Tut Mace

Tut Mace was a kind of girl that we only sometimes see in Hollywood – girls born to dance, girls who danced become they felt a passion for it, notfor the money and fame. Pretty, talented and a seasoned pro by the time she was 20, Tut was a good match for Tinsel Town, but her career there was brief and not notable, so she took up the dancing circuits and had much success. A stormy marriage and possible alcoholism sadly overshadowed her dancing abilities.

EARLY LIFE

Katharine May Tut Mace was born on January 26, 1913 in Los Angeles, California, to Lloyd Russell Mace and Katherine G. Higgins. She was their only child. Her father was a medical doctor, then a local practitioner – he later became an official physician of the Olympic auditorium (State Athletic Commission to be more precise).

From early childhood, it was obvious that Tut was extremely talented in kinetics, dancing included, so he parents, fully supportive, tried to do everything to help her develop this talent. She was sent to several of the leading dancing schools and she took private lessons with trained of movement with acrobatic ability. She was also a Girl Scout troop leader.

Her first real showbiz experience was appearing in the local annual pastiche of dancers, dancing what was known then as a “different” acrobatic dance. Day by day she honed her skill and blossomed into a highly talented dancer. She made waves before she hit 18 – here is an example article about her early career days:

In the success scored by Lupino Lane’s new Hollywood Music Box revue, which opened to a capacity audience Tuesday night, the star-producer has not overlooked home talent. He points with pride to Tut Mace, the little dancer who registered the opening night. Little Miss Mace, is just 16 years of age, born in Los Angeles, and received all of her dance instruction here. She is the daughter of Dr. Lloyd Mace, official physician of the Olympic auditorium, and local practitioner. Although Miss Mace is so young, she has already been featured in several acts in vaudeville, and has danced in them as far East as Chicago. Her acrobatic talent is described as bringing exclamation of wonder from Music Box audiences.

Tut danced all over the US, including the prestigious Tabor Theater in Denver, where she joined the Fanchon and Marco “Hollywood Collegians” idea. And not long after, she did land in Hollywood. Pretty soon, she became very popular in Hollywood as a dancer, and was developing so rapidly…

CAREER

Sadly, for such a talented dancer, tut appeared in so few movies – only three! Her first two movies were the Three Stooges shorts, Hollywood Lights and The Big Idea. Since I never saw any of the Stooges shorts and known next to nothing about them nor their body of work, let’s just leave it at that.

Sadly, her only full length movie, She Was a Lady, is a completely forgotten one – little is known about it, but a sure plus is that is had Helen Twelvetrees in the lead. The plot is an outright critique of the social class divide, with Helen playing a daughter of an aristocrat and a servant lady. The plot follows her love life and striving to make something out of her mixed heritage. It actually doesn’t sound half as bad, but sadly I have no idea is anybody has watched this movie in ages.

And that was it from Tut!

PRIVATE LIFE

Tut’s private life was quite stormy and being with one very important man – Gary Leon. Leon was born on february 5, 1906, in Illinois. His family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was a boy. He was a dancer who danced with Rita Hayworth. Leon married Marion Mitchell, his dancing partner, in Detroit. The wedding was staged at the theater where they were appearing, a symphony orchestra playing Lohengrin’s Wedding March as the martial knot was tied before a large audience. And then, a year later, Tut comes into the picture. Wonder how? Here is an article about it:

Gary Leon, dancer, and former Santa Monica athlete, divorced his wife, Marion Leon, in Superior Judge Kincaid’s court yesterday because she was overly Jealous of him. “She insisted on being present in all my business dealings,” Leon testified. “She accused me of being in love with my dancing partners. Always she was out front watching me.” Asked by his attorney, Marshall Hickson, about threats of his wife to end her life, Leon replied it was just her “annual gag” to cause him further annoyance. Marcia (Tut) Mace, Leon’s dancing partner, testified that ,. Mrs. Leon’s jealousy caused Leon to be much upset and that it once resulted in their losing an engagement. The Leons were married December 14, 1933, and separated last April 1

This was not the first time Leon got some slack from the papers. He first got some infamy when he was accused by none other than  Rudy Vallee of keeping rendezvous with his then wife, Fay Webb, in New York. Leon claimed he had known Fay since she was “a little girl with pigtails,” but that he said he had not seen her. He refused to take sides in commenting on the Vallee-Webb case, remarking he was just the innocent victim caught in a cross-fire of a domestic quarrel. He didn’t want to take sides, so he gave affidavits to both sides, and was not further concerned in the matter.”

Har har har, while he was trying to paint Marion as a green-eyed monster, Gary truly was cheating on her with Tut – quite a low punch, I have to say. Just a few short weeks after his divorce, Gary and Tut announced they will be married soon at Agua Caliente. Although California law prescribed a year’s wait before either party may remarry, Leon and Tut evaded the ruling by living apart.

In contrast to Leon’s first marriage, his second wedding to Tut was performed at the Foreign club, Tijuana’s largest gambling house. They left for soon on a combination honey moon and professional tour of Europe. Another thing they kept mum was that Tut was pregnant – their daughter Andree Antoinette was born sometimes in 1935, not long after the wedding.

Leon and Tut’s marriage was a tumulus one. They danced all around the US and Europe, mostly in Great Britain. They often had stormy fights just to make up later and everything was lovely dovely. Like most such stories, the ending was not a nice one.

After a difficult marriage, they finally divorced in 1945. Even then it was a major fiasco – the court proceedings got into papers, and they were not nice. It was said Tut listed her monthly expenses at $156.50, and asked a restraining order to prevent her husband molesting her. Soon, Tut found out she was pregnant again, and gave birth to their second daughter, Pamela Mary Leon, on July 5, 1946, during their divorce proceedings. But the divorce went on as usual – it seems there was nothing that could keep the two of them together.

Tut faded from view, gave up dancing and remarried a Santa Monica businessman, Phillip Malouf.

In 1955, Tut and Gary went to the Santa Monica Superior Court to begin a legal battle over the custody of their 11-year-old daughter. The suit was heard by Judge Stanley Mosk. She was seeking custody of her daughter Pamela, who has been living with’ her father and her paternal grandmother since she and Gary were divorced years ago. Leon, then a chief of security at me Kami corp was likewise remarried by that time. Now this is truly sad: Tut’s husband Philip Malouf testified that he recently attempted the role of peacemaker between Leon and his former wife, where upon Leon went into a tirade and said he wished his former wife were dead and that he would have killed her if he thought he could get away with it. Leon had answered his ex- wife’s demand-for custody of the child and charged that she has been an alcoholic for the past seven years. Tutn, in her affidavit, said she has hot had a drink for 18 months. Judge Mosk advised the parties that he will confer with the girl prior to resumption of the hearing this morning. Sadly that was all I could find of the case, and I have no idea what happened in the end with the custody case.

To sum everything up, it seems that Gary and Tut were at odds for a long time even after that, and I can only hope they reached some sort of agreement on the custody of their daughter. One wonders what could have happened to install so much venom into their hearts.

Tut lived a quiet life in Santa Monica with her husband, and danced only for fun. But unfortunately, it seems that she could have been an alcoholic. Because, she just died too young.

Catherine “Tut” Malouf died on July 26, 1966. I have no idea when Philip Malouf died. Gary Leon died on March 30, 1988.

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Pluma Noisom

Obscure actresses are usually extras or chorus girls – so far we haven’t’ touched another large portion of the often nameless thespians – the stand ins! Not officially actors, they do all the heavy lifting for the stars, standing as the technicians set the light, cameras and so on before the scene is shot. Pluma Noisom hit her five minutes of fame as the stand in for Claudette Colbert, with whom she shared an uncanny physical similarity. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Pluma Hope Noisom was born on February 14, 1913 in Detroit, Michigan, to George Frederick Noisom and Helen June Harrison. Her younger brother George Jr. was also born in Detroit on February 14, 1915. The family moved to King, Washington after George returned from serving in WW1 (in about 1919), but returned to Detroit not long after.

Pluma was a talented child who enjoyed dancing and wanted to make it her life’ vocation. Her parents, more than supportive to her wishes, decided to move to Los Angeles to further her chances to having a dancing career. They packed their bags and by 1922 were living in Los Angeles, where her younger brother Derry was born on September 22, 1923.

Pluma’s mother, by then pretty much determined to get her children into show business, changed their names to make them more theatrical. Hans J. Wollstein’s “All Movie Guide” mentions that her brother George Noisom went by the name Bubbles Noisom, and Pluma became Pluma DaVonne. Her brother appeared in the Wizard of Oz and was arguably the most successful of the siblings. Pluma started to attract attention with her dances in several films, and her career was of!

CAREER

Judging by IMDB, Pluma never had a featured role but instead was a stand in for Claudette Colbert. I don’t think this is the whole truth – it seems she was a chorus girl before she became a stand in, and she was a stand-in in more than three movies listed on the profile page. But anyway, Pluma gave up her career as a movie dancing girl to be the stand-in for Claudette, and their first movie was Cleopatra.

Pluma was Claudette’s stand in in The Gilded Lily, actually a pretty nice romantic comedy. The plot is simple enough: While its no high art, I for one like these kind of fun, sharp but still dreamy enough to be part escapism. The cast is uniformly good – Claudette, Fred MacMurray and Ray Milland.

That same year she was stand in for She Married Her Boss, another semi-comedy combined with semi-drama. Much like the Gilded Lilly, it mixes the two genres and it mixes them nicely. Overall, it’s bit uneven in the quality department (low points: the ending is downright terrible, the costumes are terrifyingly bad), but more than watchable. And I love Melvyn Douglas, he’s a tush! 

Accordign to IMDB, Pluma’s last movie was Under Two Flags, an adventure movie. The opinions are divided about this one – while it’s a solid movie overall, some thing it could have been much better – some think it’s great just the way it is. But anyway, it’s indisputable that he movie has an impressive cast (Claudette, Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell) and a good plot, taken from Ounida’s novel.

According to the papers, Pluma doubled for Claudette in some of the long shots of “Imitation of Life,” because Claudette had to start another picture, and when Claudette was ill, Pluma played in some of the faraway scenes of “Maid of Salem.”

And that was it from Pluma!

PRIVATE LIFE

Pluma married her first husband, James P. Whitaker, on July 1,4 1930, in Los Angeles. Whitaker was born on in Missouri in 1910, to Jasper Whitaker and Mary Walsh. They family moved to California in the 1920s, and James worked in Los Angeles in the cleaning business, being a salesman of cleaning fluids. The marriage was very short-lived and the divorced early the next year. Whitaker remarried in the 1930s, was drafted into WW2 in 1942 and I have no idea what happened to him afterwards.

Pluma wasted no time in finding her number two – she got remarried on September 5, 1931, in Los Angeles, to Thomas S. Peterson. Peterson was born on February 6, 1908 in New Mexico, to Charles S. Peterson and Minnie K Tudor, 12 years older than his brother Jack. After living for a time in Indiana, the family settled in California, where Thomas worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. This marriage also did not last long and was terminated before 1935. Peterson was also drafted into WW2 and died on August 25, 1988 in California.

And now, for some of the details of Pluma’s life as Claudette’s stand in. Here is a short article about her:

For seven weeks Pluma Noisom, blond “stand-in” for Claudette Colbert, has donned a heavy wig each morning because a stand-in’s hair must be the same color as the actress for which she substitutes while lights are being arranged and the set is being prepared for the filming of a sequence. But the weather has been warm and the wig uncomfortable. Today Miss Noisom appeared at the studio and returned the wig to the property department. Overnight she had become a raven-haired brunette.

In 1936, Pluma was about to get married again, but didn’t have the free days to do it. When Claudette Colbert contracted influenza and had to take a few days of production, Pluma got the few free days that  she needed. Taking advantage of this opportunity, she eloped to Riverside and married Ward Schweizer, former college athlete. The marriage was disclosed when Pluma appeared for work the next day and forgot to remove her wedding ring.

Pluma’s new intended was Ward Cotrell Schweizer, born on January 22, 1908 in Los Angeles, to John Melchior Schweizer and Hester Willson. He grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Occidental College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Tau Omega. He served in World War II and achieved the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army. He joined Pacific Telephone in 1930 and moved to San Francisco in 1940. He became an executive vice president and officer in the AT&T Bell System and served on the boards of Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell. After his retirement in 1972, he joined the board of telecom equipment provider Lynch Communications.

I could not find much information about Pluma and Ward’s marriage, but it seems that they had two children, two sons, John Schweizer and Marc Schweizer (born on September 17, 1947). The couple divorced in the early 1950s.

Schweizer remarried in 1958 to Constance McPherson, and they lived in Atherton, California for 45 years until his death in 2003.

Pluma allegedly remarried to a Mr. Proulx but I could not find any information about the union. She continued living in Los Angeles.

Pluma Hope Proulx died on May 22, 1981, in Los Angeles, California.

Martha Merrill

Martha Merrill was one of those girls who get to Hollywood via the dancing route, manage to climb out of the chorus pit, but sadly never amount to much. However, Martha proved her versatility when she became a professional writer after her acting days were over, and was hailed as a fine poetess! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Martha Baum was born on February 22, 1916, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to James and Pearl Baum. She was the sixth and last child – her siblings were Josephine, born in 1894, twins Mannie and James Jr., born in 1899, Samuel, born in 1904 and Pearl, born in 1909. Both of her parents were Russian immigrants and her father worked as a furniture buyer at a department store. The family was well off as they employed a servant and a nurse for the children.

The Baums moved to Chicago, Illinois by 1925, where Martha grew up. She was interested in dancing from her early teen years and seriously considered it as her future vocation.

Martha attended University High school and after graduation attended College Preparatory school of Chicago and then started to dance professionally. At some point she landed in Hollywood, but was not signed by a studio, rather she danced in the chorus as a freelancer.

Dick Powell proved to be Martha’s claim to fame. While filming Dames, a cameraman needed a girl to pose with Dick for a picture. Martha volunteered, among others. Dick picked her to assist in making a “trailer”.  Although the photograph was never used it found its way to the desk of an executive at Warner Bros studio.  He ordered a screen test for her and she so favorably impressed studio officials by her work, that she was signed under contract, and of the went!

CAREER:

Martha appeared in a string of musicals as a chorus girl – George White’s ScandalsHere Comes the Navy andDames 

Martha than appeared in a more serious movie fare – The St. Louis Kid, and The Firebird, a sly, well made but still out of the mill crime whodunit (Ricardo Cortez is the victim – he was often the victim in the 1930s!). She then appeared in another Cagney film, Devil Dogs of the Air. This one is a so-so effort, pretty weak in several important elements (story – a cocky pilot learns manners – so cliché!, characters – no real depth, Cagney is great because he plays his usual character), but with solid performers and some nice looking aerial scenes.

Martha finally got her first credit in Living on Velvet, a type of melodrama that doesn’t have a lot of plot but does have a lot of emotion. The whole movie thus rests on the shoulders of the leading actors – George Brent and Kay Francis. I like Kay, she was effortlessly charming, and find Brent a cool tall glass of water! While he could be a wooden statue at times, at other times he was like butter, so creamy and nice! Here, the two make it work, so it’s a good enough movie, worth watching once. Martha was back in the musical saddle with Gold Diggers of 1935Shipmates ForeverIn Caliente and Go Into Your Dance. They are more or less all the same, just with different actors and slightly different stories. A better musical was Show Boat, with the indomitable Irene Dunne as Magnolia.

Luckily, Martha did appear in some more substantial movies like ‘G’ Men, another early Cagney vehicle where he plays a FBI agent at the time when agents didn’t even have authority to carry firearms, Don’t Bet on Blondes, a shallow romantic comedy with Gene Raymond and Claire Dodd, the delightful and puffy Personal Maid’s Secret, a very well done B movie with Ruth Donnelly and Margaret Lindsay set in Park avenue (very interesting to see how Park Avenue people lived in the 1930s – a great time piece!), and Nobody’s Fool, a solid Edward Everett Horton comedy about a country bumpkin who comes to the big city.

The rest of Martha’s filmography was covered by mediocre comedies: They Met in a Taxi, a Chester Morris brain-dead comedy (but still a fun one), Cain and Mabel, a lukewarm pairing of two acting greats, Marion Davies and Clark Gable (they could do better for sure), The Cowboy Star, which luckily is not a western just has a cowboy in the name, and More Than a Secretary, a Jean Arthur movie that’s far from her best work.

Martha’s last movie was perhaps the best one she appeared in, and most certainly my own favorite – History Is Made at Night. This incredible, dream like movie won’t leave you indifferent – and how could it when it pairs Jean Arthur with Charles Boyer, along with a special favorite of mine, Colin Clive (what a shame that he did too little movies!).

That was it from Martha!

PRIVATE LIFE

Martha was famous for her shapely gams. She was selected by none other than Busby Berkeley, dance director, as the possessor of Hollywood’s most beautiful legs. Martha’s thigh measured eighteen and one half inches, calf thirteen and a half and ankle seven inches.

Martha was a writer from her early teens, and even when she was an actress, she looked for any writing outlets she could find. During the 1930s, a Beverly Hills magazine published her poem, Heart Flutter.

She was also chosen as the perfect showgirl in her prime. Here is an article about it:

She’s Martha Merrill back home in Ft. Wayne, Ind. as the “ideal type” out of 200 dancers. Miss Merill is five feet five, weighs 115 pounds, has a waist measurement of 26 inches, an eight-inch ankle and “midnight blue” hair. , Prinz, a director, said the American movie public decided on the changed style in beauty and helped him select Miss Merrill. “Ideas of what constitutes a beautiful girl change just as do standards in clothing,” he explained. “Apparently what the vast bulk of people want those who are interested in a girl’s looks, that is a taller type. Maybe it’s because the race is getting bigger. “From a technical standpoint, at any rate, it is rare that we find real beauty without stature. A girl who stands around five feet or five-two may be pretty, but it’s physically impossible for her to have much dignity or queenliness. “

Here is another article about our busy bee Martha:

Martha Merrill is a young ingenue. Her name may ‘ mean nothing to you, although she has screen credit I mention her because of all the youngsters I have met, she seems more ambitious and willing to work than most. Recently a young man fell in love with her. He dogged her steps, pleading for social dates, but her nights were so filled with studies that she refused. His persistence in the end paid off, but after such a long time…

I have no idea who that young man could be, but as far as her love life was concerned, Martha was married briefly to a Los Angeles physician, a Dr. Parrish. However,I could not find any marriage certificate, I just know that they were divorced prior to 1940.

In 1936, Martha was serious for a time with Ross Alexander, a fellow Warner Bros contractee. As Ross was a highly unhappy individual, it was actually a blessing in disguise when they broke up later that year (Ross killed himself in 1937). Around that time Martha was also seen with Lyle Talbott.

Unfortunately, Martha suffered from an unknown physical malady, and by the late 1930s had to put short her acting career. Trying to find another occupation for herself, producer Edgar Selwyn persuade her to try short story writing and submitted her first effort to a national magazine,which led to a five-year contract at Paramount-studio’s as a scenarist. Unfortunately, I could not find under which name she wrote as she has no writing credits under her acting name.

After this switch of careers, Martha lived part of the year in New York, and there met and fell in love with noted theater critic George Jean Nathan. They dated for a time, and she spent even more time in New York so their relationship could blossom, but they broke up int he early 1940s.

On June 9, 1944, Martha married her second husband, Emanuel Manheim. Manheim was born on November 13, 1897, in New York, to Levi and Rachael Manheim. He was quite a bit older than Martha, but was never wed before.

Funny, but Mannie’s obituary has the best biography written about him i could find:

 Emanuel (Mannic) Manheim, a New York-born humorist who wrote three decades of radio and TV comedy for the likes of Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra and Art Link-letter, and once presided as the “mayor” of Schwab’s during the drugstore’s Hollywood heyday, has died. Manheim was 90 when he died at Santa Monica Hospital on June 26, according to family and friends. In the mid-1930s, Manheim came to Hollywood from Syracuse, N.Y., for a brief vacation, but at the behest of a friend, composer Harold Arlen, he stayed and stayed, for more than 50 years, writing first for the most popular radio shows of the time and then for television as recently as the 1970s. “A very clever, very witty, very nice man,” recalled writer and playwright Arthur Marx, Grouch-o’s son and a fledgling writer when Manheim got him his first writing job, on Milton Berle’s radio show. In Hollywood, Arlen introduced him to Marx, who gave him his first assignment: writing a Groucho -Chico sequence for radio, according to Manheim’s wife, Martha. Man-heim’s most memorable one, an absent-minded bit known variously as “Hello Olive” and “The Thorndykes,” is a skit Groucho used repeatedly for years. Groucho was performing with Bob Hope and ad-libbing his way through a Manheim script when he was spotted by a TV producer who cleared the way for “You Bet Your Life,” and Groucho wryly credited Manheim with helping to launch his TV career, said Arthur Marx. Among his other radio credits were shows for Edgar Bergen, Frank Sinatra, Rudy Vallee, Jackie Gleason and, for several years, Al Jolson. He also wrote material for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and served as head writer for Milton Berle’s radio program. Manheim’s daily calendar was consulted by everyone on that show, his wife said, and one day Berle caught sight of the notation “Book Mencken,” Manheim’s reminder to himself to pick up the latest copy of pundit H.L. Mencken’s work. “What the hell right have you got,” Berle supposedly snarled, “to book Mencken without my consent?” Manheim wrote for television from its infancy. He wrote and produced “The George Jessel Show,” and wrote for “People Are Funny” as well as occasional scripts for “The Real McCoys,” “The Donna Reed Show” and, at the end of his career, for such shows as “My Three Sons.” But “he was at his best,” said his wife, “in those big musical comedy shows you don’t see any more.” At Manheim’s request, there were no services. He is survived by his wife and his brother, Het.

Martha and Mannie lived in California and enjoyed a very happy union. They did not have any children, but it seems that this did not put a strain on the marriage. In 1958, Martha started studying philosophy at Santa Monica College, and was a straight A student each semester.

Manheim died on June 28, 1988 in Los Angeles. Martha lived a quiet life in their home and didn’t remarry.

Martha Baum Manheim died on April 2, 1991, in Los Angeles, California.