Shirley Standlee

Shirley Standlee had a very interesting and unusual life, but it had nothing to do with her acting career. Shirley was a method trained actress who constantly sought to better her acting sill and had a solid run in 1950s TV series and theater. But it all pales in comparison to her role as the wife of one of the 20th century most famous war correspondents and journalists, Fancois Pelou. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Shirley Standlee was born on Christmas Day (December 25), 1926 in Los Angeles, California, to Elmer Fair Standlee and Mildred Cowdery. Her older sister Suzanne was born on November 10, 1921. Her father was an affluent buyer, and the family employed at least one maid in the 1920s and 1930s.

Shirley grew up in California as a typical upper-middle-class girl, attending civic events and being active in local society. She probably attended school in Los Angeles, and went for an acting career after high school graduation – that is how it all started. Shirley remained very close to her sister Suzanne, and they often summered in LaJolla during the time that Shirley lived in New York.

CAREER

Shirley worked extensively in television, but made only one theatrical movie – Patterns. And what a movie it is! I for one loved it! Such an incredibly relevant movie to his day, it deals with greed in all it’s form. Here is a great summary from imdb: Well-done story of corporate shark, owner of a vast conglomerate, who tries to break the VP he thinks can no longer do the job. Everett Sloane plays the heartless owner who nurtures his executives with bitter words and daily shouting matches. Ed Begley plays the downtrodden VP; he’s more than able to take care of himself, but after years of fighting with Sloane he’s exhausted. He’s 62 and afraid he won’t find another job and refuses to quit; he’s worked for the company for 30 years and believes he’s got a place there. Van Heflin is the executive brought in to replace Begley, unbeknownst to them both. After Sloane tells him of his plans, Heflin tries to tell the boss that he doesn’t want the job. Begley is his friend. But deep down, he finds that he really does want it, just not at that cost.

The acting performances are uniformly excellent. Ed Bengley, usually a large ham who chewed scenery, is great as a man tired of fighting with wolves, Van Helfin displaying his beguiling mix of warmth and coldness (I love him in all the movies I’ve seen so far, he always has this dual edge), but Everett Sloane! Oh! He’s so PERFECT: I know that some reviewers consider him too histrionic and loud in the role, but this is exactly how some of these people operate – some narcissists love to be heard and seen on a grand scale. But always the menace, the ruthlessness, the egotism – how he shows is across is simply astounding! IMHO he’s a highlight of an very good movie. The story-line is trim and tight, and Rod Serling adds his personal touches here and there, enough to make it more than a pedestrian, million times seen before movie. Kudos to him and all the actors! Shirley’s role is sadly quite small.

That’s it from Shirley!

PRIVATE LIFE

Shirley was one of the rare women who saw acting as an art for, not the tool for getting rich and famous. She attended the old school acting schools in Los Angeles, and got into the theater circuit in the mid 1940s (she had no designs to become a movie star and Hollywood never interested her). Young, idealistic and talented, Shirley wanted to hone her craft and become a truly great actress. However, even when she eschewed Hollywood and worked in the theater, she was in for a rude awakening. As she later told the papers: “I supported Tallulah Bankhead in ‘Private Lives’ on the road and Helen Hayes in ‘Good Housekeeping’ in 1949, and lots of others in radio and TV since, but all I learned were tricks, effective hut phony, not the real emotion an actress must project.”

A strong inner need to develop herself pushed her to leave California and settle in New York, looking for places where she could learn more about acting. She found what she was looking for in Lee Strasberg and his Actors Studio. She studied for a few yeas with him and immersed herself into method acting. Shirley then found work in supporting roles in both television and in the theater. She worked in a variety of projects with fellow Actors studio alumni, Sidney Lumet and writer/producer Rod Serling.

Shirley married french journalist Francois Pelou in 1954 in New York. In the summer of 1960, the couple adopted a son, Christopher. And now the interesting part of her life begins!

First, something about Pelou. Born in 1924 in France, he was trained to become an economist and worked in the editing department of Agence France-Presse, (APE) preparing dispatches, but always dreamt of exotic lands and travel. In 1950, he was sent to cover the Korean war (and his wanderlust yeas started). He had a reporting stint in China, then came to the US from Tokyo and settled for a brief time in San Francisco. He then joined the AFP office in New York, where he worked in the political section before taking up the Sports section which he kept for four years. It was during this time that he met and married Shirley. For AFP, he covered the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo. Then came 1963 and his claim to fame. He was the first French journalist sent to Dallas the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and, two days later, he was a eyewitness to Oswald’s killing in the basement of the local police headquarters by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. He was interviewed by other reporters and covered Ruby’s trial the following year which gained him mainstream fame and recognition. He told the papers: “Ruby was next to me and shoved me to go kill Oswald who was coming right in front of me (…) Oswald was the first to see his killer arrive, that’s why I always believed they knew each other.”

A few months after the assassination of President Kennedy, Francois and Shirley left New York for Vietnam and lived in Saïgon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City) where he was a war correspondent and Bureau Chief for AFP. Francois got the rep of a highly-objective reported and was well regarded by both fractions. Also in Vietnam, Francois met the fierce Italian female reported Oriana Fallaci and fell madly in love with her. Their relationship would last for more than ten years and span several continents, from Saigon to Rio-de-Janeiro, from New York to Madrid, and of course Tuscany and Florence (where Oriana was from). Francois himself said about Oriana:  “Oriana Fallaci arrived in my bureau in 1967. We covered many events together, she would become very important in my life.” He called her a real tornado and she dedicated at least one of her books to him. (NOTE: Fallaci is a incredibly interesting, scandalous and divisive personality. Learn more about her here and make your own conclusions, but as far as female journalists go, she was one of the best). I wonder how Shirley felt about all of this – Francois was her husband after all. I know that its terribly hard to live in such circumstances and that lust and passion often run rampart when you are at death’s door every day, and that such affairs are commonplace, but I could find no information on how Shirley lived, was she afraid for Francois every day? or was it a bit more relaxed than I imagine it?

After four very stormy years, Shirley and Francois were evacuated from Vietnam during the 1968 Têt Offensive, and he was transferred to Rio de Janeiro the same year. It was a time of great strife in Brazil, with constant political protests between Brazilian pro-democracy moderates and right-wing forces, governed by the brutal military regime and dictatorship. There was drama for Francois here too, and this is perhaps the most intense of all of his journalistic endeavors.

Francois was working on the story about kidnapping of the Swiss ambassador, while the Brazilian secret police have forbidden the press to speak about this affair, because it is the third kidnapping of ambassador by the guerrillas of Captain La Marca (Which were a thorn in their side for a long time). They contacted AFP to give conditions for the ambassador’s release. Taking a huge risk, François immediately published this information and informed the French Embassy, ​​knowing that he has just violated the orders of the Brazilian police. He was immediately arrested and held in a dirty, stinking cell in the attic of the prison, and to make it all worse, there was a intense heat wave. During a long and grueling interrogation, he lost consciousness twice but gave away nothing on his contacts with the guerrillas.

Meanwhile his office was searched. The police took his things, including two bottles of moon-dust that he got from US astronaut Pete Conrad. However, arresting Francois proved to be a costly mistake for the regime, as he was a well known journalist, pretty famous since the death of Oswald, and when his arrest made the headlines, there was violent public outrage, with the generous backing of the American press who don’t like what the military was doing. Francois was released, brought at 3 AM, under guard, to the Rio airport, pushed into an Air France plane and immediately exiled from Brazil. He spent the end of the year in Paris, happy and satisfied to be the instigator of the release of sixty guerrilla political prisoners in exchange for the Swiss ambassador.

In the 1971, the family returned briefly to New York City, then lived in Hong Kong, Paris and, ultimately Madrid in 1975. Francois becomes very close to future King Juan Carlos, and is the first reported who learns of Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s death.

After eight years of life in Madrid, the family left for Brussels where Francois covered European issues, but he got bored very quickly and decided to retire to his house in Marbella. Around this time, Shirley and Francois separated for good, he went on to live in in France (in an ancestral home built in the 1760s, located in the city of Conques) and she stayed in Madrid. Francois entered into a relationship with a Frenchwoman, Caroline, who remained his companion for the rest of his life. In a 2016 interview Francois claimed that he gave Shirley “his word” (whatever that means) so they never had to do all the official divorce stuff. Their son Christopher moved to the United States where he lives today. He served in the US Navy before retirement. Shirley spent the rest of her life in Spain.

Shirley Standlee Pelou died on December 10, 2018, in Madrid, Spain. She was cremated..

Francois Pelou died in France in 2019.

Marvelle Andre

Marvelle Andre was blonde, pert and cute, with great riding skills and enough charm to make a make a name for herself in Tinsel town, at least as a rider and stand-in. Unfortunately this did not propel her into more substantial acting roles, but she was a very active participant in Hollywood life for a time. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alta Marvelle Anderson was born on May 12, 1919 in Kansas City, Kansas, to Harry Anderson and Hazel Hiatt. She was their only child. Her father was an auto mechanic who managed his own workshop.

The family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when Marvelle was just a baby (in late 1919), then to Long Beach, California by 1930. Marvelle attended high school there and developed a strong interest in the performing arts. Being around horses and sharp shooting were her favorite hobbies – as a result she was a champion horse rider that took parts in rodeos and other horse shows. She was also a crack shot with a rifle.

By 1940 the family settled in Los Angeles. Marvelle started to act pretty early, int he early 1930s, which means she acted before she graduated from high school.

CAREER

Marvelle broke into movies when she was barely out of her years. Her first movie was Wine, Women and Song, a completely forgotten Lillyan Tashman musical, followed by Maniac. Now this is a movie worth mentioning. Probably a great deal many people enjoy in what we call quality trash cinema – movies that are so bad they are actually good. The Room is perhaps the most well known example, but there are ample such movies, if one just tries to find then. Maniac falls squarely into this category. Corny lines, stupid story, horrible overacting… You get the picture. But, it seen as an excursion into the absurd and ridiculous., it could actually give some pleasure to he viewer! Good to know that those movies were made with gusto even in the 1930s! This was followed by by the no-plot extravaganza, George White’s 1935 Scandals.

And here comes another ridiculous movie, Marihuana. Guess the theme of he movie! I guess Hollywood made much of these kinds of movies, Most people just don’t stumble upon them today (maybe that is for the best). Luckily, Marvelle’s next movie was a quality comedy, and  a Laurel and Hardy comedy at that – Our Relations.

Only two movies were listed for Marvelle in the 1940s – Gambling Daughters and She’s in the Army. Both are low budget comedies with a decidedly B class cast, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the actors were not good! When you have Sig Arno, Lyle Talbot and the likes, at least you know you can watch the movie solely for them.

1950s were a bit more prosperous for Marvelle (although not by that much, I grant you). She appeared in The Jackie Robinson Story, a unique movie as it was about baseball great Jackie Robinson and it is truly an important film. If you strip away the fact that it was a B class move that was not widely seen and doesn’t have that much of an production value, you till get a powerful, strong movie about all the injustices and prejudices Jackie Robinson had to fight on his way to baseball stardom. And Jackie, playing himself, despite not being an professional actor, is so charismatic and likable that he does his job admirably! And he legendary Ruby Dee plays his wife, wonderful!

The Admiral Was a Lady is actually a very weird movie, about four ex-GIs who work diligently at finding ways to avoid work. Yep, not something you see in every movie! Obviously a portion of viewers will be repelled by this dilettante attitude, but my interest was tickled! Even if you are not for it, The cast makes up for any “morally ambiguous” elements – Edmund O’Brien and Wanda Hendrix! Edmund always had that sharp, dark edge in his roles, and even here you can see it beneath the breeze veneer. And I love Wanda, perhaps not solely for her acting talent. And Rudy Vallee in a supporting role. Marvelle’s next movie, Kentucky Jubilee, was a dismal comedy with a thin story with Jerry Collona and his vaudeville skits as the center piece. Luckily, next movie in line, aptly called Hold That Line, is a dolis Bowery boys comedy.

Marvelle’s last movie was We’re Not Married!, a collage comedy about five couples who learn they were not legally wed and now must make a honest appraise of their current state of affairs (literary in some cases). While the story and the script is nothing to sneeze at, we have a wonderful cast full of Hollywood luminaries – Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Louis Calhern, Ginger Rogers, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, among others), and superb costume and set design! This is one huge, puffy delicacy with no nutritional value, but oh so charming and lovable!

That is all from Marvelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marvelle got some publicity in Hollywood due to her status as a stand-in and her unique talents on horseback. This is a typical article to showcase her skills:

Marvelle Andre, a petite, 18-year-old miss whose main screen experience to date has been as a dancer. At the moment, she is stand-in for Evelyn Daw, who is playing the feminine lead opposite James Cagney in the Grand National musical, “Something to sing About,” being directed by Victor Schertzincer. Young Miss Andre has also served as stand-in for Constance Bennett, but her ambitions do not run along the line of the dramatic, singing or dancing ac tresses She wants to be a star of a type that has not been seen in years. She wants to play in westerns in which the leading character is a girl. With that end in view, she has become an accomplished trick roper an equestrienne and an expert snot with both pistol and rifle.

Here is another small quirk about being a stand-in, and it concerns hands!

The superstition of Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith and other happily married young women on the Warner Brothers star roster has brought Marvelle Andre a more or less continuous job in pictures. Miss Andre, an extra and bit player subject to studio call, has appeared, in part, in more pictures than has either of the better-known stars mentioned. “In part,” in fact, because only her parts are photographed. Miss Stanwyck, Miss Smith and a number of other feminine stars do not like to remove their wed-‘ding rings, even for picture purposes. So, when they are supposed to write letters, or wring their hands or wash dishes, as Miss Stanwyck does in “Christmas in Connecticut,” it is Miss Andre’s hands which are photographed for closeup

Superstitious for sure, but did it work in the end? While Babs’ Sanwyck marriage to Bob Taylor crashed and burned in the end, Alexis Smith’s marriage to Craig Stevens was for keeps so we can conclude that Marvelle did a mighty fine thing, at least in that regard (although there are persistent rumors about the true state of that marriage too, but who knows?). Anyway, beside being an actress, Marvelle danced the hula at the Century club by night, and practiced rope-twirling whenever she cold by day. She seemed like a really energetic woman who knew what she wanted and worked hard for it.

Marvell was very active during WW2, doing more than her bi for the war effort, and even traveled to Alaska with Ingrid Bergman and others to entertain the troops. During these war bond travels, Marvelle often did her hula skit and she was known country wide for being a hula master. Except this, due to her horsewoman skills, she often took parts in parades and tournaments. For instance, one year she was a part of the Rose Tournament where she was riding Snowball, the thoroughbred Arabian steed trained by Mark Smith especially for her use in the parade.

As for her love life, nothing was written in the papers but I fond this – by 1944, Marvelle was married to Elmer H. Adams, Burbank police chief. I don’ know the exact timeline, but hey married after 1940 since Elmer was still married to Estelle McGuire that year. So Elmer divorced and married Marvelle sometime in the interim. So who is exactly this Elmer fellow? There is much written about him, but lets streamline it a bit.

Elmer was born on July 24, 1902 in  Broken Bow, Nebraska, to John Adams and Cora Williams, the third of four children. He was a very capable man, as he finished only eight grades of elementary school before going to work in Delight, Nebraska as a laborer. Later he moved to California and found work as a police officer there. On May 20, 1927, he married  Estelle L. McGuire. Their daughter Beverly was born in 1935. In 1932 he became the youngest ever police chief of Burbank. It seems that, like Marvelle, he was a crack shot and owned a number of rifles. Taken from Burbank PD web site:

The first true appointment of a Chief of Police occurred on August 15, 1927, when Malcolm G. Lowry took office.  Some would credit George Cole as the first Chief of Police, retroactive to his days as a Marshal and being in office when the department changed its name to the Burbank Police Department.   Two additional chiefs followed Lowry, until April 15, 1932, when Chief Elmer Adams was selected to head the department.  Chief Adams remained in office for nearly twenty years.  During his tenure, allegations of organized crime and connections to gangster Mickey Cohen made the newspapers.  There were additional stories of a mob hideout on Orange Grove Terrace, and illegal gambling halls that were hidden along the rancho area. In 1951, the California Crime Commission began an investigation into Chief Adams and others within the city.  Three days after the commission publicly announced the Chief’s refusal to answer questions about his income and relationship with underworld characters, Adams resigned, followed shortly thereafter by the city manager and a councilman.  Without a succession plan in place, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department loaned Hugh C. McDonald to oversee operations.  During McDonald’s term in 1952, the Animal Shelter was opened.

This is the kind version, on other places on the internet you can find information how Adams was a classical corrupt cop who paid two yachts and an expensive home with his “loot”, was well connected with mobsters and very well greased. Learn more about the whole story on Wes Clark’s web page (it is a truly incredible story about how people, when hey band together and have a common goal for the greater good, can do wonders). When I think 1940s police, I think film noir, and of course of both good and bad cops – it seems that Adams was perhaps one of the bad cops (maybe a greedy cop is an apt description).

Marvelle quit Hollywood for the time being, but was very active in local amateur theater groups. (she acted in My sister Eileen, for instance). As she was the wife of the local police commissioner (who possibly had his fingers in more than one dough), she had a good social standing and was a valued member of the community. In 1950, after five plus years of marriage and with a will to act in more serious fare than community theater, Marvelle returned to movies, and did a few uncredited minor roles. This lasted until 1952.

After Elmer’s dismissal from the police force, the couple moved to Cosa Mesa, where Elmer started to work for the Mesa Verde Country Club.The couple continued residing in Cosa Mesa and became parents of a daughter, Donna, was born on either on November 12, 1953 or November 19, 1955.

Elmer died from a heart attack On May 4, 1966. Marvelle continued living in California, and did not remarry.
Marvelle Anderson Adams died on June 1, 1990, in Los Angeles.