Charlotte Munier

Charlotte Munier

Charlotte Munier was a daughter of two actors in the old tradition, who played on the stage for decades and traveled all around the US with stock companies. It’s no wonder she became an actress herself, playing leading roles in the theater from the time she could walk, but ultimately, after a very brief Hollywood career, she decided to devote her life to family, retired and never looked back. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Charlotte Frances Munier was born on September 9, 1919, in San Diego, California, to Charlotte Treadway and Ferdinand Munier. Both of her parents were deeply involved in showbiz – her mother a stage actress, and her father a stage actor and director and generally a very colorful man. Ferdinand was a graduate of Stanford University and traveled widely in Europe and Australia acting m stock and vaudeville. A California native, after many travels he returned to his native state to direct and act With the Henry Duffy Players. Charlotte also acted and danced in the Duffy players, and this is how they got together and married in 1913.

The family moved to San Francisco sometime in the 1920s to continue working with the Duffy players. Charlotte grew up in the city, with the film buzz never far away. Being the child of two thespians, it was only natural that Charlotte chime in the family business. She appeared in the theater from the time she could walk, mostly in her parents’ shows. Her talent was more than visible when she attended  the West Portal School and was named the most promising actress of the school. Here is an article about 9-year-old Charlotte and her work in a play:

Munier does not ant to be classified as a “stage child.” Vita: not, I’m an actress. I intend to play leads when I grow up,” asserts the -9-year-old player who has the) role of Peggy Forsythe in “The Masquerader,” . which Guy Bates Post and the Henry Duffy Players are presenting at the Hollywood Play House. “My father is a stage director,” says Charlotte, “and ever since I can remember he has said .I don’t want you a stage child. If you were one you’d be the worst nuisance in the world.” Charlotte’s argument being un answerable, she must be classed as an, actress. , . to proof of her desire not to -be considered a child of the stage, she put away her dolls when she was 6 years old. “They’re silly.” she said. Shi received sixty-three telegrams wishing her good-luck on the opening day of “The Mosquerader.” and they are pinned, fa typical theatrical fashion, on the wall of her dressing-room. She insists on making herself up for each performance, although a governess accompanies her to’ the theater. And at the age or 9 miss Munier already expresses a preference for emotional leads. None of these Little Evas or Little Willies for me,” she succinctly ” or I will never live them down.”

Charlotte later went from trench to strength with her dramatic prowess, containing her success in her high school, Fairfax High School, appearing in almost all of the school’s plays. Somehow she nabbed a Hollywood contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Charlotte appeared in only two movies, Forty Little Mothers and Calling Dr. Gillespie.

Forty Little Mothers an Eddie Cantor comedy with a bit slack but serviceable story: An out-of-work professor gets a break from an old college buddy to teach at an exclusive girl’s school. But events conspire against him: he finds an abandoned child which he takes under his wing, despite the school’s rules against teachers having a family; and the girls in the school resent his replacing a handsome and popular teacher, and do everything in their power to get him fired. What to say about Eddie Cantor, like most comedians he’s a hit or miss, depends if you like or dislike this brand of comedy. His movies mostly follow suit – this one however is a slight example – it’s still vintage Cantor, but with a warm and tender core. This is a classic Hollywood at its best regarding nice, fuzzy, endearing movies that will make you believe in humanity again. Again, this isn’t a serious drama with complex characters and a multilayered story, but heck, if it’s a nice piece of moviemaking why not watch it? Also, there are plenty of gorgeous girls in it – Charlotte, Martha O’Driscoll, Bonita Granville, Rita Johnson, Margaret Early, Diana Lewis … Plus Judith Anderson! Love this woman!

Charlotte’s second feature was Calling Dr. Gillespie, an interesting entry into the Dr. Gillespie movie series. The outline is well known – the grumpy Dr. Gillespie, played by Lionel Barrymore, maybe a very ruff man on the outside, but on the inside he’s a very, very good person who wants to help people. His assistant (played by Lew Ayres) is there to do the legwork. So this movie is basically a serial movie with no big quality factors (they can be good but are usually mediocre and made for the fans not the general public), it does deal with something Hollywood tended to avoid in a wide arc- mental illness. The patient Dr. Gillespie tries to cure is a raving lunatic who starts to kill people around, and while the problem is banalized and sometimes insensitively shown, it still packs a punch and asks to look deeper into the psyche of such men. In most movies they are just bad boogie men who need to be overpowered, here he is actually a man, with a myriad of problems, who starts to do some bad things when . The cast is uniformly good – Lionel Barrymore, Phillip Dorn, Donna Reed, Phil Brown. (Lew Ayres, Barrymore’s usual assistant in the previous movies was absent due to being a conscientious objector during the War and was serving in the medical corps).

That was it from Charlotte!

PRIVATE LIFE

Both of Charlotte’s parents had decent acting careers in Hollywood. Her father appeared in shows like “Diamond Horseshoe,” and played in “Barretts of Wimpole St., and. “Clive of India”. Here is his bio by the legendary Hal Erickson (taken from the Fandango site):

Rotund, ruddy-faced character actor Ferdinand Munier first showed up in films around 1923. Blessed with a rich, rolling voice that perfectly matched his portly frame, Munier flourished in the talkie era, playing scores of pompous foreign ambassadors, gouty aristocrats, and philandering businessmen. His many screen assignments included King Louis XIII in The Count of Monte Cristo (1934) and the aptly named Prince Too-Much-Belly in Diamond Horseshoe. A perfect Santa Claus type, Ferdinand Munier was frequently cast as Saint Nick, most amusingly in Laurel and Hardy‘s Babes in Toyland (1934) and Hope and Crosby‘s Road to Utopia (1945).

Charlotte’s mother and namesake acted less in movies and mostly appeared in B class films, but she has some good ones on her résumé, like Margie, The Flame of New Orleans (with Marlene Dietrich), It Started with Eve (with Deanna Durbin), Gentleman Jim (with Errol Flynn and Alexis Smith).

Charlotte also did work in the theater and radio for a bit after her movie career faltered. You can listen to her in the Lux radio Theater version of All This and Heaven Too.

Charlotte’s private life was very low-key and down to Earth. While attending Fairfax High School, in 1937 she met and often acted with a youngster names George Edwin Cardwell. Soon they were a couple as well as serious acting partners. Their relationship was put to the tests a bit when Charlotte “went Hollywood” in 1940, but they managed to pull through.

The war broke out in 1941, and George was soon drafted. Like many young people, uncertain of the future, the couple decided to get married. So, Charlotte married George Edwin Cardwell on December 28, 1942, in Los Angeles. George was born on January 9, 1920, in Los Angeles to Edward Cardwell and Mamdora Loy. He grew up in the city and got into amateur theatricals in high school.

Unlike many wartime marriages, their was a very happy union. The couple lived in Los Angeles, with Charlotte more or less retired from films and occasionally doing a theatrical play. It seems they did not have any children.

Charlotte Munier Cardwell died on April 19, 1967, in Los Angeles, California

George Edwin Cardwell died on January 23, 2005, in Ventura, California.

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