Nancy Brinckman was pretty, blonde and a starlet – yep, she checks all of the boxes for the run-of-the-mill type you could encounter by the dozens in 1940s Hollywood every day. However, she got her five minutes of fame due to a swanky publicity trick. Let’s learn more about her.
Nancy Lou Muck was born on August 13, 1922, in Hollywood, California, to Harry Muck and Elsie Brinckman. Her older brother Harry Jefford was born on February 23, 1915. Her father was a salesman. Her mother, a native San Franciscan, came to Los Angeles in 1895 as a baby and acted in silent movies as an extra until she got married.
Nancy grew up in Los Angeles, California, and was interested in performing arts since she was a small child – she danced and sang. Nancy’s parents divorced in the 1930s and Nancy and her brother were given their mother’s maiden surname, Brinckman, for “stage names”.
Nancy attended University of Los Angles (UCLA), starting in 1941, but dreams of an acting career dashed her scholarly aspirations and she became a model and then a theater actress. This is how she landed in Tinsel Town.
Nancy appeared in some 20-odd movies, and only a few were credited and most of them were completely forgettable. The first one was Fall In, a Sargent Doubleday movie from the eponymous series of movies. Doubleday and his croonie William Ames are dimwitted soldiers have plenty of dumb luck and Tracy has the nifty ability to memorize things at a glance, and gets a prestigious military job he is hardly qualified to do. This being a Hal Roach comedy, of course he manages to bust the bad guys and save the day (or the world in this instance, as the bad guys are Nazis). She then appeared in another Roach serial movie, Prairie Chickens , the Third and final film in Jimmy Rogers and Noah Beery, Jr. serial. They play cowboys who get mistaken for a guest of honor and chaos follows. Similar comedies with a thin plot but plenty of zany were Gals, Incorporated and Hoosier Holiday. Nothing doing for her career long-term, but it was solid work and perhaps a stepping stone for something bigger and better.
Something “bigger and better” came with Follow the Boys . As IMDB summary notes, “During World War II, all the studios put out “all-star” vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot–often playing themselves–in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were meant as morale-boosters to both the troops overseas and the civilians at home. This was Universal Pictures’ effort. It features everyone from Donald O’Connor to the Andrews Sisters to Orson Welles to W.C. Fields to George Raft to Marlene Dietrich, and dozens of other Universal players. ” Of course Nancy gets minimal screen time, and is hard to even notice, let alone to achieve any dramatic moments, but still it was progress. Nancy then appeared in a Similar war propaganda movie, totally forgotten today, is She’s a Soldier Too, with Nina Foch and Beulah Bondi.
The first really interesting movie Nancy appeared in was The Missing Juror, a proto-noir with a great, heavy atmosphere but sadly no budget. The story is formulaic (a madman trying to avenge his wrongful sentencing by murdering the jury that condemned him), the camerawork and the acting is plenty good and George MacReady as the deranged but wrongly condemned man takes the acting cake, with the alluring Janis Carter as a juror coming in second. Then came a completely forgotten Ross Hunter vehicle, A Guy, a Gal and a Pal.
You Came Along starts as a romantic comedy set right after the war, with Bob Cummings playing an aviator who gets stuck on a rally bond and Lizabeth Scott playing the treasury agent in charge of the rally. Of course, they get hitched after getting poked by Cupid’s arrow. Nothing unusual, true, but then everything changes and the movie ends up a major tear-jerker. This wierd mish mash either completely alienated the viewers or left them enraptured, so make your pick! The leads are played well enough by Bob and Liz, and there are messages of hope dispersed throughout, so it’s a nice movie overall. Afterwards, Nancy was one of the many girls featured int he exotic A Thousand and One Nights, and then came her big moment!!
Yes, Nancy got a leading part! Yaay, let’s forget it’s a part in the Gorcery boys movie so we can congratulate her! Joking aside, Nancy really did play the love interest of Leo Grocery in Mr. Muggs Rides Again. Gorcery plays a jockey who gets set up by a well-known gambler and then tries to make amends. Nancy is very cute in the movie, but everything seems to overshadow her – the crazy Gorcery boys, the horses, Minerva Urecal! Better luck next time!
Unfortunately, Nancy’s next movie is a…. You guessed it, a low-budget western!! Saddle Serenade. What a name! Sadly, no serenades for Miss Brinckman here. The less I write about this movie, the better, so nix it. Nancy was back to uncredited roles in higher budget movie yet again. The first movie was That Night with You, a movie with a plot one can hardy believe! Stars are Susanna Foster and Franchot Tone. Listen to this (taken from an imdb review): “Tone is a successful Broadway producer, Susanna a young hopeful. Seems that Tone’s character has been divorced for 20 years, and is quite popular with the women, but very changeable about with whom and when he might remarry. Thus, his female star in his next stage production gets impatient with his dalliance and leaves, providing a possible opening for Susanna’s character, Penny, or alternatively for Tone’s ex-wife, Blossom, who shows up unannounced to claim the role before Susanna has it nailed down. This is complicated by Susanna’s claim that she is Tone’s unknown daughter by Blossom, initially confirmed by Blosson, for her own reasons. Tone ‘knows’ Suzanne is a fraud, but decides to play along with her ruse for a while, then is convinced she is genuine for a while. Meanwhile, Tone and Susanna act flirtatious with each other, both trying to alternately deny and promote their attraction.” While I never expect anything realistic from Hollywood, this is whauza kooky, but it still managed to work as a boiler plate for romance. And Franchot Tone could do anything – he was so suave and good you’ll believe any role he plays, including this.
Nancy was again uncredited in An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, a completely forgotten Kaye Down movie where she plays an angel trying to help a struggling producer stage a play. Nancy had another uncredited role in Lonesome Trail, another low-budget western. Nancy started 1946 by playing an uncredited role in another Gorcery boys movie, Live Wires. This time Leo isn’t a jockey but rather gets hired to serve warrants to citizens. The movie is just like any other Gorcery boys movie – stupid and silly but made with heart.
IUt was time for Nancy to get the leading reins once again, and she did in Detour to Danger, a completely forgotten Britt Wood crime movie. Wood was a singer who . Nancy had a credited role again in Behind the Mask, a Shadow movie. Yep, before A native San Franciscan, played him in 1994, the Shadow was played by Kane Richmond. Here, the Shadow has to clear his name after the murder of blackmailing reporter Jeff Mann is pinned on him. Since the movie was made by Monogram, a cheapie studio, it has a minuscule budget and doesn’t pull it of nicely, making this a flop. The Shadow deserved better. Then came another Bowery boys movie with Bowery Bombshell. Nancy finally crawled out of the low-budget comedy hole with Dangerous Millions. The plot: A shipping magnate hatches a plan for testing the worth of his heirs, none of whom he has ever seen. As one reviewer wrote: “the plot with secret identities, hidden rooms, exotic locations and the threat of hideous tortures administered by fiendish orientals offered all the matinée delights a youthful viewer would look for.” Ah,m the Hollywood old days! he female cats is very good – Dona Drake and Tala Birrel are both very beautiful and extremely underrated actresses that sadly never got their due.
Nancy made three rather good movies in 1947: The Man I Love, a nifty Ida Lupino drama movie, where she actually punches the bad guy in the face (go Ida!), I’ll Be Yours, a typical charming but paper-thin Deanna Durbin mush (with Tom Drake as her love interest), and Slave Girl, an actually a tongue in cheek, truly hilarious comedy with Yvonne de Carlo and George Brent (the movie doesn’t make much sense, but it’s really fun!).
And that’s it from Nancy!
Nancy hit the papers for the first time in early 1943, trailing clouds of Mardi Gras glass, as a sample of what will be seen at the annual Venice, Calif., festival. She continued modeling for various local Los Angeles events, and pretty soon she was seen almost daily in a large number of columns. In December 1943 Nancy and famous actress Frances Dee completed a hop-skip-jump-and-stand cross-country trip to entertain soldiers at Drew Field, Florida.
Nancy did a lot of war bond work and undertook several USO tours. She was elected “Sweetheart of Company M-2” by the cadets at the West Point military academy and was quite popular as a pin-up.
Then, in 1946, came this interesting blurb:
Actress Nancy Brinkman, 22, announced today her engagement to Lt. Comdr. Paul MacArthur, a nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The blonde starlet said marriage plans will be made when her fiance returns from Hawaii. She said she first met the 27-year-old Annapolis graduate on a “blind” date when she was a freshman at the University of California in 1941.
Now, here all the rhubarb starts. Nancy got a ton of publicity for dating General Douglas MacArthur’s nephew and was in the papers every day for almost two months. The war was over, the US won, it was a time of general delight and happiness. A handsome couple, her a nascent actress and he a young man from an upstanding family, was just what the papers needed to plump up all the cheeriness. Yes, I tough so too in the beginning, and I tried to find information about when and where they wed. This completely threw me of the track and caused me a bit of a problem before I finally figured it out for what it was. Confused yet?
Now, let’s go from the beginning. What we knew about Paul MacArthur was that we was a kin of general MacArthur, that he was an Annapolis graduate and about 27 years old in 1946. So I tried looking for the family of general MacArthur, and guess what, I couldn’t find anything on my first try. Paul was waaay too young to be MacArthur’s nephew. Okay, perhaps he was a son of his first degree nephew? After some snooping around, I was sure he was the son of MacArthur’s nephew, Douglas MacArthur, a noted diplomat, and his wife, Laura Louise Barkley, a formidable Washington DC socialite.
However, after some additional digging, it became clear to me that Douglas and Louise didn’t’ have a son, only a daughter, Laura, who was a bit younger than Paul. WTF? So, WHO was Paul MacArthur? The papers exaggerate all the time, so perhaps he was a distant cousin. Now, this was too hard to follow thru, since the MacArthur family had an extensive family tree. I nearly gave up, and then it hit me. Those were lies. Petty lies made up by newspaper columnists to make an engagement of a minor starlet and a normal naval soldier more interesting. Yes, people, Paul McArthur had absolutely no familial relationship to Douglas MacArthur. Perhaps a very, very, very distant one, but that’s so far that they can hardly be called family.
Anyway, it turns out that Paul MacArthur was born in 1917 in Norwood, Ohio, to Thomas B. MacArhur and Eveline Paine. He had a brother, Arthur, and two sisters, Jane and Priscilla. His father was not from a powerful military family, but a normal middle class blue-collar worker – he was a ticket agent at Union terminal. I wonder how Thomas felt when papers started to extensively write about Paul’s imaginary, over-bloated family background. Meh! Anyway, Paul was one of the 456 midshipmen who graduated from Naval Academy, Annapolis, class of 1941. This is one of the largest graduating classes in the history of the academy.
The couple wed in late 1946 or early 1947. Nancy announced in the papers that she, plans to retire from films after her wedding, and she did. She lived a quiet family life with her husband and daughter Paula Louise, born on July 9, 1948. Sadly, her brother died in 1950, leaving behind a widow and two young children, and her mother died just two months after.
Nancy and Paul enjoyed a happy marriage and lived in sunny California.
Nancy Brinckman MacArthur died on May 28, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.