Theo Coffman

Theo Coffman was a beautiful girl who rose from her modest working class origin to become a singer and dancer of some repute. After achieving minor success in Chicago, Hollywood beckoned and she tried to become an actress. Unlike many others, she really tried, even taking dramatic lessons, but, unfortunately, it did not work. She quite Hollywood after only one movie. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Theo L. Coffman was born in 1915, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Oscar Coffman and Josephine Snyder. Her father worked as a carpenter in a railroad company. Theo’s masculine name was due to her unusual familial circumstance – she was the only girl among five children, and her parents expected her to be a boy (pretty optimistic, don’t you think?). Her older brothers were Paul, born in 1910, and Alva, born on June 12, 1912, and her younger brothers were Oscar Jr., born in 1918 and Orville, born on January 1, 1921.

Theo was reared in Indianapolis, and attended Public Schools 28 and 8. She started singing and dancing when she was a child and pretty soon it was clear she had a good voice and some presence. In July 1931 her father died and her mother took over the reins of the family. Theo attended and later graduated from Manual Training High School. Her first job was as a cashier and secretary in a local Indianapolis shoe store. Feeling that she could give more to the world as a singer, she decided to try her luck in show biz. She danced for a while in the old Chez Paree, and sang with Paul Collins’s Orchestra. During this time she learned to dance like a pro on a roof of a Indianapolis hotel. Wanting more out of her career, she went to Chicago in 1938. by day she worked as a cashier, living with Ethel M Vandeveer, who was listed as her business partner. Yet, she hoped for a more stable career in dancing, so she teamed with Raoul Gomez in an exhibition dance act that was featured in Chicago in the Colony Club.

On a visit to New York in 1940, a film executive told her she should be in the movies, so she went to Hollywood, and obtained a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract and a role in “DuBarry Was a Lady.” And there she went!

CAREER

Theo’s sole credited remained Du Barry Was a Lady, the movie she was brought to Hollywood for. Du Barry has a plot that was used a hundred times in a hundreds of types of movies (summary from IMDB) – A night club’s coatroom attendant whose in-love with the club’s singer accidentally sips a drugged drink that makes him dream he’s French King Louis XV courting the infamous Madame Du Barry. While not a top musical, it’s one of the most beautiful, shot in stunning Technicolor, almost like being in a pastel wonderland, just two shades short of Heaven. All the craftsmanship is first class – the set design, the costumes, the lightning, the editing. And the fabulous music by the premier big bands of the era. The supporting actors are a great bunch too (Zero Mostel, Douglas Dumbrille, Louise Beavers…) . Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly in the leads are good too – but it seems they are overshadowed by everything else, and the musical doesn’t quite work as it did on Broadway. Still, it’s a sweet little piece of escapism, worth watching for sure.

And that was it from our Theo!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was often noted in the papers how Theo comes from a large family with several brothers. One of her four brothers, Oscar, got employed at MGM. Her other brothers, Paul, Alva and Orville, remained in Indianapolis. Growing up with a bunch of unruly bros, Theo developed a unique way to fend of all the hungry wolves, a handy skill to have in Hollywood. Here is a short bit from 1942, just after the war started, about that:

The other day at I ha Beverly Hills swimming pool, a “wolf” was trying to impress Theo. Coffman with his importance. “Just a year ego,” he said, “I had a suite at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel In Honolulu.” “You can have it again,” said Miss Coffman, “if you join the Marines.

Theo an ardent deep-sea fisher, her best catch being a 150-pound marlin which she landed off Florida after a fifty-five-minute tussle. Eager to play light comedy roles, Theo was reported taking dramatic lessons from Maria Ouspensknya, the noted actress. Her Hollywood home was a cottage formerly occupied by Victor Mature. Theo was also a pretty good seamstress who designed her own clothes. Here is a short article about one of her creations:

It all began when Theo Coffman, a shapely showgirl, strolled onto the set of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s frothy Technicolor musical, “Du Barry Was a Lady.” Theo’s avocation is dress designing and she was wearing one of her own creations, a tight-bodiced pink pique number with a wide flaring skirt. This skirt was the match that touched off the argument. Appliqued around its hemline were bold bars of music, clef, notes, and all. Admiring onlookers fell into Immediate dissension. “I say the notes make a melody!” “I say they don’t!” Theo’s dress was about to cause more trouble than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow when Tommy Dorsey happened by. Whipping out his trusty trombone, the sentimental gentleman of swing started in on Theo’s appliqued music. Listeners cocked anxious ears. Smiles cooled their faces. The notes did spell a melody: “Deep Purple,” Theo’s favorite song.

As Theo came to Hollywood via Du Barry, she was immediately associated to others girls hired to the movie. She got a years worth of publicity, the crowning moment being of course when noted illustrator Alberto Vargas made an illustration of the perfect girl, who was a composite of all the best parts the Du Barry girls – the hands of Inez Cooper, the hair of Mary Jane French, the feet of Theo, the hips of Ruth Ownbey, the waist of Eva Whitney, the bust of Aileen Haley, the legs of Hazel Brooks, the arms of Kay Williams, the profile of Kay Aldridge, the lips of Natalie Draper, the ankles of Marilyn Maxwell and the eyes of Georgia Carroll.

The press tried to report on a rapport between girls with snippets like this:

 Hoofing is traditionally cruel to the discovers between takes on a dancing sequence. Inez Cooper lends a sympathetic ear to Theo’s woes. Her own tootsies are killing her! Right Time out for repairs is taken by piquant Ruth Ownbey while Theo Coffman offers moral support.

And now for her romantic ventures, and there sure. Theo’s first Hollywood beau was Phillips Holmes, the gentle, feminine looking actor who worked so well with Nancy Carroll in several good 1930s movies. They dated for a few months before he join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died in a mid-air collision in 1942.

In started May 1942 dating set designer Merrill Pye. This proved to be her longest liaison, and certainly the most tempestuous. They dated for almost six months in 1942, but it was a sketchy, spotty, passionate affair with lots of ups and downs. Merrill was freshly of his long relationship with hoofer Eleanor Powell, and dated almost half of the Du Barry girls team, including Ruth Ownbey. Yet, Theo proved to be the most resilient of the lot, lasting the longest (except one, you’ll see which one). Theo downplayed the relationship in the papers, saying there is nothing serious between her and Merrill. At least, not yet. . . . Nevertheless, she got Pye’s permission to go to the fights with Tommy Dorsey. So you judge how serious it was 🙂

Somewhere in September 1942, she took up with the playboy Jimmy Ritz, who dated a whole of other girls that way, so obviously it was nothing serious. The Ritz affair helped chill Theo and Merrill for good. Theo then switched to international producer Raymond Hakim.

She lingered for a bit more with Merrill, but it was truly over when he started to date his future wife, another DuBarry girl, Natalie Draper. Like most couples in Hollywood, they had a post scriptum, but that was that. Theo started to date her old beau, Eddie Braugnau, of Chicago. Then, in a strange twist of fate, Theo was seen with both Robbie Robinson and Merrill Pye, and even the press called it an odd threesome. Guess it truly was.

In early 1943, Theor was seeing Bill Hawks, brother of Howard and Kenneth, had a few dates with Pye (this time truly not serious), and was showing the town to Richard Jacobson of Chicago. Jacobson was a newspaper publisher, and the man who Theo ultimately chose.

In March 1943, Theo married Richard Jacobson. Jacobson was a wealthy publisher, who bought he Evanston News-Index, (which had been in bankruptcy for a few months by then), and was already publishing Standard Opinion in Chicago. Jacobson owned a palatial 51-foot yacht powered by 140 horsepower engines.

After the marriage ceremony, she went home to Indiana to sort out her affairs, and Richard went back to Chicago, looking after business, but they had plans to return and live in Hollywood, and were looking forward to their purchase of Joe Penner’s Beverly Hills home.

Theo used to joke that whenever she went to Indianapolis to visit her mother, she was invariably pressed to work at housecleaning. “It doesn’t seem to matter much what time of year I get here,” Theo said, laughing, “house-cleaning is just about to start and I get in on it.”

This is where I lost all track of Theo – did she remained married to Jacobson, did she have children, is she alive today – all remains  a mystery to me. We can only say for sure that she didn’t make any more movies under the birth name. As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

 

 

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Mimi Berry

The dame with the quirky name, Mimi Berry reached the pinnacle of her success on Broadway, way before she departed for Hollywood to try her luck in movies – from this sentence alone, you can summarize that her Hollywood sojourn was not a success. Luckily, she married, retired and found other venues for her talents. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mildred Emma “Mimi” Berry was born on February 2, 1924, in Ridgefield Park, New Yersey, to William Berry and Lillian Allinson. Her older brother William Jr. was born in 1915. Her father worked in the chocolate business as a salesman.

A dancer since she was 2 years old, Mimi branched out into the modeling field at 8. Until she reached the sixth grade she attended Lincoln School in Ridgefield Park. Berrys were a generous family, and they could always be count on for help, and Mimi often danced at local benefit parties. She also saved a certain man named Blind John from drowning and was known locally for it.

While working as a model and dancer, Mimi was also very passionate about swimming. She had her first lessons in the pool at Roosevelt School, Ridgefield Park. She was interested also in golf and riding, skating and roller skating. Henry I. Marshall, composer of “The Five Fifteen” and other songs, taught Mimi to sing and she had her first dancing lessons at the Morton School in Ridgefield Park at 2 years old.

Mimi started on her professional career as a dancer by accident. Her parents were spending their summer vacation at Cornwell, Ontario, when someone saw the then 5-year-old tow head practicing acrobatics on the lawn. She must have been pretty good even then because the passerby went in and saw Mrs. Berry (Lillian) and prevailed on her to let Mimi take part in the Cornwell, Ontario Legion, meet. The Legionnaires were delighted but there really was no class in which she could compete for a prize. “She wouldn’t be doing it for a prize anyway,” Mrs. Berry said. Mimi wasn’t half through before the judges chose the biggest shiniest trophy at their disposal for the little girl. For the six following summers Mimi and her mother returned to Cornwell for the show.

When Mimi was in the sixth grade, she and her parents moved to 3240 Henry’ Hudson Parkway, New York. Mimi’s crowded routine made the change necessary.  She became a pupil at the Professional Children’s School in New York. Someone told Harry Conover, head of the Conover model agency on Vanderbilt Avenue in New York about her. He went to the show December 28, agreed, signed her on the same day. Her first job through the Conover firm followed in short order, December 31. During her last year of high school, she became a Life cover girl.

Then her acting career took off. She tried out for “Keep Off the Grass” and was accepted. There was nothing much doing so she tried out for the Aquacade. Billy Rose selected her among hundreds of other girls. But that was not all. The producers of “Louisiana Purchase” saw her and signed her for the show. Ditto for the American Jubilee.

After all this ballyhoo, she was signed to Keep Off the Grass, and then was cast in Panama Hattie, with Ethel Merman in the lead. Mimi joined the production when it opened in New Haven, and later the show moved on to Broadway, where it enjoyed a long run. After it was finished, Mimi continued in Michael Todd’s Star and Garter. But this was all dancing work, with Mimi as a chorine – she wanted something bigger and better.

While still appearing in Star and Garter, she joined the cast of A Connecticut Yankee because she had a chance to speak a few lines and was assigned the job of general understudy. At one time during Monday night’s performance, one of the male leads blew a line and Mimi tossed it back to him coolly and the audience was none the wiser. It seemed that big things were in store for Miss Berry.

Mimi planned, after Star and Garter show ended its run, to try Hollywood. However, before the show ended it’s run, scouts took notice of her, and she was presented with a few potential studio contracts. At first she turned them all down to stay in New York until she show ended, and she had a special other reason – namely, her boyfriend. Then she had a quarrel with the boyfriend, they broke up, and she went to Hollywood and that was it!

CAREER

Now this a one paper-thin filmography. Mimi appeared in only three movies, and none of them made any real impact, so overall, she’s truly a minor footnote in Hollywood history.

Her first movie was Here Comes Troubleone of the “Sgt. Doubleday” series that was popular during and just after WW2. Little known comedian William Tracy played Doubleday, and is his dim witted sidekick, Ames. The point is that Doubleday is just as, if not more, dimwitted as Doubleday. And we have the famous “two morons working together to set things right” comedy sub genre. here, Doubleday and Ames are out of the army and in civilian life, with Ames becoming a cop and Doubleday a reporter. Of course the unwittingly save the city from gangsters. While it’s not the top of the pops, it’s a okay low-budgeter, with enough spunk and charm to make it an enjoyable, if forgettable experience. A plus is that Hal Roach, the indisputable king of comedy in the 1920s and 1930s, did the movie – it’ some of his later efforts.

Mimi’s next movie came only 3 years later, in 1951, was made in a similar vein, fun but shallow – Here Comes the Groom. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with Sargent Doubleday, but rather with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman – he plays a foreign correspondent who has 5 days to win back his former fiancée, or he’ll lose the orphans he adopted. Heartwarming 🙂 The movie was directed by Frank Capra, better known for his more serious fare, but he’s a good director no matter the movie type and it’s more than evident here – the film is breezy, light, with great timing and charming performances. While it never did win any Oscars, it’s a true classic Hollywood fare, worth watching more than once.

Mimi also did her last movie in 1951 – My Favorite Spy, one of Bob Hope‘s lesser 1950s movies. While it’s far from being a horrible piece of dumpster fire trash not worth anyone’s time, it’s a barely so so comedy, with the only really comic element being Bob – everybody else seems to play a straight drama role, including his leading lady, Hedy Lamarr. I like Hedy, but will always admit she was very hard to cast – too beautiful for her own good and not talented enough, she only and truly worked in a certain setting in a certain type of a role, and this is just not it. The story is a one Bob’s movie used to death – a sap, namely Bob, has a look-alike who is a master spy, and of course Bob, instead of running for the hills, has to get mixed head-first into the whole mess.

And that was it from Mimi!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mimi was 5 feet 7 inches and 116 pounds in weight, and was called a girl “symbolic of personable American girlhood” by a noted Life magazine photographer. She attended Children’s Professional High School and had plans to attend University of Southern California from which her big brother graduated (she did not, sadly). In New York, Mimi lived with her mother up on Henry Hudson Parkway, about 20 minutes from the center of New York. Here is a short quote about Mimi’s education and preferences:

 The Victorian novelists, particularly Charles Dickens (believe it or not), are the favorite authors of Mimi Berry, who sings and dances in the chorus of “Panama Hattie,” which boasts Ethel Merman as its star.  As for her favorite study at the Professional Children’s school (high school and college prep), where she has been a student for the past six years. Mimi calmly announces that it is mathematics. Her reason for this, she says, is that if she ever should find herself  looking for a new kind of job a ‘knowledge of mathematics would offer the best general qualification.

As most girls her age, Mimi was absolutely love struck, and she said she prefer the boys of the neighborhood to the more sophisticated Broadway crowd. Don’t know if this is true, but it sure seems that Mimi dated her Broadway acquaintances more than her next door neighbors.

Since Mimi was under age when she hit Broadway, when the wolves started to call, there were some rules that had to be reinforced: Beaux who take out have to call for her at Dinty Moore’s, where her mama gives the okay and they had to return her to mom at Moore’s after the date. During her days as “Panama Hattie” chorine, she was involved with one of the featured males in the cast. After they broke up, she was seen with Jay Conley, the Shubert theater stage manager. That also didn’t last long.

A bit later, Mimi was pretty serious for a time about Thaddeus Brown, son of the late Ohio Senator. Perhaps class differences or perhaps meddling mothers separated the young lovers, and they broke up. In 1943, she was again serious about a guy – Ensign Bill Taylor, who was serving in the US Army during WW2 when they dated. He was sent overseas, and Mimi often send him lovely letters of encouragement.

The relationship did not last, alas, and Mimi found  a new swain – Jimmy Ritz. She graduated from high school while she was dating him, and the first serious reports about her hitting the altar were written about this time. Sadly, Jimmie was married and separated from his wife, and this coupled with some personal difference led to their demise.

She rebounded by dating Capt. Paul Kirich, but then fell in love with Corporal Tony Martin. Their favorite pastime was to to to the  ball park and enjoy themselves there. However, she left to Hollywood by this time, and thus effectively broke up with Tony. He would marry Cyd Charisse later.

Mimi hit the papers in Hollywood, but not for the reason you might think – her career – but for her romantic exploits. Namely, in October 1944, this happened:

Col. Alex Guerry, much- decorated air hero – now flying bombers in the South Pacific, is generally in a hurry. Not for him the regular mail, or even air mail, when he decided to propose to blond and beautiful. Mimi Berry. He used V-mail. So did Miss Berry for her acceptance. They met In New York a year ago and began a correspondence with the above development. Miss Berry, on the 20th Century-Fox studio lot, said yesterday the wedding would take place when Col. Guerry gets his next leave.

A bit theatrical, overtly dramatic and over-the-top, but still, that’s young, lovely and during war time, so we have to try and understand it. By February 1045, all was finalized – Mimi would marry Alex in a few months. And then, ZAP! For unknown reasons, Guerry and Mimi broke up. Trust me, I really would like to know what happened to part them, but no information is given. I was surprised to see that Alex married a Louise Pemberton in October 1945. Louise looked quite a bit like Mimi! Talk about finding girls who want to marry you in a hurry! Mimi kept low for a time in the romantic arena, and later dated Nate Pearlstein, the advertising executive.

On February 1, 1946, Mimi married Errol Karl Silvera in Los Angeles. It was the first marriage for both. Karl was born on October 16, 1919, in Los Angeles, California, to Ivan E. Silvera and Elfriede Etta Balogh. He grew up in Los Angeles, and became a studio make-up man. He began his career at RKO in 1943 and moved to Paramount in 1946.

The couple had three sons: Darrell Karl, born on September 19, 1951, John Steven, born on June 8, 1954, and William, born on September 26, 1956. The couple lived in Los Angeles, with Mimi devoting her time to friends and family, and never returning to the stage. Mimi’s husband Karl achieved his greatest claim to fame in the 1960s, when he worked as a make up artist on the TV show The Munsters –  he was the creator of the iconic Herman Munster make-up.
Sadly, their son Darrell died on January 10, 1970. I could not find a cause of death.
Mildred Berry Silvera died on August 6, 1984. Her widower Karl remarried to Judith Silvera, and died in August 2013.

 

Wanda Barbour

Wanda Barbour was a blonde and pretty go-getter who left her hometown at age 13 to make it in Hollywood. Make it she did not, but she found her own life in California and she was a professional dancer for almost a decade, which, all considering, is a small achievement in itself. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Wanda Louise “Lou” Barbour was born in 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to John V. Barbour and Catherine Newland. Her father was a well-of sales executive. Her older brother, John Jr, was born in 1925. Her maternal uncle, Indiana-born Newland Ellsworth, lived with the family when Wanda was born.

Sadly, Wanda’s father John died on February 16, 1934. He was suffering from a typhoid fever that brought on pneumonia that ultimately killed him. I don’t know what happened to Wanda’s mom,  Catherine, but, by 1940, Wanda was living with her paternal grandmother, Orpha Barbour, and her aunt, Marguerite (her dad’s sister), in Cincinnati. Also a good question was what happened to her brother, but sadly, no information is forthcoming.

Wanda was a pretty child that displayed signs of an intense dancing talent from her early years. By the time she was in elementary school, it was pretty clear that she would one day depart for Hollywood or New York to achieve the dream of becoming a professional dancer. In 1943, only 13 years old, she was sent to Hollywood to work on her dancing skills, and attended the Schicl School there. Pretty soon, she was named “Miss Hollywood of 1944” by the Screen Children’s Guild. Wanda continued learning and dancing and pretty soon was supporting herself, without any help from her grandma or aunt.

By 1946, Wanda became an Earl Carroll girl, and this exalting position catapulted her to movies.

CAREER

Wanda appeared in only three movies and a few TV series. Her first movie was The Bounty Hunter, a low-budget western. Randolph Scott, an actor sadly too early typecast in westerns, plays the rare breed that can easily combine charm and affability with a steely resolve and a frightening ability to kill. He’s the best thing in the film, although it’s a solid affair out and throughout. The director, Andre de Toth, does an okay job, and everything else is well-enough made for a low-budget movie (cinematography, music, sets…).

That same year, Wanda appeared in Young at Heart, a movie about the lives and romances of three sisters in a musical family, played by Doris Day, Elisabeth Fraser and Dorothy Malone. if you like fluffy, cute and easy on the eyes and easy for the brain, now this is your cup of tea! The gorgeous Technicolor is brimming with strong, saturated colors, Doris Day is her usual charming self, and the male lead is Mr. Frank Sinatra himself. With a cast that strong, you can’t go wrong unless you really go wrong, and they didn’t. The problem is that it’s a thin movie overall, with no great depth, but for some fun and games, it is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wanda’s last movie, made in 1955, was Women’s Prison. Unlike many of the lurid, over the top, convoluted campy 1950s movies, this one is a serious endeavor that mostly get to achieve what it wants – to show the everyday life in women’s prisons in a somewhat realistic manner. No, it’s not quite as realistic as it should be, but this is Hollywood in the decade it was least realistic and most illusionary (just look at all the Technicolor musicals). The cast is wonderful – Ida Lupino, Audrey Totter, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Howard Duff – great!

That was it from Wanda!

PRIVATE LIFE

Wanda continued to dance during her whole brief Hollywood career. She was featured in what were mostly a decorative, thankless jobs, but they paid the bills, and here is a shining example of that kind of life.:

Showmen Joseph and Frank Zucca, sued by Ken Murray in effort to keep them from calling their Culver City show “Blackouts of 1950′ went to court yesterday and took along these girls from left, Bebe Allan, Marybeth Haughton, Lou Ann Louis, top row; Lorri Collins, Ruth Rowland, top, and Wanda Barbour.

And this:

These California beauties have been selected by the LA. Press Club as hostesses for visiting Florida girls due here Wednesday. Shown at Ambassador pool they are, from bottom level: Billie Nelson, Beverly Jones, Shirley Cotterill, Totty Ames, Gloria Maxwell, Marilyn Lamb, Lillian Farmer and Wanda Barbour.

No high art in this, but I guess it could be fun sometimes. Wanda, only 18 years old, married her first husband, Thomas McDougall, on August 21, 1948, in Los Angeles. Thomas Edward McDougall was born on March 20, 1927, in Lansing, Michigan, to William McDougall and Rose Lake. His older sister Billie was born in 1923. The family first moved to Long Beach, and then back to Lansing, Michigan by 1940. After graduating from high school, Thomas returned to California. When he married Wanda, he was working as a gas-and-oil salesman.

The marriage hits the skids pretty soon, and they were divorced in the early 1950s. Wanda got into movies afterwards using her maiden name, so let’s assume she didn’t brag about her early marriage and rarely mentioned it to anyone.

Literary nothing was written about Wanda’s love life. What we know is that, by the mid 1950s, Wanda was dating a real catch by Hollywood standards – handsome Southern gent, Hoyt Bowers, the head of the casting department for Warner Bros. The couple married in the New Frontier Chapel at Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1957.

Hoyt Stephen Bowers was born on September 7, 1911, in Georgia, to Peck and Verbenia Bowers. His father was a bookkeeper. Hoyt had a younger brother, Bates, born in 1914. The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Hoyt started to work as an insurance clerk after high school, and married Patricia Nunn in 1930. Their daughter Sherry Ann was born on February 7, 1932. Their daughter Nancy Jean was born on December 1, 1937. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, both husband and wife drifted towards the lucrative movie industry. Hoyt became a casting agent, and Patricia a movie extra.

Here is a short blurb about Patricia:

Hollywood’s youngest grandmother, Patricia Bower, sits beside Actress Piper Laurie. Sirs. Bowers, currently acting as stand-in for Miss Piper, is married to Hoyt Bowers, casting executive. She is 37 years old and has two daughters, one of whom is mother of a two-year-old girl.

Whoa, I had to do the math and it’s not particularly impressive – I Patricia gave birth when she was 18, the same for Sherry. I just hope the granddaughter didn’t follow the family line and took a bit more time to get married and have children (if indeed she ever decided on such a course). Sadly, the couple divorced before 1954.

Wanda and Hoyt had a son, John Hoyt Bowers, born in 1960. Wanda gave up her career and immersed herself into motherhood and domestic affairs. The Bowers often visited Abilene, where some of Hoyt’s extended family lived.

After more than a decade of marriage, Hoyt and Wanda divorced in the early 1970s. Wanda married her third husband, Victor Bennett, on April 10, 1975 in San Bernardino, California. Victor Bennett was born in 1916 in Nebraska, and moved to Los Angeles when he was a youth. There he married Ruth Schwerdtfeger, had two sons, Charles Nicholas, born on October 4, 1938, and Vance Chadwick, born on March 9, 1942, and worked as a meat cutter. He and Ruth divorced at some point.

Wanda and Victor settled in San Bernardino, and started to trade in antique furniture. They were a well-adjusted, happy couple, and it seems that Wanda had finally found a husband worth keeping. However, this story does not have a happy ending.

Tragically, Wanda and her husband were murdered on November 14, 19179, in their home in San Bernardino, during a robbery attempt. She was only 49 years old – her husband 63. To add to this horror, her son John was arrested almost immediately after the bodies were found, as an obvious prime suspect. Of course he was innocent, but the stress and the pain had been inflicted. Here is an article about the slayings:

San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies today are questioning an 18-year-old Twentynine Palms man in connection with the slaying of his mother and stepfather. John Hoyt Bowers was arrested Wednesday night, just hours after the body of his mother, Wanda Bennett, 49, was found underneath trash at the Landers dump. Her husband, Victor, 63, was found shot to death at his home here, deputies said. Both were shot in the head. So far, deputies do not have a motive or a weapon in the slaying.

Two men wanted in California to face double murder charges were arrested early Friday, state police said. Officers said Richard W. Garrison, 38, of Hulberton, Orleans County, .was picked up in the Town of Murray, Orleans County, and Gary M. Roelle, 30, of Rochester, was taken into custody in the Town of Sweden, Monroe County . The pair, according to state police, are wanted by the San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriffs office in the robbery slayings of Victor and Wanda Bennett with a shotgun in Yucca Valley Nov. 14. “Numerous items of stolen jewelry and firearms were brought to New York state by the subjects and were seized at the time of the arrest,” according to a state police statement. “It’s believed they had been in the upstate New York area since Nov. 27.” State police said the two were being held as fugitives from justice. Garrison was being held in the Orleans County Jail and Roelle in the Monroe County Jail.

The police are looking for the motive for the killings. The Bennetts’ car was also taken, but was later recovered near Old Woman Springs Road, investigators said. The Bennetts bought and sold antiques and may have been contacted by one of the suspects who wanted to sell an old desk, Knadler said. It may have been through that contact that the suspects learned about jewelry and other items the Bennetts owned, he said. ” Documents filed in a Barstow ‘ court in support of murder warrants issued for the two men stated that after the murder Garrison was seen in possession of jewelry with Wanda Bennett’s name engraved on it. Several persons told investigators they had seen Garrison with a bag containing many items ,mostly jewelry, including a silver and turquoise squash-blossom necklace, other pieces of turquoise jewelry, an ID bracelet, a charm bracelet and numerous rings, the documents said. The bag also contained numerous American and foreign coins, investigators were told.

What a sad, sad end to a woman who had so much vitality and zest for life.

But, as always, let’s hope she had a happy life!

 

Rosemary Colligan

Rosemary Colligan was a beautiful model that came to Hollywood to trade on her looks. She did just three uncredited appearances in movies, but managed to snag quite a prize – the great George Raft himself. However, it was anything but a bed of roses! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosemary Colligan was born in 1925 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Colligan and Helen Roach. She was the youngest of three daughters – her elder siblings were Celestine, born in 1919, and Mildred, born in 1923. Her father worked as areal estate salesman. The Colligans were a typical tight-knit Irish family, and Rosemary remained extremely devoted to them her whole life.

The family lived in Dunmore in the beginning, and then moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where Rosemary was educated. After graduating from high school, Rosemary decided to become a model, and moved to Philadelphia, where she enjoyed her first professional success.

By 1948, Rosemary moved to New York, and became an even more successful model there. She became a Camel Cigarette girl, was considered Miss America of 1949, and was signed with the prestige John Robert Powers agency. By 1951 Rosemary had decided, like many models of her stature, to try her hand at acting. This is how she was seen by a movie scout who directed her towards Hollywood, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Very slim pickings here – Rosemary appeared in only three movies, none was a classic and she was not credited even once. The first one is the completely forgotten Run for the Hills, a typical Cold War paranoia movie turned into a hilarious comedy. NOT! While it is a typical Cold War paranoia movie, it’s also a cheap, Z class production, with the always wooden Sonny Tufts playing the lead, an Average Joe insurance man who moves to a cave to avoid the potential nuclear warfare. Yep, you heard it right, he dives right into a cave! The simmering sexpot (but sadly a limited actress) Barbara Payton plays his wife. it’s a completely forgotten movie, but boy, just look at the cast, look at the story and the money involved, and I can make a educated guess about where that was going. Rosemary plays a Cave girl, reminding me of Carole Landis in all her prehistoric glory (with beefy Victor Mature next to her).

That same year, Rosemary appeared in The French Line, a no-plot, plenty of scantly clad girls, singing and dancing type of a movie, and heck, it’s not even directed by Busby Berkeley! As I said, the non existing story is as it goes: When her fiancé leaves her, an oil heiress takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Well, if you forget for a moment how silly it is, we still have the luscious Jane Russell in the lead, and the sexy senor Gilbert Roland as her love interest. Not a bad cast, I must say!

Rosemary’s last movie was Son of Sinbad, a movie you can either hate of enjoy for the sheer campiness and so bad it’s good quality. Even the short blurb from IMDB shows us just how good-in-a-bad-way the movie is – 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. Ha ha ha ha, you got that right! Dale Robertson plays Sinbad, and Sally Forrest is his dream princess, but there are more than 50 other girls to ogle at, and Rosemary is just one of them. A big, big plus for this movie is Lili St. Cyr, in one of her rare film appearances (love that woman!).

And that was it from Rosemary!

PRIVATE LIFE

I have to say that after reading a bit about her, I like Rosemary. In a world where man was king, she used them and just moved on to the better thing when she found it convenient. While this is not model behavior and I certainty don’t condone it in everyday life, when you look at the type of a men Rosemary dated, you’ll see what I mean. These were no ordinary, normal working class men who would get hurt big time if something like that happened – these were world class cads who used girls and women quite a bit (some more, some less). Somehow, getting the Rosemary treatment for them was almost like getting the boomerang right back at their heads. Anyway, read and assess for yourself.

Here are some quotes by Rosemary from the papers:

The stage door Johnny ‘”ain’t what he used to be,” Rosemary Colligan laments. “He used to be the theater alley Romeo with top hats and tails who waited outside,” the TV actress said. “Now he dresses in sport shirts and pounds at the dressing room doors”

About her hair:

For myself I prefer long hair because as a model I find that I am requested to wear my hair many different ways, and without long hair this couldn’t be done.

In 1951, Rosemary dated Matty Fox, a wealthy film and TV tycoon, but while he was crazy about her, she just liked him, and ditched him when a more interesting guy came along. And that guy was… Mike Todd!

What can I say about Todd? Born in 1909, he was a master illusionist, a devil may care, half crazy bon vivant who survived by sheer charm and a good dose of luck. he was married twice before, and his second wife was Joan Blondell, who was left bankrupt after his producing expeditions. He just ditched dames when a more interesting one came along, and he broke plenty of hearts.

Anyway, Rosemary and Todd used to ride about New York in his Cadillac, and it was clear that Mikey was all ga-ga about Rosie. But then, a movie scout saw Rosie, like what he saw and asked her to Hollywood, just left Mikey without a second glance. Mikey was crushed, but refused to admit defeat – he came after Rosie to Hollywood just a few short weeks after she departed. He came bearing gits – and what gifts those were – diamonds and diamonds! Mike was determined to keep Rosie, and it seemed that she truly was enchanted by him – they spend a wonderful few weeks in Los Angeles, and when he had to return to New York, Rosie was quite unhappy at the airport.

But alas, life goes on! In September 1952, just days after Mikey left leaving behind breathless notes and promises to see Rosie again, she met THE man, the man who changed the game for her – that old fox, George Raft.

In a space of few days, Todd was out and Raft was in, big time! And Raft literary fell like a ton of steel for Rosie. Raft was no stranger for beautiful women – he dated them by the loads, but he was rarely in love, and few of the women he loved were Virginia Pine and Betty Grable. Very inspired company, no doubt! He was also a connoisseur of local Los Angeles hookers, and employed their services for decades. He usually had at least two women a day – sometimes even more.

by the end of the year, Rosemary took George Raft home to meet the family, George charmed both ma and pa, and everything was tipped for marriage. Then, Raft had to depart US for Italy for a film assignment. He tried to persuade Rosemary to go with him, but she was unwilling to be separated from her family for such a long time, so she declined. George was so smitten that when he flew from Los Angeles to New York en route to Italy, he still (in vain) begged Rosemary via phone calls and cables to join him. As the papers wryly put it, Dapper Georgie hasn’t had it this bad in years!

While George was in Rome, Rosemary took siege in his palatial Coldwater Canyon home that once belonged to his swain, Virginia Pine), and moved her family there – mom, dad and sister. George gave them his blessings, and often called Rosemary long distance to profess his love and devotion. he planted item sin the local papers in this vein:

GEORGE RAFT is determined to marry showgirl Rosemary Colligan. And, when he returns from Rome, he’ll make his first serious try for divorce

The papers claimed that he wants to marry Rosemary at this point, but after trying at least twice during the twenty or more years he and his wife have been separated, everybody could bet he’d have a small chance of getting his freedom. He offered his estranged mate a fantastic, lifetime “deal” when he wanted Betty Grable for his Mrs. and again when he wanted to marry Virginia Pine, but she refused him both times.

This is what George wanted us to think. The truth is probably somewhere the middle – IMHO he was too cheap and chickened out whenever the deal was about to close. He really burned for the girl – be it Betty Grable or Virginia or Rosemary, but could never quite get himself to do it. He always put himself fin the first place, and that meant his money too. I refuse to believe that in Hollywood, where you can get divorced in a zillion different ways, he couldn’t persuade his wife to divorce him. Even after humiliating her time and time again by bedding literary hundreds of starlets and hookers.

Anyway, even after George returned home from Rom the Colligans showed no willingness to evacuate. George balked, but with Rosemary’s charms and Raft’s wise lawyer (who advised him not to cause any legal rumpus because of the publicity that would result in bad publicity) workings in unison, George shrugged his shoulders and decided to camp out. So, George shelled out $3,000 for his new upkeep, living in an apartment in Joan Crawford’s apartment house. George caught a heavy cold on the plane trip from Italy, and he was looked after by Rosie and her mother, so he spent a chunk of his time in the house anyway.

It was clear as day to all in Hollywood that Raft was head over heels for Rosemary. He even got her a spot at his nightly dancing show, in order to keep her close to him. He was on good terms with her family, and they spent quality time together. Rosie and Georgie were constantly seen everywhere, often dancing at clubs. It is disputable if George really curbed his well known 2-women-a-day routine, but for Rosemary’s sake let’s hope he did.

However, time went by, and no divorce was coming. Like so many women before her, Rosemary got fed up with all the waiting, and trouble began to loom on the horizon.

By October 1953, Mrs. Colligan became seriously ill, and George sent her and Rosemary to Memphis, to see a famed specialist. Rosemary’s father and sister continued to live in his Beverly Hills home. The specialist only confirmed that Rosemary’s mother was very ill and advised a change of climate. So Rosemary and her entire family went to live in Florida. George could finally give up his apartment and move back into his home, but it was a bittersweet pleasure. It was a difficult time in their relationship, as it was unclear if they were saying a permanent goodbye, or was it just temporal. When newspaper people asked Rosemary about it, she said: “It’s hard to tell. I feel that my first duty now is to be with my mother. I can always come back later.”

And indeed, in the beginning, Raft and Rosemary had a semi-successful long distance relationship, he in California, she in Florida. But, literary a few short weeks later, things started to fall apart. As there was a very slim chance that George would ever wed her, Rosie just decided to play the field like a single lady while she was on the other side of the county. Pretty soon, there were reports that she was discovered by wealthy Irving Geist. Raft panicked, but Rosie wouldn’t budge. Their relationship became icier by the second.

George was livid and unhappy with the state of the union, but could hardly do anything. Then, it all escalated with a very last phone call between them, on Christmas Eve 1953, when Rosemary called him from Florida to say that she doesn’t love him any more. And that was just that.

Same as with Betty Grable and Virginia Pine, George prolonged getting a divorce, and when the lady inevitably left him, he was shattered, like really, properly shattered. His friends were literary amazed at the torch George was carrying for Rosemary. Just a few months ago they thought he was trying to get rid of her and her family – obviously George tried to make himself a cool cat who couldn’t wait to nicely ditch the gauche Colligans and Rosemary, when the truth was quite different.

Here are some short articles that show just how devastated George was (and he WAS!):

THE MOST DEPRESSED and blue guy in our town over the holidays was George Raft. Not a wire, not a card, nary a greeting of any kind from Rosemary Colligan, her mother, father or sister who were George’s guests for over a year, living in the luxury of his home while he occupied a small apartment. “Is he carrying a torch for Rosemary?” I asked one of his pals who is frankly worried about Raft. “Maybe not exactly a torch,” his friend explained, “but he’s deeply hurt to think that these people, for whom he did so much even to paying for father Colligan’s major operation, didn’t even have a greeting for him at the holidays. There’s been no word from them since they moved to Miami, after George paid for their departure.

To add insult to injury, George had a minor car crash in January 1954:

George Raft’s auto crash injuries — five torn ligaments in his right arm — are healing a lot faster than his heart injuries-from the breakup of his romance with Rosemary Colligan. The numbness in the arm is disappearing but the hurt of Rosemary’s departure for Florida last November still throbs. In fact, George is carrying a terrific torch. “I had such faith in that girl,” he tells me, “and I thought I had done a lot for her and her family.”

It seems that for George, who only had a proper family unit when he was with Virginia Pine and helped raise her daughter Joanie, perceived Colligans as his family, and it hit him extra hard when they fell apart. So, his relationship with Rosemary wasn’t just a man-loves-woman – for him, it was a chance to, through a beloved female figure, finally have a family that had eluded him, by his own choice, for several long decades. Yes, it hurt extra hard, but since he (more or less) refused to wed a nice girl from a proper Irish family, what could he expect?

George took his time to recuperate, and reacted quite angrily when anybody mentioned Rosemary. When he was leaving for Puerto Rico and that deal Fred MacMurray to run 3 gambling casino, he was asked if he would stop in Florida to see Rosemary. Enraged, he said, “No. When she told me she didn’t love me, that was that!”

Indeed, it seems that George and Rosemary cut all contact after that, and never spoke again. I could be wrong, but Rosemary is not even a footnote in most books on George’s life – worse still, she’s not even mentioned, like she never happened! This is a pretty big omission, as Rosie was truly and earnestly George’s great love. Less glamorous than Virginia Pine, less famous that Betty Grable, she is unjustly never mentioned and this is why there is so little information about her.

Rosemary married wealthy William F. Sullivan in 1954 in Miami, Floria. Unfortunately, I could not find any other information about her afterwards, or is she indeed alive today.
As always I hope she had a happy life.