Esther Brodelet

Many pretty girls have completely wrong assumptions when they come to Hollywood. They think that good looks can get them to the top – since this hardy ever happened, after a couple of months or years they would leave Hollywood mostly unhappy, with bitter feelings towards the studio system that never gave them a chance to shine.  While the system was inherently flawed for sure, it was much better to simply accept the fact that only 3% of all screen players make a name out of themselves – other just scrap by from movie to movie but can still lead a happy and fulfilling life. Esther Brodelet knew this and wisely shunned any try to become a star, wholly realistic and truly satisfied to remain a chorus girl. Also as a special bonus, she had her own side job which poured in some decent money – kudos to Esther! Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Esther Brodelet was born on December 7, 1906, in Chicago, Illinois, to Francois and Anna Brodelet. Her father was Dutch (his mother was born in India, interesting lineage!), working as a cook at a restaurant where her mother (herself a daughter of Danish immigrants) was the waitress. In future years Esther would shave almost 10 years off her birth date – even her tombstone claims she was born in 1916. However, 1906 is the correct date, as her father immigrated to the US in 1902 and married her mother in about 1904.

The family lived as lodgers in a hotel when she was born. Her parents divorced in the mid 1910, and Esther and her mom lived in Los Angeles, where her mom ran a club house and put up accommodation for lodgers. Esther grew up in Los Angeles and started dancing at an early age, working as a dancer and chorine from the mid 1920s.

In 1932, she won a Fox film contract in a test that included more than 1,100 applicants, signed a contract and of she went!

CAREER

Esther began her career as a chorus girl, and appeared in a string of musicals – the weird, offbeat SF musical It’s Great to Be Alive, the light fluff Arizona to Broadway (not a musical, I admit, but heck!), one of my favorite Joan Crawford movies, Dancing Lady (boy, when Franchot Tone bought a whole theater just to see Joan dance, I melted! What a movie! Not high art or anything, but a girl can dream can she?), and the no-plot-no-brain-lots-of-fun George White’s 1935 Scandals.

Next Esther appeared in the completely forgotten Redheads on Parade. Likewise was Piernas de seda, a Spanish movie made in Hollywood. Esther get got a step up by appearing in movies at least sometimes mentioned today – Girls’ Dormitory is only famous for being an early Tyrone Power movie, but hey, at least somebody heard of it! Plus Herbert Marshall, oh man! He was the epitome of class and charm back then!

Esther was again a dancer in Charlie Chan on Broadway, one of the long running Charlie Chan movies. Ditto for her next picture, The Baroness and the Butler. The movie actually has a good story (taken from IMDB): This is a charming film set in Hungary, about a butler, Johann Porok (William Powell) who works for the Prime Minister (Henry Stephenson). The prime minister and his family, particularly his daughter Katrina (Annabella) are shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament – by the opposition party. What’s more, he wants to stay on as butler. Meanwhile, Katrina’s philandering husband (Josef Schildkraut) has a few political ambitions of his own. What to say? Powell could play roles like that in his sleep – and Anabella is absolutely gorgeous. While not a top actress not a great beauty, she has plenty of charm and knows how to work the camera. And I adore Joseph Schildkraut. Truly a wonderful actor, at best playing elegant schemers.

Esther became a model for her next movie, Thanks for Everything. a lackluster social farce about a sap who has the special talent of predicting stuff – and then the corporations are after him. Notable only for the role of Adolphe Menjou – otherwise avoid (the sap is played by Jack Haley and just meh!). Then came The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, a well-known classic that needs no introduction. Esther finally caught a credited role in Young as You Feel, a Jones family movie (and completely forgotten one!). Then came Lillian Russell, a solid biopic of (you guessed it) singer Lillian Russell, played by Alice Faye. Henry Fonda gives handsome support 🙂 Unfortunately, her next movie, Girl from Avenue A, is completely forgotten. But then came Brigham Young, a movie well-regarded today – while not a beloved classic like some other epics, it’s a very nicely done film – good production values, good cast (Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell,), everything done as it should. However, it is historically inaccurate, but that’s 1940s Hollywood for you!

Esther was then one of many chorus girls in Tall, Dark and Handsome, a pretty good gangster parody with Cesar Romero as a gangster with a heart of gold. Good stuff! Esther than appeared in the Fritz Lang classic western, Western Union. She came back to musicals with That Night in Rio – this one has a cliché plot (an actor impersonates a wealthy count and in the process seduces his wife), but the actors are all earnest and funny – Don Ameche, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and so on. Footlight Serenade is the same old musical – thin plot but plenty of good music and pizzazz. Ditto for Around the World. Esther then had a minor role in the Carole Landis penned Four Jills in a Jeep, about the tours four actresses made with USO overseas at the beginning of American participation in World War II. The actresses were Carole, Kay Francis, Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair. It’s actually a pretty good movie – just not a great one, but it does have that “based on a true story” extra value. Phil Silvers appears too much as a Sargent chaperoning the girls – and we get cameos by Betty Grable and Alice Faye!

Esther’s last four movies were all musicals: the remake of State Fair, the completely forgettable Mexican themed movie, Mexicana, Do You Love Me  a charming Cinderella themed movie where a matronly college dean, played by Maureen O’Hara, transforms into a glamorous singer and romances DIck Haymes in the interim, and for Esther’s last movie we have Mother Wore Tights, a so-so Betty Grable movie.

And that was it from Esther!

PRIVATE LIFE

Esther gave her beauty hint to the readers in 1934:

To keep my hands fresh and lovely I avoid putting them in water that is too hot or too cold. To keep them from getting dry, I apply a good hand lotion after washing, and massage them with a good tissue cream at night.

Esther worked on the side, as a hoofer at “The Jane Jones Club.” a Los Angeles whoopee asylum. In 1934, she dated William Harrison (Jack to you!) Dempsey for a few months.

Her next beau was William Boyd and Esther Brodelet. They were on and off for quite some time, then they got into a fight, then he left for Europe, then they reconcile, because of his numerous trans – Atlantic talks, finally to break up for good after he got back.

Esther then found an oil king you should be pursued her by buying diamond bracelets and Rolls Royces, but it didn’t lead to the altar.

Esther at one point left for England to appear in movie features made in their production studio at Elstree. She said to the papers:

“Prosperity is going to be reflected in more motion picture musicals, in other words, it will be out of the beanerics and into the best cafes for the decorative members of the tune films.”

Unfortunately, she got no credits from that time so it’s nearly impossible to know what exactly happened.

Durign her long career, Esther always professed a penchant for living a quiet and healthy life, as opposed to the hectic and party living Hollywood life most starlets were leading.

“On the Avenue” strolls Esther Brodelet, attractive tock girl, with the observation that popularity the chorine is to be shunned rather than sought. “Parties cut into your sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity necessary to show your, best every day before the camera,” she affirms. “Girls who don’t sleep simply don’t stay in the movie. The movie chorine 1 a 10 o’clock girl If she’s smart and want to win a career. “And going out almost every night makes It impossible to keep, the same weight and figure. Irregular hours will do surprising things to you over a period of time.” And that, says Esther, Is the answer to the recurrent question about movie chorus girls and “dates.”

And this quote:

“While most chorus girls make a good salary,” says Esther, who draws her pay on the 20th-Century-Fox lot, “it is almost impossible for us to keep stocked with the gowns and jewelry necessary for party girls. “Entirely aside from the money, parties cut into sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity you need before the cameras. Sleep and Stay “Girls who don’t sleep don’t stay in the movies.” When she’s making a picture, Esther goes to bed at 10 p. m. So if you’re planning a career as a movie dancer, don’t plan on having your fling in Hollywood. Esther says that’s a good way to be flung out. “

In 1937, Esther dated Douglas Fowley.

Here is a funny anecdote from the time Esther was filming Lillian Russell:

Discomfort and bother even torture such as shown above by Esther Brodelet and Bonnie Bannon, caused four of Hollywood’s film beauties to go on “strike” against the 1890 whale-boned corsets, which the studio insisted they wear all day during the shooting: of scenes for the movie, “Lillian Russell.” The girls, paid $16.50 each day. failed to report to the studio the second day, explaining they were laced so tightly they “couldn’t have swallowed an olive.”

At some point, Esther’s figure that was described as Hollywood’s loveliest. Not content with roles in movies, she decided to branch out in other industries. So, she became a farmer. Wait, what?!!

Oh yes, Esther used her earnings to start a chicken ranch in San Fernando Valley, where she conducts a lucrative off-screen business. Most of the stars at her studio bought the Brodelet brand of eggs at fair but nifty, prices. Here is a short article about with the colorful details:

Chorine Esther Brodelet’s chicken ranch is ‘no publicity gag, although though she owns only one acre, near Van Nuys, it has paid for itself in two years. No simple country lass, she learned about poultry In Chicago and says that, the chicken came before the egg, at least in her case. Seems that when she was a kid, somebody gave her an Faster chick, which in time surprised her by laying an egg. Using a sort of pa rid v system, Miss Brodelet ran it up into seven hens, made them earn her pocket-money. Thriftily, she now keeps two goats on her walnut-planted acre and fattens her chickens for market on milk and nut-meats. She puts personality into her business, ton loads her car with cartons of eggs every morning when she leaves for the studio and delivers them to the customers herself.

Talk about coincidences! Don Ameche and Esther Brodelet, both under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, and both on their way to the studio to work in “Road to Rio,” tangled automobile on Sepulveda boulevard mile away from the lot. Neither was hurt and Don drove Esther the rest of the way to work.

After a long time of dating in Hollywood (of which we actually have little to no information), Esther married John Martin Amato in 1946. They met during the war when she was entertaining servicemen – he was a mechanic. Now, something about John. He was born on September 28, 1917 or 1920. Here are bits of his life (taken from his Find a grave site):

John was a graduate of Medford High School and Chauncey Hall. Mr. Amato furthered his education and obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree from Tufts University during WWII. Following his graduation, he attended Columbia University Midshipmen’s School and Harvard Communication School. In 1943, the US Navy sent the new officer, Ensign John Amato, to the Port Director Organization, Port Hueneme, California. There he was introduced by his late brother, Andrew J. Amato, to the love of his life, 20th Century Fox contract player and dancer, Esther Brodelet.

Their daughter Valerie Ann was born on July 26, 1948. Their son David John was born on December 19, 1949.  The family lived in Van Nuys then settled in Winchester because of John’s employment. John spent the next 30 years in the service of the developing High Tech defense and space industry where he contributed his intelligence and strong work ethic until his retirement in the early 1980s. After his retirement they moved to Acton, Maine and enjoyed living in such close proximity to the stunning natural sites like hills and lakes.

Esther Brodelet Amato died on December 21, 1989, in Portland, Maine.
Her husband John died on September 5, 2009, in Maine.

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Mary Blackford

I noted several times in by previous blog posts that most of the actresses I have profiled actually had pretty normal lives – they went to Hollywood, failed and often slid into middle class family life. Most of them had happy lives, in retrospect. However, there are a few very unhappy exceptions, and Mary Blackford was one of them. Let’s find out more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Mary B. Blackford was born on July 22, 1914 in Bristol, Pennsylvania, to Charles Blackford and Ethel Maud Ludwig. Her older brother Albert was born on June 20, 1907. Her father worked as a car tire salesman.

The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1918. They lived there with her paternal grandmother and aunt Anna. Her father died in 1923 – after his death her mother moved the family to Beverly Hills (probably that same year). Mary attended elementary and high school there. While a pupil at the school, in 1933, movie scouts found her. Here is a short article about her discovery:

The first contract of the new year to be awarded by Warner Brothers-First National has gone to Mary Blackford, 16-year-old high school pupil of Beverly Hills. With only two years’ experience in high school  dramatics to her credit, Miss Blackford, who will not receive her diploma until June, has been transported from obscurity and given this opportunity of becoming a motion picture star. Mary began her work immediately, dividing her time between the studio and her classes until she graduates in June.

Her name was changed to Janet Ford, but it was quickly reverted back to Mary.

Mary was the first student enrolled for the motion picture course under Ivan Simpson, veteran English actor. And thus her career started.

CAREER

Unfortunately, Mary appeared in only three movies and a most promising career was thus cut short. The first movie was Merrily Yours, a Shirley Temple short. The only reason anyone has to see this movie is, of course, Shirley Temple. It’s not a particularly good short – it’s not horrible mind you, but far from something you would recommend to anyone. The main character is a bratty teenager at odds with his sister (played by Shirley) who falls in love with Mary when she moved next door. How, original, go figure! But, it was a start…

The second one was The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, a cute preppy movie about college love affairs. Mary Carlisle plays a flirty lady who has all the lads crazy for her – then she fall sin love with a non nonsense athlete played by Buster Crabbe. As you can see, not big brainer, but immensely fun and light weight – perfect for Depression era audiences and Sunday afternoon viewings. Many of the players later catapulted to stardom – Mary, Buster, Charles Starrett, Ted Fio Rito and so on. Mary plays of the sorority girls.

Mary’s last movie before the forcible termination of her career was Love Time, a completely lost and forgotten movie today. It’s a biopic of composer Franz Schubert, and with a cats that is absolutely stunning to look at: Nils Asther, Pat Paterson and so on. Unfortunately I could find nothing on the movie, so let’s just skip it.

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary gave a beauty hint to her readers:

For a quick facial treatment take a rake of yeast and mix the paste consistently with peroxide. Apply this paste to the face after It has been cleansed with cream. Wash off with cold water when it has dried.

Here is a short story on how Mary got her role in:

Mary Blackford got a Job In pictures Indirectly by hiding her blonde hair tinder a dark wig. She applied for the stage role of the young girl In “Ah, Wilderness;” with Will Rogers, and learned that one reason she was not accepted was her blonde tresses. She applied again, In’ the disguise, and got the job. After dyeing her hair for the run of the play, she slipped into pictures and is playing Pat Paterson’s sister In “Serenade.”

It seemed Mary was on her way up. However, something catastrophic happened in October 1934 . Mary became paralyzed from the neck down from an injury suffered in an automobile accident (the automobile she was a passenger in hit a light pole at Santa Monica and Hoover). It was never revealed with whom she was in the car – this is very strange and one has to wonder why is it like this? Our hyperactive imagination probably can come up with a few explanations in just two seconds…

Doctors said a broken vertebra is causing pressure against certain nerves. They say she may live weeks or a few months, but paralysis will never leave her. It was just one month after she finished her first important picture role.

Here is a short article about how her friends helped her:

The golden-haired youngster suffered a fracture of her neck vertebrae and surgeons decreed that she must spend the rest of her life immobile, with the broken neck preventing use of any of her members. ‘Puppets’ came to Rescue But Mary’s friends, most of them like herself members of the Puppet Club of younger screen folk, rallied around, and a parade of trips to important surgeons began. Will Rogers volunteered to pay some of the heavy expenses, this being one of that beloved actor’s secret kindnesses no one learned during his lifetime. Joan Crawford had Miss Blackford cared for for a time in a hospital room Joan endows at Hollywood Hospital. The “Puppets,” with Helen Mack, Paula and Dorothy Stone, Lois Wilson, Anita Louise and Tom Brown in the forefront, then took over the case of their chum. With Gertrude and Grace Durkin, Sue Carol, Patricia Ellis, Anne Shirley, Billy Ganney, Eddie Rubin, Henry Willson, Jimmy Bush, Jimmy Ellison, Don Barry, Hugh Daniel, Stanley Davis and Marshall Duffield helping; they staged a big benefit at Coconut Grove some months ago. With Benny Rubin, Orchestra Leader Ted Fiorito and Dick Powell contributing talent, they managed to raise $5,000.  This paid for more trips to specialists for Miss Blackford, but when the fund recently dwindled to $600 Bruce Barton, the author, stepped into the breach. Barton recently had been elated when his eighteen -year -old daughter Betsy was restored to health by Milton H. Berry, a former Chicagoan, who.operates the Berry Institution for the muscular retraining’ of paralyzed persons near Hollywood. Barton tendered $2,500 to the man whom nearly all Hollywood calls affectionately as “Doc” Berry and stipulated the money should be used for the most deserving case Berry knew. Berry chose Mary Blackford, who was recommended to him by Paula Stone. The girl, who has not been able to move one of her members in more than a year, already has shown improvement under the treatment which Berry calls “muscular re-education”.

Mary, far from being idle, still smiling hopefully, took vocal lessons, ambitious for a radio career. Some time later her friends arranged to have her appear on one of Bing Crosby’s programs (she will be taken to the studio in an ambulance), for which she was paid. She also boasted to the papers how she was able to attend a theater. In her wheel chair she attended a performance in downtown Los Angeles and took a photo with Donald Barry, a member of the cast.

Months went by and Mary was still paralyzed and in about the same condition she was after the accident. Her contact with the outside world was furnished in the people who come to see her. The whole crowd who rallied to her aid when she was stricken still remember, and most of them visit her regularly. her best friend was Paula Stone, actress of director Fred Stone. Unfortunately, a member of the group, Junior Durkin, died in a tragic automobile accident in 1935 (Jackie Cooper was in the car and his father was driving, but only Jackie survived).

For a time there  a false impression going the rounds that Mary Blackford was undergoing a miraculous recovery. The papers even reported that the doctors gave her a green light that she could walk again some day. Milton H. Berry refuted these claims and reported that she shows amazing improvement but that it is a slow process.

However, this story does not have a happy ending. The date was September 25, 1937. Mary had gone to the beach for a complete rest. She had suffered several fainting spells in recent months, but had no premonition of the end. In fact, she wrote her mother: “I have never been so happy in my life.”

Then she went into another fainting spell and died. Many of the Hollywood folks who helped her attended her funeral. Sadly, her brother died in 1953 and her mother outlived them all, dying in 1963.

PS: Betsey Barton, the daughter of the mentioned author Bruce Barton, was also injured in a car accident and lost the use of her legs, but learned to reinvent herself and became a top author and painter. Learn more about her truly inspiring life by Googling her name and reading this article: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1944/11/19/page/104/article/miss-barton-offers-hope-to-disabled 

Mary Blackwood


Blonde Mary Blackwood was another debutante who wanted to make good in Hollywood. It wasn’t’ the money obviously – perhaps it was the glamour, the fame, the notoriety that drew such girls to Hollywood. And like most of them, Mary Blackwood came, tried and left. Let’s find out more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Tom Blackwood was born on October 4, 1912, in Colfax, Louisiana, to Dr. E.H. Blackwood and Laura Blackwood. Her older brother Hershel was born in 1909 – her younger sister Lurline was born in 1914. They employed a maid and were obviously well of. Mary spent her earliest years in Colfax.

Her father died in the early 1920s, and her mother remarried to Marcus Dunham, who owned an automobile dealership. Laura, Hershel Mary and Lurline lived with Marcus and his three children from a previous marriage (Martin, Harper and Mildred) in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Mary grew up as a typical debutante of the 1920s – constant garden parties, visits to extended family, and going out with eligible young men whom her parents would approve of.  Imagine Scarlett O’Hara in the early 20th century. She graduated from Bolton High school and attended Stephens College in Missouri and the University of Texas, Austin. Mary’s beauty was so widely known that she was” chosen “sweetheart” of the University of Texas by popular student vote.

Like several other debutantes, Mary decided to go into movies on a lark. She wanted some fun and Hollywood seemed like the bets bet for a girl to experience life outside her own social caste and perhaps meet new guys. So when a casting director wanted society girls to play real society girls in a movie, she jumped at the chance and Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Mary made her debut in David Harum, a not particularly good but nonetheless very interesting movie. Why? Well because it features Will Rogers in one of his mos unusual roles – a banker! Imagine that – Rogers, the champion of the every man who always played normal people, here plays a less than admirable banker (taken from imdb) “who is a pillar of his late Victorian era community who engages in a rivalry over horses with Charles Middleton, they keep trying to sucker the other in horse trading”. It’s a two-man show, and Rogers in mesmerizing to watch in a role with tad bit more edge than usual. Mind you, it’s not a particularly good movie – like many movies of the early 1930s, it has some racist content (the character played by actor Stephin Fetchit is… dismal at best) and it drags to long, the story is thin, but perhaps worth watching to see Rogers in a different role. And he was good, make no mistake.  

Next came the movie that actually catapulted Mary into Hollywood, Coming-Out Party.  Now this is a worse-case-scenario for the good-actors-bad-plot movie – while the leads are passable (Frances Dee wasn’t Katherine Hepburn, but she was fresh-faced and did what she had to do) the story is downright stupid and too dramatic, there is not enough humor and witty repartees. Mind you, it’s not the bottom of the barrel category but with so many good movies to watch, who can watch such mediocre movies anymore? Unfortunately, such movies became Mary’s bread and butter. Come On, Marines! , Mary’s next feature, could have been a great movie about marines fighting a dirty, dirty war but ended up a totally mid tier war-in-the-jungle effort with no big merit to it.

Mary then appeared int he idiotic Stand Up and Cheer!, a no-brain and no-plot musical without any really good music. Minus. her next movie, Black Sheep, was much better –  it’s a fun movie about gamblers on cruise ships – Lady Eve before Lady Eve! Solid story, great actors (Claire Trevor and Edmund Lowe) and snappy dialogue – and we have a winner! Unfortunately, Mary’s next movie, Song and Dance Man, is a completely forgotten one. Afterwards came Girls’ Dormitory, a movie notable today only as one of Tyrone Power’s earliest forays into the seventh art. Otherwise it’s a good-enough but not outstanding movie about a girls dormitory (duh) and the romances both inside and out. Then came Pick a Star one of those movies where the main story is less important and interesting than the side shenanigans. And when Laurel and Hardy appear as comedy relief, you know what I mean. In other words, a typical Cinderella makes it good in Hollywood movie with no special reasons to watch it (except for Laurel and Hardy, but if you want them, go watch their movies!). Mary’s next movie fared no better – The Devil Is Driving is a preachy, boring cautionary tale about the dangers of drunk driving. While you have to respect the cause, it doesn’t cut it out either as art nor as entertainment. Worth watching only to see Elisha Cook Jr. as the drunk driver, a wealthy daddy’s jelly brained son prone to solving everything with money. Mary’s last movie was Start Cheering, a completely over-the-top, outrages screwball comedy but funny to boot. Jimmy Durante and The Three Stooges make this movie, and you can forget about the leading man and his story (Charles Starrett).

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was beautiful, well bred debate from a good family – seemingly a perfect bride-to-be material. In the early 1930s, she dated Social Register’s David Doss, and he even met her parents, but that did not end in marriage (shocking!!).

Mary came to Hollywood in 1933, and started her tabloid career by giving a beauty hint to the readers:

To keep my hair healthy, lustrous and free from dandruff, “launder” it with a good hot-oil shampoo of pure olive oil

In late 1933, Mary was seen with young actor Gordon Westcott around Hollywood, but the relationship ended the same year.

Then, she hit it big in the papers, but sadly not due to her own merit – quite the opposite! Here is the chain of events:

In early April, 1934 Mary Blackwood nearly died on the set of Come On Marines. While filming a swimming sequence, Toby Wing was swinging across a lake and accidentally struck Blackwell in the face as she surfaced from her earlier dive. Seeing her floating unconscious, Toby broke ranks and dived in the water rescuing the uncredited extra from drowning.

That same year, there was an article about a new fad in Hollywood – debutantes becoming actresses! This was a first real batch of such girls to enter Tinsel Town.

An producer had an idea that he will capitalize on the beauty, culture and poise of the society girl. An instance in point was “Coming Out Party,”, in , which a. number of beautiful debutantes were used. It was a charming enough picture, but failed, by a long way, to set the world afire, and I don’t believe that a single one of the girls who played in it has been leard of since in the Alms. The trouble with the rich girl is that she is likely to take up acting as a mere fad. Thelma Morgan Converse at one time came to Hollywood to go into pictures. She had great charm, beauty, and some acting ability. Yet she did not remain. Possibly the new group will be different. Virginia Pine and Mary Blackwood seem to be glowing exceptions tight now.

Unfortunately, neither Mary nor Virginia made a lasting impression on the movie world. While Virginia is more famous today for being a long time paramour to famous actor George Raft, Mary never dated an A class actor (as far as I know) and has no known claim to fame. Her career ended in 1937, and she stayed out fo the newspaper columns for some time after, so I have no idea what her life looked like after the glory days of Hollywood (ha ha ha, a bit of an ironic exaggeration here…). 

Anyway, next time we hear from her, Mary married her first and only husband, Billy Miesegaes on 24 Mar 1942. Billy Miesegaes, Dutch heir to an Indies rubber fortune and president of New York’s TransfUms, was born as William Lodewyk Primavesi Miesegaes on June 10, 1906, in London, England to Auguste Miesegaes and Adrienne Homans. His family was German-Dutch and both of his parents were born in Indonesia. He lived for a time in Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1940.   

They had a daughter, Mary Jane, born in the 1940s, and enjoyed a successful marriage. Mary and her husband lived the high life in New York, and were active in social activities and civic duties. For instance, in the 1950s they gave a supper party to premiere the movie version of “The Medium.” an opera bv Italy’s latest musical prodigy Gian-Carlo Menotti.

Mary Blackwood Miesegaes died on May 1, 1969 and was buried in Louisiana. Her husband died on 21 March 1978.

Irene Bennett


Most of the actresses I profile on this side had a dismal career but led normal, happy lives – they had other careers, got married, had children and so on. One has to wonder if such a “happy ending” is applicable to actresses like Irene Bennett, or can we call them tragic? Let’s learn more about Irene…

EARLY LIFE

Irene Opal Horsley was born on December 17, 1913, in Marshall, Logan, Oklahoma, to Calvin Horsley and Margaret Frances Bennett. Irene came from a very big, tight knit family. She was their fourth child – her older sisters were Velva Verona, born on September 4, 1905, Velora Mildred, born on April 22, 1908 and Doris Pauline, born on June 18, 1910. Five more children would follow after Irene – twins, a son, Ray, and a daughter, Elaine Margaret, born on October 25, 1915, Elizabeth “Bette”, born on January 11, 1918, Virginia “Bobbie” Kate born in 1919, and the baby of the family, Quinton Roosevelt, born on June/January 6, 1920. Later in life, Irene would claim that her mother was the first white child born in the Cherokee strip of Oklahoma.

The family moved from Marshall to Enid, Oklahoma, in about 1917. Irene and her siblings grew up , attended and graduated from high school there.

Irene came to Hollywood twice. The first time was in 1935, as a beauty-contest winner in the Tri-State cotton festival at Memphis, Tenn. Approached a local merchant who was so struck by her beauty that he invited her to ride his float in the Cotton Carnival parade. She accepted, unaware that the parade was also a beauty contest. She won the contest and then followed the inevitable trip to Hollywood with a try at the movies. The customary rounds; the usual publicity; the unavoidable result nobody paid much heed to Irene. “But nothing happened,” she said of the experience later “so I went back to selling magazines.”

The second time was much more fruitful. As a professional saleslady, she came to a movie studio to sell magazines. She said she was known from coast to coast as “The Magazine Girl,” having conducted her subscription campaigns in thirty -three states. She listed among her clients Gov. Albert Ritchie of Maryland, and Gov. Frank Merriam of California. “I always go right to the front office,” Irene explained. But Irene couldn’t get to the front office at Paramount studio. A cordon of alert secretaries stopped her. So the only executive she was able to contact was John Votion, head of the studio talent department. He told her he did not want any magazines. But he did offer her a contract and she accepted. She become a member of the studio “stock” company to gain experience and changed her name to Irene Bennett.

And Irene was off!

CAREER

Irene’s first movie was Too Many Parents, a not-bad-at-all drama about the boys who are sent to military school in order to get them out of the way of their too-busy-to-bother parents or guardians. Special plus is seeing Frances Farmer in an early role. Her next movie was the completely forgotten Sky Parade, an aviation move with Katherine DeMille and William Gargan. Then Irene appeared in Florida Special, a run of the mill crime movie with Jackie Oakie as a worldly journalist trying to stop a train robbery. Yawn! Been there, seen that at least a hundred times…

She next appeared in Poppy, a W.C. Fields movie and only Fields makes it worth watching (at all). While I understand that he’s the main character, a movie can’t be that good if it’s absolutely boring when the lead is not on-camera. Beats me why they always paired Fields with 3 Bs (blond, bland and boring) supporting actors with according story-lines. After this comedy came another comedy, My American Wife,  another almost lost movie. After that we have Lady Be Careful , which goes into the same bracket of lost movies.

Irene had another uncredited role in Easy to Take, another completely forgotten movie with Marsha Hunt and John Howard. Irene’s next movie is perhaps the bets known on her filmography – The Plainsman , one of the few A budget westerns from the 1930s. Before one wonders why somebody decided to make such a western – the answer is simple – Cecil B. DeMille wanted a epic movie and got one set in the Wild West. Like most DeMille’s movies, it’s meticulously and elegantly done, very much stamped by the old master’s unique and easily recognizable style. Yes, the story is historically inaccurate and over-the-top, but the acting is great (Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur are always a good combo), and the stunts are amazing! One should watch it more for its grandiose and epic feeling, western style, than for any true substance.

The Accusing Finger is perhaps the perfect low budget classic movie from the 1930s – it’s socially conscious, with a solid story, dramatic but not overly theatrical moments and a good cast. The story concerns a attorney who sent quite a lot of people on the death row just to end up there himself. And a true transformation occurs. I see this movie as proof of how little it takes to make a very good movie if you have all the technical and logistical things in order – a heartfelt story and a message you want to convey. For a low budget quickie, this is a true winner! Kudos to Paul Kelly and Marsha Hunt in the leading roles.

Then came another completely forgotten movie, Hideaway Girl. Irene’s last movie, Champagne Waltz , was a mid tier musical with the boring old music vs. new music plot. The plus side is hearing Gladys Swarthout sing opera and see Fred MacMurray playing a band leader, something he was before he became an actor (I never knew that!!!).

Unfortunately, Irene’s career ended after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

Irene married Carlton L. Burnham on July 9, 1929, when she was just 15 years old. Carlton was born in 1912 in Mississippi. They divorced in February 28, 1935.

While she was in Hollywood, she enjoyed the well known pastime of rowing but only on a rowing machine. She also frequented the gym of her home studio.

In March 1936, not long after she came to Hollywood, there was this notice in the papers:

Irene Bennett, Actress, Sues Doctor f or $500,000 Hollywood, Cal., March 31. (Special.- Irene Bennett, movie actress, today filed a suit against Dr. H. J. Strathcarn, studio physician at Paramount studio, for $500,000 damages. She alleged improper medical treatment. She asserts that when she came in need of medical treatment the studio referred her to Dr. Strathcarn, that he failed to diagnose her ailment until it was loo late. She said she contracted tuberculosis. Her real name Is Irene Bennett Horsley of Enid, Okla.. who came lo Hollywood after winning a Memphis, Tenn,, beauty contest.

The article was son forgotten in a small flurry of other articles about Irene:

  • March 1936: Irene Bennett dancing with Viscount Roger Halgouet. son of the wealthy French diplomat at Cocoanut Grove
  • April 1936: Joan Bennett and Gene Markey, Irene Bennett and the Charles Buttorworths week -ending at Palm Springs.
  • May 1936: Styled in Hollywood Irene Bennett, Paramount starlet, appearing with George Raft , and Dolores Cotello Barrymore in “Yours for the Asking.” sent her younger sister a dress for the latter’s graduation from the Enid (Okla.) High School.
  • August 1936:  Irene Bennett is going places with Tom Monroe, Paramount scribbler
  • September 1936: Jackson, Mississippi –  Among them were Miss Irene Bennett, formerly of this city. Mr. Champion” reports that Miss Bennett is well on her way to stardom, having played several leading roles in recent pictures. Miss Bennett has many friends in Jackson who will be pleased to know of her splendid success in pictures.
  • Luckiest player of the week in Irene Bennett, who had her option taken up the other day by Paramount and who climaxed the day by this shivery experience. She left her chair on the “Chinese Gold” set to go to the photograph gallery for a few minutes. While she was gone, a heavy sun-arc toppled over, crashing down on tho chair where Irene would have been sitting but for her lucky break. w1 noon off.”

For six months, she was trained in the Paramount dramatic school, meanwhile playing brief “bits” in a number of pictures, “The Milky Way,” “Poppy,” “Yours for the Asking,” and last of all, “Easy to Take.” At the end of the period, her contract was not renewed. During that time, she supported her mother, Mrs. Calvin Horsley, and her sister, Elaine.

Why? In November 1936:was reported to be in a Hollywood sanitarium dangerously ill of tuberculosis. A purse of $1000 was collected for her when it was learned she was without funds. Here is a brief article about it:

Irene Bennett, the pretty Oklahoma girl who was Hollywood’s biggest success story six months ago, is in a sanitarium today, dangerously ill. Her physician, Dr. H. A. Putnam, says she is facing a long .and uncertain fight for her life. What was worse, her dreams of a movie career ended abruptly several weeks before she became ill. Friends said they understood she is without funds. Having been in the movie studios less than a year, she is ineligible for aid from organized Hollywood charities. A purse of 1OOO$ has been collected at Paramount Studios, where she was under contract, to pay her expenses for a time at the sanitarium. Irene Bennett’s true name is Irene Horsley.

Irene went on to live in. Unfortunately, she slowly wasted away, living in a care assisted facility, with was no cure for her malady.

Irene Bennett Horsley died on August 25, 1941, in Los Angeles, California, from tuberculosis. She was buried in the family plot in Oklahoma.

Ann Evers

Ann Evers was beautiful, a trained actress, talented and with a ferocious will to succeed. So what went wrong? Unfortunately, this is the million dollar question nobody can quite answer. Let’s learn more about the lovely Ann!

EARLY LIFE

Ann Evers was born as Ann Marie White to John Belvin White and Mary Etta Thomas in North Carolina in 1916. IMDB lists her birth time and place as September 9, 1915 and Scranton, Ohio, but the place is almost certainly false – I also wonder if the date correct. Her siblings were: William, born in 1913, Lilly, born in 1919, and Rose Helen, born in 1923. Her family made a series of moves in 1920, and Ann and her siblings grew up first in Roanoke, Virginia and later Clarksville, Virginia, where she attended high school.

After graduation, Ann studied at the New Orleans Conservatory of Speech and Dramatic Arts and later graduated from the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Ann started her way to Hollywood one day in late 1935, and only because she always read the newspapers. No matter where she was Ann insisted on having a daily newspaper each day and she read nearly every paragraph in it. That is how she found out through a three-line personal item that Ben Piazza, the famous Paramount talent scout, was to be in New Orleans while she was visiting there. She had just graduated from the Academy in New York City – armed with looks, talent and determination to succeed, she went to call on Ben Piazza at his New Orleans hotel, and when she left his room she left it in style – with a contract and a ticket to Hollywood.

CAREER

Let’s be frank, if Ann is to some degree remembered today because of the lo-budget westerns she made. Since you all know how much I appreciate and love such movies, let’s just get on with it: she was in Wells FargoFrontier Town and Riders of the Black Hills.

Now let’s get it on with the rest of her career. She started her odyssey with Too Many Parents, a juvenile movies with members of Our gang shorts playing military cadets. Then she appeared in the okay but completely forgotten Florida Special. Boy, if Florida was forgotten, her next movie, Heliotrop, is even more so (it doesn’t even have 5 ratings on IMDB, and you know what that means!).

Ann’s next feature was A Son Comes Home, the type of movies they don’t do anymore – small-scale, intimate, warm and exceedingly simple in plot (as the title says, it’s about the homecoming of a long-lost son). Actors are everything here, and they have struck gold with a veteran cast of Mary Boland and Charles Hoffman, and a new, fresh-faced cast of Julie Haydon, Donald Woods and Wallace Ford.

Then came My American Wife, completely forgotten despite the solid cast (Ann Sothern, Francis Lederer). Next we have Hollywood Boulevard, an interesting expose of gossip sheets way back in the 1930s. While it’s not a particularly good movie (very badly edited!), the plot is above average and manages to pull the film above the watching threshold. Also a true treat for silent movie lovers – many stars of yesteryear have small roles!

Ann had her first credited role in Anything for a Thrill, a Frankie Darro vehicle, about paparazzi and their quest to get dirt on an heiress (guess who ends up with the said heiress). What can I say, it’s fast, fun and fascinatingly stupid, but hey, you didnt’ watch it to get Shakespeare calibre theater. Ann’s last movie before the string of westerns I already mentioned was Love Takes Flight,

Afterwards, she returned to mainstream movies with Marie Antoinette, the legendary Norma Shearer/Tyrone Power epic. She continued in the same vein with If I were king, an absolute winner with Ronald Colman as Francois Villon. It’s a perfect adventure classic movie – witty script with some depth, great action all around (Basil Rathbone and Ronald Colman), and capable direction. A must watch. Ann finally got a sizeable role in The Mad Miss Manton, a somehow lackluster mystery-comedy with Babs Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in the leads. Considering who’s acting, it’s not a particularly good movie – so sad! It could have been a classic!

Ann’s next movie, Next Time I Marry, was another thin screwball comedy. Mind you, these movies weren’t drop dead bad, just not as good as they could have been. Here we have Lucille Ball playing an heiress who wants to marry a penniless gigolo but due to her father’s will has to marry a plain American guy. And try to guess who the story goes from here. James Ellison plays the plain American guy and he’s actually pretty good in it. Some laughs but as I said, it could have been better.

Ann changed gears a bit with Hawk of the Wilderness, a typical Republic adventure serial with Bruce Bennet in the lead. Compare this to her next movie – the well-regarded Gunga Din! Jumping high aren’t we? This remains Ann’s best known movie, a staple of all classic adventures movies. Why? As one reviewer noted on Imdb: It has everything – a good script, a good story, epic sweep, fantastic acting, inter-character chemistry, charisma, pacing and coherency. And Cary Grant thrown into the equation. Whozza!

Ann’s last movie for RKO was Beauty for the Asking, a below average comedy elevated by a great female cast – Lucille Ball, Frieda Inescort, Inez Courtney. The plot is a bit idiotic: (taken from a review at IMDB): Lucille is the inventor of a cream she is sure will revolutionize the beauty industry. It all happens after the man she loves (Patric Knowles) marries a member of the upper-crust (Frieda Inescort), breaking her heart. She peddles her product to a manufacturer (Donald Woods) who finds an investor in none other than Inescort. The romantic tensions re-arise between Knowles and Ball as they become re-acquainted, and Lucy, who has come to find Inescort to be a good friend, struggles to do the right thing. Five writers tried to polish up the script, and ultimately it’s not a bad piece of writing but it lacks the bite and the finesse to be a truly succesful comedy script. Happily, Lucille went on to bigger and better things later in her career. Ann, sadly, did not. She acted on the stage for the next couple of years.

Ann returned to moves in 1942 with Monogram Studios and Police Bullets, an unusual B movie about a man with photographic memory and a bunch of hoodlums trying to use his special talents. Alas, the short leashed budget and uneven acting performances ruin an otherwise promising little movie. She they played a bit part in a forgotten short comedy, Two Saplings. Equally forgotten was her next feature, She Has What It Takes, a Jinx Falkenburg vehicle. Her last movie was the touching Someone to Remember, a slow-moving drama about an old lady whose son was lost long ago, and how she bonds with young students. What to say, vintage weepie Hollywood! Ann gave up movies for a time afterwards to act on the stage again.

Ann made only one more movie, Casanova Brown, a Gary Cooper film, before retiring for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Ann was 5 feet, 6 inches tall; weighed 122 pounds and had blond hair and blue eyes. Off the screen her hobby were clothes. She designed many of her own gowns and always appears as though she had just stepped out of a bandbox.

Ann’s first Hollywood beau was William “Bill” Hopper, son of Hedda Hopper – they started dating sometime in April 1936. They went to town often and were seen dancing in various nightclubs. He nursed her when she got intestinal flu and had to stop working on a picture she was making.

In November 1937, William put an engagement ring on Ann’s finger. Both are 22 and seemed to be more in love than ever. To make things ever sweeter, that year Ann and Wilma Francis, two recruits to the Paramount stock school from New Orleans, had their options extended for another term and were to be groomed for roles in forthcoming productions. Both girls received dramatic training under Phyllis Loughton. And then, it all went wrong. Ann and Billy broke up and she lost her contract with Paramount. Such is life in Tinsel Town.

August 1938 – Vic Orsatti and Ann Evers are cooing. Vic dated about a gazillion other girls, so it was pretty obvious this was more for fun and less for commitment. Ann was also pursued by handsome Conrad Nagel later the same year.

There was also this funny bit about Ann in the papers that year:

They Must Improve Their Bridge Game:  Frances Mercer, Ann Evers and Whitney Bourne had to confess recently to Director to Director Glenn j Tryon their inability to play an  important movie scene at a bridge table. Tryon had to summon Charles J. Fordham; professional player and coach, to teach the three starlets!

Ann also gave a beauty hint to her readers: She often wears an oiled silk kerchief to protect her hair on rainy days. Keep one in your pocket for sudden showers, it may save your head. Handy, have to admit.

In early 1939, Ann and Bill Hopper reunited, and by August they were a sure bet for matrimony. Bill was also with her when she had to wear false eyebrows when her own were singed off by a gas stove explosion. One of her hands was also burned.

Unfortunately, something happened and they never reached the altar. Too bad, they looked like a fantastic couple (at least physically). In 1942 Ann and Danny Winkler were the newest twosome. They met at the marriage of Irene Colman and Bob Andrews, but unlike Irene and Bob they didn’t make it anywhere. By mid 1943, she was feted by George Jessel (along with dozen of other girls).

Later, Ann also wrote about her experiences in Hollywood. Here is a short summary of the times Ann had in Hollywood, a pretty good illustration how it was for a young, pretty and talented actress who wanted to make it in Tinsel Town:

She la Ann Even, blonde, blue-eyed and shapely, who came here in January, 1936, seeking a career. When she left New York she had $400. She also had a six months’ contract with Paramount at $50 a week. Ann saved at least half and sometimes all of her pay during that contract, learning that in movieland you may always expect the worst. It came, for she. was dropped at the end of the contract. Then for nine long, months she didn’t get a single stroke of work. The money eased away, She couldn’t buy any clothes. Then she got two weeks work posing for Russell Gleason and a week and a half playing the lead for an independent studio, For all this she received an average of $250 a week, the biggest money she ever had made. Then came another three months of pounding the pavements from casting office to casting office without result. When she was again on the verge of despair she was given the lead in a western picture by another independent studio, getting $200 a week. The only trouble was the picture was a one time only. She then got a different kind of opportunity.

For a month now Ann has been inclined to jump at noises. Her appetite has failed at times. Bad dreams disturb her sleep. She may be climbing mountains, where rocks teeter on the edges, or she may be on a train speeding toward a precipice. She wakes up and shivers and pulls the covers over her head. She is going through the mental inquisition which comes sooner or later to every girl just on the brink of fame and fortune. It comes at the same point in their careers, the moment after ups and downs, with sometimes hunger thrown in, when they are waiting for a decision on their contract options. Working under a specific agreement with RKO for the one picture, Ann finished her best role to date, with Barbara Stanwyck in “The Mad Miss Manton,” a month ago. Whether the option is picked up, which will mean a good contract and a major step up the ladder, depends on how her performance is greeted by a preview audience at the end of this week, The studio has 30 days after th preview to make its decision. And so, for what may amount to a two-month period, Ann, like many ambitious girls before her, waits and hopes and grows more nervous over the outcome.

As you can see, it truly was nerve-wracking and not for the faint of heart. The more I read about it, the more I can understand how such lovely girls like Gail Russell ended up alcoholics before they hit their 30th birthday.

But now, on to something more upbeat! Sometimes in the early 1940s, Ann started dating Paramount producer Seton I Miller. Was it another case of Will Hopper, or did it end up at the altar? Let’s spoil it a little and say that Ann would end up marrying Miller. Something about Miller:

Seton Ingersoll Miller (Chehalis, Washington, May 3, 1902 – March 29, 1974, Los Angeles) was a Hollywood screenwriter and producer. During his career, he worked with many notable American film directors, such as Howard Hawks and Michael Curtiz.

A Yale graduate, Miller began writing stories for silent films in the late 1920s. In the 1930s, he tended toward the crime genre, collaborating with Hawks and others on one of the most groundbreaking of such pictures, Scarface (1932). At the time of the Production Code’s enforcement in 1934, Warner Bros. called in Miller to supply the dialogue and storylines they needed to adapt their pre-Code bad-guys to the new system. His scripts for G-Men (1935) and Bullets or Ballots (1936) successfully transformed big screen gangsters James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, respectively, into crime-fighters. With Norman Reilly Raine, Miller wrote the script for The Adventures of Robin Hood (film). Often he adapted popular plays or novels, as with Graham Greene’s Ministry of Fear for Fritz Lang’s 1944 film. He worked regularly in Hollywood until 1959, when he helped write the thriller The Last Mile, but then left the industry for more than a decade. In his seventies, he made a brief return, providing screenplays for a horror film, A Knife for the Ladies, and for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.

However, there was a catch. Miller was already married, to Bonita Nichols – they wed on 1927, and had two children – a son, Keith Stanford, born on October 31, 1928, and a daughter, Bonita Anne, born on March 6, 1936. I can’t find out if they were divorced by 1944. Before you ask if is it important, I think that it was very important for Miller and Ann back then, because their only child, daughter Catherine, was born on July 14, 1945. And Ann and Miller got married on January 26, 1946. Full five months after their daughter was born. That was back in the 1940s, where people didn’t have children out-of-wedlock often. So, while I can’t be 100% sure, the timeline is as it follows – it seems that Ann and Miller were involved before he was divorced, she got pregnant, they had to wait for his divorce to come through, and that is why Catherine was born prior to their marriage.

The papers first caught something in May 1945, when a heavily pregnant Ann left off to New York, and Seton went to meet her there. No mention of her pregnancy or anything else. Now, something about the marriage. They married in Montecito and had to postpone their honeymoon until Seton completed his picture-of-the-moment at Paramount. Afterwards they went on a six-week trip to Mexico City, Nassau and the Bahamas. During a portion of their honeymoon, they were guests of Ernest K. Gann, pilot and author, on his schooner in the Caribbean.

Ann retired from movies to dedicate herself to family life. Seton died on May 29, 1974. I have no idea what happened to Ann afterwards – IMDB claims she died on June 4, 1987 in Edison, New Jersey. I can’t vouch for that 100%. Whatever happened, as alway,s I hope she had a good life.

 

Gail Goodson

Gail Goodson was a society girl (a dentists’ daughter) who tried movies for fun and dropped her career not long after she got married. Heard that story a hundred times before, and just serves to prove that without real dedication and love for the art, it’s hard to keep your head above the water in Hollywood (and sometimes even that is harldy enough!). And now let’s see some more of Gail (sorry, I could only find two small photos of her 😦 ) …

EARLY LIFE

Gail Elizabeth Goodson was born on August 10, 1916, in Denver, Colorado, to Galen Roscoe Goodson and Ethel Ulmer, their only child.  Her father was born in Hopkins, Missouri, and was a graduate of the University of Denver, working as a dentist. For the first ten years of Gail’s life they lived in Denver where she attended elementary school and was active in winter sports.

The family moved to Los Angeles in 1927, and Galen quickly found his niche in the local dentist trade – he became a favorite among movie people. Gail grew up in affluence in Beverly Hills (she was part of the Los Angeles genteel society and often attended soirees and tea parties), and attended Los Angeles High School.

So, how did Gail, who had no show biz aspirations, end up an actress? Well, her father was Eddie Cantor’s dentist and her smile won her the Eddie’s notice when he visited the office one time. He had seen her the year before, and she seemed just a little girl, wearing some of her dad’s teeth straightening gold bands. He then left Hollywood and some time, and when the comedian returned, he saw Gail on the day she graduated from high school in 1934, and was so Impressed by her radiance and grown up appearance that he got her a screen test with his producer, Sam Goldwyn. She passed with flying colors and became an instant Goldwyn girl!

CAREER

Gail made her movie debut in the legendary Kid Millions, where so many starlets acted as Goldwyn girls. The plot goes like this: Eddie plays a New York barge boy, who inherits an Egyptian treasure from his archaeologist father. Once in Egypt he is surrounded by a bevy of con artists both male and female, who try to get their hands on his money. And the story is perfect backdrop for Eddie’s unique brand of talent, and for some major musical stars to show off their prowess (watch out for Ethel Merman, Ann Sothern, Nicholas Brothers, Doris Davenport and so on). Pure enjoyment without much brain work, it’s a great Depression era musical.

Gail’s second movie was Folies Bergère de Paris, a delightful Maurice Chavalier comedy. It has an outstanding cast – Maurice, Merle Oberon, Ann Sothern, a funny and simple story (you heard it a hundred times before – An entertainer impersonates a look-alike banker, causing comic confusion for wife and girlfriend.), and good dancing and music. What more do you need? Next Gail appeared in an Our gang short, The Pinch Singer. It a minor and forgotten effort, more or less.

As she was Cantor’s progetee, she appeared in the last movie Eddie and Sam Goldwyn made together – Strike Me Pink. It’s an uneven effort, to say at least – much of the movie is ponderous and repetitive, and then the last 20 minutes turn into a top class farce, the best of what Cantor had to offer. The plot is pretty simple: meek Eddie Pink (played by Cantor of course) becomes manager of an amusement park beset by mobsters. Throw in some stalwart performers like and Ethel Merman as his leading lady, and you have a good cast if nothing else, and some great dance numbers with the Goldwyn girls (of which Gail was a member). And then Gail left the screen to marry.

Unlike many actresses that try to give up, Gail had her biggest claim to fame /(which isn’t saying much), in 1948, when she appeared in Joan of Arc – as Ingrid Berman’s armor double who did all the stunts! Incredible! I never tought that Gail had it in her to become a stuntman. Anyway, this is the movie people will remember from Gail’s filmography, and while it’s far from being the best movie made about Joan of Arc (you should watch the stunning silent movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc), it’s actually a solid historical epic. It was directed by Victor Fleming, who also helmed Gone with the wind, and of course it’s a lesser movie (but it’s not fair to compare any movie with GWTW), but Ingrid Bergman is simply outstanding and gives one of her best performances – and she had so many of them! Also the supporting cast is pretty impressive too (J. Carroll Naish, Ward Bond, Gene Lockhart…).

That was it from Gail!

PRIVATE LIFE

Gail gave a beauty hint to devoted readers in 1934:

Laughter is one of the brightest things in life. It may make wrinkles in time, bu they’re pleasant wrinkles and won’t detract from the charm of the wearer.

How true! Unknown to the papers, when she landed in Hollywood, Gail was already deeply involved with a man she would marry. Here is a short article about her upcoming nuptials in 1934, not long after she became a Goldwyn girl:

GLASSFORD SON WEDS ACTRESS: Gail Goodson, screen actress and daughter of Los Angeles dentist, taken as bride by Guy Glassford, son of Washington Police Chief who came to national attention in connection with bonus march.  Gail Goodson becomes sis Bride at Agua Calienle. Gail Goodson, 18-year-old motion-picture actress, and Guy Glassford, 23, son of Brig.-Gen. Pelham D. Glassford, were married yesterday at the Hotel Agua Caliente, Baja California, according to advice received here last night. The couple flew to the Lower California resort early yesterday. The bride is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Galen R. Goodson, of 100 North Sycamore avenue, and was graduated last year from Los Angeles High School.

Guy Carleton Glassford was born on November 8, 1912, in New York City, to Pelham and Cora Glassford. As noted, his father was a police chief. They moved to Texas and then to Los Angeles. He worked as a credit manager for a living.

The Glassfords lived the high life in Beverly Hills, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in about 1938. Glassford remarried to Utah native Marjorie Robinson, had a son, and died in February 1974 in Denver, Colorado.

Gail started to date her future second husband, Wilfred Donald Burgess, in late 1939. They were often seen in hip nightspots and he gifted her with a magnificent mink coat. They married on March 13, 1941, in Los Angeles. Here is a short description of the ceremony:

Mr and Mrs. Goodson announced the marriage of their daughter Gail to W. Donald Burgess last evening. Dean Ernest Holmes officiated in the presence of about 60 guests. The bride was gowned in ice blue meline with bouffant skirt and satin bodice. Her veil of royal purple meline was held in place by a headdress of fresh violas and violets. She carried a muff of violets and purple orchids. Mrs. J. Francis Gaas, as matron of honor, was in gray chiffon with a headdress of gray tulle with pink roses and delphinium. She carried a muff of the same flowers. Frederick Kessler served as best man.

Burgess was born in Canada in 1912 but moved to the US with his parents in 1922.  He worked as a planter Tendant Supervisor. The marriage did not last long and they divorced in about 1945. Burgess became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1948 and died in March 26, 1978.

Gail’s career was long time over by then, and she slipped from view until 1947, when this announcement was seen in the papers:

Gail Goodson Will Be Bride of New Yorker Dr. and Mrs. Galen Roscoe Goodson of Beverly Hills announce the engagement of their daughter Gail to Alfred Hance Savage of New York, son of Mrs. Harlow Dow Savage of Scars-dale, N.Y., and the late Mr. Savage. The wedding Is planned for May at the Savage estate in Scarsdale. The newlyweds will make their home in New York but plan a honeymoon trip to Los Angeles. At that time Dr. and Mrs. Goodson will entertain at a reception in their new home, 1122 Calle Vista, Beverly Hills.

Alfred Savage was born in 1911 in Kentucky, to Harlow and Edna Savage. He graduated from Phillip Exeter Academy and moved to New York. He worked as a manager of personnel relations for The New York Daily News.

The couple lived in New York and had two daughters, Galen (born in 1949) and Clinton (born on December 15, 1950). Gail became a founder and first president of the Bronx­ville Committee of the National Mental Health Association, and was very active in the Youth Consultation Service and Reach‐to‐Recovery, an organization for women who have undergone breast surgery.

Gail Goodson Savage died from cancer on June 28, 1964 in New York City. Gail’s widower Alfred Savage died on January 19, 1982 in Florida.

 

Wilma Francis

Sometimes, we want our actresses not to be cute girls next door like Rosemary Lane or Teresa Wright, but full-blown, over the top divas. Someone like Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson. Well, Wilma Francis was a diva. She was flamboyant, did things her own way and dated men by the bucket-load. Unfortunately, she never achieved a level of fame to make her comparable to other well known divas, but it seems she sure had a fun life!

EARLY LIFE

Wilma Francis Sareussen was born on November 26, 1917, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to John Sareussen and Frances Eleanor Ader. Her father was a wealthy ship chandler but by no means was he a true Southerner – he was born in Norway. Her mother did come from an old Louisiana family (think Scarlett O’Hara!). Wilma’s older sister Elinor Marie was born on December 10, 1915. The family resided in New Orleans, where Wilma grew up.

After graduating from high school, Wilma attended Tulane and Loyola universities, studying journalism. Now, how the story goes from here makes little sense – she, daughter of a prominent family and educated in top schools, while a student, ended up in a typing pool in an insurance company office in New Orleans. What?!! Anyway, this was the story she later sold to the papers, so I don’t know if this is true or invented, but why did they have to invent it anyway? Cinderella syndrome?

Anyway, Wilma landed in Hollywood because a scout for a film company (Ben Piazza) spotted her when she was working in the office of the insurance company, and signed her with Paramount.

CAREER

Wilma made her debut in Florida Special, a run of the mill crime movie with Jackie Oakie as a worldly journalist trying to stop a train robbery. Yawn! been there, seen that at least a hundred times… Her next movie, And Sudden Death, was hardly any better – featuring Randolph Scott and Frances Drake, it was a cautionary tale about traffic and speeding. As it usually happens in much films, traffic cop falls for a young woman who simply drives too fast… Blah, blah.. It goes into overt dramatics too soon and becomes a sappy, low budget miss. It’s a shame, since the topic of driving too fast and too furious in traffic is very relevant today (and boy, so much!).

Wilma finally snagged a credited role in Lady Be Careful, but the movie is so utterly forgotten today there is nothing I can write about it. next. The same goes for her netx movie, Hideaway Girl. 1937 started a bit better for Wilma – her first movie of the year, Bank Alarm, was a bland and uninspiring film about G men fighting against a group of bank robbers, but at least the movie left the smallest of traces for prosperity. Unfortunately, this did not mean further career enhancements for Wilma – she spent the rest of 1937 far from the movie cameras, and only came back in 1938 with Trade Winds, a witty, sparking and elegant screwball comedy, with a top-notch cast (Joan Bennet!! Fredric March!!) and more than one twist to keep you occupation.

Wilma then left Hollywood for a short time, returning in 1940 to make Stolen Paradise, where her then husband, Leon Janney, was playing the lead. Unfortunately it was directed by the king of camp, Louis Gasnier, who ably helms it into “bad acting and bad script territory from scene one. The story is not half bad, and actually pretty deep in some aspects – a young man who wants to become a priest falls in love with his step sister and does not know how to deal with his emotions – it really sounds good, but the execution is awful. Skip! Next came the only slightly trashy Under Age – yep, as the title suggest, the girl here and pretty, nimble and under age.  It’s an early movie by future legend Edward Drmytryk, but boy, while he does show signs of brilliance, it’s still way too much. The muddled plot is a hotbed of complicated feelings, bratty teens and love triangles. Skip. Wilma’s last and best movie from this batch was Borrowed Hero, a more than decent B programmer about a lawyer who after a stint of bad luck finally hits the jackpot – and how his life unravels afterwards. Florence Rice is in it – a plus for sure!

In the 1940’s she worked for a while as an assistant to director Sam Wood’and made her last billed appearance in a motion picture in Wood’s 1945 film Guest Wife. She then did some TV work (which I will not go into any detail), and appeared in minor roles in two more movies – Hotel and Airport. And that was all from Wilma!!

PRIVATE LIFE

While in Hollywood, in her spare time, Wilma builds boat models. She revealed to the press that she learned the craft from her father, by then a retired naval officer.

Since Wilma was of a prestigious ancestry, bits and pieces were written about her family in the papers. Here is an early example:

One of Paramount’s younger players, Wilma Francis, has the most interesting antique bracelet in Hollywood. It is a family heirloom and has been handed down for many years with a legend which traces back to Cellini’s days when the piece of jewelry is supposed to have been made by this famous master. It is of dull gold with a floral tracery which has been filled la with black platinum. The design resembles a wide leather strap with a buckle and the bracelet has a safety clasp which is held with a fine golden chain.

Wilma started dating Conrad Nagel in August 1936, and their relationship blossomed nicely in the comings months. Already in November of 1936 there were rumors that they might wed. She told the press: “Conrad is the dearest person in Hollywood. We are constant companions. Of course, I am only 18 I’ll be 19 on Thanksgiving day. And Conrad is 37. Marrying him wouldn’t hurt my career.” However, there was a lull in the fairytale when Paramount refused to renew her contract Wilma used the opportunity to visit her mother. At the train to bid her farewell was none other than Conrad Nagel. The trip sparked a “finis” to their romance because at the time Wilma was doubtful whether she would return again to resume her career. However, Wilma returned to Hollywood, but not to Conrad. After a brief fling with director Wesley Ruggles, from March until May 1937, she dated noted novelist B. P. Schulberg. After she ditched Schulberg, she resumed with Conrad for several months in mid to late 1937. Again, there were rumors of their impending nuptials. They dated, on and off, for more than a year, breaking up in December 1938. In the interim, Wilma dated Latin charmer Antonio Moreno.

In early 1939, Wilma took up with Leon Janney, juvenile actor. They were married in March of the the same year, although they kept the marriage a secret from the press for at least four months.  Janney was born on April 1, 1917 in Ogden, Utah. He started acting in earnest in 1927, when he was 17 years old. He was very active until 1932, and afterwards he got into the theater, where he met Wilma. They were all lovely dovely until June 1940, when something bad happened and they separated in August – they reconciled in September and tried again. This was a flop also – they separated again in October, tried to patch things up but were kaput by December 1940 and started divorce proceedings early in 1941. Wilma charged cruelty (she charged he threw a pack of cards at her during a bridge game) and they got their final decree in May 1941. Janney remarried twice and died in 1980 in Mexico.

Wilma then changed her life a great deal, got out of acting (more or less), and moved to New York.  Then, in November 1946, Wilma hit the papers big time as a witness in a case of a major money swindle. The main perpetrator was Jimmy Collins. This is a short excerpt from the article about the swindle:

Sally Haines, blond film actress and dancer, admitted last night that she was a close friend of Jimmy Collins, sought as suspect in the Mergan-thaler Linotype Co. swindle in New York. Her attorney, Milton M. Golden, went further. He admitted that she and Collins shared a Safety deposit box in a New York hank, the box which New York police said yielded $5400 in cash. Golden also said Collins had been living in a New York hotel where Miss Haines and her actress friend, Wilma Francis, shared an apartment. However, as to reports that Collins helped finance a newly opened night club in Palm Springs, Golden was firm. “Not that I know of,” he said. The attorney explained the safe deposit box and its contents. “Yes,” he said, “the box is hers. The money is hers, too. There also probably were some other things in the box a few trinkets and some Jewelry.” ‘Might Have Married’ He explained the joint use of the deposit box by saying, “Well, you know, they were very good friends. It was possible that a marriage might have developed, from their friendship.” Miss Haines, Miss Francis and Golden told about the Collins friendship at a meeting with the, press in the home of AIDS POLICE Glenda Farrell gave information about missing swindle suspect. W) Wirept AT LARGE James Collins, also known as Julius Davis, who is sought in case, Mrs. Sylvia Garrett, 8235 Lincoln Terrace, in the Sunset Strip district. “I know him very well,” Miss Haines, former wife of Comedian Bert Wheeler, said. “I’ve known him about 14 months. However, I was not married to him. I last saw him Wednesday, We had been at Palm, Springs with a party attending the opening .of a club there. ,,The party returned and I saw him off oh’ an American-AU’iines plane. ‘ ‘ “He seemed a little nervous when he left, but I thought nothing of that. He said he would telephone me Friday night, but I didn’t hear from him. Knew Little. About Him “He is a man of a great deal of charm,” she said.. “Hp’s a medium-sized man, blue-eyed with a longish face, He looks something like Fred Astaire with hair,’ “I know surprisingly little about him considering how long I’ve known him,” she continued. “You know how it is. You don’t ask a person all about his business, where he’s from and who his friends and relatives are. He gave me a telephone number which ho said was that of his Importing firm in New York, where I could reach him. He said he was 43. Now I hear he is 53 or 37 or something else,” Miss Francis said she also knew Collins but nothing of his background, the city was that Burke and his wife .were ineligible for occupancy of tho veterans’ housing project because he had not served in the military forces during the war. The Burkes were moved from Rodger Young Village, another veterans’ home center in Griffith Park, some days ago when their eligibility was contested there. They then took up residence in the Channel Heights unit” …

After this unfortunate accident, Wilma returned to Los Angeles in December 1946, but by January 1947 she was bedded, with a nervous breakdown, probably due her involvement with Collins. By May, she got her groove back and was beaued by Dane Clark. Later in the year, she was seen with comedian Lew Parker.

In May 1949 there were rumor she’s hot going to altar-trek with Stacy Harris, star of radio’s “Your F.B.I.” Unfortunately, they were just rumors, and Wilma did not wed Stacy. In May 1950, she was pursued by actor Eddie Norris.

On September 29, 1951, Wilma married Roger Valmy. Valmy was quite a colorful character. Born in Egypt on October 1912, he moved to Paris with his mother and was a horse racing champion before the fall of Paris during WW2. He moved to the US and started a highly successful real estate agency in California. He was married once before in 1943 to Ruth Ownbey, a model and starlet. Later he dated and was very serious about heiress Barbara Hutton.

Wilma and Roger lived the high life in Beverly Hills, as she was Southern royalty and he was a wealthy and highly charming real estate tycoon. Unfortunately divorced after less than two years of marriage in mid 1953.

After he and Wilma divorced, Roger was married two more times – the first time was to Margarett Smith in the early 1960. They divorced in 1972 for the first time, remarried in 1974 and divorced not long after in 1976. In 1977 he was married to his last wife, Dana Kathleen Bond. He died in 2004 at the age of 92.

Wilma continued to date, but never remarried. Some of her post-marriage beaus were Jake Ehrlich Jr. in 1956. She returned to Louisiana to live close to her sister, Elinor, and got into the papers once again:

In May 1958, she got into newspaper again, but not for a nice things – she changed four charges, including kidnaping, against a Gretna, La., policeman as the result of a fracas at a ferry landing there on April 2. Miss Sareussen, who used the name Wilma Francis in the movies, filed the charges with Justice of the Peace L. L. Traught of Gretna against Policeman Alvin Bladsacker. Gretna is across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. Miss Sareusson makes her home in New Orleans. She charged Bladsacker with assault and battery, kidnaping. false imprisonment and unauthorized use of movable property (her car).

I could not find any more information about the case, so let’s assume it just let it flow. Wilma completely falls of the radar from then on. What we do know is that she worked as a casting director for films and television productions shot in her Louisiana during the 1980’s.

Wilma Francis died on June 23, 1991, in Metairie, Louisiana.

Dorinda Clifton

Dorinda Clifton started her movie careeer in a big – playing a leading role, receiving loads of publicity and critical plaudits. However, even with this powerful platform, she failed to gather any real attention. Afterwards, she valiantly tried to revive her career for more than 5 years, but after getting less and less attention, gave up movies to raise a family and later, become a writer.

EARLY LIFE

Dorinda Clifton was born on April 27, 1928, in Los Angeles, California, to Elmer Clifton and Helen Kiely. Her older sister, Patricia, was born in 1925 somewhere at sea (I wonder where!). Her younger brother, Elmer Jr, was born on April 20, 1932.

Dorinda grew up in the movie colony called Hollywood – her father was a movie director who worked with many silent movie notables. His short bio, taken from IMDB:

He acted on the stage from 1907 and worked with D.W. Griffith in various capacities between 1913 and 1922, including appearances in The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916). He became a director in 1917, with his best-known production probably being the big-budget whaling epic Down to the Sea in Ships (1922), which brought Clara Bow to the attention of audiences. Unfortunately, his career began to wane in the late 1920s; although he occasionally worked for such “major” studios as Columbia or RKO, he spent most of the rest of his career mired in the depths of Poverty Row, writing and/or directing low-budget westerns and thrillers for such low-rent studios as PRC and even lower-budget exploitation pictures for such quickie producers as J.D. Kendis and the Weiss Brothers.

It came as no surprise that Dorinda also wanted to continue the family tradition and to act. She was snatched by Columbia before she even graduated from high school, as this article can attest:

Columbia’s new 17 – year – old discovery, Dorinda Clifton, is starting her screen career on the exact spot where her father worked 30 years ago. The location is Columbia’s branch studio on Sunset boulevard at Lyman place, where Dorinda is playing the title role in the new movie version of Gene Stratton Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost.” In 1915, Dorinda’s father, Elmer Clifton, was a young leading man in D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” which was made on outdoor stages at precisely the same place.

And thus her career started.

CAREER

Dorinda appeared in only one movie for Columbia, The Girl of the Limberlost. Based on the classic novel by Indiana authoress Gene Stratton-Porter, it’s raw, brutal and unpleasant, about a girl whose own mother hates her, but despite the sombre plot, the movie never goes over the line into truly hard stuff, as this is still Hollywood, no matter the story, they always make it a cut or two above depressed. Dorinda played the lead, and great things were expected from her. Unfortunately, the movie failed to gather much interest among the public despite genereally warm reviews -as a result, it’s barely remembered today, and Dorinda’s career tanked.

However, she chose to march on. She lost her Columbia contract, but signed with a poverty row studio. So, her next movie, was The Marauders. What can I say, low-budget westerns yet again! This is an above average Hopalong Cassidy movie, but it’s still a low-budget western so no bueno as far as I’m concerned.

Dorinda won a contract with MGM, hoping to obtain stardom thru a different path. MGM put her in a string of different genres, and she started her MGM years in two pretty famous musicals – On the Town and Annie Get Your Gun. She than branched into thrillers with Shadow on the Wall, an interesting movie which gave Ann Sothern  chance to play drama – and that didn’t happen often, mind you. Strong support is given by the ever suave Zachary Scott and Gigi Perreau.

Dorinda went back to musicals, and appeared in a string of them – Hit Parade of 1951Grounds for Marriage (a Kathryn Grayson/Van Johnson vechicle), Call Me Mister (this time a Betty Grable/Dan Dailey movie) and Excuse My Dust.

Then it was back t more serious movie fare with Slaughter Trail. Serious only in name – it’s another western, not quite a slow budget as Hopalong Casid but not a whole lot more. It does have a more impressive cast (Brian Donlevy, Virginia Grey), but it’s still the same old Cowboys vs Indians.

The last batch of movies Dorinda made under her MGM contract were excellent musicals – The Belle of New York (the weakest of the bunch, but still a good enough musical with Fred Astaire), Singin’ in the Rain (what more do I need to say?), Million Dollar Mermaid (one of Escther William’s best), Stars and Stripes Forever (worth seeing for Clifton Webb if nothing else) and The Band Wagon (the best Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire pairing). Dorinda’s last two movies were adventures: The Golden Blade, a mid tier Arabian adventure type, with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie, and Moonfleet, a beguiling mix of swashbuckling movie and Gothic horror. The male lead is Stewart Granger, truly a fitting replacament for the aging Errol Flynn, and the rest of the cast is equally good – George Sanders, Joan Greenwood, Viveca Lindfors.

After her MGM contract ended, Dorinda gave up on movies to devote herself to family life.

PRIVATE LIFE

For a time in 1949, Forinda was slated to marry Anson Bond, a “quickie” producer, when his divorce from Maxine Violet Nash was made final. Bond was a business partner of her father, and it seemed to me the scenario of “marrying the boss’ daughter” more than a love match. However, fate intervened – Dorinda’s father died in 1949, and she broke up the engagement not long after.

met her first husband, William K. Nelson, when served as Youth Director for the Congregational Church in Hollywood. They married in 1951.

William “Ace” K. Nelson was born Sept. 7, 1922, in Hollywood, California. Here is a short summary of his life, taken from his obituary:

Ace was a graduate of Hollywood High School and Occidental College. He got his nickname when he was playing guard on a never-defeated Hollywood High School basketball team. At the final bell he flung the ball from beyond mid-court and scored the winning basket. The next day, the papers reported Bill “Ace” Nelson’s amazing shot. The nickname followed him to college and onward.

While still at Occidental, Ace joined the Navy’s officers training corps, and after Pearl Harbor was sent to Columbia University to be trained as a “90-day wonder” Naval officer. He commanded an LST for three years in the Pacific during World War II. His was the flagship of his 60-ship convoy.

After graduation from Occidental with a major in economics, Ace and his friend Robert Hayward decided they didn’t want to sit behind desks all their lives. They therefore hired an old and wise Swedish carpenter to teach them the trade by building a house with them. Ace continued to be a (very contented) carpenter-contractor for his working life

The couple had three sons: Alec, born on August 22, 1953, Mark, born on October 29, 1953, and David, born on May 21, 1959. The family lived in Corona Del Mar, California. Dorinda gave up her career by that time and was a devoted mother and wife.

The Nelsons divorced in 1967, and William remarried to Joni, and moved to Oregon. He died in 2008.

Dorinda married her second husband, Anthony Lee Gorsline, on July 5, 1970. Gorsline was born on May 4, 1930, in California. He was married once before, to Stephanie Lorna Herrmann, in 1953, and they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

The couple moved to Brownsville, Oregon. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1976. Dorinda continued to live in Oregon and never remarried. Gorsline also stayed in the same city.

Dorinda became a succesful writer and was very active n the aristical communit on the West Coast. She started writing her memoir, and did so partial yin the 100 years old artist’s retreat, MacDowell Colony. When asked about her reasons for becoming a writer, she said:

“The reason I write is I have all these ghosts in my past, and I want to have them tell the story. Then I don’t have to live with this story any more.”

She finally published her memoir, Woman In The Water: A Memoir Of Growing Up In Hollywoodland  (check it up on the Amazon link), in 2005. The book was warly recieved and she continued writing, mostly childen’s books. Some of her works are: Take the cake, Everybody is somebody and Ginger Bird. She retired from writing in 2007.

Dorinda Clifton died on February 18, 2009, in Brownsville, Oregon. Her former husband, Anthony Gorsline, died just few months later, on June 17, 2009.

 

 

Dorothy Dearing

dorothydearing3

Dorothy Dearing was another dancer who broke into movies, but found little success in her new career, managing plenty of uncredited roles. However, after Dorothy turned her life around and remade herself for the second time, this time as a succesful businesswoman. Bravo to her! Now, let’s hear her story!

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Dearing was born on April 17, 1913, in Parachute, Colorado, to Erdix Dearing and Elizabeth “Bessie” Wilson. Her father worked as a commercial inker. Her older brother, Erdix, was born in 1912, and her younger brother, Edward, was born in 1916. The family moved to Alhambra, California not long after Edward was born. Dorothy attended elementary and high school there.

Her father died in 1925. Her mother rented the house to tenants for some extra money, but in order to feed the family, both Erdix and Dorothy had to go to work. Erdix worked as a salesman in a drug store, and Dorothy was a dancing teacher (at only 16 years old!). Her love for dancing soon overrode everything else, and, after she graduated from high school, she set her sights to Hollywood and left for Los Angeles with her mother.

Dorothy was one of those actresses that didn’t land a contract right away, in fact, she danced in Busby Berekeley’s shows by night, worked as a secretary by day and went to as many auditions as she could, visiting tons of casting agents. One of them gave her a chance, she got a movie contract and started her career in 1933 for 20th Century Fox.

CAREER

Dorothy appeared unciedted in fluffy, happy-go-lucky musicals – Dancing LadyRedheads on Parade and Song and Dance Man. As she was a trained dancer, this was probably easy-peasy for her. All of these movies are no works of art, but are more than fun and nice on the eyes.

dorothydearing5Dorothy then turned to a bit more serious fare with Girls’ Dormitory, an insipid drama-romance about a (gasp) girls dormitory, with Simone Simon in the lead. Tyrone Power was a secundary male character then. Then, Dorothy took a year-long break from movies (I guess it was for martial reason, but can’t be sure), and returned in 1938. Her first movie was Alexander’s Ragtime Band – and guess who was the lead? Tyrone Power, of course, in one of his Alice face musicals. It’s a pretty good movie, especially interesting to nostalgia people. Dorothy then had her first credited role in Up the River, a likeable and lively comedy about con men who work their own football team (the story was remade later with Spencer Tracy). For more about Tail Spin, perhaps the pinnacle of Dorothy’s career, read the Private life section. It’s Stage door just swap acting with aviation. Dorothy then had another credited role in the mediocre drama Wife, Husband and Friend, one of the tons of Loretta Young movies from the 1930s (that almost nobody remembers today).

Dorothy then appeared in Hotel for Women, one of the best women’s movies of the 1930s, with the young Linda Darnell in the lead (who goes on to live in the hotel for women), and an impressive supporting cast to boot (Ann Sothern, Jean Rogers, Lynn Bari, June Gale)… A year later, Dorothy also appeared in the sequel – Free, Blonde and 21, and this time Lynn Bari had the cake!

Dorothy returned to musicals in the pastiche Hollywood Cavalcade (with Alice Faye in the lead, again), and the so-so biographical movie, Swanee River, about songwriter Stephen Foster. She then appeared in a rare Lynn Bari vehicle, City of Chance, a mid tier comedy/drama about a girl going to the big city so she can save her boyfriend from becoming a gambling addict.

Next up was the pale remake of Wizard of Oz – The Blue Bird, with Shirley Temple. Nothing special to see here, so skip unless you are a Shirley fan. Then there was Girl in 313, a typical B movie, blend of crime, heist and romance, with the evanescent Florence Rice in the lead, playing a jewel thief. It was followed by The Great Profile, a thin but highly amusing movie in which John Barrymore spoofs himself, playing an alcoholic former movie star. I like Barrymore – he was a superb if a bit overtly dramatic actor, but his last years were truly a study in a wasted life. Then Dorothy was in Murder Over New York, a mid tier Charlie Chan movie.

dorothydearing2Dorothy captured some roles in higher up movies with Hudson’s Bay, an epic movie about early Canada (with Paul Muni, truly a gem among actors!), Tall, Dark and Handsome, a well made comedy/crime film with Cesar Romero and Virginia Gilmore (too bad about her – she was a capable, good actress, but was overshadowed by her husband, Yul Brynner). Dorothy appeared in another Alice Faye movie, That Night in Rio – same old same old, shallow overall, but fun, elegant and pleasing. She continued with more musicals – The Great American Broadcast, another same old same old Alice Faye vehicle, Moon Over Miami, a surprisingly charming Betty Grable musical (I was more interested in Carole Landis, who plays Betty’s sister – she was truly a stunner!).

Dorothy last string of movies were crimes or dramas. She appeared in the lesser movie, We Go Fast, a completely forgotten Lynn Bari movie where she plays a waitress who falls for the wrong guy, and in a better one: I Wake Up Screaming, a top-tier film noir, with a solid story (watch it to see it!) and a cast of not very talented actors who actually give above-average-performances (for them at least). Neither Betty Grable nor Victor Mature knew how to act, but here it works. Dorothy’s last movie was Thunder Birds: Soldiers of the Air, another William Wellman aviation movie, a must see for fans of the genre and a good-enough movie for the rest of us.

PRIVATE LIFE

dorothydearing4

In 1934, not long after she started her movie career, Dorothy gave a beauty hint for the readers:

Ten minutes daily for a period of a month in training the muscles of the abdomen will do much to help the not-so-perfect figure Simply contract and relax , the muscles, slowly and systematically, and after a while improvement should be evident.

It was noted that Dorothy was an excellent spokeswoman, one of Hollywood’s most attractive blondes, and that her favorite hot beverage was Bokar coffee, because its vigorous and winey aroma.  Dorothy was well known in Hollywood for her resemblance of both Madeline Carroll and Dorothy Mackaill. She was also part of the “in crowd” at 20th century Fox, as this article can attest:

Each noontime at Twentieth Century-Fox, four young stock actresses—Alice Armand, Dorothy Dearing, Irma Wilsen and Helen Erickson—lunch with ex­ star Mae Marsh and chatter like so many magpies. Having often wondered at such conversational pep, I finally mustered courage to ask Mae, pointblank, what they had talked about. “Well, said she, “Today we discussed (1) Alice Faye’s new hairdress, (2) the rumored romance of Sonja Henie and Alan Curtis, (3) the new composition stockings, (4) possible use of the same material for undies, (5) winter wardrobes and (6) three other things that are none of your business!” Guess femmes are femmes—even if they are actresses.

Dorothy’s only true claim to fame came when she went on the Tailsip publicity tour. A short article about it:

Tailspin party involves more than 5,500 miles of airline travel. In each key city visited the party will deliver prints of “Tailspin,” which stars Alice Faye, Constance Bennett and Nancy Kelly.  Some of the personalities to visit Detroit will include Ruth Nichols, famous speed pilot, who has established many of her air speed records right here, and Margo Bain Tanner, world’s holder title for a speed record. Others in the visiting party will include Dorothy Dearing, Joan Valerie, Lillian Porter and Helen Erickson, youthful stock actresses from the Twentieth Century-Fox studios. The fliers and Hollywood starlets will spend Saturday night and Sunday morning in Detroit. They’ll be guests at a buffet supper at 7 p. m. Saturday at the Book-Cadillac Hotel, together with Detroit and Michigan members of the Ninety-nine Club, officers from Pelfridge Field, civic dignitaries and newspaper men and women.

Sometime in the 1930s, Dorothy was married, but I could not find any information about the groom nor indeed how long did it last. What I do know that by 1940, she was divorced and living with her mother, Bessie, in Los Angeles. She also dated comedy writer Curly Harris for a time in 1937.

Dorothy made her last movie in 1942, and saw the writing on the wall. Always an independent, capable woman, she decided to go into business – import/export business, to be exact. By 1944, she was pretty well established in the Los Angeles biz world. Here is an article from 1944:

Dorothy Dearing. an importer, just back” from Mexico City, brought us aevaral packs of American-made cigarettes which she purchased there. One pack of Luckies (where the revenue tax stamp should be) is marked: “Best Wishes from, the Hit Parade and Joan Edwards.” Free cigarettes meant for our troops overseas. She paid 10 cents per pack! Miss Dearing and several friends bought them at the drug store in the Reforma Hotel, Mexico City. They are now in the mails to examination,

dorothydearingDorothy Dearing and former actor Roland Drew began dating in 1944, while he was still serving in the US Army. After a brief engagement, they married on August 12, 1946, in Los Angeles.

Roland was born, as Walter David Goss, on August 4,1900, in New York,  to David Goss and Elizabeth Kennedy. His father was English. Roland, in silent days, played opposite such stars as Dolores del Rio and Gloria Swanson. Later he was prominent as a character actor on the screen and in radio. He gave up acting by the time he married Dorothy. He enlisted as a private in September 1942 during World War II. This was his first marriage.

Their son Damon Dearing was born on April 13, 1947. Dorothy left acting for good by that time, and focused on her family and her import business. Drew became a renown dress designer in California, catering to the posh ladies, and was very famous and successful. IMDB alleges that Dorothy became an alcoholic, and this contributed to her premature death.

Dorothy Dearing Drew died on April 19, 1965, in Beverly Hills, California. Her widower, Roland Drew, died on March 17, 1988 in Santa Monica.

 

Phyllis Adair

phyllis-adair-1

Beautiful and regal Phyllis Adair showed an early promise by appearing in a number of low budget westerns. However, when the time came for her to spring up and manage a step forward, career-wise, like many of her contemporaries, she just didn’t make it.

EARLY LIFE:

Phyllis Louise Wilsnack was born on May 1, 1919, in Chicago, Illinois, to George and Louise Wilsnack.  Her older sister, Priscilla Mary, was born on August 5, 1911 in Chicago.

Her father, a direct descendant of the noble von Wilsnack line (his great grandfather was count von Wilsnack), was born in 1886 in Berlin, Germany and after finishing his education in Europe, in 1908 he emigrated to the US and settled Chicago, Illinois. He worked as a chemical engineer, specializing in making cement. Her mother, Louise Wingertier, was born in Buffalo, New York and came from a prominent Swiss family.

The family lived in Chicago, where Phyllis and Priscilla grew up. The family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, in the early 1930s. After living in Easton for a few years, they departed for Los Angeles after Phyllis graduated from high school so she can attend college in Los Angeles.

Phyllis enrolled into college in Los Angeles (could not find which one), and there met her first husband. In the meantime, she started to act professionally, appearing in several little theater productions. She was seen by a talent scout, and soon started her movie career.

CAREER

Phyllis appeared in a great deal of low-budget westerns (oh my!). The list is as follows: Wild Horse ValleyBilly the Kid’s Fighting PalsLand of Hunted MenRiders of the Dawn and Gunning for Vengeance. As per usual, I’m not going to write anything about these charming movies, I am definitely not a fan of big budget, much less low budget westerns.

Her filmography is peppered with more valiant tries. her first ever movie, made in 1939, was All Women Have Secrets, in what seems like an interesting movie about few young people (students to be precise) who pool their resources to make their life better. Hollywood rarely tackled with such everyday problems, and it’s sure a breeze of fresh air to see movies like this. The cast has some hidden gems that would surface later – Jeanne Cagney, Janet Waldo and Veronica Lake.

phyllis-adair-and-max-terhune-1Phyllis made another movie in 1944, Abroad with Two Yanks, about (guess!) Two US soldiers and their adventures in Australia during WW2. The movie was made as a morale booster and thus hold little merit outside that field. it’s not a bad lot, but it’s a lightweight comedy and that’s about it…At least William Bendix and Helen Walker (in the lead roles) manage to do their job admirably.

God Is My Co-Pilot is perhaps the best known movie of Phyllis’a career, and yet it’s far from a full pledges classic everybody knows today. However, the movie, about Robert Lee Scott, a Georgia native who became a flying Tiger and did miraculous things during WW2, is well made and solid, if anything else. Scott is played by Warner Bros favorite bland and uninteresting every-guy, Dennis Morgan! I know, I may be harsh towards Morgan, but I’ve seen a few of his movies and I truly never understood his appeal. He was neither handsome not a particularly good actor… He’s far from the wooden magnificence of John Boles or John Gavin, but he just doesn’t do it for me. The supporting cast is much better – Dane Clark, Raymond Massey, Andrea King.

In 1945, Phyllis appeared in Kitty, a wonderful historical movie about the rise and rise of a simple London wench, with Paulette Goddard and Ray Milland in the lead roles. Just as I don’t like Morgan, thus I like Milland. He had some limitations as an actor, but he sure managed to leave a mark in most movies he appeared in. Paulette, in a similar vein, was not a great actress, but had screen presence and a feline, alluring vibe. What the film does right is putting these two actors in roles absolutely perfect for them – Milland as a charming cad and Paulette as a feisty gold digger. Add to this a solid script, great costumes and set design, and we have a winner!


To Each His Own
 was another great entry into Phyllis’ filmography, a very good example of a weepy woman’s picture done right. When you have Paulette Goddard, Olivia de Havilland and Charles Boyer, you can’t really go wrong, now can you? They truly don’t make them like this no more! The Glass Alibi is a so-so thrilled with some good twists in it. Sadly, the cast is lackluster (low tier stars like Douglas Fowler and Maris Wrixon) and the director just can’t make this a truly memorable movie experience. Phyllis’ last movie was Of Human Bondage, the lesser remake of a great book. This is the problem when you try to film movies that already have ultimate adaptations. Paul Henreid takes Leslie Howard’s role – too bad he can’t hold a candle to him (despite a strangely charming melancholy strike, Henreid was a sadly mediocre actor). Eleanor Parker is good in Bette Davis’ role, but let’s be real, nobody can top Davis is that kind of paranoid, nervous roles.

Phyllis returned to the theater even before her movie career ended. Example, from 1948: “Beaux Arts Theater will reopen Dec. 25 with “Holiday Lady,” a new comedy-drama by Luther Yantls, who has also written “Killers,” “Souvenir Sadie” and “Loose Ladles.” The production will be offered by Irving Thorns and Jack Moser. Its plot concerns a young girl of the early 1900’s whose view of life was “far ahead” of the period In which she found herself. Phyllis Adair and Jack Murray will be the principals in a company of 15. ”

By 1949, Phyllis was out of showbiz and raising a family.

PRIVATE LIFE

Phyllis’ private life was barely mentioned by tabloids, so there is so little information… Anyway, let’s squeeze what we have. First, Phyllis was a stand-in for Peggy Cummins during the filming of Forever Amber. However, we do know that Peggy was ultimately sacked and Linda Darnell took over.

Phyllis married her first husband, med student William Fredrick Eschrich, on February 14, 1940, in Los Angeles. Both of them were in college, and lived with her parents who supported them (bad idea!).

dennis-moore-and-phyllis-adairEschrich was born on February 19, 1916, in Los Angeles, to Julius Eschrich and Aurelia Mountain. He started to attended med school in his home town and met Phyllis during his studies. Sadly, the marriage was terminated in about 1943. After the divorce, William graduated from med school and became a successful doctor. He married Marcella Phillips and had two sons, Gary, born on March 9, 1948 and Tyler, born on January 21, 1950. William practiced medicine in California for the rest of his life and died on January 3, 1990, in Los Angeles.

Phyllis married her second husband, Edward David Bronaugh, in Los Angeles on August 27, 1945. Bronaugh was born on July 12, 1918, to Ruby Rheinhart and Eugene Bronaugh, in Kansas, Missouri. He trained as a pilot and became a commercial airline pilot. He served in the Air Forces during WW2, and spent two and a half years overseas. He was married once before to Mary Louise Boswell – it was a wartime marriage that started on March 12, 1943 and ended that same year.

Phyllis and Edward’s marriage also proved to be very short – they divorced in 1946 or 1947. Bronaugh later moved to GlendaleArizona and got married again, to a woman named Francoise. They had two children, Kelly and Stephane. He died on August 3, 1987 in Arizona.

Phyllis married her third husband, a Mr. Stevenson, in 1948. Their son, Scot Bruce, was born on July 3, 1949. Long retired from showbiz by then, she devoted her time to her family and lived the rest of her days in California.

Phyllis Stevenson died on February 23, 1990 in Los Angeles, California.