Wilma Francis

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilma continued to date, but never remarried. Some of her post-marriage beaus were Jake Ehrlich Jr. in 1956. She returned to Louisiana to live close to her sister, Elinor, and worked as a very successful casting director.

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

I could not find any more information about the case, so let’s assume it just let it flow. Wilma completely falls of the radar from then on.

Wilma Francis died on in.

 

Beryl McCutcheon

Cute looking, round-raced Beryl McCutcheon got into acting by mistake, and – like most girls who never had a theatrical background and think that their looks will  enough to pull them trough – never left the uncredited roster. To her credited (haha, pun intended!), she was persistent and made two come backs – too bad it didn’t work out well enough. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Beryl McCutcheon was born in 1926, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to James McCutcheon and Robbie Day. Her father, who worked as a building painter, was originally from Wisconsin, moved to Louisiana where he met Beryl’s mother, married her, and started a family. For business purposes, the couple moved to Canada – their daughter Ione was born there in 1915. By 1920, they were back in the States. Two children were born in Louisiana: a son, David, in 1923, and a daughter, Lois, in 1924. They then moved to Little Rock where Beryl was born.

Her family moved to Los Angeles, California, just a few short months after. Her younger sister, Joanne Patricia, was born there on August 5, 1931. Beryl grew up in Los Angeles and attended high school there. She had no big dreams of becoming an actress – but fate had other plans for her.

The year was 1943 and war was raging all over the world. Beryl had just graduated from high school. In the meantime, her older brother David worked as a messenger boy at MGM. Unfortunately, messenger boy jobs were soon vacated by war – he was called to fight. When messenger boys became scarce, the MGM producers naturally replaced them with girls. Thus, Beryl took the David’s place when he joined the U. S. Coast Guard.

She wasn’t on the job long before Producer Arthur Freed saw her and recognised major potential in her – so he tested her  she had a screen test, and Beryl won a contract. And her adventure started.

CAREER

Beryl made her debut in a variety musical, Broadway Rhythm. No story, no depth, no acting, just singing and dancing. IMHO, meh. Beryl marched on. Due to her slight age, she was then cast as a Co-ed in Bathing Beauty, a insanely popular Esther Williams picture with a thin plot but plenty of swimming, eye candy and comedy. They don’t make them like this anymore!

For the rest of her MGM tenure, Beryl mixed drama with musical movies, perfectly illustrating what MGM was all about in the 1940s and 1950s. She was in Marriage Is a Private Affair, a lukewarm Lana Turner vehicle – the movie made sense during the war, when women married servicemen on a whim and were hard to accommodate to a completely new, austere way of life, but seen today, it’s a feeble drama. Lana is not dramatic talent to be sure, but she had the sass and the elegance ot make her a star – and she was very pretty when she was young (unfortunately, she didn’t age too well).

Much better was Beryl’s next movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a superb example of what a war movie should look like. It has everything – good actors, a sturdy plot, and a positive message to boost your moral. Beryl’s next movie, The Clock, was equally as good – just on a different level. It was a more intimate war movie – about two people who meet just before one is to be shipped overseas to fight- with a powerful emotional momentum and two unlikely but perfectly cast stars – Robert Walker (whom I always remember as the psycho from Stranger in  Train – I know, not fair to this talented actor, but he was tops in the role) and Judy Garland, in one of her rare non-musical roles.

Beryl was back to fluffier, easier fare with Thrill of a Romance, another Escther Williams musical. If you like water extravaganzas, this is for you! Next came The Hoodlum Saint, an unusual try to make another Thin Man – the plot is about a newspaper reporter who tires to go back to normal life after WW1.  However, it doesn’t quite click. The male lead is the same William Powell, but it’s 20+ years later and his Nora is not Myrna Loy but rather Esther Williams, who was 30 years younger than William. Not a good pairing at any rate. However, the movie has some saving graces – the supporting cast is wonderful (Angela Lansbury, Lewis Stone, Rags Ragland, Slim Summerville) and the overall feeling of the movie is solid.

Beryl was back in the musical saddle with the classic, Till the Clouds Roll By. Afterwards, she left movies to get married, but that was not the end.

Beryl returned to movies after a 7 year hiatus in 1953. She then appeared in Glory Alley, a muddled mess of a movie about a crooked boxer and his trials and retribution. it’s the kind of movie that tries to be everything at the same time – a serious drama, a breezy comedy and a simple sports film. Like most tries at mix and matching genres, it fails miserably. We actually have great actors in it –  Ralph Meeker, the best Mike Hammer IMHO, and the alluringly gamine Leslie Caron, and a top director – Raoul Walsh – but it just doesn’t work. It seems like everybody is lost and has no idea what there doing – only the flimsy script keeps that on track.

Then came Dream Wife – I love this movie despite the pretty abysmal reviews. I watched it twice and it was nice, easy and funny – exactly what a movie of that caliber should be. It ain’t a masterpiece but who’s asking for it anyway? Cary Grant plays himself and Deborah Kerr plays herself – and they are pretty good at it. And Betta St. John is gorgeous beyond words! Just simply watch it! Beryl had the fortunate opportunity to appear in How to Marry a Millionaire, a beloved classic that needs no introduction. Ah, those candy-sweet, Technicolor movies, gotta love them!

Betty took another breather, and made only one more movie 3 years later – Ransom!, a superb thrilled where Glenn Ford and Donna Reed plays parents of a boy who has been kidnapped and held for ransom. It’s a tight, well plotted movie without  a minute to lose – and very emotionally intensive. Both leads are great in their roles. Watch!

After some minor TV work Beryl retired from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Beryl married her first husband, Robert Joseph Kindelon, on October 24, 1946.

Robert Joseph Kindelon was born on July 26, 1919, to Joseph Kindelon and Mary Ellis. His father was an oil well supply salesman. He was the oldest of three boys (other two were Ellis and Richard). Robert was movie struck from early childhood, working as a movie usher and attending college ta the same time. After graduating, he found work on the MGM lot as a casting clerk. There he met Beryl, and the rest is history!

The couple had two sons: Patrick Joseph, born on August 26, 1947, and James Ellis, born on December 23, 1949. The family lived in Los Angeles, where Robert was in the casting business – he left MGM at some point and opened his own casting agency, Independent Casting of Hollywood. He merged with several other smaller casting agencies,  like Artist Casting over the years. Robert’s brother Richard also became a succesful casting director and moved to Hawaii where he worked on Hawaii 5-0.

The Kindelons divorced in the mid 1950s. Robert remarried in 1960 and died on February 22, 1981 in California.

I could not trace Beryl’s fate afterwards with a 100% accuracy, but she seems she didn’t remarry, and that she lived in Culver City at some point, and died in Ventura County, California, after 2008.

 

Dorinda Clifton

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

And thus her career started.

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Georgia Clancy

georgiaclancy

Stunning model who went to Hollywood hoping for fame and fortune, Georgia Clancy was one of many that never amounted to much in the movie world. Yet, after both her acting and modeling careers were over, she became a highly succesful executive and paved her own way in life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Georgia V. Clancy was born on October 10, 1924, in Sayre, Beckham County, Oklahoma, to Elmzey George Clancy and Mary Etta Hervey. She was the second of four children – her older brother was Alvin, born on February 19, 1923, and her younger siblings were Helen, born in 1931 and Mary, born in 1932. Both of her parents were native Oklahomans.

The family moved from Sayre, Oklahoma to Texas for a brief time in 1932, (her sister Mary was born there), then back to Oklahoma (San Francisco, Oklahoma, yep, that place really exists) and finally to Compton, California in 1936. Georgia’s father was a carpenter and had his own carpenters workshop – her mother helped manage it. Both Alvin and Georgia worked at the workshop since their early teens – by the time she was 16 years old, she racked up quite a bit of work hours per week.

wanting for a better life, Georgia decided to try her luck in New York, where she went after graduating from high school. Not long after she became a premier bathing suit model and was summoned to Hollywood for the movie Bitter Victory in 1948.

CAREER

Georgia landed in Hollywood in 1948, under this guise: “Georgia Clancy, America’s top bathing suit model who became a mannequin hoping it would lead to an acting career, recently reached second base in her campaign to become a screen actress. The beauteous redhead rounded first base in the self-same campaign last week when Paramount called her to play herself in fashion salon sequences for “Bitter Victory.” She was one of the premier New York models sent to Los Angeles – the others were Billie Fuchs, Maruja, Vivian Easton, Georgia, Yvette Koris and Gini Adams.

The movie never being made (a Bitter Victory movie was made later, in the 1950s, with Richard Burton), Georgia opted to stay in Los Angeles and actually made her Hollywood debut in Neptune’s Daughter, one of the better Esther Williams extravaganzas. What can I say – they were top of the art in terms of technical excellence and innovation, but did not have back then, nor now, any big artistic merit. But they are nice’n’easy viewing for an afternoon movie session.

In 1950, Georgia actually had a speaking role in Buccaneer’s Girl, a movie low-budget, thin plot and mid tier actors – but still despite al of this a very amusing movie. Yvonne de Carlo plays the female pirate (while never a big talent, and IMHO not a particularly beautiful woman – I know many will disagree with me on this, but I just don’t find her attractive, De Carlo was superb for these swashbuckler roles and had a certain charisma).

Georgia then appeared in two very good movies: The Furies  and September Affair. Both are examples of superb classic Hollywood filmmaking, despite their relative obscurity today. The first one is a interesting psychological western centering on a dysfunctional but passionate father/daughter relationship (between Barbara Stanwyck and Walter Huston – two top actors!!!!). The second movie is one of the bets tear-jerker I’ve even watched – this is how sad movies are done, people! The story has to be a bit far-fetched (otherwise you’ll never get the over-the-top drama much movies need), actors should be top-notch and truly earnest in their roles, the direction should be unobtrusive and slightly, and their shoudl be plenty of truly emotional moments. September affairs has all of this and one. Joan Fontaine and Joseph Cotten are wonderful in their roles. Gorgeous music (the song, September Affair, was sung by Walter Huston!!! Love that man!!) and great cinematography are a well-earned bonus. definitely put this on your watching list if you like it elegant and tragic.

Georgia’s last movie was the mediocre Two Tickets to Broadway, which I have reviewed to many times on this page to make it relevant anymore…

PRIVATE LIFE

When Georgia came to Hollywood in 1948, there were serious tried to make her more accessibe to the public by mentionign the frequently in incocequencial articles, like this one:

The legend that fashion models get their pick of handsome he-men is a lot of bunk, a green-eyed beauty said today. All she ever meets on the job is a flock of balding grandpas with romantic ideas.. Georgia Clancy, speaking. America’s highest-priced bathing suit mannequin. She has red hair and enough curves to keep a strapless swim suit from slipping. She’s also an expert at broken-field running. “You have to be quick,” says Miss Clancy with a shrug of her bare shoulders. “A lot of buyers get lonesome on out-of-town trips:” Georgia spends her working hours strutting her stuff before the delighted eyes of middle-aged executives. ‘ “We don’t have to date the visiting firemen if we don’t want to,” she explained. “But we have to be tactful in brushing them off. “When some homesick gent asks me out I usually smile and say, ‘oh, I’d love to, but mother expects me home for dinner.’ ” If she knows he’s married, it’s even easier. “I just hint,” she purred, “I’m certain his wife wouldn’t like my alienating his affections.” And she usually can tell a wolf before he even has time to make a pass. “Then I twist my signet ring around so it looks like a wedding ring,” she said. “It also helps to tell him I’m married to an all-American football tackle.” Miss Clancy’s in Hollywood with two other models for Producer Hal Wallis’ “Bitter Victory.” They have the same troubles she does…

After her Hollywood career evaporated Georgia returned to modeling. Sadly, in the 1950s not many women over the age of 35 worked as models, and the same applied to Georgia. However, she was far from disillusioned – she seeker her fortune elsewhere, became the number one executive of A.P. Management Corporation, run by the even interesting Al Petker. Taken from a newspaper article:

If radio isn’t dead yet and it isn’t much of the credit for keeping its pulse going can be claimed by Al Petker, known in the trade as The Contest Man. There can hardly be a man alive who has not heard a Petker-inspired contest on air.  He services some 8,500 disk jockey shows on 1,800 radio stations and also takes care of 119 TV stations with his two going enterprises: Gifts for Listeners and Gifts for Viewers. Whenever you hear a promotion contest on the air with a variety of prizes clocks, radios, watches being offered, you can take odds that it was Petker who dreamed up the idea and Petker who supplies the prizes. The prizes, literally thousands of them, are stored in a warehouse in Beverly Hills. It is, in fact, the only warehouse in Beverly Hills, a city which is very touchy about anything more commercial than selling mink stoles or poodle haircuts. He has his warehouse there, plus a luxurious swimming pool-home. He even maintains cordial relations with the Beverly Hills post office which handles an average of 2,000 Petker-pushed parcels every month and writes him fan letters about the nice way he wraps and addresses them

Petker, who only two years ago was flat broke, is today quite wealthy. Al’s income, of course, comes from the manufacturers of the products he gives away through the disk jockeys. They pay him an annual fee, in return for which he sees to it that the product is handsomely mentioned on the air in such a way that it not only doesn’t sound hike a commercial but doesn’t cost what a commercial would cost. He has, made a legitimate, good business out of what used to be (and in many Instances still is) a low earnign industry in the broadcasting business. When, for example, a comedian’s writers build a Joke or a sketch around some commercial products, such as a refrigerator, the writers are quietly rewarded by the refrigerator pee-pic. Petker is only 37; stands an even six-feet and is handsomely mustachioed. He lives , with his wife and two children and. an 8-month-old Russian wolfhound, and runs his A. P. Management Corp. (along with a dozen other related corporations) with the help’ of Georgia Clancy. Clancy, as she is invariably called, is his executive vice president and would be the hands-down winner of any contest for the most fetching executive v. p. in the world. But the Petker people have no interest in winning contests. They just like to run them. Pays better that way.

Georgia was by all accounts never married and the papers never mentioned a significant other.

Georgia Clancy died on March 8, 1981, in California.

Dorothy Dearing

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Roberta Jonay

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Roberta Jonay had one of the most unusual entries into the world of fame – her boyfriend was a bodyguard for President Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt took a liking towards her, arranged some “meetings” and whauzaa, there she went to the stars! Unfortunately, despite her obvious dancing talents, Roberta never made it as an actress. She signed with Paramount, made two dozen movies, but never jumped out of the uncredited tier.

EARLY LIFE

Roberta Jones was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on October 15, 1921. I could not find any information about her parents. Roberta grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and considered it her home town.

What we do know is that Roberta’s mom was a typical stage mom (allegedly her parents were showbiz people themselves) that pushed her daughter into vaudeville as early as mid 1930s. The mother-daughter duo went to New York to seek new opportunities. She studied at the Neighbourhood Playhouse and did some stage work on the side. Roberta catapulted to fame in 1937, when she met Earl Miller (more about that in the Private life section).

She was soloist and mistress-of ceremonies at Earl Carroll theater and danced all over the States in various shows and revenues. Her appearances in the Broadway productions of “Allegro” and “As You Like It” in the 1940s led to a contract with Paramount and thus her movie career started.

CAREER

As a dancer, Roberta naturally started her career as a chorus girl – she was a string of mostly mid tier musicals – Riding High, a Dorothy Lamour vehicle, Star Bright (a forgotten short), Here Come the Waves (this movie sure had a lot of starlets in it), Duffy’s Tavern (ditto), Masquerade in MexicoThe Stork Club (with Betty Hutton, our favorite little dynamo!).

roberta_jonay_2After this set of happy-go-lucky movies, Roberta was then featured in something more “mature”. She first had a small role in Miss Susie Slagle’s, a tear-jerker made with enough flair and style to make it one of the best movies of the year. With Veronica Lake, Sonny Tufts and Joan Caulfield in the leads, what the cast lacked in talent they make up in beauty and elegance. Plus notables like Lillian Gish and lloyd Bridges  give the true acting chops. Then, Roberta was in another of Veronica’s movies – The Blue Dahlia. What more is there to write about this movie? it’s a classic, nuff said.

For some lighter fare, there was The Well-Groomed Bride, a lukewarm Ray Milland/Olivia de Haviland comedy, and for some heavier fare, there was O.S.S, a pretty realistic WW2 spy movie with Alan Ladd and Geraldine Firtzgerald. And no, spying does not look like James Bond movies – kudos to Hollywood for not trying to fluff it up too much.

Roberta was back in musicals in Blue Skies, a mid tier Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire movie. it’s got good music and dancign numbers, but a vapid script and Joan, despite her great beauty, was no quality actress! Ladies’ Man was more of the same – thin plot, but loads of music and good comedy (with Cass Dailey and Eddie Bracken!). These musicals were followed by a so-so comedy, Suddenly It’s Spring –again it was a silly story but with good performances by Fred MacMurray and Paulette Goddard.

Roberta then appeared in The Imperfect Lady, a Ray Milland/Teresa Wright movie with conciousness. It’s a out-of-the-box movie, nothing too deviant but it does touch upon some delicate issues about women’s positions in society and their reputation. Next up was Golden Earrings, one of Marlene Dietrich’s lesser known movies, but what  a shame – it’s an interesting movie any way you look at it, part comedy, part romance and part serious drama. Strange mix for sure, but it works, and Ray Milland, the leading man, and Marlene have some good chemistry together.

roberta_jonay_3Afterwards came Variety Girl, the movie with just about everybody who was anybody on the Paramount lot. Roberta’s last musical was The Emperor Waltz, charming, fluffy but low-calorie, and with superb leads (Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine).

Roberta appeared in just one more movie – Whispering Smith, Alan Ladd’s first western, and a sort of predecessor to the better known Shane (Alan plays almost the same character). Ladd, despite being slight and short, played the quiet cowboy quite well, and he has very good support (Robert Preston, Donald Crisp, Murvyn Vye). The direction was bit on the pedestrian side, but Leslie Fenton, a former actor and husband of Ann Dvorak, does the job ably (but not spectacularly).

Roberta appeared in some minor TV shows, and afterwards retired to start a family.

PRIVATE LIFE

Some bits of info on Roberta:

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Roberta was a very, very ticklish. In fact, she was so ticklish that it was a herculean task to refrain from giggling in the midst of soulful love songs with her leading men, when he was supposed to touch her. Funny. Really funny.

One of Roberta’s earliest crushes was Marty McDonough, star Syracuse half back, but they were both hardly more than kids and the relationship was short and sweet.

roberta_jonay_4Roberta’s first TRUE beau was Earl Miller, a bodyguard for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his wife, Eleanor,m when they lived in Albany. Earl was close to both of his patrons on a personal basis, and naturally introduced Roberta to the couple. Eleanor came to like Roberta immensely and develop a maternal relationship towards her.

Here is a bit about Eleanor and Roberta’s relationship:

Roberta Jonay, the girl who is  dancing at Northwood Inn just now told us about some of her rovings. Miss Jonay, protegé of Mrs. F. D. Roosevelt, has done plenty of getting-around for a girl, including visiting at the White House and being tossed into a concentration camp in Cuba. … She admits having been scared when she entered each of then, but got used to the first and got out of the second. We asked whether visitors at the White House ever tried to pump state secrets out of the President, and she said no, that people didn’t even talk much about polities around the house or at dinner. . . . “Mostly at dinner,” she said, “they listen to Mr Roosevelt cracking jokes.” . . . Mrs. Roosevelt generally went horseback riding very early, and Miss Jonay got up when Mrs Roosevelt returned and they went swimming, she said. . . . The most trouble she had was in running into Secret Service men before they had learned that she belonged there. It happened twice. Once in the house a guard thought she was a sightseers, but she explained who she was, and another time (and much more embarrassing) she got the brush-off by a guard at the front door, but an official who knew her explained

At a first glance, Roberta and Miller had everything they needed to be happy – both were young, healthy, with good jobs, and plus Earl could actually help catapult Roberta into a major career due to his connections in the White house. However, it was not meant to be. Roberta’s mother took an instant dislike towards Earl, and nothing he did was good enough for either Roberta or her. Even after he pulled strings and truly jump started Roberta’s acting career, Mrs. Jones did not consent to the relationship. It might have been fine if Roberta had a say in the matter – unfortunately, she did not. Her mother controlled every facet of her life, including her lovers. Under intense pressure, Roberta broke it off with Earl in 1939. He was shattered, and did the absolute worst thing he could – on a rebound, he married Simone Von Haven in June 1941. I have no idea what happened to Miller or indeed how did his marriage end up.

Roberta marched on with her love life. In 1939, she was to be married to Martin Jurow, 26-year-old Harvard law school graduate, then the company manager of What a Life (he was the youngest and most prosperous theater manager at that time). They didn’t get to the altar and Jurow became a premier Hollywood producer later, in the 1950s and 1960s.

roberta_jonay_5In 1941, Roberta filed suit for $20,125 damages in Superior court. The suit named Dr. Harry Singer, plastic surgeon. She said she went to him when advised that she needed nasal alterations to meet with success in the films. The operation was performed but her nose ended up crooked on the left side and a bump developed on the bridge. She claimed her movie career was damaged by the mishap.

In 1947, Roberta was seen with the dashing John Conte, but he left her for Katherine Lee, a ballerina, before the year ended. Due to her hectic lifestyle, Roberta gave some hints for the frequent traveller:

Roberta Jonay, who has the part of Jenny Brinker in “Allegro” at Taft theater this week, has worked out a basic wardrobe which keeps her looking well-groomed all day long when she’s on tour. At first glance, this may sound like a lot of clothes, but remember that Miss Jonay is on the road for months and months. She said the wardrobe listed below along with a cloth or fur coat sees her through the various changes of climate the average tourist encounters. This is what she takes with her: 1 black and 1 white lace evening dress, as these do not wrinkle. Suits of neutral colors with changes of blouses. ‘ 3 black cocktail dresses. 1 silk print dress. 4 hats, small models that can pack easily in suitcases. 8 pairs of stockings. 5 pairs of shoes. 2 nightgowns in addition to usual under-things. Miss Jonay said she never wears black suits on trains as they catch every bit of dust and you emerge at the station looking a mess. She recommends grays In a solid color or blue (not too dark).


In 1948, Roberta started dating actor Judson Pratt, a Broadway alumnus like her. They married on June 3, 1950. Judson D. Pratt was born on December 6, 1916, in Brookline, Massachusets. He grew up in Massachusetts, and went to act on stage, ultimately ending up in Hollywood. From 1950 until 1980, he racked up more than 100 credits in movies and TV shows, making him a highly prolific character actor.

Their first son Michael was born in 1954/1955. Their second son, Mitchell W, was born on June 29, 1959.

Roberta lived a quite life outside the limelight in California and was a devoted wife and mother.

Roberta Jonay Pratt died on April 19, 1976, from cancer. Her widower, Judson Pratt died on February 9, 2002.

 

Lucy Knoch

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A beautiful southern belle with a peaches-and-cream complexion, Lucy Knoch survived for over 10 years in the hostile climate of Hollywood, and none can dispute the fact that she accomplished a career much better than most starlets. Yet, she is miles away from standing toe to toe with proper actresses that left a mark on the film world.

EARLY LIFE

Lucy Claire Knoch was born on June 30, 1923, in DavidsonNashville, Tennessee, to Beverly and Annie Lee Knoch. She was the fourth of children – her older siblings were Beverly Louise, Horace and William, her younger siblings were Dorothy and Charles. Her father ran his own hardware shop.

She grew up in Nashville and attended school there. A lively, imaginative child, was active in school theatrics. In 1937, Lucy, then in the eighth grade students. and bunch of her classmates organized a program honoring the Constitution of the United States.

Lucy later told an interviewer Cordon Allemand the story of her childhood:

When Lucy become a model at the Hollywood Photographic Studio in the Nashville Arcade, never suspecting what the word “Hollywood” would someday mean to her future. Today this fortunate young lady, Lucy Knoch, it on her way to stardom at the Paramount Studios in the real Hollywood, which ia now her home. Lucy Knoch’s success story was related to me one afternoon in the living room of her home in Hollywood’s luxurious Alta Nido Apartments. Her warm Southern smile that’ makes you feel right at home is one of the first things I noticed about Lucy, and making me feel even more at ease was her genuine delight in learning that her interviewer was “homefolks” from back in Tennessee. “Honestly?” Lucy cried. “Why I was at Central High in 1939. I went to Woodbine grammar school out the Nolensville Pike. Nearly all my family live in Nashville and are in business there.” “Well just how did you get from Nashville to a Paramount contract?” I questioned. And this is Lucy’s story. “I suppose I was like lots of girls. All of us kids, my sister, Dorothy, and two brothers, William and Horace, went to Woodbine. I dreamed of being a movie star, but thought the nearest I’d .ever get to a stage was when I went to high school and joined the debating “team. A good one too, because we got several cups and ribbons.” She went on to tell of an early love for dancing and of being sent to dancing school three times a week. As a dancing team she and sister Dorothy appeared at many Tennessee festivals. Then came an end to school days and her first job. “I worked in the studio there for quite a while. Modeling. Maybe some of the Nashville people will remember me there. … Read the rest in the Profile section.

And she was in Hollywood in 1945, and started her career for Paramount.

CAREER

Lucy made her movie debut in The Affairs of Susan, a charming, well made Joan Fontaine vechicle. While no big brainer, it’s a delightful comedy with a good cast (Joan, George Brent, Dennis O’Keefe, Walter Abel). Lucy then continued to appear in movies of the same vein – decently made romance movies that never made it into the top category and are not that well-remembered today. Those are You Came Along (with Bob Cumings and Lizabeth Scott, an unusual but actually pretty good pairing), Incendiary Blonde and the short You Hit the Spot.

Then, Lucy’s career took an upswing and she stated to appear in some genuine classics. To Each His Own, Olivia de Havilland’s only Oscar win, The Blue Dahlia, one of the ultimate film noirs, and Blue Skies, a wonderful musical. 

lucyknoch5After reaching such a high point, there was a let down again, and she was back to the A budget mid tier movies. The first was Cross My Heart a True Confessions remake with Betty Hutton in the lead. The movie, a lackluster one ta best, still boasts a wonderful supporting cast – Michael Chekov, Iris Adrian and Howard Freeman. Sonny Tufts is his typical wooden  and Betty an energetic, fine performer, but no great actress.

Lucy then appeared in The Imperfect Lady, one of the rare Hollywood romances that goes for something slightly more mature. This is no fluffy, feel good, happy movie, and while it’s not a terribly dark movie either, it deals with some more tricky aspects fo the Victorian culture. Ray Milland and Teresa Wright lead a capable cast, and it’s generally a well dome movie, worth watching. Next came Welcome Stranger, a decent enough Bing Crosby/Joan Caulfield movie. What can I say about Crosby’s movies? Same old same old, but it certainly worked back then!

Lucy then appeared in the film noir classic, The Big Clock – now this is a movie more than worth your time! Slick, with a superb cast, nicely photographed and with an impeccable pacing, it takes a pretty simple story and makes it an intensive exercise in elegant filmmaking! Kudos for the always wonderful Charles Laughton as one heck of a villain, and to Ray Milland as the hero.

After appearing the short musical, Footlight Rhythm, Lucy was in Two Tickets to Broadway, a sub par Broadway pastiche musical. She then hit the jackpot again with The Bad and the Beautiful, one of the best outlook on Hollywood that Hollywood ever producer (whoa, this is one difficult sentence)! Kirk Douglas plays the ultimate fight-dirty producer who’ll do ANYTHIGN to get what he wants.

lucyknoch3Lucy started 1953 with The Clown, a nostalgic, sentimental story about a professional clown who barely makes ends meet but can’t give it up since he has a son to support. Nice, touching, with the right degree of pathos, and Red Skelton is pretty good in the leading role. Next was Sabre Jet , an insipid movie about the men who flew combat aircraft known as Sabre Jets during the Korean War. This ain’t Top Gun people, and the characters and the story if thin at best. Robert Stack, never my favorite actor, never quite manages to make it work as a romantic lead.

Half a Hero is a mediocre movie about a pretty much everyday theme – normal couple Red Skelton and Jean Hagen decide to move the family from New York City to the suburbs. Trouble ensures. Lucy had the biggest role in her career in Executive Suite, a well made Her last movie in 1954 was Athena, a Jane Powell musical with a surprisingly modern outlook on food and lifestyle!

Lucy worked for a time for Red Skelton, and changed her name. She did some minor movie work: appeared in Anything Goes, the Marilyn Monroe movie Bus Stop  and the swashbuckler The Buccaneer. Under her original name, she made one more movie, Frank Sinatra’s The Joker Is Wild , before retiring.

PRIVATE LIFE

Here is everything you need to know about Lucy in short, as written in a newspaper from the 1950s:

Lucille Knox has been a movie fan since she was five years old. Her favorite dolls were named Greta Garbo and Norma Shearer. When she daydreamed herself a husband it was always Clark Gable. When Lucy was a teen-ager she and sister Dorothy drove from their hometown of Nashville, Tennessee, to visit relatives in Tucson, Arizona. At dinner one night in a local .-hotel their eyes almost popped out when they saw Paulette Goddard at a nearby table. Naturally Lucy asked for an autograph. Miss Goddard was cordial and said, “If you girls ever come to Hollywood look me up at Paramount.” Shortly after that Lucy and Dorothy arrived in Hollywood. “Miss Goddard,” they were told at the studio, “is in San Francisco.” “We were disappointed and hungry,” said Lucille. “A restaurant a block away caught my attention because of its name: Lucey’s. The place was jumping with movie stars. We met Everett Crosby, Bing’s brother. I told him that Paulette had promised to show us the Paramount studios. ” ‘Well,’ he said, ‘since Paulette Isn’t here, I’ll show you the studio and I’ll also introduce you to the casting director.’ He did. And we both were signed to a Paramount contract.”

Lucille and her sister were not popular with the other girls on the lot. “We were real naive. In all the fan magazines we’d read back in Nashville all you did in Hollywood was sat at a soda fountain or in a popular restaurant and you were discovered. We thought getting a contract on the first day was par for the course. We didn’t know that some of these kids had waited years for a break.” Another day, another restaurant. Lucille was having lunch at the Tail of the Cock. Red Skelton was at the next table. “Would you be interested in television work?” he asked. For two years Lucille was an important part of the Skelton show. M-G-M director Vincente Minnelli saw her on the show and gave her the part of Gilbert Roland’s steak-eating girl friend in The Bad and the Beautiful. After that she played Louis Calhern’s sexy girl friend in Executive Suite and a process-server in Esther Williams’ Athena. Lucille Knox was born Lucy Knoch. Red Skelton changed the Lucy to Lucille. And she herself recently changed the Knoch to Knox. She’s 5 feet 5′,inches tall, weighs 119 pounds and is married to an insurance man. Skelton once wrote an article about her titled, “The Young Lucille Ball.” She has been carefully avoiding Desi’g Lucy ever since. She figures she’s been lucky enough just being herself.

lucyknoch4However, what Hollywood didn’t know was that Lucy came to town as a married woman – she was wed to Michael Joseph Rose on September 11, 1941, in Davison, Tennessee. the newlywed had scarcely any time to enjoy their wedded bliss – Rose went into the army in October 1945. Rose was born in 1915, son of Tony and Marie Rose. Little else is known about him. The marriage was short-lived however, and they divorced sometime prior to 1945.

When Lucy first came to Hollywood, she gave another interview:

Lucy stayed on and has just signed a new contract. “It’s been wonderful here at Paramount,” she said. “When it was learned that we were two Southern girls alone in Hollywood, everybody from producers snd directors on down helped and advised us. A Southern accent is no handicap when it comes to making friends. Everybody around the studio calls me ‘Honey Chile’ and ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Lucy Belle.’ And anybody from the South visiting the lot is rushed over to meet me.” “Nevertheless,” Lucy said, “I am trying to lose my Southern accent because you can’t play many roles with a Tennessee drawl.” AFTER she signed her contract Lucy’s days were occupied with a rigid training program, as they still are. As a member of the Paramount Starlet School she receives instruction in dramatics, diction, calesthenics, dancing. “I even had to learn to walk all over again.” she exclaimed. Also part of the training program has been Lucy’s appearance in IS major films. As a show girl, dancer, nurse, maid, Lucy has had experience before the camera. “It was a terrifying ordeal those first few weeks on the set. There are directors, assistant directors, cameramen, wardrobe women, scenery men, electricians, all watching you as if you were a trained seal going through your tricks. But I finally got used to it and don’t mind the shooting now.” Among the major films in which Lucy Knoch has appeared , are “Road to Utopia.” “Incendiary Blond.” “The Blue Dahlia.” “The Lost Weekend” and “Miss Susie Slagle’s.” Her newest pictures, all with Bing Crosby, are “Welcome Stranger,” “Blue Skies.” and “The Emperor’s Walta.” Honey-haired Lucy is 23 years old. five feet six inches tall, and weighs 121 pounds. She plays golf and rides, but her favorite sport is fishing. ‘ With her husband, tall dark Nicholas Can-cellieri (trucking-line owner whom she married in 1945), she spend most of her free momertts deep-sea fishing off Catalina or Malibu. The starlet loves California but misses the neighborliness of ber home town. “Here in California things are so big that your friends may be 20 or 30 miles away. And most of the time you scarcely have the opportunity to say more than “hello’ to the people in the neat apartment. It’s awful in a way. But you can’t have everything.” According to Paramount officials, however. Lucy Knoch does have everything, and it is easy to see why stardom for her is their prediction. And she seems to have Lady Luck on her side.

lucyknochlouiscalhernBut before he go farther, let’s look at her Hollywood private life. Lucy’s first serious beau in Hollywood was the former vaudeville star, Lyle Latell. He also dated starlet Beverly Thompson, so you can guess Lucy was not really a number one priority in his life. Then, she met THE MAN.

Lucy married Nicholas Cancellieri in 1945. He was a trucking company owner, as noted in the quote above. Nicholas was very supportive of his wife and her career, and she continued to act for more than a decade after the married. In the late 1950s, after being in Hollywood for 15 years, Lucy gave up her movie work to raise a family with Cancellieri.

Their first son, Jerry D., was born on August 1,1960. Their second son, Dominic, was born on October 19, 1964. The family lived in California.

Lucy Cancellieri died on July 22, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

 

 

 

 

Lorraine Allen Breecher

lorraineallen7

Lorraine Allen Breecher achieved a minor level of fame by dating a string of prominent men – Busby Berkeley and George Raft, ultimately marrying rhumba king Xavier Cugat. Even after her movie career failed, she rallied and became one of the few female bandleaders, giving her husband, Cugat, more than a run for his money.

EARLY LIFE

Lorraine Stein was born on July 22, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Herman Stein and Ethel Rubin. Her younger brother Jack was born in 1923.

Lorraine’s father worked as a garment merchant, her mother was a housewife. The family lived with her maternal grandparents, Barney and Bessie Rubin before Jack’s birth – afterwards they lived with lodgers. Lorraine grew up and was educated in Chicago. I have no idea how she landed in Los Angeles and into movies, but she was there by 1943.

CAREER

Lorraine appeared in only two movies, and it’s clear her movie career is not truly her forte. A dancer, she appeared in the capacity in The Gang’s All Here, an Alice Faye musical, directed by her one time fiancee, Busby Berkeley. You know the drift – plot – non existent, a great deal of singing, dancing and good sense of camaraderie between the cast.  The comedy is okay, nothing to sneer at. Carmen Miranda is in it, so that is a plus also.

lorraineallen5Her second appearance was in Cinderella Jones, one of Joan Leslie’s lesser efforts (I wrote about this movie at least 3 times, next!). After this, Lorraine took a breather from the movie industry.

Under the name of Lorraine Allen, she appeared in only one movie – Holiday in Mexico, and only thanx to her association with Cugat. The plot is simple, even a bit bare-boned – The U.S. Ambassador’s (Walter Pidgeon) daughter (Jane Powell) falls for a Mexican pianist (Jose Iturbi) old enough to be her grandfather. But what more can you ask from a Jane Powell musical? Nothing – the music is wonderful, the dialogue is witty, the cast is very good, it all moves around nicely. Totally forgettable movie, but more than worth a look

PRIVATE LIFE

Lorraine married and divorced her first husband, a Mr. Breecher, sometime prior to 1943. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to find any more info on this…

Lorraine hits the news in 1943, when she became the prime woman in director Busby Berkeley’s life. Berkeley was born in, making him 21 years Lorraine’s senior.

lorraineallen6They got engaged in early August 1943, and were to be wed in 1944 after he got his final divorce decree from starlet Claire James. Busby gifted her with a expensive diamond sparkler. They were seen all around town in fancy nightclubs. Busby broke his arm in early 1944, and wore a sling over the injured arm, but this did not stop them from going out dancing.

In his biography of Berkeley, author  Jeffery Spivak claims that perhaps the reason Lorraine and Busby broke up was the fact that Busby was at heart a mama’s boy, and he deferred to Gertrude’s wishes more than she found acceptable. Anyway, I was not surprised they didn’t make it to the altar – with three or four wives behind him, Busby was a man prone to bursts of intense feeling that simply ended, and so did his infatuation.

Lorraine wasted no time in entering the dating pool again (I never understood these Hollywood people, they would plunge head first into dating the minute they were free, maybe even before! Did they really think that was the answer to their present mental and emotional state? tough luck, my pretties, it just shows that it ain’t never learned). She was seen with George Raft in October 1944, and in November 1944, she was the swain of attorney Seymour Chotiner. Later it was Steven Crane, the former husband of Lana Turner. She and Raft dated on off for about six of seven months. In May 1945, she was seen with Nat Pearlsten.

Then, in about March 1945, Lorraine got hot and heavy with her future husband, another major celebrity of the time – Xavier Cugat. Cugat was born on January 1, 1900, in Barcelona, Spain, and emigrated with his family to Cuba when he was 5 years old. He was married twice before, to Rita Montaner and Carmen Castillo.

lorraineallenThey traveled abroad together, and by June 1946, the papers were full of stories how Cugat’s marital state (he was still married to his second wife) was the only obstacle to matrimony. That same months, she got her engagement ring (another diamond stunner!). To add to his infatuation, he took Lorraine to a exclusive clothes shop and told her to pick anything she wanted. She took a almost 300$ cocktail dress. Cugar forgot to pay for it, and he was sued by the boutique not long after. They settled out of court. Cugat also persuaded his friend, Joe Pasternak, to test Lorraine for an MGM contract. Nothing came of it (she made only one movie).

In early 1947, Cugat announced Lorraine and he will be wed on October 3, in Mexico, after his divorce becomes final. However, as the date drew nearer, they had to push it day by day, and ultimately give up the option to get married in Mexico. Lorraine kept herself busy by preparing for the upcoming martial life and buying things like orange squeezers, can openers, bacon grills, etc., for their future home.

They married on October 15, 1947 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a civil ceremony conducted by Municipal Judge Adrian Bonnelly, and later they had their wedding soiree at Palumbo restaurant. It was second marriage for her and third for him. Cugat gifted his new wife with a magnificent kohinoor mink coat and a muff to match.

lorraineallen2Cugar later recounted how his good friend Joe Pasternak wanted to know the exact date and time of the ceremony, but Cugat was suspicious so he avoided telling him. With good reason – Pasternak wanted to get him arrested half an hour before the ceremony. Sly trickster. Anyway, Cugat bought a gorgeous six-acre estate in Westwood for Lorraine. Famous Mexican artist, Miguel Covarrubias, helped decorate the place. They allegedly had a mink rimmed bathtub.

In february 1948, Cugat Lorraine and fashion designer-cum-playboy Oleg Cassini made newspaper fodder when Cugat flipped after Lorraine danced with Cassini at the Mocambo club. With good cause, as Cassini most certantly was a rake who liked the ladies, and the ladies like him. Lorraine later claimed Cassini did nothing improper, but it was enough for Cugat to ask Cassini for a duel outside the club. They got into a brawl, and Cugat lost. Ah, men and their pride! Anyway, Cugat injured his finger, and Lorraine was livid with him, and refused to speak for two days with him. Cracks were more than visible in their shiny, new marriage.

However, things didn’t get any better. Just a few days later, Lorraine appeared at Ciros, another posh nightclub, with Mary Kunody, sister of insurance broker Arnold Kunody, and her fiancee Charlie Morrison – but Cugat was nowhere in sight. Since Cugat was known to be an explosive, jealous lover, everybody was wondering what happened? Lorraine told the story that he was detained and would return shortly. And Cugie did return – but instead of sitting down with his wife and friends, he sat down with Harry James and Betty Grable. What? Rumors began to circulate in Hollywood abotu the state of the marriage. They made up very publicly a few days later, when she embraced him in front view of the whole audience at the Mocambo, but hah! We all knew it won’t last long.

lorraineallen3However, rumors never lot down. It went so far that the magistrate that married them, Adrian Bonnelly, sent them a letter and urged them to think before separating for good. By September, rumors were rampart that the marriage was on the verge of collapsing. They stuck together for some more time. In early 1949, the couple moved for a time to Brazil. she returned for a few days in June, and all was okay. She flew back to Brazil. Then, when she returned to the US in July, nothing was right. She was to return to Brazil, but had no idea when she would see Cugie. By August, the patched up their quarrel via long distance phone, and she was to return to Brazil. NOT! Something happened between them, and Lorraine filed for divorce in New York on August 19, 1949. They were wed for less than two years. Cogie flew back to New York, and they managed to patch up their differences. In fact, Cugie’s jealousy seemed to be the main reason for the separation. They were badly matched at any rate – Lorraine was a beautiful former starlet who knew her assets and liked flaunting them – Cugie was madly jealous at any man who just looked at her. Bad, bad combo…

Guess what? After a brief idyll, Lorraine sued again in late December 1949, and in January, the divorce made all the papers. She seeker 2000$ temporary alimony a month, Cugie didn’t want to give it to her, he threatened to stay outside of California territory for years, so that the divorce can never be finalizes and so on… The drama wen on and on. For a time Lorraine even threatened to call off the divorce – since Cugat decided to marry his newest singer, Abbe Lane, in the meantime, this was a huge torn at his side. While waiting for the divorce to come trough, Lorraine almost went bankrupt. She also filed a complaint that Cugie cheated on her with six women, one of them Abbe. It was truly a nasty divorce case that dragged for months with no end in sight.

Thing went from bad to worse when Loraine hired detectives that burst into Abbe’s room after a show with Cugat. They allegedly found them naked… You connect the dots. There was much newspaper coverage of the event.  They claimed she was only changing her gowns, that is why she was naked… I can say I was not unpleasantly surprised when I read this… To go this far.. It was clear to everybody that Cugat and Abbe were an item, so why do all the fuss? Why did Lorraine persist in this? Was it a case of wounded feeling or purely material gain? Anyway, Cugat was not much better than Lorraine was. Both acted like spoiled, overgrown children. And on and on it went… Until January 1953, when it was finally settled.

After the divorce was finally given, Lorraine dated oilman Bob Calhoun, agent George Wood and Glenn Ford. She also headed her very own rhumba band, trying to become serious competition to her ex-husband. She even sailed to Europe to look for new talent in 1953.

By November 1953, she was dating millionaire Robert Altman. In April 1954, she married Stanley Stalford, a Los Angeles millionaire banker. The two honeymooned in Europe and visited Paris.

Stanley Murray Stalford was born on April 10, 1919 in New Yersey. He moved to California in the 1940s and got into the banking business. Lorraine retired from showbiz after the marriage, and the couple lived in Beverly Hills. However, they divorced in 1960.

Stalford remarried in 1962, to Joan Frank, and his son, Stanley Jr., was born on January 19, 1964. The boy made newspaper headlines when he was kidnapped in 1968 and held for random for two days before FBI rescued him. Stalford died on June 10, 1980 in California.

In 1964, Lorraine dated songwriter Sammy Khan. That was the last I could find about Lorraine. I have no idea is she alive or dead today. As always, I hope she had a good wife.

Phyllis Adair

phyllis-adair-1

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

EARLY LIFE:

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Virginia Maples

wilmington_news_journal_wed__jan_7__1942_

Virginia Maples was an Earl Carroll dancer who crashed Hollywood and actually managed to get in front of the camera. However, her true claim to fame were not her acting chops, but the man she dated – she was a serious contender to become both Mrs. Phil Silvers and Mrs. George Raft. Let’s hear her story.

EARLY LIFE

Virginia Lillian Maples was born to on January 13, 1921, in Los Angeles, California to Cornelius William Maples and the former Evelyn Rae Kavanaugh. Her father was an army captain who headed the Camp Tulelake. Her younger brother, Richard, was born on March 25, 1926.

Virginia grew up in Manhattan Beach, and dreamed to being an actress/dancer from early childhood. She started dancing before she went to school. In 1937, at just 16 years old, Virginia won the title of Miss Los Angeles. Earl Carroll saw her, liked what he saw, and signed her to become a Carroll girl. Barely 16 years old, Virginia was on her way to greater and bigger things.

There are several version of the story how Virginia was discovered for the movies. In a newspaper article she claimed she was discovered on a beach near her mother’s house. Years later, she claimed she came to the studios gates one day, and said to the guards she wanted to act. Luckily, they needed a dancer that very day, and she got the part. While I can’t be sure, I just think that her engagement in Earl Carroll’s vanities catapulted her to the screen. Anyway, she signed with a major studio in 1941 and started her career.

CAREER

Virginia made her debut in 1941 with Week-End in Havana, a fun, no-brains-required Alice Faye musical with her standard stock actors – John Payne, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero. Truly, Alice’s 1930s and 1940s movies were pure enjoyment, perfect escapism at the end of another mundane working day. The plot is pretty silly (from imdb: In this case it’s Alice Faye, a shopgirl who saved her money for a cruise and in this case the cruise ship ran aground on a reef on the Cuban coast. She just doesn’t want to sign a waiver to get the company off the hook for a lawsuit. So John Payne who is about to become Barbier’s son-in-law is sent to get that waiver by hook or crook.), but you know it’s just an excuse to paste together several singing and dancing scenes.

oakland_tribune_sun__jan_2__1944_Virginia started 1942 with The Mad Martindales, a movie more or less lost today. It’s a pity – the movie seems like a charming, likable family romp with Jane Withers in her usual perky role. Next Virginia appeared in the highly sanitized and inaccurate biography or Ernst Ball, an Irish songwriter, called Irish Eyes Are Smiling. If you watched any musical/biographies, you know the drift – the plot only has minor similarities with the real life of the man it portrays, and there is plenty of nice music and dancing. Dick Haymes, in the leading role, was not a good actor for sure , but he sings well enough, and June Haver witth her happy go lucky act and nice snging saves the day.   

Virginia appeared in only one more musicals – the “war musical” Something for the Boys. Like most propaganda movies, it’s thin int he art but abundant in the fun/morale department. It’s entertaining and nice to watch, but easily forgettable (even Carmen Miranda and Vivian Blaine can’t elevate it to a upper tier status).

virginia-maplesYou know it’s the beginning of the end, or a beginning of a new career when you start appearing in low budget westerns, like Virginia did with Wildfire. After that, you either sink and leave acting, or swim and become a B western heroine. Since the movie was easily forgettable, Virginia left movies for a period of time. She worked in nightclubs and so on.

She only returned to Hollywood in 1954, to appear in tow glossy, high class productions: Woman’s World and Black Widow. Woman’s world is one oft he best movies made abut the corporate world, about three hotshot salesmen and their wives, and the rat race to get ahead int he business. Black Widow is a mixed bag of pleasures. The plot is something right out of Hitchcock (taken from imdb: Van Heflin gives a striking, forceful performance as a theatrical producer in New York City who befriends a lonely 20-year-old girl at a party; she’s a would-be writer hoping for success, he takes a shine to her and offers a helping hand…but then she turns up dead!), and the actors are good enough, but it’s all so overtly dramatic it hurts!

Virginia left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

While Virginia was one of the Earl Carroll girls, she dated Lionel Newman, the Earl Carroll orchestra leader, and there was talk the two would wed. They never did.

virginia-maples2After Newman, Virginia was seen several times with Laurence Tibbett Jr. In May 1942, she was seen with Victor Mature.

Then, in September 1943, Virginia started dating comedian Phil Silvers. Things got serious pretty soon, but theirs was a turbulent, love/hate relationship that just went up and down for about six months. They were cooing one moment, next they were fighting, then they were separated, then they were buying jewelry… it was pretty obvious the relationship would not last. They broke up in April 1943.

Virginia then took up with another famous beau, George Raft. To be sure, George was a notorious skirt chaser that dated all the girls in Hollywood (slight exaggeration, but just slight). He had just come out of a intensive relationship with Betty Grable, who ditched him when his wife refused to grant him a divorce (he used his wife a great many times to excuse himself from remarriage). Betty was furious when she found out that George started dating Virginia, and she tried to make her life a bit more complicated – only an intervention from the studio brass managed to calm down the situation.

George allegedly carried a huge torch for Betty. Since Virginia was a dear ringer for Betty in terms of looks, you can guess where that comes from… To my surprise, they actually dated for a long time – three months!!

virginia-maples3In July 1943, she switched to Tex Feldman. Then dirty laundry came out. Allegedly, when Virginia replaces Betty as George’s number one lady, he forced her to imitate Betty in everything from waling to fashion style. Virginia got sick of it and left him for Feldman. What can I say about Raft? The more I read about him and his ladies,s the less I like him. The guy obviously had some ego problems, as he dated ladies by the load but never remotely considered getting divorced from his wife who lived on the other side of the country. Some sources claim he was unable to divorce his wife, but hey, I think there are means of divorcing somebody if you really want to! Good for Virginia to get out of such a distressing relationship.

But then (WAIT FOR IT!) they got together, again!! Ugh. And they stayed together for two more years. George went overseas during the war to tour war camps, and left his car to Virginia. It must have been love 😛 Anyway, he returned and they continued their idyll, until about mid 1945.

albuquerque_journal_sun__may_7__1944_After that, Virginia, started to date Bill Burton, Dick Haymes’ manager. Then she was seen with hotshot lawyer, Bentley Ryan. Then she dated Arturo de Cordova in December 1945. Virginia Maples worked as an exotic dancer at the Club Riviera, and was out of the movies.

Virginia’s last known Hollywood beau was Walter Kane, Howard Hughes’ right hand man. They dated in early 1946 for several months, but she denied reports she was to marry him.

Then, Virginia met and fell in love with a handsome Brazilian, Envidio Sanctos (they met at one of Carmen Miranda’s parties). They eloped in 1947 and got married in Brazil. She effectively left behind her career to live in the Amazon jungle with her new husband. They spent their time between Brazil and the US. Their daughter, Diana, was born on April 17, 1950, in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple separated and divorced in 1962.

In 1975, Virginia moved to Isles of Capri and opened a gift shop, Diana’s Gifts, in East Naples. She continued working until she was 70 years old, and retired in Naples after that. She was a much loved member of the community.

Virginia Maples Sanctos died on January 13, 2010, in Naples, Florida.