Ann Corcoran

This phrase is enough to describe Ann Corcoran – Model turned actress. If you read this blog, you know the drill – pretty girl who works in New York and earns good money as a model, gets called by Hollywood and decides to try her luck way down west. Yep, while we have examples that really succeeded (Lauren Bacall), most of them did not, and neither did Ann. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Katherine Ann Corcoran was born on November 22, 1923, in Los Angeles, California, to Harry William Corcoran and Catherine Josephine Flaherty. Her younger sister, Mary June, was born on March 5, 1925. Her father was an automobile parts salesman. Ann had a normal childhood, grew up in Los Angeles and attended high school there. Before she managed to graduate, in 1939, she went to New York to become a model.

Pretty soon she was the toast of New York and a highly sought after model, working for the John Powers Agency becoming a very popular Swim for Health Girl in 1940 (she was all over the papers for days). Here is a typical article from 1940:

Every year, the Red Cross and bathing-suit manufacturers co-operate to promote “Swim For Health Week.” To choose a national “Swim For Health Girl,” a contest was held among 300 professional models… Ann Corcoran, a John Power’s model, the winner, selected because of a per’ feet figure, wholesomeness and beauty will be in our sixth floor beachwear shop today through Wednesday, July 3rd. She will be glad to discuss with you the proper type suit, how to tan, and any of your swimming problems. Come and see her between now and the Fourth! !

She even appeared with Al Jolson In his stage musical, “Hold On to Your Hats”. Ann was discovered by a talent scout while modeling jewelry for a New York jeweler, was signed by Warner Bros, and off she went!

CAREER

Ann, always uncredited, made her debut in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic American musical, with the indomitable James Cagney playing George M. Cohan. The movie is a delightful piece of fluff done the right way, with great music, a sturdy and capable cast, and with that touch of magic nobody can quite name.

Her next movie, despite begin her first credited performance, was a bit of a let down – Escape from Crime, the plot is a rehash form the older Cagney movie, Picture Snacher. A imdb review gave the perfect review IMHO:  No need to recap the already-reviewed plot. The movie is a good example of an assembly line product that studios rushed into production for undemanding wartime audiences at a time when they were crowding theaters in record numbers. The film itself may be unmemorable, but the results still show slick professionalism of the studio system (here, Warner Bros.). It’s also a chance for a newcomer like Travis to get needed exposure. He’s Hollywood handsome, performs capably enough, but leaves no lasting impression and is a good example of an actor whose real medium turned out to be TV. Ditto comedian Jackie Gleason and William Hopper of old Perry Mason show in a bit part. In fact this is precisely the level of entertainment that would later transition to TV without missing a beat.

Ann took a hiatus from movies, and emerged again in Hollywood in 1944, with Tampico, an interesting mix of various genres:  sea adventure, spy thriller, a bit of romance. The leads are played by the very capable Edward G. Robinson who usually never plays romantic leads, and the seductive Lynn Bari. It’s a pretty solid “is she or isn’t she” movie, and more than worth the hour and a half of the viewer’s time. Too bad Robinson’s golden years are behind him at this point – he’s truly a powerhouse actor and always gave magnificent performances.

Next came Take It or Leave It, a totally forgotten Phil Baker musical (literary, I asked myself who is Phil Baker?? Never heard of him!). But we do have the infinitely interesting Madge Meredith in it, google her and read more about her, she had an incredible life story!

Ann’s last movie from this period was In the Meantime, Darling. At first glance a forgettable comedy about army wives during WW2, since this is Otto Preminger after all, you have to ask yourself, what’s the catch – and there is one! Namely, although very cleverly disguised, this is a movie about class problems in the US. Jeanne Crain, quite an unusual choice for an upper class girl (she was always more of a wholesome, cute girl next door IMHO), is good here (if a bit too predictable and thin as a character, but okay), and the rest of the cast is equally is pretty solid too.

An was gone for five years from Hollywood, and returned in 1949, with Dancing in the Dark a dismal drama with William Powell and Betsy Drake. Powell plays a down on his luck former Broadway star trying to strike it again and wants to find a new leading lady. Now, Betsy is someone you can talk about until the cows get home. On paper she sounds superb – the unconventional, smart, and very capable women ahead of her time, who managed to snag and marry Cary Grant and was a Broadway sensation – but in her movies, she’s terribly… Unadept. I can’t even say she’s wooden, but she just acts the wrong way and never hits the right notes. Since she would be the highlight of the movie, a young hopeful who Powell sees as a next big star, the movie tanks spectacularly and no amount of Powell charm can save it.

Ann’s last movie was Love That Brute, a charming movie with Paul Douglas as the brute (he’s such a wonderful actor, love him!) and the always fresh Jean Peters playing a prim and proper governess whom he tries to woo. The plot is a tad bit predictable, but who cares when you have such a good cast (throw in Cesar Romero).

That was all from Ann!

PRIVATE LIFE

In her prime,  Ann was five feet eight inches tall and weighed 117 pounds, making her a tall, cool glass of water 🙂

When Ann was appearing on Broadway under the name of Bernice Frank, it seems that Ann had a relationship with the legendary Al Jolson, who was by then divorced from Ruby Keeler. Allegedly, Ann had quit his show because docs told her she was allergic to greasepaint, but the relationship continued. Some time later Ann went to Los Angeles, and Jolson tried to keep the flame alive to visiting her a few times in Los Angeles, but they broke up not ling after she signed her movie contract.

June Millarde (whom I already profiled) and Ann got new contracts with Warner Bros at the same time, and they provide minimum salaries of 75 $ a week and possible maximum of 700$ a week. Sadly, neither girl had much of a movie career.

It seems that Anne had a slight lips when she came to Hollywood, and she worked very hard to overcome it, and here is an anecdote from that time:

Six months in Hollywood taking voice lessons to eliminate a slight lisp. Last week she was assigned her first role as a contract player, that of Phil Baker’s secretary in “Take It or Leave It.” She’s, in every scene dealing with the radio show, hands Baker the cards bearing the questions asked each contestant, and all around her there is conversation. Contestants whisper to each other, and In the audience someone shouts in excitement. But Ann Corcoran? Her lisp gone, she hasn’t a line to say to prove

Here is another anecdote from the same time, when Ann was a budding starlet:

Hollywood sometimes tells upbeat stories, and right now it tells the fantastic story of five equally lovely and equally ambitious starlets who are all working together in “I Married a Soldier” without a sign of fireworks. They are Gale Bobbins, Jeanne Crain, Doris Merrick, Jane Randolph and Anne Corcoran, and they help each other. He says Gale, who used to sing with Ben Bernie, Instructs the other girls In poise and assurance. Anne, who was a model, gives them tips on looking their best before the cameras. Jane has had the most picture experience so she coaches the others. And Jeanne and Doris help each one learn her lines.

After dating Alexis Thompson, the sportsman cum bon vivant, for a few months, Ann got hooked big time with John Rosselli, a very shady guy, in about 1942. Born in 1905, he was an influential mafia member working for the Chicago mob who helped that organization control Hollywood and Las Vegas. He had good taste in women, dated Virginia Hill and Lina Basquette and was married before to the lovely June Lang who originally had no idea what was the true nature of his business dealings, and when she found out, she divorced him immediately.

When Johnny was not in town, Ann remained, uncharacteristically for Hollywood, totally devoted to him, chaperoned by her whole family when she went out dancing, not having any dates. The relationship lasted for more than a year, and they went from high to low then back again. They broke up, got together again, but in the end, no cigar, and were bust by 1944. Rosselli died in 1976 when he was found strangled in Las Vegas. Perhaps it’s better that Ann and Johnny didn’t get married.

Ann also dated Jimmy Ritz, the famous man about town, and here is another funny anecdote from that time.

Jimmy Ritz came up to the cloak room at the Mocambo and absent-mindedly asked for the coat of Ann Corcoran. He often goes with Ann but that night he was with Nancy Valentine who was standing right behind him and heard the slip.

Ann drops of from the radar from the late 1940s. It seems that she never married, and lived the remained of her life in various places in California, lastly living in Orange County.

Katherine Ann Corcoran died on February 28, 1997, in Orange, California.

Poppy Wilde

Poppy Wilde, heralded as one of the most beautiful showgirls in Hollywood, was exactly that – a glorified extra in more than 40 movies, a pretty face used solely for eye candy. As you can well imagine, this was not a formula for career gold and she retired after getting married, but her life story is interesting, so let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jacqueline Ruby Wall was born on December 5, 1914, in Oakland, California, to Frederick Carl Wall and Olive Helen Chaffin. Her father worked as a railroad train-master. She was the third of six children – her older siblings were sister Mary Katherine, born on June 18, 1910, in Iowa, and William, who died just a few months after birth in 1912. Her younger siblings were Helen May, born on June 18, 1916, Florence Isabel, born on May 15, 1918, and Gladys Elaine, born on July 24, 1924.

Later obituaries claimed that her father was killed in a freak accident, leaving her mother to raise the children, but since he lived until 1940, let’s assume that he left Olive and she had to take care f the children single-handedly. Unable to take care of them, she eventually put some of them up for adoption. Jacqueline was adopted by her mother’s sister Isabel and her husband, John “Jack” Wardenberg, a well-off railroad executive in Salt Lake City, who didn’t have any children of their own.

While attending St. Maiys of the Wasatch, a private girls school, Poppy aired her own radio show. In 1929 a motion picture producer came to Salt Lake and took a shine to Poppy, with her beautiful silky black hair, ivory skin and dark, seductive eyes. The family moved to southern California so that Poppy could sign a studio contract, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Ah, Poppy made more than 40 movies, which is quite a bit and I’m not gonna analyze them a great deal. She was mostly uncredited and appeared in really small parts.

I will just mention a few that are worth mentioning IMHO: Stand-In, a very funny and satirical exposé on Hollywood film making, with a superb cast of Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart and Joan Blondell, Angels with Dirty Faces, a classic crime movie with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, members of our favorite Hollywood Irish mafia, Moontide, a proto noir and one of the few US movies Jean Gabin made, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last pairing of Ginger and Fred, Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic musical with Cagney again, Road to Morocco, a Bing/Bob pairing deluxe, and Old Acquaintance, with tour de force performances by two divas, Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins.

And that’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

Poppy was quite tall with feet seven Inches, and weighed only 101 pounds. Here is a short quote from Poppy about her Hollywood life:

Off the set, while other beauties marched before the camera, she undertook to answer a question: What price movie glamour? “It’s a dull and strenuous life,” she said. “More dull and strenuous than anyone outside the Industry Imagines. “When I’m not at a studio, I’m at home by the telephone. From 6:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night the telephone and I are partners. At regular intervals, I call the central casting bureau on the chance there’s been an emergency opening. “I Just Go to Bed.” “It’s dull but true that if I hope to work often, say two or three times a week, I must stay near the telephone the rest of the time. “At night I’m too tired for dinners or parties or shows. I just go to bed.” On Sundays, Poppy is free to go out. She is 22 and on her afternoon dates has had three proposals of marriage. “No one has interested me enough to accept,” she said.

Poppy married Luther Verstergard on July 31, 1934, in Orange, California. Luther Raymond Vestergaard was born on December 7, 1902, in Chicago, Illinois, to Christian Vestergard and Maytha Hecker. He studied to become a lawyer, but the lure of acting was stronger, so he made his movie debut in 1925 under the name of Paul Power. He spent more than three decades playing a variety of bit roles that included one of King Richard’s knights in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a Scottish highlander in I Married an Angel (1942), and a minister in Ma Barker’s Killing Brood (1960). He added television to his long resumé in the 1950s, appearing in such shows as I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, and Maverick. The couple divorced. In July 1946, he married Gertrud Elizabeth Warrington. He died on April 5, 1968 in North Hollywood.

Ruby married her second husband, talent agent Jack Crosby, on February 14, 1944, in Nevada. Jack Casier Crosby was born on September 7, 1903, in Elks, Nevada, to George Crosby and Lenore Casier, the oldest of six children. The family lived in Utah before they relocated to California, where he worked as a theater actor. Later he switched to the movie management business and was prosperous by the time he met Poppy.

Their son Dennis Brian was born on February 16, 1945. The Crosbys were very socially prominent in Hollywood, hobnobbing with luminaries like Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz. They were also quite outdoorsy – Jack loved to spend time in the open and rubbed it of into Poppy, who became a pro at fishing and was known to go salmon catching often. After Crosby got fed up with Tinsel Town in the 1960s, the couple moved with her to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Poppy stayed glamorous despite this change of scenery, and kept up with her old Hollywood peers, writing them voluminous letters and often visiting.

Strong willed and opinionated by nature, Poppy was also a very generous, kind person who could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was an excellent cook, her specialties being tuna sandwiches, spaghetti sauce and a tasty salad. She was a skilled crafts-maker, collecting dolls and painting rocks. Poppy also played ukulele and loved to sing.

Crosby died on January 14, 1979. Poppy was devastated and had to learn how to take care of herself financially – her husband used to do all the money stuff himself and Poppy had no idea how to manage anything. In order to earn her keep she became a hostess at the Coeur d’Alene cruises, giving history lessons and flirting with the clients. Pretty soon she was introduced to Victor Fehrnstrom. A romance bloomed and the couple was soon married.

Victor was born on February 6, 1922, in Manchester, New Hampshire, to Victor and Marion Fehrnstrom. Here is a bit about her third husband, taken from his obituary:

Vic had a long, fulfilling life. He began his life on a farm in Derry, N.H., where he enjoyed time with his brother, Ernie, and sister Marion, but was raised mostly in Boston and carried that accent forever. He served in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II and taught aircraft recognition to keep the Army, Navy and Air Force from shooting down our own planes.

After his service, he lived in California and worked for the Inglewood Police Department. He worked patrol and became a patrol Sargent, and later was a Sargent in the Detective Bureau. Vic retired in 1972 and moved with his wife, Carole and two children to Harrison, Idaho, where he farmed, logged and enjoyed his 40 acres. Years later, he moved to Blue Creek.

He moved for a short time to Prescott, Ariz., but his heart was always in Idaho, so he returned quickly. Not long after his return, he met his next wife Poppy, and became a Captain on the Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise Boats. He loved working and/or captaining the Dancewana, the Mish-an-nock, the Kootenai, the Coeur d’Alene and his favorite, the Idaho. He enjoyed working the St. Joe River cruises, narrating tours and making sure everyone enjoyed their time on the boats. “Captain Vic,” as so many knew him, delighted passengers for almost 20 years. After he retired, he continued to live in Coeur d’Alene enjoying family and friends until his passing. He would’ve been 94 in just a few short weeks.

Vic was loving, caring, smart, brave, easy-going, charming and fun. His kindness and humor were always evident, his laughter was contagious. He loved his family deeply. He was an honorable man that was admired, was a role model to many, and someone that family and friends could always count on.

Poppy and Vic lived a happy life in Cour d’Alene, and enjoyed spending time with their families.

Jacqueline Crosby Fehrnstrom died on August 1, 2000, in Cour d’Alene, Idaho.

Her widower Victor Fehrnstrom died on January 11, 2016.