Phyllis Planchard was a late 1940s blonde, so she came just a few short years too early to ride the 1950s blonde craze wave. Although her career spanned the 1950s, she only had one leading role, in a low budget western, and then simply faded from view. Let’s learn more about her!
Phyllis C. Planchard was born on April 13, 1923, in San Pedro, California, to Mitchell Planchard and Hazel Petersen. Her father was a fisherman. She was the oldest of three children – her younger siblings were brother Robert Claudius, born on May 5, 1925, and sister Janis Eleanora, born on February 26, 1927.
Phyllis grew up in a the typical traditional American home in a suburb of Los Angeles, and did everything a girl of her position was supposed to – she was active in the local society, sang in the church choir, hosted tea parties and dinners. She also started to seriously date a wholesome all-American boy, Sam Platis. Phyllis was a beautiful blonde girl and harbored hopes of working in showbiz, but let her aspirations wait for the opportune moment.
Phyllis graduated from San Pedro High School (same as Sam). Afterward she was employed by Seaside Pharmacy, got married and had a child. However, Phyllis wanted more from life, and after she got divorced and her son was grown enough not to need her constant attention, she packed her bags and went to Hollywood, hoping to score it big. After some looking around town, she was signed by a studio in 1947 and her career started.
Phyllis’ first movie was Philo Vance Returns, a low budget mystery programmer with a solid story and some fine acting choices. Yep, I found the mystery unusual and interesting, and let’s face it, we are so over-saturated by crime series that it’s quite hard to actually churn out something good and original. Similar in tone and in budget was Heartaches, but it just has such a ridiculous story (a Hollywood actor starts receiving death threats, but why?) and doesn’t quite work, even if you have major suspensions of disbelief. Well, at least we can see the stunning Sheila Ryan on screen!
Then came the mandatory low budget western, The Westward Trail, so no comment on that. But she had a leadign rol ein that one, hooray! However, this moment of fame didn’t gather the necessary momentum to boost her career, and it was back to uncrediled roster after that. Another abysmal movie came with Dancing in the Dark, a very sub-par musical with William Powell and Betsy Drake about Broadway producers, future stars and the love affairs between them. Same old same old. I find Betsy an odd fish, while I don’t completely dislike her, she’s such a weird, ethereal creature with an unusual and not quite right acting style. And even Bill Powell is miscast in this one! The music is not that bad but can’t save the overall product.
Phyllis was of the screen for two years, and then got back in 1951 with Roadblock, a low budget but well made film noir. Charles McGraw plays a sap who ruins his life for a woman (played by Joan Dixon) – so, the story is a cliche, but the atmosphere, the actors and the feel of the movie hits al the right spots and it’s an enjoyable viewing experience. Fast forward four years, and we have Phyllis again in a semi-noir movie, Women’s Prison (she plays a small role of an inmate). This is a sleazy, heavy, difficult movie with a touch of the campy, an unusual combo that was honed to perfection in the early to mid 1950s. The story is simple – it follows the Life at a women’s maximum security prison where the warden and the guards are as brutal as the inmates. It’s the characters and the relationships between them that make this a camp classic. And the cast! Cleo Moore, Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling!
Phyllis made two more movies in the 1950s – Designing Woman, a Lauren Bacall/Gregory Peck classic (a great, funny, witty movie, and so beautiful to look at, a true and enduring classic!), and The Gene Krupa Story, biopic of the famous jazz drummer, Gene Krupa. Krupa had some major substance abuse problems, but remains one of the best drummers of the 20th century. It’s a simple, straightforward movie, not really accurate but a real treat for anyone who loves jazz and wants to hear some great music. Sal Mineo plays Krupa, and he’s a mesmerizing presence.
And that’s it from Phyllis!
As we already noted, Phyllis was married to her high school sweetheart not long after they graduated in, 1941. Here is a bit about their wedding:
Sam Platis Wed in Quiet Home Ceremony In a simple ceremony which took place Saturday night at the home of the bride’s parents. Phyllis Planchard daughter of Mr and Mrs Mitchell Planchard became the bride of Sam Platis son of Mr and Mrs John Platis of this city. Only members of the immediate families witnessed the ceremony at which the Rev Fred H Ross officiated The bride wearing a bolero suit of aqua blue with white and luggage accessories had for her flowers a corsage of pink camellias and Cecil Brunner rosebuds. Attendants were Mrs Richard Mitchell (Mary Prances Haralson) and Nick Platis cousin of the bridegroom – After the ceremony the traditional cake was cut by the bride and served to the guests. After a brief wedding trip in June Mr and Mrs Platis will be at home to their friends in an apartment.
Sam Platis was born on July 11, 1918 in Tucson, Arizona, to John S. Platis and Mercedes Ochoa. He grew up in Los Angeles, California, and after graduating from San Pedro high school worked as a plumber and gas fitter. The couple settled in an apartment in San Pedro.
Their only child, son John Mitchell Platis, was born on July 29, 1942. The marriage did not last, and they were divorced by 1945. Sam Platis died on July 13, 1984. Phyllis understood that this was an opportune moment to realize her childhood dreams of becoming an actress, and went via Tinsel Town. When Phyllis came to Hollywood in about 1946, she still stuck to her roots and traditions, and was quite straight laced, as this bit from a newspaper can attest:
Phyllis came Phyllis Planchard, featured In Producers Releasing Corporation’s “Philo Vance Returns.” which opened today at the Majestic Theatre, “closed” a .set for a scene where she takes a bubble bath. Although clad in a bathing suit, she refused to appear in the scene until the set was cleared of all except those vitally necessary to the filming of the scene.
Phyllis married and divorced a certain George J. Nigro in about 1949. George Nigro was born in December 14, 1922 to Italian immigrants George and Angelina Nigro in Pennsylvania. The family moved to Los Angeles where George grew up. Sadly the marriage was quickly doomed and they divorced in about 1951. George remarried to Bonnie Dunn in 1970. He died on December 12, 1999.
Phyllis married Sidney G. Hinds in 1952. Hinds was born in July 20, 1913, in New York City, to and Jacob Hinds and Fannie Kashowitz. He served in the US Marines during WW2. They lived in Los Angeles, Phyllis retired from movies for good by that time. I either divorced or remained married until his death on April 6, 1997 (didn’t find any concrete info on that one).
Sadly, Phyllis’s life took a turn for the tragic, as this article for Los Angeles Times can attest:
“A B-movie actress and model in the 1940s, Phyllis Planchard always loved to dress in stylish clothes. A poetry lover, she collected the works of Robert Frost and Shelley. She cherished a 1920s maple bedroom set that once belonged to her parents. Planchard, then 77, was placed in the public guardian’s hands in May 2000 after exhibiting signs of confusion and mental decline. She owned a house in North Hollywood, but police found her living in her car. She was taken to a Burbank hospital, then discharged to a nursing home in Glendale. After becoming her conservator, the public guardian moved her possessions to a county warehouse in Pico Rivera. Attorney Lisa MacCarley, appointed to represent Planchard, said in court filings that she had asked that at least a few personal items, particularly clothes, be brought to the nursing home. On photos from her acting days, Planchard wrote across the bottom: “A beautiful Phyllis loves clothes!” But for seven months, Planchard lived in an almost bare room. She wore used clothing — even underwear — donated by her care home, mostly from patients who had died. “It’s about human dignity. She was aware she had clothing and it wasn’t brought to her,” MacCarley said. Planchard’s nursing home complained about her treatment to professional conservator Dan Stubbs, who asked a probate court to remove the public guardian from the case. Agency officials said an employee eventually brought Planchard some belongings and ordered her new clothes. Nonetheless, in 2001 a judge decided Planchard was better off out of the public guardian’s hands. The court named Stubbs as her caretaker.”
So sad, I hope they managed to make her last years a bit bearable after that.
Phyllis Planchard died on May 25, 2011 in Los Angeles.