Anita Thompson

Anita Thompson didn’t come to Hollywood because she was an actress, or a dancer, or a model – she came just because she was pretty, wanted to become famous and had monetary support from her parents. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, despite her beauty, but she did meet her husband in Hollywood, married him, and enjoyed a happy family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Anita Merle Thompson was born on December 15, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, to Hicks Ellington Thompson and Bessie Merle Cory. She was their only child. Her Texas-born father was an independent oil operator and manager, and the family was well off – they employed a servant when Anita was a little girl.

Anita grew up in Dallas and Galveston, Texas and attended high school there. She sometimes appeared in the society columns, as a beautiful young debutante. Despite her placid, safe life, Anita wanted more, and after graduating from high school, decided to try her luck in Hollywood to become an actress. She came to Hollywood in mid 1933, and started to work as an extra.

It was probable that Anita would have loitered in the extra ranks if not for a publicity gimmick. After being in Hollywood for a few months, with no roles behind her and unlikely to succeed, Anita had almost given up hope and returned home to Texas. Yet, just in the nick of time, 20th Century Fox revealed in the papers that they had found a way to help “unknown” actresses. The procedure was: Three extra girls were singled out to face the cameras In small roles. The three chosen were the ones who topped the field in beauty over a hundred chorines. They  were shown in closeups and given a chance to speak a few lines. Anita was one of those girls. Their small parts may lead to greater roles, studio officials said. Of course, this proved to be a false alarm – neither of the girls ever achieved much, but Anita’s career was launched.

CAREER

Anita started her career in Gold Diggers of 1933, top of the barrel Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley musical. It has all the right ingredients – a thin but serviceable story about young hopefuls in New York trying to make it in the musical theater, large, lavish and incredibly staged musical numbers, and well plotted but not over the top drama. And the cast! Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler… Except Ruby, who was a good dancer but dismal actress, all the others are tops!

The rest of Anita’s slim career followed the lavish musical path, and she always played chorines or other dancers. It seems that she was aimed to be seen, not to be heard or indeed to act.

First came Arizona to Broadway, a completely uneven movie about con men conning other con men that starts good but goes south pretty soon, and second came Dancing Lady, actually a pretty decent Joan Crawford musical with the same old Joan story – poor girl makes good. But I love my Franchot Tone, and he’s tops in this one! Anita’s contract went on, but she didnt’ appear in any movies in 1934.

In 1935, she appeared in Redheads on Paradea completely forgotten musical, with Bing Crosby’s wife Dixie Lee as the leading lady. In 1936, she appeared in King of Burlesque, the funny but not particularly memorable Warner Baxter musical, with Alice Faye as the singing sensation. The second movie was Song and Dance Man, another totally forgotten musical with Claire Trevor in the lead.

Anita’s last movie was High Tension, a straight comedy with no singing or dancing numbers – finally, something that isn’t a musical!! Despite a plot that sounds vaguely interesting (brawling cable layer Steve Reardon, played by Brian Donlevy, doesn’t want to marry girlfriend Edith but he also doesn’t want her to date other men), the movie is a B effort, completely forgotten, and did no one any favors. Anita played a very small role in it anyway – it was clear that her career was on the skids, so going into retirement wasn’t the worst choice she could make.

That’s it from Anita!

PRIVATE LIFE

Anita had light brown hair (which was bleached during her brief Hollywood sojourn), hazel eyes, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighted 115 lbs.

When she was given a stock contract by Twentieth Century-Fox studios, she was lamented as a cute type, miniature, but perfect. with some of the vivaciousness of a Dorothy Lee or a Lupe Velez. Well, couldn’t say if they were right or nit – but she for sure never had a career to match the ladies mentioned (despite them not being big stars themselves). Interesting fact: when Anita went into Los Angeles court to get. action on her film contract, She was so busy with her work that she didn’t have time to change from her beach suit-slacks attire, and went dressed like that. Her contract wasn’t half bad – calling for a wage of $75, with options up to ‘$1,000 a week.

Anita also gave a beauty hint to the readers:

A “DRY shampoo” twice a week is an effective aid to hair beauty. Massage dry cornmeal thoroughly into the scalp, then brush it out. The treatment will invigorate the scalp give the hair a natural gloss and keep it fluffy.

As for her love life, it was a calm affair. Anita dated James Dunn in March 1934, but it didn’t work and he ultimately married Frances Gifford in 1937.

By late 1934, Anita started to date John Quillan, her manager. In June 1935, the papers noted that Anita went to visit her father Hicks Thompson, a Magnolia employee, at the Navarro Hotel, in Corsicana, Texas. She was accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Hicks Thompson, and Johnny Quillan, then the party went to Galveston. It all seemed completely normal – a starlet visits her parents after not seeing them for some time – but, the papers didn’t mentioning the true reason for her visit – Anita wanted her father to meet her betrothed. After she returned to Los Angeles, she was finally “busted”. How? The papers made her engagement into a semi romantic story about how she was found out:

There is nothing unusual these days in the sight cf a woman knitting in public, but friends of Anita Thompson. Twentieth Century-Fox film actress, became suspicious when they found her at the studio embroidering the initial “Q” on table linens. “How come?” they asked, and Miss Thompson was just smiling enigmatically.

Cute, no? Anyway, Anita married John Quillan on October 8, 1935, in the Los Angeles based Church of the Blessed Sacrament, in a service read by Father Edward Whalen.

John Joseph Quillan was born on June 25, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Quillan and Sarah Owen, who were both vaudeville performers. Quillan made his stage debut at an early age alongside his parents as well as his siblings in their act titled ‘The Rising Generation’. By the early 1920s the family moved to Los Angeles, where Mack Sennett signed his younger brother Eddie to a contract in 1922. John didn’t particularly like acting, and he appeared in only a dozen movies during his 15 years in Hollywood – he preferred working in the backstage aspects of the business, becoming a manager for bit players. Later became a comedy writer for several radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

The family lived in Los Angeles and had five children: Barbara Bess, nicknamed Bobbie, born on May 21, 1937, Irene Penelope, born on February 1, 1941, John Joseph, born on July 31, 1945, Edward Francis, born on December 24, 1950, and Joseph F., born on November 27, 1956.

In the mid 1950s, the family moved from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, where John became a succesful real estate broker. They had a big family house with a pond in the background. The husband-wife team also opened a roller staking rink, as this article from 1954 can attest:

The new roller-skating rink at the Recreation Center, Indian avenue and Radio road, is proving highly popular. It will be operating again under the direction of Johnny and Anita Quillan tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  Anita Quillan said that the introduction of roller skating here for the short duration of seven weeks exceeded their most optimistic expectations. They will return early in the Fall and plan an ambitious program with many private parties to be allocated their own evenings.

All in all, it seems that Anita and John enjoyed a very happy, fulfilling family life, and that this is a happy story coming from Hollywood. their daughter Barbara was an child actress for a short time, and their son Joseph became a renown artist.

John Quillan died on August 27, 1985 in Los Angeles.

Anita Thompson Quillan died on 23 December 1991, in Sherman Oaks, California.

 

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Jayne Regan

Jayne Regan was a debutante-wants-to-become-star type – a pretty girl from upper echelons of society who acts because she likes it, not because she needs it or because she is passionate about the art. Her career, although slim, still exceeds the careers of many other like minded debutantes, as she actually played leading roles (in low budget westerns, but still!). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Augusta Jane Stoffregen was born on July 28, 1910, in St. Louis, Missouri, to  Herman C. Stoffregen and Anna Hartmann, both of German ancestry. Her older brother Carl was born 1905. Augusta came from a prestigious family – her father was a socially prominent and quite wealthy coffee importer. The family always employed at least one maid.

Augusta was a precocious, energetic child that was a holy terror to her parents and everybody around her by the ti,me she was 10 years old – as a passionate tomboy, she was constantly falling in trouble and getting injured. Fittingly, she was nicknamed Bobbie by her peers, and the nickname stuck her whole life. However, as she mature,d it was clear that Bobbie was a knockout, a truly pretty girl. Combine this with her family’s prestige and wealth, and Bobbie was a fixture on the local St. Louis social scene, being a much laded debutante that seemingly had it all – looks, money and charm.

After finishing high school, Augusta went on to study at the Washington University in St. Louis. She was popular on the campus with the boys, and was named Queen of the School of Engineering. Unfortunately, other female coeds shunned her – was it jealously or something more, it’s impossible to say. Bobbie was also a pretty reckless driver – in 1932, a verdict of $3,500 for personal injuries was brought against her before a jury Circuit Court by F. E. Schellenberg, who claimed he was injured when a truck he was driving with an automobile driven by Bobbie. She also enjoyed Welch’s, the local bar. “After a particularly arduous exam or a dry lecture,” she told the papers “Welch’s is ideal for “bucking one up.’ It’s fine to add flavor to fruit punches too.”

Bobbie graduated from Washington in 1932. Two years later she met noted director Cecil B. de Mille at a social function in St. Louis. Cecil was a man with a keen eye for beauty and talent, and he advised her to try a movie career – he would help of course. This meeting resulted in Augusta’s admittance to the Twentieth-Century-Fox stock school, and of her career went up!

CAREER

Before I make a more through analysis, I have to say that Jayne appeared in her fair share of low budget westerners I will not write about, just list them: Ridin’ ThruWest on ParadeTerror of the PlainsThe Cactus Kid and Texas Jack. Nuff said about that.

Jayne also appeared, thankfully, in other genres. She started her career in 1932 in Cleopatra, a De CeMille movie from a time when he was sexy and edgy and not didactic and overblown, like many of his later works. And the cast, the superb cast! Claudette Colbert, Henry Wilcoxon, Warren William (I love that man!!), C. Aubrey Smith and the list goes on! Wonderful, and if you want a epic movie, this one is for you!

In 1935, after some dismaying westerns, Jayne appeared in One More Spring, a charming. bittersweet drama about homeless people living in Central Park, played by Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter. Then came Dante’s Inferno, a measly Spencer Tracy drama, most notable for being a showcase for the dancing skills of young Rita Hayworth.

In 1936, Jayne was in Ladies in Love, one of the famous three girls seeking  husbands subgenre. The genre thrived all the way until the 1960s, with movies like Three Coins in a Fountain, The best of everything and the Pleasure Seekers. This one is even a bit above average, with Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young and Constance Bennett as the eponymous trio. And one of the man is played by Tyrone Power, whauza! The same year Jayne had a credited but smaller role in the too cute for your teeth Shirley Temple movie, Stowaway, where Shirley play, you guessed it, a stowaway!

Jayne was one of the many dancers who appeared in the Sonja Henie musical, Thin Ice (the less I write about Henie, the better). The year was 1937, and Jayne also appeared in This Is My Affair, a typical romance/drama with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck. What can I say, she had the acting chops, he had the looks, and together they made it push somehow. Joking aside, Babs was a much better actress than her hubby, and it shows, but their chemistry sizzles! The story is bland and predictable, with Taylor playing the same old boring hero, appointed by then President McKinley to uncover the band that systematically robs banks. Much more interesting in his role is Brian Donlevy as a bad guy. All in all, a meh-meh movie.

Jayne then appeared in You Can’t Have Everything, a typical Alice Faye musical. So, what makes an Alice Faye musical? Well, just one thing – it’s a movie where where Alice Faye plays Alice Faye. No matter what her name is, it’s always just her. Everything else is more or less secondary. The came a subpar romantic comedy, Wife, Doctor and Nurse, where Warner Baxter is the doctor, Loretta Young the wife and Virginia Bruce the nurse. And now guess the story! Formulaic entertainment for sure, but not a particularly bad one.

Jayne was finally credited again in Second Honeymoon, a same old, same old Tyrone Power/Loretta Young vehicle. She plays a beautiful young divorce who stumbled upon her former playboy husband just after getting married for the second time. Just In a few years Tyrone would gradate to swashbucklers, and Loretta would slowly go towards more serious drama, but this is a paper thin, very light calorie movie. While not bad, it’s not very good either.

Jayne appeared in two Mr. Moto movies,. Thank You, Mr. Moto and Mr. Moto’s Gamble. A bit more interesting was Walking Down Broadway, a overtly dramatic but female-centric movie about 6 chorus girls that have a get together years after the show they appeared in closed. It has a solid female cast (Claire Trevor, Lynn Bari, Phyllis Brooks, Dixie Dunbar…), and is an unusual movie of the period, so definitely worth watching. Similarly good was Josette, a sophisticated comedy about two young men trying to wrest their father from the clutches of a gold digger but by mistake think the woman is a young nightclub singer with whom they both fall in love. The woman is played by Simone Simon, and the men were Don Ameche and Robert Young, and it’s a charming old comedy. Then came Always Goodbye, a soapy, weepy but ultimately satisfying Barbara Stanwyck melodrama.

Jayne had her last starring role in White tiger, a low budget and lackluster jungle movie. That’s it – you know the type, bad sets, no acting, implausible plot, just set in a jungle and with an exotic slant. Jayne last movie was Keep Smiling, a charming Jane Withers vehicle. And that was it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne was 5 feet 4 inches in height, weighted 111 pounds, and had brown hair and grey-brown eyes. She was also very superstitious, loved to golf and played it often, and got terrible scores. She was painted in the papers as a St. Louis debutante who forsook the glittering society of the Midwestern city and came west to break into the movies and really wanted to act. She used to say “I’m really sincere in wanting to work in motion pictures, but I suppose the producers just don’t realize it.”

Here is a short background on Jayne:

She particularly likes historical biographies. Jayne also sketches and designs some of her own clothes. She’s written a lot of short stories none of which she has sold and has been trying to do a novels. She had hopes of becoming a topline singer but, after studying for some time, was convinced that she would miss the upper rung of the operatic ladder by some distance. Then she chucked music aside and now sings only in the shower. She and her mother have a Hollywood apartment and three or four times a year her father spends a couple of months out here with them.

Jayne made minimal newspaper coverage .She dated J. F. T. O’Connor, Controller of the Currency, for a time, but they didn’t get to the altar.

Bobbie married Jarrell Emmett Gose on December 18, 1937. Jarrell was born on October 29, 1901, in Wise County, Texas, to Stehphen Mathus Gose and Ollie Allie Jarrell. He was married to Kittie West SCHREINER in 1927, but divorced her by 1935. He left Texas for Los Angeles in the early 1930s, became a production manager at Twentieth-Century-Fox studio.

Not long after their marriage, Jarrell gave up movies to work as an independent oil distributor and real estate broker. Following suit, Jayne also gave up her film work to become a housewife.

The Goses lived a normal life in California until their 1951 divorce. It seems that the divorce turned nasty at some point:

Jarrell E. Gose. 43. real-estate broker, yesterday blamed his mother-in-law for failure of his marriage but his wife, Jayne B. Gose, 41, former film actress, said he drank too much. In court of Superior Judge William S. Baird, where their contested divorce hearing is under way, Mrs. Gose said her husband borrowed large sums of money from her to use in his business but that he did not work. She asked that the court order the money returned. trial, in which Gose’s main grievance is mother-in-law. Gose complained that Mrs. Stoffregen would not speak to him, or even to his relatives. Through Atty. Royal M. Calvin, he asked that the family home at 11121 Montana St, West Los Angeles, and its furnishings, be declared jointly his. Mrs. Gose said she was known in films as Jayne Regan.

In the end, Jarrell won the right to keep his portable bar, and was also awarded a radio, piano and violin. Funny.

Jayne wasted no time in getting married again – she married Milo Monroe Turner on August 8, 1952, in Los Angeles or Monterey. Turner was born on July 26, 1916, in Mason City, Nebraska, to Milo Turner and Kathryn Monroe. His younger sister Reta was born in 1919. Sadly, his father died a few months before his sister was born, in December 1918. His mother remarried to a Karl Losey, had another son, Karl, in 1921, and died in 1925. Milo and his siblings were raised in Shawnee, Kansas, and then he moved to Los Angeles. He served during WW2 in the US Army, and ultimately became a Lieutenant. After his return from war, he became as a stock broker in Los Angeles.

Long retired from Hollywood by now, Jayne enjoyed a life away from the spotlight and didn’t make any newspaper headlines, so information about her life from 1953 until her death are scarce. She occasional returned to her hometown, St. Louis, often for film festivals, to talk about her film career, and lived with her husband in Anaheim, California, for a time.

Jayne Regan Turner died on March 19, 2000,in Redlands, California.

Milo Monroe Turner died on May 15, 2002, in Riverside, California.

 

Marjorie Deanne

Beautiful Marjorie Deanne was a beauty contest winner that came to Hollywood, hoping for a big break. Like with the majority of girls who took down that route, her break never came. However, she became a proficient businesswoman, and in the end, retired to raise a family.

EARLY LIFE

Clara Pauline Boughton was born on January 28, 1917, in Brownsville, Texas, to Walter M. Boughton and Catherine Lieb. Her father was a fire chief. The family lived in Meridian, Mississippi for a time after Clara’s birth, and her brother Edwin was born there in 1922. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid 1920s. Clara attended school there but was very much involved with her Texan side of the family and often visited them in Corpus Christi.

Clara was a natural-born beauty, and from the time she was a high school student, she attended beauty pageants and won titles like “Miss Southwest Texas” and so on. After graduating from high school, she decided to make a career out of it and entered showbiz.

After winning a trip to Hollywood through Corpus Christi’s Splash Day beauty contest in 1935, Clara’s acting career started. Joking! When she came to Hollywood for the first time in 1935, Clara at least she hoped something would happen. She would get an acting gig, she would dance, she would do something. But, alas, it was not meant to be. She spent 12 months knocking vainly at the studio gates and then, with her bank account drained and her courage a bit shattered, finally give up and took a job selling tickets for a Hollywood theater.  She had the usual luck of beauty contest winners and eventually got a job as usherette at the Grauman’s Egyptian theater. At some point, pursuing her regular duties, Marjorie ushered a man to a seat. It was director John Farrow. He decided Marjorie was a screen type and had plans to make her a proper actress. Unfortunately, as with many such cases, nothing happened, and Marjorie was back to square one.

Deciding to try other options a working girl had in that time and age (very, very limited!), she became a traveling saleslady. After noticing that the hosiery business was blooming, she started selling men’s shirts and socks. Soon, she started a profitable business in Hollywood as representative for an Eastern shirt and hosiery mill. Business was good and she hired a salesman. It kept on being good and she hired some more. Now she has 40 salesmen and they support her in luxury while she haunts the casting offices. She did some bit work in movies.

Marjorie, by then wealthy enough to work for and not for money, got a job in the Earl Carroll Theater as one of his beauties. She did some touring with the Theater going to New York in 1939, and then returned to Hollywood and finally started her tenure as a working actress.

CAREER:

Marjorie is most famous today for appearing in a string of Three stooges shorts – Violent Is the Word for CurlyDutiful But Dumb Matri-Phony Three Smart Saps . She also appeared in a string of other comedy shorts – The Nightshirt BanditMutiny on the BodyThe Sap Takes a Wrap and so on.For more information about this, visit Lord heath’s link about Marjorie Deanne.

As far as full length movies go, Marjorie made her debut in 1938 in The Goldwyn Follies, followed closely by Freshman Year and Girls’ School. All three movies are alike as they are the typical fluffy 1930s movie with no real depth but some degree of fun – While the Follies are a plot-less but entertaining musical,  Freshman Year a Dixie Dunbar college musical, and Girls’ School a juvenile story about high school girls and their love squabbles, with the radiant Anne Shirley in the leading role. Marjorie’s only 1939 role in a full length movie was A Chump at Oxford, the witty Laurel/Hardy movie. Marjorie then took a great from movie acting to tour with the Earl Carroll Theater.

She returned to movies in 1941, and that ended up as Marjorie’s most productive year – she appeared in no more, no less than 10 movies! let’s see her full length ones. I’ll Wait for You is a formulaic movie about a bad guy reforms after meeting hard-working, decent folks, only slightly elevated by the endearing performances by Marsha Hunt and Virginia Wiedler (this cannot be said of the leading man, Robert Sterling, performance – he doesn’t have enough gravitas to truly play a hard-core gangster). Then came West Point Widow, another forgotten Anne Shirley comedy, and then Kiss the Boys Goodbye, an interesting musical  based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce which was inspired by the search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. The original play had to be watered down to the extreme, and it works well as a musical/showcase for Mary Martin. Buy Me That Town was also based on superior material – a Damon Runyon story about a crook who wants to bankrupt a small town to suit his own nefarious deeds. The movie is sadly completely forgotten today, but except a solid plot it boasts a good cast (Loyd Nolan and Albert Dekker). Next was Niagara Falls, a completely silly comedy with the Jean Harlow wannabe Marjorie Woodward. The movie is watchable only if you try really hard not to take it seriously in any capacity. Equally dismaying was New York Town Design for Scandal, another Mary Martin semi musical, semi comedy.  

In 1942, Marjorie appeared in only two full length movies: Tarzan’s New York Adventure and the patriotic Star Spangled Rhythm. I don’t think anything needs to be written about the famous Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies – it’s something that you find either charming and educational and slightly idiotic. I guess Maureen O’Sullavan saves the day for both camps, as her warmth endears her to virtually anyone who ever watched the movies.

In 1943 Marjorie actually appeared in some solid movies, although not all of them were on the same level of quality by  along shot. The first was The Crystal Ball, a lightweight but funny Paulette Goddard/Ray Milland comedy. They were a pretty good combo, and have superb chemistry together, so it’s worth watching just for them. Next was Salute for Three a completely forgotten musical, and a Jimmy Rogers western comedy, Prairie Chickens, which isn’t half as bad as you would think it was. The bets movie of the year was For Whom the Bell Tolls, no more information necessary! So watch it! Marjorie was then in Let’s Face It, a watered and dumbed-down version of a saucy stage play, worth watching if only for Bob Hope and Betty Hutton. Equally sub par was Riding High, a Bob Hope cast off that went to Dick Powell – and he just isn’t the type to make it work. the plot is silly enough: A train arrives in the west and deposits a showgirl (Dorothy Lamour), an eligible bachelor (Dick Powell), and a swindler (Victor Moore), and the fun starts there. Dick and his leading lady, Dorothy Lamour, are completely overshadowed by a funny supporting cast (Victor Moore, Cass Daley and so on).  Luckily, Marjorie then appeared in True to Life, an above average comedy. The plot, while nothing special (A writer for a radio program needs some fresh ideas to juice up his show. For inspiration, he rents a room with a typical American family and begins to secretly write about their true life) lends itself nicely to the crazy family cliché that works because of a hilarious supporting cast. Dick Powell, Franchot Tone and Mary Martin are also top form, and do this kind of comedy with their eyes closed.

And that was it from Marjorie!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Marjorie dated actor Alexander D’Arcy at one point, and was on friendly terms with Frank Feltrop, tennis pro, and actress Movita, who later married Marlon Brando. Not much else was written about her private life.

Then, on March 19, 1944, Marjorie flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, to get married to Capt. Abraham Albert Manuck, attached to the Lifegarde General hospital dental staff there. It was noted that she expected to “settle down to a career of marriage with the captain.”

Abraham Albert Manuck was born on October 4, 1900, in Ehaterinslov, Russian Empire, to Benjamin Manuck and Rachael Sperans. he immigrated to the US, where he finished dentistry school and started to work as a dentist. He moved to San Francisco, and easily merged with the local high society. Manuck was married twice before – to Alba Baglione, whom he divorced in 1936 in Reno, Nevada, and Alla Manuck, whom he divorced in 1941 in Reno, Nevada. (guess Reno was his go-to destination for divorces).

Even before the marriage, Marjorie said to the papers she would not return to Hollywood and indeed cut her ties with the dream factory most thoroughly. She had obtained her release from the Actors guild and from Paramount studio, buying out her contract. Indeed, she would never return to Tinsel town and never made a movie again, opting for family life.

After the war ended, the family moved to Santa Clara, California. The couple had three children: Richard Albert, born on October 8, 1945, Stephen Bennett, born on December 3, 1948, and Denise Cheryl, born on June 19, 1951. All of the children were born in San Francisco. The Manucks enjoyed a happy family life in Santa Clara, and were active members of the local society, doing charity work and being quite civic-minded.

Clara Manuck died on May 21, 1994, in Redwood City, California.

Her widower Abraham Manuck died in 2000, aged almost 100.

 

Rowena Cook

Rowena Cook’s career might be considered lackluster by most standards, but she proved to be amazingly resilient performer in the long run. Rowena came to Hollywood via a contest, which is not good-by itself. Let’s be real,  most of the people who come to Hollywood by winning a contest (be it a beauty contest or anything similar) stay in the bottom levels of the pecking order, and Rowena was no exception – but unlike the majority of those people, she really wanted to act, not to become rich and famous. When such a person, with such aspirations, doesn’t hit fame in Hollywood, he find other outlets for his passion – and Rowena sure did! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rowena Sturges Cook was born on October 16, 1917, in Staten Island, New York, to Rowena Sturges and her husband, Wilburn Eugene Cook. Her older sister, Cordelia S, was born in 1906 in Mexico. Her father died in 1919 and, as far as I can tell, the family lived on his inheritance. Rowena and the girls moved to Traverse, Michigan in 1920, and moved to Pasadena around the time the recession hit.

After her education in Pasadena (of which I could not find anything), Rowena came to Chicago in the 1930s, working for about a year on a weekly radio show, before moving back to California in pursuit of an acting career.

In order to break into movies, Rowena entered the “Gateway to Hollywood“. It was a showcase for young up and coming actors, sponsored by Jesse Lasky, who conducts’ the search for new film talent via the show. She won, along with Ralph Bowman, Mary Jane Barnes and Lynn McKinley. And then it started!

CAREER

Rowena, as Alice Eden, was signed by RKO and got a decent role in Career, a movie showcasing life in a small Iowa town. And this is one good film – actually, it’s one of the few times that Hollywood realistically portrays the mentioned small town life. This ain’t no Andy Hardy, with his squeaky clean characters, perfect families and pristine streets – this is the real deal – as a reviewer on IMDB wrote:

This is a much grimmer world, where people are forced to face up to real issues, with no easy solutions; where panic and self-interest often take the place of reason and community-consciousness; where young love is often thwarted by ambition (and not just on the part of the career-minded male either); where the town drunk is not just a figure of fun, but contrives to be both boorishly obnoxious yet tragically sympathetic; above all, where venality is uppermost in just about everyone’s mind — except of course in the embittered storekeeper hero (revenge is what he’s after).

No wonder that the great Dalton Trumbo wrote the script – there is a ever present social undercurrent, and a very serious one. Sadly, the movie didn’t do any favors to anyone involved, including Rowena.

This is the story of a young girl who goes to Hollywood and hopes to become the next Sarah Bernhardt. Initially, Rowena was thrilled over winning’ the contest and getting a role and a contract. She’d spent years studying dramatic art, and naturally thought she’d be considered an actress. But she learned that people just thought of her as a contest winner. Her contract expired, and she was on her own. Instead of giving up hope, she decided that this was really her chance to make good. “I literally buried Alice Eden,” she said, the other day. “And started out to be just Rowena Cook.”

Sadly, Rowena Cook amassed only one credit. Kit Carson, an enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy western, with Jon Hall and Lynn Bari in the leads. A special bonus – Dana Andrews is also there!

That was all from Rowena!

PRIVATE LIFE

Rowena always maintained how she prepared for a theatrical career from her earliest days… When she got the Gateway to Hollywood contest, this is what papers wrote about her:

It seems that I will not have to worry about Rowena Cook’s (Alice Eden’s) future during the present year. She has 13 weeks of Alice Eden to do on the radio if she gets out of Des Moines alive. And then a picture and then the business of choosing between two or three contracts which have been slipped in the mail. Marvelously Lucky? You think that this little girl from New York has been marvelously lucky?

The sweet and dumb days have passed from Hollywood forever; a stupid grin and a good pair of gams are not enough at this time. Alice Eden is pretty enough to

Well, if you will start now and work for the next 17 years at plain and fancy dramatics, perhaps you will be lucky, like Miss Cook. She frittered away the precious hours during the first two years of her life and then someone told her that life is real and life ia earnest. “Oh, yes,” she said. “In June, 1939, only 17 years from now, Mr. Wrigley and Mr. Lasky will want me ta do a picture for them. Time’s a wastin’.” So there she Is as you will see her on Saturday.

Rowena’s only surge of publicity came when during that time, right after the win. As Andy Warhol would say, she had her five minutes of fame. Here is atypical article from that brief period:

Miss Eden, 21 and “blue-eyed blonde,” too was happy over her good luck and hoped it might lead to screen fame and fortune. Tuesday afternoon they presented medals at the A. A. U. and Wednesday night they will appear at the Varsity theater for the opening of the first picture In which they played featured – roles “Career.” Thursday morning they leave for Chicago and 13 weeks of radio work, and, in October, back to California.

It seemed like a wonderfully active, almost hectic life filled with interesting activities.. But it just didn’t last. On the other hand, Rowena’s co-star, John Archer (real name Ralph Bowman), enjoyed a long, if not especially successful career in Hollywood, amassed more than 100 credits, and married Marjorie Lord, and was the father of actress Anne Archer.
Rowena had a pretty low-key romantic life. On March 18, 1940, she married John Irving Laird, a fellow actor, in Los Angeles. Laird was born on December 10, 1911, to  Irving E. Laird and Ethel Taylor in Waukegan, Illinois, and came to Los Angeles for movie work as an actor. The marriage lasted eleven months, and they divorced in 1941. Laird remarried at least twice, second time in 1981, and died on August 5, 2003, in Florida.

By 1942, the US had entered WW2, and Rowena asked to be released from her contract so she could move to New York to help the war effort. This is what makes her such an interesting woman – when she saw that Hollywood wasn’t going to make her a top class actress, she opted to develop her skills in other ways and just left. No drama, just begin very efficient! In Nee York, Rowena began working as a trainer for new female Navy recruits at Hunter College in New York, and she did some part-time work as an actress, determined to become a legitimate stage actress.

In the theater circuit (during the run of John Loves Mary) she met director Vaughn Baggerly, whom she married in 1948. Vaughn Herbert Baggerly was born on April 18, 1917 in Davenport, Iowa, to Glenn Baggerly and Martha Crow, the youngest of two boys. The grew up and was educated in Davenport High School and attended the College of Theater Arts, Pasadena and then moved to Coral Gables, Florida, where he worked as a stage director. He was drafted in 1942, serving as a cryptographic officer and in the Special Services Corps. After returning to civilian life, he lived in New York.

The couple settled in Los Angeles, where their daughter Susan Rowena was born on July 31, 1949.  Despite his thriving theater career, Baggerly decided to become a professional Army officer, and was stationed in Tokyo during the Korean War. Rowena and Susan followed him there, and Rowena volunteered with a Red Cross at a local hospital. The couple returned to the US in 1955, and their son Vaughn David was born on July 28, 1955 in San Francisco.

Baggerly retired from the Army in 1964 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, then started to develop a recreation program for the Job Corps, and became head of the Job Corps office in San Francisco in 1965.

In their spare time, Vaughn was a director and Rowena an actress for the Theater of the Fifteen Company in Coral Gables – their love for acting never left them, and it was sure more than a simple fling but a deep passion. Not many actresses profiled on this blog could say that about their craft.

Vaughn retired in 1984 and he and Rowena settled in Laguna Nigel, Orange County.

Vaughn Baggerly died on January 20, 1990 and was buried in Illinois. Rowena moved to Barrington, Illinois, where she lived in a nursing home and was a capable illustrator and children’s stories writer.

Rowena Cook Baggerly died on March 2, 2004, in Barrington, Illinois.

Jayne Shadduck

Jayne Shadduck truly is an inspiring woman. Okay, maybe her Hollywood career is as thin as air and she never really tried to be a serious, accomplished actress, but she managed to more than make up for this slight by being a pioneer aviatrix and successful businesswoman (and this long after leaving Tinsel town behind). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jayne Dunham Francis Shadduck was born on July 1, 1915, in Walla, Walla, Washington, to Joe F. Shadduck and Francis Shadduck. She was their only child. Her father was a general director of an automobile sales salon, and the family was relatively well of.  

By 1930, the family had moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jayne attended high school. Jayne caught the dancing bug early, and was in the chorus before she graduated from high school. She moved to California and started her Hollywood career in 1932, only 17 years old.

She was one of the few girls who signed a contract with RKO. All the girls were chosen from a chorus recently developed In Hollywood by Busby Berkeley. There were eighty members of the chorus, who, in turn, were chosen from among more than 5,000 applicants. And Jayne was of!

CAREER

Sadly, Jayne appeared in uncredited minor, minor roles in only three movies. Two of those were top of the shelf 1930s musicals – 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Forget the story, enjoy the visuals and the dancing!

Jayne’s third movie was The Little Giant, a delightful, sharp and witty comedy with Edward G. Robinson playing a former bootlegger going straight. And fun ensures! Plus for featuring Mary Astor and Helen Vinson, both very capable, yummy actresses.

And that’s it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne gave a beauty hint to the readers in 1933:

Cologne is a boon for a variety of uses, such as scenting the bath, toning up tired pores and perfuming lingerie and handkerchiefs. When I am fatigued, I soak a pad of cotton with the refreshing liquid and press it to my temples, relaxing at the same time for a half hour, or as long as I can spare. It is most refreshing.

Jayne had a slight mishap during her early career, in 1932:

Jayne Shadduck, screen actress of “Forty-second Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933,” was painfully injured yesterday while working in a tank scene in a new musical picture. “Footlight Parade,” on a Warner Brothers sound stage. She suffered a contusion of the nose when she struck the arm of another girl during rehearsal

In 1933, Jayne dated first Lyle Talbot and then left him for Mike Francovitch, Joe E. Brown’s adopted son and star footballer at the U. C.L. A. That didn’t last either – Mike married Binnie Barnes in 1940.

Next on the line was the much-married director, Eddie Sutherland (one of his wives was Louise Brooks), who just left Grace Bradley to date her. It didn’t last either.

Interesting to note that Jayne and Katherine Hepburn got their contract on the very same day at the same judge! Here is a short article about it:

Pair Choose Day of Jinx to Get Approval of Judge for Picture Work When Adalyn Doyle, “good luck girl” for Katharine Hepburn, and blonde Jayne Shadduck. raised their right hands in .Superior Judge Mc-Comb’s court yesterday and swore to tell the truth concerning their contracts to appear in motion-picture productions of the Twentieth Century Pictures, Inc., they crossed their fingers. “Oh, we told the truth, all right,” they chorused, “but, after all, It Is Friday the 13th and we aren’t taking unnecessary chances.” The contracts cover a period of years with gradual increases in salary until, in the event all the options are exercised, both will receive weekly salaries in four figures and without any decimals strewn therein. Both contracts were approved.

In late 1933, Jayne met playwright Jack Kirkland. Soon, she was telling the papers that the marriage to Jack was more desirable than a career in the movies. Here is a laughable and pretty silly article about Hollywood starlets and matrimony from that time:

Six of the Goldwyn girls who adorned Eddie Cantor’s “Kid From Spain,” “Roman Scandals” and other recent hits have called off their vow against matrimony. Jayne Shadduck, Vivian Bannon Keefer, Dolores Casey, Jane Hamilton, Barbara Pepper and Bonny agreed none would wed until all had progressed to be something more than show girls. Most of them had recent bits in Radio’s “Strictly Dynamite.” Miss Shadduck holds a studio contract and now she’s engaged to marry Jack Kirk-land and the other five girls declare it open season for orange blossoms.

This truly is a bit of make-believe – most starlets with no acting experience and no real wish to become the next Sarah Bernhardt didn’t’ come to Hollywood to establish a career – they wanted to have fun  and get married! Let’s not kid ourselves, most of the starlets I profiled here go squarely into this category. If they really wanted to act, they would have gone to a drama school and did theater before landing into movies. There will always be exceptions, but Jayne wasn’t one of them. She was aiming to wed and that was that.

Jayne was preparing a get-out for Hollywood, and get-in for matrimony. She married Jack on march 23, 1934, and left immediately for a honeymoon in Spain.

Like most hasty marriage,s this one ended in a fiasco. They got into an intense tiff and decided to divorce while on their honeymoon. However, when they returned to Los Angeles, the situation changed from day-to-day – one weekend they went from tavern to tavern , dancing and drinking together, the other they were separated and awaiting a divorce.

After an up and down period of about half a year, they finally did divorce in February 1935. Jayne testified that Kirkland often absented himself from home for days without an explanation, and that he was abusive in his language to her. The final decree was to come in February 1936.

However, even after they divorced, Jack and Jayne couldn’t keep their hands of off each other. They still went out regularly and maintained a very flirty and sexy front. The reporters predicted that their divorce would not last for long and that they would remarry. But, well, life operates in strange ways, and this is an interesting story.

During the throes of their post divorce passion, Jayne left for Honolulu for a short break. Kirkland, like a love-struck youth that he was, drove her to the ship and almost forgot to come off before the gang-plank was lifted. he was expecting Jayne to return in a few weeks so they can continue their liaison and probably get married once again. BUT!

A romance that started under a tropical moon in Hawaii in May 1935, and it wasn’t Jack. Jayne and Henry J. Topping, Jr., New York banker and wealthy heir, fell hard for each other, and announced, literary two weeks later, that they will be married next February. I can only imagine how Jack felt, but he didn’t waste any time in finding new swains – he married three more times (to Julie Laird, Halia Stoddard and Nancy Hoadley), sired several children, among them the famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, and died on February 22, 1969.

Jayne went to Reno to speed up the nuptials. The press joked that she had to pay extra fare to Reno because Bob Topping’s diamond ring is so big. In Reno, Jayne won a final divorce from Jack Kirkland, on. charges of cruelty and was boarded a night plane for New York to meet Topping. Like in a fairy tale dream, Topping was right on job to greet Jayne when she arrived by air from Reno. Oh, so sweet!

The happy couple wed in August 6, 1935. Bob and Jayne were the town before sailing on that South American honeymoon. After their return from the honeymoon (no honeymoon divorce this time!), they continued living the high life in New York City, a solid part of the local jet set.

One of the first female pilots in the United States, Jayne flew a six-passenger plane from Detroit to New York in 1937, for which she was featured in Life magazine.

However, in August 1937, Bob and Jayne parted! They went to Hawaii together. He returned from Honolulu solo and flew right on to New York. Jayne followed on the next boat and is flew east to woo him back. For the next few months, there was scant information about the couple, but then in October the bomb fell: Topping said he had told his wife,  to “get a divorce.”, but he refused to confirm or deny rumors of a $500,000 settlement. The soap opera continued, with ups and downs, much like her first marriage. Will they or wont’ they?

First, they were being sued by the Wall St. lawyer who once smoothed out their differences. Okay, so they had outside help in the marriage, but it seems that it didn’t work quite as expected. In May 1938, this happened:

The secretly filed divorce action of Henry J. Topping Jr. of Greenwich, big-game hunter and heir to a tin plate fortune, was revealed today when his pretty actress wife, Jayne Shadduck -Topping, petitioned the Superior Court that the action be thrown out. Miss Shadduck, accuses her husband of bad sportsmanship by violating the hard and fast rules of divorce procedure. Topping’s application to sever his marriage is based on grounds of intolerable cruelty and was written into the record last April 25. Apparently the decision to go ahead with the proceedings was delayed, since the original papers were dated April 16. He Charges Cruelty. Topping claims that a year and four days after their marriage, Aug. 6, 1935, in the elopers’ paradise of Armonk, N. Y., his actress wife started to show signs of cruelty. Her acts of cruelty, he states, continued until April 16 of this year.

In reality, Topping wanted to divorce Jayne so he could marry socialite Gloria Mimi Baker, and finally it cost him a pretty cool $500,000. Jayne put the price tag on the marriage and said: pay and get divorce or no pay no divorce. And she got her money. Such was Toppings passion for Gloria. Topping married  three more times after Gloria (to Lana Turner, Arline Judge and Mona Topping) and died on April 21, 1968.

Anyway, Jayne decided, wisely, to stay away from romance and enter the business arena: She said: “I have no romance whatever in my life now. And I’m not interested in romance. I’m interested now in the ice cream business.” In December 1938, she arrived in Hawaii, accompanied by A. Rost, who will be her partner in a Honolulu ice cream business.

Soon, Jayne was a staple in Hawaii and even started to sponsor various sports teams:

Jayne Shadduck Topping Signs Contract To Sponsor Gridders Jayne Shadduck Topping yesterday definitely decided to sponsor a football team composed of ex-college stars next fall, signing a contract to finance the team which will play in the Hawaii Football association, local senior circuit. The aggregation will be known as the Hawaiian Polar Bears. Bob Patrick will be associated with her as advisor, while Francis Brickner will be the business manager. John Masterson, director of the annual East-West Shrine football game, is the Mainland representative with headquarters in San Francisco. He will assist Mrs. Topping and Brickner in contacting and selecting the players. The team wm be selected by July 15

In January 1940, Jayne married her third and last husband, Richard Durant. She settled into a highly satisfactory family life in Hawaii afterwards. Richard Church Durant was born on April 25, 1906, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Clark Durant. He was a sportsman graduate of Yale and Harvard, and became a surgeon who helped found Kaiser Hospital in Hawaii.

The Durant’s daughter, Louise, was born on March 20, 1941. Their son Clark was born in August 1942. Their last child and son Payson was born on March 19, 1951.

Jayne was later embroidered a scandal concerning the divorce of James Roosevelt from his wife – it was the same scandal that touched fellow actress Andrea Leeds:

Denials that they are among the women named in letters from James Roosevelt to his wife were made yesterday by these two former actresses. Andrea Leeds (left), now the wife of Robert S. Howard, a millionaire resident of Palm Springs, Calif., said she “never had a date with the man.” She agreed with Mrs. Richard Durant (right), the former Jayne Shadduck, that the names listed could have referred .to any women so named. ” Her name was one of nine listed in a letter which Mrs. Roosevelt filed with her suit for separate maintenance. Roosevelt’s attorney is expected to file an answer today

Mrs. Durant said she had cabled Roosevelt demanding an Immediate public retraction of “the false, libelous statement” linking her name and his. Mrs. Durant declared today that it does not “exonerate him from the responsibility of smearing innocent person.” She said in a statement “a lot of damage has been done to a lot of innocent people. I cannot condone Mr, Roosevelt ever signing any document containing such damaging lies … in order to extricate himself from his personal problems … no matter what the circumstance.” Mrs. Howard said she felt compelled to make a public statement.

This one is open for debate, but I somehow believe, in this case, where there is smoke there is fire. Why would anyone put a random society woman living for years in Hawaii (by then) on such a list? While there can be some vindictive bastards who would do such things, I somehow think it’s not the case here. If the affair did happen, it happened around 1945, 5 years after Jayne married Richard.

Anyway, Jayne had a rich and varied life in Hawaii. She was vice president of the Hawaii Hotel Association in the early 1950s. She raced canoes with the Kahana-moku brothers and Doris Duke. She was also an ardent angler and landed many big tuna and marlin during fishing trips off Kona and Oahu. She was a member of the Friends of Iolani Palace. Durant was an avid traveler and had seen much of the world with her husband.

The Durants had lived in the penthouse of the Palms Condominium since it was built more in the early 1960s to replace the Palms Hotel. The Na-hua Avenue hotel, which Durant owned and managed, was often the vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities before and after World War ll. All in all, Jayne made quite a life for herself in Hawaii and it seems she led a truly happy existence there.

Richard Durant died in September 1973. Jayne stayed at the island and continued with her civic and professional work.

Jayne Durant died from cancer on May 29, 1993, in Honolulu.  Her last trip was to Kenya in November 1992, after she learned she had cancer. When she died, her grandchildren told these touching lines in her obituary:

Jayne Shadduck Durant, actress, pilot, hotel owner, deep-sea angler, world traveler, lived a life that was larger than life. After she learned last fall that she was terminally ill, she invited granddaughter Sonja Freebairn on a safari to Kenya, then they stopped in London to see some of the new stage shows. “Her life was more packed than anyone’s,” Freebairn said. “She was so much fun to talk to. In all those years, we never had the same conversation twice.” “She was a glamour girl,” said grandson Robert Freebairn.

The grandchildren were learning new things about her this weete as they found magazine and newspaper clippings about Durant’s full life. “She wasn’t a bragger,” said Sonja Freebairn. “She was so low-key about her accomplishments. ;. “She wouldn’t let us do a videotape of her stories. But she knew very much, she never forgot anything,” Robert Freebairn said. One clipping they found was about her piloting a small aircraft, breaking a flight record between Detroit and New; York in 1937. “

She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Marjorie Zier

Marjorie Zier’s life can truly be a cautionary tale for other women – she drank too much and married too many times to wrong men. However, painting her as a mere weak female is a gross oversimplification. Like most things in life, her story is told in shades of gray with no clear resolution. Marjorie is extremely ambivalent – as much as she was responsible for her actions and often behaved foolishly, she was also as much a victim of a ruthless, chauvinistic society that had no interest in helping her. Let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Marjorie June (or May Marjorie) Zier was born in Hennepin, Minnesota, on February 3, 1909, to Harrison Zier and June Jeremy. She was their only child. Her father was a successful car salesman. Little is known of Marjorie’s childhood – she grew up in Minnesota, and the family moved to Los Angeles by 1920. Marjorie took dancing and acting lessons and decided to become a show biz professional – by 1923 she was dancing in various revenues, and then became a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty. This propelled her into movies in 1927 when she was just 18 years old.

CAREER

Won’t write too much here, I usually don’t cover silent pictures since I’m far from being knowledgeable on the topic, and most of Marjorie’s filmography are the silents. Truth to be told, I really didn’t chose to profile Marjorie for her career, so I’ll focus on the private life more.

Marjorie’s biggest silent role was in Phantom of the Range, a Tom Tyler western. In 1930, she made a few sound Mack Sennett comedy shorts, – Average HusbandDon’t Bite Your DentistRacket Cheers and Rough Idea of Love. And then she gave up Hollywood!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marjorie married Danny Dowling in about 1925, when she was just 16 years old. She sure started young! Danny was born on November 16, 1906 in O’Neill, Nebraska. He was living in Los Angeles by the early 1920s, working as a singer and dance,r mostly for the cafe circuit. It was a firts marriage for both.

This hasty marriage was a semi disaster, as you can see from this article.

When Danny Dowling. cafe ‘entertainer, was separated from his wife. Miss Marjorie Zier, by an annulment action, he refused to take the decree as final. He pursued the girl to whom he had been married, trying to persuade her of his affectior- He didn’t get his wife back, and although he did make an Impression on her, it was not a good one. Tn the words of a late popular eon? “The only impression he made upon her was a dark blue Impression round her eye.” ‘ The most recent meeting between Danny and hie former wife occurred outside the Montmarte Cafe. Danny asked it he might take Miss Zier to her home. She refused tc ride

according to Miss Zier”a story, a struggle followed and de lady’s eye was punched. She called officers, who arrested Danny on a charge of battery. Municipal Judge Richardson gave htm a suspended sentence on that charge. But officer state they found a bottle of gin m Danny’s car, and now Danny must stand trial on a charge of possession of liquor. , The case was set before Municipal Judge Edmonds, but will be transferred today to Judge Stafford’s court for trial

They separated and divorced in 1926. Danny was an interesting fellow, but this wasn’t the first not the last time he did such a dramatic scene – in 1934, he made headlines for months because he kidnapped his former girlfriend, Marjorie Crawford, former wife of director William Wellman (whats with Danny and the Marjories?). Marjorie sued him, they were in court and he was almost sentenced, but then, wait for it, THEY MARRIED! After beign at each other throats for a month and even gettign to court, the wed! As you can imagine, that marriage didnt’ last long! Danny opened a nightclub in Los Angeles and remarried to Harriet Kelley in 1943. He died on July 23, 1993 in Monterey, California.

It seems Marjorie was not a woman who could be alone, or indeed not married. She was already on the prowl, and Marjorie married her second husband, Hugh Parker Pickering, on August 17, 1929. Little is known about him, except that he was a Chicago socialite, and was born on April 22, 1905, in Louisiana, to W J Pickering and Grace Parker Williams. The marriage did not last long – They divorced in 1931. Pickering later was married to madcap heriness Mary Elizabeth Fahrney from 1932 until 1933. Pickering died in 1979.

Marjorie married J. Richard Van Conover in Dallas, Texas, Dec. 17, 1934. Conover was born on 1905, to William B Conover, a prosperous rice mill manager, and his wife Cora Conover, the middle child after older brother William and before younger sister Elizabeth. Conover was a aviator and oil man with business interests in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where his family lived.

The Conovers were surprisingly married for five full years, but it seems those years were anything but milk and honey. In 1939, Marjorie sued Conover for divorce, claiming he was a drunk who regularly beat her. Conover didn’t spare any nasty details about his ex-wife-to.be – he said on one occasion she split his scalp with “an iron object,” and that the only lapse in her drinking was a three-month period in Los Angeles in 1936 when she “took the cure.” Trouble started immediately after their marriage in December, 1934, when she struck up an acquaintance with another pilot shortly after their honeymoon. He said she developed a habit of going out with him, getting drunk and behaving in public in such a riotous manner as to cause him serious embarrassment.

Now this is sad. This is just simply sad. Marjorie was a alcoholic as early as 1934 (and quite probably even earlier!) and by 1939, five years later, the situation had not changed one iota. She was still a raging alcoholic who behaved inappropriately when she s drunk. While there is no doubt that she was first and foremost responsible for her actions, it’s clear that she was out of her depth and that she needed help badly. Were there any real tries to help Marjorie? Did Conover truly try to dry his wife and just gave up when she didn’t take it, or was Conover a perhaps a slightly lesser drunkard who didn’t give a whiff about Marjorie? Who knows. The point is, Marjorie was not getting any help, and her husband was such that he rather aired her dirty laundry to the public than helped her. It was realistic to expect a steep decline after these unhappy occurrences, and in a way, it was more than clear this would be a crash-and-burn type of a situation.

It’s easy to judge Marjorie here – while it is without a doubt that by her own free will she drank too much and got involved with the wrong men, it takes a boarder look at the context to understand just that a woman, born in 1909, who slipped into this unseemly world, had no platform that would help her. Nothing. Almost nothing. It was shameful, ostracized and frowned upon, being a female drunk, but did anybody help women in these situation? Did anybody do anything? And Marjorie was even part of the higher class for a time, and at least she had money and wasn’t hungry nor lacking in resources. Imagine how the women from the lower classed had it? On another note, I may be wrong and there were several interventions for Marjorie, but I would venture to say no before I say yes.

Anyway, Marjorie asked $250 a week plus $5,500 in counsel fees. In the end, they got to an agreement and were divorced after much acrimony. Conover remarried not long after, but sadly died on March 25, 1945.

Marjorie had a chance to make her life different – she had some money in the bank, she had shed an annoying mate, and perhaps had the fighting chance to go to a sanatorium and get herself dry . But what did she do? She continued marrying rich men who had major alcohol problems, thus exacerbating her own problem. Talk about damaging yourself on all spheres – from the physical one (alcoholism) to the emotional one (marrying highly unsuitable men).

Marjorie married Michael Cudahy in January 7, 1941, in Mexico. Cudahy was a scion of a prosperous Chicago meat packing family – he was born on November 24, 1908, in Missouri to Jack Cudahy and Edna Cowin, the youngest child and only son after thee daughters. His father killed himself in 1921, suffering from en extremely nervous condition and insomnia. Michael grew up to be a typical 1920s and 1930s playboy who went to Hollywood frequently to rip through new assortments of young actresses. He married actress Muriel Evans in 1928 when she was just 18 years old. They divorced in 1930. He enjoyed a lengthy affair with Joan Crawford, but she was her own woman and ditched him the moment she figured out she can’t cure a raging alcoholic with mommy issues. Like many of the playboy set, Cudahy drank too much and was a victim of a overbearing mother who kept him on a short leash. In 1927, he tried to marry Marie Astaire, an actress he met literary 24 hours ago, and his mother had him arrested in order to stop the nuptials (better be in jail for a day than marry the wrong girl, I guess). Cudahy and his second wife, Jacklyn Roth, dancer, were divorced in 1937.

The marriage was a disaster literary lasted for six months. Mike went into the army on May 20, 1941 Marjorie got a divorce on grounds of cruelty, saying “He was very cruel. I was very ill and he struck me and called me vile names”. So very precise and exact! While there isn’t much more information, it seems that Cudahy was happy to get rid of her. He called the marriage “a gin marriage” and quite probably too easily agreed to a hefty settlement. Cudahy didn’t remarry, and died from a liver related disease (read: effects of alcoholism) in 1947.

Marjorie married a Mr. Page sometime in 1942, and that marriage also didn’t stick – they divorced by 1945. Professionally, Marjorie was dried up financially and had to work again, so she became an early in flight hostess for TWA. There was nothing I could find about the mysterious fifth husband. Then, Marjorie started to date Stanley Wassil, a man who would change her life forever.

Wassil was born on April 13, 1919 in Harwood, Pennsylvania, to Polish born Catherine Wassil – his father died before he was born. Wassil lived in his hometown, prior to WW2, during which he served in the Army. Upon discharge he relocated to New York City and from there moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met Marjorie. They hooked up in about 1946, and were soon living together. Wassil worked as a semi successful real estate broker. Here is a short newspaper article about what happened betwene them in the end:

A jilted suitor was in Hollywood jail on suspicion of murder today for the beating death of Marjorie Page, a former Mack Sennett bathing beauty. Mrs. Page, 41. once married briefly to the late Michael Cuadhy of the meat packing family, died in the General Hospital yesterday, 15 hours after police found her on the floor of her apartment with a gaping wound in the back of her head. Stanley Wassil, 32 year-old real estate man who said he broke up v.ith her a month ago after living with her for six years, was hooked following the death. Detectives said he confessed: “1 pushed her in the face and her head slammed against the wall,” Wassil 1 broke down when told of Mrs. Page’s death. He sobbed: “Oh. God. my God! ! didn’t intend to kill her. If I had known this would happen i never would have tried to get her to come back to me.” Later he explained that the fatal quarrel followed a discussion . “about a reconciliation, about G money, her drinking and other men.” Wassil said that since their separation Mrs. Page had refused to give him an accounting of their joint funds.

Here is some more information about what exactly happened that fatal night:

Yells Described in Killing of Ex-Actress Neighbor of Former Mack Sennett Beauty Heard Her Testifies She Say ‘Don’t Hit Me’ Thuds and muffled screams preceded the fatal beating of Mrs. Marjorie Zears Page, 43, one-time Mack Sennett bathing beauty, last March 9, a blonde nightclub entertainer tes 1 V tified yesterday at a preliminary hearing into the former movie actress death. The witness was Mrs. Jo Ann of Director Puffy Michaels, 24, occupant of an upstairs apartment at 1912 N Canyon Drive. She quoted Stanley Wassil, 32, real estate man with whom Mrs. Page had resided for some time, as yelling: “Aw, you’re not hurt; get up!” “Don’t Hit Me Again” She said she heard Mrs. Page plead at one time during the fatal row, “Don’t hit me again!” Sgt. James Barrack testified he had answered a disturbance call to the house on Saturday night and had heard “a sort of snorting kind of panting” and had been told by Wassil that Mrs. Page was an alcoholic and had “passed out.” The woman died the following day.

On with the story – Wassil was arrested and tried for involuntary killing of Marjorie. In the end, he got six year probation and one year of jail. WHAT???

Okay, fact number one: Marjorie was a full blown alcoholic by this time, no doubt about it. fact number two: Wassil literary killed her. Yet, he got only 1 years in prison. Why?? Is it because she was an alcoholic and a woman? Before we start making our own judgement, let’s look at the facts once again, with more depth.

Fact Number one: Wassil was abusive towards Marjorie – it’s hardly realistic to expect this was the first time he struck her. She was a victim of an abusive relationship, like many women today. It’s easy to blame her for not walking away – but isn’t is more logical to blame the perpetrator for inflicting abuse on the victim in the first place? At any length, this is a complex question that will barely be answered on this blog, so on with the facts. The point is, this probably was not an isolated incident – Wassil harmed Marjorie before, and never once did he stop to think that maybe this wasn’t normal behavior for a man, that he should stop. From this angle, Wassil is guilty as heck.

Fact number two: Marjorie was an spendthrift alcoholic who probably tired to seduce other men when she was intoxicated, and this drove Wassil crazy. While this is far from fine behavior on Marjorie’s part, THIS IS NOT, in any way or form, a reason to strike her or inflict any other kind of physical punishment upon her. There is no reason to strike somebody, ever, unless it’s a life or death situation (and here, let’s be frank, it was not – I can hardly imagine Marjorie going after Wassil’s jugular to terminate him or something similar). If you don’t like the way the other person treats you, then just quit. Say goodbye and never turn back. I know it’s easier said than done and not all situations are a clear black and white, but still, wouldn’t it have been better it Wassil left Marjorie and never contacted her again? Who knows how her life would have looked afterwards, and for that fact, his? Maybe Marjorie would have died not long after from effects of prolonged alcohol abuse but then again, maybe not. We’ll never know. And Wassil did not have to the executor’s blade, the one straw that broke the camel’s back. Too bad Wassil didn’t have the strength to simply leave her be. If you do’t like it, just leave! Wassil looks guilty here as well.

Fact number three: Wassil obviously struck Marjorie in the heat of the moment, with no intent to kill. Real bad and unacceptable, but still no murder. But the real deal breaker here is that he LEFT after he literary shoved her into the wall. HE LEFT!!!! The coward left!!! Now this is where the line was crossed into oblivion, on the point of no return. Yes, he stuck her, he deserves to be punished for this criminal act, but it’s much less damaging to strike somebody than to kill him/her. But if he only stayed and helped her, Marjorie would have probably survived (or maybe not, impossible to say now, but let’s go with the assumption that she would have been treated earlier and her changes of not dying would be dramatically increased). It’s almost too easy to imagine how Wassil did this to Marjorie countless of times before – and left her on the floor crying, probably quite a bit drunk. This method worked, until it didn’t. Strike number three against Wassil. So tragic.

Verdict: Any way you look at it, Wassil is guilty. He was not only abusive towards Marjorie in general, and instead of trying to help her, he only deepened their shared problem and in the end, crossed the line big time. Wassil is no victim of a imagined nymphomaniac-drunk Marjorie who drove him to the brink of madness with her lascivious behavior – quite the opposite, he was a weakling who instead of ditching a woman who, despite her obvious allure, was a cauldron of problems, he stayed and only aggravated everything by being a highly counter-productive bully (as bullies always are).

After leaving jail, Wassil continued living his life normally after these dramatic experiences. He remarried to Jessie Gedid, and ran a launderette in his hometown.

Stanley Wassil died on February 21, 2002 in Youngstown, Ohio.

Myrla Bratton

Girls that came to Hollywood in the 1930s could be neatly boxed into a few categories (trained actresses, chorus girls, models, debutantes and so on…). Myrla came from the “beautiful but not trained” background. Most of these girls never amount to much in terms of a career and sadly this goes for Myrla too. But, here is the catch – instead of marrying and settling into sweet domesticity, she decided to stick out on her own as a theater actress. After her acting days were over, she worked as a secretary. Kudos to Myrla and all the women that did more than well for themselves! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Myrla Cook Bratton was born on February 12, 1910 in Cave Spings, Alabama, to William Bratton and Tennie Bell Bratton. She was the oldest of four children – her siblings were Harvey William Bratton, born on March 2, 1912 , Myra Ethel Bratton, born in 1914 and James Leon Bratton born on August 11, 1920. Her father was a farmer.

Myrla and Harvey were taken to live with their maternal grandparents, James and Nancy Danley in Florence, Alabama, in the late 1910s. Myra Ethel remained with her parents, as did James Leon. I can assume money was scarce so the Danleys took care of the two elder children, but it’s only a guess. Myrla grew up around horses and was an accomplished rider from early childhood.

Sadly, William Bratton died in the mid 1920s, living Tennie a widow. The family bunked together once again, and by 1930, Harvey was the keeper of the family, working as a potter.

After graduating from high school, due to hard time and little money, Myrla went to work too. As a typical starstruck teen who dreamed of acting, she got the perfect job as an usherette at the Tivoli Theater in Montogery, AlabamaFrank Dudley, manager of the Tivoli, would later recall her early ambition to “let a break in the movies.” This was in 1930 – by 1933, Myrla was in Hollywood, making movies (to learn more about her path to “stardom”, go to the Private life section).

CAREER

Myrla made her debut in Roman Scandals, a movie that is a literal golden mine if you are looking for shapely Goldwyn girls. The girls aside, it’s a very funny movie, with a good cast and some great dancing numbers – exactly what a quality 1930s musical should be – definitely one of Eddie Cantor’s best work.

A similar snappy, happy musical was Moulin Rouge, where Myrla was again a chorus girl. Same for Wild Gold, a completely forgotten pot boiler where Mryla plays one of the Golden girls (chorines by any other name).

Myrla then tried her luck in the low-budget western arena. She did one full length movie, The Way of the West, where she played the female lead (in most cases, that equally a decorative pretty girl who get kidnapped and screams a lot) and two shorts The Lone Rider and West of the Law. The Way of the wets is allegedly a truly abysmal movie, with a bad script, horrible acting and laughable action sequences. Myrla made one more western, Timber Terrors, where she was billed below the horse (figures, the horse has more acting time than her). Okay, being billed below the horse in a western is not actually that bad – but here, Myrla was billed below the dog. Yes, the dog! obviously this is a western where the dog is more important than the leading lady, so figures!

In the end, Westerns didn’t pay, so Myrla decided to return to dancing. As she was auburn haired, she found her way to the already legendary Redheads on Parade. If you like lavish, huge 1930s musicals, this is for you. Nothing too nifty, but good enough to watch.

Myrla tried her hand at the then popular college musical – the name of the movie is Collegiate (how imaginative), and it’s actually not that bad – the plot is very much predictable (A Broadway playboy inherits an almost bankrupt girls’ school and tries to save it by a big show) and the leading man, Joe Penner, is rightfully completely forgotten today (very annoying, one wonders how anyone in the 1930s found him funny – but hey, they obviously did). However, the day is saved by the ever funny Ned Sparks and the ethereal Frances Langford. Also watch out for an early role of Betty Grable!

Myrla’s last movie was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the censoritis syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that’s it from Myrla!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1929, 19 years old Myrla married R.J. Renfroe in Montgomery, Alabama. Renfroe was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but I couldn’t find anything else about him (how old he was, what was his profession – all a mystery!). On June 17, 1931, Myrla gave birth to a baby boy – unfortunately, the boy died the next day. The Renfroe’s marriage didn’t’ survive this unhappy occurrence – they divorced the next year, and knowing full well how life is short and fickle, Myrla decided to “just do it” – she quit her usherette job and went to Hollywood. Kudos to her brave decision!

By the 1940s, Myrla was out of movies and on the stage In New York City, studying under John Hutchinson and made appearances in the then nascent television industry (but under a different alias I could not find, so no TV credits are known for her). All considering, Myrla did really well for herself, and managed to pave her way into real acting, something not many actresses managed to do.

Myrla married for the second time to a James V. Moriarty on August 30, 1958 in Reno, Nevada. I couldn’t find any concrete information on this particular James, sorry. Unfortunately they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

After her acting career was over, Myrla lived in San Francisco for a time where she worked as a secretary. She later lived in Dallas, Texas, and several years later moved to Billings, Montana. Since she lived alone and was seemingly not in contact with her family, she was transferred to Valley Health Care Center when she became too feeble to take care of herself.
Myrla Cook Bratton died from natural causes on November 16, 1987, in Billings, Montana.

Bonita Barker

Bonita Barker was firmly cast in a Hollywood stereotype – a pretty girl from a good family who wanted to dance since she was a toddler, and slowly her “talents” morph into a wish to become a movie star. Heard that story before? Oh yes, and most of them ended dismally – with the girls in question out of Hollywood before they did anything of worth. Same can be said of Bonita – after three short years and some dancing roles, she retired, married and led a quiet life of domesticity. Let’s hear her story!

EARLY LIFE

Bonita Beryl Barker was born on July 21, 1916, in Rocky, Oklahoma, to Omar Barker and Mable Morris. She was their only child. Her father worked as an automobile salesman, her mother was a housewife.

The family moved to Hobat, Oklahoma, in about 1918, where Bonita attended elementary school, before moving to Ventura, California in the mid 1920s. Her father ditched his auto business and went into the sand/gravel business, again as a salesman. He became quite successful and was an esteemed member of the Ventura society, making Bonita a type of young, up-and-coming socialite.

Bonita caught the dancing bug as a pre teen girl, and always by 1926, when she was barely 10 years old, she was dancing in various local events where the genteel people of Ventura would gather. She was the best pupil at the Meglin Dance Stadio and perhaps one of the few that went into dancing professionally. She became a dancing fixture in town and was well-known for her skills.

Pretty soon, by the early 1930s, she  was appearing in the famous Hollywood Bowl in ballets and in more than a score of amateur and little theater programs all around the US.

In 1933, barely graduated from high school, she was noted by agents and brought to Hollywood.

CAREER

Bonita made her debut in the semi-idiotic musical, It’s Great to Be Alive. Whoa boy what a way to start your Hollywood career! She fared a bit better in her next show, Arizona to Broadway, a very polarizing movie that gets many things right but ultimately goes wrong. Whats starts as a promising story about con-artists trying to con other con-artists melts into a cheap, no-brainer stupidity. Too bad! But still, things got better, and they got even with Dancing Lady. i know this movie is not top of the class, best musical ever made, but I for one love it. Joan Crawford looking her best, playing an independent, strong-willed dancing lady, Franchot Tone as a wealthy suitor plus Clark Gable as a rough around the edges choreographer – whats not to like? And a special bonus – Fred Astaire in one of his earliest movie role! Whauza!

Like tons of other chorines, Bonita appeared in Stand Up and Cheer!, which is less a movie with a normal narrative and more of a pastiche – depends if you like these sort of things – I prefer my movies with more story and characterizations, sho skip! And then Bonita went the usual downhill route – she started to appear in low-budget westerns. I know I may be too critical towards this, but most actresses that went this way ended up nowhere (there are exceptions of course, but Bonita ain’t one of them). The movie was Outlaw’s Highway and there is nothing substantial to be said about it.

Bonita made her first and only college musical (a genre popular back then) in 1934, called College Rhythm. It’s quiet a good example of the genre, with a solid cast and some decent music. The stories are more or less all the same – young people goofing around in college (and nobody ever studies!), but it’s the energy and the charm that count, and this movie has them enough.

After so many happy-go-lucky musicals, Bonita appeared in a bit more serious fare – Rumba – it’s not a cry your eyes out drama, but it’s more than fluff. Leads are played by George Raft and Carole Lombard (who were involved in real life – love there small trivia trinkets!). Unfortunately, it’s a pale version of the superior Bolero (with the same acting team) and with a somehow similar story (Raft is a dancer who comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Carole is a ritzy society girl). Raft can dance, that much is obvious, and Carole is a very capable actress and stunningly beautiful, but the movie lacks bite. One of the reasons is probably the newly minted production code that forced producers and directors to water down most stuff – and the white-hot chemistry between George and Carole was definitely one of them.

The Big Broadcast of 1936  is another of the pastiche musicals – IMHO, skip. There are tons of talented performers here, but that ain’t enough for a truly good viewing experience. Bonita’s last movie, made in 1936 was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the “censoritis” syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that was it from Bonita!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Bonita came to Hollywood, she expressed a particular lack of enthusiasm as far as men are concerned to the papers. This of course was all tell and no-show – girls sometime did this to gather publicity (“she doesn’t want to get married, gasp!!” effect).

Bonita’s first Hollywood beau was Sammy Finn, who was toting her around the Club Colony for months but it didn’t get to the altar.

Like most young, unestablished starlets, Bonita appeared in the fashion and coiffure columns with some frequency. here is an example:

A coiffure like Bonita Barker’s would be becoming to you. The hair is parted on the right side, combed off the brow with a curl coming down over the left temple to the eyebrow, a wave below this and curled ends over the ears.

Bonita also wrote about her eating habits. Due to being in the chorus, she had to work long hours and did strenuous dance routines, and dieting too much just didn’t cut it out for her. As they said about chorines:

A dainty little sandwich and a soda may be good for the thinning office girl at noon, but not enough for the girls who want to keep their curves to stay in the chorus, these days. These screen dancers must eat, to regain the weight they lose daily in their work, and eat they do, even if it’s a soda between meals.

It seems that Bonita was a serious antiques collector. Her prized possession was pipe with a twenty-six-inch stem which once belonged to Emperor Frederick III, father of Kaiser Wilhelm. Famous director Lewis Stone used to smoke from it when Bonita loaned it to Paramount.

In the late 1930s, Bonita got engaged to Oren William Haglund , and actor and former husband of Warner bros actress Priscilla Lane . Oren and Priscilla were married for one day sharp – imagine what an awkward marriage that was. A wedding date between Oren and Bonita was set, but never reached. Yup, they never married. Who knows what happened between them, although Hollywood is notoriously cheap in this department – engagement were made and broken almost daily, like something extremely mundane.

Bonita traveled extensively after her Hollywood career. She visited Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Europe several times. In fact, she was in Italy when WW2 started – she returned to the US from Genoa just a few days after September 1st. In 1940, she visited Cuba.

Bonita married Bennett Albert Robinson on October 7, 1941 in Los Angeles. Bennett was born on February 12, 1906, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis Robinson and Rose Waxler. He studied to become a chiropractor and moved to Los Angeles for work. It was the first marriage for both.
Bennett was drafted into the US army on August 20, 1942, but after serving for a few years came back happily home (sometime before 1945).
Bonita gave up marriage to devote her life to her husband and family. The couple had one child together (couldn’t find the name, sadly). They lived in California where Bennett worked as a chiropractor.
Bennett Robinson died on July 10, 1982, in Los Angeles, California.
Bonita Barker died on May 11, 2006 in California.

Eleanor Prentiss

Eleanor Prentiss is one of those actresses who came to Hollywood owning to her looks, with absolutely no acting experience, and then fell in love not with the glitz and glamour of Tinsel town, but with the gentle art of acting itself. Eleanor thus became an serious theater actress and went into self imposed movie exile, without achieving any Hollywood success and frankly not even caring about it. Let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Eleanor Josephine Johnson was born on October 7, 1911, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Edward H. Johnson and Ruth Stockman. She was the oldest of three children – her younger siblings were twins Wallace and Olive, born in 1913. Her father was an attorney.

She attended public schools in Fort Dodge, and then went to Iowa State College. While at university she majored in physical education. After graduation, she went to live and work in Chicago. In 1933, wearing the colors of the Lake Shore Athletic club, won the fifty yard dash in the Central A. A. U. swimming championships for women. Due to her exquisite blonde visage, Eleanor was selected by a group of prominent artists to represent a large soap company at the Chicago Fair.

Upon completing this assignment she decided to try her hand at acting and went to Hollywood. Her first contract was with a company producing Western pictures and she was starred in two of these films. Unfortunately I could not find any information about these movies, as she made them under a different  name.

Her all ’round athletic prowess stood her in good stead. An excellent horsewoman, it was predicted that she would be the greatest female Western star, but fate intervened again and she was chosen in a Los Angeles newspaper contest as the girl with the most beautiful face in California. This led to another motion-picture contract and here we go!

CAREER

Eleanore’s first known movie on IMDB is Thin Ice, the oh-happy -happy-happy Sonja Henie musical. You probably know by now, if you read this blog, that I am not a big Henie fan and find her movies brainless and only mildly entertaining. Thin ice is probably better than most, but still not good enough. Luckily, Eleanore’s next movie is a better type of musical (IMHO) – Something to Sing About, starring none other than the incomparable James Cagney!  Cagney always nails it as a dancer, and the same is true here – his wild kinetic energy just slips of him in doves when he does anything physical, especially dance! The plot is simple enough (a New York hoofer becomes a Hollywood star), and the solid music, good dancing and a decent cast make this a minor hit.

Her next movie, In Old Chicago, wasn’t too shabby either 😛 . A typical old school movie of quality, it boasts a very effective love triangle in the form of Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche, and an intriguing story based of the great San Francisco fire of 1871. Pair that with good production values and sturdy film making, and we have a winner!

Eleanor’s last movie, made in 1943, was Let’s Face It, a funny and breezy Bob Hope/Betty Hutton vehicle. Originally a very risqué comedy with plenty of sexual subtext, (the plot says it all:  if jealous wives pretending to have their own love nest to get revenge on their philandering husbands. Involved in their schemes are soldier Bob Hope and fat farm proprietor Betty Hutton, creating marital discord and getting hope in hot water with the army.). Sadly, it was watered down to a benign and not especially smart comedy, but Bob Hope make sit work.

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Eleanor married her first husband, Earl Cooke, in Champagne, Illinois, in 1934. The marriage broke up by early 1936, and in 1937, so frequently seen with Nat Pendleton that people started to think the two were pretty serious. Pendelton aside, Eleanor filed suit for divorce charging her husband with punching her on the chin without provocation. She won her divorce in May 1937, claiming her husband threw her down the stairs on their first wedding anniversary. It seems that Eleanor managed to escape an abusive man, and good for her!

In 1940, Eleanor married for the second time, to Herschel Bentley. Born James Herschel Mayall on September 25, 1907, he was a noted theater actor from the late 1920s. The couple lived in New York.

After her movie career ended, Eleanor carved a theatrical career for herself in New York. Here is a short excerpt:

Most ordinary people would have been contented with this rather meteoric rise in their affairs, but not Eleanor. She wanted to become an actress and be known for her acting ability rather than her athletic qualities. In respect to this she says, “I put the cart before the horse and now I have to try and reverse it.” Suiting the action to the desire she got a release from her contract to come to New York to study dramatic art and in addition to her modeling she attends classes at the Moscow Art Theater three days a week. She has made a great deal of progress and now has a contract with a summer stock company for this season. At the present time she feels that her great love. is the theater and until she has become a success on Broadway she says she will not return to the movies, no matter how attractive the offer may be.

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

Eleanor came to our office with the same determination to be a success in this business that she has to be a success on the stage. She says that next to the stage she prefers modeling, because she finds that it gives her a real chance to display her dramatic ability. Artists like her particularly because she is a great help to them in improvising interesting poses. She is one of the few girls whom we didn’t have to tell how to make up. She is natural in her appearance and knows the value of it. She has excellent posture and she thinks that these two things are more than half the battle. “Walk with chin up and shoulders back and people will notice you. Be slovenly and you are one of the mob.” That is her advice to all women.

Eleanor settled into the summer stock/theater life and seemed very happy with it. Unfortunately, her marriage with Herschel disintegrated in 1948, and they divorced in 1949. Herschel remarried in 1952 to Isabella Hunnewell Lee Livingston and died on August 15, 1991.

Eleanor acted in her last Broadway play in 1948, and from then on she did some regional theater until her retirement.

Eleanor continued living in New York after her retirement. As far as I can tell, she didn’t remarry and had no children.

Eleanor Johnson Prentiss died on August  14, 1979. She was buried in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Nadine Dore

Nadine Dore had a pretty standard career path – beautiful girl who aspired to become an actress, stared dancing young, worked as a chorus girl, and got to Hollywood via the pageant route. And it all ended with Nadine, barely in the 30s, retiring from movies after a string of uncredited roles. Let’s learn more about Nadine!

EARLY LIFE

Pyhllis Nadine Redman was born on September 18, 1912, in San Jose, California, the only child of Joseph M. Redman and Nina Koehler. Her father was a florist.

Phyllis grew up as a California beach girl, very much interested in the performing arts, dreaming to become a dancer and actress some day. She started attending beauty pageants when she was 13 years old, and pretty soon was a regular on the circuit, winning more of them than not.

After Nadine graduated from high school, she packed her bags and moved to New York, becoming a show girl. Nadine proved to be quite popular as chorine, but for unknown reasons she returned to California a year later. She became a member of the cast in the revue at the Hollywood Music Box.

1931 was a big year for Nadine, and one can say that Pyhllis Redman became Nadine Dore right then and there. In a short time-span she was successively named “Miss Los Angeles” and “Miss North America” in beauty contests. After she became Miss North America, Hollywood came knocking on her door, and she started her acting career that same year!

CAREER

Nadine appeared as a Goldwyn girl in the aptly named Palmy Days, a very good Eddie Cantor musical. Don’t expect any real depth, but there are plenty of funny lines, physical gags and good music, so that’s all we are asking for! Then came Good Sport, a perfect example of the best of elegant Pre Code comedies, with an implausible plot (a woman unwittingly rents an apartment from her husband’s mistress while they are both in Europe – whoa Nelly!) , but made with a dash of style and panache! The only minus is that John Boles is in it – one of the least memorable wooden faces ever! And he always plays the nice guy (boring as heck). But a plus to Linda Watkins and Greta Nissen, both underrated actresses!
Next up was The Scarlet Brand, a forgotten Bob Custer western. Ditto Bill Cody’s Law of the North. Luckily, Nadine went back to non western movies afterwards. A Parisian Romance  was another funny pre-Code sexual romp, the kind of they don’t even make today.
Nadine got her first credited role in A Strange Adventure, a Regis Toomey/June Clyde murder mystery. Imagine a cheery 1930s film noir and you’ve got it.
Nadine was then in Dancing Lady, a Joan Crawford musical, where Joan plays, surprise, a working girl who becomes a star! So atypical for our Joanie, no? While this movie is no masterpiece, I love it – mostly for Franchot Tone, whom I generally adore. His relationship with Joanie is the movie was tops! Sadly, this means her proper romance with Clark Gable (as the male lead) just didn’t do it for me. Ah, that happens when you act opposite your husband and your lover in the same movie!
Next: She Couldn’t Take It, a very-rich-and-plain-crazy-family doing some crazy things screwball comedy in t he mold of My Man Godfrey (made several years later). Unfortunately, the leads, played by George Raft and Joan Bennett, fare better in non comedic roles and don’t quite have the punch to make it work, but the supporting cast is tops (Billie Burke, Walter Connolly, Donald Meek…).
Nadine lost her contract, and decided to give herself a seocnd life under a different name, Carol Wyndham. Carol appeared in as a lead in the low-budget western, Roamin’ Wild. But that was about it with leading roles. She was back to uncredited role with The King Steps Out, a totally romanticized version of the Franz Josef/Sisi courthsip (much like the popular 1950s movies with Romy Schneider, not grounded in reality one bit, sadly). The movie has Franchot (as Franz Josef) so it’s a go go go for me! Sisi is played by Grace Moore, whom I find to be a bland actress to meh! Carol marched on. Venus Makes Trouble is a completely forgotten comedy, and Start Cheering is actually a pretty decent romance musical with Jimmy Durante. And that was it from Carol Wyndham.
Nadine’s last two movies, made under her original name in 1937, long after the code had taken place, were When You’re in Love and Women of Glamour, both inspired, made-by-the-book comedies with no real merit…
And that was it from Nadine!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Nadine weighted 116 pounds in her prime and had brown hair and sparkling blue eyes.

Nadine boasts a unique distinction of probably being one of the few chorus girls in history that owned an airplane and were able to fly It.  She was a proud proprietor of a swallow plane in which she took lessons in plain and stunt flying under the tutelage of Finley Henderson, stunt aviator. Prior to the purchase of the plane, when she was about 19 years old, Nadine had acquired a reputation for air stunting, but had never flown a plane.

Nadine married her first husband, Chester G. Miller, in Yuma, Arizona. Like most dramatic elopement cases, the marriage went kaput in short order. Already in 19134 there was this mini-scandal in the papers:

Beauty Charges Beating in Her Divorce Plea Nadine Dore Miller, screen actress and former beauty contest winner, filed suit in Superior Court yesterday for divorce from Chester G. Miller. Last Monday after accusing her of being too friendly with another man he beat and choked her, she charges in her complaint. They were married last April 22. As Nadine Dore Mrs. Miller won title of “Queen of Beauty” at the First National Beauty show in 1929 and in 1931 she was acclaimed “Miss North America” at the Ocean Park Municipal Auditorium.

Obviously that was hardly a high quality marriage. They divorced not long after.

Nadine Dore Suing To Rescind Contract 3 (Bv Associated Press) LOS ANGELES, Dec. 15 Nadine Dore, who two years ago was acclaimed as having the Ideal physical measurements for a screen actress, today filed suit against the Fox Film corporation to have rescinded a contract under which she never was paid more than $49 a week as an actress.

As we already learned elsewhere on this blog, suing a studio in the 1930s was a really, really bad idea, especially if you were a non name actress with no thick background. Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis did it later in the 1940s, but they were both famous actress with plenty of clout – and Nadine most certainly was not.

So, Nadine decided to try again. he changed her name to Carol Wyndham, and tried to pick for stardom. As you ould read in the Career section, this also backfired. She did get some minor newspaper coverage over it – here is an example article:

Carol Wyndham started winning beauty contests when she was 14 and won too many. She says now it is hampering her chances for a motion-picture carer. She has changed her name to shake the jinx and has just been assigned a small part in a film.

She won the beauty contest titles of ” Miss Southern California” in 1927 ” Miss C a 1 i f or-nia ” in 1929, and “Miss North America ” in 1931, was espied playing a featured bit in the Carole Lombard-Fredric March picture, “Nothing Sacred,” at Selznick’s. Miss W y n d h am has her first speaking part in this film. Commenting on her long apprenticeship as a film dancer and part of the “beauty background” in so many pictures, this actress, now 24, uttered the following sage remark: “Too good a shape is a detriment for a girl in the movies. If a girl wants to be a star, it is her personality that she must make noticeable. ” After I won those beauty contests I thought for a while that I was wonderful But a couple of years in the movies knocks that feeling out of you,” she continued.

But no, it wasn’t really enough to fix the jinx. Nadine retired from Hollywood after Carol Wyndham outing, and married for the second time to Dell Henderson in Idaho in 1941.

Unfortunately, there was nothing else I could find about Dorine. According to the IMDB, she died on April 20, 1992, in Riverside, California. As always. let’s hope she had a happy life!