It’s rare that I profile a true, dyed-in-the-wool actress on this blog – most of the girls I profiled before were starlets that didn’t have that much acting chutzpah. Adele Longmire is different. She is as obscure as they come today, but decidedly not a starlet – she was an unique talented, intensive girl whose rep reached Hollywood long before anyone even saw her in person (something not seen everyday, for sure!). She wanted top be a theater actress, and this is probably the main reason she never made it as a movie actress, but there are still several performances of her that we can enjoy today.
Adele “Billie” Longmire was born on June 27, 1918, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to John and Germaine Longmire. She was the oldest of four children, and the only daughter. He younger brothers were John, Charles and Robert. Her father was a clerk in the financial sector. The family lived with their maternal grandparents, Albert and Corinne Rocquet. Albert was a physician, and came from a prestigious, old money family, thus Adele was considered something akin to Southern royalty.
Adele grew up in New Orleans, and was inspired to become a serious actress from her teenage days. She attended the local St. Joseph Academy Convent, and later recounted about the moment she decided to become an actress:
“It was so strong It worried me.I really thought I must be headed straight for hell. I simply had to a peak to somebody about It. So finally I screwed up my courage and told one of the sisters. I expected to be scolded for having such wicked ambitions. But instead the was sweet about it. You can’t Imagine how surprised I was. She actually encouraged the idea and helped me In all sorts of ways. I wish I could tell you her name, but I’m afraid she might not like it.”
In 1936, after graduating from the Convent, she started to work as a stenographer and joined the local Little Theater, and started to do amateur theatrics. Her plan was to save enough money to go to New York and become a Broadway alumna.
In early 1937, while George Cukor was scouting all around the US and looking for a girl to play Scarlett O’Hara, and he heard about Adele. As a member of the esteemed New Orleans Little Theater (Petit Theater de Vieux Carre), she was known for her ferocity and prodigious talent, and was nicknamed Creole Girl. She refused to come to Hollywood, no really interested in a movie career, but opting to become a stage star. Cukor went to New Orleans and met Adele, and by all accounts was completely enchanted with her. He didn’t think she was made of the right material to play Scarlett, but that she was an unusual intensity and that Selznick should sign her. He tried – Adele refused. Warner Bros and MGM both chimed in, trying to find out who the girl with the hype was, but she turned them down smoothly. She did not want to be tangled up in a long term contract, still enamored of the stage and wishing to achieve artistic brilliance in that regard.
Adele first attracted the notice of insiders on Broadway when the American Theater Council, formed In 1937 precisely to help talented young people in the theater, gave her a chance to show what she could do in a single brief scene from “Bury the Dead,” and she passed with flying colors. As a result of this showing, two producers interviewed her for parts in two projected productions. Neither production reached Broadway, but indirectly the interest she had aroused gained her a small role in “Ruy Bias” at Central City, Col., under the direction of Robert Edmond Jones. This is where she was noticed by famed playwright Elmer Rice. He engaged her for the role of Anne Rutledge in Robert E. Sherwood’s “Abe Lincoln in Illinois.” Thus Adele joined the Playwrights Company and was on her way to theatrical success. In 1940,. she was on the stage with Old Acquaintance. In 1941, she was nabbed by Hollywood to appear in the movie version – this failed but she stayed in Hollywood at least for some time.
Adele had a solid if too short career on Broadway and more extensive one in summer stock, but a slim career in movies. She only appeared in six movies, and the leading role in one, was uncredited in two and was a supporting player in three. While not the worst track record around here (most starlets I profile never made a credited appearance), this seems like such a letdown for an obviously unique, very talented actress. Ah, that’s life!
Adele’s sole leading role was in Bullet Scars. Imagine Adele, a prodigiously talented,known far and wide, theater reared and Broadway-made actress, who was a contender for the Scarlett O’Hara role and revered by such prestigious directors as George Cukor, finally comes to Hollywood and they put her in a small budget, B class film noir. WHAT? Anyway, it’s a solid but uninspired, seen it hundred times before gangster film. Regis Toomey plays a doctor who is conned into helping treat a bank robber – Adele plays his nurse. The performances are good and overall it’s a decent effort, but nothing to shout about. Adele was quickly forgotten, as was the movie.
Adele returned to Hollywood only in 1952, with People Will Talk, a truly intelligent well made Cray Grant movie. Most of Cary’s movies were screwball or sophisticated comedies with little to recommend them on a higher level – but this one is an exception, as a socially conscious, highly cerebral movie hiding more than it meets the eye. Adele only played an uncredited role, alas, and was not remembered for it. She had small parts in two additional movies in 1952: With a Song in My Heart , a quality biopic about Jane Forman, played by the indomitable Susan Hayward, and Something for the Birds, a movie that combines elegant comedy with a strong ecological flavor – can you believe that Hollywood sometimes did these movies? Patricia Neal, an absolute favorite of mine, plays a conservationist who will do anything to preserve the natural habitat of an endangered California condor, including crash the gates of Washington DC, and Vic Mature is the oily lobbyist fighting against her. Add Edmund Gwenn to the mix, and you have a winner!
Adele had a more meaty role in the gritty, serious The Turning Point, film noir about a government committee investigating mob activity and corruption in a fictional city. Great cast – William Holden, Edmond O’Brien, Alexis smith and Ed Begley makes this an above average fare, despite the formulaic story, and the director, William Dieterle, is more than capable of making a fine movie and it shows, he knows what he’s doing.
Adele’s Hollywood sojourn ended in 1953 with Battle Circus. It’s a June Allyson/Humphrey Bogart pairing, and what a strange pairing it is! I didn’t particularly like the movie, and I dislike June in general, so I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s degrading to women in general, since all that Allyson does in the movie (which is not a straight comedy, but rather a drama with comedic elements) is run after Bogart, and Bogart himself is absolutely sleepwalking through the role.
Adele did some TV work on the side from 1948 until 1954, and then left the industry that year.
When she first hit the papers in 1940, Adele gave advice for your girls in a form of an essay:
There is no better time in her life for a young girl to practice good sportsmanship, that Invaluable attribute to charm, than during high school and college years. Even if her character when she was very little is something her best irritants would rather forget, she can take herself in hand, while in her ‘teens, and really learn to be a good sport which simply means being unselfish. Once that is accomplished her chances of growing up to be a kindly understanding person with fine manners are very good indeed. Get into the habit of seeing others’ viewpoints, of really listening when they speak, of forgetting their shortcomings and magnifying their good points. Make it your business to know all types of people. If you try to forget yourself and whether you feel superior or inferior, you will make friends wherever you go. Among young girls there is a tendency to carry the idea of self-expression much too far. Less concentration on one’s self and less frequent use of the personal pronoun make for kindness, the very fundamental of charm. And, speaking of carrying self-expression too far, I think it’s a mistake to talk too much about yourself the first few weeks you are in a new community, in a girls’ club or a dormitory. Listen to others for a while, saving something of yourself for later on. Don’t tell your entire history and go into detail about every emotion you ever have experienced until you have had time to look around and find your own level among people whose friendship you will want to keep. There’s nothing more unpleasant than realizing that a person whom you have grown to dislike knows too many of your innermost secrets and all because you told them yourself. It is better to be shy and retiring, letting yourself go quite unnoticed for weeks, even at the risk of being homesick and lonely, than to be a flash-in-the-pan person-liked, noticed and talked about for a short time, then pushed back into oblivion all too quickly.
Adele had even written a comedy, “Fun to Be Fooled.”, but it was never staged. After trying Hollywood in 1941 and 1942, In 1943, Adele returned to New York and Broadway, and got the leading role in Nine Girls, which ran for literary 5 performances.
Adele married Robert Harris in Alameda County in 1941, and divorced him before 1945. I could find no additional information about Harris nor their marriage. While appearing in “Old Acquaintance” Adele dated actor Bill Hawkins, then actor/director Howard de Silva, and then Carol Bruce’s manager. During WW2, she was “a heartillery barrage” with Edmund O’Brien, then a Private fresh off his success with Winged Victory.
WW2 was raging by 1944, and Adele decided to do something about it. Her last Broadway appearance before embarking on War relief work was “Outrageous For tune.”. And then she joined the Foxhole Circuit. She did a six months’ tour of North Africa and Italy, playing an important role in the Camp Shows version of Ruth Gordon’s hit play, “Over 21.” Here is a funny anecdote from that time:
A YOUNG sailor was asleep in the hold of a sub-chaser at Salerno. His sailor dreams were interrupted by a loud thud. He opened his eyes, turned on his flashlight and found a beautiful young girl. “May I use your bunk?” she asked. . . . “Of course,” said the sailor, trying to believe that he was awake. … He wasn’t dreaming. The girl was Adele Longmire, the Broadway actress touring in the U.S.O. company of “Over 21.” She had been invited to inspect the blacked-out sub-chaser’s chart room, tripped and fell 12 feet into the hold. She needed the bunk to recuperate from the shock and concussion.
After she returned to the US in early 1945, Adele continued her relief work by giving lectures.
All over the US, from her first-hand experiences at the front, Adele used to recount how USO-Camp Shows operate on every battlefront of this global warp and how it felt to give American servicemen entertainment at the front; how a USO Camp Shows troupe bridges the gap between home and foreign lands. Here is a short example of her stories:
-Actress Adele Longmire’s advice regarding ways of helping returning service men is to “just leave them alone.” Miss Longmire, who gave up the stage temporarily to go with the USO camp shows, told the Rotary club that soldiers “don’t want a lot of well-meaning sympathy and suggestions when they return.” “They’ll have a difficult enough time to readjust themselves,” she said, “and all they want is to make the transition on their own.” Four British paratroopers who are touring Utah industrial centers were’in the audience.
After returning to acting, Adele married actor Arthur Franz in 1946.
A leap year baby, Arthur Franz was born on February 29, 1920, in Perth, New Yersey. Wikipedia stated that, during World War II, Franz served as a B-24 Liberator navigator in the United States Army Air Forces. He was shot down over Romania and incarcerated in a POW camp, from which he later escaped.
Before he became an actor on Broadway, and had minor TV roles, and worked in a “one-arm” lunch room to make a living during his first years in Hollywood. He worked there whenever parts were scarce, and later remembered it with real affection. After several successful stage roles in the United States and Australia, Franz was awarded a long-term contract by Columbia Pictures.
Adele and Arthur had two daughters: Melissa Merrill, born on June 22, 1949 and Gina, born on May 30, 1953. It seems that Adele, at least for publicity purposed, had a pretty harmonic home life. Her husband was happy to call himself a handy man around the house, and was a great help with the care of their daughters. he also did some minor cooking – he could whip up pretty passable spaghetti, hamburgers and strawberry shortcake. It is funny how we should applaud a man if he decided to take care of his child. WTF! it’s your child, of course you have to take care of it and not ask anyone to pat your back for doing it. This is still the prevalent mindset in society even today – that if a man tales care of a child, it’s just an added bonus. Argh!
The Franzes divorced in about 1962. Adele didn’t remarry. Arthur remarried in 1964 to Doreen Lang. Doreen died in 1999, and Arthur remarried to Sharon Keyser in February 2006, and died the same year on June 16, in Oxnard, California.
For many years Adele was a writers’ agent in Beverly Hills with AshleySteiner and later in New York with IFA and ICM, as well as an Administrator of the Television Academy for three terms. She was also a Story Executive for Universal Pictures in New York and Daytime Editor for producer Tony Converse.
Adele falls from the radar after the early 1960s. She moved to New Mexico, and probably lived there in quiet retirement.
Adele Longmire Franz died on January 15, 2008, in Taos, New Mexico.