More Yank Girls – Part I

There are plenty of Yank Cover Girls who have slim pickings in terms of information. I usually don’t like to profile women where I can’t find a DOB and names of her parents, but let’s make an exception so we can learn more about these charming ladies.

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence

Joan Lawrence (also called Joan Lawrence Tasch), a native New Yorker (born around 1922) and Sarah Lawrence College student, was signed to a movie contract after a talent scout saw her wearing a ravishing dress for a walk on part in a movie. The papers told it this way: “All Joan Lawrence had to do was walk past the camera in this streamlined gown. The director whistled, gave her a screen test and handed her an MGM contract. Nice work, what?”.  The year was 1943. She appeared in three very good movies afterwards: a delightful but simple musical Two Girls and a Sailor, Greer garson drama Mrs. Parkington and superb war drama Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. Then in all fell apart. 

JoanLawrence2In November 1945, wealthy Texas oilman Robert Hungerford sues her for squeezing money out of him on a night out (she allegedly stole 2700$ off him). I am extremely ambivalent about this suit. While it is possible that Joan tried to steal the money, I doubt that taking a man (who know full well who you are and where you live!!) out on the town, and then stealing the money so he knows you stole it is the best way to do it! I don’t understand Hungerford. He, a 55 year old oilman, comes to Hollywood and goes out with a 22 year old actress. What was he expecting? Going for tea? When you date a 30 + year younger starlet you obviously have met for the first time, of course it can  get expensive. But well, anything is possible. The suit was throw out, but Joan’s time in Hollywood had gone bust. She was not to make another movie for two years.

As for her private life: in 1944, she was one of the Ziegfeld Follies, and did not have a steady beau. Then she started dating Alex D’Arcy in 1944. In 1945, she was feted by Jim Stack, brother of Robert Stack (and future husband of actress Wanda Hendrix). In February 1946, she was dating agent Louis Schurr. In 1947, She was chosen by Ronald Reagan as the girl one can never forget, and had a role in The Voice of the Turtle.

Afterwards, unable to get any more roles, she turned to theater acting, appearing in Arsenic and the old lace in a stock company. In 1949, she got one more movie role, in My Dream Is Yours, a paper thin but charming Dory Day musical. Her last TV work came in a episode of SuspenseShe then falls of the newspaper radar. I have no idea what happened to her.

Jean Trent

Jean_Trent_pin-up_from_Yank,_The_Army_Weekly,_March_1945

No less than the esteemed director Alfred Hitchcock said that Jean Trent had the perfect feminine figure in 1944. This, however,did not help her achieve a substantial career.

Real name Opal Jones, a native of Denver, Colorado, she was a stunning brunette, five feet three and 124 pounds. I have no idea when was she exactly born, but I have found the date of October 17, 1920. She attended high school in Denver, when she appeared in a school play. She liked the experience so much she decided to go for an acting career. While this is just an option, it could be that she moved to Los Angeles during her high school years to live with an uncle and an aunt. She was an aviation enthusiast and enjoyed watching planes.

She was discovered by Hitch in a nightclub in Los Angeles. She started her career in Western Mail, appeared in Hitch’s Saboteur (not one of his best movies, but a good one nontheless), Sin Town, a forgotten Constance Bennett western. She was one of the harem girls in the colorful escapism, Arabian Nights, with our favorite handsome-but-no-talent-actors, Jon Hall and Maria Montez. She was then in Fired Wife, a typical B movie fare of the period, soundly made but not memorable in the least.

JeanTrent1She had a minor role in the The Great Alaskan Mystery serial. Next was The Singing Sheriff, a western musical with Bob Crosby. Bing’s younger brother never achieved the level fo fame comparable to him, but Bob sure knows how to sing! Like many western musicals, this one has no plot and only serves to show Bob singing. Babes on Swing Street is a forgotten comedy musical. She was in See My Lawyer, an Ole Olsen forgotten musical, perhaps notable today for the appearance of famed flamenco dancer Carmen Amaya.

In 1945, she was selected by Walter Wagner as one of the most beautiful girls in the world for his epic Salome Where She Danced. Other stunners were Barbara Bates, Duan Kennedy, Kathleen O’Malley, Karen Randle and Kerry Vaughn. Sadly, the much publicized movie is a dismal affair at best, with a insipid story and wooden acting. 

Jean finally appeared in a upper class movie – Lady on a Train, a breezy, well made Deanna Durbin movie, a curious hybrid of murder mystery, musical, and comedy. Deanna is a very likable actress with a great voice, and was nice to look. Winning combo! And truly,

Jean’s next movie was another good one – This Love of Ours, a true melodrama with a overblown story it there ever was one. Think Douglas Sirk on steroids. Listen to the story: At a convention, medical researcher Michel Touzac goes with colleagues to see stage caricaturist Targel, whose assistant Florence recognizes him…and attempts suicide. Saved by Touzac’s new technique, Florence is revealed in a flashback as Michel’s abandoned wife Karin, whom their daughter Susette thinks is dead. Can Susette cope if they now re-unite? Yet, the movie is decent proof that even soapy melodramas can work wonders when you have a talented cast and crew. The director, William Dieterle, knows what he is doing, and Merle Oberon and Claude Rains are superb in their roles.

JeanTrent2Jean appeared in Frontier Gal, a weird, slapstick comedy western. As one reviewer wrote, the axis of the movie is the love story between Yvonne de Carlo and Rod Cameron – “Their love-hate romance was unusual for any era, and would be almost unthinkable in today’s films, but it worked for this out-of-the-mainstream movie”. Also, the cinematography, done using Technicolor, is superb. Jean continued her string of good movies with Because of Him, a funny and touching Deanna Durbin/Charles Laughton pairing. Then came Night in Paradise, a colorful and enjoyable Universal fantasy about famed fable writer Aesop. Unfortunately, this did not lead to anything substantial and her career ended in 1946.

She was one of several actresses who staged a protest in July 1945 when Police Chief H.J. Schlepper of Decatur, Illinois, declared a ban against the wearing of shorts in public,

She married actor Ray Montgomery in September 1942. Ray was in a middle of making a movie and had to have a stub beard during the ceremony because of it (considered a great sin in the 1940s!). Montgomery was born on May 27, 1922, in Los Angeles, California. He started acting for Warner Bros in 1941, after graduation. As IMDB claims, he spent the next two years working in short-subjects and playing small roles in war-era films, but did not rise to leading man status. Later played “bad guy” roles on 50s TV.

In 1957, Montgomery left acting to join Ad-Staff Inc., a “Hollywood firm specializing in creation and production of jingles and other radio and tv spots,” as the TV coordinator for the firm’s Canada Dry account in the West.

She and Montgomery remained married until his death in 1998. I have no idea what happened to Jean, there is a Opal Montgomery who died on April 10, 2005, in Kern, California.

Nancy Porter

Nancy_Porter_pin-up_from_Yank,_The_Army_Weekly,_June_1945

She was heralded as a girl with the perfect body and everyone expected her to follow in Dorothy Lamour’s footsteps and become the sarong siren. Nancy Porter was born in about 1922 (I have no idea where). She began appearing on Broadway in the early 1940s, and replaces Betty Garrett in Something NancyPorter1for the boys in late 1943. She was Ethel Merman’s understudy on Broadway when she was noticed by Paramount scouts who bought her to Hollywood in 1944. She enjoyed a brief flash of fame and appeared in tow movies, Isle of Tabu, a short and completely forgotten tropical adventure, and then in Out of This World, a witty and biting musical satire on the many tiffs between TV and radio. It’s a great movie for Eddie Bracken fans, and Diana Lynn, a sweet actress I like, is also there! But that was it as far as Nancy was . She was a popular pin up during WW2 and was active in the war relief work.

Nancy was married once before she came to Hollywood and divorced by 1944. She married writer Milton Holmes on November 15, 1944, in Las Vegas, Nevada. They were wed by Judge George Marchall and went to a short honeymoon afterwards. Holmes was born in 1907, in Syracuse, New York. He started as an actor in 1927, and slowly graduated to screenwriting. He became a producer by the time he married Nancy. However, information about their shared life after 1944 is scarce at best.

What we know is that in 1946, Holmes told the newspapers that he will move to New York to give Nancy a chance to appear again in Broadway. This never happened. In 1947, the Holmeses adopted a French war orphan. In November 1949, their daughter was born. In 1952, her husband sued Columbia pictures for not promoting his movie, Boots Malone, so it can be nominated for an Oscar (hah! Do they did it back in the old days too!). What happened afterwards is a mystery but I can sum up the pieces – Holmes was blacklisted by Hollywood for suing a major studio. He never produced or directed another movie. Some of his books were later made into movies, he served as a screenwriter for a TV series in the 1950s, but his career in Hollywood was kaput. Holmes died in 1987 in Los Angeles. I have no idea what happened to Nancy.

 

 

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