Lorraine Allen Breecher

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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.

EARLY LIFE

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.

CAREER

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.

lorraineallen5Her 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

PRIVATE LIFE

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.

lorraineallen6They 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.

lorraineallenThey 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.

lorraineallen2Cugar 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.

lorraineallen3However, 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.

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Phyllis Adair

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Beautiful and regal Phyllis Adair showed an early promise by appearing in a number of low budget westerns. However, when the time came for her to spring up and manage a step forward, career-wise, like many of her contemporaries, she just didn’t make it.

EARLY LIFE:

Phyllis Louise Wilsnack was born on May 1, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to George and Louise Wilsnack.  Her older sister, Priscilla Mary, was born on August 5, 1911 in Chicago.

Her father, a direct descendant of the noble von Wilsnack line (his great grandfather was count von Wilsnack), was born in 1886 in Berlin, Germany and after finishing his education in Europe, in 1908 he emigrated to the US and settled Chicago, Illinois. He worked as a chemical engineer, specializing in making cement. Her mother, Louise Wingertier, was born in Buffalo, New York and came from a prominent Swiss family.

The family lived in Chicago, where Phyllis and Priscilla grew up. The family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s. After living in Easton for a few years, they departed for Los Angeles after Phyllis graduated from high school so she can attend college in Los Angeles.

Phyllis enrolled into college in Los Angeles (could not find which one), and there met her first husband. In the meantime, she started to act professionally, appearing in several little theater productions. She was seen by a talent scout, and soon started her movie career.

CAREER

Phyllis appeared in a great deal of low-budget westerns (oh my!). The list is as follows: Wild Horse ValleyBilly the Kid’s Fighting PalsLand of Hunted MenRiders of the Dawn and Gunning for Vengeance. As per usual, I’m not going to write anything about these charming movies, I am definitely not a fan of big budget, much less low budget westerns.

Her filmography is peppered with more valiant tries. her first ever movie, made in 1939, was All Women Have Secrets, in what seems like an interesting movie about few young people (students to be precise) who pool their resources to make their life better. Hollywood rarely tackled with such everyday problems, and it’s sure a breeze of fresh air to see movies like this. The cast has some hidden gems that would surface later – Jeanne Cagney, Janet Waldo and Veronica Lake.

phyllis-adair-and-max-terhune-1Phyllis made another movie in 1944, Abroad with Two Yanks, about (guess!) Two US soldiers and their adventures in Australia during WW2. The movie was made as a morale booster and thus hold little merit outside that field. it’s not a bad lot, but it’s a lightweight comedy and that’s about it…At least William Bendix and Helen Walker (in the lead roles) manage to do their job admirably.

God Is My Co-Pilot is perhaps the best known movie of Phyllis’a career, and yet it’s far from a full pledges classic everybody knows today. However, the movie, about Robert Lee Scott, a Georgia native who became a flying Tiger and did miraculous things during WW2, is well made and solid, if anything else. Scott is played by Warner Bros favorite bland and uninteresting every-guy, Dennis Morgan! I know, I may be harsh towards Morgan, but I’ve seen a few of his movies and I truly never understood his appeal. He was neither handsome not a particularly good actor… He’s far from the wooden magnificence of John Boles or John Gavin, but he just doesn’t do it for me. The supporting cast is much better – Dane Clark, Raymond Massey, Andrea King.

In 1945, Phyllis appeared in Kitty, a wonderful historical movie about the rise and rise of a simple London wench, with Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland in the lead roles. Just as I don’t like Morgan, thus I like Milland. He had some limitations as an actor, but he sure managed to leave a mark in most movies he appeared in. Paulette, in a similar vein, was not a great actress, but had screen presence and a feline, alluring vibe. What the film does right is putting these two actors in roles absolutely perfect for them – Milland as a charming cad and Paulette as a feisty gold digger. Add to this a solid script, great costumes and set design, and we have a winner!


To Each His Own
 was another great entry into Phyllis’ filmography, a very good example of a weepy woman’s picture done right. When you have Paulette Goddard, Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, you can’t really go wrong, now can you? They truly don’t make them like this no more! The Glass Alibi is a so-so thrilled with some good twists in it. Sadly, the cast is lackluster (low tier stars like Douglas Fowler and Maris Wrixon) and the director just can’t make this a truly memorable movie experience. Phyllis’ last movie was Of Human Bondage, the lesser remake of a great book. This is the problem when you try to film movies that already have ultimate adaptations. Paul Henreid takes Leslie Howard’s role – too bad he can’t hold a candle to him (despite a strangely charming melancholy strike, Henreid was a sadly mediocre actor). Eleanor Parker is good in Bette Davis’ role, but let’s be real, nobody can top Davis is that kind of paranoid, nervous roles.

Phyllis returned to the theater even before her movie career ended. Example, from 1948: “Beaux Arts Theater will reopen Dec. 25 with “Holiday Lady,” a new comedy-drama by Luther Yantls, who has also written “Killers,” “Souvenir Sadie” and “Loose Ladles.” The production will be offered by Irving Thorns and Jack Moser. Its plot concerns a young girl of the early 1900’s whose view of life was “far ahead” of the period In which she found herself. Phyllis Adair and Jack Murray will be the principals in a company of 15. ”

By 1949, Phyllis was out of showbiz and raising a family.

PRIVATE LIFE

Phyllis’ private life was barely mentioned by tabloids, so there is so little information… Anyway, let’s squeeze what we have. First, Phyllis was a stand-in for Peggy Cummins during the filming of Forever Amber. However, we do know that Peggy was ultimately sacked and Linda Darnell took over.

Phyllis married her first husband, med student William Fredrick Eschrich, on February 14, 1940, in Los Angeles. Both of them were in college, and lived with her parents who supported them (bad idea!).

dennis-moore-and-phyllis-adairEschrich was born on February 19, 1916, in Los Angeles, to Julius Eschrich and Aurelia Mountain. He started to attended med school in his home town and met Phyllis during his studies. Sadly, the marriage was terminated in about 1943. After the divorce, William graduated from med school and became a successful doctor. He married Marcella Phillips and had two sons, Gary, born on March 9, 1948 and Tyler, born on January 21, 1950. William practiced medicine in California for the rest of his life and died on January 3, 1990, in Los Angeles.

Phyllis married her second husband, Edward David Bronaugh, in Los Angeles on August 27, 1945. Bronaugh was born on July 12, 1918, to Ruby Rheinhart and Eugene Bronaugh, in Kansas, Missouri. He trained as a pilot and became a commercial airline pilot. He served in the Air Forces during WW2, and spent two and a half years overseas. He was married once before to Mary Louise Boswell – it was a wartime marriage that started on March 12, 1943 and ended that same year.

Phyllis and Edward’s marriage also proved to be very short – they divorced in 1946 or 1947. Bronaugh later moved to GlendaleArizona and got married again, to a woman named Francoise. They had two children, Kelly and Stephane. He died on August 3, 1987 in Arizona.

Phyllis married her third husband, a Mr. Stevenson, in 1948. Their son, Scot Bruce, was born on July 3, 1949. Long retired from showbiz by then, she devoted her time to her family and lived the rest of her days in California.

Phyllis Stevenson died on February 23, 1990 in Los Angeles, California.

 

Virginia Maples

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Virginia Maples was an Earl Carroll dancer who crashed Hollywood and actually managed to get in front of the camera. However, her true claim to fame were not her acting chops, but the man she dated – she was a serious contender to become both Mrs. Phil Silvers and Mrs. George Raft. Let’s hear her story.

EARLY LIFE

Virginia Lillian Maples was born to on January 13, 1921, in Los Angeles, California to Cornelius William Maples and the former Evelyn Rae Kavanaugh. Her father was an army captain who headed the Camp Tulelake. Her younger brother, Richard, was born on March 25, 1926.

Virginia grew up in Manhattan Beach, and dreamed to being an actress/dancer from early childhood. She started dancing before she went to school. In 1937, at just 16 years old, Virginia won the title of Miss Los Angeles. Earl Carroll saw her, liked what he saw, and signed her to become a Carroll girl. Barely 16 years old, Virginia was on her way to greater and bigger things.

There are several version of the story how Virginia was discovered for the movies. In a newspaper article she claimed she was discovered on a beach near her mother’s house. Years later, she claimed she came to the studios gates one day, and said to the guards she wanted to act. Luckily, they needed a dancer that very day, and she got the part. While I can’t be sure, I just think that her engagement in Earl Carroll’s vanities catapulted her to the screen. Anyway, she signed with a major studio in 1941 and started her career.

CAREER

Virginia made her debut in 1941 with Week-End in Havana, a fun, no-brains-required Alice Faye musical with her standard stock actors – John Payne, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero. Truly, Alice’s 1930s and 1940s movies were pure enjoyment, perfect escapism at the end of another mundane working day. The plot is pretty silly (from imdb: In this case it’s Alice Faye, a shopgirl who saved her money for a cruise and in this case the cruise ship ran aground on a reef on the Cuban coast. She just doesn’t want to sign a waiver to get the company off the hook for a lawsuit. So John Payne who is about to become Barbier’s son-in-law is sent to get that waiver by hook or crook.), but you know it’s just an excuse to paste together several singing and dancing scenes.

oakland_tribune_sun__jan_2__1944_Virginia started 1942 with The Mad Martindales, a movie more or less lost today. It’s a pity – the movie seems like a charming, likable family romp with Jane Withers in her usual perky role. Next Virginia appeared in the highly sanitized and inaccurate biography or Ernst Ball, an Irish songwriter, called Irish Eyes Are Smiling. If you watched any musical/biographies, you know the drift – the plot only has minor similarities with the real life of the man it portrays, and there is plenty of nice music and dancing. Dick Haymes, in the leading role, was not a good actor for sure , but he sings well enough, and June Haver witth her happy go lucky act and nice snging saves the day.   

Virginia appeared in only one more musicals – the “war musical” Something for the Boys. Like most propaganda movies, it’s thin int he art but abundant in the fun/morale department. It’s entertaining and nice to watch, but easily forgettable (even Carmen Miranda and Vivian Blaine can’t elevate it to a upper tier status).

virginia-maplesYou know it’s the beginning of the end, or a beginning of a new career when you start appearing in low budget westerns, like Virginia did with Wildfire. After that, you either sink and leave acting, or swim and become a B western heroine. Since the movie was easily forgettable, Virginia left movies for a period of time. She worked in nightclubs and so on.

She only returned to Hollywood in 1954, to appear in tow glossy, high class productions: Woman’s World and Black Widow. Woman’s world is one oft he best movies made abut the corporate world, about three hotshot salesmen and their wives, and the rat race to get ahead int he business. Black Widow is a mixed bag of pleasures. The plot is something right out of Hitchcock (taken from imdb: Van Heflin gives a striking, forceful performance as a theatrical producer in New York City who befriends a lonely 20-year-old girl at a party; she’s a would-be writer hoping for success, he takes a shine to her and offers a helping hand…but then she turns up dead!), and the actors are good enough, but it’s all so overtly dramatic it hurts!

Virginia left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

While Virginia was one of the Earl Carroll girls, she dated Lionel Newman, the Earl Carroll orchestra leader, and there was talk the two would wed. They never did.

virginia-maples2After Newman, Virginia was seen several times with Laurence Tibbett Jr. In May 1942, she was seen with Victor Mature.

Then, in September 1943, Virginia started dating comedian Phil Silvers. Things got serious pretty soon, but theirs was a turbulent, love/hate relationship that just went up and down for about six months. They were cooing one moment, next they were fighting, then they were separated, then they were buying jewelry… It was pretty obvious the relationship would not last. They broke up in April 1943.

Virginia then took up with another famous beau, George Raft. To be sure, George was a notorious skirt chaser that dated all the girls in Hollywood (slight exaggeration, but just slight). He had just come out of a intensive relationship with Betty Grable, who ditched him when his wife refused to grant him a divorce (he used his wife a great many times to excuse himself from remarriage). Betty was furious when she found out that George started dating Virginia, and she tried to make her life a bit more complicated – only an intervention from the studio brass managed to calm down the situation.

George allegedly carried a huge torch for Betty. Since Virginia was a dear ringer for Betty in terms of looks, you can guess where that comes from… To my surprise, they actually dated for a long time – three months!!

virginia-maples3In July 1943, she switched to Tex Feldman. Then dirty laundry came out. Allegedly, when Virginia replaced Betty as George’s number one lady, he forced her to imitate Betty in everything from walking to fashion style. Virginia got sick of it and left him for Feldman. What can I say about Raft? The more I read about him and his ladies, the less I like him. The guy obviously had some ego problems, as he dated ladies by the load but never remotely considered getting divorced from his wife who lived on the other side of the country. Some sources claim he was unable to divorce his wife, but hey, I think there are means of divorcing somebody if you really want to! Good for Virginia to get out of such a distressing relationship.

But then (WAIT FOR IT!) they got together, again!! Ugh. And they stayed together for two more years. George went overseas during the war to tour war camps, and left his car to Virginia. It must have been love 😛 Anyway, he returned and they continued their idyll, until about mid 1945.

albuquerque_journal_sun__may_7__1944_After that, Virginia, started to date Bill Burton, Dick Haymes’ manager. Then she was seen with hotshot lawyer, Bentley Ryan. Then she dated Arturo de Cordova in December 1945. By then, Virginia Maples worked as an exotic dancer at the Club Riviera, and was out of the movies.

Virginia’s last known Hollywood beau was Walter Kane, Howard Hughes’ right hand man. They dated in early 1946 for several months, but she denied reports she was to marry him.

Then, Virginia met and fell in love with a handsome Brazilian, Envidio Sanctos (they met at one of Carmen Miranda’s parties). They eloped in 1947 and got married in Brazil. She effectively left behind her career to live in the Amazon jungle with her new husband. They spent their time between Brazil and the US. Their daughter, Diana, was born on April 17, 1950, in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple separated and divorced in 1962.

In 1975, Virginia moved to Isles of Capri and opened a gift shop, Diana’s Gifts, in East Naples. She continued working until she was 70 years old, and retired in Naples after that. She was a much loved member of the community.

Virginia Maples Sanctos died on January 13, 2010, in Naples, Florida.