Mary Jo Mathews

Mary Jo Mathews did not go down the usual starlet route. A fine Southern miss, she was a college graduate who first seeked her fame in the theater, and only by chance ended up in Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood, did not work out for her, but she married a successful agent and led a happy family life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Josephine Mathews was born on April 11, 1909, in Mannington, West Virginia, to Harry J.  and Blanche Mathews. Her older brother, Marshall, was born in 1904. Her father owned a drug store. The family was well of, lived in Mannington and employed at least one maid. Mary grew up like any other upper middle class Southern girl, and it was clear from her teen years that she was a stunning beauty with a strong penchant for dramatics.

After graduating from Mannington high school, Mary enrolled into the West Virginia university at Morgantown. Mary, a lush brunette with a soft Southern accent, was a hit with the lads, and in 1927, when she was a sophomore, she was voted the most beautiful girl student on the campus.

Next year, she was chosen by the students as “Miss’ “West Virginia University, and not long after, was named by Governor Conley as West Virginia’s representative at the annual rhododendron festival at Asheville, and later  attended the Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival in Winchester in the spring of 1929 as “Queen Shenandoah VI” . It seems that Mary really did do extensive social rounds and was very successful in those stakes. Back then, Mary Jo planned to become a school-teacher and received an AB. degree from the University of West Virginia. Then She won the Winchester Ky.) Apple Blossom Festival prize for beauty in 1929, after which she went to New York, married an actor and decided to become an actress herself, and there was no turning back!

Mary Jo became a member of the cast of “The Band Wagon,” Broadway’s revue success, and starred the head of a road company which was presenting one of the George White’s Musical company. Then she was a member of the cast of “Let ‘Em Eat Cake“. In the interim, Mary worked as an understudy. In a later interview she claimed that to became an understudy one had to be at least three times as talented as the leading lady to get the job.  At one point, Mary was understudying three roles – for Adele Astaire, the dancer; Roberta Robinson, a singer, and Helen Carrington, comedienne. Naturally, Hollywood noticed her, and she was signed to a contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Mary Jo made her debut in Twentieth Century, one of the funniest comedies of the 1930s, with the unbeatable combo of John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. No comment needed, just watch the movie and laugh! Barrymore is such a large ham you can’t help loving him, and Lombard is a pixie charmer to boot!

Mary Jo played a small role in Society Doctor, here is a review from Imdb: Morris plays a hotshot young Dr. Morgan in a metropolitan hospital, and Taylor is Dr. Ellis, his friend, who is a little less ambitious. Instead of being laser-focused, he wants to enjoy life, too. Both of them are interested in the nurse Madge (Virginia Bruce). She’s in love with Morgan but he’s too dedicated to get involved with anything but medicine. Ellis, however, makes a big play for her. When Morgan gets in trouble with the head of the hospital, he contemplates becoming a society doctor, and a patient (Billie Burke) offers to set him up in practice.

The movie is actually interesting as we have on unlikable main character, played by Morris as a hotheaded, stubbornly foolish all-too-focused doctor, and a young and stisl not quite polished Robert Taylor as his friend/rival. Virginia Bruce is as lovely as always, too bad she never became more than a B class star. Mary Jo’s next movie was the completely forgotten One New York Night.

Mary than appeared in tow movies that are well known and regarded today. The first one was Reckless, a William Powell/Jean Harlow drama, based on the infamous Libby Holman/Zachary Reynolds case. The movie starts of as a sparking comedy, a genre which Harlow excelled in – she’s tops, and Powell and May Robson, as her support, are in a high class too. However, the movie turns into a over the top melodrama in it’s second half, and this jarring change of pace somehow kills the overall effect, although it’s watchable and not at all that bad. Franchot Tone is impeccably elegant as a wastrel playboy who lusts after Harlow, and Rosalind Russell has a small role (which is always a plus, when Roz appears in a movie). Mary Jo plays a chorine.

The second movie was Mad Love, based on a book, with an implausible plot (taken from an imdb review): Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a brilliant surgeon who is obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Francis Drake). She tells him she is leaving the stage to be a full time wife to her husband Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), a concert pianist. Gogol is crushed. Stephen Orlac loses his hands in a train wreck. At the request of Yvonne, Orlac grafts on a new pair of hands to Stephen. Unfortunately, they happen to be the hands of Rollo, an executed murderer who loved throwing knives. It seems the hands have a life of their own–Stephen can’t play the piano anymore but can throw knives accurately and he has a desire to kill. He slowly starts to go crazy. Gogol again tells Yvonne that he loves her. She rejects him and Gogol cracks. He sets out to drive Stephen mad–and drive Yvonne into his arms.

But, as the reviewer wrote, the plot is completely secondary to the sheer brilliance of Peter Lorre, absolutely killing it as the man doctor. Whenever he’s on the screen it’s impossible to even look at somebody else, such is his magnetism! The movie also gives a good role to Colin Clive, a tragically underrated actor whose career never gave him the chance to truly shine. Frances Drake is nice enough as the doctor’s object of desires. The movie is very good at conjuring a non-bloody horror feeling, and stands very well today. Sadly, Mary Jo was literary just an extra and the role made on impact on her career. She only made one more short movie before retiring.

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was musically inclined and knew how to play the piano and the organ. As a special peculiarity, she also broke mirrors for good luck.

Mary married her first husband, Charles Coleman, in Marion county in 1929. Charles Bradford Coleman was born on August 14, 1905 in Pratt, West Virginia to Charles Bradford Coleman and Margaret Caldwell Frazer, one of three children. Mary and Charles tried their luck together in New York, lived for a time in Chicago (guess for work related reasons) in 1930, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in 1933. Coleman went to Hollywood and acted under the name of John Bradford. He had credited roles in movies like 365 Nights in Hollywood and Life Begins at 40, but gave up movies in 1937. He died on June 29, 1993 in  Charleston, West Virginia.

When she came to Hollywood, Mary Jo had a pet dachshunds and often hung out on the beach at the Del Mar Club, Santa Monica. While in Tinsel town, Mary was tutored by dramatic coach Earl Hinsdell to become a star. Here is a short description of the process:

Mary Jo Matthews is one of the “students” who. in Hinsdell’s opinion, will reach stardom in three sears. of years no difference, as a real star will stano out in any picture. “I regard the preserving of individuality as most important in my work of coaching is to be willing to train potential stars for that length of time longer if necessary. This trio is comprised of Agnes Anderson, Mary Jo Matthew and Margaret Ehrlich. Hinsdell has his own method of training, which may be at variance with the ideas of other coaches but it has proved rather successful so far. Myrna Loy. Jean Parker and Robert Young all are graduates of his school. When Myrna Loy went to him about a year and a half ago she was practically through in pictures. For years she had been cast in exotic siren role. He detected a flair for light comedy, developed that quality and launched her on a new career which already has carried her far beyond any goal she had been able to attain before. First of all. this instructor refuses to put his students through a routine training which stamps them all alike. For the most part he trains them individually. However, he frequently brings them together in groups to give them the fundamentals of timing, shading and the ability to fit their voices to those of their co-workers. He also insists that all of his students take singing lesson, the theory here being that the singing and speaking voice really is the same and the development of one helps the other. “Then there are long periods of reading aloud to develop round tones. “It sounds strange, but I am quite insistent that my students go to art galleries and study the works of the old masters,” declares Hinsdell. “I also advice them to acquire a knowledge of the history that is behind most of these great works. “Such a procedure seems remote to most of the students, just as it does to outsiders. but such a study can have a very definite effect upon acting. To be a good writer. artist, sculptor or actor one must have both a knowledge and understanding of beauty. And there is no place this can be found better than in an art gallery. “I do not think a person can express that which he has not felt, or at least understood. All art is expression. Thus one helps another.” HINSDELL believes in allowing those he trains to think for themselves. He shows them the right and the wrong then lets them work out the rest. He feels that he has failed as a coach if one of his graduates is not ready to go with any director. His students must learn more than just to do things his way. They must learn to act. To further their experience, he stages frequent shows at a local theater. This gives the youngsters an actual stage training that is of infinite value. They learn how to appear at ease before an audience, get a taste of real audience reaction, and gain a confidence which can be acquired in no other manner. Besides, it gives studio executives and directors an opportunity to see the potential talent which is at their disposal. Hence these student are certain to be given a chance to display the results of their training in front of the movie cameras. As for the average movie-struck girl or lad who has visions of being a star of 1940 or some later date, Hinsdell’s advice i “forget all about pictures.” “Most of these hopefuls have no talent.” he explains. “They’re just mesmerized by that state of mind called Hollywood and they’re due for disappointment if they hold on to the idea. “Of course, to those among them who do have talent and something to give, my advice would be no barrier. If that alone would stop them, they wouldn’t be worth anything anyway. “Those who are really serious about acting should become affiliated with a Little Theater group. More and more, producers of both the stage and screen are realizing that their greatest source of talent is the Little Theater. With such a training behind them, young men and women are already thinking and acting more or less like troupers when they enter professional work.”

Interesting, but sadly neither of the girls mentioned achieved any real success, although I do think that his method is very good.

In 1935, Mary eloped from Hollywood to Yuma, Arizona., with Arthur William Rush, studio executive. Arthur was born on April 2, 1907, to, in Graysville, Pennsylvania, to, one of six children. His siblings were brothers Malcolm, Clarence and Charles and his sisters were Elizabeth, and Helen. The family left Greene County when his father was transferred to Ohio by Columbia Gas. William lived for a time in Hanoverton, Ohio, before moving to California in 1931. William was a graduate of Bethany College, and quickly became West Coast manager for RCA Victor.

In the fledgling Los Angeles recording industry in the 1930s, Rush produced radio shows and recordings by Glenn Miller, Dinah Shore, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubenstein and others. In 1937, Rush left RCA and became an agent for Columbia Management of California, a CBS subsidiary, where he managed the careers of Mary Martin, Vladimir Horowitz, Orson Wells and others. He formed his own talent agency in 1939, Art Rush Inc., from which he managed Nelson Eddy for 22 years, in addition to  Jackie Gleason. He also discovered and launched the career of tenor Mario Lanza.

The couple enjoyed a happy, harmonious marriage, lived in Los Angeles and had two children, two sons, William Arthur Rush, born on August 25, 1936, and Robert Nelson Rush, born on January 14, 1943.

The Rushes were especially close to his clients Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact, Arthur and Mary served as best man and matron of honor  when Roy and Dale were married. Rush became Roy ’s agent after they met in a Hollywood restaurant in 1941. Their collaboration was sealed with a handshake and the two men never signed a formal contract. As a sign of devotion, Rogers’ best-selling book, Happy Trails, was dedicated to Rush and contained a glowing message of thanks for helping Rogers become a legendary Hollywood star.

In his later career, Managing  the Sons of the Pioneers, Rogers’ musical group, became the focus of Rush’s work. He was the mastermind behind the marketing of more than 400 products and establish more than 500 Roy Rogers Restaurants, in association with Marriott Corp. Rush called his 48-year collaboration with Rogers and Evans “the richest experience anybody could hope for in the entertainment world.” Roy’s son said of him “He wasn’t just an agent. We called him ‘Mother Rush’ because he took care of dad and the Pioneers.

Mary Josephine Rush died on September 30, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Arthur William Rush died of complications from a Thanksgiving auto accident on December 2, 1989.

Prudence Sutton

Prudence Sutton was one of many nice looking small town girls that crashed Hollywood hoping for at least a glimpse of fame. Unlike man others, she was noticed and given a starring role in a not inconsiderable feature. When the movie failed, she lasted for a few more years in Tinsel Town with no great success, and in the end traded it all for a stable family life. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Prudence Lovicia Sutton was born on April 24, 1907, in Sayre, Oklahoma, to Walter and Hattie Sutton. She had an older sister, Allie, born in 1904, and tow younger brothers, William Walter, born in 1909 and Tyson, born in 1911. Her father was a minister, her mother a housewife. The family lived in Beckham, Oklahoma in the 1910s.

Prudence attended Sayre high school and had a normal upbringing in a loving, tightly knit family. However, Prudence’s carefree teen years were abruptly cut short when her father was shot and slain by a cattle rustler not long after she graduated from high school in 1925. Her mother, a very resourceful woman, took the children and moved to Southern California. There Prudence got into movies in 1927. How exactly? Well, a bathing suit contest!

Prudence entered a Bathing’ Beauties most beautiful contestant. While she did not win, she and six other girls, Margaret Andrews, Evelyn Hunt, Caroline Burt, Josephine Hoffman, Harriet Mathews and Lorena Rhodes won cash, prizes, and, ultimately, a studio contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Prudence made only two movies in her short career: Pitfalls of Passion, a silent movie from 1927, and Paramount on Parade, a sound feature from 1930. I usually don’t write much about silent movies since I am not well versed in them, but since Pru made only two, let’s concentrate a bit on them. Her first movie, Pitfalls of Passion, was supposed to be her jump of to fame, as it was her very first role and a leading role at that! Pru plays a demure and slightly bewildered country girl who runs off to the city with her lover. Then as the unfortunate victim of circumstances who is sold into moral bondage, and finally as the woman of the streets—beaten and forlorn.  The papers heralded Pru as a natural talent, noting that Miss Sutton gives a sterling performance that is startling because of its realism. It was quite an expensive movie to make – at one point, there were 800 people appearing in mob scenes. The movie is completely forgotten today, sadly.

Prudence’s second feature was Paramount on Parade, a pastiche of various stars singing and dancing. Forget about the story, about characters or anythign remotely deep – this is fun, pure and simple! As one reviewer from IMDB nicely sums it up:

When “Paramount on Parade” was filmed – Paramount had more musical stars than any other studio. The other studio revues (MGM’s “Hollywood Revue of 1929” and Warner’s “Show of Shows”) may have been more flashy but most of the stars were not singers or dancers and people went for the novelty of seeing their favourites trying to sing or dance.

There is little reason to see the movie today, unless one is a old musical buff, but there are worse movies one can watch!

That was it from Prudence!

PRIVATE LIFE

Prudence had a very stable and peaceful love life – she married young businessman Joseph Bonadiman on April 11, 1931, in Los Angeles. Joseph E. Bonadiman was born on March 21, 1903, in California, to Carlo Bonadiman and Domenica Passarini, one of four children (he had a brother, Charles and two sisters, one of them Mary). His parents were both immigrants from northern Italy (which was under Austria-Hungary at that time). Prudence gave up her career in 1931 to marry and devote herself to family life.

The Bonadimans had a solid middle class family life. Their first son was born on Joseph Carlosutton was born on August 24, 1932 in Los Angeles, and their second son, William Walter, on June 21, 1935, also in Los Angeles. Joseph became a director of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and head of the civil engineering firm of Joseph E. Bonadiman & Associates, which was founded in 1942. His obituary nicely sums up his life’s work:

Engineer Joseph E. Bonadiman, who pioneered hillside developments from Hollywood Hills to San Bernardino, died of heart Tailure Monday at Redlands Community Hospital, his relatives said Tuesday. He was 86. “He was the first engineer to do hillside developments of any size in Los Angeles County,” recalled his elder son, Joseph C. Bonadiman. Chavez Ravine now home to the Los Angeles Dodgers was among the early projects. In San Bernardino’s steep foothills, he engineered developments near David Way and later throughout the Verdemont area. Although he had become less active during the last five years, he never fully retired. His last  day at work was Friday. The son of immigrant Austrians, Bonadiman came to California as a boy. He lived briefly on a 160-acre apple ranch in Apple Valley, where he arrived by wagon through Cajon Pass. He earned his engineering degree at UCLA where he once sold a used tuxedo to classmate John Wayne. “My dad needed some money and Duke Morrison John Wayne needed a tuxedo, so they traded,” his son said. Working as an engineer in a largely undeveloped state, Bonadiman found himself helping to build bridges, dams, subdivisions and a few airfields. “He designed Ontario International . . . Hawthorne . . . and a couple I don’t remember,” said his son.

In 1960 the family moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino where the engineering firm had already developed extensive
business connections. The Bonadimans nicely blended with the locals, and soon became a well known town staple couple, and Prudence was very active in the local catholic church and various charities.

In early 1966, Prudence had been taken ill. She had been hospitalized for more than a week and was apparently holding her own when an embolism, or blood clot, in the lung resulted in death on January 10, 1966. She was buried in San Bernardino.

Joseph Bonadiman died on January 29, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

Kay Harding

 

Kay Harding was a pretty small town girl who dreamed big, went to California to attain fame and fortune, worked as a truck driver (interesting no?), and even managed some minor success in Hollywood before giving it all up for marriage. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Jackie Lou Harding was born on January 5, 1924, in Cushing, Oklahoma to James and Thelma Harding. Her younger brother, Buddie Harding, was born two years after her in 1926. Her father, James, born in Colorado, worked in the oil industry as a laborer. Jackie grew up in Cushing in a normal, middle class family, and had an unremarkable, stable childhood.

Yet, there was a hunger for fame in Jackie, and by the time she hit puberty, she was active in local beauty pageants and had designs to become an actress. She attended Northeast high school in Oklahoma City, where she was elected “All-Around Girl” of the school, and once won a contest in a bathing beauty show. After graduation, Jackie left for California, hoping to realize her long time dream of becoming an actress.

In 1944, in Cushing, via a telegram, word had been received that Miss Jackie Lou Harding had signed a contract with Universal Studios in Hollywood, and her career started!

CAREER

Kay first appeared in Tinsel town films in Weird Woman, a well-paced, tightly knit horror movie with a great trio of lead actors – Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Gwynne and Evelyn Ankers. The plot is pretty basic (Chaney, as a professor at a college returns from a visit to a South Seas island with his native wife, played by Anne. His vindictive ex girlfriend, played by Evelyn, tries to her revenge. Chaney makes his wife burn all her superstitious, good luck charms, the things go horribly wrong), but the script is crisp, the performances fitting and the spooky atmosphere on point. Kay moved to more cheery fare with Hi, Good Lookin’!, a sugar coated, cute, and music-filled movie with nothing really memorable about it, but it’s good enough to watch on a Sunday afternoon. This was followed by Follow the Boys was another all star extravaganza they used to make during WW2 purely for patriotic reasons and not really for the art – Kay was just one of many stars and starlets who appeared in it.

Kay’s last four movies were all horrors/thrillers, and are the reason she is remembered (if at all), today. The first is The Scarlet Claw, one of the Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes movies. What more do we need to say about this serial? All Sherlock fans will love it, and even people beyond the circle – they are after all very well made movies with a outstanding cast. Kay’s last movie was also another from the same Sherlock Holmes series, The Woman in Green.

Kay also made one horror comedy – Ghost Catchers, featuring the team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. The story is a cardboard cutout – a spooky mansion which is, surprise!!, located next door to a night club is the place, and the characters are a Southern colonel and his two daughters. The movie, albeit short (a bit more than 60 mins) features a great deal of music, which can be either a detriment or a joy, depending on your own preferences. it’s not really a scary movie, of course, it has a few funny gags and Johnson/Olsen are their usual selves. Kay plays a minor role, so she’s blink and you’ll miss her.

Kay’s most famous and enduring movie today is The Mummy’s Curse, the fifth and final installment of Universal’s mummy series and the third to star Lon Chaney as the ancient Egyptian priest Kharis pursuing his much desired princess Ananka. The plot is same old, same old, closely following the last installment (An irrigation project in the rural bayous of Louisiana unearths Kharis, who was buried in quicksand twenty-five years earlier.) but fans of old school horror will love this – it’s Lon Chaney, after all, and everybody who cares about horror loves to see a mummy chasing after frightened people. Kay has a lively role as a doctor’s assistant, a good girl opposed to Virginia Christine’s bad girl (Ananka).

That was it from Kay!

PRIVATE LIFE

Allegedly, before Kay became an actress, she was a helms-woman on a delivery wagon. While I cannot gauge how true this story is, it makes for interesting reading if nothing else:

This business of writing pieces about Hollywood has gone completely haywire. Today, to keep up with things, we had to interview a lady truck driver. Or rather an ex-lady truck driver now in the movies. But gash, we couldn’t quarrel with Universal studio for signing up a lady truck driver. She was beeeutiful. Streamlined chassis. Fancy grill work. Nice paint Job. Sturdy upholstering. No miss in her remote. A real traffic stopper. Her name is Kay Harding. Her parents came to California about two years ago and Kay immediately tried to get into pictures. No luck, so she got a Job driving a truck for the U. S. Rubber Company in Los Angeles. One day she had to deliver some synthetic rubber to Universal studio for Claude Rains mask in “Phantom of the Opera.” Kay, wearing a trim uniform, drove her truck on the lot and there was a good deal of whistling. Dignified studio executive Dan Kelley also saw her. “He called me over,” Kay said, “and asked a lot of questions. I told him I had acted in high school plays, with the Community Players in Whittier, Calif., and that I was dying to get into pictures. He said to telephone him in a few days, maybe he could arrange a screen test.” “I was so excited,” she said, “I drove through a traffic signal and got a ticket.” Kay took the screen test. Studio executives looked at the film and gave her a contract. She made her film debut as a secretary in “Phantom Lady,” then played the ingenue lead with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in “The Scarlet Claw.” It’s probably a good thing there is one less lady truck driver on Southern California’s highways. Pin-up girls behind the wheel of a truck, Kay Harding said, are bad on morale. Not to mention fenders-and life and limb. “Gosh,” she said, “they let me drive that truck only three days after I got my driver’s license. I didn’t know the streets, or anything about a truck. I backed into a parked car the first day and smashed up a couple of fenders.” Then there was the convoy problem. “I’d be driving down the street,” Kay said, “and pretty soon there would be a lot of cars bunched around me. The guys in them would wave and whistle. If I slowed down, they’d all slow down. If I drove faster, they’d tag right along. It’s a miracle we all didn’t crack up in one colossal accident.” Then there was that California state law which prohibits a woman employee, even a lady truck driver, from lifting anything weighing more than 25 pounds. “I’d drive into a place,” Kay said, “with some heavy packages. I’d ask someone to carry them in. Well, the word would get around that there was a lady truck driver needing help, and 50 gents would leave their work to come outside and help me.” Kay said she earned $25 a week during the two months she drove the truck. “But every time I dented a fender, or got a traffic ticket, they took it out of my salary.” Kay said she didn’t keep score, but there were quite a few dented fenders. But only two traffic tickets one on the day she was promised that screen test. “Gosh,” Kay sighed, “it’s wonderful. When I quit my job the boss said I could come back and drive the truck any time if things in Hollywood didn’t pan out.”

Kay’s private life was pretty stable and low-key. Like many starlets, she did her bit for the war relief, and so met her future husband, who was serving in the Navy then. Kay and L. N. “Loyd Pat” Patterson, A.M.M. 2nd Class, were married in 1944 in a double ring ceremony at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, Glendale. The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. Owan Kellison with Patricia Martin, Kay’s only attendant, as maiden of honor, and Tom Stone, A.M.M. 3rd Class, the groom’s fellow sailor, as best man.

Unlike some wartime marriages, the Pattersons’ marriage was a happy and harmonious one, and produced a daughter, Michael Lyn, born on February 23, 1946, in Los Angeles. The couple moved from LA to Soledad at some point after Michael was born. Kay had given up on the acting world by then and was content with her domestic life.

Kay and Loyd lived in Soledad for many years before moving to Tracy. When she got sick, she was moved to a facility in Palo Alto, California.

Jackie Lou Patterson died on in Palo Alto, California.