Poppy Wilde

Poppy Wilde, heralded as one of the most beautiful showgirls in Hollywood, was exactly that – a glorified extra in more than 40 movies, a pretty face used solely for eye candy. As you can well imagine, this was not a formula for career gold and she retired after getting married, but her life story is interesting, so let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jacqueline Ruby Wall was born on December 5, 1914, in Oakland, California, to Frederick Carl Wall and Olive Helen Chaffin. Her father worked as a railroad train-master. She was the third of six children – her older siblings were sister Mary Katherine, born on June 18, 1910, in Iowa, and William, who died just a few months after birth in 1912. Her younger siblings were Helen May, born on June 18, 1916, Florence Isabel, born on May 15, 1918, and Gladys Elaine, born on July 24, 1924.

Later obituaries claimed that her father was killed in a freak accident, leaving her mother to raise the children, but since he lived until 1940, let’s assume that he left Olive and she had to take care f the children single-handedly. Unable to take care of them, she eventually put some of them up for adoption. Jacqueline was adopted by her mother’s sister Isabel and her husband, John “Jack” Wardenberg, a well-off railroad executive in Salt Lake City, who didn’t have any children of their own.

While attending St. Maiys of the Wasatch, a private girls school, Poppy aired her own radio show. In 1929 a motion picture producer came to Salt Lake and took a shine to Poppy, with her beautiful silky black hair, ivory skin and dark, seductive eyes.The family moved to southern California so that Poppy could sign a studio contract, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Ah, Poppy made more than 40 movies, which is quite a bit and I’m not gonna analyse them a great deal. She was mostly uncredited and appeared in really small parts.

I will just mention a few that are worth mentioning IMHO: Stand-In, a very funny and satirical exposee on Hollywood film making, with a superb cast of Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart and Joan Blondell, Angels with Dirty Faces, a classic crime movie with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, members of our favorite Hollywood Irish mafia, Moontide, a proto noir and one of the few US movies Jean Gabin made, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last pairing of Ginger and Fred, Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic musical with Cagney again, Road to Morocco, a Bing/Bob pairing deluxe, and Old Acquaintance, with tour de force performances by two divas, Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins.

And that’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

Poppy was quite tall with feet seven Inches, and weighed only 101 pounds. Here is a short quote from Poppy about her Hollywood life:

Off the set, while other beauties marched before the camera, she undertook to answer a question: What price movie glamour? “It’s a dull and strenuous life,” she said. “More dull and strenuous than anyone outside the Industry Imagines. “When I’m not at a studio, I’m at home by the telephone. From 6:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night the telephone and I are partners. At regular intervals, I call the central casting bureau on the chance there’s been an emergency opening. “I Just Go to Bed.” “It’s dull but true that if I hope to work often, say two or three times a week, I must stay near the telephone the rest of the time. “At night I’m too tired for dinners or parties or shows. I just go to bed.” On Sundays, Poppy is free to go out. She is 22 and on her afternoon dates has had three proposals of marriage. “No one has interested me enough to accept,” she said.

Poppy married Luther Verstergard on July 31, 1934, in Orange, California. Luther Raymond Vestergaard was born on December 7, 1902, in Chicago, Illinois, to Christian Vestergard and Maytha Hecker. He studied to become a lawyer, but the lure of acting was stronger, so he made his movie debut in 1925 under the name of Paul Power. He spent more than three decades playing a variety of bit roles that included one of King Richard’s knights in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a Scottish highlander in I Married an Angel (1942), and a minister in Ma Barker’s Killing Brood (1960). He added television to his long resumé in the 1950s, appearing in such shows as I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, and Maverick. The couple divorced. In July 1946, he married Gertrud Elizabeth Warrington. He died on April 5, 1968 in North Hollywood.

Ruby married her second husband, talent agent Jack Crosby, on February 14, 1944, in Nevada. Jack Casier Crosby was born on September 7, 1903, in Elks, Nevada, to George Crosby and Lenore Casier, the oldest of six children. The family lived in Utah before they relocated to California, where he worked as a theater actor. Later he switched to the movie management business and was prosperous by the time he met Poppy.

Their son Dennis Brian was born on February 16, 1945. The Crosbys were very socially prominent in Hollywood, hobnobbing with luminaries like Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz. They were also quite outdoorsy – Jack loved to spend time in the open and rubbed it of into Poppy, who became a pro at fishing and was known to go salmon catching often. After Crosby got fed up with Tinsel Town in the 1960s, the couple moved with her to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Poppy stayed glamorous despite this change of scenery, and kept up with her old Hollywood peers, writing them voluminous letters and often visiting.

Strong willed and opinionated by nature, Poppy was also a very generous, kind person who could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was an excellent cook, her specialties being tuna sandwiches, spaghetti sauce and a tasty salad. She was a skilled crafts-maker, collecting dolls and painting rocks. Poppy also played ukulele and loved to sing.

Crosby died on January 14, 1979. Poppy was devastated and had to learn how to take care of herself financially – her husband used to do all the money stuff himself and Poppy had no idea how to manage anything. In order to earn her keep she became a hostess at the Coeur d’Alene cruises, giving history lessons and flirting with the clients. Pretty soon she was introduced to Victor Fehrnstrom. A romance bloomed and the couple was soon married.

Victor was born on February 6, 1922, in Manchester, New Hampshire, to Victor and Marion Fehrnstrom. Here is a bit about her third husband, taken from his obituary:

Vic had a long, fulfilling life. He began his life on a farm in Derry, N.H., where he enjoyed time with his brother, Ernie, and sister Marion, but was raised mostly in Boston and carried that accent forever. He served in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II and taught aircraft recognition to keep the Army, Navy and Air Force from shooting down our own planes.

After his service, he lived in California and worked for the Inglewood Police Department. He worked patrol and became a patrol Sargent, and later was a Sargent in the Detective Bureau. Vic retired in 1972 and moved with his wife, Carole and two children to Harrison, Idaho, where he farmed, logged and enjoyed his 40 acres. Years later, he moved to Blue Creek.

He moved for a short time to Prescott, Ariz., but his heart was always in Idaho, so he returned quickly. Not long after his return, he met his next wife Poppy, and became a Captain on the Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise Boats. He loved working and/or captaining the Dancewana, the Mish-an-nock, the Kootenai, the Coeur d’Alene and his favorite, the Idaho. He enjoyed working the St. Joe River cruises, narrating tours and making sure everyone enjoyed their time on the boats. “Captain Vic,” as so many knew him, delighted passengers for almost 20 years. After he retired, he continued to live in Coeur d’Alene enjoying family and friends until his passing. He would’ve been 94 in just a few short weeks.

Vic was loving, caring, smart, brave, easy-going, charming and fun. His kindness and humor were always evident, his laughter was contagious. He loved his family deeply. He was an honorable man that was admired, was a role model to many, and someone that family and friends could always count on.

Poppy and Vic lived a happy life in Cour d’Alene, and enjoyed spending time with their families.

Jacqueline Crosby Fehrnstrom died on August 1, 2000, in Cour d’Alene, Idaho.

Her widower Victor Fehrnstrom died on January 11, 2016.

Ila Rhodes

Ila Rhodes was a pretty blonde who got to Hollywood via the Pasadena Playhouse, and who expressed a wish to seriously act (she studied drama at college). Too bad it never came that far – she did a few small roles and then gave up movie altogether to get married. Her Tinsel town highlight was dating Roland Reagan, and this got her five minutes of fame in the 1980s, after he became a president. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Ila Rhodes was born on November 17, 1913, to William Allen Rhodes and Birdie E. Baley, in Marion, Missouri. Her father was an engineer. She was the youngest of six children, where her oldest siblings were really older than her – her brother Ernest and Omar were born in the 19th century (in August 1892 and July 30, 1895 respectively)! Her other siblings were Sarah, born on December 21,  1903, Nancy Ethel, born in April 5, 1906 and Charles, born in 1909. Sadly, Ernest died before Ila was born, probably in 1910. The family moved to Oklahoma when Ila was a little girl, and by 1920 they were living in Ottawa, Oklahoma.

Ila had a normal middle class childhood, even if it was a bit hectic. Namely, due to her father’s work, she moved a great deal and attended grammar school in Okmulgee, Hitchita, Checotah, McAlester; all in Oklahoma, and Fort Smith, Ark. She went to high school in Atoka, Muskogee, Tulsa, and later attended university at Oklahoma City (all four years). At the university Ida majored in dramatics, got a groundwork in Shakespeare and other classics.

Later publicity claimed that Ila’s full name was Ila Rae Cornutt, and that she was of Cheerokee Indian descent, but since they made up a great chunk of young starlet’s histories, I wonder if this is true. Not only was her surname not Cornutt, but she was born in Missouri, not Oklahoma. Although it could be she had some Cornutt family connection, but can’t be sure. Here is the article:

Permanent Blonds But if Ha’s a vanishing Indian (out of this school and into that one), she’s not a vanishing blond. Her family is a durable exception to the new scientific theory of “perishing blonds.” This theory holds that bruneta are gradually absorbing blonds. The blondness in Ila’s family is so strong that it erases competition. In the family tree is a great maybe even a great-great grandmother who was full-blooded American Indian. “Rust-Proof” Legend says that from the union of a blond, Dutch-English white man and an Indian’ maid came one child who had flaxen hair and blue eyes the first of the “non-rusting” blonds in the Curnutt clan. Ila’s pink-and-white complexion won her a role without a screen test in “Women in the Wind.”

No comment on that. Anyway, after graduation from college, Ila started to act in the Pasadena Playhouse and attended their dramatic school. Following graduation the dramatic school, she was noticed by Arthur Lyons, Warner Bros producer, and after a successful screen test signed a two-year contract with Warner Bros and her career was go!

CAREER

Ila appeared in only 6 movies. She was uncredited in Off the Record, a Joan Blondell/Pat O’Brien combo movie.  The two leads are dynamite together (playing newspaper people) and Joan is her usual cute but tough broad, but the movie is a low budget B class film and it shows in the short running time and too much stuff meshed into it. Part newspaper film, part drama and part romance, ti doesn’t really work, but as I said it’s worth seeing for Joan and Pat alone. They don’t make them like this anymore!

Ila was given a leading role in Secret Service of the Air, the first movie Ila appeared with Ronald Reagan. It has a very thin plot: Brass Bancroft and his sidekick Gabby Watters are recruited onto the secret service and go undercover to crack a ruthless gang that smuggles illegal aliens. As one IMDB reviewer notes, this film contains just about everything you could possibly fit into a 61-minute movie: a prison break, car chases, shootouts, bar fights, a love story, brawls, various plane chases and much more. Typical for a B movie of the period, where more was considered more.

Next was Women in the Wind, one of the movies that Warner Bros made Kay Francis do that that their prized star, who was paid thousands a week, would quite before her contract expires. Thus, we can assume it’s not a particularly good movie. Ila then appeared in a small role in Dark Victory, the Bette Davis weepie classic of 1939, with George Brent and  Humphrey Bogart thrown into the mix. The story is well known: a socialite discovers she has an inoperable tumor and has to change her whole life before her time comes. Bette excelled at these kind of roles, and the supporting cast is wonderful, so overall it’s a very good movie.

Ila’s last movie was Hell’s Kitchen. The Dead End Kids star in this remake of The Mayor of Hell and Crime School, with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Lindsay as obligatory grown ups support. Nothing to write home about, but does have some socially conscious moments and it’s one of Ila and Ronnie’s movies together!

That was it from Ila!

PRIVATE LIFE

Ila was five feet five, weighting 112 lbs in her prime, and shaved 4 years of her CV when she was signed by Warner Bros. Growing up in Oklahoma, Ila was something of a bronco-busier. She didn’t tell Warners about that at first, because she was afraid she’d be cast in westerns and have to hide her pretty figure in a pair of chaps.  She also told the papers that she dieted on baked potatoes and skimmed milk when she wanted to lost a few pounds. She was best friends with Margaret Lindsay and Marie Wilson, and the three often sipped drug store ice cream sodas like a trio of high school girls. She also wore two old-fashioned hat pins with garnet beads she found among her mother’s keep-sakes.

Here is a bit more about Ila: She likes to sing and dance and does both well. She’s a fine horsewoman, a fact she concealed for a time fearing to be typed westerns. She plays’ tennis and dances to keep fit, diets mildly, attends the Methodist church, drives a two-year-old car, doesn’t care for jewelry. She rises early, saves her money and reads a good deal. Her best friend Is Ida Lupino. Her natural ‘blond hair and startlingly blue eyes are the kind that delight cameramen. She also gave a recipe for a special bleaching masque. To a whipped up egg you add the juice of a big lemon, then apply it to your face and leave it on for a half hour. Take two facials each week.

If Ila is indeed remembered today, it’s because she was, allegedly, engaged to Ronald Reagan, then a young actor in the Warner Bros roster. It was the year 1937/38, she was around 21 (officially, but actually about 25) and he was around 30. Their budding romance consisted of lunch-break trysts and stolen weekends together. Ronnie used to take her for hot dogs and he had a no-smoking, no-drinking, no-dancing stance, preferring simple things like taking long walks and talking.  Ila would later say of him: “Ronnie was very attractive, and I enjoyed our weekends out together. I became engaged, with a ring on my finger, when fame started to affect us. The fans started to multiply.” Allegedly, Ila tried to sell some tall tales to Ronnie, claiming she was related to some old guard, wealthy aristocrats, but it remains to be proven either false or true.

The engagement lasted eight or nine months, when Warner Bros moguls decided romance between their stars was bad for box-office business, and started pressing Ronald to give Ila up. They used any means necessary to do it. Arthur Lyons, the Warner producer who had discovered Ila, started taking her to celebrity get-togethers and fashionable nightclubs. Bit by bit, this erosion  led to the break-up. Ila recalled later: “But it was elegantly done. He grew distant, withdrew a little, giving me plenty of room to take any kind of decisive step. And then we decided to face facts.” Shortly after the couple split they both married, Reagan to actress Jane Wyman and Rhodes to Lyons. Anyway, Ila and Lyons planned their wedding to be a Mexico City double-wedding with Ida Lupino and Louis Hayward getting  married with them.

Thus, in Ila traveled to Yuma. Ariz., to be married to her agent, Arthur Lyons. Lyons was born on May 27, 1906, in Russia. Little is known of his early life. He became an talent agent with his brother Sam representing such stars as Joan Crawford, Ida Lupino, Lucille Ball, Ray Milland and Jack Benny.

They started happily, looking for a new house and so, but the marriage was not to last. Lyons and Ila separated in June 1940, and divorced in November 1940, and court awarded her $500 a month for the rest of this year. Lyons remained a prominent agent and producer, and remarried in 1961 to Winifred Gilbert. He died on July 26, 1963.

After her divorce, Ila left Hollywood, hoping to revive her fledgling acting career. She went to New York to act on the legitimate stage. Her first and last role on the stage was in “Goodbye My Love”. Then, in mid 1942, Rhodes met a man at a dinner party in i Washington. In October 1942, they made their relationship public by appearing at the swank 21 club – Ila on the arm of Air Corps Brig. Gen. Bennett Meyers. Meyers was considered quite a catch and Ila was allegedly envied by tons of glamour girls. Meyers was high up in the military and was a powerful man who enjoyed friendships with other powerful men, and it seems that Ila was ready once again to give up acting to take up the mantle of domesticity. On February 14, 1943, they were married at the Marble Collegiate Church.

Here is a bit about Bennett:

Bennett E. Meyers was born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1895. During World War I he enlisted in the Aviation Section of the Signal Reserve Feb. 2, 1918, and served as a flying cadet until June 22, 1918, when he was commissioned a temporary second lieutenant in the Air Service, serving continuously until he was commissioned in the Regular Army as a second lieutenant, Air Service, to rank from July 1, 1920.

He completed ground school at Berkeley, Calif., and flying school at Rockwell Field, Calif., remaining at the latter station after being commissioned. He transferred to Love Field, Texas, for duty in various staff capacities from July 1919 to November 1920, when he became commanding officer of the Surplus Property District at Detroit, Mich. When this was completed he undertook a similar assignment at Buffalo, N.Y., in the following September, and became commanding officer of the Air Reserve Depot there.

He moved to Luke Field, Hawaii, in September 1923 for intelligence duties until July 1924, when he joined the 23rd Bombardment Squadron. In June 1927 he was transferred to Wright Field, Ohio, for procurement duties. He was away on temporary duty from November 1927 until February 1928 to take the special observation course at the advanced flying school, Kelly Field, Texas. He returned to Wright Field for procurement planning duties, becoming chief of the Plans Division of the Industrial War Plans Section.

He was assigned to the Army Industrial College, Washington, D.C., in September 1929, and graduated in June 1930. He then returned to Wright Field as chief of the Plans Division, Industrial War Plans Section. He was detailed to the Babson Institute, Mass., in September 1931 and graduated in June 1932 with “high distinction” and was valedictorian for the class. He remained there for post graduate work for another school year until June 1933 when he again returned to Wright Field as executive to the Field Service Section. In 1935 he established the Budget Office at that field and was budget officer and chief of that division until September 1940 when he was transferred to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps as assistant executive. He became executive officer of the Materiel Command in that Office in November 1940, and in March 1942 was named deputy to the Assistant Chief of Air Staff of the Army Air Forces.

He assumed command of the Materiel Command, with headquarters at Wright Field, Ohio, in June 1944, and the following month was named Deputy Director, Army Air Forces Materiel and Services at Patterson Field, Ohio (later redesignated Air Technical Service Command, with station at Wright Field, Ohio). In May 1945 he assumed command of the Air Technical Service Command. He retired in the grade of major general.

He was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal and Legion of Merit and was rated a senior pilot, combat observer and technical observer.

He was dismissed from the service of the United States by President Truman July 16, 1948, after conviction of a felony.

Ila and Bennett lived the high life, and had three children: twins Arnold and Damon, born on February 26, 1944, and Ila Jr., born on February 24, 1946. But it seems the salad days were not to last, as Meyers was privy to enough to make himself some dough, on the side, and not in a ethical or indeed legal fashion. Here is the article:

Gen. Bennett K. Meyers. head of the Army Air Force wartime procurement. 1 about to get hit with a bag of wet cement when the Ferguson-Bretr-Hughee war contract Investigation reopens Monday. “Benny” Meyers, m the 48-year-old purchasing official la generally known, will be slapped with a receipted hotel bill, showing . he accepted more than , 11,000 worth of weekend entertainment from vHow-ard Hughes., via his fat bagman, Johnny Meyer. The hotel bill, from the swanky Town House in Los Angeles, will be produced by Senator Homer Ferguson, of Michigan, who will ask the general why he accepted favors from a man who ‘ was trying to get army contracts. General Meyers, who married Ila Rhodes, a movie actress about half his age four years ago, enjoyed a very expensive weekend at the Town House with his wife. The ten shows it was lifted by the ubiquitous Johnny Meyer with one of his famous “okay to pay” notations. Without realizing it, I have been sitting on most .of this story since the Hughes investigation opened early in August.

Ila stood by her husband, getting papped daily in the courtroom, and often being called the general’s ultra sophisticated, very chic younger wife. Guess the publicity wasn’t that good, and Ila came around as quite a shallow money digger – the press obviously twisted the story according to their own agenda. Anyway, Bennett was found guilty on three counts of subornation of perjury, and faces a maximum 30-year prison term. In the end, he was interred in Wasghington, DC.

Ila was under siege after the trial, and she tried to make a normal life for herself and the couple’s children. Sadly, the press didn’t let her – a few months later, she was discovered modeling In a Manhattan fur salon under her maiden name. She was unhappy about the publicity but said she took the job because She needed money to support her three children, and she wanted to be near Washington, D. C., where for one hour each week she is allowed to visit her husband, in jail for perjury. .She allegedly told a reporter: “Jeepers! They didn’t know who I was when they hired me. Maybe Ill be looking for another job tomorrow”. Yep, Ila tried but they were not really forthcoming.

IMDB claims that Ila died on December 10, 2012, in Glass Valley, California.

 

Clarice Sherry

Clarice Sherry was a promising, talented small town girl reared to become a successful actress. Sadly, despite all of her talent Hollywood just didn’t embrace her and she retired after just a few years of working. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Clarice Marie Shierry was born on December 21, 1914, in Hawkeye, Iowa, to Leon Shierry and Etta C. Brukhart. She was their only child. Her father was a barber who had his own barber shop, her mother designed hats and dresses (including those worn by her daughter in the future).

The Shierrys spent the first four years of Clarice’s life in Hawkeye, then they lived in Mason City for two years before the family went to Los Angeles, California in 1928, where Clarice attended high school and junior college. A striking blonde, Clarice had  been carefully reared by her parents, with much love. Although she early showed signs of artistic talent, she was not allowed to commercialize it nor to make public appearances during her school life, except in recitals with other pupils. Piano and dancing lessons were part of her education, which was obtained in a Los Angeles private dramatic school.

Due to her beauty, she was chosen to model gowns and to pose for automobile advertisements. Her face has also appeared on magazine covers. In March, 1934, Warner Brothers signed her for her first chorus work, and she has made progress ever since. She appeared in choruses in Dames, North Shore, Sweet Adeline, Gold’ Diggers of 1935, Go Into Your Dance, Sweet -Music and others, then took a voice test in the summer of 1936. That test resulted in a passing grade of 100 per cent, and she went into the speaking parts.

CAREER

Clarice appeared in a string of musical movies as a chorus girl. She was featured in three Sonja Henie movies – One in a Million, Thin Ice and Second Fiddle. Since my dislike of Sonja Henie is more or less obvious if you read this blog, let’s just let it slide.

Other musicals that Clarice appeared in are: The Girl Friend, a totally forgotten Ann Sothern musical, Sing, Baby, Sing, a weak and not very memorable Alice Faye vehicle, Broadway Melody of 1938, a typical pastiche musical with Robert Taylor, playing a non-singing guy, trying to act out a flimsy story about a Broadway producer, but everybody is watching Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland and Sophie Tucker singing and dancing, Kentucky Moonshine, a abysmal Tony Martin musical with the Ritz brothers supplying (or trying to) some minor comedy, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, perhaps the bets musical she made, a Alice Faye/Tyrone Power classic with a great deal of Irving Berlin songs, and Honolulu, a charming Eleanor Powell movie with an idiotic story but good dancing.

Clarice had bigger parts in non musical movies, and if she’s even remembered, it’s for them. We have The Emperor’s Candlesticks, a witty, urbane spy-romance movie with William Powell and Luise Rainer (with that superb pairing, anything goes!), Man-Proof, a champagne comedy with Myrna Loy playing a unhappy in love girl trying to woo the desire of her heart and Franchot Tone trying to stop it (and wooing Myrna, of course), the absolute classic The Women, and Fast and Furious, which, despite it’s intense name, is actually a light murder mystery, with Ann Southern and Franchot Tone’s zany marriage being the core value against a meh plot and a lot of pretty young women in bathing suits (Clarice among them).

Clarice’s last movie deserves a special mention. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a cult classic, as are most Flash Gordon movies. Whatever one may think of Universal series, this one is of a pretty good quality. Buster Crabbe was made to play the heroic Flash Gordon and Charles Middleton makes an incredible Ming. However, it is the action sequences that are the true highlight here. Watch it! Clarice had a small part as Queen Grend,a but at least she’s visible!

That was it from Clarice!

PRIVATE LIFE

Clarice was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and had glorious hair famous around Hollywood. It was pale natural blond, waved slightly and went all the way to her waist. Here is a funny story about Clarice’s adventures in Hollywood:

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken,” gasped Clarice Sherry, when shooting stopped for a moment on “The Great Ziegfeld’ set the other day “But I’m distinctly wakening.” h added. The i costume she bad on weighed only 102 pounds. It’s for a very elaborate promenade and posing number. It is called “Northern Light” and Is made of 2,000 yards of pleated tulle and 700 large pear-shaped crystals. The former Hawkeye-Mason City girl has to wear special shoulder pads with it

Her private life was very stable. Clarice married Sidney D. Lund, technical executive at Universal studios, in a secret elopement to Reno in 1935. The couple hurried back to Hollywood the next day, so that Clarice could obtain a screen role in a new picture in which she appeared with Melvyn Douglas, Virginia Bruce and Warren William. Afterwards the Lunds establish residence in Los Angeles.

Sidney Lund was born on January 10, 1905, in Los Angeles, California, to Burton Lund and Abby Holt. His parents divorced and both remarried, and he had a maternal half sister and half brother, Mary and Conrad Klemm. He was trained as an electrician and became a movie technician for Universal Studios. He was married once before , to dancer Sada E. Hindman, on May 3, 1930 in Los Angeles. They had no children and enjoyed a very tempestuous marriage with at least one major scandal – in January 1931, Sada accused actress Dorothy Janis with stealing her husband’s love while the pair were making a picture in the South Seas. After much drama, Sada dropped a $25,000 alienation of affection suit. Dorothy and Sidney did not end up together, as she married Wayne King in 1932, so I guess Sada and Sidney made up. After more ups and downs, Sada finally divorced Sidney in 1933, charging desertion, nonsupport and cruelty.

Unlike his first, Sidney’s second marriage worked like a charm. Clarice retired from movie work, and dedicated herself to family life. The couple had a son, Gary Robert, born on October 18, 1940 in Los Angeles. Sidney continued working in the motion industry.

The Lunds enjoyed a happy union, lived in a two stories high residence in North Hollywood, had many good friends and were able to travel widely and saw a great deal of the world. Clarice also painted many beautiful pictures and portraits, and loved Oriental art and gardening.

Clarice Sherry Lond died at the ripe old age of 98 of an aneurysm on October 4, 2012 in Los Angeles. She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

Agnes Craney

Agnes Craney was one of the girls who landed in Hollywood not thanks to her extensive dancing skills, nor her modelling career, nor indeed any acting prowess – she won her entry into Tinsel town via a publicity stunt! As you can imagine, that’s one of the worst ways you can gain entry into movie,s since you have no bankable skills and being pretty just ain’t gonna cut it in the town where hundreds of pretty girls arrive every day. As you can guess, Agnes made only two movies, married and retired to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her! (sorry for not having a close up of Agnes, she is in the photo somewhere!)

EARLY LIFE

Agnes Jane Craney was born in 1917 to George Thomas Craney and Pearl Winifred Morss in Madison, South Dakota. She was the third of four children: her older siblings were a brother, Morris Charles, born in 1911, and a sister Leone, born in 1915. Her younger sister was Rita, born in 1922. Her father worked as a real estate salesman. The family moved to Long Beach in the mid 1920s for her father’s work.

Agnes grew up like any normal, middle class girl in Long Beach,  and attended the Long Beach high school. What set Agnes apart from her peers was her obvious beauty and her star-stuck dream of becoming an Hollywood actress. And something massive happened when Agnes was just 17 years old and a junior in high school. She applied for a “Search for beauty” contest that was promoted all over the US. It was an instant gateway to Hollywood for a few lucky ones who won the coveted title of Beauty.

Agnes and Jack Jenkins, 205-pound Beverly Hills High School star tackle defeated some 100,000 rivals In the contest a “Search for Beauty.”, and they were awarded contracts with the Paramount film company as a result of the proceedings. It was noted that Agnes’ measurements most nearly correspond to the average of the fifteen most beautiful girls. She Is more slender, more graceful and more compact than the ancient Grecian goddess of love, Aphrodite, just as Jack was bigger than Apollo. How did they know the measurements of Aphrodite and Apollo is left open for debate, but it’s a publicity ploy much like any other from that time.

It appeared that Agnes was slated for big things in Hollywood, and her career started!

CAREER

Agnes appeared in only two movies in her career. The first one was 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)! Agnes played one of the beauty winners of course.

8 Girls in a Boat is a more interesting fare. While not a masterpiece by any stretch of imagination, it’s a solid movie dealing with a topic Hollywood made taboo after the production code was kicked in high gear – unwanted underage pregnancy. Dorothy Wilson is a student at an exclusive girl’s school, and a member of the shell racing crew (hence the 8 girls in a boat). She gets pregnant by chemistry student Douglass Montgomery, but he doesn’t have no money to marry her. The movie deals with the aftermath of this situation, and featured Kay Johnson as a sadistic, brutal rowing teacher, a acting highlight of the movie. Dorothy Wilson, a much underrated actress, is very good in the leading role, but sadly Agnes played one of the school girls and is very blink and you’ll miss her.

And that was it from Agnes!

PRIVATE LIFE

Agnes gave a beauty hint to the papers:

I find exercise one of the most important factors in keeping the figure beautiful and the body fit. Swimming is my favorite exercise. But, in swimming, es in ether forms of sports care must be taken not to over-do. Too much swimming may over-develop the muscles.

Let’s reflect on the way Agnes got into Hollywood. While the Search for Beauty did give us one wonderful actress (Ann Sheridan), the bigger question is were these kind of pageants harmful for people int he long run? It seems to me they were. They gave false hopes to a plethora of young, inexperienced people, who had little to recommend themselves, that they can make it. And they can, but everything is stacked against them. While I am sorry to be perhaps a bit harsh, but the majority of girls who came to Hollywood because they looked good did not have an ounce of acting talent, and often did not work even one iota to posiblys remedy this disadvantage. They would last for a few months at most, then had to find other jobs, go back home, maybe be ostracized and generally suffer a period of depression since their dreams didn’t’ come true. Of course, it’s impossible to generalize, but this happened to more than 90% hopefuls who came to Hollywood in the 1930s, and most girls on this blog shared such a fate. We can have nothing but respect for any girl who has enough grit and guts to leave home and try to be something but a housewife, plunging head on to Tinsel town and hoping for the best was like trying to win a lottery. A few lucky ones would make it, most of them would not. Point is, it was much better to be a trained actor with some experience if you wanted to make it. Even if Hollywood rejected you, you could always do theater, summer stock and so on. Looking good usually isn’t enough, even for such a shallow town like Hollywood was (and still is).

Back to Agnes. Agnes married Wiliam Norton Hilliard on July 14, 1936, in Los Angeles. Hilliard was born on June 6, 1912, to Salvester Elven Hilliard and Emily Crave Norton in Colorado, the second of four children (his siblings were Charles, born in October 17, 1908, Eleanore, born on August 18, 1918, and Richard Francis, born on June 2, 1921). his father was a building contractor, and the family lived in Iowa for a time, before moving to California, where Hilliard started to work.

Hilliard was a store minder for oil supply machinery. The couple had three sons: William Norton, born on May 39, 1938, Gerald Thomas, born on January 4, 1940, and Michael John, born on May 25, 1948. After living for years in California, they moved for Hilliard’s work to Texas, where they stayed after William retired.

Agnes Craney Hilliard died on November 19, 1989, in Montgomery County, Texas.
Willian Norton Hilliard died on November 15, 2007 in Conroe, Texas.

Mary Jo Mathews

Mary Jo Mathews did not go down the usual starlet route. A fine Southern miss, she was a college graduate who first seeked her fame in the theater, and only by chance ended up in Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood, did not work out for her, but she married a successful agent and led a happy family life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Josephine Mathews was born on April 11, 1909, in Mannington, West Virginia, to Harry J.  and Blanche Mathews. Her older brother, Marshall, was born in 1904. Her father owned a drug store. The family was well of, lived in Mannington and employed at least one maid. Mary grew up like any other upper middle class Southern girl, and it was clear from her teen years that she was a stunning beauty with a strong penchant for dramatics.

After graduating from Mannington high school, Mary enrolled into the West Virginia university at Morgantown. Mary, a lush brunette with a soft Southern accent, was a hit with the lads, and in 1927, when she was a sophomore, she was voted the most beautiful girl student on the campus.

Next year, she was chosen by the students as “Miss’ “West Virginia University, and not long after, was named by Governor Conley as West Virginia’s representative at the annual rhododendron festival at Asheville, and later  attended the Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival in Winchester in the spring of 1929 as “Queen Shenandoah VI” . It seems that Mary really did do extensive social rounds and was very successful in those stakes. Back then, Mary Jo planned to become a school-teacher and received an AB. degree from the University of West Virginia. Then She won the Winchester Ky.) Apple Blossom Festival prize for beauty in 1929, after which she went to New York, married an actor and decided to become an actress herself, and there was no turning back!

Mary Jo became a member of the cast of “The Band Wagon,” Broadway’s revue success, and starred the head of a road company which was presenting one of the George White’s Musical company. Then she was a member of the cast of “Let ‘Em Eat Cake“. In the interim, Mary worked as an understudy. In a later interview she claimed that to became an understudy one had to be at least three times as talented as the leading lady to get the job.  At one point, Mary was understudying three roles – for Adele Astaire, the dancer; Roberta Robinson, a singer, and Helen Carrington, comedienne. Naturally, Hollywood noticed her, and she was signed to a contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Mary Jo made her debut in Twentieth Century, one of the funniest comedies of the 1930s, with the unbeatable combo of John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. No comment needed, just watch the movie and laugh! Barrymore is such a large ham you can’t help loving him, and Lombard is a pixie charmer to boot!

Mary Jo played a small role in Society Doctor, here is a review from Imdb: Morris plays a hotshot young Dr. Morgan in a metropolitan hospital, and Taylor is Dr. Ellis, his friend, who is a little less ambitious. Instead of being laser-focused, he wants to enjoy life, too. Both of them are interested in the nurse Madge (Virginia Bruce). She’s in love with Morgan but he’s too dedicated to get involved with anything but medicine. Ellis, however, makes a big play for her. When Morgan gets in trouble with the head of the hospital, he contemplates becoming a society doctor, and a patient (Billie Burke) offers to set him up in practice.

The movie is actually interesting as we have on unlikable main character, played by Morris as a hotheaded, stubbornly foolish all-too-focused doctor, and a young and stisl not quite polished Robert Taylor as his friend/rival. Virginia Bruce is as lovely as always, too bad she never became more than a B class star. Mary Jo’s next movie was the completely forgotten One New York Night.

Mary than appeared in tow movies that are well known and regarded today. The first one was Reckless, a William Powell/Jean Harlow drama, based on the infamous Libby Holman/Zachary Reynolds case. The movie starts of as a sparking comedy, a genre which Harlow excelled in – she’s tops, and Powell and May Robson, as her support, are in a high class too. However, the movie turns into a over the top melodrama in it’s second half, and this jarring change of pace somehow kills the overall effect, although it’s watchable and not at all that bad. Franchot Tone is impeccably elegant as a wastrel playboy who lusts after Harlow, and Rosalind Russell has a small role (which is always a plus, when Roz appears in a movie). Mary Jo plays a chorine.

The second movie was Mad Love, based on a book, with an implausible plot (taken from an imdb review): Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a brilliant surgeon who is obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Francis Drake). She tells him she is leaving the stage to be a full time wife to her husband Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), a concert pianist. Gogol is crushed. Stephen Orlac loses his hands in a train wreck. At the request of Yvonne, Orlac grafts on a new pair of hands to Stephen. Unfortunately, they happen to be the hands of Rollo, an executed murderer who loved throwing knives. It seems the hands have a life of their own–Stephen can’t play the piano anymore but can throw knives accurately and he has a desire to kill. He slowly starts to go crazy. Gogol again tells Yvonne that he loves her. She rejects him and Gogol cracks. He sets out to drive Stephen mad–and drive Yvonne into his arms.

But, as the reviewer wrote, the plot is completely secondary to the sheer brilliance of Peter Lorre, absolutely killing it as the man doctor. Whenever he’s on the screen it’s impossible to even look at somebody else, such is his magnetism! The movie also gives a good role to Colin Clive, a tragically underrated actor whose career never gave him the chance to truly shine. Frances Drake is nice enough as the doctor’s object of desires. The movie is very good at conjuring a non-bloody horror feeling, and stands very well today. Sadly, Mary Jo was literary just an extra and the role made on impact on her career. She only made one more short movie before retiring.

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was musically inclined and knew how to play the piano and the organ. As a special peculiarity, she also broke mirrors for good luck.

Mary married her first husband, Charles Coleman, in Marion county in 1929. Charles Bradford Coleman was born on August 14, 1905 in Pratt, West Virginia to Charles Bradford Coleman and Margaret Caldwell Frazer, one of three children. Mary and Charles tried their luck together in New York, lived for a time in Chicago (guess for work related reasons) in 1930, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in 1933. Coleman went to Hollywood and acted under the name of John Bradford. He had credited roles in movies like 365 Nights in Hollywood and Life Begins at 40, but gave up movies in 1937. He died on June 29, 1993 in  Charleston, West Virginia.

When she came to Hollywood, Mary Jo had a pet dachshunds and often hung out on the beach at the Del Mar Club, Santa Monica. While in Tinsel town, Mary was tutored by dramatic coach Earl Hinsdell to become a star. Here is a short description of the process:

Mary Jo Matthews is one of the “students” who. in Hinsdell’s opinion, will reach stardom in three sears. of years no difference, as a real star will stano out in any picture. “I regard the preserving of individuality as most important in my work of coaching is to be willing to train potential stars for that length of time longer if necessary. This trio is comprised of Agnes Anderson, Mary Jo Matthew and Margaret Ehrlich. Hinsdell has his own method of training, which may be at variance with the ideas of other coaches but it has proved rather successful so far. Myrna Loy. Jean Parker and Robert Young all are graduates of his school. When Myrna Loy went to him about a year and a half ago she was practically through in pictures. For years she had been cast in exotic siren role. He detected a flair for light comedy, developed that quality and launched her on a new career which already has carried her far beyond any goal she had been able to attain before. First of all. this instructor refuses to put his students through a routine training which stamps them all alike. For the most part he trains them individually. However, he frequently brings them together in groups to give them the fundamentals of timing, shading and the ability to fit their voices to those of their co-workers. He also insists that all of his students take singing lesson, the theory here being that the singing and speaking voice really is the same and the development of one helps the other. “Then there are long periods of reading aloud to develop round tones. “It sounds strange, but I am quite insistent that my students go to art galleries and study the works of the old masters,” declares Hinsdell. “I also advice them to acquire a knowledge of the history that is behind most of these great works. “Such a procedure seems remote to most of the students, just as it does to outsiders. but such a study can have a very definite effect upon acting. To be a good writer. artist, sculptor or actor one must have both a knowledge and understanding of beauty. And there is no place this can be found better than in an art gallery. “I do not think a person can express that which he has not felt, or at least understood. All art is expression. Thus one helps another.” HINSDELL believes in allowing those he trains to think for themselves. He shows them the right and the wrong then lets them work out the rest. He feels that he has failed as a coach if one of his graduates is not ready to go with any director. His students must learn more than just to do things his way. They must learn to act. To further their experience, he stages frequent shows at a local theater. This gives the youngsters an actual stage training that is of infinite value. They learn how to appear at ease before an audience, get a taste of real audience reaction, and gain a confidence which can be acquired in no other manner. Besides, it gives studio executives and directors an opportunity to see the potential talent which is at their disposal. Hence these student are certain to be given a chance to display the results of their training in front of the movie cameras. As for the average movie-struck girl or lad who has visions of being a star of 1940 or some later date, Hinsdell’s advice i “forget all about pictures.” “Most of these hopefuls have no talent.” he explains. “They’re just mesmerized by that state of mind called Hollywood and they’re due for disappointment if they hold on to the idea. “Of course, to those among them who do have talent and something to give, my advice would be no barrier. If that alone would stop them, they wouldn’t be worth anything anyway. “Those who are really serious about acting should become affiliated with a Little Theater group. More and more, producers of both the stage and screen are realizing that their greatest source of talent is the Little Theater. With such a training behind them, young men and women are already thinking and acting more or less like troupers when they enter professional work.”

Interesting, but sadly neither of the girls mentioned achieved any real success, although I do think that his method is very good.

In 1935, Mary eloped from Hollywood to Yuma, Arizona., with Arthur William Rush, studio executive. Arthur was born on April 2, 1907, to, in Graysville, Pennsylvania, to, one of six children. His siblings were brothers Malcolm, Clarence and Charles and his sisters were Elizabeth, and Helen. The family left Greene County when his father was transferred to Ohio by Columbia Gas. William lived for a time in Hanoverton, Ohio, before moving to California in 1931. William was a graduate of Bethany College, and quickly became West Coast manager for RCA Victor.

In the fledgling Los Angeles recording industry in the 1930s, Rush produced radio shows and recordings by Glenn Miller, Dinah Shore, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubenstein and others. In 1937, Rush left RCA and became an agent for Columbia Management of California, a CBS subsidiary, where he managed the careers of Mary Martin, Vladimir Horowitz, Orson Wells and others. He formed his own talent agency in 1939, Art Rush Inc., from which he managed Nelson Eddy for 22 years, in addition to  Jackie Gleason. He also discovered and launched the career of tenor Mario Lanza.

The couple enjoyed a happy, harmonious marriage, lived in Los Angeles and had two children, two sons, William Arthur Rush, born on August 25, 1936, and Robert Nelson Rush, born on January 14, 1943.

The Rushes were especially close to his clients Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact, Arthur and Mary served as best man and matron of honor  when Roy and Dale were married. Rush became Roy ’s agent after they met in a Hollywood restaurant in 1941. Their collaboration was sealed with a handshake and the two men never signed a formal contract. As a sign of devotion, Rogers’ best-selling book, Happy Trails, was dedicated to Rush and contained a glowing message of thanks for helping Rogers become a legendary Hollywood star.

In his later career, Managing  the Sons of the Pioneers, Rogers’ musical group, became the focus of Rush’s work. He was the mastermind behind the marketing of more than 400 products and establish more than 500 Roy Rogers Restaurants, in association with Marriott Corp. Rush called his 48-year collaboration with Rogers and Evans “the richest experience anybody could hope for in the entertainment world.” Roy’s son said of him “He wasn’t just an agent. We called him ‘Mother Rush’ because he took care of dad and the Pioneers.

Mary Josephine Rush died on September 30, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Arthur William Rush died of complications from a Thanksgiving auto accident on December 2, 1989.

Prudence Sutton

Prudence Sutton was one of many nice looking small town girls that crashed Hollywood hoping for at least a glimpse of fame. Unlike man others, she was noticed and given a starring role in a not inconsiderable feature. When the movie failed, she lasted for a few more years in Tinsel Town with no great success, and in the end traded it all for a stable family life. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Prudence Lovicia Sutton was born on April 24, 1907, in Sayre, Oklahoma, to Walter and Hattie Sutton. She had an older sister, Allie, born in 1904, and tow younger brothers, William Walter, born in 1909 and Tyson, born in 1911. Her father was a minister, her mother a housewife. The family lived in Beckham, Oklahoma in the 1910s.

Prudence attended Sayre high school and had a normal upbringing in a loving, tightly knit family. However, Prudence’s carefree teen years were abruptly cut short when her father was shot and slain by a cattle rustler not long after she graduated from high school in 1925. Her mother, a very resourceful woman, took the children and moved to Southern California. There Prudence got into movies in 1927. How exactly? Well, a bathing suit contest!

Prudence entered a Bathing’ Beauties most beautiful contestant. While she did not win, she and six other girls, Margaret Andrews, Evelyn Hunt, Caroline Burt, Josephine Hoffman, Harriet Mathews and Lorena Rhodes won cash, prizes, and, ultimately, a studio contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Prudence made only two movies in her short career: Pitfalls of Passion, a silent movie from 1927, and Paramount on Parade, a sound feature from 1930. I usually don’t write much about silent movies since I am not well versed in them, but since Pru made only two, let’s concentrate a bit on them. Her first movie, Pitfalls of Passion, was supposed to be her jump of to fame, as it was her very first role and a leading role at that! Pru plays a demure and slightly bewildered country girl who runs off to the city with her lover. Then as the unfortunate victim of circumstances who is sold into moral bondage, and finally as the woman of the streets—beaten and forlorn.  The papers heralded Pru as a natural talent, noting that Miss Sutton gives a sterling performance that is startling because of its realism. It was quite an expensive movie to make – at one point, there were 800 people appearing in mob scenes. The movie is completely forgotten today, sadly.

Prudence’s second feature was Paramount on Parade, a pastiche of various stars singing and dancing. Forget about the story, about characters or anythign remotely deep – this is fun, pure and simple! As one reviewer from IMDB nicely sums it up:

When “Paramount on Parade” was filmed – Paramount had more musical stars than any other studio. The other studio revues (MGM’s “Hollywood Revue of 1929” and Warner’s “Show of Shows”) may have been more flashy but most of the stars were not singers or dancers and people went for the novelty of seeing their favourites trying to sing or dance.

There is little reason to see the movie today, unless one is a old musical buff, but there are worse movies one can watch!

That was it from Prudence!

PRIVATE LIFE

Prudence had a very stable and peaceful love life – she married young businessman Joseph Bonadiman on April 11, 1931, in Los Angeles. Joseph E. Bonadiman was born on March 21, 1903, in California, to Carlo Bonadiman and Domenica Passarini, one of four children (he had a brother, Charles and two sisters, one of them Mary). His parents were both immigrants from northern Italy (which was under Austria-Hungary at that time). Prudence gave up her career in 1931 to marry and devote herself to family life.

The Bonadimans had a solid middle class family life. Their first son was born on Joseph Carlosutton was born on August 24, 1932 in Los Angeles, and their second son, William Walter, on June 21, 1935, also in Los Angeles. Joseph became a director of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and head of the civil engineering firm of Joseph E. Bonadiman & Associates, which was founded in 1942. His obituary nicely sums up his life’s work:

Engineer Joseph E. Bonadiman, who pioneered hillside developments from Hollywood Hills to San Bernardino, died of heart Tailure Monday at Redlands Community Hospital, his relatives said Tuesday. He was 86. “He was the first engineer to do hillside developments of any size in Los Angeles County,” recalled his elder son, Joseph C. Bonadiman. Chavez Ravine now home to the Los Angeles Dodgers was among the early projects. In San Bernardino’s steep foothills, he engineered developments near David Way and later throughout the Verdemont area. Although he had become less active during the last five years, he never fully retired. His last  day at work was Friday. The son of immigrant Austrians, Bonadiman came to California as a boy. He lived briefly on a 160-acre apple ranch in Apple Valley, where he arrived by wagon through Cajon Pass. He earned his engineering degree at UCLA where he once sold a used tuxedo to classmate John Wayne. “My dad needed some money and Duke Morrison John Wayne needed a tuxedo, so they traded,” his son said. Working as an engineer in a largely undeveloped state, Bonadiman found himself helping to build bridges, dams, subdivisions and a few airfields. “He designed Ontario International . . . Hawthorne . . . and a couple I don’t remember,” said his son.

In 1960 the family moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino where the engineering firm had already developed extensive
business connections. The Bonadimans nicely blended with the locals, and soon became a well known town staple couple, and Prudence was very active in the local catholic church and various charities.

In early 1966, Prudence had been taken ill. She had been hospitalized for more than a week and was apparently holding her own when an embolism, or blood clot, in the lung resulted in death on January 10, 1966. She was buried in San Bernardino.

Joseph Bonadiman died on January 29, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

Mildred Rehn

Mildred Rehn was a cute chorus girl who danced in Busby Berkeley musicals before getting married, taking a hiatus, then trying, briefly, for a second career some ten years later. She fared only a bit better, did some writing and ultimately retired form the screen.

EARLY LIFE

Mildred Anna Elsie Rehn was born on July 24, 1913, in Vancouver, Canada to Mr,. and Mrs. Rehn, nee Auerbach, both Austrian immigrants. Little is known about her childhood, except that she immigrated to Washington with her parents in the 1920s. Ultimately the family settled in Michigan, where Mildred attended school. After graduation, she started dancing professionally as a chorus girl. 

At only 20, Mildred dancing her way around the world and had already visited London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest and Italy and different cities the US. After dancing engagements, she was studying dramatics and art and developed a desire to become a tragedienne. “I’m still studying and hoping for a chance to prove my ability,” she would later say to the papers.

She wanted to see the Hollywood and managed to secure a job as one of Busby Berkeley’s dancing girls In “Gold Diggers of 1938” at Warner Brothers so she could stay awhile and this is how her career started!

CAREER

Mildred Rehn, under her birth name, made only one movie – Broadway Melody of 1938, a typical Busby Berkeley musical extravaganza, with a whole lot of pretty girls, a major lack of decent clothing, with a transparent story and even some horse racing elements. Allegedly Mildred appeared in a string of Berkeley production, but she is not listed as such on the IMDB, so anything goes.

Mildred had a second career as Helga Storme – her credits were the Gus and Dick comedy duo short, Hot Water, and the Ingrid Bergman/Charles Boyer Arch of Triumph, a movie Illegal refugees lead dark lives in pre-World War II Paris. It’s a dark, moody, heavy movie, with brilliant chiaroscuro cinematography and incredible closeups of the always luminous Bergman, but certainly not for everyone and it’s not an easy movie to follow. There is a deliberate lack of a clear narrative outline, and everything just flows, literary like darkness, around the screen. Interesting movie, and a one worth seeing for sure!

David Ragan’s book Who’s who in Hollywood claims that Mildred, as Helga Storme, wrote at least one film – the french movie Francesca. I could not find any more credits nor could I find the movie in question, but it is possible that Millie took the writing mantle and achieved a minor success in it.

And that’s it from Mildred!

PRIVATE LIFE

Due to her parents being Austrian, Mildred was often called a Viennese actress, although I could not quite confirm that they were indeed from Vienna and not some other Austrian city. It seems that she never lived in the city and only visited in a few times, so calling her a Viennese actress is a bit of a stretch – she is a Canadian actress first and foremost.

While in Hollywood, the camera was good to Mildred and she was called to the front office and offered a contract to be groomed for better things. She flatly turned down the chance which would have been snapped up by thousands of girls. She asserted her travels have only started and that as soon as she pays a visit home she will head for Cairo. Then she’s going to write a book on her experiences. Unfortunately, the book was never published, but let’s hope that Mildred traveled around and saw many, many nice things!

Millie’s one big claim to fame was not the movie, but rather being a top chorus girl. Namely, she was announced by Dave Gould, film dance director, as meeting his standard for the ideal chorus girl of 1937. She was a blonde and 5 feet 6 inches tall. Gould said to the papers that the trend toward period costumes for chorus girls instead of nudeness requires taller girls with more poise and elegance. She was in almost any paper in country you can imagine, and gained a small momentum of fame.

Within two weeks after Mildred was picked as the “perfect chorus girl”, she received more than fifteen marriage proposals! I always have to chuckle at this – how much of a crush do you have to have on somebody to ask him to marry you based solely on a photo? Funny!

Here is a another article about Mildred from that period:

Mildred Rehn is a wise woman who as a model, cosmetician, showgirl, dancer and actress has been pretty much all over the world, has had a lot of rich experiences and wants some day to write about them. “Life is not so hard,” she says. “Of course I am tired when I leave the studio, but I am too tired and nervous to sleep. So it is just as well that I go to dinner with some Hollywood man who will sit and talk about what a great man he is and how he is going to make a million dollars. This talk bores me so much that I get very sleepy, so I go home then and sleep fine.’

As for her love life, Mildred was quite low key and lucky in this regard. She started dating Stanley Cortez, film studio cameraman and brother of actor Ricardo Cortez. After some months of dating, they were married secretly in Tijuana, Mexico.

For their second marriage ceremony, the happy couple went to Las Vegas for two days, 18 months after getting married in Tijuana. Here is Cortez’s IMDB profile, which more or less says a great deal about his life and career:

Stanley Cortez was born Samuel Krantz in New York City, New York, the son of Sarah (Lefkowitz) and Moses/Morris Krantz, Austrian Jewish immigrants. His famous actor brother, born Jacob Krantz, changed his name to Ricardo Cortez in order to acquire a more suitably romantic Hollywood image. Stanley changed his name accordingly. After studies at New York University he embarked on a photographic career, first as assistant to noted portrait photographers Streichan and Bachrach (he designed many of their lavish background sets), then as camera assistant for Pathé Revue and for various Manhattan-based film companies. Grabbing the chance to join Gloria SwansonProductions, Stanley then spent a lengthy apprenticeship in the 1920s and early 1930s learning the intricacies of his craft from such established Hollywood cinematographers as Lee Garmes and Hal Mohr. After moving from studio to studio, either as a camera assistant or shooting screen tests, he was signed to a seven-year contract by Universal in 1936, albeit consigned to its “B” unit. His first film as full director of photography was Four Days Wonder (1936). During World War II, he was assigned to the Army Pictorial Service of the Signals Corps.

Much of his subsequent career was spent on fairly routine and undistinguished second features and it was not until he started working for charismatic filmmakers like Orson Welles and David O. Selznick that he was able to fully develop some of his experimental techniques. One of his low-budget outings, a gothic old-dark-house horror/comedy entitled The Black Cat (1941), rather impressed the genial Mr. Welles who promptly hired him for The Magnificent Ambersons (1942). This was the first of two Cortez films generally regarded as visual masterpieces, with beautiful lighting effects, clever angles and lingering close-ups. Of particular note are the staircase scene and the famous long shot — via hand-held camera — of the abandoned mansion. Despite critical plaudits, “Ambersons” was a financial disaster for RKO (it cost $1,1 million and lost $624,000 at the box office) and Cortez was partly blamed for costly delays and extravagant scenes, some 40-50 minutes of which were cut by direct orders from studio boss George Schaefer without consulting either Welles or Cortez. The latter ended up being indirectly censured by receiving lesser assignments. What remained of “Ambersons” has become more appreciated as a sublime visual experience with the passing of time.

The second outstanding Cortez contribution was the chillingly dark, haunting thriller The Night of the Hunter (1955)–a brilliant allegory of good versus evil masterminded by Charles Laughton in his sole directorial effort. Cortez’s lighting and use of irises are reminiscent of German expressionist cinema, or, at least, the work of Karl Struss and Charles Rosher on Sunrise (1927). Among many indelible images are the flowing hair of drowned Shelley Winters in the underwater current and the lights flickering across the water in what is an almost surreal nightly landscape.

A third Cortez effort deserving of mention is the superior psychological drama The Three Faces of Eve (1957), his differential lighting for the face of schizophrenic Eve White (Joanne Woodward) effectively contrasting the multiple personalities within her psyche. Sadly, by the end of the decade Cortez’s career went into a decline. It continued that way through the 1960s, the quality of his assignments fluctuating wildly between the occasional “A” picture (The Bridge at Remagen (1969)) and Z-grade turkeys like The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini (1966) and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966).

Mildred gave up her career for a time so she was follow her husband on location and be the support he needed. Here are some snippets about the Cortez’s marriage and life:

Stanley Cortez, a director of photography in Hollywood, said in an interview here Tuesday night that the Canadian climate may have something to do with the success of Canadian screen stars. After sniffing the cold, clear air on leaving his train Mr. Cortez said the atmosphere In Canada ac counted for the fact that such stars as Norma Shearer, Deanna Durbin and Mary Pickford “seem to have so much more pep” than others in Hollywood. The director Is accompanied by, his wife, the former Mildred Rehn of Vancouver.

And the second one, very interesting, about the relationship between cinematographer and actress:

Maybe one reason TV hasn’t spawned any great female stars is because there is no great rapport between a woman and her cameraman. Stanley Cortez, a governor of the prestigious American Society of Cinematographers, says that, in movies, there always was a relationship between the great women stars and their cameramen. Such a relationship does not exist in TV. “That’s probably because TV companies are always trying to complete their shows as quickly as possible,” Cortez says. And, of course, in movies with the big screen, you have to pay close attention to close-ups and to the glamour of the leading lady.” Cortez says that the rapport between movie queens and their cameramen was so close that several pairs even got married. He cites these examples: Jean Harlow married Hal Rosson; Joan Blondell married George Barnes; both Linda Darnell and Lina Basquette married Peverell Marley at one time or another; Merle Oberon married Lucien Ballard; and Cortez himself a Viennese actress, Helga Storme. “The relationship between cinematographer and leading lady,” Cortez says, “is much like that of doctor and patient. She has to rely on him far so many things her whole career may be in the hands of the cameraman. “And a responsible cameraman feels that responsibility very strongly he must make he look best so she comes across on the screen.”

Stanley and Mildred had no children, but enjoyed a happy and fulfilling marriage, a kind of rarity in Tinsel Town. They lived in Hollywood, where Stanley worked until his retirement in the 1980s.

Mildred Cortez died on May 18, 1989, in Hollywood, California.

Stanley Cortez didn’t remarry and died on December 23, 1997.

Laurie Shevlin

Laurie Shevlin was an alluring Scottish lass who ended up in Hollywood as a chorus girl and made only one movie. She tried for movies a second time, but that was another kaput, and her road from there was rocky, but ultimately she managed to carve out a happy life for herself. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Catherine Laurie Shevlin was born on March 15, 1914, in Annathill, Scotland, UK, to Frank and Annie Shevlin, the youngest of six children (Laurie had three brothers, one of them named William, and two sisters, one of them named Anna). Her father, an Irish immigrant, was a manual laborer, and allegedly once ran for Parliament on the Labor platform, although I find this very hard to believe. She spent her childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, but her parents decided to move to the land of opportunity, to the US.

Laurie arrived to the US in 1928 with her family. She was barely out of elementary school, but times were hard and all of the family had to go to work. There could be no more school for Laurie. She worked as a waitress and made more than her brothers. She was serving food in the public dining room of the Presbyterian Hospital, New York, when she won a beauty contest at a local theater. She was then 15. The contest caused her to be given a job in Earl Carroll’s “Murder at the Vanities” as the murdered girl. Wanting to improve her skills, she also started to attend Paramount School of Dramatic Art in New York.

Laurie stayed with the Carroll show two years, going to Hollywood to take part in the screen production, in the chorus. And that is how it started!

CAREER

Laurie appeared in only one movie – Murder at the VanitiesIt’s a fast-moving, fast-talking, sexy movie all the way, the kind you couldn’t make after the Production code was enforced in 1934. The movie’s main highlight are the giggly showgirls and a incredible blend of classical and hot jazz. The story is nothing to sneer at: a Murder investigation goes on back stage while The Vanities, on its opening night, plays on to an unknowing audience, but the movie mix-and-matched crime and musical so it’s an exciting novelty even today, 80 years after it was made. You can also see the infamous “Sweet Marijuana” number in this movie. Gertrude Michael, a underrated actress at any rate, has a meaty role as a bitchy actress and excels in it, making the leading duo of Kitty Carlisle and Carl Brisson somehow boring in comparison. Laurie of course played a chorus girl, just one in the pool of beauties.

And that was it from Laurie!

PRIVATE LIFE

Laurie was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighted about 120 lbs when she came to Hollywood.

Here is a beauty hint from Laurie:

To stimulate the growth of the eyelashes, a little castor oil rubbed on each evening before retiring is effective. Doing it regularly will result in thick, long lashes.

Sadly, Laurie’s stay in Hollywood was not a very happy one. Since she had arrived in Tinsel Town, she has had a narrow escape from pneumonia, has had dental trouble which necessitated a lanced jaw, and has fallen down stairs. On a side note, Laurie wasnt’ interested in getting married back then, like some of her fellow chorus girls. They said this to the papers:

Hollywood blonde; Marion Callahan, yellow head from New York; Dorothy Dawes, brunette from the same Big Town, and Laurie Shevlin, of Scotland, with snapping dark eyes, babble that they have always looked forward to careers, that they don’t know what all the fuss is about marriage, that they “prefer to be alive!”

Well said girls! When you are 20 years old, still learning and trying to find yourself, maybe it’s better to wait for the right time ot get married, despite all the societal pressure.

After she appeared in his one and only movie, Laurie was not recognized then as star material and came back to New York for an engagement with a Carroll troupe at a night club. Then she went into George White’s “Scandals” show. She decided she wanted to be a dramatic actress. She wrote and asked Oscar Berlin, chief talent scout for Paramount, and Cecil Clovelly, the director of the Paramount school, to let her enter. They granted her an interview, but turned her down at first, because of her accent. So she worked on it at home, on buses, in subways, at cocktail parties, making everyone correct her when she sounded like something fresh off the moors. Finally, her persistence and her charm overcame them. They let her in, but it took a great deal of work, every day, hour upon hour, delivering lines, learning to walk, learning to hold up her face so the strong lights of the studio would not make shadows. Before it came time to make her test, they put her through a course in how to dress herself, how to emphasize her good points. They tried to sell her as an rising star on this story – to make her a kind of a Scottish Cinderella whose voice had to be modulated before she could enter movies.

Here is a short article about Laurie’s elocution abilities:

, Tilt Gives Laurie Shevlin the Unique Charm Hero Captured by the Cameras In the Course of Her Test for a Film Contract. Compare This Photo of Her with That (Below) . . . By Dorothy Ducas S HE looked small and helpless sitting under the fierce glare of the studio lights. But when she spoke .her voice was as vibrant with youth and life as the mist-blue eyes under her curling, naturally long, black lashes. “You don’t believe thot? Well you con. It’s trrrue!” Delicately, but as arrestingly as a glimpse of purple heather, an accent lay upon her words. It was no simulated accent, it was real. A Scotch lassie! That was why she wore the tartan like one to the heather born. She continued: “I was born of a Russian mother and a Scotch fatherrrr — on a Dutch ship — on the high seas.” She flashed an impish grin. Laurie Shevlin was taking her ACID TEST It Takes Extraordinary Poise for a Screen Hopeful to’ Bear Up Under the Severe Conditions Surrounding Movie “Tests.” Above Is One of the Few Photos Ever Made During the “Test” of a Future Possible Star, Taken as Laurie Shevlin Was Facing the Cameras for the Picture Which Won Her Her Chance at Stardom, and Made Happy Her Mother (Below), Who Naturally Thinks Laurie Looks Her Best In the Scotch Kilt Costume She Is Wearing at Right.  Another View of the Making of the “Test” Film Which Marked Laurie Shevlin’s Graduation from the Paramount School In New York, Where She Studied for More Than a Year to Win Her Chance at Capturing Film Fame. . . . Showing Laurie Shevlin at the Time She Arrived In This Country with Her Family, an Immigrant Girl from Her Native Scotland. screen, test after months . of. .studying to rid her tremulous voice of the burr of her native land, by playing a scene from Elizabeth Bergener “Escape Me Never.” She was playing it with a Scotch instead of a German accent, for some of the objectionable burr remained; playing it with all the yearning of her young soul in her voice. “Please,” she was saying to herself, “please make them like a Scotch accent as much as a German one!” She . was thinking of the international success of German-born Elizabeth Bergener. Laurie Shevlin’.’, rich “r’s” and narrow “a’s” were all that stood between her and a movie contract when she first came under the eye of a Paramount talent scout. Garbo has’ done rather well with Swedish overtones In her voice; exaggerated British accents are in demand, and the Spanish accent of Lupe Velez and other Latins has never seemingly grated on the ears of photoplay-goers. Yet an executive thought those same movie audiences wouldn’t like a Scotch accent! So Laurie Shevlin, who thought she was done with learning the Three It’s, went to school again. She read whole books aloud to her mother, her brother, her friends, practicing words and watching lip motions in the mirror in her bedroom. She stayed in the Paramount school for “finds” months longer than any of their other “discoveries,” she whose beauty was outstanding, whose ability made it possible for her to cry real tears without coaching. She stayed to “kill” the accent But for all her study she could not eliminate the trace of it. Fortunately, too, for it was that delectable sound which made the West Coast and fame beckon, following her screen test. Overnight that which had been her bug-a-boo became a passport to golden opportunity. “And why not?” asks Laurie, bubbling over with happiness. “Harry Lauder made a pile of money out of his accent.”

This try for a career faltered just as did the first one, and Laurie returned to New York for good, and continued appearing in Earl Carroll’s night clubs. The years went on, and at some point, she gave up her chorus work.

Now, I have no idea how it came to this, but by 1942, Laurie was disillusion with everything in general, and, probably not seeing a viable way out, tried to commit suicide. Yes, she tried to drown herself in Central park. Highly unusual suicide method, that one. Here is an article from that unhappy occurrence:

Laurie Shevlin, 26 years old, a former chorus girl in Earl Carroll’s night club in Hollywood, was In Bellevue after two attempts to take her life. already end her life by jumping into a pool  Central park. Miss Shevlin Jumped heard her scream, leaped in.

Patrolman Robert Pilsen dragged her to shore. When he let her go, however, she jumped back in. Patrolman Louis Schmidt and numerous others pulled her out again and took her to the hospital.

So, she tried to jump two times – something really serious must have happened to her. Perhaps a love affair gone awry, financial problems, something else? But, bottom line, she pulled out of the chasm, survived, and returned stronger. How do we know that? Well, the next we hear, Laurie was in the papers for a happy occasion – a marriage!

She married Warrant Officer Homer Wilfrid Anderson on October 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. Anderson was born on April, 2 1916, in Orange, New York, the son of Homer Wilfird Anderson Sr. and Lena M. Anderson. He became a certified public accountant In civilian life, was inducted into the Army February 11, 1942. He is stationed in Los Angeles, with the Contract Audit Air Forces. He was just out of the Army when they hitched.

I have no idea what happened to Laurie afterwards – how solid was her marriage, where did she live and so on. I just know that Homer Wilfrid Anderson died on February 7, 2003, in Virginia.
As always, I hope she had a good life!

Nora Gale

 

Nora Gale – a chorus girl who crashed Tinsel town with scant experience but luckily got a contract, danced in various movies, never made it to a credited role, returned to the stage and in the end, married and left showbiz. Heard this story before? Anyway, let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Nora Gwendalyn Gale was born on January 20, 1917 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, to Herbert Lancelot Gale and his wife Liza Ashman.  Her father worked as a carpenter, her mother was a housewife.

Herbert and Liza actually met and married in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1906. Her mother was married once before, in 1903, to James Wiliam Fear, who tragically died in November 1905. They had a son, Nora’s older half-brother, Wallace James, born in 1904. The Gales lived in Canada until shortly before Nora was born, and then returned to Bristol. It seems that Wallace remained in Canada, living with relatives.

Tragedy struck the Gale family when James, barely 16 years old and working as a rivet heater for a railway company in Winnipeg, drowned in 1920. The family moved to California, and they became naturalized US citizens in 1932. Nora was a outgoing, talented child who was adept at dancing, and wanted to become an actress. She started to work as a chorus girl while she was in high school, and by the age of 16 was an experienced chorine. Somehow she met dance director LeRoy Prinz, and he put her into the good graces with a studio that signed her in 1935.

CAREER

Nora started her career with Murder at the Vanities, a sensual, bawdy and rowdy murder mystery made before the code was reinforced – and boy, could this movie never be made after 1934. Plenty of skimpily clad girls, songs with dubious drug references lyrics , weapons, a sleek killer, murder in the ceiling and dripping blood.. You get the picture! Nora was of course one of the showgirls. Nora’s second movie, Lottery Lover was in a lower tier – a pleasant but not all too interesting musical.  Nora was back in the sexy pool with Rumba, a George Raft/Carole Lombard pairing. Their first pairing was the ultra slinky Bolero which made ton of money for the studio, so they made a repeat, but this movie, made after the code was enforced, had none of the lusty sensuality and energy of the original, not to mention trading the bittersweet ending for  atypical Hollywood happy one, so it’s a mid tier movie at best, perhaps worth watching for the dancing and for Carole/George fans.

Nora undertook a brief hiatus from Tinsel town, got married and divorced in the UK, and returned to Hollywood in 1938. She made only three small movie appearances in this iteration of her career: The Big Broadcast of 1938 and Sing, You Sinners and Artists and Models Abroad.All three movies are musicals with comedic touches, but are quite different in tone – Artists and Models is a more traditional romance, Big broadcast is a pastiche of various performers doing their stuff and even with some animated segments, while Sing you sinners is a charming family movie about three brothers (played with aplomb by Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor). Then Nora took another hiatus after this.

In 1941, Nora made an appearance in the most well known movie of her filmography – the James Cagney/Rita Hayworth/Olivia de Havilland/Jack Carson classic The Strawberry Blonde, a witty, nostalgic comedy with a great cast and a actually highly realistic story. The plot is simple: Carson as Hugo Barnstead marries Virginia Brush (Hayworth), “stealing” her away from Biff Grimes (Cagney) who later marries Amy Lind (de Havilland), on the rebound. Years later, Biff sees reality of what it would have been if he had married the vapid Virginia (when he’s asked to pull Hugo’s tooth), and hence better appreciates his own wife. This is a golden role for Jimmy Cagney – atypical from his previous gangster movies that made him a household name, here Cagney plays a softer character, albeit still brash and rough around the edges.

Nora’s last movie was The Great American Broadcast, and as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “actually has a fun if unremarkable plot, pretending to be about the history of radio, but really just an excuse to let its stars do what they do best: Alice Faye to sing in her throaty, comforting contralto, John Payne to look handsome (he also warbles a bit, and not badly), Jack Oakie to clown (less annoyingly than usual). Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote many gorgeous ballads;  It moves fast–positively at a gallop, by Fox standards–and though there are anachronisms everywhere, in the costumes and the dialog and the sets, this time you don’t mind. A very entertaining, unpretentious Fox musical.”

That was it from Nora!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nora had a brief one year career in movies before becoming a full time showgirl. She was working in the UK when she and a group of other chorus girls ( Luanna Meredith, Patricia King, Nora Gale, Harriet Haddon and Jeannette Dickson) had toleave England immediately because the Ministry of Labor has refused to extend their labor permits. Nora, who visited her family in Bristol and reconnected to a previous swain, decided to stay and marry him.

So, in 1936, Nora married Alec G. Henstridge back in Bristol. Alas, the marriage was not meant to last, as they were divorced by the time Nora returned to the US in 1938 and started acting in movies again. Here is a article about being a chorine back in those days :

Hollywood had cated, too, because the studios today make dancing a secondary consideration, look first to personality. “Personality and carriage are the two prime attributes we seek,” Prinz explained. “Personality with naturalness, without coyness. A girl may not be pretty, may even be homely, but if she has nice features, can be herself, can walk properly or learn to do it, we can transform her in 30 days so that you won’t recognize her. She might not have been able to get a job in the Five-and-Ten before, but when we get through with her, she’s ready for a place in any smart shop.” To EFFECT these magic changes, the studio teaches the girl: 1 how to walk; 2 how. to talk, and not to talk too much; 3 how to use makeup according to her type; 4 how to dress her hair; 5 how to pick and wear clothes; 6 to study her own personality and how to bring out her best points. Only after the girl has been thus remolded does her ability to dance come into the picture. Even then, dancing is preceded by the teaching of rhythm, which is essential not only to dancing but to proper walking. “In teaching rhythm,” said Prinz, “I have the girl walk to a waltz, then to a fox-trot, finally according to her own idea of how she should do it and pointing towards a natural but graceful interpretation.” As outstanding examples of the new type screen chorine Prinz named Nora Gale and Harriet Haddon. “Nora came to me when she was 16,” he said. “She was just another chorus girl who wore slacks and carried a little grip with a baby doll painted on it. She wanted to break her neck doing acrobatic dancing. Now she is a smart and poised young lady.” Later we met Miss Gale. . She seemed a serious-minded young person with an urge toward getting somewhere in pictures. “I want to be a comedienne,” she confided. “Most of the girls are pretty earnest about their careers, and work hard for advancement.” I fall Mm University. Then she got a summer Job in the studios. One reason Hollywood girls are movie sophisticated than they used to be, she believes, is to be found In the influence upon them exerted . by numbers to Broadway girls who have come to the film studios in the past few years. ‘ “Since I started here I’ve worked both in New York and London,” sha said. “The Broadway girls used to be so much older for their, years than the girls here. At 17 they were like youthful women of 25. You would never catch a New York chorus girl running around in bobby socks, sweaters and slacks and low heels, with a scarf on her head.” Miss Haddon agreed, as did Dorothy Haas, whom we met and immediately listed as our personal selection.

In Hollywood, Nora was mighty serious about Mack Gray, George Raft’s right hand man (also known as Raft’s companion-bodyguard-shadow in the press) and a close friend of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. For unknown reasons the two broke up after about a year together. In 1940, she was beaued by Louis Zamperini, the U.S.C. intercollegiate track star and one-mile champion whose later wartime experiences would later serve as the basis for the Angelina Jolie movie Unbreakable.

Then, there were reports that Nora was secretly married to Ned Stewart. It seems that they were very much close to the altar, but something thwarted them and they gave up. We can assume that Nora was quite bitter over the experience, here is a newspaper snippet written after their crash-and-burn romance:

Not all actresses prefer actors for boy-friends. Nora Gale seems definitely typical. Young and attractive and sufficiently talented to win a part In “Unmarried,” with Buck Jones and Helen Twelvetrees, Miss Gale has this to say about the stated situation: “I’ve been in pictures about a year and a half and I have yet to find a movie actor who didn’t consider himself a pretty competent article indeed. I mean most of them are of the firm opinion they are the real McCoy.” Nora’s preference is for young business men. When she steps out over the holidays, it will be with young business men, the same kind of young men you find in Toledo, O., or South Bend, Ind., just as well as in Hollywood. Nora prefers them to actors. “They know more and talk less.”

Ouch! One wonders what exactly happened to warrant this kind of an outburst. There is usually a very good reason why actresses date more actors, movie people (or in some cases millionaires) than normal business people, but Nora was hurting and perhaps she truly needed a break from Tinsel town? Anyway, next thing we know, Nora gives up Hollywood and becomes a member of the St. Regis ice show.

Unlike many other starlets who said all sorts of stuff to the papers and then did the exact opposite, Nora really did date and in the end marry a businessman. She was wed to George Shannon Baker, a wealthy liquor magnate of Minneapolis, in January 1942 at a 4 p.m. ceremony at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cedric Adams, with the The Rev. Frederick D. Tyner officiating. The couple lived in Minneapolis after the nuptials, and Nora retired from the movies for good.

Unfortunately, the Bakers were divorced in 1951. I have no idea what exactly did Nora do after the divorce, did she stay in Minneapolis or move back to Los Angeles?

Roughly 20 years after they were almost married in Los Angeles, Nora married Ned G. Stewart on November 2, 1961. The couple moved to Hawaii to enjoy their mature years.

Norah Gale Stewart died on July 21, 1996 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Mozelle Britton

The story of Mozelle Britton is a strange one, as she truly was a polarizing personality. A dedicated actress and later a successful business woman, she was inspiring in some facets of her life. However, she was also a difficult personality who caused herself much heartbreak. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mozelle Britton was born on May 12, 1912, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Adolph Valentine Britton and Ida Bell Walker. Her father was a real estate salesman. She was the fifth daughter and youngest child – her older sisters were Vivian, born on January 22, 1896,  Alice, born in November 14, 1897, Maude, born on December 12, 1901, and Ruth, born in July 1907. Little is known about Mozelle’s early life – the family lived in Oklahoma city until 1922,  when they moved to small town of Fletcher, Oklahoma. Mozelle attended elementary school there. The family moved back to Oklahoma city by 1930. Sadly, her sister Ruth died on October 11, 1918.

After graduating from high school in 1930, Mozelle decided to become an actress and moved to California. In Los Angeles, Mozelle worked as a secretary at the Columbia studio casting office, before nabbing a movie contract, and there she went!

CAREER

Mozelle appeared in only 4 movies, and was a casting director for a few more. She made her debut in 1930’s Paramount on Parade, which is basically a musical revue with tons of stars and music. Interested? Eh, no. No story, no character development, no real art – just singing and dancing. While it’s a somehow funny movie, I’ll say it: just no.

Her next movie was made in 1934, and named The Fighting Ranger. Guess what it is? Yep, you’re right, it’s a low-budget western! Is there anything more tacky when a low-budget westerns i named like a low-budget western? Didn’t think so too! Anyway, Mozelle isn’t even the leading lady (that dubious honor went to Dorothy Revier), gasp!), but she was billed and does play a credited role, so  this is a big uppity for Mozelle. Unfortunately, that was it from Mozelle in 1934, and she only had her next role in 1936, in Rainbow on the River. This is actually an adorable Bobby Breen movie, and if you like Shirley Temple, you’ll like this. Cuteness galore!

Mozelle’s last movie was Night Waitress, a mediocre drama with Margot Grahame as a girl on probation who is trying to get her life together working in a waterfront dive run. Supports are played by Gordon Jones and Vinton Hayworth. And that was it from Mozelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mozelle was married just before graduation from high school. The groom was Edgar Farrington, the date was March 24, 1930, the place was Guilford, North Carolina. I have no idea how did she get there, but there it is. Edgar was born on September 28, 1909, in North Carolina to William and Mary Farrington.

The couple separated soon after the wedding, and by 1932 Mozelle was a free woman, ready to pursue her Hollywood dreams. Farrington remarried and died in 1974.

Mozelle married her second husband, Alan Dinehart, on June 28, 1933. They met during a making of a movie. As both were practical jokers, they played a joke on their friends – while they were waiting in the living room of the house, the couple got married in another room. Funny “har har”, especially since you came to a wedding, not a circus, but there goes!

Dinehart was already established in Hollywood by 1933 and the marriage raised Mozelle’s status in the film colony immensely. Now something about the new groom. Dinehart was born on October 3, 1889, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in Minnesota and aspired to be a priest. However, the call of the theater was too strong and he became an actor instead. He started acting at his alma mater, Missoula University in Montana. He left university to appear on stage with a repertory company. All in all he appeared in more than twenty Broadway plays. Wanting to branch out into other forms of entertainment, Alan went into the vaudeville circuit before signing a contract with Fox in May 1931. He became a solid character actor and worked non stop from the moment he was signed. Married once before, to Louise Dyer, whom he divorced in 1932, he was a father of a son, Frederick. Sadly, Louise died in 1934, just two years after their divorce was made final.

The Britton-Dinehart wedding was not without some drama, however. Right after he wed Mozelle, there was some legal trouble brewing for Alan:

A settlement out of court has ended the $250,000 “heart balm” suit filed against Alan Dinehart, Hollywood screen actor, by Betty Kaege, former Follies dancer. A dismissal of the suit was on file in Superior Court today. Henry Haves, attorney for Miss Kaege, said the settlement was reached In Chicago between Miss Kaege’s attorneys there nnd Los Angeles attorneys for Dinehart. Haves said details of the settlement were not revealed to him In his Instructions from Chicago counsel to file the dismissal. Miss Kaege filed the suit August 31, after Dinehart had married Mozelle Britton, screen actress, June 28. She charged Dinehart had promised to marry her after a divorce from his former wife was obtained.

While Alan acted like an inconsiderate creep in this particular case, suing somebody for marrying somebody else seems like a stretch – it’s not like you can make them marry you regardless of what he wants. However, this just goes to prove how hard it was for women back then, as it was a serious social injury to their overall character when somebody courted then and then, gasp!, married somebody else. Guess some women really had little choice in he matter. Anyway, the suit was settled in the end.

It seems that Alan and Mozelle were truly two well matched individuals who enjoyed each other’s company immensely. She put her career on holds to be able to help him with his career, and they wanted to appear together in more theater plays and less movies. There is a funny story about their salad days:

Moving into their new Beverly Hills home, Alan Dinehart and his wife, Mozelle Britton, numbered among their first callers a small monkey. Efforts to find the owner failing, they bought an elaborate cage and installed the Simian, only have the ape’s boss show up a couple of days later and walk off with the pet. Now they either are the market for another monkey

On April 30, 1936, Mozelle gave birth to the couple’s only child, a son named Mason Alan. Both parents enjoyed their new role with much gusto. Everything was fine and dandy until April 1939 auto crash in which Mozelle went head and shoulders through a windshield and also broke her ankle. Her husband, who was driving, fared better. Alan probably owed his life to the fact that he was wearing a heavy overcoat at the time of the crash. The steering wheel broke off but the coat protected Dinehart from being impaled.

Mozelle was being treated by a premier plastic surgeon who believed that she would recover without permanent scars. Doctors took 127 stitches on her face and predicted six weeks more recovering from her crash injuries.

Mozelle and Alan filed suit for $150,000 damages against George B. Higgs of Burbank, driver of the other machine. Mozelle was soon discharged from the hospital, with a tendency to return if there was any impediments in her recovery. After a brief period of convalescence, it was decided that she didn’t have to return to the hospital after all, with the prognosis that she would be all right and on crutches for another month and a half. As soon as she got the green light to do so, Mozelle left for Oklahoma City with their 3-year-old son, Mason Alan. In Oklahoma she was taken care by her mother, which she obviously needed after a particularly stressful period of her life.

Mozelle continued to recuperate, but had to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary on crutches with Alan playing new records for the party touch. As time went by, it was clear that Mozelle would have no scars from her auto accident and her ankle healed satisfactory. Time to go back home!

After Mozelle returned to Los Angeles, she wanted to make up for all the lost time, and pushed herself too much. She ended up in the hospital again, and doctors had ordered her to cancel all social engagements and have a complete rest for three months. This was fine by her – she had other venues on her mind. Namely, her husband had  acquired the right for a stage play called “Thanks for my Wife”, later called Separate rooms. As soon as Mozelle was well enough, they went on tour with the play. Here is a short article about the play:

A Film Players to Appear in New Play Here Alan Dinehart, Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot and Mozelle Britton, who have been shadow boxing in the movies for years, return to the stage in a new comedy, “Thanks for My Wife,” to play Jan. 25, 26 and 27, with matinée Jan. 27, at the Lyceum theater here. The play is on tour from the west coast, where it received unanimous enthusiasm from dramatic critics, to New York, and is one of the few ever to be presented here before the New York opening. ‘ It was written by Joseph Carole and Dinehart, formerly a player in St. Paul. . . It tells the story of a young playwright annexed by a show-worn siren. Dinehart, a misogynist columnist, completes the penthouse triangle, while Talbot is the playwright and Miss Farrell the daffy stage and screen star. Mozelle Britton plays Dinehart’s “Girl Friday.” Both Dinehart and Miss Farrell play the type of comedy roles in which they were successful before the movies snatched them from the stage. A cast of well-known stage and screen character names upholds the support.

Mozelle toured with the play for a good chunk of 1940, but then her old maladies returned and she had to leave the play and enter a sanitarium Loomis, N. Y.. Well, what was exactly wrong with Mozelle? Actually, I have no idea. She only had physical injuries that had healed in time, so I really don’t understand why she had to enter the sanatorium. It’s not like she suffered from tuberculosis or suffered a broken back, something that warrants a really long convalescence period. I have a theory, which can be wrong or can be right – either there was a more serious injury they kept under wraps to the public OR it seems that Mozelle was emotionally unhinged after the accident and needed psychological help. Since this was a taboo subject back then, in order to hide it, she tried to paint it as a physical malady in the press.

Mozelle would spend more than a year in the sanitarium. In trying to keep active, she organized the Loomis Players there and tried  some new plays with them. She also kept busy inventing “theater hats” for women. She also slimmed down a great deal – she shed 43 pounds since her entered the facility. At one point during her stay, she came into a handsome legacy and planned to become a Broadway producer, but it all seemed a faraway dream.

Mozelle was let out for a week during the Christmas holidays, and here is a truly sad bit about her short New York sojourn:

Mozelle Britton, the wife of Alan Dinehart, is back in New York, alter a year s siege at a sanitarium. The doctors have given her a holiday of ten days before recalling her to the hospital for final adjustments. … I asked her how it felt to be back in town. . . . “It s an amazing thing,” she said. “You develop a completely new philosophy when you are laid up for a year. Once I was blase and bored with life. Now it’s a deep thrill to step on a sidewalk, a thrill to look at shop windows decorated for Christmas, a thrill to have these few days to myself”

In 1942, underwent another operation (her third) in New York, and she was on the road to getting better. She was moved to Liberty, N. Y., to recuperate. In the meantime her son Mason had been living with his grandmother. Her husband was very optimistic. “I think Mozelle will be able to join me in Hollywood in a couple of months,” he told the papers, and returned to the film capital after more than  year of theater work.

A few short months later, there were reports that Mozelle had made a complete recovery after a two-year illness and that she would be back acting before the next season gets too far under way. However, right about that time, when Mason was celebrating his birthday with Mozelle’s mother, he fell and cut his hand. His grandmother rushed him to a hospital, and en route, the car hit a bad bump. . . . Shielding the child, Mrs. Britton suffered a fractured spine!

In the meantime, Mozelle was still recuperating despite the all too optimistic reports elsewhere. Here is another article:

Mozelle Britton, wife of Alan Dinehart, a letter in which she pays tribute to the late John Barrymore. Toward the end of her note, Miss Britton, who still is bedridden due’ to her injuries from an automobile accident, reveals that plans for reviving “Separate Rooms” for a summer tour have been abandoned because Dinehart will continue with picture work in Hollywood. As soon as the physicians give permission, she will join him at their ranch in Riverside, California, and return in the fall with a new pay for Broadway.

Ultimately, Mozelle returned to the Riverside Ranch, and decided to give up movies/any acting work to be a full-time wife and mother. The Dineharts lived a normal family life, with Alan commuting to Los Angeles for film work and spending the rest of the time in Riverside. Always an active woman with relentless energy, Mozelle soon started to grow chickens the rabbits and became quite good at it. Since he was over the age limit, Alan was not drafted into the Army during WW2, and their home life was stable. Here is a short, sweet snippet of their shared life:

A letter from Mozelle Britton tells how she and Alan Dinehart let their five-year-old son see his daddy for the first time on the screen. They picked “Girl Trouble,” because Alan had a light comedy role instead of playing the villain. “But the idea was a mistake,” writes Mozelle. “In the first place, Sonny couldn’t see why his father was running around loose with Joan Bennett. He kept wanting to know when mommy was going to show up. Besides this, if Alan left the screen for a few minutes, he was furious. It was a hectic night, and one that we won’t care to repeat for some time to come.”

Everything was going well until in mid 1944 Alan caught pneumonia while touring with a theater play. He returned home immediately, but there was little to be done – he died on July 18, 1944. Mozelle was crushed and emotionally totally drained. Another array of problems arose with the will – Alan’s will was written more than 10 years before his death, that is before the birth of his second son and marriage to Mozelle. After stressing it over with her stepson, Mozelle was appointed administrator of the estate. Their son, as a natural heir, received one-fourth of the $50,000 estate. Income from literary works of Dinehart were divided among his widow and two sons. Mrs. Dinehart will receive one-half and the elder son, Frederick, one-fourth and Mason the remaining fourth.

Mozelle was under such stress that had lost a great deal of weight, and went on dating right away. She was seen with executive Vic Oliver, Jr. everywhere just months after Alan’s death. I know this isn’t unusual by Hollywood standards, but it seemed to me that Mozelle was desperately trying to regain her mental health by dating, and as always, this isn’t quite the way to do it.

Her romantic overtures continued. In 1945, she dated Lyle Talbot, and even at some point was slated to waltz down the aisle with Juan Duval. Duval was the nephew of Maria (Tipi-tipi-tm”) Greiver, Spain’s outstanding songwriter. However, Mozelle ditched him just before the ceremony. Wonder what exactly happened?

For a brief time, Mozelle worked as a fight promoter, and then gave it up to become a Hollywood columnist. She wrote a popular gossip column and earned solid money by doing it. With her wit and insider knowledge of Tinsel town, she was a perfect person for the job, thus becaming a successful business woman in her own right, not really needing the money from Alan’s inheritance nor royalties from his work. Kudos to Mozelle!

After dating Bud Fayne in early 1947, Mozelle entered into a substantial relationship with Sergio de Karlo, the popular Cuban “King of Bolero”. A bandleader by trade, he had  dazzling smile and charm by ogles. He came to Hollywood to be tested for the role of Rudolph Valentino. Although he ultimately lost it to Anthony Dexter, he decided to stay and Mozelle became his unofficial manager.

Theirs was a tempestuous, crazy twosome. It seems that Mozelle, always a bit stung up and often too emotionally unbalanced, only slipped further into drama with this relationship. For instance, they had a big fight one night. She rushed away to Palm Springs and didn’t even answer his frantic phone calls until a few days later. While this could be unrelated, but in 1948, during the height of their relationship, Mozelle seriously gashed her arm when she accidentally put it through a window. She had nine stitches taken at the hospital and then, trooper that she was, went on to make a scheduled appearance at a television show. But, let’s be real, most of these accident are caused by something more than mere clumsiness, and maybe Sergio was involved?

In the end, Mozelle and Sergio got engaged. When they were practically at the altar, she called off their engagement. She said to the press their careers clash, but it’s a safe bet to assume she snapped “out of it” and saw the relationship for what is was – one juicy, delicious but overtly excessive mess. They obviously enjoyed the theatrics between them, but that hardly made for a stable liaison.

After such a volcanic experience, Mozelle met a low-key, normal guy, and married him! The guy in question was aeronautical engineer Thomas Gasser. Gasser was born on January 7, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. He was married once before to Jean Gasser, but they were divorced in the mid 1940s.

The couple wed in 1949 and spent their honeymoon at El Conquistador hotel. It seems that Mozelle was finally happy. And she truly was, for a time. Her son was growing up with a new stepdad, she had her own successful job and a good marriage.

Time flew by, until 1953. Mason, who just turned 17, fell in love with a pretty model named Evelyn. Mozelle, perhaps a bit of an overbearing and overachieving mother, pushed Mason to become a “top student” – he was an ROTC adjutant, a prize-winning debater and a member of the football and track teams. With an Ivy league university in sight for her son’s future, of course Mozelle was against Mason’s union with Evelyn and frowned upon it as a distraction. Mason, madly in love, a teenager to boot and perhaps a bit fed up with his demanding mother, persuaded Evelyn that they should elope. The two youngsters went to Porterville, California, to find a minister, without telling their parents.

Mozelle had a nervous breakdown. After a furious search mission, which started in California and extended to North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, the sweethearts were found the and returned home. Alas, their attempts to get married failed. They tried several places to get a marriage license, but were unsuccessful because of their ages.

In the meantime, doctors were worried about Mozelle’s condition – she has been on the verge of a nervous collapse and started acting irrationally. In addition to the drama of the apparent elopement, Mozelle separated from her building contractor husband, Thomas. There was no divorce in mind but she asked for separate maintenance. My theory is that Thomas took the boy’s side in the argument, and didn’t back down. Mozelle, unable or unwilling to concede that both she and Mason went over the line, decided to end the marriage then and there. Perhaps there is a deeper and more complex story behind all of this, but one thing was clear: Mozelle never managed to recuperate fully from the car accident, and became so fragile that common stressors one has to deal with when raising a precocious teenager pushed her over the limit. Instead of seeking help, she was only sliding further and further downwards.

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser died on May 18, 1961. She was only 43 years old. Her cause of death was not noted, so we can only assume it was connected to her frail health after the accident.

Unfortunately, the real drama had just started after her death. On the reading of her will, some unusual things had been revealed:

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser, Hollywood columnist and former actress,” left virtually, her entire $60,000 estate to her mother, Mrs. Ida Belle Britton, was admitted to probate yesterday by Superior Judge Victor R. Hansen. The document, written only eight days before Mrs. Gasser, 41, died last May 18, left her son; Mason Dinehart, 17, and her estranged second husband, Thomas W. Gasser, 48, building contractor, $1 each. But in the case of her son, Mrs. Gasser wrote that she acted “knowing that, my mother will take care of his needs.”

What a sad end to this story! Its obvious now why I consider Mozelle to have been too strung up for her own good – even when she was dying, she didn’t let go. She undoubtedly loved her son dearly, but couldn’t accept him making his own choices at such a crucial moment in his life. Luckily, Mason grew up to become first an actor and later a successful businessman, so today we can say Mozelle did an impressive job of raising him. Kudos!

Check the great Bizarre Los Angeles site for more info on Mozelle!