Philo Vance Returns, a boilerplate Philo Vance movie, the last made with the famous detective in the 1940s. Wiliam Wright, who plays Vance, in no match for the more capable actors who played him the past (William Powell, anyone?).

RamsayAmes5Ramsay did another low-budget western (the less said about it, the beter) The Vigilante: Fighting Hero of the West, before acting in the major production of Green Dolphin Street. Lana Turner, not a very talented actress, nonetheless had the pizzazz to maintain an enviable 50 year-long career, and movies like Green Dolphin are a testament to her brand of “charisma” – she somehow made it all work, lack of talent or not. However, the movie actually has a pretty decent story (it was made from a book after all!) and good supporting players, making it one of the few A list movies on Ramsay’s filmography.

Ramsay then starred in The Black Widow, a Republic serial, and actually gained some fame and fortune from it. Boosted by her new-found aisle of opportunity, Ramsay did one more serial, G-Men Never Forget, then retired from the movies more or less. She appeared in one only more movie, Vicki, before moving to live in Spain. She occasionally appeared in movies afterwards (TV movie The Lie, Richard Burton historical epic, Alexander the Great, forgotten Spanish movie At Five in the Afternoon and Laurence Harvey/Lee Remick/Alan Bates thriller, The Running Man) , but it was a sporadic past time for her, not a real full-time job.

Ramsay made her final movie, Una tal Dulcinea, in 1963, and after that dedicated her life to other pursuits.

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1943, Ramsay was  a target of a stalker, and had to have police protection against the man for some time. Ah, when you’re young and beautiful these men just come like flies to you.

In early 1944, Ramsay was a duet with Jack “Legs” Diamond, and Barney Glazer, but then took with a more “glamorous” beau, Mickey Rooney. They were pretty serious for a few months, and there were news that Ramsay was going to be wed to Mickey. However, all that turned out to be one hot mess and they broke up in March 1944.

RamsayAmes8After Mickey, Ramsay dated some pretty ordinary guys, like Captain John Young, a flying ace, then a salesman (sorry, can’t didn’t catch his name). But she also danced all night with director Frank Borzage, proving that she mixed Hollywood gents with normal gents. In May she was seen with Lee Fields.

In late May, Ramsay came to blows with fellow starlet Vera Shea. The reason remains unknown, but I somehow think it’s a (shahh!) a guy. In June, she dated John Meredith. That summer she collaborated with orchestra leader Emil Coleman on a brand new song. She also had another side project: building a miniature golf course on Sunset strip, with partner Mercedes Marlowe.

Ramsay went steady with Jimmy Ritz, one of the Ritz brothers, for a time in mid 1944. She was also seen with Don Alvarado sometimes. On a funny note, Ramsay had a maid whose real name was Amey Ramsay. Ha ha ha! Wonder how much the name played a part in Ramsay’s decision to hire her… In July, burglars broke into Ramsay’s home – but they stole only an electric clock. Talk about blessings in disguise! She also had time to squeeze actor Michael Harvey, who appeared in Winger Victory on Broadway, into the list of beaus. During this time, Ramsay owned a pet dachshund dog, and enjoyed when the neighborhood kids tried to pet him.

Also, it was reported that Ramsay and Jane Greer were not fond of each other. Too bad, I like both Ramsay and Jane 😦 In August, Ramsay took up with Artie Shaw, but didn’t they all? Later that month Ramsay fell ill, but that did not stop her from keeping in touch with Jackie Coogan, and old beau who was in the army then. By late August she was well enough to appear in the Hollywood canteen. One night her shoulder strap broke, and she had a pretty humiliating experience with it.

RamsayAmes2That same month, she was dating Cantinflas, noted Spanish comic. Then it was Ramsay and David Silva. Then it was Marc Cramer. In October she was seen with famous man about town, George Jessel. The man bragged how he never dinned at home – he was so popular everybody invited him everywhere. Maybe it’s true, maybe not, but what is true is that he dated a large number of stunning Hollywood starlets. Ramsay suffered a nasty car crash that month, but there were no serious injuries involved.

Ramsay obviously has a thing for burglars – after being robbed a few times, she and her friend Sylvia Lee walked onto a burglar trying to steal a ring that Jackie Coogan gave her. Tough luck! Jackie Coogan came to New York for a furlough, and he and Ramsay tried to date again. It didn’t work out – Ramsay went on dating right away, but Coogan pined after her for some time. Interesting enough, he was seen with Mercedes Marlowe, Ramsay’s business partner!

In December, Ramsay was feted by Leslie Fenton and Ben Bogeaus. By the end of the year, she was frequently seen with Arturo Cordova. Ramsay spent the Christmas holidays that year in Palm Springs, plays gin rummy (she was allegedly an excellent player). She started the year of 1945 by dating producer Eddie Peskay. As a funny anecdote, Ramsay once received a type writer from a boyfriend of the moment. The two broke up, but she kept the typewriter and sometimes wrote bits and pieces to help her relax. Unfortunately, it the end she found out that the typewriter was not  a gift – it was merely rented, and she had to pay for all the time it was with her! Imagine what she did to the former boyfriend when she met up with him (if she did, but that would have been a rage fueled encounter for sure!). On a side note, Ramsay was likened to another B movie heroines Linda Stirling – as two peas in a pod, physically very similar (I don’t see if frankly!). Another funny anecdote Ramsay was introduced to a well-known Don Juan at a party. Before the guy could even finish saying his name, she asked him”I heard all about you. So, what’s your side of the story?”

Ramsay-Ames-1940s-film-actress-and-pin-up-girl.Around that time, Ramsay had an unfortunate blonde episode – she died her hair, but hr studio was so angry with her, she had to change back in less than three days. On her 21st birthday, Ramsay inherited a sizable fortune, and bought herself a mink coat. Unfortunately, just before her birthday, Ramsay had a serious mishap – she parked her car on a hill, and when she started the engine, the car just lurched forward. She hit the brakes, but they were faulty and she didn’t stop, but instead rolled down the hill for a whole block and smashed into a garage. The car was wrecked, Ramsay had to be treated in a hospital. Luckily, it wasn’t anything serious and she was back on her feet in a day or two, but she learned her lessons about faulty brakes!

In May 1945, Ramsay dated Howard Thomas. She will received presents from her constant on off beau, George Jessel. Jessel dated most of his girls like that – never serious enough for marriage, but more than a casual fling. Anyway, she announced plans to run her very own music publishing company with the money she inherited from her father (but that didn’t mean she would give up acting or cheesecake). Columnists, by then used to Ramsay dating another guy every night joked that it’s because she was so popular, not because no guy asked her out twice.

In August 1945, Ramsay sniffer orange blossoms with captain Ken Noulton, army pilot. When she went to a camp show in Texas, he was the one who flew her there. Ramsay had an elaborate wardrobe prepared for the show, and even changed three times but it was so freaking hot she shed all her clothing, doing the skit in a sun suit… Sadly, that relationship didn’t last. She was seen with George Morgan (son of actor Frank Morgan) next. That same month, Ramsay was dropped by her studio, Warner Bros.

740full-ramsay-amesRamsay had another brush in with thief, when one stole a radio from her car, but left the phonographic records on the front seat. Not under any contract, Ramsay decided to expand her education and started taking a course in psychology. Afterwards she decided to freelance, and signed to appear in Cisco Kid movie. However, Ramsay’s solo effort were tougher than she expected – she broke her hand during filming, didn’t have the time to visit and a doctor and lost 10 pounds from the injury related stress. She could barely wait to finish filming and take a long break and mend her broken hand – it was healed awkwardly by then, and she had to have it broken again so it could heal properly. Ah, the boy of filming low-budget westerns!

However, her hectic love life finally came to steady pace after she and George Morgan became a proper lovely dovely. They dated for several years breaking up in about 1950, after a passionate, on off romance. They often battled, and the columnists almost took it for granted that they would wreak havoc and then make up. In December 1947, Ramsay sprained her back during dancing practice. Little was heard of Ramsay from then on. She dated Polan Banks in 1951. I 1952, she dated a N. Darvas.

Ramsay headed her own band, and they often toured South America. She got mixed up in some trouble there, and sued a very, very wealthy South American family in 1952, but I couldn’t find any information as to why and how? In 1953, she was madly in love with Harry Crocker. The papers called Ramsay a divorcee, but I have no idea whom she married and when did she divorce him. Maybe it had something to do with that South American family? Mysteries, mysteries…

In September 1953, she dated producer Morrie King before departing to Rome and Spain to make more movies. In November, there were news that Ramsay was to wed an Italian in Rome. In the end, it was reported that she met a man on the boat to Rome, married him, and separated from him, all in the span of one month!

In the meantime Ramsay went to live in Madrid, and became a columnist there. She started to hang out with Ava Gardner, another Hollywood expat. Years later, she noted how Ava slept late, like many Spaniards did – once she asked her to a flamenco party at 11 pm, and Ava said she’ll get up, have her coffee and get there. After a few years in Madrid, Ramsay ONLY returned to New York to help plug the Alexander the Great film. She underwent surgery there, but went back to Spain. She dated a wealthy Spaniard, and life seemed good for her. In 1958, Ramsay narrated the Oscar ceremony when it was broadcast in Spain. She also had her very own TV show where she interviewed celebrities. Her all time favorite guest was Sophia Loren.

tf5dl450109rtr51At some point, Ramsay met playwright Dale Wasserman, and married him in 1966 in Nevada. Whoa Nelly, not so fast! Let’s start from the beginning. Dale Wasserman, born in 1914 in a poor family in Wisconsin, was a self schooled playwright who just hit it big time when in the early 1960s – his play Men of la mancha was a major hit that played to sold out theaters. He became a glitterati of Manhattan, and there met Ramsay in 1964. She was still living in Spain, but they kept in touch and dated on/off for two years. Ramsay was hardy the only girl on Dale’s arm – he dated a string of girls simultaneously. Yet, his friends were baffled by their relationship.

What was peculiar about Ramsay was that she wasn’t Dale’s type – he was a shy, introverted, self-centered writer, deeply imaginative, easily emotional and very fragile. She was a true Arian woman: strong, capable, independent, stubborn – a true diva in every sense of the world, who liked “fun and cocktails”, was not above being petty from time to time, pretty much spoiled from early childhood – a woman more than capable to hold her own but extremely difficult to live with.
He liked intellectual women – she was anything but, more street smart and shallow than well read and educated. She dated well-groomed, wealthy men about town (she was well-known for it in Spain) – he was noveau riche (literary!), famous for only a few years and not from an illustrious background. They were ill-matched, but married anyway. Dale kept the marriage a top-secret for as long as he could (why??), and then moved to Spain with Ramsay.

To please her, he built and furnished a lavish house somewhere in coastal part of Spain. The house gained such prominence due to its interior design that it was featured in several architectural magazines. They entertained many notables, both American and European, in it.

The Wassermans returned to US in 1970, so Dale could continue and pursue his career.Also, with this act, Ramsay ended her 17 year-long stint as expat. However, their marriage turned sour somewhere along the road, and they divorced in 1980 after 14 years after the married. later, Dale claimed that marrying Ramsay was the worst mistake he made in his long life.

Ramsay lived the rest of her days in California, and was devoted to many charity causes, especially those with regards to homeless animals (dogs in particular). She was very kind towards her fans, always writing back whenever sent her a fan letter.

Ramsay Ames died on March 30, 1998, from lung cancer, in Santa Monica, California.