Phyllis Planchard

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!

EARLY LIFE

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.

CAREER

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!

PRIVATE LIFE

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.

Irene Winston

Irene Winston was a very rounded actress that appeared in everything a 1950s actress could – movies, TV, radio, theater. She literary did it all, and was more or less successful in most of the fields mentioned. Sadly, her movie career was pretty thin and except from Hitchcock aficionados, she is rarely mentioned today. But yes, she appeared in Rear Window and probably will never be completely forgotten due to this fact. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mable Irene Winston was born on July 18, 1916 in New York City, New York. She was a Brooklyn girl, born and bred, and attended elementary and high school there.

After high school graduation, Irene entered New York University with the idea of becoming a doctor. After a year or premedical studying, however, she was presented with an unexpected chance to try out In a play. She snapped it up, and when she was finished went back to school, only to find that she had missed her year-end exams. Also, the role in a stock company production changed her mind and her ambition.

Rather than repeat the year of pre-med work, Irene decided she d be come an actress. She then appeared on the stage to “Tovarich , “Boy Meets Girl” and “Having a Wonderful Time, and made her radio debut. Later she admitted that she didn’t get far into the mysteries of medicine. “Just six months of pre-medics, I think I really started it as a shield to my real ambition. I was afraid if I told people I wanted to be an actress, they would not understand.”

She started to divide her time between the theater and the Chicago studios of NBC, plus a career in radio. And this is how her acting career started!

CAREER

Irene appeared in one of my all ti favorite movies, Gone to Earth (IMDB mentions the English cut, not the Sleznick US one, this is important to note!). I generally love the director, Michael Powell, plus Jennifer Jones, another one of my favorites, and David Farrar, such a yummy, sexy guy! All of this aside, the movie is a minor classic, visually stunning, with incredible cinematography and a multi-layered story with some profoundly moving themes and deep philosophical discussions! Irene plays Jennifer’s mother in a very small role, but just being  apart of this piece of magic is more than enough.

Dear Brat is a okay young adult movie with the formulaic plot of (taken from an IMDB review): “a teenager who decides to rehabilitate a criminal by hiring him to work at her father’s home. Her father was the judge that sentenced him.” Seeing a young Natalie Wood on the screen is perhaps the movie’s only claim to fame today. Mona Freeman sadly got stuck playing these kind of brats for a portion of her career, too bad for her since she had some talent that just wasn’t properly used.

My Son John is a weird, outdated movie about the the Red Scare in the 1950s, but on a more intimate level – family. Robert Walker (that unique actor that truly was, for a man, fairest of the fair, an unappreciated waif, never to be repeated afterwards) plays the black sheep of a picture perfect Mid Western American family, returning home after changing his outlook life. He is… horror of horrors, a Communist now! Yep, that’s the worst they could pin on a guy. In a world where there are so many worst offences, this is what they find as the biggest one… For a conservative 1950s American that is. The cast is actually solid – Walker, Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger… But the story is so simplistic and borderline  that it’s almost obsolete do watch it today.

Carrie is another Jennifer Jones movie, and serious drama. Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel, it deals with some serious issued like a woman’s place in society, sexual obsession and the price of breaking societal norms. Jennie is as good as always, and Laurence Olivier is tops against her (I have yet to see Larry give  a bad role – he appeared in some dismal movies, but he’s always in top form, the perfect consummate actor). Interesting to see Miriam Hopkins in one of her more mature roles, she’s also a class act although she did her share of below average movies.

Rear Window is Irene’s claim to fame! What needs to be said about this absolute classic? Just go and watch it! After some TV work came The Delicate Delinquent, a typical Jerry Lewis movie. What can I say, I don’t especially like Jerry Lewis and find his brand of humor not really interesting or my cup of tea, so I’ll say a definite skip, but to each his own! Here Lewis plays a bumbling janitor who befriends a juvenile delinquent and helps him become a straight laced citizen. Predictable.

And that’s it from Irene!

PRIVATE LIFE

Here are some bits and pieces about Irene:

Irene said: “Still learning wanted to be an actress, they’d look at me and say: ‘You?’ ” Her hope is to get through stage training; to do “something worth while” behind the footlights, and then think of the films. Dramatic parts are what she likes best. She’d like to sing, too, but “I always find myself losing the key.” For the rest: she’s not married, nor engaged; doesn’t care much for outdoor sports; delights in travel end reading plays; enjoys being on the road and hopes to put on four more pounds.”

Irene was also quite passionate about the art of acting and seemed ready to go that extra mile for thespian brilliance. Another article:

She’s been on the stage about three and a half years, and on the radio about the same length of time. She says she still has much to learn. And she has a quaint notion that the best way to do this is to put all there is in every part, even if it isn’t the lead. For example, she enrolled in a beauty school in New York, just because she wanted to be sure she’d wield her file like a real manicurist.

Irene had two favorite pastimes — surf bathing and bowling. Her Christmas favorite was Cranberry Maple Syrup Pie and she even shared her recipe for making it with the papers. She also shared some tricks for swollen feet:

 Irene Winston, pretty dancer, uses this bubbly type of footbath every night. After the soaking she rinses her feet in cool water, dries them very thoroughly and massages with scented alcohol. Then she dusts on her foot powder as the finishing touch to make her feet happy. They are pretty, too, for she keeps the nails tinted and the cuticle around them well oiled. Ordinary foot weariness will vanish after such treatment, but when long hours in tight shoes have made feet swollen and tender, the old standby, the contrast footbath with a basin of very hot water and one of cold water, is more effective than soaking for restoring normal circulation. The dips in the cold water should be very brief. The massage following this foot bathing should be done with feet elevated while you Rotate each toe, knead the sole and Instep, stroke down from toe to ankle. After ten minutes of this, rest with feet elevated on a high pillow.

And here are some more tips for feet care:

Are you tired of hot weather, are yon having trouble with tired, burning feet? Much of this, of course, is due to shoes that don’t fit. Be careful about electing open sandals that give no support, or wearing comfortable shoes which are really oat of shape and worn down at the heels. You’ll want your feet to he as well groomed as your hands, now that you spend so much time at the beach, so take these few tips from Irene Winston of Columbia networks When a Girl Marries series. Clip nails straight across and smooth with an emery board. Rub each nail separately with a semi-stiff brush, then push back cuticle with an orange stick dip-pod in oily cuticle remover, rinse and dry thoroughly. Separate toes with wads of cotton and apply polish. When dry, massage with skin lotion and pat on a bit of cologne. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

By 1940, Irene was living in a boarding house in Manhattan, New York and was active in the dating world. Irene and Victor Christian, who played opposite her in “Brooklyn, U. S. A.,” were an item for some time, but larger dangers were looming over Irene.

It seems that Irene was a sickly and accident prone person who ended up in the hospital with some frequency. For instance, she fell and was injured as she alighted from a cab at the studios. At some point, she became very, very ill at Manhattan General, and literary almost died. Luckily, she was reported mending again after nearly kicking the well-known bucket.

Irene then dated Ham Fisher, Joe Palooka‘s creator, but it seems that Ham carried a torch for his ex-wife and the relationship went nowhere. Not long after, Walter Coy, of the “Hamlet” cast, was reportedly engaged to Irene, and they planned for wed when his divorce from Ann Burr was made final. Walter and Anne truly did get divorced in 1950, but Walter and Irene did not get married.

Naturally, she relocated to Hollywood for a brief time to appear in movies. During her Hollywood sojourn, Irene met and fell in love with John Shelton, previously married to Kathryn Grayson. Shelton was born Edward Price Shepperd in 1915 in Los Angeles, to Edward Price and Madge Shepperd. He was a actor and singer. They married on September 11, 1948. Shelton flew to Las Vegas from Oklahoma, met his bride there on her arrival by plane from New York. They lived in Hollywood, but the marriage was rather short lived.

They separated in 1949, and started divorce proceedings in June 1951.  Irene accused Shelton of deserting her a year after their marriage, asking for $300 ‘a month alimony in a superior court suit filed. Finally, by late 1953, they were divorced. However, they stilled work on stories together for some time afterwards. The dropped that in the end, and Shelton died under mysterious circumstances in Sri Lanka in 1972.

Irene wasted no time in finding new beaus. She and Henry Hull Jr. dated while they were appearing in the theater show “Having Wonderful Time”. After they broke up,  she consoled herself by dating Chester Stratton for a few months. Here is another fun bit about Irene:

Walter Duranty, the war correspondent, Irene Winston, the actress, and George Jean Nathan, the actor, were playing The Word Game when Duranty called “re-vng”. . .”In what sense,” inquired Mr. Nathan, “do you mean it?” “In the sense.” said . Duranty, “of doing something to someone because he or she did “Something to you. .Getting even.” “Sweet!” called out Irene, who is just divorced. “Marriage!” echoed Nathan, who is still an old maid.

Irene then dated actor Harry Lewis before more or less completely disappearing from the newspaper circuit. What we do know is that Irene lived jointly in New York and California for the rest of her life. She traveled extensively, visiting Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Brazil and so on.

Irene Winston died on September 1, 1964, in Hollywood, California, from pneumonia.