Mary Blackwood


Blonde Mary Blackwood was another debutante who wanted to make good in Hollywood. It wasn’t’ the money obviously – perhaps it was the glamour, the fame, the notoriety that drew such girls to Hollywood. And like most of them, Mary Blackwood came, tried and left. Let’s find out more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Tom Blackwood was born on October 4, 1912, in Colfax, Louisiana, to Dr. E.H. Blackwood and Laura Blackwood. Her older brother Hershel was born in 1909 – her younger sister Lurline was born in 1914. They employed a maid and were obviously well of. Mary spent her earliest years in Colfax.

Her father died in the early 1920s, and her mother remarried to Marcus Dunham, who owned an automobile dealership. Laura, Hershel Mary and Lurline lived with Marcus and his three children from a previous marriage (Martin, Harper and Mildred) in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Mary grew up as a typical debutante of the 1920s – constant garden parties, visits to extended family, and going out with eligible young men whom her parents would approve of.  Imagine Scarlett O’Hara in the early 20th century. She graduated from Bolton High school and attended Stephens College in Missouri and the University of Texas, Austin. Mary’s beauty was so widely known that she was” chosen “sweetheart” of the University of Texas by popular student vote.

Like several other debutantes, Mary decided to go into movies on a lark. She wanted some fun and Hollywood seemed like the bets bet for a girl to experience life outside her own social caste and perhaps meet new guys. So when a casting director wanted society girls to play real society girls in a movie, she jumped at the chance and Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Mary made her debut in David Harum, a not particularly good but nonetheless very interesting movie. Why? Well because it features Will Rogers in one of his mos unusual roles – a banker! Imagine that – Rogers, the champion of the every man who always played normal people, here plays a less than admirable banker (taken from imdb) “who is a pillar of his late Victorian era community who engages in a rivalry over horses with Charles Middleton, they keep trying to sucker the other in horse trading”. It’s a two-man show, and Rogers in mesmerizing to watch in a role with tad bit more edge than usual. Mind you, it’s not a particularly good movie – like many movies of the early 1930s, it has some racist content (the character played by actor Stephin Fetchit is… dismal at best) and it drags to long, the story is thin, but perhaps worth watching to see Rogers in a different role. And he was good, make no mistake.  

Next came the movie that actually catapulted Mary into Hollywood, Coming-Out Party.  Now this is a worse-case-scenario for the good-actors-bad-plot movie – while the leads are passable (Frances Dee wasn’t Katherine Hepburn, but she was fresh-faced and did what she had to do) the story is downright stupid and too dramatic, there is not enough humor and witty repartees. Mind you, it’s not the bottom of the barrel category but with so many good movies to watch, who can watch such mediocre movies anymore? Unfortunately, such movies became Mary’s bread and butter. Come On, Marines! , Mary’s next feature, could have been a great movie about marines fighting a dirty, dirty war but ended up a totally mid tier war-in-the-jungle effort with no big merit to it.

Mary then appeared int he idiotic Stand Up and Cheer!, a no-brain and no-plot musical without any really good music. Minus. her next movie, Black Sheep, was much better –  it’s a fun movie about gamblers on cruise ships – Lady Eve before Lady Eve! Solid story, great actors (Claire Trevor and Edmund Lowe) and snappy dialogue – and we have a winner! Unfortunately, Mary’s next movie, Song and Dance Man, is a completely forgotten one. Afterwards came Girls’ Dormitory, a movie notable today only as one of Tyrone Power’s earliest forays into the seventh art. Otherwise it’s a good-enough but not outstanding movie about a girls dormitory (duh) and the romances both inside and out. Then came Pick a Star one of those movies where the main story is less important and interesting than the side shenanigans. And when Laurel and Hardy appear as comedy relief, you know what I mean. In other words, a typical Cinderella makes it good in Hollywood movie with no special reasons to watch it (except for Laurel and Hardy, but if you want them, go watch their movies!). Mary’s next movie fared no better – The Devil Is Driving is a preachy, boring cautionary tale about the dangers of drunk driving. While you have to respect the cause, it doesn’t cut it out either as art nor as entertainment. Worth watching only to see Elisha Cook Jr. as the drunk driver, a wealthy daddy’s jelly brained son prone to solving everything with money. Mary’s last movie was Start Cheering, a completely over-the-top, outrages screwball comedy but funny to boot. Jimmy Durante and The Three Stooges make this movie, and you can forget about the leading man and his story (Charles Starrett).

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was beautiful, well bred debate from a good family – seemingly a perfect bride-to-be material. In the early 1930s, she dated Social Register’s David Doss, and he even met her parents, but that did not end in marriage (shocking!!).

Mary came to Hollywood in 1933, and started her tabloid career by giving a beauty hint to the readers:

To keep my hair healthy, lustrous and free from dandruff, “launder” it with a good hot-oil shampoo of pure olive oil

In late 1933, Mary was seen with young actor Gordon Westcott around Hollywood, but the relationship ended the same year.

Then, she hit it big in the papers, but sadly not due to her own merit – quite the opposite! Here is the chain of events:

In early April, 1934 Mary Blackwood nearly died on the set of Come On Marines. While filming a swimming sequence, Toby Wing was swinging across a lake and accidentally struck Blackwell in the face as she surfaced from her earlier dive. Seeing her floating unconscious, Toby broke ranks and dived in the water rescuing the uncredited extra from drowning.

That same year, there was an article about a new fad in Hollywood – debutantes becoming actresses! This was a first real batch of such girls to enter Tinsel Town.

An producer had an idea that he will capitalize on the beauty, culture and poise of the society girl. An instance in point was “Coming Out Party,”, in , which a. number of beautiful debutantes were used. It was a charming enough picture, but failed, by a long way, to set the world afire, and I don’t believe that a single one of the girls who played in it has been leard of since in the Alms. The trouble with the rich girl is that she is likely to take up acting as a mere fad. Thelma Morgan Converse at one time came to Hollywood to go into pictures. She had great charm, beauty, and some acting ability. Yet she did not remain. Possibly the new group will be different. Virginia Pine and Mary Blackwood seem to be glowing exceptions tight now.

Unfortunately, neither Mary nor Virginia made a lasting impression on the movie world. While Virginia is more famous today for being a long time paramour to famous actor George Raft, Mary never dated an A class actor (as far as I know) and has no known claim to fame. Her career ended in 1937, and she stayed out fo the newspaper columns for some time after, so I have no idea what her life looked like after the glory days of Hollywood (ha ha ha, a bit of an ironic exaggeration here…). 

Anyway, next time we hear from her, Mary married her first and only husband, Billy Miesegaes on 24 Mar 1942. Billy Miesegaes, Dutch heir to an Indies rubber fortune and president of New York’s TransfUms, was born as William Lodewyk Primavesi Miesegaes on June 10, 1906, in London, England to Auguste Miesegaes and Adrienne Homans. His family was German-Dutch and both of his parents were born in Indonesia. He lived for a time in Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1940.   

They had a daughter, Mary Jane, born in the 1940s, and enjoyed a successful marriage. Mary and her husband lived the high life in New York, and were active in social activities and civic duties. For instance, in the 1950s they gave a supper party to premiere the movie version of “The Medium.” an opera bv Italy’s latest musical prodigy Gian-Carlo Menotti.

Mary Blackwood Miesegaes died on May 1, 1969 and was buried in Louisiana. Her husband died on 21 March 1978.

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Dawn Oney

Pretty Dawn Oney was a local Minnesota beauty that tried to make a career in Hollywood based solely on her looks. Predictably, this failed. Let’s learn more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Donna Mae Frank was born on July 4, 1930 in Mankato, Minnesota. I could not find the names of her parents. When still a baby, she was adopted by her second cousins, Arthur C. Frank and Beatrice Oney. Arthur was a candy salesman and Beatrice was an insurance agent. Beatrice’s younger brother Ivan Oney lived with the family until the early 1940s.

Donna grew up in Mankato and was a precocious child, her principal talent was standing on her head. It was clear from early childhood that Dawn was a stunner – aiming for a better life, she left Mankato for Minneapolis as soon as she graduated high school. She took the name Dawn Oney, became a model and became a sounding success in a very short time-span – for instance, eminent local Minneapolis photographer Anthony Lane frequently used Dawn in commercial work. The earliest photography work by Dawn I could find was in 1949, when she appeared in a short article:

Dawn Oney (right), 3301 Four-teenth avenue S., shows Helen Augustson, 894 Twenty-first avenue S.E., her dress made from the new cotton print sacks being used by the King Midas Flour Mills, Minneapolis. Printed in gay, lively sun-fast, tubfast colors in a wide variety of patterns, these flour sacks are being used for making aprons, playsuits, bathing suits, pillow cases and a variety of other household items.

In 1951, she applied and won a beauty contest conducted by RKO Radio Pictures. The prize was access to Hollywood itself – and she won! She left for Tinsel town that same year, and became one of the tons of movie aspirants picking for stardom.

CAREER

Dawn appeared in only two movies – the first one was The French Line . This movie can either be a total winner or a total loser, depends on what are you looking for. It you want some mindless fun with interesting costumes and passable musical numbers, go for it! If you want a coherent story, great characters and some depth, avoid like the plague. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it’s easy on the eyes and that’s it. Cm-on, the story itself is hardcore “paper thin plots” we can see in so many 1950s musicals – when her fiance leaves her, an oil heiress (played by Jane Russell) takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Anyone with half a brain can see that this has no semblance of reality – but who cares, if it’s an excuse to see Russell in a variety of racy costumes (along with a huge chorus line, where Dawn was one of the chorus girls). Russell also sings in her own (very torchy) voice.

Dawn’s second movie was Son of Sinbad. Now, if The French Line was bad, then Sinbad is even worse. If French Line was good, Sinbad can be even better. Truly, for a camp lover who revels in the idiosyncrasies of such a genre, this is pure gold. I mean, just look at the summary: Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. So, sex, gunpowder and turbans all the way 🙂 As always, the cast is second rate with Dale Roberts and Sally Forest (although Sally had some talent – just sadly she rarely acted in anything worthwhile) – but you can also see the most enchanting of all burlesque girls, Lili St. Cyr, in a more substantial role than usual – she’s wonderful! All in all, typical low quality but majorly fun 1950s Hollywood product, perfect to transport you to another world!

And that was it from Dawn!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Dawn moved from Mankato to Minneapolis, she did not just leave behind her birth town, she also left behind her sweetheart, Carl Harvey Carlson. Carlson was born on March 30, 1929, in Minnesota. Dawn and Carl meet in high school and dated for a few years before she left for Minneapolis and later Los Angeles. Not wanting to be apart any more, they married in about 1949 and Carl followed his wife to Los Angeles.

Their son Daniel “Danny” Bruce Carlson was born on August 12, 1951. However, her marriage did not work out and she divorced Harvey in 1953, citing incompatibility. He went on to work as a mining engineer in Japan, later returned to Minnesota, remarried to Joan Nelson and had two daughters. he died on May 14, 1999 in Minnesota.

After her first batch of movies failed, Dawn tried to revive her career in several ways – she continued to audition and went on modeling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it. So, in 1954, she became Miss Montana. Yes, you heard that right – a woman born and reared in Minnesota became Miss Montana. Before you ask anything, the judges knew that Dawn had a son and was divorced. Dawn was a great crown favorite an it seems she knew how to please them – she was vivacious, gracious and funny. Here is some tidbits about her private life in 1954, taken from an article:

 She now lives in Hollywood with her son. ‘That little boy is the joy of my .lifer” she smiled. “I want four more just like him.” She said she has a boy friend .whom she likes very much but declined to name him. Dawn entered the Miss Universe contest because she wants a screen career, and it is -likely she will get a crack at it, win or lose.

Being Miss Montana did nothing for Dawn’s movie career. I hope she acted elsewhere. However, if Dawn had a claim to fame in the papers, it was about her her unique skills – carpentry! Here is an article from the 1950s about her hobby, written when she was named a Television Venus:

Dawn Oney. the pretty NBC T-Venus is one of the best adjusted and happiest persons I have ever known. She’s a good actress, but that isn’t all, she’s a superb lady carpenter. I asked her if we might take a picture of her with her latest project, which was a group of little animal pull toys she had just completed. It seems she had made these for some little tykes in her neighborhood. “This is the kind of project I like best.” Dawn said. “Each little animal is real easy to build and when they’re finished, they each have a different personality. You’d be surprised at the number of compliments I get when my friends stop in and see my menagerie. Of course the kids are always happy when they get them for Christmas.” Anyone can make little pull toys like the ones pictured which Dawn has just completed. All you need are a few scraps of wood and the full size patterns. Simply trace the pattern on wood, then saw it out and finally put it together.

Unfortunately, Dawn faded bit by bit from the Hollywood scene – she was last seen in the papers in 1971, still a “working actress” (what, where?).

More than 20 years after her divorce from Carlson, Dawn married Gordon A. Frantz on January 9, 1976, in Orange, California. Frantz was born on December 1, 1925, in New York. He was married once before to Dahlia E Guarino. As far as I can tell, the couple lived with two girls, Beatrice and Cynthia Louise “Cindee” (who was born in 1959). I am guessing that Cynthia was born from Gordon’s first marriage, and perhaps they adopted Beatrice. They family lived in Santa Clara and enjoyed a happy family life.

Donna Mae Frantz died on September 12, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.