Trudy Wroe

A beautiful mannequin who came to Hollywood via the TV route, Trudy Wroe actually nabbed herself a lead in a series of TV movies, so she became less of a starlet and seemed more and more on the way to the upper echelons of the actresses ranks in Tinsel Town. However, her lucky break didn’t belt out and she was retired within three years. Let’s find out more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Gertrude Janice Wroe was born on May 25, 1931, in Los Angeles, California, to William Kenner Wroe and Viola Frances Horn. Her older sister Anita Joyce was born on October 5, 1927. Her father was a WW1 veteran who worked as a motor car salesman.

Trudy grew up in Los Angeles and originally was not interested in a showbiz career. Trudy majored in art at Manual Arts High school, with plans to become a commercial artist. Her plans were changed, however, when Photographer Tom Kelly saw her and thought she was just the girl he was looking for for a billboard ad. So she became a model, and after graduation studied at modeling schools. She modeled for the Mary Webb Davis agency for three years before becoming a free lancer, modeling for various artists and photographers. Trudy earned really good money this way, but she hit the financial roof when she started to appear in TV commercials. She got paid every time one of her commercial was shown, and when she made a Paper Mate pen commercial, she earned about $15,000 a year out of that one alone.

The Pen commercial was so well liked that Trudy started being noticed on a larger scale than before. For extra publicity, she was paired with a young-faced actor, Tommy Irish, to be a new wholesome duet. There were preparations for a weekly late-night show with the “sweetheart combination”, and they had been chosen as the outstanding personalities in television. Trudy received more than 300 fan letters weekly and was quite popular country-wide.

However, while this Tommy Irish pairing didn’t work out in the end, something else did. Trudy underwent a grueling elimination contest of over 100 actresses to land the choice role of Lorelei in the Big Town series of telefilms. She was named to the role after two months of tests. She had no prior acting experience. She later told Lydia Lane that the secret of her success was her styling and clothes. “I was surprised to get the role of Lorelei, They had interviewed dozens of girls and when they saw me for the first time they said I looked too young for the part. But when I took,my test I made sure I wore a sophisticated dress and they changed their minds. I don’t think men realize how a girl can alter her appearance with the right clothes and make-up.”

And her career was of!

CAREER

Trudy appeared in only three movies – Son of Sinbad, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Ask Any Girl

Son of Sinbad is a movie made for visual enjoyment and little more. Plot, acting, anything of depth – no sirree. But beautiful women, great costumes and other eye candy – yes please! The movie even gently spoofs the sword-and-sandal genre, so it does have at least a bit of depth (nothing much, mind you!). Trudy was one of the many harem dancers.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the best movie on Trudy’s list, a tight, short and very well made thriller directed by the master, Fritz Lang. While it’s undoubtedly a B level production made on a shoestring budget, the writing and the story, a critique of capital punishment for circumstantial evidence, make it work. Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine play the leads – I love both of these actors so I am a big biased, and while neither especially stretches the acting muscle here, they are more than adequate. The movie’s strong point is that it takes the viewer think and ponder the classic “could it really happen?”. With the strong message and a unexpected twist, in this is succeeds nicely. A overlooked classic, this one

Trudy’s third and last movie was Ask Any Girl, with Shirley MacLaine at the quirky best – she’s utterly charming and one of a kind! The whole movie follow suit – it’s a breezy, nice little comedy with a great supporting cast – David Niven, Gig Young, Jim Backus! Old Hollywood at it’s comedic best!

That’s all from Trudy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Papers noted that she and Pat Barrett were two attractive and petite employees at Hughes Aircraft, but I didn’t find any other reference to this, but I doubt that Trudy ever worked at the air plant, as it seems she got into modeling and stayed there until she came to television. Here is a short bio of Trudy at that time:

Trudy Wroe, blond, blue-eyed, She stands 5 feet, 5 inches from the tips of her 5 shoes to the top of her natural ash-blond curls, and tips the scales at 115 pounds. . Her classic measurements in the traditional north-south manner register a pleasing 34- 23-35. Her pet economy is clothes while her pet luxury is visiting a neighborhood beauty parlor once a week. Trudy’s taste in dates and her prerequisites for a husband are as diversified as her preference in music which ranges from “hot” jazz to lulling classics. She demands, in the following order, good looks, natural personality (nothing forced), and consideration in her dates. The man that she marries must have ambition, consideration and honesty.

There was also a story how Bob Cumming’s son helped choose Trudy for stardom:

Trudy Wroe, one of the beauties featured on the Bob Cummings show, was discovered by Bob, Jr., when he was all of seven years old! Two years ago, Bob Sr. was asked to co-judge a beauty contest. At the last minute, he had a studio call to report for work. As a gag, Mrs. Cummings took Bob Jr. to represent his father. He selected Trudy out of a bevy of gorgeous girls, and the other judges concurred with his choice. As a result, Trudy got some free publicity, was selected to be one half of the Singing Sweethearts in a commercial and now works regularly on Bob’s CBS-TV series

Trudy lived with her mother and older sister at the time she hit her five minutes of fame. In her spare time she sketched and played tennis.

Anyway, within an year after getting the role of Lorelei, Trudy was sacked. Why? Well, it’s afe to assume that putting a woman with no real acting experience in such a role that demands charisma and gravitas was probably a mistake. This is something that Hollywood can never learn – while it’s fine and dandy to chose your actors based on looks, but even then there has to be more than just the visage. Trudy was beautiful for sure, but obvious could’t hold down on such a demanding job. I feel sorry for her, since she was briefly launched into the stratosphere by the Hollywood PR machine, just to come crashing down a short time later. I was not surprised that her career never recovered – unless she went into the theater to learn to act and than return to films, or had another lucky break (it has happened before, bu rarely), there was really no real chance for her to succeed after that. There are literary thousands of beautiful girls and models who swarmed to Hollywood every month, and being pretty was just not enough.

Now for her love life. Trudy dated a unnamed wealthy easterner who flew out to see Trudy, but they battled at the airport. Incidentally, at the same time the mystery guy got his other swain, Anita Ekberg, a new, eight carat sparkler. In the end neither girl ended up with him long term.

Trudy then dated young meat packing heir Geordie Hormel, who would later marry Leslie Caron. Then Trudy got involved with Bert Friedlob, the eminent producer. They dated for more than a year, from late 1954 until early 1956, and it seems that Friedlob tried to help Trudy’s career with his producing sass. Friedlob had just come out of a marriage to actress Eleanor Parker, with whom he had three children, so perhaps the timing wasn’t perfect, but they stuck out for quite a long time by Hollywood standards! Friedlob was a colorful character himself. He started out as a wholesale liquor dealer who made several fortunes and lost them all in a span of 20 years. Before Eleanor, he was married to actress Jeannette Loff, but she died in 1942.

However, it seems that Friedlob liked pretty ladies (he was generally tough as a womanizer and party animal in Hollywood, and had an affair with Lana Turner among others) and Trudy was not his one and only. He also dated Barbara Nichols on the side. While this is pretty standard in Hollywood, where everybody dated everybody else, it seems that Trudy wasn’t really satisfied with it. Why? Well, during her tenure as Lorelei Kilburne, Trudy decided that she wanted to get married. An except:

Trudy Wroe, who spent six months playing newsgal Lorelei Kilbourne while Mark Stevens was filming his Headline series, says the role gave her a bright idea: Getting herself happily married. ” After all,” she says, ” Lorelei always , has marriage in the back of her mind, and she’s a contagious character! “

Friedlob wasn’t quite in with the idea, having just gotten divorced, so the pair broke up. Sadly, he died on October 7, 1956, from cancer. I presume that Trudy still wanted to get hitched – but then chose a possibly even worse choice for matrimony – Marty Kimmel, the playboy extraordinaire who was married, very briefly, to Gloria DeHaven. Marty dated almost all the pretty girls in Hollywood, and, of course, Trudy was no exception. Unlike many of the girls, she managed to snag him for a longer time, but still, Marty was a playboy at heart and marriage was probably not in the cards.

Doubtlessly noticing this herself, Trudy decided to play the field herself, and was often seen with Bernard Shubert, the video packager. So we have a kind of a love triangle, Bernard, Trudy and Martin. She was also sometimes seen with Hugh French at the Gourmet Beverly.

As time went by, it seemed that Marty was really stuck on Trudy. One year he flew to L.A. to spend the holidays with Trudy, and they were often spied having cocktails at the . Luau. However, also, as time went by, there was no great improvement in their status, so Trudy continued to seek other opportunities on the side.

She was seen with publisher Bob Petersen and was a sometime date of Mac Krim, but the guy was massively in love with Kim Novak at the time, and only dated Trudy when Kim was out of town – when Kim returned he literary wasn’t dating anyone but Kim. She continued seeing Shubert, and ultimately broke up with Kimmel.

Trudy then dated up a storm with a string of men, in some random order: Joe Kirkwood Jr. (who was married to Cathy Downs), songwriter Jule Styne, attorney Bentley Ryan, and actor John Carroll.

In late 1958, Trudy made the papers when she was getting the rush from Prince Kazem Kashani of Iran, who was handsome, a bachelor and just 32. They were seen everywhere for a few months, but this too failed in the long run. However, Trudy had by that time already met the man she would marry – Don Durant.

They made their relationship official in Early 1959,  and pretty soon there were newspaper items that Trudy and Don were getting married February 28. Don Durant was born on November 20, 1932, in Long Beach, California, and was famous for his Johnny Ringo persona.

Trudy may have had a long string of wealthy beaus, but she definitely didn’t marry Durant for the money, as this article contests:

Don Durant, a converted linger, whose CBS Johnny Ringo” series almost but not quite gunned down its ABC competition, the high-rolling Real McCoys, was in a reflective mood. Ringo bit the dust only a month ago and Don, who cut quite a figure in the title role, still cant figure out why. Our ratings right up to the end hovered between 19 and 24, and when you can do that well (with reruns) against such a blockbuster as Walter Brennans McCoys you’ve got a hit on your hands. This rating is far better than most of the seasons new programs have been able to achieve,” he said, a steely Ringo look beginning to come into his eyes. Well, thats show biz,” I said cleverly, then added, The demise of Ringo is indubitably due to behind-the-scenes maneuvers. You know, time slots, sponsor conflicts and all that sort of thing.” I said it pontifically, just like 1 knew what 1 was talking about. I hope I fooled him.’ Don Is married to the former Miss Trudy Wroe, who at one time achieved considerable fame as the Paper Mate Pen Girl In those commercials. But her residuals have long since run out and I was greatly concerned as to how Don was now rustling up the mortgage money for their Encino mansion. Tell me, Don, how does an unemployed actor like you make ends meet,” I asked pointedly with great tact, j ‘ , Are you kidding? I never had It so good.” , You’re out of work and you never had It so good?” ‘ It turns out that as a result of his Ringo series Don Is now In great demand for personal appearances all over the Country, Hes made 40 since last May when production ended. His act runs 25 minutes. It plays rodeos, fairs, amusement parks and even the opening , of shopping centers. ; Don, as Ringo, rides onstage astride his trusty horse, his fancy seven-shooter In hand, He sings four songs, talks about the TV show, answers questions about the Old West. Then he hangs around for a’ couple of hours after the show talking with the kids. I have , made three times as much money doing this since we , quit filming last May as I earned for the entire episodes of Ringo. I like the work, too, I do everything on these P.A.s from riding a horse to kissing babies. Only last week, after a show, 1 had lunch with 4,800 kids and signed autographs for everyone of (hem.” I said, well, .that Is really earning your money the hard way. He didn’t agree. He said he likes kids very much. Don may go around kiss-1 mean babies, at supermarkets and such-like places but I think his heart still lies with Johnny Ringo. Ringo,” he told me, is far from dead. We are hoping the series will be picked up to replace one of the new network shows that will be among the bunch folding around January. If not, I feel It will at least be syndicated. Regardless of the fate of Ringo, Don will be back on the TV screen one way or another. Hes formed his own Allison Productions and plans a modern-day series. One of the networks is paging him for a one-hour series and guest shots on specials loom in the offing. . . Not too bad for a fellow who used to hang around CBS as recently as 1957 hoping to pick up extra and bit parts. You and I should make as much money as this unemployed actor.” And he has still got 250 fan clubs rooting for him.”

Trudy gave up her career for family. The Durants had two children, Heidi, born on March 7, 1962, and Jeffrey, born on March 10, 1964.  Durant was a typical Hollywood blue collar who worked and worked and worked. While he didn’t have a hundred credits to his name on IMDB, he worked constantly, be it as a singer or a real estate agent. Here is some info from his obituary:
Actor, Singer. He was a mainstay in the 1950s and the early 1960s on television making many notable guest appearances, among them “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” “State Trooper,” “Maverick,” “Perry Mason,” “Zane Grey Theatre,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” “The Wide Country” and “The Virginian.” These guest spots led to the 1959-60 half-hour TV series “Johnny Ringo” where Don played a gunslinger-turned sheriff. He brandished a LeMat handgun that featured an extra barrel that fired a shotgun round. For good measure, the talented vocalist wrote and then sang the theme song. The show was a bonanza for the toy industry. It generated board games, character puppets, gun sets and canteens. He was born Donald Allison Durae in Long Beach, California. His father was killed in a traffic accident prior to his birth. Don also, at age eleven, narrowly followed in his dad’s fate when he was struck by a cement trunk leaving him in a coma with many fractures relegating him to bed for over a year. His mother remarried, this time to a Nevada cattle rancher. Don spent a lot of his teen years on the ranch learning the ways of a cowboy, riding, roping and singing. The couple divorced and he was back in Long Beach. In junior high, he was a dee-jay on KPRO radio in nearby Riverside where he often sang. Still bothered from injuries due to his bike accident, he managed to play football by wearing special plates. He was drafted during the Korean War but a hip injury found him confined to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. He completed his military obligation with an assignment to Special Services furthering his singing experience by entertaining the veterans at Letterman. His post-military days found him pursuing a singing and acting career while touring with a theater group. Don appeared at the Sands and The Sahara in Las Vegas. He made his first serious attempt at acting with an uncredited appearance in the 1955 film “Battle Cry.” He remained active on the Hollywood scene by teaching actors how to ride horses and shoot guns and worked as a technician helping to construct the first kinescopic recorder and sound recorder. Durant had a starring role in the ‘B’ film “She Gods of Shark Reef” in 1956. He toured as a vocalist with the Tommy DorseyFrankie Carle and Ray Anthony orchestras and even recorded an album with Anthony. More and more guest-starring roles came his way, mainly western themes. However, by 1964, the days of the cowboy was over as well as the era of the big bands. His roles diminished and eventually faded altogether. He retired from show business completely while settling in Orange County operating a real estate office. He made public appearances and attended shows and conventions where he would strap on his famous LeMat pistol and sign autographs almost to the end of his days. He was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in 1992 which led to his death at age 72 in the family home located at Dana Point, California.
It seems that Don was a happy go lucky guy who constantly cracked jokes and was well liked by many. He and Trudy would often travel all over the world together always laughing and having fun. By all accounts they had a very happy marriage. Don became a multimillionaire through his real estate investments, and the couple enjoyed their retirement in California.
Don Durant died on March 15, 2005 in Orange County, California. Trudy continued living in Orange county after his death.
Trudy Wroe Durant died on November 10, 2007, in Orange County, California.

 

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