Gladys Willar was a pretty New England girl with no dramatic training who won a beauty contest and landed in Hollywood. She made only one movie before changing her career and becoming a successful model. This is a positive outcome of a woman who understood how Hollywood works early on, and had no illusions about it. Let’s learn more about her!
Gladys Mary Willar was born on October 29, 1916, in Auburn, Massachusetts, to August Willar and Mary Fantom. She was the fourth of eight children – her siblings were Dorothy, Irene, Barbara, Helen, Augustus, Donald and Virginia. Her father, who was born in Newfoundland in Canada and worked in a machine shop, had been married before and had two daughters, Viola and Madeline, from that marriage.
Gladys was known as “Sunny” to her family, grew up in Auburn, and then attended high school in Worcester and lived there with her aunt, Mrs. Guy Fantom. Gladys was an avid cinema-goer, star-struck from childhood and wanted to become an actress, but the opportune moment had not yet come.
In 1933, there was a search conducted by local theaters, for roles in Paramount’s “Search for Beauty”. Gladys was delighted at the opportunity and applied. The photograph and test of Gladys, by then a radiant 17 years old brunette, attracted some attention at the studio back in Los Angeles. One of the publicity boys allegedly told a newspaperman: “Gladys Willar looks to me like she has more chance m pictures than any other unknowns we’ve seen tests of!” Unfortunately, Gladys severed her high school education after this, hoping to become a Hollywood actress.
In the end, the brass decided on a man and a young woman from New England to come to Hollywood – Gladys was the girl, and the guy was Malcolm Ball of Boston. They went to Hollywood to appear in the cast of The Search for Beauty, and this is how her career started!
Gladys appeared in only one movie – Search for Beauty. The movie that was more ballyhooed in the press and in the beauty pageant circuits than it has any artistically or indeed any merit. But there is plenty of nude girls, sexy dances and sensual stuff if one likes it. Never again will classical Hollywood make such carnal musicals, with such visceral scenery and atmosphere. Ah, Busby Berkeley and his kind although he didn’t make this movie)! Gladys played one of the beauty winners of course. Plus you can see Ida Lupino and Buster Crabbe.
And that was it from Gladys!
Gladys was an attractive brunette, weighed 117 pounds, and was 5 feet 4 inches. She gave a beauty hint for the readers:
A simple exercise will keep the legs from becoming flabby and fat. Sit down with the legs stretched out, knees raised and feet flat. Then gently massage the muscles from the ankle to the thigh.
here is another funny bit about the versatility of her looks:
GLADYS WILLAR of Worcester, Mass., thought she was the ideal vamp. She put her eyes at half-mast, and dressed in what she thought was an intriguing makeup. The makeup men gave her arch, honestly youthful eyebrows, cut her hair off and frizzed It up all over her head and decked her out in a snappy little sports outfit which transformed this vamp into a little high school number.
Gladys time in Hollywood was of short duration, and by 1935 she was back in Massachusetts, working in Boston and living in Brookline. She did modeling work in various shops in the city, like the Gilchrists swim shop (doing the the newest bathing suit fashion originated by the U. S. Rubber Company), or wearing fur stoles at Crawford’s Furriers.
By 1938, Gladys had moved to New York and became one of the elite John Robert Powers girls. She lived in a hotel, the Allerton House, and was a very popular mannequin during the early WW2 period.
Gladys married, on June 22, 1942 in Manhattan, a certain David Lewis. She retired from modeling after her marriage. The couple went to live in Worcester, Massachusetts after the war ended. I could not find any records of children. I hope they had a nice and happy marriage.
Gladys Willar Lewis died on December 24, 1997. (The imdb date of death is wrong, and it lists Ohio as her state of death, and I think that Glady never had any substantial ties with Ohio).
Marjorie Manners was a nice looking blonde who started in low budget westerns. She then met and married a guy who produced a string of low budget movies and put her in almost every one. When he left Hollywood, she left it also. Let’s learn more about her!
Marjorie Eileen Myers was born on March 19, 1921, in Los Angeles, California, to Morton L. Myers and Maud May Purdom Selby. Her father was a newspaper advertising man. She was their second child, after Claire Adora (born in 1918). Her mother was wed once before, to Ray Rell Purdom, with whom she had two children. Papers later claimed that Marjorie was a direct descendant of Betsy Ross, who made the first US flag in the 18th century.
Marjorie had a knack for dancing and dramatics, and decided to become an actress early on. After graduating from high school she started doing theater work. This capaluted her to Hollywodo in the early 1940s.
However, she acted in a varied of other low budget movies, and had credited roles in most of them, sometimes even solid roles! Starting in 1943, she appeared in A Night for Crime, a formulaic but very fun crime caper with Lyle Talbot and Glenda Farrell playing a amateur sleuth duo who solves a murder mystery. While the movie doesn’t give us anything new, especially interesting or original, it’s fun and breezy and a nice, with good performances by the leads.
Tiger Fangs is a movie that tickled my fancy, but not because it’s a work of art or anything like that, but because of the leading actor, Frank Buck. Who was he? Well, taken from IMDB: Frank Buck was a man who created a persona of a big game hunter whose motto was “bring ’em back alive”. In other words, instead of shooting the animals like most hunters, he specialized in bringing exotic Asian animals back for circuses and zoos. He was moderately successful in films by various small studios as well as with an animal act with Ringling Brothers. Interesting, no? While any interference in wildlife can be very detrimental, at least the guy opted not to kill the animals, which seems very forward thinking. Sadly, his movies were usually low budget fare with same old, same old stories, and here he fights Nazis who want tot use wild animals to slaughter their enemies. At least we have the very charming and beautiful June Duprez, whom I love, as the female lead.
Harvest Melody was a low budget musical with an bvery inmprobable plot of movie stars going via farmland to help farmers during WW2. Unfortunately it gets to absurd levels pretty quickly, being too campy and too overtly WW2 moral boosting for today’s audiences, but it’s not the worst movie ever to get out or Hollywood for sure. Rosemary lane and Johnny Downs head the cast. Marjorie’s next, Trocadero, is almost the same movie, just set in Hollywood, with the same leads (Lane and Downs), with a bit of a better music, less campiness and Ralph Morgan!
Keeping up with the happy-go-lucky musicals we have That’s My Baby!, with an incredibly lame story (daughter tries to cheer up her dad by arranging a string of performers) but it ends up as, as a reviewer wrote on IMDB, an amazing time capsule of vaudeville acts. Plus we have Ellen Drew in the leading role. The Big Show-Off continued the track, a funny musical where Arthur lake plays a shy pianist who pretends to be a hard core masked wrester to win the heart of lounge songstress, Dale Evans. it’s a typical light musical-comedy, enjoyable but not much else.
Marjorie then appeared in a few movie shy her husband, Walter Colmes. Colmes was a man with a vision and made a few unusual and interesting movies. The first one was Identity Unknown, about an amnesiac veteran whose whole unit has been decimated, so he has to find out just which member of the unit he is. He travels around the US with a list of his possible names, and tried to remember. Very good premise, the movie is a slow moving, down-beat, almost-noir affair with a bravura performance by Richard Arlen, who usually was not atop thespian, but he fits this role like a glove. While the movie could have been a tad bit deeper and more profound, it works and keep the viewers attention all the way, and has much to say about grief and losing your loved ones.
Woman Who Came Back is about a woman who, after a bus accident, comes to believe that she’s actually a 300-year-old witch. This is a movie where atmosphere is everything, and it’s incredible to see how with so little budget you could do wonders. Plus, Nancy Kelly is really good in her role, mixing paranoia, panic and fear with aplomb.
Then came two detective movies, with totally different undertones – The French Key, a Thin Man-like mystery, with an elegant and debonair amateur detective, played by Albert Dekker, and Accomplice, a more hard boiled variety, with Richard Arlen playing the cynical, touch detective trying to find out what happened to his ex-girlfriend’s new husband. Both movies are good but nothing really spectacular.
The Burning Cross is perhaps Colmes’ most serious, ambitious movie, dealing with a very touchy subject – Ku Klux Klan. It’s incredible to see somebody in 1940s Hollywood tackle this seriously, and kudos to Colmes for the bravery! Sadly, this was the last movie of the gifted actor Hank Daniels, who plays the leadign role.
And that was it from Marjorie!
Marjorie Manners was seriously dating Harry Ritz, the youngest of the the Ritz Brothers, for a few months in the 1939/1940. Ritz often commuted between Los Angeles and New York so it was a partially long distance relationship, but it worked somehow. Until it just didn’t, namely Harry met and married actress Betty May Heath and Marjorie was of to date other guys.
In the early 1940s, when she was about 20 years old, Marjorie married a Mr. Kline. Little is known about the marriage, except that they were divorced by about 1942 or 1943. She also told the papers she knew an actor who was so conceited that instead of joining the navy to see the world, he joined so the world could see him.
Marjorie and Walter Colmes, Louella Parsons aide, became an item. they married on October 8, 1944 in the Beverly Hills Hotel, a reception in the Terrace Room followed the ceremony. Afterwards they honeymooned in Palm Springs. Walter Colmes was born on May 19, 1917 in Boston to Dr. Abraham Colmes and Marie Gordon.
Here is a newspaper article about Walter’s work in Hollywood:
Producer-director Walter Co Imes (left) is seen here conferring with stars of his latest production, Cheryl Walker and Richard Arlen, as they discuss script of “Johnny March.” The old-established pioneer producers will have to look to their laurels. Youth is having its fling in Holyw000d behind the camera as well as in front of it. Hollywood’s youngest producer and director is a Boston boy, Walter Colmes, 28 years old. He’s the son of Dr. A. Colmes of 416 Marlboro st., Boston. Walter’s success story is one of those Hollywood fairy tales. He made the grade in four years, an unheard of record. Educated at the Boston Latin School and University of Wisconsin, he first taught dramatics and public relations work in Boston. All the time he had his eye on Hollywood. So in 1940 he packed his bags and came West. In order to familiarize himself with the movie industry and its leading personalities, he entered the publicity business. Although a stranger, his experience in the Boston field of public relations enabled him to land as clients a number of top-flight personalities. The next year he took a step higher. He became an actor’s agent. Then to further broaden his Hollywood education, he joined the staff of Hedda Hopper to see how the news-gathering was done. One night in Ciro’s he was dining with red-headed actress Marjorie Manners. By this time he had plans to become a producer and he entertained Miss Manners With his ideas. The only drawback, he said, was that he had no capital. Now here is where the fairy tale angle comes In. At the next table .sat a robust man, who eventually introduced himself as an owner of a chain of motion picture theatres in Los Angeles and vicinity. To Colmes’ amazement the man stated that he might be interested in financing a movie production deal. Colmes talked fast, although he knew that even in. Hollywood things couldn’t happen like that! He was really stunned when two weeks later he received a phone call from the theatre magnate, who said he was ready to take a fling providing Colmes could arrange for national distribution. By this time Mr. CoImes from Boston knew his way about. He hurried over to Producers Releasing Corp. and set up a deal with himself to function as producer. His first picture was “Harvest Melody,” a musical starring Rosemary Lane and Johnny Downs. The picture turned out so wellfrom the box-‘ office as well as artistic standpoint. that Republic immediately signed him to produce a series. The first’ of these was “Trocadero” with the same cast and based upon the famous night club on the Sunset’ Strip. Not being satisfied with being a 1 producer, Colmes next wanted to direct the pictures he produced a la Cecil De Mille and Orson Welles. After he completed “That’s My Baby”a comedy with Richard Arlen and Ellen Drew, he tested out his ability directing “Johnny March”, a postwar drama with cast headed by Richard Arlen again and Cheryl Walker. His second success convinced Republic. But this energetic Boston producer-director isn’t satisfied yet. He is now working out the idea of developing new personalities o supplement established names. He gets his talent where he can find it. In “Johnny March” he introduced Juanita Roberts, local candid camera woman – who snapped the – night-clubbing movie talent at their, tables. Walter Colmes is now scouting points East for talent.
Water did some producing and directing for a few years, and Marjorie was in most of his movies, at least in a bit role, so they had a kind of a partnership, which is always great to see in Hollywood. However, despite their valiant tries, success was lacking. In the early 1950s Walter saw the writing on the wall, and gave up Hollywood work to become the head of the Encyclopedia Britannica motion picture division. Sadly, this marked the end of their marriage, as Marjorie went to Las Vegas to get a divorce in 1952.
Marjorie falls from the radar from then on, and I have no idea if she is still alive or not. As always, I just hope she had a good life!