Poppy Wilde

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

And that’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her widower Victor Fehrnstrom died on January 11, 2016.

Patricia Alphin

Patricia Alphin came from a family that was deeply integrated into the movie business in Los Angeles, and it was no wonder that she wanted to become an actress. A poor man’s Jane Russell, she was a buxom, pretty girl, but sadly not talented nor lucky enough to cause any ripples in the treacherous seas of Tinsel Town. She had some odd 20 plus movies, and then retired after getting married.

EARLY LIFE

Patricia Cleora Alphin was born on 1927, in Phonerix, Arizona, to Harry Joshua Alphin and Bonnie Humphrey. Her father was a sound engineer, and due to his job the family moved to Los Angeles in 1929 where he started working for motion pictures studios. She had an younger sister, Harree Bonnie, born on March 10, 1931, and a younger brother, Harry Jr., born on August 27, 1935. Both of them were born in California.

Patricia grew up surrounded by movie people and wanted to become an actress from childhood. She attended and graduated from Burbank High School, and, as a true beauty, was active in the local pageant scene.

I don’t quite understand this, but in 1946 Patricia was crowned Queen of the Burbank Bethel of Job’s daughters. Confused? So am I. Anyway, here are some articles about it:

 Jobs Daughters Guests Of North Hollywood Bethel North Hollywood Bethel No. 110, Jobs Daughters, had as guests Bethel No. 97 of Burbank, April 6th at the North Hollywood Masonic Temple. The meeting was presided over by Joyce Hanzel, honored queen of North Hollywood bethel, and Patricia Alphin, honored queen of Burbank bethel. Both the North Hollywood and Burbank officers filled the chairs, with the Burbank’s girls as courtesy officers doing the work.

As a Queen, Patricia had certain social obligations that she did with gusto:

Patricia Alphin Hostesses Tea Featuring the Easter theme In the table decorations, Patricia Alphin, honored queen of Burbank Jobs Daughters, hostessed a mother and daughter tea at her home,  She was assisted by her mother, Mrs. Harry J. Alphin. At a tea table, beautifully appointed with a centerpiece of purple and white sweet peas,  Diane Swagler. Nancy De Celle and Donna Bell poured. Approximately 100 attended the affair.

After graduation, via her dad, Pat started working as a messenger at Universal International studio. She worked in the mail room and zipped around the lot with tons of letters. Literary, she was a female mailman 🙂 It was in this room that she she was was “discovered” and signed to a contract.

After several years of hard work, and many disappointments, Pat got her first big film break. She was given the feminine lead in Abbott and Costellos The Wistful Widow of Wagon Gap. But she was taken out of the role when she was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. This derailed her a bit, but as you know, you can’t keep a good girl down, and she was up and running once again, ready for big things!

And off she went!

CAREER

Patricia had a sim career as she was almost never credited, but her filmography is interesting and varied and, what is very important, she didn’t fall into the low budget western trap like many of her contemporaries.

Her first movie was Idea Girl, a totally forgotten Julie Bishop/Jess Barker movie. Her second movie appearance was in Tangier, another completely forgotten Maria Montez WW2 spy movie (but Maria sure was something, definitely not an actress but a powerful personality who lit up the screen). Then came Night in Paradise, an absolutely ridiculous semi fairy tale movie with Aesop as the main character (played by the exotic Turhan Bey), and Merle Oberon, a favorite of mine, sadly completely wasted in a “sensual” role. Not much better was the shallow, stripped-bare crime movie Inside Job, about ex cons who are forces to do another robbery, and Lover Come Back, one of Lucille Ball’s lesser movies where she tries to get even with her philandering husband, played by George Brent (yes, since this was made under Code she doesn’t too anything to drastic, making this a insipid movie).

Patricia then appeared in the serial The Mysterious Mr. M, which, you guessed it, has been completely forgotten and overshadowed by more popular serials. Her movies got a bit better afterwards (but she still was not credited, mind you). White Tie and Tails was actually a charming comedy about a butler who wreaks havoc on the his’ employers house while they were away – you have Ella Raines and William Bendix in it, and I love both of these performers. Then came I’ll Be Yours, another fluffy musical-comedy-romances made by Deanna Durbin, who was so deeply stereotyped by then that she gave up Hollywood not long after (and moved to France, smart girl!).

Since they were at the same studio around the same time, it was logically that Patricia would appear in movies with Yvonne de Carlo. Their first “collaboration” was Song of Scheherazade, a weird biopic about Russian composer Rimsky Korsakov. If nothing else, there is tons of good music and Jean Pierre Aumont (who plays the leading role) is the typical charming Gallic actor, immensely watchable! Pat was then in the above average Abbot and Costello movie, Buck Privates Come Home. Patricia had a slightly bigger role in Time Out of Mind, the first US movie made by the British star Phyllis Calvert. The movie, despite being a box office miss and having some serious problems, is worth watching just to see Phyllis and Helena Carter playing two interesting female characters. And Robert Hutton!! I cannot express my disdain for such a man! In Hollywood, where there were tons of incredibly talented people that never made it, we have a stone-faced, no-talent man with average looks who actually managed to snag some good B class roles. HOW??? Please explain how? I don’t expect every actor to be Laurence Olivier, but c’mon, Robert is a total block of wood when acting, with no charisma what so ever!

Luckily, Patricia’s next movie The Web is a minor film noir classic with a great pairing of Edmund O’Brien and Ella Raines, and with Vincent Price and William Bendix thrown in for good measure. The movie is all about who is going to double cross who, and despite being a tad bit predictable, keeps you guessing. The movie’s strength lies in the strong cast assembled and in the very good black and white cinematography. Next up was Something in the Wind, a typical Deanna Durbin movie (fluff!).

Perhaps the best movie on Patricia’s filmography is Letter from an Unknown Woman, an expertly made, magical but utterly devastating film, a deeply felt lament that manages to touch the viewers on a profound level. The story of a one sided, unrequited love is expertly directed by Anatole Litvak and played to perfection to Louis Jourdan and Joan Fontaine. Pat then went on to more cheerful stuff with Up in Central Park, another Deanna Durbin movie but this time with more zest and spice, and dealing with more than just pure romance – it’s a semi socially conscious movie about corruption in turn of the century New York City. And it has Vincent Price in it!

Patricia scored another very good film noir with Larceny, a John Payne/Dan Dureya/Joan Caulfield movie. Basically, it’s a film about a film about con artists and their techniques with a bit of romance thrown in, and it’s almost educational in this aspect. Pat then appeared in a mid tier Abbott and Costello movie, Mexican Hayride. Next she played a secretary in the very first Ma and Pa Kettle movie, Ma and Pa Kettle.

Up next was Johnny Stool Pigeon, a mid tier film noir with Howard Duff playing an agent who infiltrates a crime organization – always the same plot, but with a good cast and decent atmosphere, it’s an okay effort.  Then came Yes Sir, That’s My Baby, a part sports part ‘battle of the sexes’ drama/comedy film, focusing on the conflict between the desire of college student fathers to play on the football team vs. their responsibilities in providing for their family and helping care for their babies. It’s nothing special, but Donald O’Connor has a few nifty dances in it, and Gloria deHaven and heavenly as always.

Pat’s last movie for Universal International was The Gal Who Took the West, her second Yvonne de Carlo feature. As with most of Yvonne’s movies, it’s a lusty, sensual affair with no great story and little to no character development, but hey,

Expect a small uncredited role in 1980 (in The Return), that was it from Pat!

PRIVATE LIFE

Some of the tidbits Patricia told the papers: “The first thing I wanted when I graduated from high school was a fur coat. It makes a young girl feel that shes really grown up, and it makes that impression, too. You feel good in it, no matter what kind.

Patricia married her high school sweetheart, John W. Moorman, in a ceremony at 8 p.m. on June 28, 1949. The wedding was not without mishaps: Bonnie Alphin, Pat’s sister, lay on a stretcher as she served as bridesmaid because she was injured in an auto accident en route to the church. An ambulance took Bonnie from the scene of the crash to the church where and after the ceremony Bonnie was whisked to a hospital for X-rays of a back injury. Bonnie later recuperated fully.

A bit about the groom. John William Moorman was born in Los Angeles on December 28, 1926 to Paul Samuel Moorman and Aida Stephens. During the war he was an Air Corps member, and later attended Occidental College. The couple honeymooned in Mexico City.

The Moormans settled in Los Angeles had two children, a son, John Scott, born on May 14, 1951, and a daughter, Julie Kathleen, born on September 2, 1954. Little is known about their life, they continued living in Los Angeles, with Patricia long retired from movies.

Patricia and John divorced in September 1974. Moorman remarried to Marilynn Barber in 1976 and died on November 9, 1995.

Sadly, Scott Moorman, Pat’s son, died before his mother in unusual circumstances. He was a very gifted athlete and a Monroe High School running back. After get married, siring a son and getting divorced, he moved to Maui from Granada Hills in the mid 1970s and was an active sailor. In 1978, he went missing while on a fishing expedition, and his skeleton was found 10 years later on the Marshall Islands. It is possible that he lived like Robinson Crusoe on an deserted island for years. This is an incredibly intriguing but somber story, and learn more about it on this link: One dusty track.

Patricia falls out of the radar from then on, and I have no idea what happened to her. As always, I hope she had a good life!

Ila Rhodes

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Ila!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a bit about Bennett:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kay Harding

 

Kay Harding was a pretty small town girl who dreamed big, went to California to attain fame and fortune, worked as a truck driver (interesting no?), and even managed some minor success in Hollywood before giving it all up for marriage. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Jackie Lou Harding was born on January 5, 1924, in Cushing, Oklahoma to James and Thelma Harding. Her younger brother, Buddie Harding, was born two years after her in 1926. Her father, James, born in Colorado, worked in the oil industry as a laborer. Jackie grew up in Cushing in a normal, middle class family, and had an unremarkable, stable childhood.

Yet, there was a hunger for fame in Jackie, and by the time she hit puberty, she was active in local beauty pageants and had designs to become an actress. She attended Northeast high school in Oklahoma City, where she was elected “All-Around Girl” of the school, and once won a contest in a bathing beauty show. After graduation, Jackie left for California, hoping to realize her long time dream of becoming an actress.

In 1944, in Cushing, via a telegram, word had been received that Miss Jackie Lou Harding had signed a contract with Universal Studios in Hollywood, and her career started!

CAREER

Kay first appeared in Tinsel town films in Weird Woman, a well-paced, tightly knit horror movie with a great trio of lead actors – Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Gwynne and Evelyn Ankers. The plot is pretty basic (Chaney, as a professor at a college returns from a visit to a South Seas island with his native wife, played by Anne. His vindictive ex girlfriend, played by Evelyn, tries to her revenge. Chaney makes his wife burn all her superstitious, good luck charms, the things go horribly wrong), but the script is crisp, the performances fitting and the spooky atmosphere on point. Kay moved to more cheery fare with Hi, Good Lookin’!, a sugar coated, cute, and music-filled movie with nothing really memorable about it, but it’s good enough to watch on a Sunday afternoon. This was followed by Follow the Boys was another all star extravaganza they used to make during WW2 purely for patriotic reasons and not really for the art – Kay was just one of many stars and starlets who appeared in it.

Kay’s last four movies were all horrors/thrillers, and are the reason she is remembered (if at all), today. The first is The Scarlet Claw, one of the Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes movies. What more do we need to say about this serial? All Sherlock fans will love it, and even people beyond the circle – they are after all very well made movies with a outstanding cast. Kay’s last movie was also another from the same Sherlock Holmes series, The Woman in Green.

Kay also made one horror comedy – Ghost Catchers, featuring the team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. The story is a cardboard cutout – a spooky mansion which is, surprise!!, located next door to a night club is the place, and the characters are a Southern colonel and his two daughters. The movie, albeit short (a bit more than 60 mins) features a great deal of music, which can be either a detriment or a joy, depending on your own preferences. it’s not really a scary movie, of course, it has a few funny gags and Johnson/Olsen are their usual selves. Kay plays a minor role, so she’s blink and you’ll miss her.

Kay’s most famous and enduring movie today is The Mummy’s Curse, the fifth and final installment of Universal’s mummy series and the third to star Lon Chaney as the ancient Egyptian priest Kharis pursuing his much desired princess Ananka. The plot is same old, same old, closely following the last installment (An irrigation project in the rural bayous of Louisiana unearths Kharis, who was buried in quicksand twenty-five years earlier.) but fans of old school horror will love this – it’s Lon Chaney, after all, and everybody who cares about horror loves to see a mummy chasing after frightened people. Kay has a lively role as a doctor’s assistant, a good girl opposed to Virginia Christine’s bad girl (Ananka).

That was it from Kay!

PRIVATE LIFE

Allegedly, before Kay became an actress, she was a helms-woman on a delivery wagon. While I cannot gauge how true this story is, it makes for interesting reading if nothing else:

This business of writing pieces about Hollywood has gone completely haywire. Today, to keep up with things, we had to interview a lady truck driver. Or rather an ex-lady truck driver now in the movies. But gash, we couldn’t quarrel with Universal studio for signing up a lady truck driver. She was beeeutiful. Streamlined chassis. Fancy grill work. Nice paint Job. Sturdy upholstering. No miss in her remote. A real traffic stopper. Her name is Kay Harding. Her parents came to California about two years ago and Kay immediately tried to get into pictures. No luck, so she got a Job driving a truck for the U. S. Rubber Company in Los Angeles. One day she had to deliver some synthetic rubber to Universal studio for Claude Rains mask in “Phantom of the Opera.” Kay, wearing a trim uniform, drove her truck on the lot and there was a good deal of whistling. Dignified studio executive Dan Kelley also saw her. “He called me over,” Kay said, “and asked a lot of questions. I told him I had acted in high school plays, with the Community Players in Whittier, Calif., and that I was dying to get into pictures. He said to telephone him in a few days, maybe he could arrange a screen test.” “I was so excited,” she said, “I drove through a traffic signal and got a ticket.” Kay took the screen test. Studio executives looked at the film and gave her a contract. She made her film debut as a secretary in “Phantom Lady,” then played the ingenue lead with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in “The Scarlet Claw.” It’s probably a good thing there is one less lady truck driver on Southern California’s highways. Pin-up girls behind the wheel of a truck, Kay Harding said, are bad on morale. Not to mention fenders-and life and limb. “Gosh,” she said, “they let me drive that truck only three days after I got my driver’s license. I didn’t know the streets, or anything about a truck. I backed into a parked car the first day and smashed up a couple of fenders.” Then there was the convoy problem. “I’d be driving down the street,” Kay said, “and pretty soon there would be a lot of cars bunched around me. The guys in them would wave and whistle. If I slowed down, they’d all slow down. If I drove faster, they’d tag right along. It’s a miracle we all didn’t crack up in one colossal accident.” Then there was that California state law which prohibits a woman employee, even a lady truck driver, from lifting anything weighing more than 25 pounds. “I’d drive into a place,” Kay said, “with some heavy packages. I’d ask someone to carry them in. Well, the word would get around that there was a lady truck driver needing help, and 50 gents would leave their work to come outside and help me.” Kay said she earned $25 a week during the two months she drove the truck. “But every time I dented a fender, or got a traffic ticket, they took it out of my salary.” Kay said she didn’t keep score, but there were quite a few dented fenders. But only two traffic tickets one on the day she was promised that screen test. “Gosh,” Kay sighed, “it’s wonderful. When I quit my job the boss said I could come back and drive the truck any time if things in Hollywood didn’t pan out.”

Kay’s private life was pretty stable and low-key. Like many starlets, she did her bit for the war relief, and so met her future husband, who was serving in the Navy then. Kay and L. N. “Loyd Pat” Patterson, A.M.M. 2nd Class, were married in 1944 in a double ring ceremony at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, Glendale. The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. Owan Kellison with Patricia Martin, Kay’s only attendant, as maiden of honor, and Tom Stone, A.M.M. 3rd Class, the groom’s fellow sailor, as best man.

Unlike some wartime marriages, the Pattersons’ marriage was a happy and harmonious one, and produced a daughter, Michael Lyn, born on February 23, 1946, in Los Angeles. The couple moved from LA to Soledad at some point after Michael was born. Kay had given up on the acting world by then and was content with her domestic life.

Kay and Loyd lived in Soledad for many years before moving to Tracy. When she got sick, she was moved to a facility in Palo Alto, California.

Jackie Lou Patterson died on in Palo Alto, California.

Mildred Rehn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that’s it from Mildred!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

Here is a another article about Mildred from that period:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.