A beautiful southern belle with a peaches-and-cream complexion, Lucy Knoch survived for over 10 years in the hostile climate of Hollywood, and none can dispute the fact that she accomplished a career much better than most starlets. Yet, she is miles away from standing toe to toe with proper actresses that left a mark on the film world.
Lucy Claire Knoch was born on June 30, 1923, in Davidson, Nashville, Tennessee, to Beverly and Annie Lee Knoch. She was the fourth of children – her older siblings were Beverly Louise, Horace and William, her younger siblings were Dorothy and Charles. Her father ran his own hardware shop.
She grew up in Nashville and attended school there. A lively, imaginative child, was active in school theatrics. In 1937, Lucy, then in the eighth grade students. and bunch of her classmates organized a program honoring the Constitution of the United States.
Lucy later told an interviewer Cordon Allemand the story of her childhood:
When Lucy become a model at the Hollywood Photographic Studio in the Nashville Arcade, never suspecting what the word “Hollywood” would someday mean to her future. Today this fortunate young lady, Lucy Knoch, it on her way to stardom at the Paramount Studios in the real Hollywood, which ia now her home. Lucy Knoch’s success story was related to me one afternoon in the living room of her home in Hollywood’s luxurious Alta Nido Apartments. Her warm Southern smile that’ makes you feel right at home is one of the first things I noticed about Lucy, and making me feel even more at ease was her genuine delight in learning that her interviewer was “homefolks” from back in Tennessee. “Honestly?” Lucy cried. “Why I was at Central High in 1939. I went to Woodbine grammar school out the Nolensville Pike. Nearly all my family live in Nashville and are in business there.” “Well just how did you get from Nashville to a Paramount contract?” I questioned. And this is Lucy’s story. “I suppose I was like lots of girls. All of us kids, my sister, Dorothy, and two brothers, William and Horace, went to Woodbine. I dreamed of being a movie star, but thought the nearest I’d .ever get to a stage was when I went to high school and joined the debating “team. A good one too, because we got several cups and ribbons.” She went on to tell of an early love for dancing and of being sent to dancing school three times a week. As a dancing team she and sister Dorothy appeared at many Tennessee festivals. Then came an end to school days and her first job. “I worked in the studio there for quite a while. Modeling. Maybe some of the Nashville people will remember me there. … Read the rest in the Profile section.
And she was in Hollywood in 1945, and started her career for Paramount.
Lucy made her movie debut in The Affairs of Susan, a charming, well made Joan Fontaine vechicle. While no big brainer, it’s a delightful comedy with a good cast (Joan, George Brent, Dennis O’Keefe, Walter Abel). Lucy then continued to appear in movies of the same vein – decently made romance movies that never made it into the top category and are not that well-remembered today. Those are You Came Along (with Bob Cumings and Lizabeth Scott, an unusual but actually pretty good pairing), Incendiary Blonde and the short You Hit the Spot.
Then, Lucy’s career took an upswing and she stated to appear in some genuine classics. To Each His Own, Olivia de Havilland’s only Oscar win, The Blue Dahlia, one of the ultimate film noirs, and Blue Skies, a wonderful musical.
After reaching such a high point, there was a let down again, and she was back to the A budget mid tier movies. The first was Cross My Heart a True Confessions remake with Betty Hutton in the lead. The movie, a lackluster one ta best, still boasts a wonderful supporting cast – Michael Chekov, Iris Adrian and Howard Freeman. Sonny Tufts is his typical wooden and Betty an energetic, fine performer, but no great actress.
Lucy then appeared in The Imperfect Lady, one of the rare Hollywood romances that goes for something slightly more mature. This is no fluffy, feel good, happy movie, and while it’s not a terribly dark movie either, it deals with some more tricky aspects fo the Victorian culture. Ray Milland and Teresa Wright lead a capable cast, and it’s generally a well dome movie, worth watching. Next came Welcome Stranger, a decent enough Bing Crosby/Joan Caulfield movie. What can I say about Crosby’s movies? Same old same old, but it certainly worked back then!
Lucy then appeared in the film noir classic, The Big Clock – now this is a movie more than worth your time! Slick, with a superb cast, nicely photographed and with an impeccable pacing, it takes a pretty simple story and makes it an intensive exercise in elegant filmmaking! Kudos for the always wonderful Charles Laughton as one heck of a villain, and to Ray Milland as the hero.
After appearing the short musical, Footlight Rhythm, Lucy was in Two Tickets to Broadway, a sub par Broadway pastiche musical. She then hit the jackpot again with The Bad and the Beautiful, one of the best outlooks on Hollywood that Hollywood ever producer (whoa, this is one difficult sentence)! Kirk Douglas plays the ultimate fight-dirty producer who’ll do ANYTHING to get what he wants.
Lucy started 1953 with The Clown, a nostalgic, sentimental story about a professional clown who barely makes ends meet but can’t give it up since he has a son to support. Nice, touching, with the right degree of pathos, and Red Skelton is pretty good in the leading role. Next was Sabre Jet , an insipid movie about the men who flew combat aircraft known as Sabre Jets during the Korean War. This ain’t Top Gun people, and the characters and the story if thin at best. Robert Stack, never my favorite actor, never quite manages to make it work as a romantic lead.
Half a Hero is a mediocre movie about a pretty much everyday theme – normal couple Red Skelton and Jean Hagen decide to move the family from New York City to the suburbs. Trouble ensures. Lucy had the biggest role in her career in Executive Suite, a well made Her last movie in 1954 was Athena, a Jane Powell musical with a surprisingly modern outlook on food and lifestyle!
Lucy worked for a time for Red Skelton, and changed her name. She did some minor movie work: appeared in Anything Goes, the Marilyn Monroe movie Bus Stop and the swashbuckler The Buccaneer. Under her original name, she made one more movie, Frank Sinatra’s The Joker Is Wild , before retiring.
Here is everything you need to know about Lucy in short, as written in a newspaper from the 1950s:
Lucille Knox has been a movie fan since she was five years old. Her favorite dolls were named Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. When she daydreamed herself a husband it was always Clark Gable. When Lucy was a teen-ager she and sister Dorothy drove from their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, to visit relatives in Tucson, Arizona. At dinner one night in a local .-hotel their eyes almost popped out when they saw Paulette Goddard at a nearby table. Naturally Lucy asked for an autograph. Miss Goddard was cordial and said, “If you girls ever come to Hollywood look me up at Paramount.” Shortly after that Lucy and Dorothy arrived in Hollywood. “Miss Goddard,” they were told at the studio, “is in San Francisco.” “We were disappointed and hungry,” said Lucille. “A restaurant a block away caught my attention because of its name: Lucey’s. The place was jumping with movie stars. We met Everett Crosby, Bing’s brother. I told him that Paulette had promised to show us the Paramount studios. ” ‘Well,’ he said, ‘since Paulette Isn’t here, I’ll show you the studio and I’ll also introduce you to the casting director.’ He did. And we both were signed to a Paramount contract.”
Lucille and her sister were not popular with the other girls on the lot. “We were real naive. In all the fan magazines we’d read back in Nashville all you did in Hollywood was sat at a soda fountain or in a popular restaurant and you were discovered. We thought getting a contract on the first day was par for the course. We didn’t know that some of these kids had waited years for a break.” Another day, another restaurant. Lucille was having lunch at the Tail of the Cock. Red Skelton was at the next table. “Would you be interested in television work?” he asked. For two years Lucille was an important part of the Skelton show. M-G-M director Vincente Minnelli saw her on the show and gave her the part of Gilbert Roland’s steak-eating girl friend in The Bad and the Beautiful. After that she played Louis Calhern’s sexy girl friend in Executive Suite and a process-server in Esther Williams’ Athena. Lucille Knox was born Lucy Knoch. Red Skelton changed the Lucy to Lucille. And she herself recently changed the Knoch to Knox. She’s 5 feet 5′,inches tall, weighs 119 pounds and is married to an insurance man. Skelton once wrote an article about her titled, “The Young Lucille Ball.” She has been carefully avoiding Desi’g Lucy ever since. She figures she’s been lucky enough just being herself.
However, what Hollywood didn’t know was that Lucy came to town as a married woman – she was wed to Michael Joseph Rose on September 11, 1941, in Davison, Tennessee. the newlywed had scarcely any time to enjoy their wedded bliss – Rose went into the army in October 1945. Rose was born in 1915, son of Tony and Marie Rose. Little else is known about him. The marriage was short-lived however, and they divorced sometime prior to 1945.
When Lucy first came to Hollywood, she gave another interview:
Lucy stayed on and has just signed a new contract. “It’s been wonderful here at Paramount,” she said. “When it was learned that we were two Southern girls alone in Hollywood, everybody from producers and directors on down helped and advised us. A Southern accent is no handicap when it comes to making friends. Everybody around the studio calls me ‘Honey Chile’ and ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Lucy Belle.’ And anybody from the South visiting the lot is rushed over to meet me.” “Nevertheless,” Lucy said, “I am trying to lose my Southern accent because you can’t play many roles with a Tennessee drawl.” AFTER she signed her contract Lucy’s days were occupied with a rigid training program, as they still are. As a member of the Paramount Starlet School she receives instruction in dramatics, diction, calesthenics, dancing. “I even had to learn to walk all over again.” she exclaimed. Also part of the training program has been Lucy’s appearance in IS major films. As a show girl, dancer, nurse, maid, Lucy has had experience before the camera. “It was a terrifying ordeal those first few weeks on the set. There are directors, assistant directors, cameramen, wardrobe women, scenery men, electricians, all watching you as if you were a trained seal going through your tricks. But I finally got used to it and don’t mind the shooting now.” Among the major films in which Lucy Knoch has appeared , are “Road to Utopia.” “Incendiary Blond.” “The Blue Dahlia.” “The Lost Weekend” and “Miss Susie Slagle’s.” Her newest pictures, all with Bing Crosby, are “Welcome Stranger,” “Blue Skies.” and “The Emperor’s Waltz.” Honey-haired Lucy is 23 years old. five feet six inches tall, and weighs 121 pounds. She plays golf and rides, but her favorite sport is fishing. ‘ With her husband, tall dark Nicholas Cancellieri (trucking-line owner whom she married in 1945), she spend most of her free moments deep-sea fishing off Catalina or Malibu. The starlet loves California but misses the neighborliness of her home town. “Here in California things are so big that your friends may be 20 or 30 miles away. And most of the time you scarcely have the opportunity to say more than “hello’ to the people in the neat apartment. It’s awful in a way. But you can’t have everything.” According to Paramount officials, however. Lucy Knoch does have everything, and it is easy to see why stardom for her is their prediction. And she seems to have Lady Luck on her side.
But before he go farther, let’s look at her Hollywood private life. Lucy’s first serious beau in Hollywood was the former vaudeville star, Lyle Latell. He also dated starlet Beverly Thompson, so you can guess Lucy was not really a number one priority in his life. Then, she met THE MAN.
Lucy married Nicholas Cancellieri in 1945. He was a trucking company owner, as noted in the quote above. Nicholas was very supportive of his wife and her career, and she continued to act for more than a decade after the married. In the late 1950s, after being in Hollywood for 15 years, Lucy gave up her movie work to raise a family with Cancellieri.
Their first son, Jerry D., was born on August 1,1960. Their second son, Dominic, was born on October 19, 1964. The family lived in California.
Lucy Cancellieri died on July 22, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.