Laurie Shevlin

Laurie Shevlin was an alluring Scottish lass who ended up in Hollywood as a chorus girl and made only one movie. She tried for movies a second time, but that was another kaput, and her road from there was rocky, but ultimately she managed to carve out a happy life for herself. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Catherine Laurie Shevlin was born on March 15, 1914, in Annathill, Scotland, UK, to Frank and Annie Shevlin, the youngest of six children (Laurie had three brothers, one of them named William, and two sisters, one of them named Anna). Her father, an Irish immigrant, was a manual laborer, and allegedly once ran for Parliament on the Labor platform, although I find this very hard to believe. She spent her childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, but her parents decided to move to the land of opportunity, to the US.

Laurie arrived to the US in 1928 with her family. She was barely out of elementary school, but times were hard and all of the family had to go to work. There could be no more school for Laurie. She worked as a waitress and made more than her brothers. She was serving food in the public dining room of the Presbyterian Hospital, New York, when she won a beauty contest at a local theater. She was then 15. The contest caused her to be given a job in Earl Carroll’s “Murder at the Vanities” as the murdered girl. Wanting to improve her skills, she also started to attend Paramount School of Dramatic Art in New York.

Laurie stayed with the Carroll show two years, going to Hollywood to take part in the screen production, in the chorus. And that is how it started!

CAREER

Laurie appeared in only one movie – It’s a fast-moving, fast-talking, sexy movie all the way, the kind you couldn’t make after the Production code was enforced in 1934. The movie’s main highlight are giggly showgirls and a incredible blend of classical and hot jazz. The story is nothing to sneer at: a Murder investigation goes on back stage while The Vanities, on its opening night, plays on to an unknowing audience, but the movie mix and matched crime and musical so it’s an exciting novelty even today, 80 years after it was made. You can also see the infamous “Sweet Marijuana” number in this movie. Gertrude Michael, a underrated actress at any rate, has a meaty role as a bitchy actress and excels in it, making the leading duo of Kitty Carlisle and Carl Brisson somehow boring in comparison. Laurie of course played a chorus girl, just one in the pool of beauties.

And that was it from Laurie!

PRIVATE LIFE

Laurie was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighted about 120 lbs when she came to Hollywood.

Here is a beauty hint from Laurie:

To stimulate the growth of the eyelashes, a little castor oil rubbed on each evening before retiring is effective. Doing it regularly will result in thick, long lashes.

Sadly, Laurie’s stay in Hollywood was not a very happy one. Since she had arrived in Tinsel Town, she has had a narrow escape from pneumonia, has had dental trouble which necessitated a lanced jaw, and has fallen down stairs. On a side note, Laurie wasnt’ interested in getting married back then, like some of her fellow chorus girls. They said this to the papers:

Hollywood blonde; Marion Callahan, yellow head from New York; Dorothy Dawes, brunette from the same Big Town, and Laurie Shevlin, of Scotland, with snapping dark eyes, babble that they have always looked forward to careers, that they don’t know what all the fuss is about marriage, that they “prefer to be alive!”

Well said girls! When you are 20 years old, still learning and trying to find yourself, maybe it’s better to wait for the right time ot get married, despite all the societal pressure.

After she appeared in his one and only movie, Laurie was not recognized then as star material and came back to New York for an engagement with a Carroll troupe at a night club. Then she went into George White’s “Scandals” show. She decided she wanted to be a dramatic actress. She wrote and asked Oscar Berlin, chief talent scout for Paramount, and Cecil Clovelly, the director of the Paramount school, to let her enter. They granted her an interview, but turned her down at first, because of her accent. So she worked on it at home, on buses, in subways, at cocktail parties, making everyone correct her when she sounded like something fresh off the moors. Finally, her persistence and her charm overcame them. They let her in, but it took a great deal of work, every day, hour upon hour, delivering lines, learning to walk, learning to hold up her face so the strong lights of the studio would not make shadows. Before it came time to make her test, they put her through a course in how to dress herself, how to emphasize her good points. They tried to sell her as an rising star on this story – to make her a kind of a Scottish Cinderella whose voice had to be modulated before she could enter movies.

Here is a short article about Laurie’s elocution abilities:

, Tilt Gives Laurie Shevlin the Unique Charm Hero Captured by the Cameras In the Course of Her Test for a Film Contract. Compare This Photo of Her with That (Below) . . . By Dorothy Ducas S HE looked small and helpless sitting under the fierce glare of the studio lights. But when she spoke .her voice was as vibrant with youth and life as the mist-blue eyes under her curling, naturally long, black lashes. “You don’t believe thot? Well you con. It’s trrrue!” Delicately, but as arrestingly as a glimpse of purple heather, an accent lay upon her words. It was no simulated accent, it was real. A Scotch lassie! That was why she wore the tartan like one to the heather born. She continued: “I was born of a Russian mother and a Scotch fatherrrr — on a Dutch ship — on the high seas.” She flashed an impish grin. Laurie Shevlin was taking her ACID TEST It Takes Extraordinary Poiso for a Screen Hopeful to’ Bear Up Under the Severe Conditions Surrounding Movie “Tests.” Above Is One of the Few Photos Ever Made During the “Test” of a Future Possible Star, Taken as Laurie Shevlin Was Facing the Cameras for the Picture Which Won Her Her Chance at Stardom, and Made Happy Her Mother (Below), Who Naturally Thinks Laurie Looks Her Best In the Scotch Kilt Costume She Is Wearing at Right.  Another View of the Making of the “Test” Film Which Marked Laurie Shevlin’s Graduation from the Paramount School In New York, Where She Studied for More Than a Year to Win Her Chance at Capturing Film Fame. . . . Showing Laurie Shevlin at the Time She Arrived In This Country with Her Family, an Immigrant Girl from Her Native Scotland. screen, test after months . of. .studying to rid her tremulous voice of the burr of her native land, by playing a scene from Elizabeth Bergener “Escape Me Never.” She was playing it with a Scotch instead of a German accent, for some of the objectionable burr remained; playing it with all the yearning of her young soul in her voice. “Please,” she was saying to herself, “please make them like a Scotch accent as much as a German one!” She . was thinking of the international success of German-born Elizabeth Bergener. Laurie Shevlin’.’, rich “r’s” and narrow “a’s” were all that stood between her and a movie contract when she first came under the eye of a Paramount talent scout. Garbo has’ done rather well with Swedish overtones In her voice; exaggerated British accents are in demand, and the Spanish accent of Lupe Velez and other Latins has never seemingly grated on the ears of photoplay-goers. Yet an executive thought those same movie audiences wouldn’t like a Scotch accent! So Laurie Shevlin, who thought she was done with learning the Three It’s, went to school again. She read whole books aloud to her mother, her brother, her friends, practicing words and watching lip motions in the mirror in her bedroom. She stayed in the Paramount school for “finds” months longer than any of their other “discoveries,” she whose beauty was outstanding, whose ability made it possible for her to cry real tears without coaching. She stayed to “kill” the accent But for all her study she could not eliminate the trace of it. Fortunately, too, for it was that delectable sound which made the West Coast and fame beckon, following her screen test. Overnight that which had been her bug-a-boo became a passport to golden opportunity. “And why not?” asks Laurie, bubbling over with happiness. “Harry Lauder made a pile of money out of his accent.”

This try for a career faltered just as did the first one, and Laurie returned to New York for good, and continued appearing in Earl Carroll’s night clubs. The years went on, and at some point, she gave up her chorus work.

Now, I have no idea how it came to this, but by 1942, Laurie was disillusion with everything in general, and, probably not seeing a viable way out, tried to commit suicide. Yes, she tried to drown herself in Central park. Highly unusual suicide method, that one. Here is an article from that unhappy occurrence:

Laurie Shevlin, 26 years old, a former chorus girl in Earl Carroll’s night club in Hollywood, was In Bellevue after two attempts to take her life. already end her life by jumping into a pool  Central park. Miss Shevlin Jumped heard her scream, leaped in.

Patrolman Robert Pilsen dragged her to shore. When he let her go, however, she jumped back in. Patrolman Louis Schmidt and numerous others pulled her out again and took her to the hospital.

So, she tried to jump two times – something really serious must have happened to her. Perhaps a love affair gone awry, financial problems, something else? But, bottom line, she pulled out of the chasm, survived, and returned stronger. How do we know that? Well, the next we hear, Laurie was in the papers for a happy occasion – a marriage!

She married Warrant Officer Homer Wilfrid Anderson on October 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. Anderson was born on April, 2 1916, in Orange, New York, the son of Homer Wilfird Anderson Sr. and Lena M. Anderson. He became a certified public accountant In civilian life, was inducted into the Army February 11, 1942. He is stationed in Los Angeles, with the Contract Audit Air Forces. He was just out of the Army when they hitched.

I have no idea what happened to Laurie afterwards – how solid was her marriage, where did she live and so on. I just know that Homer Wilfrid Anderson died on February 7, 2003, in Virginia.
As always, I hope she had a good life!

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