Dene Myles

 

Dene Myles came to Hollywood when she was barely 19 years old, young in age but actually a stage veteran, a seasoned dancer to be precise. How come? Well, due to difficult economic circumstances, Dene had danced professionally since she was 15 years old. Unfortunately, like most dancers that hit Hollywood with no dramatic background, she was relegated to the chorus and never credited in any movie she appeared in. Dene gave up movies and left for New York by 1940, and after a solid chorus girl career retired to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her.

 

EARLY LIFE

Farnese Ileana Anderson was born on August 8, 1916, in Los Angeles, California, to Samuel Earl Anderson and Mary Lawler. Her older sister Alice Marie was born on January 6, 1914. Her father was a cigar dealer by profession, born in Montana, who served in WW1.

Farnese grew up in Los Angeles, and was a lively child who loved going to movies and had a knack for dancing. She attended local dancing schools and had hopes of becoming a pro dancer one day. Money was tight for the family, but they always managed to push on (like many other families, and today, of the time did/do). 

Unfortunately, her desire was fulfilled in a distressing and non-pleasant way. Dene’s father died in 1930, in the middle of the great depression, and in order to help her mother with the upkeep of family, Dene abandoned her high school studies (she was only 15 years old, with 8 grades of elementary school under her belt) and became a professional dancer. She danced in various LA nightclub spots for several years.

It was during her tenure as a nightclub dancer that Dene was spotted by eminent choreographer LeRoy Prinz, and chosen to be one of his dancers. Since Prinz worked in the movie industry, he just pulled Dene along and there she was, ready to start a film career!

CAREER

Dene Myles does not have any credits on IMDB, which is very weird since she was always pictured with a string of actresses who appeared in various LeRoy Prinz musicals. I can only assume that Dene did too, but she was not credited and simply forgotten.

What I do know is that Dene appeared on the publicity for the movie Anything Goes, so let us assume she played a dancer in it. Anything Goes is an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the “censoritis” syndrome. We all know how witty and funny Cole was, and the censors hated such witty and funny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed in the movie, and it’s far from the bottom of the barrel.

That was it from Dene! 

PRIVATE LIFE

Dene came to Hollywood in a bunch consisting of Beula Mc Donald, Kay Gordon, Dorothy Thompson, Bonita Barker and Esther Pressman and herself. All six were under the protection and guidance of LeRoy Prinz, studio dance director. For about a year the girls appeared in various pictures, and it was through his sponsorship that they were given solid contracts. In a nutshell, the group was a kind of experiment cooked by LeRoy who probably planned to propel not one but 6 girls into stardom via clever bit of publicity (she were often photographer together and got major coverage in the papers). Not the worst idea, but I can’t say it was successful. Neither of the girls reaped a quality career, but hey, they did work in Hollywood for at least a year which is not that bad in itself.

Dene, as a contractee of Paramount pictures, was signed to the stock theater by the studio and received dramatic training in the Phyllis Laughton school (along with her fellow starlets). We can assume that Dene did get her training and appeared in the local theater plays. Yes, studios often had stock theaters where people could go and see movie actors act in plays. Of course you probably wouldn’t see William Holden there, but it was a great chance to get some experience and get noticed by producers.

As for her love life, it was pretty low key. Dene dated Leif Erickson, and they were pretty serious for a short time before breaking up. Leif went on to marry Frances Farmer. On a side note, Dene loved to play lacrosse in her spare time.

Her career was going nowhere by 1938, and Dene was aware that she had to find other means of employment. Before 1940, with her mother and sister Alice, Dene moved from Hollywood to NYC, planning to continue her dance career. She travelled and performed with the USO, danced on and off Broadway using her stage name “Dean Myles”. Dene was a real working dancer, dancing non stop in various shows, but in the mid 1940s her life changed. She appeared in the Broadway show Mexican Hayride, and met her future husband, Paul Haakon.

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Haakon was married when they fell in love, and divorced his wife to be able to marry Dene in 1946. Paul Haakon was born on September 7, 1911, in Fredericia, Denmark. He studied at the Royal Opera House in Copenhagen. Afterwards he went to the US and became a professional dancer. He danced at Radio City Music Hall with prominent ballerina Patricia Bowman. Soon he landed on Broadway, appearing in the musicals “Champagne Sec” in 1933, “At Home Abroad” in 1935, “The Show is On” in 1936 and “Hooray for What!” in 1937.

In 1935, he joined the American Ballet, forerunner of the NYC Ballet, but only briefly, finding ballet’s low salaries detrimental. Haakon stopped dancing in the early ‘40s, due to WW2 – during that time he toured with the USO, then returned to dance and worked as an assistant choreographer & dancer in Warner Brothers films and TV series.

After he married Dene, Paul went on to dance with the Jose Greco Spanish Ballet before becoming a ballet master and production manager with that organization. He retired in 1970 and earned a living as a salesman and mail handler.

Dene and Paul lived in New York, and had one daughter: Dana, born on January 26, 1953, and possibly a son, Ronald Anthony, born on February 14, 1948. Unfortunately, their marriage was already on its last legs by then, and they divorced the next year. Paul Haakon married Violet Dunne in 1955 and had two more children.

After the divorce, Dene returned to the place of her birth, California, and continued living quietly in Los Angeles, long retired from dancing. She did not remarry.

Dene Myles Haakon died on April 14, 1971, in Los Angeles, California.

Roma Aldrich

Pretty blonde Roma Aldrich was a model and champion swimmer who came to Hollywood without any extensive dramatic training, nor with a burning desire to act. However, she was nice looking and personable enough to net herself a short movie career. Let’s hear more about it! 

EARLY LIFE

Roma Darl Aldrich was born in New York City, New York on September 12, 1920, to William Frank and Hazel Aldrich. Her older brother William Frank Jr. was born on January 23, 1913. Her father was an electrical contractor, born in Texas.

The family, seeking a more peaceful environment to raise their children, moved to Ashbury Park, New Jersey in the mid 1920s. Roma grew up there and attended elementary school. Roma’s passion back then, when she was a teen, was not acting or indeed modeling, but rather swimming – once she caught the swimming bug, she never looked back, and spent a large chunk of her free time in the local pool. The hard work paid off – Roma became one of the best female swimmers on the East coast in the 1930s! She was so good she represented the Colony Surf Club on the East Coast and was Far East state champion. She held the 220 yard record for women.

After graduation from high school, Roma went to New York, where she became a photo model. I assume that there she was spotted by a talent scout, who torpedoed her to Los Angeles, and her career began!

CAREER

Rom appeared in only five movies in her career. 

Roma’s first movie was Parachute Nurse, a woman empowerment movie typical for the WW2 period with the ever reliable Marguerite Chapman in the lead, plying the eponymous nurse that parachutes into the most difficult terrain to help people who otherwise can’t get any medical attention. Roma has an interesting role of a fellow parachute nurse. Many other starlets-of-the-hour appeared in the movie – Kay Harris, Audrene Brier, Louise Albritton, Shirley Patterson, Catherine Craig, Eileen O’Hearn, Marjorie Riordan… 

Up next was a big thing! Roma’s career highlight was, IMHO sadly, a low budget western – Frontier Fury. She plays the female lead and got quite a bit of publicity over it. As I noted several times, I refrain from writing about low budget westerns since I have literary 0 interest in them, so can’t write much about Roma’s one major moment of fame.

Not much better, but slightly more palatable for my taste, was her next movie, another low budget western, Klondike Kate. Why? Well, Frontier Fury is a true blue western with exclusively western stars and a very typical western story. Klondike Kate, on the other hand, is actually a drama-comedy set in a western surroundings, with a diverse and very good cast that was actually not known for their western roles – Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Constance Worth (yep, these people were more known for film noir than anything else!). And we have a very yummy love triangle between Tom, Ann and Constance, plus all the usual – saloon fights, gun fights, horses! For people who like hard core westerns, this probably isn’t their cup of tea, but for me, watching Tom Neal and Ann Savage in any surroundings is a-okay, even if it’s a frontier type of setting.   

Next up was a funny and mostly well made B crime movie, Double Exposure. As one reviewer nicely wrote in is review of the movie on IMDB, “this is a really entertaining little offering in which an able cast led by Chester Morris (the magazine editor), Nancy Kelly (the freelance photographer), Richard Gaines (the exercise-conscious publisher), Philip Terry (the freelancer’s boyfriend) and Charles Arnt (a millionaire of the marrying kind) mix comedy, romance and a murder mystery with most entertaining results.” It has a nifty story, solid cast, nice gags and overall it’s a low budget but well made movie. 

Roma’s last movie was Mickey the Great, not a real movie per see but some pasted on footage of the Mickey McGuire movies, framed by a mini movie where Roma plays one of the leading roles. She is one of three women reminiscing about their times as Mickey McGuire’s gang members. Mickey McGuire is of course played by a very young Mickey Rooney, and it is this curiosity that makes the movie perhaps worth watching for Mickey fans. Clocking at 50 minutes, it’s short and cute but that was it. 

That’s it from Roma! 

PRIVATE LIFE

When Roma came to Hollywood, in order to boost up her visibility and make her more palatable to the general public, she was nicknamed The Eggplant girl. Yes, as a part of a publicity stunt she posed with an eggplant. The more I write this blog, the more such publicity stunts crop up, and I must say, some of them leave me speechless. Who made up these things…

In real life, outside these silly publicity games, Roma seemed like a normal, down-to-earth gal. She was quite close to her parents and after she left home visited them often. In 1940, they went on a Hawaiian vacation together. In Hollywood she did mingle occasionally with the in-crowd, befriending Carole Parker, having dinner fêtes at Sardi’s and often going horseback riding in Bel-Air.

Via that stellar high-society crew, Roma famously met and dated Jimmy’ Roosevelt, son of president F.D. Roosevelt, in late 1940 (during his love spat with nurse Romelle Schneider). The idyll between Roma and Jimmy didn’t last particularly long, since Roosevelt and Schneider were still in love, and Roma was likely only a band aid to mend a broken heart. Romelle and Jimmy made up and soon Roma was out of the picture.

Roma’s next beau was Randolph “Randy” Scott, famous actor. That also did not last long, just a few months in 1941. Then in late 1941 Roma started dating her future husband, Arthur W. Armstrong. Roma married him on September 4, 1942 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Unlike her former more flashy beaus, Armstrong was a normal guy, working as a bookkeeper. Born in Ohio in 1908, he came to California in the late 1920s and lived with his father and brother in Los Angeles for a time. 

Roma falls out of the newspaper radar from now on. She obviously gave up movies and worked in other fields, but I have no idea exactly what or how. She possibly had a son, born on February 27, 1950, named James Delbert Armstrong.

Roma and Armstrong divorced at some point in the early 1950s (before 1955). In 1955 Roma was involved in a car accident and had some knee problems demanding a convalescence period in rehabilitation facilities. Roma was an avid swimmer this whole time, and kept up the hobby long after her Hollywood career ended.  

Roma did not remarry and remained living in Los Angeles.

Roma Aldrich died on January 18, 1984, in Santa Monica, California