Nancy Root

Nancy Root 1

Nancy Root was a pretty co-ed with some riding skills that landed in Hollywood due to her combination of looks and sass, but sadly was cast in a string of “pretty girl” uncredited roles. Sadly, it was just a few years into her career that she was embroiled in a scandal, and decided to leave Hollywood behind. She later became a successful jewelry designer. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Nancy Jane Root was born on September 4, 1939, in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Herbert Root and Blanche Root. The Roots were a prestigious family, very active in the local scene, and Nancy was the grandniece of prominent republican politician and Nobel prize winner Elihu Root. Both Nancy’s parents were physicians in the Los Angeles area.

Nancy grew up in a stable and happy family in Los Angeles. Interested in performing since she was a little girl, she still claimed she was MORE interested in a Republican political career, which was expect of a Root dynasty member. But, a tingling wish to one day become a movie queen persisted, and she liked to perform and was often featured in amateur theatrics. After graduating from high school in Los Angeles, Nancy decided to enroll into University of Arizona and moved to Tucson to study there.

While in Arizona, Nancy blossomed into a stunning green-eyed redhead with 35-23-33 measurements She took her first two years of college there. An accomplished horsewoman, she did some stunt riding for movie companies working in this area. She rode so convincingly and so prettily that she was encouraged to take a screen test, and eventually was accepted into 20th Century Fox’s new talent school.

And thus her career started!

CAREER

Nancy first appeared in movies was in But Not for Me, a Clark Gable movie! What a way to go, I must say! Anyway, the movie is far from Clark’s best, but it’s a solid 60s comedy, with Clark playing a seasoned producer who wants to retire but then his pretty secretary declares his love for her, and he decided maybe he won’t retire after all? But what will his wife say? The cast is first class (Clark, Carroll Baker, Lili Palmer), and while it’s nothing groundbreaking, it’s well directed and witty at times. Her second was is a camp classic, a so bad it’s good movie, Girls Town. Girls in a catholic reform school, what more to say, with Mamie Van Doren playing the lead. Tons of scantly clad pretty girls, and it’s not even a Busby Berkeley musical? What to say!

Nancy continued appearing in quirky 60 movies, so specific to that decade and rarely made ever since. The first one was The Private Lives of Adam and Eve, another unintentionally hilarious so bad it’s good movie. the story is simple enough, n. Several travelers are en route to Reno, when thunderstorm causes them to take refuge in an abandoned church. Falling asleep, the two leads dream they are Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, but its’ just excuse to parade pretty girls around and see Mickey Rooney dressed in a snake suit. But wait until the next movie – College Confidential. What a bizarre one! In a nutshell, a professor conducts a survey about the sex life of college students. And then all bets are of! The vast is truly a weird mish-mash: Steve Allen and his wife (Jayne Meadows), Jayne Mansfield and Mamie Van Doren – both blonde and voluptuous, old school debonair Herbert Marshall, Rocky Marciano (the boxer), Conway Twitty(!), Cathy Crosby (Bing’s niece) and lots of kids of famous stars–Robert Montgomery Jr., William Wellman Jr. and Elisha Cook Jr., and even gossip columnists Sheila Graham AND Walter Winchell!

Nancy Root 4Now to some less campy movies! The Great Impostor is a Tony Curtis vehicle all the way – we see his playing a real life guy who faked being a doctor, warden, monk and teacher, and has a real talent for swindling! Tony is good in his role, and shows he was more than a pretty face with immense charisma and star power. And the supporting cast is excellent – Karl Malden, Gary Merrill, Edmond O’Brien and lovely Joan Blackman as a leading lady. It’s a okay drama made int he best old Hollywood style, so what’s not to like about it?

Nancy’s last movie was a Jerry Lewis comedy – The Ladies Man. I don’t like Lewis to much and am not interested in watching any of his movies, but it seems he is an acquired taste and that he has moments of sheer brilliance. Alas, his movies are mostly uninspired showcases for his skits, and this one if no exception. Lewis plays an unlucky in love recent college graduate who answers an advertisement for a handyman and finds it’s in a private house that has been converted to a residential hotel for women. Lots and lots and lots of pretty women! Girls like Dee ArlenFrancesca BelliniVicki BenetPatricia BlairLillian BriggsHope HolidayGloria JeanSylvia Lewis, and Pat Stanley. Nancy was one of the girls naturally! The flimsy story just serves as a basic frame for Lewis’ many crazy shenenigans. To each his own! Who likes Lewis will probably love this!

That was it from Nancy!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Nancy returned to Los Angeles as an actress, she transferred her academic work to USC so she could continue it along with movie work. She became a student of psychology at USC and hopes to get her doctorate in that field.

Being from a prominent Republican family, Nancy was very active in the political arena, campaigning and attending conventions. Here is a short newspaper bit about it:

Last summer was an exciting one for Nancy, no matter how you look at it. She has long been active in Young Republican clubs –was Miss Pima County Young Republican and Miss Arizona Young Republican before becoming Miss California Young Republican. In the latter capacity, she attended the Republican National Convention. However, as a sideline, Nancy also does news reporting for the Mutual network in California, and had these chores to keep her additionally busy. She also attended the Democratic convention to report woman’s news. So the two conventions, plus a tour of the east .for “College Confidential” kept her more than a little busy.

Nancy Root 2

Nancy also gave some handy advice for young girls who wanted to become actresses:

Has Nancy any advice for other young women who want to get into the movies? “Yes, indeed” she said emphatically. “Get your education first. Or at least don’t stop your academic studies. Also, have enough money that you don’t need outside jobs while you’re in the starlet stage. And don’t consider acting unless you have the consent and full support of your parents.”

Nancy was popular with the boys all around, and dated Jack Hogan, a wealthy sportsman. Then in 1962, when she was barely 23 years old, something happened that changed her life. Namely, in 1959 Nancy was involved with a mobster who took part in a murder of another mobster, Jack Whalen. They were sentenced only in 1962, and Nancy was a key witness.

The fate of Mickey Cohen and four co-defendants, on trial for the conspiracy-murder of Jack Whalen, was expected to be placed in the hands of a 10-women, one-man Los Angeles Superior Court jury today. Defense attorneys have branded the prosecutions case as “fantasy, and attacked prosecution testimony given by model Nancy Root. MISS ROOT had said she was warned by Joe DeCarlo, one of the defendants, to stay away from Rondellis Restaurant, where the shooting occurred, because there might be trouble. Atty. Harvey Byron, rep resenting DeCarlo, charged the girl sought sensationalism.

Here is a bit more about the whole sordid situation:

NANCY ANN ROOT, 24, testified that DiCarlo told her all the d”frndant:i were armed fit the time of the shooting and that DiCarlo broke a date with her that night because “there rnight be trouble.” After the shooting, she said. she picked up DiCarlo and LoCigno and DiCarlo told her he and the other defendants had met at the restaurant and everybody had a gun. She said DiCarlo told her ‘Whalen was shot by LoCigno and LoCigno s gun was hidden “where it wouldn’t be found.” He hoped they had “gotten rid of all the guns, she said. ‘ LATER IN THE DAY, Miss Root testi’ied, DiCarlo said it was “stupid of them to put the guns in the ashcan behind Rondelli’s.” Police said they found three guns there, with Leonard’s and LoCigno’s fingerprints on) two of them. Harvey Byron, representing’ DiCarlo, asked Miss Root:; “You say you have not been; acting for a year. Docs that! ( include today?” “YES, SIR. MISS Root snapped, while the prosecution objected. Superior Judge Drucker sustained the objections. Miss Root’s testimony was admitted against DiCarlo and Leonard only, for the time becouse She said it was based on’ conversations with them. – LoCigno was earlier convicted of the murder but was granted a new trial.

Nancy career effectively ended then and there, and she opted to marry and leave it all behind. Her choice of groom was Billy Ray Dyer. Dyer was possibly born on March 7, 1928, and served as a marine in Korea.

Nancy Root 3

Nancy and Billy Ray had three children: William, born on March 22, 1963, Robert, born on August 10, 1964, and John, born on October 4, 1969. The family lived in California, with Nancy retired from showbiz.

At some point, Nancy divorced Dyer, moved to Arizona (where she went to college), and took up jewelry making. How come? She felt a great kinship towards the local Arizona Indians, and spent many hours exploring their rich cultural heritage. She was nicknamed The redheaded Indian, and started to design a modern version of their jewelry, and gained quite a bit of local fame because of her handy work.

Nancy also married to a Mr. Hursche, but I could not find any information about who exactly is this mystery man.

IMDB lists Nancy Root’s death date as May 14, 2020, in Topock, Arizona. As always, I hope had a good life!

Phyllis Gilman

Phyllis Gilman was a pretty lady who got married very early, had two children, then decided to become a model and actress when she was already 20+ years old. In several brief years she became a leading model and even managed to nab herself a movie contract! Sadly this didn’t last long, as other martial adventures awaited her. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Phyllis Elizabeth Gilman was born on June 18, 1910, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Allen Gilman and Mary H. Proctor. She was their only child. Her father was a successful flour merchant and the family employed a maid.

Little is known of her childhood. Phyllis grew up in Pennsylvania, and for a time in the late 1910s lived with her great-aunt in Delaware. Later she was allegedly educated in Italy (maybe in a finishing school?). Phyllis married right out of high school (read more below) and opted to raise a family.

She landed in Hollywood pretty late, already divorced and working as a model and part time actress, when she was 27 years old. And off the went!

CAREER

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 The name alone reveals much about the movie – it’s all about the fashions, the pretty colors and beautiful girls. Story? Characters? Zero sum! While they actually have decent actors at work here (Warner Baxter, Joan Bennett), it’s a paper thin affair.

The story is as follows (Taken from IMDB): The blueblooded Van Kletterings are broke; debutante Wendy, slated to remedy this by marrying rich bore Henry Morgan, instead leaves him at the altar and goes to work as a model for high-fashion clothing designer George Curson, whom she soon falls for. But he’s happily married (at least on his side) and going into debt financing a show to please wife Mary’s desire for stardom. Vindictive Morgan, jealous of George, hopes to hasten his ruin. Can the House of Curson be saved? oh the drama!

Overall, the movie is all style, no substance. Still, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool-worthy fashions, and that can be enjoyed. Phyllis of course plays one of the models.

That’s it from Phyllis!

PRIVATE LIFE

Phyllis landed in Hollywood as a packet of models for the movie Vogues of 1938, courtesy of the PR stunt of Walter Wanger, the famous producer. The other girls were: Olive Cawley, Katherine Aldridge, Norene Carr, Martha Heveran, Ruth Martin, Frances Joyce, Libby Harben and Mary Oakes. All of the girls were seasoned models and favorites among commercial photographers.

Much tales have been spun about Phyllis’ life before she landed in Hollywood, and as far as I can tell, most of it was false.

Phyllis Gilman, most in demand of the metropolitan lingerie models, is saving up to tour the Orient. Educated at Swarthmore College and abroad, she speaks several languages and is at much at home in Florence, London, Paris, Vienna as she is in New York. A devotee of air travel, she has flown all over Europe and this country. Besides modeling lovely undies, she has worn a Sultan’s ransom in jewels. And she is considered an authority on the lapidary’s art.

Well nope! Phyllis opted for the family way while she was still very young. Namely, Phyllis married John Ray Cannon Long in March 17, 1928 in Florence, Arizona. She was only 17 and barely out of high school. John was a bit older, born on September 22, 1905 in Louisville, Kentucky. She gave birth to their first daughter Lenore Anita Long on June 21, 1929, in Phoenix, Arizona, and their second daughter, Liane Lagier Long, on December 5, 1930, in Los Angeles, California.

Phyllis and John divorced by 1933 (he died in 1961), and it is then she started her career as a model and actress. I don’t have enough info to explain how and why this happened, but maybe Phyllis had to get work? I don’t know who was minding the children while she as working. So many questions, so few answers. However, this is an inspiring story about a woman who took matters into her own hands when she had to, and became the breadwinner for her daughter.

Phyllis allegedly dated her share of the stage door Johnnies, including Jerry Horwin, Hollywood bon vivant. By 1934, Phyllis became a member of the Monte Carlo Follies, The production went straight from New York to Europe and showing for the whole Summer Season. Phyllis continued being a popular chorine, and it seems that Phyllis also did some work in the London Palladium for the Lou Holtz show. That sure changed her life (more about it later).

So it is funny that, in 1937 when she finally hit Hollywood, Phyllis was called “a college girl who models lingerie and wants to tour the Orient”. Phyllis was in fact a seasoned working woman with a marriage behind her and two children. Was it that problematic to tell this out loud in Tinsel town? But still, as she was promoted like a youthful model (with other younger models) I can somehow understand why they tried to make her younger and more “carefree”.

Before she went made her only movie, Phyllis announced her engagement to Lou Holtz, Broadway stage and radio comedian, in Chicago while she was en-route to Tinsel town. Her and Holt’s romance was an international, dynamic one for sure! They Holtz said when both were making a picture in England the year before. He then wooed her in the British capital, Florida, and finally in New York.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, Phyllis received one-picture contract as Goldwyn girls, but dropped out of it become love was calling! Phyllis and Lou eloped to Agua Caliente and were married by a Mexican civil Judge. They returned to Hollywood in a few days and Holtz flew right away to Dallas. Tex., for a stage engagement. It seems that Lou had a hectic schedule and there was no time for a proper honeymoon.

Now something about Lou. He was born on April 11, 1893, in New Jersey. Here is more info from Wikipedia:

 He was discovered by vaudevillian Elsie Janis in San Francisco while still in his teens, and came to New York. He appeared in his first Broadway show in 1913, World of Pleasure. He appeared on Broadway in other shows with small parts, then became a star in George White’s Scandals of 1919. He reappeared in the Scandals in 1920 and 1921. A good friend of George Gershwin, Gershwin even wrote a musical for Holtz in 1925, Tell Me More, which was not received favorably and was short-lived on Broadway. Several years later, Holtz had a big hit on Broadway in 1931 when he hired his pianist to write a show for him. The pianist, Harold Arlen, would go on to write the music for The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Holtz produced You Said It. In the 1920s, Holtz became the highest paid entertainer on Broadway, with articles touting his salary as an unheard of $6,000 per week. Unfortunately for Holtz, all of that money was invested in the stock market. He later told friends that he came out of the 1929 crash with $500, while he had been worth more than a million dollars the year before. In the 1920s, Holtz’ career alternated between musical comedies and vaudeville shows where he was the headliner. He reached one of his career milestones in 1925 when he played the Palace Theater as the headliner. The Palace was the most prestigious theatre in the country, and Holtz broke all records there by playing for 10 weeks. In vaudeville shows and radio, Holtz’ comedy was based in telling long, character stories, usually with at least one character having a strong Jewish dialect. His most famous character, Sam Lapidus, stayed with Holtz for his entire career, including Holtz’ guest stints on the Merv Griffin Show in the 1970s. In the 1930s, while still appearing on Broadway, Holtz left New York twice for London and appeared in two hits at the London Palladium. Both shows were similar to his hit at the Palace years earlier. Also in the 1930s, Holtz became a regular on radio. He had long stints on The Rudy Vallee Show, The Paul Whiteman Show and many others. Holtz ended up with several radio shows of his own, including The Lou Holtz Laugh Club. One of the regulars on that show was Fanny Brice

Pretty soon the Holtzes were expecting a child, but since I could not find any additional information about it, we can assume that Phyllis lost of the baby. Their daughter Laurie Elizabeth was born on April 5, 1941 in Los Angeles.

Lou retired from performing by the time Laurie was born, and moved permanently to California. However, it seems that, like many men in the performing business when they retire, he was very restless and couldn’t’ stand still, always out of the house, and slowly but securely this eroded his marriage to Phyllis. After some tiffs, reconciliations and more of the same, they were divorced in 1947, exactly ten years after they married. Phyllis alleged that Holtz told her his home life was “boring.”

But guess what? Like most times in Tinsel town, seemingly mundane divorced were not really mundane and there were background processes happening. Phyllis already had a new husband in mind! She married Carl Leserman in November 1947. Here is a nice article about it:

Palm Springs was the scene of a wedding Saturday night at 11 p.m. when Mrs. Phyllis Holtz, exwife of the famous comedian, Lou Holtz, and Carl Leserman, well known film producer and vicepresident of Benedict Bogeaus Productions, were married at the home of a friend. Judge Eugene E. Therieau was summoned from his home at the late hour to perform the civil rites. FOLLOWING the marriage at which Grad Sears, president of United Artists, acted as best man, a champagne breakfast was given the newly wedded pair at The Stables with Charley Morrison acting as the host. Present at the breakfast which took place between the hours of 12 midnight and 2 a.m., were the following celebrities: ROBERT STERLING, William Cagney, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Hall, Mark Stevens, Diana Lynn, Bob Neal, Bob and Coletta Caldwell, Mr. and Mrs. Van Heflin, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cushing, Mervyn M. Vye, Iris Bynum, Johnny Myers, Stewart Martin and Angela Green. The bride and her groom expect to honeymoon in Palm Springs for a few days before returning to Los Angeles.

There was a funny blooper during the ceremony. Two minutes after Phyllis married movie man Carl, he turned to her and said; “You know my wife, Mrs. Holtz?” Now something about Leserman. He was born on March 15, 1901, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Isaac and Elsie Leserman. He moved to California and became a producer, working in a variety of studios. After working for a time fon Benedict Bogeaus, ultimately he became Assistant General Sales Manager for Warner Brothers Pictures and General Manager for United Artists. The Lesermans lived happily in California.

Carl Leserman died on January 2, 1969. Phyllis continued living in California after his death, and did not remarry.

Phyllis Gilman Leserman died on July 21, 1996 in Riverside, California.