Dorinda Clifton

Dorinda Clifton started her movie careeer in a big – playing a leading role, receiving loads of publicity and critical plaudits. However, even with this powerful platform, she failed to gather any real attention. Afterwards, she valiantly tried to revive her career for more than 5 years, but after getting less and less attention, gave up movies to raise a family and later, become a writer.

EARLY LIFE

Dorinda Clifton was born on April 27, 1928, in Los Angeles, California, to Elmer Clifton and Helen Kiely. Her older sister, Patricia, was born in 1925 somewhere at sea (I wonder where!). Her younger brother, Elmer Jr, was born on April 20, 1932.

Dorinda grew up in the movie colony called Hollywood – her father was a movie director who worked with many silent movie notables. His short bio, taken from IMDB:

He acted on the stage from 1907 and worked with D.W. Griffith in various capacities between 1913 and 1922, including appearances in The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916). He became a director in 1917, with his best-known production probably being the big-budget whaling epic Down to the Sea in Ships (1922), which brought Clara Bow to the attention of audiences. Unfortunately, his career began to wane in the late 1920s; although he occasionally worked for such “major” studios as Columbia or RKO, he spent most of the rest of his career mired in the depths of Poverty Row, writing and/or directing low-budget westerns and thrillers for such low-rent studios as PRC and even lower-budget exploitation pictures for such quickie producers as J.D. Kendis and the Weiss Brothers.

It came as no surprise that Dorinda also wanted to continue the family tradition and to act. She was snatched by Columbia before she even graduated from high school, as this article can attest:

Columbia’s new 17 – year – old discovery, Dorinda Clifton, is starting her screen career on the exact spot where her father worked 30 years ago. The location is Columbia’s branch studio on Sunset boulevard at Lyman place, where Dorinda is playing the title role in the new movie version of Gene Stratton Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost.” In 1915, Dorinda’s father, Elmer Clifton, was a young leading man in D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” which was made on outdoor stages at precisely the same place.

And thus her career started.

CAREER

Dorinda appeared in only one movie for Columbia, The Girl of the Limberlost. Based on the classic novel by Indiana authoress Gene Stratton-Porter, it’s raw, brutal and unpleasant, about a girl whose own mother hates her, but despite the sombre plot, the movie never goes over the line into truly hard stuff, as this is still Hollywood, no matter the story, they always make it a cut or two above depressed. Dorinda played the lead, and great things were expected from her. Unfortunately, the movie failed to gather much interest among the public despite genereally warm reviews -as a result, it’s barely remembered today, and Dorinda’s career tanked.

However, she chose to march on. She lost her Columbia contract, but signed with a poverty row studio. So, her next movie, was The Marauders. What can I say, low-budget westerns yet again! This is an above average Hopalong Cassidy movie, but it’s still a low-budget western so no bueno as far as I’m concerned.

Dorinda won a contract with MGM, hoping to obtain stardom thru a different path. MGM put her in a string of different genres, and she started her MGM years in two pretty famous musicals – On the Town and Annie Get Your Gun. She than branched into thrillers with Shadow on the Wall, an interesting movie which gave Ann Sothern  chance to play drama – and that didn’t happen often, mind you. Strong support is given by the ever suave Zachary Scott and Gigi Perreau.

Dorinda went back to musicals, and appeared in a string of them – Hit Parade of 1951Grounds for Marriage (a Kathryn Grayson/Van Johnson vechicle), Call Me Mister (this time a Betty Grable/Dan Dailey movie) and Excuse My Dust.

Then it was back t more serious movie fare with Slaughter Trail. Serious only in name – it’s another western, not quite a slow budget as Hopalong Casid but not a whole lot more. It does have a more impressive cast (Brian Donlevy, Virginia Grey), but it’s still the same old Cowboys vs Indians.

The last batch of movies Dorinda made under her MGM contract were excellent musicals – The Belle of New York (the weakest of the bunch, but still a good enough musical with Fred Astaire), Singin’ in the Rain (what more do I need to say?), Million Dollar Mermaid (one of Escther William’s best), Stars and Stripes Forever (worth seeing for Clifton Webb if nothing else) and The Band Wagon (the best Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire pairing). Dorinda’s last two movies were adventures: The Golden Blade, a mid tier Arabian adventure type, with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie, and Moonfleet, a beguiling mix of swashbuckling movie and Gothic horror. The male lead is Stewart Granger, truly a fitting replacament for the aging Errol Flynn, and the rest of the cast is equally good – George Sanders, Joan Greenwood, Viveca Lindfors.

After her MGM contract ended, Dorinda gave up on movies to devote herself to family life.

PRIVATE LIFE

For a time in 1949, Forinda was slated to marry Anson Bond, a “quickie” producer, when his divorce from Maxine Violet Nash was made final. Bond was a business partner of her father, and it seemed to me the scenario of “marrying the boss’ daughter” more than a love match. However, fate intervened – Dorinda’s father died in 1949, and she broke up the engagement not long after.

met her first husband, William K. Nelson, when served as Youth Director for the Congregational Church in Hollywood. They married in 1951.

William “Ace” K. Nelson was born Sept. 7, 1922, in Hollywood, California. Here is a short summary of his life, taken from his obituary:

Ace was a graduate of Hollywood High School and Occidental College. He got his nickname when he was playing guard on a never-defeated Hollywood High School basketball team. At the final bell he flung the ball from beyond mid-court and scored the winning basket. The next day, the papers reported Bill “Ace” Nelson’s amazing shot. The nickname followed him to college and onward.

While still at Occidental, Ace joined the Navy’s officers training corps, and after Pearl Harbor was sent to Columbia University to be trained as a “90-day wonder” Naval officer. He commanded an LST for three years in the Pacific during World War II. His was the flagship of his 60-ship convoy.

After graduation from Occidental with a major in economics, Ace and his friend Robert Hayward decided they didn’t want to sit behind desks all their lives. They therefore hired an old and wise Swedish carpenter to teach them the trade by building a house with them. Ace continued to be a (very contented) carpenter-contractor for his working life

The couple had three sons: Alec, born on August 22, 1953, Mark, born on October 29, 1953, and David, born on May 21, 1959. The family lived in Corona Del Mar, California. Dorinda gave up her career by that time and was a devoted mother and wife.

The Nelsons divorced in 1967, and William remarried to Joni, and moved to Oregon. He died in 2008.

Dorinda married her second husband, Anthony Lee Gorsline, on July 5, 1970. Gorsline was born on May 4, 1930, in California. He was married once before, to Stephanie Lorna Herrmann, in 1953, and they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

The couple moved to Brownsville, Oregon. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1976. Dorinda continued to live in Oregon and never remarried. Gorsline also stayed in the same city.

Dorinda became a succesful writer and was very active n the aristical communit on the West Coast. She started writing her memoir, and did so partial yin the 100 years old artist’s retreat, MacDowell Colony. When asked about her reasons for becoming a writer, she said:

“The reason I write is I have all these ghosts in my past, and I want to have them tell the story. Then I don’t have to live with this story any more.”

She finally published her memoir, Woman In The Water: A Memoir Of Growing Up In Hollywoodland  (check it up on the Amazon link), in 2005. The book was warly recieved and she continued writing, mostly childen’s books. Some of her works are: Take the cake, Everybody is somebody and Ginger Bird. She retired from writing in 2007.

Dorinda Clifton died on February 18, 2009, in Brownsville, Oregon. Her former husband, Anthony Gorsline, died just few months later, on June 17, 2009.

 

 

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