Unlike many starlets, Tanis Chandler came from an upper class background, and when she decided to crack Hollywood, she hired a good enough publicist to do a major publicity stunt – namely, try to sell herself as a man! In time or actor-shortage (due to the war), this otherwise pathetic stunt worked, and Tanis found herself playing leading roles in B movies. Sadly, she never broke the mold to become a true success, and retired after marrying.
Anne Scott Goldwhaite was born in Nantes, France, on August 20, 1924, to Henry Chandler Goldwhaite and Leone Lorfray DeRousier. Her father was a noted American pianist, organist, composer and conductor. He used this name for classical concert work but adopted the name of Rex Chandler for popular music work. Tanis’ mother was French. She had a younger sister, Patricia, born in 1929.
Tanis was educated in Paris, with private tutors, and at the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. For a brief time she was educated in Mexico City, where she learned to speak Spanish. From earliest childhood, Tanis had an interesting calendar: Four months of each year she spent in the United States with her father, whose professional work required these visits; three months of each year were spent in England for the same reason. The rest of the year the family resided with Tanis grandmother in Nantes or in the apartment they maintained in Paris.
In 1936 the Chandlers came to New York, planning to reside permanently in the United States. Tanis’ father conducted the Ford and other radio shows, then became seriously ill. Forced to help out on the family finances, Tanis became a model while going to school. She worked for Powers, also free-lanced, appearing in many well-known advertisements extolling nationally known products. She continued this work when she came to Hollywood.
Tanis started her career as a woman in uncredited role for RKO. her first appearance was in Higher and Higher, one of the few films where Hollywood tried to capitalize on the alluring Michele Morgan, then a major French movie star. What can I say, Hollywood totally failed to use this incredible actress, and she languished in low quality productions for a few short years int he mid 1940s. This movie is one of those – thus, unless you want to see Michele, not really worth watching.
Then came Janie, one of those idealized, thus completely unrealistic family movies Hollywood made during the War to keep up the moral – all the kids are wonderful, all the parents are wonderful, all the families are perfect. But still, they usually are heart warming, touching movie,s despite their lack of plausibility. Here we have Joyce Reynolds, forgotten by time and everybody else, and Robert Hutton ditto), so the cast isn’t even top-tier. Saving grace is definitely Ann Harding! Love her! She played mother roles by then, and she was superb in it, just like in anything else she appeared in. Similar in theme and feel was Music for Millions, another cutie pie musical, this time with Margaret O’Brien and June Allyson.
Tanis became a man for Wanderer of the Wasteland, a Zane Grey western. No comment needed.
Tanis was one of the tons of girls in George White’s Scandals. Tanis appeared in Cornered, a solid but not outstanding film noir with Dick Powell. Worse for wear was Dick Tracy, first of the low-budget series, but Tanis’ movie got better by a narrow margin.
Then came a role in The Madonna’s Secret. Now, this is an example of a movie that actually outshines its modest origins – concocted as a B movie with a slight story and no big acting names in it, a sturdy director, good cinematographer and capable actors make it work, and warrant it a watching many years after it was made. Next was lackluster Cinderella Jones, followed by the Bronte sisters biopic, Devotion. Not the best biopic ever made, but a good one nonetheless.
Tanis was then in Ding Dong Williams, a piece of silly, nonmemorable movie making. Another not quite memorable movie was The Catman of Paris, where she was even credited, but this sub par copy of Cat people didn’t raise anyone’s profile, Tanis included. She had a leading female role in Shadows Over Chinatown, a Charlie Chan movie, so we can say that at least Charlie Chan enthusiasts know her name.
Unlike many actresses on this site, Tanis appeared in a bona fide classic – The Big Sleep. She had a small role as a waitress, but this is still enough to warrant cinematic greatness (ha ha).
The rest of Tanis career is actually impressive, considering her modest starts – she played leading, or at least credited roles, despite the quality of the movies being dubious (to put it mildly).
For instance, Spook Busters, a Bowery brothers movie, perfect for boys of 13-14, and not much else… And then Affairs of Geraldine, the forgotten Jane-Withers-charms-everybody movie. And Jane always plays overgrown teenagers… it got a bit better with another Charlie Chan, The Trap. And then there was Lured, a very good thriller made by (surprise!) Douglas Sirk. Yes, the same Douglas Sirk who did glossy female melodramas like Michelangelo did statues. And yes, there is more to Sirk than it meets the eye! And an outstanding cast – Lucille Ball, George Sanders, Boris Karloff…
After such a good movie, The Spirit of West Point seems like a total letdown, and ditto for 16 Fathoms Deep, an insipid, no very original underwater adventure film with a B cast and C production values. Tanis was playing leads – just not in the best movie, it seemed. from 1949 until 1952 Tanis was busy in TV production, and made her two last movies in 1951 and 1952 respectively.
The first, According to Mrs. Hoyle was a cheap Monogram programmer where Spring Byington, as an elderly schoolteacher, tried to reform some jaded criminals. Sounds wacky? Oh yes, but Spring is a gem and worth watching almost anywhere. Tanis’ last movie, At Sword’s Point, was a fun and breezy swashbuckler with Maureen O’Hara and Cornel Wilde – while it’s not a bad movie by any stretch of imagination, it’s hard to distinguish it from the hundreds of similar swashbuckler movies.
And that was it from Tanis!
Tanis was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 119 pounds. She had deep blue eyes and lovely taffy-colored hair.
During her childhood Tanis wrote fiction and poetry and enjoyed considerable success in selling it. She still wrote during her Hollywood years, but only as a hobby but no longer made a serious effort to sell her work. She was interested in music for the pure enjoyment it affords, and in drawing and painting. Also she also spoke French and Spanish fluently. Due to her knack with languages, she did the French dubbing for about 30 foreign versions of pictures.
While attempting to get a foothold in Hollywood, Tanis supplemented her modeling with more than a year’s work in a Beverly Hills stock brokerage firm. Except this, she also did a teaching stint at the Goldthaite school, a kindergarten with an enrollment of 30 children, which she and her mother operated on the famed Sunset Strip in the 1950s. Also, another part-time job – modeling! Besides appearing inside the stylish magazines regularly and on numerous covers, she commuted between Paris and New York offices of the magazines with all expenses paid.
Tanis hit the papers for the first time in 1944, where she was a subject of a clever PR stunt (I refuse to believe it was anything else). take a look:
Pretty Miss Tanis Chandler did all right in masculine film roles, until she got a part as an un-shirted laborer. Then Miss Chandler had to say “no,” and tell Warner Bros, she was really a girl. She explained that she had tired of her job as a teletype operator and had capitalized on the current shortages of male extras. But before the unmasking, she successfully portrayed the role of a sheik in “The Desert Son”–her curves concealed by a long flowing Arab robe.
While they claims that she is earnest tried to sell herself offas a man, I highly doubt this – okay, if Tanis was a sturdy woman whose built at least went on the stronger side – but she was a slip of a thing, weighting a bit more than 100 pounds – such delicate man and few and far between. So, while it was possible, I do think was a stunt to make her more recognizable for the movie going public. It’s not like Hollywood never did such shenanigans. It was this, plus her voice, that landed her a contract with RKO. Allegedly, an executive studio heard her voice on one of the first OWI programs to General MacArthur’s invasion troops and Filipino guerillas on Luzon, learned who she was and hired her.
In 1945, wealthy heir Bill Hollingsworth was often seen with Tanis. He even took her mother dining, meaning it was serious. She spent her 21st birthday with Bill, but by next month she was with Paul Brooks at Lyman’s. John Auer came next, but he didn’t last that long. In 1946, Tanis was seen with Al Herd at the Trocadero with some frequency.
In 1948, Tanis made headlines for an unfortunate accident. Here it is:
Blond screen actress Tanis Chandler was resting Monday following a brush with a leopard. She suffered gashes on her arm Sunday when attacked by the big cat at Trader Horn’s wild animal farm. Miss Chandler, who is starring in a film titled “Gee, I Tamed a Lion,” was training for the role when she was attacked
In 1949 Tanis was quite serious about attorney Milton Golden, and was a speaker at several woman’s gatherings, describing her recent trip to France and Belgium.
In 1952, Tanis married music publisher Paul Mills. Here is an article about her wedding:
The lovely bride is the daughter of Mrs. Chandler Goldthwaite and the late Mr. Goldthwaite and her bridegroom’s parents are Mr. and Mrs. Irving Mills. Newlywed Mrs. Mills, known professionally as Tanis Chandler, was given in marriage by Harold Lloyd. Her wedding gown was fashioned of ivory-pink satin and a band of pale pink rosebuds held her shoulder-length veil of heirloom Brussels lace. She carried a cascade of stephanotis and pink miniature roses. Tanis and Paul left for a honeymoon in Northern California after the wedding
Paul Mills was born in 1922, in Pennsylvania, to Irving and Bessie Mills, one of seven children. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he got into the music scene, and ended up in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.
On May 30, 1952, Tanis gave birth to a daughter, Amy Beth. Three years later, on May 14, 1955 a second daughter, Priscilla Leone, was born. Tanis happily slid into family life, far away from Hollywood and newspapers.
Paul Mills died in 1999.
Tanis Chandler Mills died on May 7, 2006, in Sedona, Arizona.