Lorraine Allen Breecher achieved a minor level of fame by dating a string of prominent men – Busby Berkeley and George Raft, ultimately marrying rhumba king Xavier Cugat. Even after her movie career failed, she rallied and became one of the few female bandleaders, giving her husband, Cugat, more than a run for his money.
Lorraine Stein was born on July 22, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Herman Stein and Ethel Rubin. Her younger brother Jack was born in 1923.
Lorraine’s father worked as a garment merchant, her mother was a housewife. The family lived with her maternal grandparents, Barney and Bessie Rubin before Jack’s birth – afterwards they lived with lodgers. Lorraine grew up and was educated in Chicago. I have no idea how she landed in Los Angeles and into movies, but she was there by 1943.
Lorraine appeared in only two movies, and it’s clear her movie career is not truly her forte. A dancer, she appeared in the capacity in The Gang’s All Here, an Alice Faye musical, directed by her one time fiancee, Busby Berkeley. You know the drift – plot – non existent, a great deal of singing, dancing and good sense of camaraderie between the cast. The comedy is okay, nothing to sneer at. Carmen Miranda is in it, so that is a plus also.
Her second appearance was in Cinderella Jones, one of Joan Leslie’s lesser efforts (I wrote about this movie at least 3 times, next!). After this, Lorraine took a breather from the movie industry.
Under the name of Lorraine Allen, she appeared in only one movie – Holiday in Mexico, and only thanx to her association with Cugat. The plot is simple, even a bit bare-boned – The U.S. Ambassador’s (Walter Pidgeon) daughter (Jane Powell) falls for a Mexican pianist (Jose Iturbi) old enough to be her grandfather. But what more can you ask from a Jane Powell musical? Nothing – the music is wonderful, the dialogue is witty, the cast is very good, it all moves around nicely. Totally forgettable movie, but more than worth a look
Lorraine married and divorced her first husband, a Mr. Breecher, sometime prior to 1943. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find any more info on this…
Lorraine hits the news in 1943, when she became the prime woman in director Busby Berkeley’s life. Berkeley was born in, making him 21 years Lorraine’s senior.
They got engaged in early August 1943, and were to be wed in 1944 after he got his final divorce decree from starlet Claire James. Busby gifted her with a expensive diamond sparkler. They were seen all around town in fancy nightclubs. Busby broke his arm in early 1944, and wore a sling over the injured arm, but this did not stop them from going out dancing.
In his biography of Berkeley, author Jeffery Spivak claims that perhaps the reason Lorraine and Busby broke up was the fact that Busby was at heart a mama’s boy, and he deferred to Gertrude’s wishes more than she found acceptable. Anyway, I was not surprised they didn’t make it to the altar – with three or four wives behind him, Busby was a man prone to bursts of intense feeling that simply ended, and so did his infatuation.
Lorraine wasted no time in entering the dating pool again (I never understood these Hollywood people, they would plunge head first into dating the minute they were free, maybe even before! Did they really think that was the answer to their present mental and emotional state? tough luck, my pretties, it just shows that it ain’t never learned). She was seen with George Raft in October 1944, and in November 1944, she was the swain of attorney Seymour Chotiner. Later it was Steven Crane, the former husband of Lana Turner. She and Raft dated on off for about six of seven months. In May 1945, she was seen with Nat Pearlsten.
Then, in about March 1945, Lorraine got hot and heavy with her future husband, another major celebrity of the time – Xavier Cugat. Cugat was born on January 1, 1900, in Barcelona, Spain, and emigrated with his family to Cuba when he was 5 years old. He was married twice before, to Rita Montaner and Carmen Castillo.
They traveled abroad together, and by June 1946, the papers were full of stories how Cugat’s marital state (he was still married to his second wife) was the only obstacle to matrimony. That same months, she got her engagement ring (another diamond stunner!). To add to his infatuation, he took Lorraine to a exclusive clothes shop and told her to pick anything she wanted. She took a almost 300$ cocktail dress. Cugar forgot to pay for it, and he was sued by the boutique not long after. They settled out of court. Cugat also persuaded his friend, Joe Pasternak, to test Lorraine for an MGM contract. Nothing came of it (she made only one movie).
In early 1947, Cugat announced Lorraine and he will be wed on October 3, in Mexico, after his divorce becomes final. However, as the date drew nearer, they had to push it day by day, and ultimately give up the option to get married in Mexico. Lorraine kept herself busy by preparing for the upcoming martial life and buying things like orange squeezers, can openers, bacon grills, etc., for their future home.
They married on October 15, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a civil ceremony conducted by Municipal Judge Adrian Bonnelly, and later they had their wedding soiree at Palumbo restaurant. It was second marriage for her and third for him. Cugat gifted his new wife with a magnificent kohinoor mink coat and a muff to match.
Cugar later recounted how his good friend Joe Pasternak wanted to know the exact date and time of the ceremony, but Cugat was suspicious so he avoided telling him. With good reason – Pasternak wanted to get him arrested half an hour before the ceremony. Sly trickster. Anyway, Cugat bought a gorgeous six-acre estate in Westwood for Lorraine. Famous Mexican artist, Miguel Covarrubias, helped decorate the place. They allegedly had a mink rimmed bathtub.
In february 1948, Cugat Lorraine and fashion designer-cum-playboy Oleg Cassini made newspaper fodder when Cugat flipped after Lorraine danced with Cassini at the Mocambo club. With good cause, as Cassini most certantly was a rake who liked the ladies, and the ladies like him. Lorraine later claimed Cassini did nothing improper, but it was enough for Cugat to ask Cassini for a duel outside the club. They got into a brawl, and Cugat lost. Ah, men and their pride! Anyway, Cugat injured his finger, and Lorraine was livid with him, and refused to speak for two days with him. Cracks were more than visible in their shiny, new marriage.
However, things didn’t get any better. Just a few days later, Lorraine appeared at Ciros, another posh nightclub, with Mary Kunody, sister of insurance broker Arnold Kunody, and her fiancee Charlie Morrison – but Cugat was nowhere in sight. Since Cugat was known to be an explosive, jealous lover, everybody was wondering what happened? Lorraine told the story that he was detained and would return shortly. And Cugie did return – but instead of sitting down with his wife and friends, he sat down with Harry James and Betty Grable. What? Rumors began to circulate in Hollywood abotu the state of the marriage. They made up very publicly a few days later, when she embraced him in front view of the whole audience at the Mocambo, but hah! We all knew it won’t last long.
However, rumors never lot down. It went so far that the magistrate that married them, Adrian Bonnelly, sent them a letter and urged them to think before separating for good. By September, rumors were rampart that the marriage was on the verge of collapsing. They stuck together for some more time. In early 1949, the couple moved for a time to Brazil. she returned for a few days in June, and all was okay. She flew back to Brazil. Then, when she returned to the US in July, nothing was right. She was to return to Brazil, but had no idea when she would see Cugie. By August, the patched up their quarrel via long distance phone, and she was to return to Brazil. NOT! Something happened between them, and Lorraine filed for divorce in New York on August 19, 1949. They were wed for less than two years. Cogie flew back to New York, and they managed to patch up their differences. In fact, Cugie’s jealousy seemed to be the main reason for the separation. They were badly matched at any rate – Lorraine was a beautiful former starlet who knew her assets and liked flaunting them – Cugie was madly jealous at any man who just looked at her. Bad, bad combo…
Guess what? After a brief idyll, Lorraine sued again in late December 1949, and in January, the divorce made all the papers. She seeker 2000$ temporary alimony a month, Cugie didn’t want to give it to her, he threatened to stay outside of California territory for years, so that the divorce can never be finalizes and so on… The drama wen on and on. For a time Lorraine even threatened to call off the divorce – since Cugat decided to marry his newest singer, Abbe Lane, in the meantime, this was a huge torn at his side. While waiting for the divorce to come trough, Lorraine almost went bankrupt. She also filed a complaint that Cugie cheated on her with six women, one of them Abbe. It was truly a nasty divorce case that dragged for months with no end in sight.
Thing went from bad to worse when Loraine hired detectives that burst into Abbe’s room after a show with Cugat. They allegedly found them naked… You connect the dots. There was much newspaper coverage of the event. They claimed she was only changing her gowns, that is why she was naked… I can say I was not unpleasantly surprised when I read this… To go this far.. It was clear to everybody that Cugat and Abbe were an item, so why do all the fuss? Why did Lorraine persist in this? Was it a case of wounded feeling or purely material gain? Anyway, Cugat was not much better than Lorraine was. Both acted like spoiled, overgrown children. And on and on it went… Until January 1953, when it was finally settled.
After the divorce was finally given, Lorraine dated oilman Bob Calhoun, agent George Wood and Glenn Ford. She also headed her very own rhumba band, trying to become serious competition to her ex-husband. She even sailed to Europe to look for new talent in 1953.
By November 1953, she was dating millionaire Robert Altman. In April 1954, she married Stanley Stalford, a Los Angeles millionaire banker. The two honeymooned in Europe and visited Paris.
Stanley Murray Stalford was born on April 10, 1919 in New Yersey. He moved to California in the 1940s and got into the banking business. Lorraine retired from showbiz after the marriage, and the couple lived in Beverly Hills. However, they divorced in 1960.
Stalford remarried in 1962, to Joan Frank, and his son, Stanley Jr., was born on January 19, 1964. The boy made newspaper headlines when he was kidnapped in 1968 and held for random for two days before FBI rescued him. Stalford died on June 10, 1980 in California.
In 1964, Lorraine dated songwriter Sammy Khan. That was the last I could find about Lorraine. I have no idea is she alive or dead today. As always, I hope she had a good wife.