Mildred Rehn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that’s it from Mildred!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

Here is a another article about Mildred from that period:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora Gale

 

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Nora!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geraldine Farnum

Daughter of a silent film pioneer and a movie extra, Geraldine Farnum was predestined to become an actress herself. Sadly, except being a dancer in a long string of movies, she never came remotely close to being a true thespian before retiring to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Geraldine Ann Smith Farnum was born on November 13, 1924, in Los Angeles, California, to Franklyn (Smith) Farnum and Edith Walker. She was their only child.

Geraldine’s dad Franklyn was a colorful character. Born in Boston, he was on the vaudeville stage at the age of 12 and was featured in a number of theater and musical productions by the time he entered silent films near the age of 40. His very long career consisted mostly of western movies. One of his three wives was actress Alma Rubens, to whom he was briefly married in 1918 (the couple divorced in 1919). Franklyn had one daughter, Geraldine’s older half-sister, Martha Lillian Smith, born in 1898.

Geraldine’s mom was a movie extra who married her dad in 1921. In the late 1930s, Edith still worked as an movie extra (very impressive, to work as an extra for so long!) and earned good money for it. Franklyn, after giving up on movies for a time, was an assistant manager in a cigar plant. From early childhood it was clear that Gerry would also end up in showbiz like her parents – she was a talented dancer and wanted to become a actress when she grew up. her parents were naturally supportive and that it seemed there was nothing standing between Gerry and stardom, if she caught the right breaks that it.

After graduating from Fairfax High School, she had been signed to an acting contract by Warner Bros studio, and thus started her career.

CAREER

Geraldine’s career can be roughly divided into two parts: from 1944 until 1947, and from 1950 until 1952. Both periods were pretty lackluster to Geraldine as an actress, but at least she racked up 22 credits!

During the first part of her carer, Geraldine mostly appeared as a dancer in musicals, and, surprise, surprise! like her dad, she appeared in her fair share of lower-budget westerns (my favorites, NOT!). Since I never review westerns, here are all of the western movies where she played a dancer: The Yellow Rose of Texa, Utah, Bells of RosaritaMan from Oklahoma, Trail of Kit CarsonSunset in El Dorado, Dakota, Don’t Fence Me In, andAngel and the Badman. That was a mouthful, right?

Aside for the westerns, there was a smaller number of more  or less interesting movies – Casanova in Burlesque a mid tier, sometimes funny comedy about a professor who is also a burlesque comic (played by Joe E. Brown), Brazil, a generally entertaining musical with nice dance numbers and Tito Guizar is one of his rare Hollywood appearances, It’s a Pleasure, a Sonja Henie brain dead musical (I know I don’t like Henie, one has to wonder how a great ice skater but dismal actress like her succeeded in Hollywood in 1930s, when there was tons of talent there! How? Oh, you can never guess!), Earl Carroll Vanities, typical Earl Carroll fare, with a great number of scantly clothes beauties and no plot (of course Gerry was one of the beauties), Hitchhike to Happiness a surprisingly watchable early Dale Evans musical, when she displaying sexiness and slinkiness she would never late recreate in her Dale Evans, cowgirl persona, Behind City Lights a completely forgotten crime movie, based on a Vicki Baum novel, Love, Honor and Goodbye, another totally forgotten movie with no reviews on imdb, not even a summary, The Tiger Woman, a nifty crime movie, where the leading man is a private detective who gets mixed up with the luscious Adele Mara (The Tiger woman of the title) who needs some help getting her husband out of trouble, as he is 100 grand in debt to a bookie, and finally, the last one, Murder in the Music Hall. Now, this movie is worth writing about some more. A film noir at heart, it’s swanky and posh as heck and this dichotomy between a gritty genre and luxurious setting makes it a true standout. While the story starts as a typical whodunnit thriller against the setting of Radio City Music Hall, it has enough twists and turns and the acting is generally good (Vera Hruba Ralston, although much maligned, could pull out decent acting chops under some circumstances). Plus, there are Helen Walker, Ann Rutherford and Nancy Kelly to lend plenty of support.

Gerry got married after this, took a break, and returned to movies in 1950 with Copper Canyon, a unusual western – first the leads are played by European urbanites Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr, it’s an attractive looking film, with color by Technicolor and colorful costumes by Edith Head. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight of the movie, although all in all it isn’t a bad effort, just not a particularly good one. Gerry appeared in three more movies: Call Me Mister, a so-so Betty Grable musical, Son of Paleface, a hilarious Bob Hope romp, and Destry, a sub par remake of the more about Destry Rides Again.

And that was it from Geraldine!

PRIVATE LIFE

Geraldine married John Weidmer in the Church Around the Corner, in a ceremony headed by Reverend Neal Dodd, in 1943. It was first marriage for both. John Robert Weidmer, born on March 5, 1922 in Iowa to John Weidmer and Jean Lewis, who would later live in Chicago. He lived in Iowa for a time, then moved to California, and was drafted into the US Navy during WW2. When they married, Weidmer was stationed at San Pedro. The marriage, like most wartime marriages, was of very short duration, and they divorced by 1945. John died on January 15, 2002, in Nevada.

After her divorce Gerry started to date actor George Shepard Houghton, commonly known as Shep Houghton. They married in 1946. Here is an imdb profile on Shep:

Born George Shephard Houghton on June 4, 1914, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Shep is the youngest of two sons born to George Henry Houghton and Mabell Viola Shephard. Far from being born into show business, his father was an insurance company representative who moved his family to Hollywood for business reasons in 1927. As luck would have it, they rented a house on Bronson Avenue just two blocks from Paramount Studio’s iron front gate, and not far from the Edwin Carreau studio. Picked off the street by an assistant producer, Shep’s first work in the movie industry was in 1927 as a Mexican youngster in Carreau’s production of Ramona, released in 1928. As a thirteen-year old he also worked in Emil Janning’s The Last Command, and continued to work for director Josef von Sternberg in several subsequent pictures. He found movie work to his liking, and out of high school he worked through Central Casting for Mascot Productions, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Fox Film Corporation, and Warner Brother’s, where he became a favorite in the Busby Berkeley musicals as a dancer and chorus singer. In 1935 he married Jane Rosily Kellog, his high school sweetheart. Together they had one child, Terrie Lynn, born on September 22, 1939. They were divorced in October, 1945.

Gerry and Shep’s son Peter William Houghton was born on August 19, 1947, in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, this marriage was quite spotty and the couple divorced in 1949. Here is a short article about the proceedings:

George Houghton has divorced actress Geraldine Farnum on charges of desertion. They separated on July 10, 1948, lie said, after she went to the beach for a vacation and then refused to come home, saying she wanted to have her, own life. Miss Farnum, daughter of the Franklyn Farnum of the pioneer film family, did not contest the divorce, but Houghton’s attorney said that the couple had agreed to the actress being granted custody of their young son.

After their divorce, Shep continued to work in both movies and television until his retirement in 1976. He married Mel Carter Houghton in 1975. Shep died at the ripe old age of 102 on December 15, 2016 in Hoodsport, Washington.

Geraldine also kept busy after the divorce. Here is an early 1950s article about Gerry:

Geraldine Farnum is as pretty as, for example, Anne Baxter and as graceful as Betty Grable. But you don’t read much about Gerry. She’s one of the movies’ unsung actresses— extra, bit player, dancer, showgirl. Working in so many categories, she admits bewilderedly, when you ask how to classify her: “I don’t exactly what I am.” Gerry is 25. a bleached blonde, a divorcee, and the mother of a two-year-old son Peter. The fact that she is the daughter of a silent-screen western star, Franklin Farnum, has helped her get movie work. Her father still plays bits. He is often confused with two other prominent early- movie Farnums—William and his late brother Dustin. The two families are not related. Gerry started movie-acting when she was 19. She was under contract for a time to two studios, then retired to have her baby. Recently she resumed her career again. What are her chances of being picked for stardom? She says: “Probably as good as everybody else’s. I’d appreciate it—can’t honestly say I wouldn’t be thrilled. But I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I have my child, and that’s responsibility enough.” I found Gerry arrayed in a feathery headdress and scanty costume for a number with Grable in “My Blue Heaven.” In “Down to Earth” she doubled for Rita Hayworth—back view— walking down a cloudy ramp on a day Rita wasn’t at the studio. More recently she was a bar-girl in one sequence and a square dancer in another of “Copper Canyon.” As a dancer she earns $111 weekly unless lifted off the ground, even a teeny bit, by another performer. Being lifted pays more—$137.50 a week. It’s a standing beef of dancers that showgirls receive still more when, Gerry says, “all they have to do Js stand there and look pretty.” As a showgirl she has been paid $175 a week. She grossed about $4,000 last year. Her dues in the actors’ and extras’ guilds total $8.50 per quarter. “Right today,” Gerry would advise other girls, “if you want to make a living you shouldn’t get into pictures. They’re not making the lavish musicals they did. But,” she concedes, “it’s fun to work in pictures.” Wolves are no problem for a smart working girl, Gerry reports, especially if it’s known she has a boy friend. Hers is a stunt man. Her best friends are members of the crew. A cameraman once had two stars sit farther apart in a close-up—so Gerry, in a row of extras behind them, could be seen.

While Geraldine was working with her dad, Franklyn, in “With a Song in My Heart,” he revealed to the press that Gerry was engaged to stuntman James van Horn. She married Van Horn in 1951. Van Horn was born on September 24, 1917, in South Dakota, to Frank Avery Van Horn and Edna Racette. He came with his family to California and started her acting career in 1927, and ended it in 1929. He mostly worked as a stuntman since 1939, but returned to acting in 1950. His crowning glory was that he appeared with Barbara Stanwyck in the 1955 adventure film “Escape to Burma.”

Their son Casey Lee was born on December 12, 1952, in Los Angeles. Since he came from a showbiz family, it was no wonder that the two-months-old Casey played the part of Natalie Cantor, one of Eddies five daughters, in the Warner Brothers musical, The Eddie Cantor Story” in 1953. Geraldine retired from movies to take care of her family, and never acted again.

James and Geraldine divorced at some point in the mid 1950s. van Horn continued working in the movie industry, and died on April 20, 1966. Geraldine married, in the late 1950s, to a Mr. Rose.

I have no idea if Geraldine is alive today, and as always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Jean Ames

When she first hit Hollywood, Jean Ames claimed that her only dream in life was to become a great actress, and that everything she did in life served that “higher” purpose. And indeed, she rose from a uncredited performer to a credited performer, and there was a upwards swing in her movies at the time… It didnt’ go quite as smoothly as it may have done, but something was happening. And then puff, she got married, left movies and never returned to trying to achieve her great dream. Surprised? Not really. Let’s learn more about Jean!

EARLY LIFE

Irma Salzman was born in August 24, 1919 in New York City to Walter Salzman and Minnie Eppler, their only child. Both of her parents were Austrian immigrants. Her father was a high end fur merchant.

The family moved to Boston in the mid 1930s and Irma attended grammar school there. She completed her education at Hollywood high after her family moved to Hollywood. During her school days, when she wasn’t appearing in class plays and studying, she was playing basketball and swimming. One notable thing is that she passed Senior Red Cross Life Saving swimming tests and was a certified lifeguard. She was also a champion high diver. However, Irma’s ambition had always been to be a great actress and she took additional acting classes to prepare herself for her future career.

Sadly, William died in the late 1930s, and in order to help her mother financially, she began working behind the counter in a dress shop. When she was fitting a new spring dress in the show window, an agent’s spouse spotted her and judged her as possible screen stuff. The agent signed her, and her career started!

CAREER

Jean made her debut in Million Dollar Baby, a nice, pleasing comedy with May Robson playing a crusty old millionairess who wants to pay back some money to Priscilla Lane, and gets caught up in her love life. Good acting and charm galore, this is classic Hollywood at it’s simple, unassuming comedic best. A similarly very good screwball comedy was Jean’s next movie, The Bride Came C.O.D., a kind of a It happened one night rip of with the dynamite pairing of Bette Davis and James Cagney.

It was time for some serious fare with Manpower, a heavy, sultry, manly movie (as the name implies, of course), with George Raft and Edward G. Robinson playing two rugged lumberjacks, sparring for the attention of the alluring Marlene Dietrich. Sadly, jean’s next movie, International Squadron, was a lesser effort with Ronald Reagan the lead. A bit better was the navy themed Navy Blues, with Ann Sheridan and Jackie Oakie.

Jean’s next foray into movies, , was a peculiarity in itself. As one reviewer on imdb claims: Anatole Litvak, who directed so many women’ pictures, directs this odd little film that starts out as a kind of “small town band does good” picture, takes a turn into gangster territory, and then gets really dark with a venture into film noir and mental illness. An interesting combo for sure! The leads were played by Priscilla Lane and Betty Field, both underrated actresses.

1942 was jean’s best year. She got credited and acted in a string of solid movies. She started with All Through the Night, a less known but very good Humphrey Bogart movie, where he plays a rowdy bookie/swindler who accidental stumbles upon a Nazi conspiracy. Great, great cast (Jackie Gleason, William Demarest, Phil Silvers, and Frank McHugh, Petter Lorre, Judith Anderson), a innovative combo of a comedy-musical and straight-laced spy movie make this a unusual if superb winner. Highly recommended! Jean actually has a credited role in the movie.

Jean then appeared in The Male Animal, a comedy set on a college campus, dealing with free speech, censorship and democracy. While not nearly as good as the original Broadway play, it’s still a biting satire and worth a look, if nothing than to see Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland together in a movie. Next came the tearjerker Always in My Heart, only worth watching to see Walter Huston and Kay Francis.

Jean had a prominent role in Larceny, Inc., a surprise gem – it’s a very funny comedy with extremely witty dialogue and top notch performances from Edward G. Robinson, Jack Carson and Broderick Crawford, who plays three crooks who want to rob a bank and in the interim fall into the “keeping shop” mode and become successful at it. Then came You Can’t Escape Forever, a lightning-fast, lightweight murder mystery/haunted house/romance/gangster movie. it’s  another example of genre blending,  and it mostly works – while not a top classic it’s charming and holds up even today.

Jean started 1943 with The Hard Way, an Ida Lupino film all the way. if nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see her play a ruthless, get-what-you-want manager who milks her younger sister (played by Joan Leslie) for all she’s worth (and more). Jean was one of the ton of pretty girls in The Powers Girl – the film you watch for the scenery, not for the story or performances.

 Jean appeared in three B movies for the closing of her career: first one was Silent Witness, a so-so comedy crime drama about a corrupt lawyer who gets reformed when his DA girlfriend leaves him. It’s solidly made but with nothing to truly recommend it. The second movie was Truck Busters, another formulaic low budgeter, and the third one was Follow the Band, worth watching for Leo Carrillo alone.

And that was it from Jean!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jean confessed to the papers that if she was not an actress, she would turn to modeling. Next to acting, Jean was most interested in music and painting, her artistic avocations being playing the piano and doing landscapes in water color. She also designed many of the smart clothes she wore.

Another peculiarity: Jean looked so much like Ida Lupino she had difficulty getting jobs. She also wrote once to the casting department that “I am a healthy Ida Lupino.” But otherwise she was a typical run-of-the-mill Hollywood working girl, who even rode to the studio on a bus. Here is an interesting bit on Jean:

Jean Ames Is willing to suffer for her art but Warner Bros won’t let her, not on concrete, at any rate, She has to ride a bicycle without using her hands for “The Male Animal”, and had been practicing on the studio’s concrete streets. But, during one rehearsal whirl, she narrowly avoided colliding with a prop truck. On another, she did collide with Henry Fonda. On still a third, she collided with the pavement when the bike went out of control. She came up with a skinned knee and various black and blue marks. ) Orders were promptly Issued that thereafter she practice on a soft dirt track.

Jean’s first real Hollywood beau was Bruce Cabot, and that was semi serious, as Bruce was well known for his appreciation of pretty Hollywood girls, and Jean was just one in a long string of pretties.

Then, in 1943, famous aviation captain Capt. Vincent B. Evans, skipper of the famous bomber Memphis Belle, visited Hollywood and it was love at first sight between him and Jean. Vincent had to return to Amarillo for aviation practice, and Jean, head over heels in love, visited him during her leave of absence from the studio.

They were young, pretty, the world was at war and marriages were at an all time high – it’s no surprise that Jean and Vince, despite knowing each other for only a few days at most, had planned to marry while she was in Amarillo, but later decided on the postponement. Instead of a hurried marriage, Jean returned from Amarillo to Los Angeles by plane with the announcement that she will be a June bride.

They eloped to Las Vegas on Sept. 17. Hollywood, and Jean was married under her real name, Irma Salzman. The honeymooners went to Texas, Vince’s home State.

Vincent Evans was born on September 6, 1920, in Fort Worth, Texas. Some time after 1930 his family moved to Henderson, Texas where the Vince attended the North Texas Teachers College after graduating from the Henderson High School.

He was already running a successful logging company, but wanted some excitement in his life, so he enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces for Bombardier training on January 5, 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his Bombardier Wings at Victorville Army Air Field, California, on July 4, 1942.

While she was honeymooning in Texas with Evans, trouble was in the works, for her predecessor insists Vince was a bigamist.

Dinusa “Dinny” Kelly Evans, former wife of Capt. Vincent B. Evans, often deco- rated bombardier of the famed Flving Fortress “Memphis Belle,” today claimed ;her husband’s marriage to Movie Starlet Jean Ames was s illegal. Capt. Evans I eloped here Sunday and his attorney said a Mexican divorce had been award- ‘ed the Army fiier three weeks ago at Juarez. “If there has been a divorce, i haven’t heard about it,” Mrs. Evans said, “and I haven’t signed any papers yet. Mexican divorces are illegal and I’m going to fight to have this decree invalidated u there was one.” The newspapers say he got his divorce on charges of incompatibility after a year’s separation,” she continued. “That’s not true. He lived with me last summer and early fall. He started to get a divorce last fall but dropped proceedings when I told him I would fight it. I’ll fight this divorce to the end, and the battle will start immediately.” Capt. Evans marriage to Miss Ames was not entirely unexpected. The couple met in Hollywood when Capt. Evans was on a visit after completing 25 missions over Europe.

I have no idea how this got solved, but somehow it did, and the Evans remained married. But, it seems that Vince was a well known womanizer – while he was married to Dinny, he romanced a night club singer named Kaye, whom Evans met in London. Some said he was planning to return to her after the war and they would marry, but guess it didn’t happen that way.

Vince was deployed at the Pacific Theater in September 1944. He was action in Saipan and Guam. He left active duty on August 6, 1945

The Evans had a daughter, Valerie Brooke Evans, born on February 14, 1945 in Los Angeles, while her father was still in the army. Their marriage was tempestuous, and it didn’t last long. After World War II, Vince began a career in acting and wrote screenplays.

The couple divorced in the late 1940s. Vincent became a business man in Buellton and Solvang, California, remarried to Marjory Winkler, and died in a airplane accident in 1980.

Jean completely falls of the radar from then on, and I have no idea what happened to her.

Jean Ames died in 1975.

Anne Rooney

In the mid 1940s, there was a sudden onslaught of pretty, petite and cute actresses who were often not great beauties, not that great as thespians, but were able singers and charming to booth. Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin, Ann Blyth, just to name a few of the best known… However, a great of such girls didn’t make the grade – Anne Rooney firmly belongs in this category. Nice looking in a girl-next-door kind of way, with a solid voice and colorful vaudeville background, she was seemingly perfect fit for the times, but somehow, she just didn’t work. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Shirley Anne McCully was born on August 15, 1926, in Santa Clara, California, to Ernest McCully and Hazel Rooney, both professional vaudeville dancers. She had an older sister, Mary Virginia, born in July 14, 1920. She grew up in Santa Clara.

Anne adopted her parents’ profession quiet early, as she was groomed to go on stage much liker her sister. At five she was guest star with Al Pearce and his Radio Gang, and at eight she joined her mother and dad, Hazel and Ed McCully and Virginia in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. They were known as “Mac’s Merrymakers.” At thirteen she made her film bow in “Flicker Fever.” She gained some movie acting experience thus as a child actress in the old Educational (as they were called) comedies. I won’t profile these comedies as they are no on her IMDB page.

Anne, at 16, was singing with Muzzy Marcellino‘s band at the Glendale, California, Civic Auditorium when she was resigned for the movies and appeared in “Babes On Broadway,” with her “namesake,” Mickey Rooney. A talent scout spotted Anne when she was singing with Muzzy Marcel-lino’s orchestra in Glendale, invited her to the studio, the next day she had a contract.

And that is how is started!

CAREER

Anne made her grown up debut in Babes on Broadway, a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland happy-go-lucky, “let’s stage a musical” musical. The story isn’t important (like there is one) – just enjoy the colorful sets, the nice music and good dancing sequences, plus Mickey and Judy!

Anne signed with MGM and appeared in a two of their movies: Calling Dr. Gillespie (of the famous Dr. Gillespie movie serie,s with Lionel Barrymore as the eponymous Gillespie), For Me and My Gal , a charming, breezy and air light Judy Garland/George Murphy musical with a special appearance by Gene Kelly!).

Anne was sacked by MGM afterwards and signed by Universal, and she continued her musical trajectory: her first movie for the new studio was Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour, one of the Henry Aldrich series of movies. Not that well-known today, Henry Aldrich was a popular series back in the 1930s and 1940s, and this was the 7th movie in the series, where Harry becomes extra popular overnight to his date with a movie star, and girls start to flock around him. Anne plays one of the adoring girls, but is overshadowed by more popular actresses like Diana Lynn, Frances Gifford and Gail Russell. That same year Anne also made Follow the Band,  a run of the mill light romantic comedy where the actors weren’t even the main attraction, but you have a dance band playing good music and featuring cameo performances of stars as night club acts. So, Eddie Quillian and Mary Beth Hughes fade as the leading couple, and we have Leon Errol and Leo Carrillo among others. Plus a very small, early role by Robert Mitchum!

Anne’s string of musicals continued with Always a Bridesmaid, a complete forgotten Andrews sisters musical. Then came This Is the Life, an overall enjoyable comedy about a love triangle between the sweet soprano Susanna Foster, goofy but endearing tween Donald O’Connor and handsome and suave Patric Knowles (the triangle becomes a square when Peggy Ryan comes in!).

Then finally came Anne’s five minutes of fame and her first leading role. The year was 1944, the movie was Slightly Terrific. However, it ended up a real fiasco for Anne – why? Well, because she was the thinnest part of the movie. The film’s plot is the typical variation of the “Let’s Put on a Show” plot, and the only thing carrying the movie is the veteran comedic actor Leon Errol, delightfully funny as twins of totally opposite personalities. You can’t take his eyes of him – he such a master of his craft and obviously had impeccable timing. Other than him, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this bland mess. Not long after this movie, Anne and Universal went their separate ways.

Anne came back to movies in 1946, with Freddie Steps Out, the second of the “Teen-Agers” musical series at Monogram. Monogram was infamous for being a cheapskate studio, and most of their movies are so low-budget looking that you have to try hard and squint not to see it and try to enjoy the story and the actors. The Teen Agers musical series isn’t the worst thing they churned. Tailor made to showcase young singer Freddie Stewart, who achieved some degree of success on the radio, this particular movie has such afar fetched story (A high school student is mistaken for a famous radio singer who goes missing) that there is too much suspension of disbelief. Ah, at least you can see Frankie Darro and Noel Niell in it.

Anne played the leading lady’s (June Pressier) sister, and repeated the same role in the third movie of the series, High School Hero. This one also has a predictable, half-stupid story (the leading man’s school has a rivalry with another school in town and during a football game, when the chips are down, they know they are gonna lose, but as a joke one of the cheerleaders goes in drag in a football uniform and the girl ends up their secret weapon). All in all, the series went on for five more movies, stopped in 1948, and took down with it the leading man’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

Anne was a scant five feet and weighs less than a hundred pounds. Since she was underage when she got her first contract, she has to obtain court approval of the said contract calling for initial salaries of $75 a week. The other girl who also got the same contract was Donna Reed. Donna ended up more successful than Anne in the acting stakes.

When she came to Hollywood, Anne’s was publicized in large part via her instantly recognizable moniker – namely, Annie Rooney was a famous character played by Mary Pickford back in the 1920s. Here is a typical article of the day:

Anne was born the same year Mary Pickford played the title role in the film production, “Little Annie Rooney.” – Anne’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. McCully, proved prophetic when they named their daughter Anne Rooney McCully on her birth at San Jose, California. Now 17, Anne has almost precisely the same measurements as Miss Pickford. She’s exactly five feet tall and weighs an even 90 pounds. And she is a likely choice for today’s “America’s Sweetheart” title.

Like many starlets, Ann did her share of war effort, touring camps extensively. Despite being a vaudevillian, Anne hadn’t been out of the state of California until she left on a camp tour through the middle west and deep south. Here is an article:

As we have often said there are very few motion picture actresses, especially the starlets, who can contribute much in the way of entertainment when they make a personal appearance. Anne ‘Rooney, working here and there for Universal and now appearing as headliner on the National Base Tour. ‘

Winsome Anne, a rising young starlet, comes to Camp Livingston Sunday for a five day visit and a series of formal and informal visits about the camp. Although not related to Mickey Rooney, she was signed for a term contract after being seen in a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland film young singers of popular songs. Miss Rooney is scheduled to arrive at Livingston Sunday morning and following dinner.

As for Anne’s love life, John Hopkins, of a wealthy Cleveland family, once engaged to June Preisser, was her first serious beau and first fiancee. She and her mother had gone to the place where Jack was stationed and all seems very serious and very close to the altar. For unknown reasons, the relationship was terminated not long afterwards and no wedding took place. Anne than dated Captain Paul Penrose, a Western Airlines pilot.

Anne left Hollywood in 1944, and worked as a showgirl in the Copacabana. There she met and married Jerry Brooks, Los Angeles and Miami cafe owner, also called the zipper king by the press. He once owned part of the famous Slapsy Maxie’s night club. They settled in Los Angeles and their son Steven Jerome was born there on July 24, 1948.

Sadly in 1949, before their son was a year old, they were dogged by persistent rift rumors, which were later confirmed by Ann’s mother, Mrs. Hazel McCully. Pretty soon Anne consulted attorney Buron Fitts and sued for divorce. Their marriage was finished by early 1950.

Anne became Donald O’Connor’s personal assistant, or his Girl Friday, and stayed in Hollywood, albeit not as an actress. In the early 1950s she met Vincent Nuccio and started dating him. Nuccio was born in 1914 to Joseph Nuccio and Josephine Garogalo in Ohio. Nuccio married 16 January 1936 Yolanda Palmieri in Ohio, and moved with her to California, where he started an insurance business that boomed over the ages, making him a rich man. Sadly, Yolanda died sometime in the late 1940s, making him a widower.

Vincent and Anne were first married on February 2, 1957, settling and living the high life in Beverly Hills. Since, Nuccio was very wealthy and fond of the social life, they became the golden party-giving couple of the West Coast. However, their domestic life was far from tranquil and stable.

The Nuccios divorced in 1963 and remarried within a year, On may 15, 1963 (that was fast). But there was one, itsy-bitsy problem: a prenuptial agreement Anne signed before tying the knot the second time around. The document allegedly entitled her to zippo. Then, in 1970ys, she decided to divorce Nuccio again. She wanted half the estimated $10 million in community property. And that’s why Annie went to renown lawyer Marvin Mitcheslon, who was famous for his palimony cases.

Here is an article about their messy divorce:

After setting aside part of a prenuptial agreement that said the wife would receive a flat sum of $5,000 in event of divorce, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Monday awarded former movie singer and dancer Annie Rooney $12,000 a month support from wealthy insurance executive Vincent Nuccio. Under terms of the judgment, the 54-year-old Miss Rooney could receive as much as $3.5 million from Nuccio if she lives out the 28 years of her acturial life expectancy, her lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson, said. According to Mitchelson, Nuccio. 65, also agreed that in event of his death, payments to Miss Rooney from his estate would continue until she died or remarried. The ruling was not viewed as a victory for Miss Rooney by Nuccio’s lawyer, Marshall Zollo, who said her attempt was to “overturn the entire prenuptial agreement and get half the estate.” “The court record showed that . . . for the purpose of this hearing, the husband’s net worth was $5 million,” Zollo said. “She was trying to get half of that and she got zero. She got support but none of the property.” As a matter of law, Judge Frances Rothschild ruled invalid the section of the agreement entered into prior to the couple’s second marriage in 1963 that limited the amount of spousal payment to $5,000. The judge, however, upheld all remaining portions of the prenup.

Anne and Vince divorced, and she lived the rest of her days in California, out of the newspaper radar.

Anne Rooney Nuccio died on August 16, 2006, in Toluca Lake, California.

 

Nancy Brinckman

Nancy Brinckman was pretty, blonde and a starlet – yep, she checks all of the boxes for the run-of-the-mill type you could encounter by the dozens in 1940s Hollywood every day. However, she got her five minutes of fame due to a swanky publicity trick. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Nancy Lou Muck was born on August 13, 1922, in Hollywood, California, to Harry Muck and Elsie Brinckman. Her older brother Harry Jefford was born on February 23, 1915. Her father was a salesman. Her mother, a native San Franciscan, came to Los Angeles in 1895 as a baby and acted in silent movies as an extra until she got married.

Nancy grew up in Los Angeles, California, and was interested in performing arts since she was a small child – she danced and sang. Nancy’s parents divorced in the 1930s and Nancy and her brother were given their mother’s maiden surname, Brinckman, for “stage names”.

Nancy attended University of Los Angles (UCLA), starting in 1941, but dreams of an acting career dashed her scholarly aspirations and she became a model and then a theater actress. This is how she landed in Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Nancy appeared in some 20-odd movies, and only a few were credited and most of them were completely forgettable. The first one was Fall In, a Sargent Doubleday movie from the eponymous series of movies. Doubleday and his croonie William Ames are dimwitted soldiers have plenty of dumb luck and Tracy has the nifty ability to memorize things at a glance, and gets a prestigious military job he is hardly qualified to do. This being a Hal Roach comedy, of course he manages to bust the bad guys and save the day (or the world in this instance, as the bad guys are Nazis).  She then appeared in another Roach serial movie, Prairie Chickens , the Third and final film in Jimmy Rogers and Noah Beery, Jr. serial. They play cowboys who get mistaken for a guest of honor and chaos follows. Similar comedies with a thin plot but plenty of zany were Gals, Incorporated and Hoosier Holiday. Nothing doing for her career long-term, but it was solid work and perhaps a stepping stone for something bigger and better.

Something “bigger and better” came with Follow the Boys . As IMDB summary notes, “During World War II, all the studios put out “all-star” vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot–often playing themselves–in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were meant as morale-boosters to both the troops overseas and the civilians at home. This was Universal Pictures’ effort. It features everyone from Donald O’Connor to the Andrews Sisters to Orson Welles to W.C. Fields to George Raft to Marlene Dietrich, and dozens of other Universal players. ” Of course Nancy gets minimal screen time, and is hard to even notice, let alone to achieve any dramatic moments, but still it was progress. Nancy then appeared in a Similar war propaganda movie, totally forgotten today, is She’s a Soldier Too, with Nina Foch and Beulah Bondi.

The first really interesting movie Nancy appeared in was The Missing Juror, a proto-noir with a great, heavy atmosphere but sadly no budget. The story is formulaic (a madman trying to avenge his wrongful sentencing by murdering the jury that condemned him), the camerawork and the acting is plenty good and George MacReady as the deranged but wrongly condemned man takes the acting cake, with the alluring Janis Carter as a juror coming in second. Then came a completely forgotten Ross Hunter vehicle, A Guy, a Gal and a Pal.

You Came Along starts as a romantic comedy set right after the war, with Bob Cummings playing an aviator who gets stuck on a rally bond and Lizabeth Scott playing the treasury agent in charge of the rally. Of course, they get hitched after getting poked by Cupid’s arrow. Nothing unusual, true, but then everything changes and the movie ends up a major tear-jerker. This wierd mish mash either completely alienated the viewers or left them enraptured, so make your pick! The leads are played well enough by Bob and Liz, and there are messages of hope dispersed throughout, so it’s a nice movie overall. Afterwards, Nancy was one of the many girls featured int he exotic A Thousand and One Nights, and then came her big moment!!

Yes, Nancy got a leading part! Yaay, let’s forget it’s a part in the Gorcery boys movie so we can congratulate her! Joking aside, Nancy really did play the love interest of Leo Grocery in Mr. Muggs Rides Again. Gorcery plays a jockey who  gets set up by a well-known gambler and then tries to make amends. Nancy is very cute in the movie, but everything seems to overshadow her – the crazy Gorcery boys, the horses, Minerva Urecal! Better luck next time!

Unfortunately, Nancy’s next movie is a…. You guessed it, a low-budget western!! Saddle Serenade. What a name! Sadly, no serenades for Miss Brinckman here. The less I write about this movie, the better, so nix it. Nancy was back to uncredited roles in higher budget movie yet again. The first movie was That Night with You, a movie with a plot one can hardy believe! Stars are Susanna Foster and Franchot Tone. Listen to this (taken from an imdb review): “Tone is a successful Broadway producer, Susanna a young hopeful. Seems that Tone’s character has been divorced for 20 years, and is quite popular with the women, but very changeable about with whom and when he might remarry. Thus, his female star in his next stage production gets impatient with his dalliance and leaves, providing a possible opening for Susanna’s character, Penny, or alternatively for Tone’s ex-wife, Blossom, who shows up unannounced to claim the role before Susanna has it nailed down. This is complicated by Susanna’s claim that she is Tone’s unknown daughter by Blossom, initially confirmed by Blosson, for her own reasons. Tone ‘knows’ Suzanne is a fraud, but decides to play along with her ruse for a while, then is convinced she is genuine for a while. Meanwhile, Tone and Susanna act flirtatious with each other, both trying to alternately deny and promote their attraction.” While I never expect anything realistic from Hollywood, this is whauza kooky, but it still managed to work as a boiler plate for romance. And Franchot Tone could do anything – he was so suave and good you’ll believe any role he plays, including this.

Nancy was again uncredited in An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, a completely forgotten Kaye Down movie where she plays an angel trying to help a struggling producer stage a play. Nancy had another uncredited role in Lonesome Trail, another low-budget western. Nancy started 1946 by playing an uncredited role in another Gorcery boys movie, Live Wires. This time Leo isn’t a jockey but rather gets hired to serve warrants to citizens. The movie is just like any other Gorcery boys movie – stupid and silly but made with heart.

IUt was time for Nancy to get the leading reins once again, and she did in Detour to Danger, a completely forgotten Britt Wood crime movie. Wood was a singer who . Nancy had a credited role again in Behind the Mask, a Shadow movie. Yep, before A native San Franciscan, played him in 1994, the Shadow was played by Kane Richmond. Here, the Shadow has to clear his name after the murder of blackmailing reporter Jeff Mann is pinned on him. Since the movie was made by Monogram, a cheapie studio, it has a minuscule budget and doesn’t pull it of nicely, making this a flop. The Shadow deserved better. Then came another Bowery boys movie with Bowery Bombshell. Nancy finally crawled out of the low-budget comedy hole with Dangerous Millions. The plot: A shipping magnate hatches a plan for testing the worth of his heirs, none of whom he has ever seen. As one reviewer wrote: “the plot with secret identities, hidden rooms, exotic locations and the threat of hideous tortures administered by fiendish orientals offered all the matinée delights a youthful viewer would look for.” Ah,m the Hollywood old days! he female cats is very good – Dona Drake and Tala Birrel are both very beautiful and extremely underrated actresses that sadly never got their due.

Nancy made three rather good movies in 1947: The Man I Love, a nifty  Ida Lupino drama movie, where she actually punches the bad guy in the face (go Ida!), I’ll Be Yours, a typical charming but paper-thin Deanna Durbin mush (with Tom Drake as her love interest), and Slave Girl, an actually a tongue in cheek, truly hilarious comedy with Yvonne de Carlo and George Brent (the movie doesn’t make much sense, but it’s really fun!).

And that’s it from Nancy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nancy hit the papers for the first time in early 1943, trailing clouds of Mardi Gras glass, as a sample of what will be seen at the annual Venice, Calif., festival. She continued modeling for various local Los Angeles events, and pretty soon she was seen almost daily in a large number of columns. In December 1943 Nancy and famous actress Frances Dee completed a hop-skip-jump-and-stand cross-country trip to entertain soldiers at Drew Field, Florida.

Nancy did a lot of war bond work and undertook several USO tours. She was elected “Sweetheart of Company M-2” by the cadets at the West Point military academy and was quite popular as a pin-up.

Then, in 1946,  came this interesting blurb:

Actress Nancy Brinkman, 22, announced today her engagement to Lt. Comdr. Paul MacArthur, a nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The blonde starlet said marriage plans will be made when her fiance returns from Hawaii. She said she first met the 27-year-old Annapolis graduate on a “blind” date when she was a freshman at the University of California in 1941.

Now, here all the rhubarb starts. Nancy got a ton of publicity for dating General Douglas MacArthur’s nephew and was in the papers every day for almost two months. The war was over, the US won, it was a time of general delight and happiness. A handsome couple, her a nascent actress and he a young man from an upstanding family, was just what the papers needed to plump up all the cheeriness. Yes, I tough so too in the beginning, and I tried to find information about when and where they wed. This completely threw me of the track and caused me a bit of a problem before I finally figured it out for what it was. Confused yet?

Now, let’s go from the beginning. What we knew about Paul MacArthur was that we was a kin of general MacArthur, that he was an Annapolis graduate and about 27 years old in 1946. So I tried looking for the family of general MacArthur, and guess what, I couldn’t find anything on my first try. Paul was waaay too young to be MacArthur’s nephew. Okay, perhaps he was a son of his first degree nephew? After some snooping around, I was sure he was the son of MacArthur’s nephew, Douglas MacArthur, a noted diplomat, and his wife, Laura Louise Barkley, a formidable Washington DC socialite.

However, after some additional digging, it became clear to me that Douglas and Louise didn’t’ have a son, only a daughter, Laura, who was a bit younger than Paul. WTF? So, WHO was Paul MacArthur? The papers exaggerate all the time, so perhaps he was a distant cousin. Now, this was too hard to follow thru, since the MacArthur family had an extensive family tree. I nearly gave up, and then it hit me. Those were lies. Petty lies made up by newspaper columnists to make an engagement of a minor starlet and a normal naval soldier more interesting. Yes, people, Paul McArthur had absolutely no familial relationship to Douglas MacArthur. Perhaps a very, very, very distant one, but that’s so far that they can hardly be called family.

Anyway, it turns out that Paul MacArthur was born in 1917 in Norwood, Ohio, to Thomas B. MacArhur and Eveline Paine. He had a brother, Arthur, and two sisters, Jane and Priscilla. His father was not from a powerful military family, but a normal middle class blue-collar worker – he was a ticket agent at Union terminal. I wonder how Thomas felt when papers started to extensively write about Paul’s imaginary, over-bloated family background. Meh! Anyway, Paul was one of the 456 midshipmen who graduated from Naval Academy, Annapolis, class of 1941. This is one of the largest graduating classes in the history of the academy.

The couple wed in late 1946 or early 1947. Nancy announced in the papers that she, plans to retire from films after her wedding, and she did.  She lived a quiet family life with her husband and daughter Paula Louise, born on July 9, 1948. Sadly, her brother died in 1950, leaving behind a widow and two young children, and her mother died just two months after.

Nancy and Paul enjoyed a happy marriage and lived in sunny California.

Nancy Brinckman MacArthur died on May 28, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.

 

Marla Shelton

Marla Shelton was a multi-talented, unusual woman who started as a beauty pageant winner, had a so-so acting career (but managed to grew out of the starlet phase and even playing meaty roles in decent movies), and later became a songwriter! A interesting road to take indeed! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alberta Pearl Maria McKellop was born on October 12, 1912, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to Arthur McKellop and Pearl Shelton. Her godfather was future secretary of war, Patrick J. Hurley. 

Marla was later lauded as one of the first Native American feminine personalities in Hollywood history. Why? Well, because she was granddaughter of Albert Pike McKellop, famous leader of the Cherokee nation, who at one time was the wealthiest man in Oklahoma. Marla’s Indian name was Waletka, meaning Rippling Water.

Marla grew up at her grandparents home in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended school there. She became a professional radio operator at the age of 12, the youngest person to receive the license. In 1926, during the Great Miami Hurricane, she and her father tirelessly sent wireless distress signals from Houston. Yet, Marla didn’t see her life going down the wireless route, and wanted to act, sing and dance. Since she was a ravishing beauty with long black hair, she decided to go down the beauty pageant route.

In 1927 Marla, pretending to be a bit older, won the Miss Houston title. In 1929 she entered the Miss Universe contest as Miss Tulsa, under the fake name of Theda Delrey, but was found out and had to quit. In 1930 she competed as Miss California in the “America’s Sweetheart” contest, early forerunner of Miss America, in Miami, Florida and placed second in the competition, but she was disqualified two months later. She continued doing the beauty pageant circuit, hoping for a big break into movies.

In 1931, in a San Diego hotel, after speaking to a group of school children in connection with the opening of ’”Trader Horn”, director Woody Van Dyke received a call from Marla. She wasn’t a child anyone, but at 19 was still young enough to pass for a newcomer (which she was not, after all the pageants and the murky business with them). She wanted to know if there was any chance for her in Hollywood if she trained herself. The director, who has many such visits on his trips, gave her some good advice, he told her to read all the books and plays she could lay her hands on, and to seek out amateur theatricals. With the passing of years, she did just that.

Two years later, Marla came to Hollywood, got married and retired for a bit, but went back to movies after her divorce. She went to Van Dyke, introduced herself as Marla Shelton, entered his office. Woody was dully impressed. She had not only gotten a chance in pictures, and was even later awarded a second lead in “Personal Property,“c o-starring Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor with Van Dyke directing. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Van Dyke, I would have been, completely discouraged about one day being in pictures, and more than that, I wouldn’t have known how to start to become an actress without the advice he gave me,” she declared later to the papers.

And so we begin…

CAREER

Marla’s career was divided into three stages, depending on her marriage. She came to Hollywood in 1933, and made only one movie, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, today a minor classic, Flying Down to Rio. Then she got married, and left movies for a time.

After her first divorce, Marla hit the movies again, and this period proved to be her most fruitful. She was in Nobody’s Fool, a solid Eward Everret Horton comedy, then in the low budget western, The Phantom Rider. where she played the leading female role. She played an unnamed stewardess in Postal Inspector, a low budget, low quality Ricardo Cortez mystery where he plays the eponymous inspector. Nothing much doing for her career, but it was work. Same goes for The Girl on the Front Page, where Marla played a secretary – only this movie is about a hair brained socialite, played by Gloria Stuart, who wants to work in the newspaper business (owned by her family). The editor gets an instant headache, if you know what I mean.  Marla was again uncredited in Magnificent Brute, a steamy love triangle movie with Victor McLagen plays the brute.

After some minor, blink and you’ll miss them parts, Marla started to get better and bigger things. She was credited in Flying Hostess, a completely forgotten movie about stewardesses. A better bet was Under Cover of Night, a low budget MGM thriller with Henry Daniell playing  murderous professor who wants to get done with his wife. While the movie is anything but thrilling, the cast is good and this being MGM, the sets and direction was unusually good for such a C class movie.  Similar was Dangerous Number, another MGM B classer, with Robert Young and Ann Southern playing a couple who can’t be together nor can they be apart. It’s a fun, breezy movie, nothing to shout about but well done.

Marla was again uncredited in When’s Your Birthday?, a semi-funny Joe E. Brown comedy. The plot is vintage Joe – he plays a goofball astrologer who has much more luck than brains and manages to foresee stuff like games and races outcome and such. And the fun begins! Marian Marsh is his leading lady.  These comedies are certainly not for everybody, but if you like Joe E. Brown, then watch away, there is nothing not to like about the movie.

Marla had a much meatier role in Personal Property, this time a A class MGM feature with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor.  The movie was made the year Harlow died, so it’s one of her last ones –  but he looks good nonetheless. The plot is as it follows: Taylor returns to his family after being in the brig, and gets job watching the house and furniture of widowed Jean,  without knowing she is engaged to his brother. The high lite of the movie is the banter between Jean and Bob – and they do have good enough chemistry to make it work. Marla plays a flirt who wants to steal Bob from Jean. Unfortunately, Marla’s next movie was Song of the City, a formulaic, bland drama about a young stock broker who accidentally falls into the sea and gets saves by a fisherman. He meets the fisherman’s family, fall sin love with his daughter, blah blah.. You get the picture.

Marla was uncredited in the absolute classic A Star Is Born, and then went on to make There Goes My Girl, a mid tier screwball comedy about feuding reporters, played by Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern.

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 is all style, no substance movie. Yep, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool worth fashions, and that’s about it. Marla plays one of the models. Marla’s most famous movie today is Stand-In, becouse she was a prominent role in it. It’s a hilarious, witty comedy about the inner workings of a Hollywood studio, with an outstanding cast – Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Marla made one more movie, 52nd Street before taking a short hiatus.

She returned ot the screen in 1939, to appear in Coast Guard, a typical love triangle movie with Randolph Scott, Frances Dee and Ralph Bellamy, the Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey charming and fluid Balalaika, and Escape to Paradise, a Bobby Breen musical. Bobby was the singing Shirley Temple, and barely 12 when he made the movie. Imagine being 10 years older than him and playing his leading lady – well, that’s how Marla was set up here. Breen’s musicals, are to saccharine, too unrealistic and frankly too boring,t but there is a certain ethereal charm to them. Marla finished this period of her career with her only 1940 movie, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady. It’s the typical Lone Wolf – always the same plot, but with plenty of sass, and Warren William is superb as the former thief-turned-detective-and-lady-killer. Special plus is Jean Muir, a wonderful actress that never got what she deserved in Hollywood.

After yet another divorce, Marla returned to movie sin 1942, with the low budget western Bells of Capistrano. Since WW2 had begun, Nazi had become favorite movie villains, and Marla fought against them in Secrets of the Underground, a so-so thriller with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey. Marla’s last movie in this all too brief working period was When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a Universal musical with Allan Jones playing a soldier on a furlong who wants to remain anonymous in a small town, but as you know, that fails miserably, in a funny way of course

Marla returned to movies in 1945 in the interesting Saratoga Trunk, one of Ingrid Bergman’s best performances (IMHO). And let’s not forget Gary Cooper! There is a cute story on how she got the coveted role: we have to thank her 20- month-old daughter, Maria Jr. Marla was one of several actresses tested and won the nod from Director Sam Wood. “I’d never met Mr. Wood,” says the actress, “but little Marla did her best to vamp him one day. We were having luncheon in a restaurant near a Hollywood studio when he came in with Gary Cooper. The baby spent the rest of the lunch hour throwing kisses and cooing at them.”

Marla’s last movie appearance was in Do You Love Me, a love triangle musical with a yummy cast –  Maureen O’Hara plays a female musical college dean, she falls in love with a singer man , played by Dick Haymes, and another musician falls for her (Harry James). Maureen undergoes a transformation, and everybody ends up happy!

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marla was a good-looking dark-haired woman with a slight exotic slant. She kept her curvy figure trim by doing her favorite sport, cycling.

Marla came to Hollywood in 1933, and almost immediately hooked herself a big fish – Richard K. Polimer, a successful theatrical agent. They married on June 13, 1934. Polimer was born on April 28, 1904, in Massachusetts, son of Austrian immigrants. He moved to New York City when he was a child, attend high school there, and then moved to Hollywood during the 1920s and became a literary and theatrical agent. His clients were Ann Sheridan, Dean Jagger, Noah Beery, Sr., Theodore Dreiser and Rupert Hughes. In the 1930s Polimer was a famous rancor and was very socially prominent – his Malibu house was often the scene of many fancy parties. He hosted people like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. Obviously, Marla did quite well for herself.

After the wedding, Marla retired from the movies, at least for the time being. Sadly, the marriage did not last long – they separated in June 1935, and by 1936, they were divorced. Marla testified in court that Polimer away from home all night. She said she didn’t mind waiting dinner for him, but thought it was a bit too much when he failed to come home at all after phoning he’d “be a little late.”She also complained that when he was at home he addressed her in harsh language and often was rude to her. She won the divorce.

Following World War II, Polimer closed his agency and began working in film distribution and production. He remarried to Ruth May Rosnie in 1946, and had two daughters with her. Polimer died at the ripe of age of 95 on June 19, 1999.

After the divorce, it was time for the new Marla to shine, and to begin the for phase two of her career. This was a typical article from the period:

She’s Now Exotic Type; Formerly Outdoor Girl ‘By Associated Press I Hollywood, Dec. 26 Seen through different eyes, the same girl in Hollywood can be two different people. Maria Shelton. at one studio where she was under contract for six months, was seen as an ideal outdoor girl the sort who would be just right to support Buck Jones in the western star’s serial. She did a few bits besides, but when option time came the free lance avenue seemed best for her. At another studio Bill Grady, casting director, took a look and saw something else again. Makeup, long eyelashes, an exotic hair-dress and a slightly foreign accent and Maria Shelton, in a slithering evening gown, stepped forth as the first possible successor to once-renowned Theda Bara and her “vampire” roles. She is playing her first such part in “Under Cover of Night”, a mystery thriller. Her real name Is Alberta McKillop. Her age is 22. she as tiny freckles across her nose, and she was born in that exotic town Muskogee, Okla., She Is three-eighth Cherokee Indian, and her grandmother’s name was Rogers. She thinks she is probably some distant relative of the late Will Rogers, but is not sure. Of more immediate concern to her is the fact that the artificial hair the make-up people used for her coiffure cost $175. And to think my own, which I bobbed, was practically Knee-length!” she laments. “And I threw It away!”

For six months she was given a ballyhoo buildup by MGM. Everyone heard about her beauty and acting ability and her certainty of stardom. But option time came and executive failed to renew her contract. Unhappy with that course of events, she signed a five-year agreement with independent producer Walter Wanger. An hour later—and too late—up dashed a breathless Metro messenger, but she had to turn him down.

Marla appeared quite a bit in the papers during this time. Here is a bit about old Hollywood tricks:

In “Stand-In,” you will see Marla Shelton climbing a snow covered slope. Then the camera will pan backward to reveal an illusion. You will see that Miss Shelton is walking on a treadmill. She’s getting nowhere at all, but cotton snow on another endless belt is passing her in the opposite direction. Also passing her is a procession of pine trees on wheels. Overhead is a revolving perforated cylinder from which falls snow in the form of uncooked corn-flakes. Yes, it’s funny. But again it isn’t Hollywood. Movie magicians do those things much better these days. They do ’em so well that even visitors on a set are captured by illusion.

And another funny bit:

Maria Shelton donned a pair of slacks for protection against drafts the other cool morning when she had to go on outdoor location In an 1885 period gown. As the day warmed, Maria stepped behind what seemed a solid wall of shrubbery to remove the ‘ slacks and just at the crucial moment a couple’ of prop men removed the shrubbery.

In her private life, Marla married make up artist Jack Dawn on May 28, 1937, in Los Angeles. John Wesley Dawn was born on February 10, 1892, making him 20 years older than Marla in Fleming; Kentucky, to Henry Walker and Pearl Smoot. As teenager he became a sculptor and later worked as a painter in New York City. He started working at Mack Sennett’s as a make-up man. After doing his bit in WW 1, he moved to Hollywood, working for 20th Century, and moving to MGM in 1935. In 1939 he was promoted to head the studio make-up department. Dawn was married once before to Anna Catherine Cousins in 1926, and divorced her in 1926. They had one child, a son, Robert Dawn, born on October 22, 1921.

The Dawns settled into a family life, with Marla giving up her career. Their son, John Wesley, born on December 18, 1938,.After John was born her weight zoomed to an alarming 180 pounds. While reducing, she began taking dancing lessons and started to act again. She did a few movies before her daughter, Marla Jo, was born on August 1, 1941. Despite an oral agreement that Marla could keep her job, it was expected that she still give up her career for good now.

But, you can’t keep a good woman down, and Marla was ready for more acting jobs. This created a huge rift in her marriage. She tried to leave him several times before, but her church group, the Oxford Movement, dissuaded her from it. Then, Jack went past all limits and it was over. What started as a nice marriage ended up in a very nasty divorce. Here is a newspaper article:

“It was understood when we were married,” she testified, “that I could play in pictures if I so desired. But last July when I told him that I wanted to work in a picture he said that if I did he would burn the house down and would scar me so that my own children wouldn’t recognize me.” ‘ ‘ ,.. Miss Shelton then added, under the questioning of her attorney,- Roland G. Swaffield, that she became so frightened that she took refuge in the room occupied by the children’s nurse, Rita Haggarty.who corroborated the story in court. “Mr. Dawn came to the door and called Mrs. Dawn a coward for hiding in my room,” the nurse informed the Judge. i Property Settlement Dawn had filed an answer denying the charges hut did not appear for the trial, though he was represented by Attorney Martin Gang. The court approved a property settlement agreement under which community property valued at $50,000, including the home, 15426 Valley Vista Blvd., is to be divided. In addition the agreement provides Miss Shelton with $75 a week alimony for three years. She retains the custody of her daughter, Maria Jo, IS months, while Dawn will have the care of their son John Jr., 4. Three months each year, however, the children will be exchanged, it is also specified in the document, which gives Miss Shelton $25 a week for support cf the children. The couple were married in Salt Lake City on May 28, 1937, and the separation occurred last Aug. 8.

In the end, The court awarded each the custody of one of their two children and approved a property settlement. This is a strange set up, but what can I say, whatever works. Dawn had a long and prestigious career as a make up man. he aided disfigured soldiers of World War ll. He worked closely with San Diego Naval Hospital in 1943, creating inlays for hands and faces so that patients could appear normal between multiple plastic surgery operations. He retired in 1956 and remarried at some point to Coleen Dawn. He died on June 20, 1961 in Glendale, California.
Marla started to date like mad after the divorce almost trying to make up for lost time. She was often seen with actor John Waburton dancing cheek-to-cheek. A bit later she was seen with Phil Baker, known as a derby twosome. Then came Harvey Priester and after him actor Barton Yarborough. During this time she was singing at the Clover Club, and all of her boyfriends came to watch her there. Marla was also a popular house guest: After dinner the guests would gather in the living room and Maria would entertain with some amusing little bits of verse set to music. This way she discovered her unique ability with making up song lyrics that will make a big impact on her life later.

In 1945, Marla became Mrs. Louis Alter in a small ceremony in Beverly Hills. Louis Alter was born on June 18, 1902 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He played piano as accompaniment for vaudeville stars Nora Bayes, and after her became a songwriter. In 1929 he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote songs for films. He also continued his piano accompaniment for other singers, including Beatrice Lillie and Helen Morgan. He did Broadway musicals on the side. In 1941, when WW2 started, he worked with the United States Air Force, performing for troops and  coordinating shows and other entertainment at various West Coast air bases. He also became a piano soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Marla quit acting to collaborate on songwriting with Lou. She became quite proficient at it – at one point she wrote the lyrics to Cart Fisher’s tune “Black Lace” which was very popular in it’s time. The Alters lived in New York and maintained a summer residence on Fire Island.

Despite this seemingly satisfying artistic  collaboration, the marriage failed in the long run and they divorced in 1948. Alter continued composing and died on November 5, 1980 in Manhattan.

Marla dated Producer Herman Levin for a few months after the divorce. In 1952 she created a minor scandal at the Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles, when she interrupted a rehearsal and attended, uninvited, a luncheon for contestants. It appears that it was a publicity stunt of some sort and it received some publicity.

Marla married her fourth and last husband, N. Gayle Gitterman, in 1955. Gitterman was born on July 23, 1908, in Illinois, and came to Hollywood in the 1930s. Originally a scriptwriter, he became an assistant producer ta MGM. He earned the rank of sergeant during WW2. After the war he worked for the Bing Crosby Enterprises and later became  a freelance producer. He also held writing workshops in Los Angeles. He was married once before, to Mona LaPage, from 1933 until the mid 1940s.

This proved to be Marla’s most successful marriage. The Gittermans lived in Laguna Nigel after his retirement.

Gitterman died on March 25, 1976. Sadly, Marla’s son Wes died on August 21, 1990.

Marla Shelton Gitterman died on February 14, 2001, in Laguna Nigel, California.

 

Marcella Martin

A pretty large number of budding actress came to Hollywood hoping to win the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara. As we know today, the role went o Vivien Leigh, and the rest was history. Of all the girls who were in the pecking order for the role, most of them failed to parlay the sojourn into a stable career. On the other hand, a few of them actually developed impressive careers later (Susan Hayward is an excellent example), and some established mid tier, solid careers Sadly, Marcella Martin belongs into the former category. Despite her obvious talent and pleasing looks, she opted to remain a theater actress, and made only two movies of lesser quality. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Elsie Marcella Clifford was born on June 5, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, to William Clifford and Clara Kessberger. She was the oldest of three children, three sisters – her younger siblings were Catherine C, born in 1918, and Ruth C, born in 1925.  Her father was a State Senator of Champaign, making her a high society debutante.

Marcella grew up in Chicago, attended high school there and discovered an intense love for acting when she was a teen. Determined to become an actress, she got a degree in dramatics from the University of Illinois, where she was active in the debate club. Ready for bigger and better things, she said “goodbye” to her home town and started to look for opportunities around the US. Her first serious acting job was a few months tour with a Midwestern stock company. After a peripatetic life with a touring company, she settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, where her first husband was from. She wasted no time in gaining acting momentum, and immediately joined the local Little Theater. She started her acting tenure by appearing in two sound stage hits, “Stage Door” and “Tovarich”. Marcella studied southern diction on the side and became quite an expert at it. People could rarely detect that she was originally from Illinois due to this handy skill.

Sadly, acting gigs hardy payed the mounting bills, so Marcella started by selling various merchandise, at firsts az Felbleman’s-Sears, Roebuck and company and then at Goldring’s,  but rehearsing diligently at the local theater at night. In 1938, Maxwell “Max” Arnow, scout for David O. Selznlck, saw Marcella in a rehearsal at the local theater. He was touring the South in search of actors to play parts in Gone With ‘ the Wind” (Including for the elusive Scarlett). Thus, Arnow “discovered” Marcella.

Arnow reported his discovery to Selznick in a memo dated Nov. 16, 1938. “The results of the eighteen day trip through the South were quite meager with one exception. In Louisiana, at the Shreveport Little Theater,” he wrote. “Ran across a girl by the name of Marcella Martin. This girl is quite good-looking, has a nice figure, and is a grand actress. Without doubt she is the best of the hundreds of people who I interviewed during my trip.” Very kind words from Mr. Arnow indeed!

A short while later he wired Marcella to go to New York for screen tests. And so she went.  Two weeks in the rush and bustle of New York studios, and she was back in Shreveport. Then she was called again this time to Hollywood for further screen tests. Once in Hollywood, she was originally tested for Scarlett and Melanie. Along with two other Southern girls, Alicia Rhett and Bebe Anderson (in the future known as Mary Anderson), she was given a bit role in the movie, but that was just a part of the prize – she got a long-term contract, a possible crack at bigger things.

And this is how she landed in Hollywood!

CAREER

Marcella was tested for the role of Scarlett, which went to Vivien Leigh (and the rest is history, as they say!) got a memorable consolation prize. She earned the speaking role as Cathleen Calvert, who confides the inside skinny on Rhett Butler to O’Hara during the classic barbecue scene. “Cathleen, who’s that?” Scarlett asks as she locks eyes with Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler for the first time. “Who?” “That man looking at us and smiling,” Scarlett answers. “The nasty, dark one.” “My dear, don’t you know?” Cathleen answers with a grin. “That’s Rhett Butler. He’s from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.” Scarlett looks away for a second, then back. “He looks as if… as if he knows what I look like without my shim”. Great moment! On a side note, a columnist wrote that the producers had to compromise when casting Scarlett, for this reason: “The compromise may be forced in the matter of waist-line. The specifications call for a 17-inch girth. Even the most rigorous Hollywood diets haven’t achieved any such miracle as this.” (how true :-P) Also, Marcella was Leigh’s trailer roomie on location and taught her how to speak with a Southern dialect.

Marcella appeared in only two more movies before retiring altogether. The first one was West of Tombstone, a totally obscure low-budget western with Charles Starrett in the lead. The plot concerns Billy the Kid and his alleged demise – is he dead or not? UnfortunatelyWhat is funny about this movie is how Marcella is attired – the story takes place in the early 20th century, 20 years after the reported death of Billy the Kid, but she wears strictly 1942 fashions, with knee-length skirts, high-heeled shoes and bobbed hair. Ah, Hollywood!

The second movie was another low-budget western, The Man Who Returned to Life. This is another better-of-forgotten type of movie, about a man on the run from the law for murder (of course he’s not really guilty). Marcella plays the third female lead, after Lucile Fairbanks and Ruth Ford.

And that was it from Marcella!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marcella married John “Jack” Martin in about 1935, and moved with him to Shreveport, Louisiana. The marriage didn’t last, and they were divorced by 1939, before she landed in Hollywood.

Marcella met her second husband, James Ferguson, in the theater – they acted together in several plays before getting hitched in 1940 at the home of the Marcella’s parents in Champaign, in the presence of relatives and a few close friends.

James Ferguson was born on August 15, 1913  to Mr. and Mrs. William Ferguson in Izmir, Turkey. His parents were British subjects. He attended elementary school in Scotland and later moved with his family to Whittier, California, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1930. He graduated from high school in 1931 and from Fullerton Junior College, California, in 1934. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1934 and underwent flying training the following year and completed it in July 1936. He was a flying cadet for one year before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1937. Later, Ferguson He rose to the rank of full general in the Air Force.

Ferguson acted for fun, and this is how he met Marcella. This is a short article about it:

Marcella Martin and James , Ferguson Have Leads; Opens Oct. 10 , Miss ‘ Marcela Martin and Lieut. James Ferguson will have the leading roles In the first production of the Little Theatre season “Tovarlch,” to open at 8:15 pm, Oct. 10, John Wray Toung, director of the theater, announced Tuesday. Miss Martin will play the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, the exiled White Russian noblewoman in Jaques Deval’s comedy. Lieutenant Ferguson will ‘ play her husband, Prince Mikhail Alexandrovitch Ouratleff.

He he he, the fun doesn’t stop here – there is a whole juicy story of the Ferguson-Martin courtship. Listen to this: In early 1938, Marcella’s first appearance on the Shreverport Little Theater stage had her in a minor role in “Stage Door,” which also featured in its cast a Barksdale Field lieutenant, William E. “Ed” Dyess. Her co-lead in “Tovarich” was another Barksdale Field flier, Lt. Jim Ferguson.

One of Marcella’s best friends from Chicago was Marajen Stevick, a publishing and media heiress. It seems that Marcella hobnobbed with the Chicago high society, and often asked them to visit her in Shereverport. There was a lot of rivalry going on with Dyess and Ferguson, as they were after Marcella, both of them. Marajen was Marcella’s house guest and ended up with Dyess, and Marcella ended up with Ferguson. Dyess was the third of Stevick’s five husbands.

Dyess died a hero in World War II. A survivor of the Bataan Death March, he survived a year’s captivity in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, escaped, was on the run for three months, was rescued by a submarine and returned home to write a gripping account of the Japanese brutality to their prisoners after the fall of the Philippines in 1942. A recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He died heroically in a training accident Dec. 22, 1943. He was flying over heavily populated Burbank, Calif., when his airplane caught fire. Instead of bailing out, he stayed with the airplane to make sure it didn’t crash into a school full of children. Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene, Texas, is named in his memory.

Stevick became an Italian countess a through one of her later marriages, she died on the anniversary of Dyess’ death, Dec. 22, 2002.

Despite the fact that Marcella got her big break via Shreveport Little Theater, she left the city for good after 1939. She returned in the early 1940s to sign various legal papers relating to end her previous marriage but never lived there again. She was active in the theater for a few years afterwards, appearing in plays by Tennessee Williams among others, before retiring for good in the 1950s.

Years later, Marcella’s younger sister Ruth Brown, remembered meeting Leigh in New York City in 1963 through Marcella. Oddly enough, Leigh was performing in a stage version of “Tovarich,” in the same role Martin had played when she was discovered 25 years earlier. Vivien suffered from a bipolar illness, tuberculosis of the lungs and was divorced from Laurence Olivier, but nonetheless won a Tony Award for her work in “Tovarich. Marcella sent a note back to Vivien, She wasn’t sure she would remember her, though they had been very close in the making of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ It was wonderful. The people making ‘Gone With the Wind’ wanted Vivien to listen to Marcella’s accent. She had lived in Louisiana so long she had picked up pretty much a Southern accent, but it wasn’t too much. The producers didn’t want a real ‘Y’all’ accent, they wanted a ‘soft’ Southern accent, and Marcella had it. They didn’t know she had grown up in Champaign.”

Marcella and James Fergson divorced in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Laterm he remarried to Roberta Wilkes. He served in Korea and from 1955 until 1970 he was based in Washington DC. In 1966 he became a full general, and retired in 1970. Roberta died in 1977. Ferguson died on July 13, 2000, in Sarasota, Florida.

Marcella married her third and last husband, Robert Lee McGratty, in 1953 in Duval, Florida. McGratty was born on October 22, 1908, in New York City, to Charles and Frances McGratty. He grew up in Suffolk, New York, and worked as a hotelier in Florida, running the Floridian hotel.  He was married in 1943 to Frances Stuart but the marriage didn’t’ work out, and  he divorced her a few years later.

The couple did not have any children, but enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage. They moved to Houston, Texas after McGratty’s retirement. McGratty died there on January 21, 1979. Marcella remained in Texas after his death, opting not to remarry.

Marcella Martin McGratty died on October 31, 1986, in Houston, Texas. She is buried with her father, former Illinois State Sen. William E.C. Clifford, and her last husband, Robert McGratty, in Champaig, Illinois.

 

 

Theo Coffman

Theo Coffman was a beautiful girl who rose from her modest working class origin to become a singer and dancer of some repute. After achieving minor success in Chicago, Hollywood beckoned and she tried to become an actress. Unlike many others, she really tried, even taking dramatic lessons, but, unfortunately, it did not work. She quite Hollywood after only one movie. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Theo L. Coffman was born in 1915, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Oscar Coffman and Josephine Snyder. Her father worked as a carpenter in a railroad company. Theo’s masculine name was due to her unusual familial circumstance – she was the only girl among five children, and her parents expected her to be a boy (pretty optimistic, don’t you think?). Her older brothers were Paul, born in 1910, and Alva, born on June 12, 1912, and her younger brothers were Oscar Jr., born in 1918 and Orville, born on January 1, 1921.

Theo was reared in Indianapolis, and attended Public Schools 28 and 8. She started singing and dancing when she was a child and pretty soon it was clear she had a good voice and some presence. In July 1931 her father died and her mother took over the reins of the family. Theo attended and later graduated from Manual Training High School. Her first job was as a cashier and secretary in a local Indianapolis shoe store. Feeling that she could give more to the world as a singer, she decided to try her luck in show biz. She danced for a while in the old Chez Paree, and sang with Paul Collins’s Orchestra. During this time she learned to dance like a pro on a roof of a Indianapolis hotel. Wanting more out of her career, she went to Chicago in 1938. by day she worked as a cashier, living with Ethel M Vandeveer, who was listed as her business partner. Yet, she hoped for a more stable career in dancing, so she teamed with Raoul Gomez in an exhibition dance act that was featured in Chicago in the Colony Club.

On a visit to New York in 1940, a film executive told her she should be in the movies, so she went to Hollywood, and obtained a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract and a role in “DuBarry Was a Lady.” And there she went!

CAREER

Theo’s sole credited remained Du Barry Was a Lady, the movie she was brought to Hollywood for. Du Barry has a plot that was used a hundred times in a hundreds of types of movies (summary from IMDB) – A night club’s coatroom attendant whose in-love with the club’s singer accidentally sips a drugged drink that makes him dream he’s French King Louis XV courting the infamous Madame Du Barry. While not a top musical, it’s one of the most beautiful, shot in stunning Technicolor, almost like being in a pastel wonderland, just two shades short of Heaven. All the craftsmanship is first class – the set design, the costumes, the lightning, the editing. And the fabulous music by the premier big bands of the era. The supporting actors are a great bunch too (Zero Mostel, Douglas Dumbrille, Louise Beavers…) . Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly in the leads are good too – but it seems they are overshadowed by everything else, and the musical doesn’t quite work as it did on Broadway. Still, it’s a sweet little piece of escapism, worth watching for sure.

And that was it from our Theo!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was often noted in the papers how Theo comes from a large family with several brothers. One of her four brothers, Oscar, got employed at MGM. Her other brothers, Paul, Alva and Orville, remained in Indianapolis. Growing up with a bunch of unruly bros, Theo developed a unique way to fend of all the hungry wolves, a handy skill to have in Hollywood. Here is a short bit from 1942, just after the war started, about that:

The other day at I ha Beverly Hills swimming pool, a “wolf” was trying to impress Theo. Coffman with his importance. “Just a year ego,” he said, “I had a suite at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel In Honolulu.” “You can have it again,” said Miss Coffman, “if you join the Marines.

Theo an ardent deep-sea fisher, her best catch being a 150-pound marlin which she landed off Florida after a fifty-five-minute tussle. Eager to play light comedy roles, Theo was reported taking dramatic lessons from Maria Ouspensknya, the noted actress. Her Hollywood home was a cottage formerly occupied by Victor Mature. Theo was also a pretty good seamstress who designed her own clothes. Here is a short article about one of her creations:

It all began when Theo Coffman, a shapely showgirl, strolled onto the set of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s frothy Technicolor musical, “Du Barry Was a Lady.” Theo’s avocation is dress designing and she was wearing one of her own creations, a tight-bodiced pink pique number with a wide flaring skirt. This skirt was the match that touched off the argument. Appliqued around its hemline were bold bars of music, clef, notes, and all. Admiring onlookers fell into Immediate dissension. “I say the notes make a melody!” “I say they don’t!” Theo’s dress was about to cause more trouble than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow when Tommy Dorsey happened by. Whipping out his trusty trombone, the sentimental gentleman of swing started in on Theo’s appliqued music. Listeners cocked anxious ears. Smiles cooled their faces. The notes did spell a melody: “Deep Purple,” Theo’s favorite song.

As Theo came to Hollywood via Du Barry, she was immediately associated to others girls hired to the movie. She got a years worth of publicity, the crowning moment being of course when noted illustrator Alberto Vargas made an illustration of the perfect girl, who was a composite of all the best parts the Du Barry girls – the hands of Inez Cooper, the hair of Mary Jane French, the feet of Theo, the hips of Ruth Ownbey, the waist of Eva Whitney, the bust of Aileen Haley, the legs of Hazel Brooks, the arms of Kay Williams, the profile of Kay Aldridge, the lips of Natalie Draper, the ankles of Marilyn Maxwell and the eyes of Georgia Carroll.

The press tried to report on a rapport between girls with snippets like this:

 Hoofing is traditionally cruel to the discovers between takes on a dancing sequence. Inez Cooper lends a sympathetic ear to Theo’s woes. Her own tootsies are killing her! Right Time out for repairs is taken by piquant Ruth Ownbey while Theo Coffman offers moral support.

And now for her romantic ventures, and there sure. Theo’s first Hollywood beau was Phillips Holmes, the gentle, feminine looking actor who worked so well with Nancy Carroll in several good 1930s movies. They dated for a few months before he join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died in a mid-air collision in 1942.

In started May 1942 dating set designer Merrill Pye. This proved to be her longest liaison, and certainly the most tempestuous. They dated for almost six months in 1942, but it was a sketchy, spotty, passionate affair with lots of ups and downs. Merrill was freshly of his long relationship with hoofer Eleanor Powell, and dated almost half of the Du Barry girls team, including Ruth Ownbey. Yet, Theo proved to be the most resilient of the lot, lasting the longest (except one, you’ll see which one). Theo downplayed the relationship in the papers, saying there is nothing serious between her and Merrill. At least, not yet. . . . Nevertheless, she got Pye’s permission to go to the fights with Tommy Dorsey. So you judge how serious it was 🙂

Somewhere in September 1942, she took up with the playboy Jimmy Ritz, who dated a whole of other girls that way, so obviously it was nothing serious. The Ritz affair helped chill Theo and Merrill for good. Theo then switched to international producer Raymond Hakim.

She lingered for a bit more with Merrill, but it was truly over when he started to date his future wife, another DuBarry girl, Natalie Draper. Like most couples in Hollywood, they had a post scriptum, but that was that. Theo started to date her old beau, Eddie Braugnau, of Chicago. Then, in a strange twist of fate, Theo was seen with both Robbie Robinson and Merrill Pye, and even the press called it an odd threesome. Guess it truly was.

In early 1943, Theor was seeing Bill Hawks, brother of Howard and Kenneth, had a few dates with Pye (this time truly not serious), and was showing the town to Richard Jacobson of Chicago. Jacobson was a newspaper publisher, and the man who Theo ultimately chose.

In March 1943, Theo married Richard Jacobson. Jacobson was a wealthy publisher, who bought he Evanston News-Index, (which had been in bankruptcy for a few months by then), and was already publishing Standard Opinion in Chicago. Jacobson owned a palatial 51-foot yacht powered by 140 horsepower engines.

After the marriage ceremony, she went home to Indiana to sort out her affairs, and Richard went back to Chicago, looking after business, but they had plans to return and live in Hollywood, and were looking forward to their purchase of Joe Penner’s Beverly Hills home.

Theo used to joke that whenever she went to Indianapolis to visit her mother, she was invariably pressed to work at housecleaning. “It doesn’t seem to matter much what time of year I get here,” Theo said, laughing, “house-cleaning is just about to start and I get in on it.”

This is where I lost all track of Theo – did she remained married to Jacobson, did she have children, is she alive today – all remains  a mystery to me. We can only say for sure that she didn’t make any more movies under the birth name. As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

 

 

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.