Doris Fessette

Doris Fesette is a very interesting woman. A beautiful girl who figured out pretty early that looks can’t take you all the way, she was a drama school graduate who did all kinds of work to finally get a foothold in Hollywood. A brief flash of fame came and went just as quickly, but she stuck to the profession of choice and worked for a solid period of time in all kinds of mediums. She finally ended up a real estate agent and had a productive and long life. Let’s learn more about her!

EALRY LIFE

Doris Jane Fessette was born on January 11, 1923, in New York City, New York, to Jay and Della Fessette. Her younger brother Jay Jr. was born on December 4, 1924. The family lived in Plattsburgh, New York after her birth. Her parents separated in the late 1920s, and Doris and Jay lived with their mother afterwards. Her father died in 1930s.

Doris grew up in up-state New York, and went to Hollywood “to be discovered” shortly after graduation from high school. When roles didn’t pour in right away, she went to drama school for two years taking speech, acting, fencing, dancing lessons and generally getting some experience in stage craft. To earn money for her education, she worked as a air stewardess for Western Air Lines.

 It took quite a while for Hollywood to catch on but it finally happened. A talent scout flying to Los Angeles took one look at Doris and promptly rushed her from the airport to Samuel Goldwyn Studios for a screen test. Thus Doris became the first airline glamour-gal to be signed up by the movies.

Her first Hollywood wave ended not long after, and she returned to New York once again. This time she had some acting experience, and played in summer stock, did fashion modeling on the runway and on TV. Television commercials came next.

It was this work in TV commercials that that landed her back to Hollywood where Doris had “several small parts in big productions and big parts in small producitons.”

CAREER

Doris went back and forth between Hollywood and modeling work. She allegedly did some movie work in the 1940s, but no information about it exists on IMDB. She allegedly appeared in The Best Years of Our lives, but her credit has not been listed. This opens up a larger discussion about how so many bit players were not credited in movies they appeared in, making it almost impossible to follow the trajectory of their careers today.

Doris’ first credited role was in Edge of Fury, a movie made in 1953 but finally released in 1958. So, she got her first credit only then, when she was 36 years old – but she has been in Hollywood for more than 10 years by then, so this is somehow fishy.

Anyway, Edge of Fury is a typical sleazy 1950s movie they don’t make anymore – the story is vintage California – A psychopathic young beachcomber pretends to befriend a mother and two daughters living at their summer home. The actors are completely unknown, even to a obscure lover like me – Michael Higgins, Lois Holmes and Jean Allison. After some research; I would see that Higgings was actually a very good Method actor who worked in a string of great movies – The Arragement, The Conversation, Wanda, so this is a huge plus. But the girls – Literary never heard about neither of the two. Sadly, the movie is mostly forgotten, although it is one twisted and sick piece of work.

Doris worked extensively on TV afterwards (I am almost certain IMDB just lists a fraction of her real credits) and didn’t care about Hollywood much. Due to this choice, Doris’ second movie only came much later – Madison Avenue in 1961. This movie is an interesting one as well, not quite a good piece of art but with some merit to it. It does show how Madison Avenue looked and operated in the 1960s, and much like Mad Man it shocks people with it’s brazen display of power and good marketing sense, plus all the drinking and smoking! Plus we have two very good actors in it, Dana Andrews and Eleanor Parker. TOo bad the story is paper thin and the budget somehow limited, but still worth a watch!

Doris’ last movie came in 196 – The Sergeant Was a Lady. Yep, the name already denoted it as a uninspired, run of the mill 1960s comedy that was made by the bucket load and except being watched in the cinemas the year it was released, not really ripe for repeated watching. The cast is nothing outstanding – Martin West and Venetia Stevenson, while eye candy both of them, were hardly top notch thespians. But at least we have Bill Williams and Catherine McLeod in the support, and I like both of them!

That is it from Doris!

PRIVATE LIFE

Doris was active in war effort work during WW2, and toured around the country as a WAVE.

Doris private life made little to no headlines. Her first husband was Jonah Greenspan, sports commentator extraordinaire. They married sometime in the early 1950s.

Greenspan, known to his friends and family as Bud, specialized in the Olympics and was a much lover speaker at many conventions and colleges. For instance, he often did speeches on dramatic instances of courage and sportsmanship since the first Olympic games in 1896. During WW2, Bud was a captain in the US Intelligence Reserve, and after the war he started to broadcast his own radio program, The Trophy Room, over more than 250 stations. During their marriage, Greenspan was compiling an album entitled The Roaring Twenties and his film, The Olympiad,” was being produced. Sadly, the marriage disintegrated after a few years, and they were divorced by 1956.

Doris became one of Jackie Gleason’s portrait girls on TV and also worked the Phil Silvers show, but, as she became older, jobs became fewer and fewer, she decided to become a real estate agent in California. She spent her spare time between treks to the various studios studying the California real estate code, and in time became a full- fledged real estate saleswoman. Pretty soon, she became quite successful at her job, with an assignment to sell 30 eight-unit apartment houses in nearby Anaheim. However, she hoped to make it as an actress, as she told the papers:

“I found the parts for women in films have been few and small,” she explained. “Besides most of the ‘names are grabbing what ever they can just to keep before the public. An un known doesn’t have much chance when there aren’t enough places for even the stars. However, I never give up hope. That s why I m going to sell real estate on the side.”

She met Barney Collins when she tried to sell him an apartment. Collins is an interesting gent, who gently introcuded Doris in the world of philanthropy and civic service. Collins was active in The Shrine, a philanthropic organization, and Doris gladly delved into it too. Here is an article about their work:

The promise of a new direction in the work of the Shrin- ers — with emphasis on developing youth. — was made last night by the leader of the 850,000-member organization. Barney W. Collins of Mexico City spoke at a meeting of all Masonic groups in Hotel Syracuse. The groups were invite d by the Tigris Temple, Onondaga County’s Shrine organization. Collins, whose imposing title is imperial potentate of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, said that at the July convent i o n in San Francisco he would ask for a permanent committee to oversee activities concerning the Order of DeMolay. The DeMolay is a non-sectarian organization for boys 11 to 21 sponsored by the Shrin- ers and other Masonic bodies. Collins said he would ask for an assessment of 25 cents f rom each member. This would give the committee a budget of 3200,000, At present the Supreme Council of DMe- Moyal operates with a budget of $35,000, a figure Collins indicated is too low to do the job of leadership. He said there are 160,000 members of DeMolay. This is too few. He said interesting and providing boys with an organization was the finest thing the Shriners could do. Tall and thin, Collins has been touring the United States and Canada since last July when he was elected head of the Shriners. With him was his tall, blonde and beautiful wife, Doris. Mrs. Collins is the former Doris Fesette of Platlsburgh. She spoke briefly and warned the Shriners and other Masons that they have been “resting on past laurels.” She said the hope for fine future of Freemasonry was with the youth organization.

Although she knew nothing about the Shrine two years ago, Mrs. Collins is an enthusiastic convert. She says the Shrine is filled with wonderful men and points to their work with crippled children to prove it. (The Shrine’s total annual budget for hospital philanthropy for children is almost $15 million.)

Collins was an active man, and headed several organization. His work included serving as venerable master of the Lodge of Perfection; wise master to Rose Croix; commander of the Council of Kadosh. In 1954 he became one of the few Americans in Mexico to be honored by being coroneted a 33rd degree Honorary by the Supreme Consejo of Mexico. He held the degree of honor of Phi Kappa Delta, National Collegiate Forensic Fraternity, was a trustee of the University of the Americas and presently an associate member of the board.

As Mrs. Collins, Doris was a devotee of healthy living, and this was written about her lifestyle:

Shriner ladies follow the lead of their new potentate’s wife, they’ll have whistle-rating figures by fall. Mrs. Barney W. Collins, former television and movie actress, is a health food enthusiast, does isometric exercises and runs a mile every day. Here, she does 12 laps around around the block when she is at her apartments in Mexico City or San Francisco. She admits that it’s difficult, the pool at the new Washing When visiting her mother in New York, Doris Collins runs her mile along the Hudson River. Proof that strict discipline pays off is the 5-foot 6-inch. 118-pound Mrs. Collins’ size 8 figure, sparkling brown eyes, and soft and glossy blonde hair. Maintaining that “life isn’t worth living if you are not healthy,” Mrs. Collins stays preparations by laq on her strict diet even while on official dinners. But in the last year since marrying Barney Collins, she has become used to sitting down to a dinner where the salad is the only thing on the menu she can eat. Mrs. Collins who says she first went on a “health food kick” when she turned 30, feels that it is the only way to eat and insists that she feels better and has more energy than ever be. fore in her life. On her diet are broiled chicken and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, juices (not from the can or frozen they must be fresh), cheeses, herb tea and still wines with no coffee, tea, hard liquor or frizzy drinks.

Doris and Collins divorced in December 1966, and she remained in active movie retirement in California, before moving permanently to New York. Doris did not remarry (as far as I know) and enjoyed her life in New York with old and new friends.

Doris Fesette died on April 9, 2001, in New York City.

One response

  1. This was all recently published right? Interesting that someone could possibly know all these details, many of which I didn’t even know about my Aunt. Very cool whoever u are

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