Diane Cassidy

Pretty tennis player and part time model, Diane Cassidy was noticed by Mervyn Leroy and hoped to become like his other protegees, Lana Turner and Clark Gable. Sadly, this didn’t’ happen, as Diane only made a few movies (in minor roles). Always socially active and beaued by more than a few millionaires, it wasn’t a surprise when Diane retired to become a socialite.

EARLY LIFE

Diane Mary Cassidy was born on March 8, 1932, in Southampton, Long Island, New York, to Joseph and Mae Cassidy. Her younger sisters were Clare, born in 1935 and Jean, born in 1939. Her father worked as a manager for a private practice.

Diane grew up in Southampton, and started playing tennis when she was a bit more than a toddler – by her teen years, she was known as a local tennis champion. After graduating from high school, she commuted to New York City for work – she began as a Powers model in the city, modeling undies. Her coincident display of gams and curves nailed down her movie contract. How exactly? Well, while she was in Hollywood on vacation, Mervyn LeRoy tapped her on the shoulder at a Hollywood restaurant, and it was the beginning of a new life for Diane. She was literary caught eating hamburger and onions.

LeRoy was famous in Hollywood for having an sharp eye always on the lookout for future stars – his eagle eye spotted Lana Turner in a sweater outfit and Clark Gable acting a small part in a stage play Accordingly, everybody was hoping that Diane was going to be next star to achieve such caliber of fame. Diane sailed through a screen test, was signed to a $200 per week contract as a start and will draw $1700 eventually every week. And so it started!

CAREER

Diane had a credited, but not really meaty role in Invitation, a high quality weepie with Dorothy McGuire playing a sickly rich girl and Van Johnson plays her “bought” husband (of course she doesn’t know this). The plot is pretty obvious from here, with a third women barging in (this time it’s my favorite, Ruth Roman), and overprotective father, played by Louis Calhoun, trying to hush things up. While no masterpiece, it’s a solid, good movie, with  a great performance by Dottie, so a recommendation by all means. I never particularly liked Van, but when he gets serious, he’s much better than playing the nice boys next door he usually did during his MGG years.

Diane than did a string of MGM musical movies (six of them to be precise). Whoa, sound nice doesn’t it? Well, here we go:

The first musical was Skirts Ahoy!, a Esther Williams musical. Unlike many of other movies Esther made for MGM; this one isn’t a blown out spectacle with impressive aquatic sequences, but s more low key, character driven drama sprinkled with singing/dancing numbers. The viewer is left to decide if he likes it or not – but if you want your typical golden age musicals, this movie is not for you. If you want an endearing, low calorie drama with an upbeat message, this might just do the trick. The plot is very bare bones: Three young ladies sign up for some kind of training at a naval base. They fall in love with three different men and try to woo them. While a bit outdated, overall it’s a fine movie. A plus is seeing a whole array of talented performers doing musical numbers – Bilyl Eckstine, DeMarco Sisters, Debbie Reynolds

The second musical was Lovely to Look At. The movie has quite a basic premise: Howard Keel plays an aspiring Broadway producer, trying to get a new musical off the ground. When his fellow impresario, comic Red Skelton, inherits Parisian dress shop they and pal Gower Champion decide they’ll sell up and splash the cash on their stage show – until they catch a look of the tasty co-owners (Kathryn Grayson and Marge Champion). They fall in love and the rest is history. While it’s just a big fat piece of fluff, it’s gorgeous fluff with great dancing, good singing and some stunning fashions (designed by the all time great Adrian). Diane+’s role is small, and it seemed she wasn’t particularly going forward in her career.

Diane’s third musical was Because You’re Mine, a problematic Mario Lanza movie. Problematic! How and why? Well, there is a story how Lanza didn’t want to make the movie and to sabotage it, he gained a massive amount of weight. He also didn’t like his co-star, Broadway alumna Doretta Morrow, and found the story unappealing. You can guess why – they used the same old Lanza character and put him in the army. Extremely unimaginative. Anyway, the final product isn’t as bad as it reputation warrants, but it’s far from Lanza’s best work.

Diane’s fourth movie was Everything I Have Is Yours, a Marge and Gower Chamption movie. Since the Champions were very limited as thespians, their movies have to hide this sad fact and boast their dancing ability to compensate. This movie services it well enough. The story is pretty simple – a professional husband/wife dancing team sound familiar) are having marital problems and so on and so on. Of course, there is a happy end and tons of dancing, so maybe it’s a good movie to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Diane’s last movie was Million Dollar Mermaid, this being of Esther William’s most famous movies. It’s actually a biopic of Annette Kellerman, the trailblazing female swimmer, but the whole phrase became synonymous with Esther (especially after her biography was called like the movie).  Like any typical Hollywood biopic, most of the plot of Million Dollar Mermaid is fictitious and made more theatrical than it was in reality, but one didn’t watch these movies for the story but for the aqua ballet and the dramatics. Victor Mature plays the husband with an “I can sell anything” charm and it’s interesting seeing him in such a role (and yes, this is pure imagination too, Kellerman’s husband wasn’t a Hollywood promoter).

And that was it from Diane!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Diane came to Hollywood, she was legally under age, so her contract had to be court approved. Sadly, it seems that Diane had some previous debts she had to cover first –  at least so she told Judge Frank S. Swain, and claimed that these debts shrink her $200-a-week salary to $70. The judge ordered the young actress to put 10% of her salary into U.S. Savings Bonds, and gave her a discourse on being thrifty. Very handy advice!

Here is an article about Diane from this period:

For a 19-year-old girl Diane combines the freshness of “sweet sixteen” and the smoldering oomph of the more mature film lovelies. Take the word of such an old hand as producer Mervyn LeRoy that Miss Cassidy is “The Whistle Bait Queen of .Hollywood.” LeRoy discovered the pulsating beauty at a race track, and followed her until she signed on the dotted line. Diane, only recently removed from Southampton, N.Y., told International News Service demurely that “Some cheesecake is awfully sexy and not too nice—but I don’t mind the refined type.”

That statement by the M-6-M beauty should bring on more refined cheesecake, or just more cheesecake by any other name. Miss Cassidy is willowy, and while not threatening the throne of Jane Russell, can do a lot of things to a bathing suit. Diane lifted her two arms expressively to the skies, like a gal in a filmy evening gown looking at the moon: “I think the kind of cheesecake is all right where they take your picture in a filmy, evening gown looking at the moon.” Lest students of the more charming gender of anatomy be discouraged, Miss Cassidy added: “It’s all right to take pictures on the beach, too—if you’re wearing a suit that a girl actually would don to go to the beach.” The light auburn-haired charmer added coyly: “Anyway, why should I object to  cheesecake? Every girl has to do it in Hollywood, unless she is Jane Wyman, a Greer’ Garson or somebody like that.”

“I’m not in love, but I was several times back in Southampton,” says Miss Cassidy. “Right now Hollywood has been such a thrill that I haven’t given romance a thought But, maybe sometime, huh?” Her biggest thrill, she said breathlessly: “The other day Clark Gable said ‘Hello, Baby’.”

In 1949, when she was 17 years old, Diane was pretty serious about wealthy Peter Salm, who she dated for almost a year. Salm was the son of Millicent Rogers and her first husband, Austrian aristocrat and tennis player, Ludwig “Ludi” von Salm-Hoogstraeten. Salm owned a huge property in Diane’ hometown, Southampton, and this is probably how they met.

Anyway, in early 1950, the relationship broke apart and Peter started dating Charlene Wrightmsan. Not the one to be idle, Diane made  Peter a repartee by going out with the young and wealthy Bob Neal. It was a no go, since Peter and Diane didnt’ reconcile, and rarely saw each other from then on. In October 1950, she was seen with Joe Perrin, but they busted before the year was out.

In 1951, Diane was dated by both Huntington Hartford and by Pat Di Cicco. Both liked pretty ladies and both dated them by the shovel load. Pat was involved with the temperamental tennis star Gussie Moran at the same time, and the press was expecting fireworks, but in the end nothing really dramatic happened. She also dated Ted Briskin – Ted planed in from Chicago and spent a few days at his ex, Betty Hutton’s home with the kids, to whom he gave a pair of Shetland ponies. Afterwards he took Diane Cassidy to the Beverly Gourmet and to Ciro’s and from having another date with Gwen Caldwell.

In late 1951, Diane got hooked up with wealthy Chicago paper mill heir, Michael Butler, son of Paul Butler. This proved to be her most endearing, serious relationship – she went to Hollywood, but he kept in touch, and the two youngsters agreed to meet in Acapulco, Mexico, when she caught some free time. They did meet there in February 1952, had a grand time there, and upon their return, were feted as almost engaged and just a step away from matrimony.

In Mid 1952, Diane decided to take a European vacation and sailed to France. While there, she met the love of her life. Thus, In October 1952, married wealthy Venezuelan oil king, Bartholmay Sanchez. Fully named Bartholme Sanchez Pernia, he was born on October 12, 1913, in Venezuela.

The couple settled jointly in New York (with a Park Avenue address) and Venezuela, and had two children, a son, Bartholome Ricardo, born in 1953, and a daughter, Diana, born in about 1955. They traveled around quite a bit and lived the jet set life.

There was not a whole lot I could find about the Sanchez family, and it seems the most famous person in the family was his nephew, Bartus Bartolomes, who became a noted artist. Here is a bit about him:

The family of Bartus owned the “Sanchez Pernia Estate”, one of the largest coffee plantations in the country covering more than 90,000 hectares from 1898 up to 1960’s. However, the newly emerging governments from the sixties, riding the waves and riches of a new oil boom, began to expropriate the land and reduced the agricultural production of coffee and other crops to a minimum.

In the expropriated lands, the government promoted and built the Uribante Caparo Hydroelectric Dam, a project that became detrimental to the Eco-systems of three Venezuelan states: Táchira, Mérida and Barinas, decreasing the productivity of the traditionally cultivated areas, affecting the rivers, local plants and bird migrations because among other things, this area was a pathway or transit corridor used by birds who migrated from Canada to Argentina and vice verse.

These expropriations and the negative effect they had on the environment he grew up in, affected the sensitivity of Bartus. He increasingly devoted his creativity to establishing links between art and water, and he promoted some cultural events that highlight the consequences of human intervention on the environment such as environmental pollution and global warming. Bartus considers the natural environment a legacy that must be protected, and water is the link that keeps all natural environments healthy one way or another.

The Sanchez settled in West Palm Beach in the end. Bartholome died at some point (couldn’t find the exact date of death).

Diane Cassidy Sanchez is still alive today and lives in West Palm, Beach, Florida.

 

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