Carmen Clifford

Carmen Clifford was a trained pianist and dancer of some reputee when she entered the Hollywood arena in 1942 – but for unknown reasons, she never made it past the uncredited roster. Later she became a songwriter and had an extensive TV career, so let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Carmen Mary Scanzo was born on September 19, 1921, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Patrick Scanzo and Inez Bascherie, both of Italian descent. Her mother was a hairdresser. She lived with her mother and grandfather for a time, so I wonder just what the exact state of her parents marriage was? Separated or divorced or maybe her dad was away traveling a great deal of time?

Anyway, Carmen was a musical prodigy, and took lessons in pianoforte playing from an early age. She also helped her mother in a beauty salon as a hairdresser and manicurist.

Pretty soon, Carmen took up dancing and excelled in it. She completed a three-year course at the prestigious local Roma Serra Studio. Carmen also studied tap dancing with Ray Hart. Carmen’s first dancing show was held at the home of her aunt. Mrs. Leon William, under the direction of Roma Serra. It was clear to all that Carmen was a girl with loads of talent going places in the near future.

In 1937, when she was just 16 years old, Carmen had been chosen as one of 15 girls to appear in a ballet ensemble at the International Casino, New York, to be staged by Chester Hale. She moved to New York and studied under Hale for some time afterwards. After living in New York for about five years, she moved to Los Angeles in 1942 to try her hand at movies. She managed to get work with a studio and started as a chorus girl.

While in Hollywood, Carmen became Miss Cheescake of 1944, but had little luck in the business arena. Carmen became the protegé of another Massachusetts girl – Eleanor Powell, who hailed from Springfield. Carmen was in the dancing chorus of one of Eleanor’s pictures, and the star became interested in Carmen, who was soon taken u n d e r the Powell wing, and is learning the best In dance tricks. And here we go!

CAREER

Sadly, we are pretty thin here. Carmen obviously danced as anameless chorus girl in movies from 1942 onwards, but imdb mentions The Blue Dahlia as her first movie – qhauza, you could do much worse for a firts movie, that’s for sure! Then we skip to 1949, and Carmen was in Always Leave Them Laughing, a mdiocre Milton berle Virginia Mayo pairing. Moving oN! 

Then came Call Me Mister, one of the lesser Betty Grable movies, with Dan Dailey playing her love interest. The story, a “lets stage a show,” is slim at best, and the only good thing the movie had to it are Betty and Dan – but even they can’t make this a classic! Carmen appeared in a bit better fare with Royal Wedding. While not a massive classical musical, it’s a pleasant, funny and at times funnily romantic fare with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell at their top form, plus Peter Lawford, seductive as always!

By 1951, Carmen was delegated to B class musicals, like The Strip, with Mickey Rooney (past his prime and playing a drummer who gets mixed up in some nasty company) and the light-on-her-feet Sally Forrest. The same year Carmen appeared in a non musical movie, the thriller The Man with a Cloak. This movie is one of many hidden gems that nobody ever heard of, but that have lots to offer. While not a top-tier movie, it’s well written, with great casting (Barbara Stanwyck and Joseph Cotten), good music and solidly directed. There is nothing much that detracts from its good qualities, but it just didn’t make it as a classic and remained buried and forgotten.

Carmen’s last movie appearance was There’s No Business Like Show Business. She went into TV but I could not find any credits. That’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

While living in New York, prior to 1942, Carmen married a certain Robert C. Clifford, whose name she took as her nom de guerre. Unfortunately, I have no information about the man, except that they divorce prior to 1945.

Carmen’s second husband was Jack Passin, and they married on December 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. It was Jack’s third marriage. Since they married on December 13 and Carmen was superstitious, they did a retake assisted by Judge Griffith in Beverly Hills. Jack Passin was born on April 30, 1912, in Chicago, Illinois, to Morris J. Passin and Saide Hansberg. Little is known about him – he moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s for work in the movie industry, and he was an assistant director. He married Hazel Lee on April 19, 1942, and they divorced in cca 1944.

Their son Steve Michael was born on March 12, 1946. They lived in Los Angeles, both worked in movies, and often hosted Carmen’s mother, Inez. Sadly, the marriage did not work out, and they divorced after 1950. Jack later married Virginia Boyle in 1959. He died on October 29, 1983.

Carmen had a solid musical education, and in addition to her movie career, had a minor career as a lyricist. She collaborated with Nat King Cole in the 1950s, as this article can attest:

A former Pittsfield resident, Mrs. Carmen Scanzo Clifford, has collaborated with Nat (King) Cole to write a new song, “Calypso Blues,” which will be on sale here in a few days. Mrs. Clifford composed the lyrics, and Cole, the music. About a year ago. Mrs. Clifford wrote the lyrics for “Nina Nana.” with Cole.

As Carmen’s movie career hit the skids very early, it was clear she needed an alternative option. In a bid to stay an active actress despite her lack of success, Carmen switched to TV but sadly we have none of her TV credits on IMDB. Could be she used a different name, but no information is given. She explained her choice to work on TV to an interviewer:

CARMEN CLIFFORD … worked on Bob Hope specs screens she reported. During a telecast some shows are cut as much as 15 or 20 minutes. Some telecasts aren’t cut at all before going on the air. It all happens while the viewers are at home watching. In addition to working in TV Miss Clifford has worked in all the studios. However, she points out that studio work Is not booming like TV. “TV is more lucrative at the moment. The studios are feeling the recession. In addition, many of the musical specs are moving from New York to Hollywood where they can get top names. Naturally, this calls for more work,” she says. While discussing the current television topics, Miss Clifford says: … on Pay-TV: “Everyone I’ve talked to in Hollywood is in favor of Pay-TV In the event such an innovation is launched, TV would have real money for the big spectaculars. With Pay-TV viewers would see high grade, top entertainment. I just wonder how much longer the viewing audience will put up with westerns and quiz shows.” … on Videotape: “The swing to video is on in Hollywood. By the end of this month and the early part of Sept., I’m sure TV will be taping more and more shows.” … on new shows: “I’m presently working as assistant director to Nick Castle on a Japanese musical which will be presented at the Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas at Christmas. . . . Frank Sinatra is planning six specs for the coming season. . , . Dean Martin’s six shows will be launched throughout the next year.” Look for her. . You’ll be seeing a lot of her.

Carmen talked about the nature of TV work to the local press in Pittsfield in the 1950s:

Next time you tune in one of the musical spectaculars from Hollywood, Calif., take a closer look at the choreography. If you don’t see Carmen Clifford in one of the dances, it will be pretty safe to assume that she helped with the art of planning them. She may have done the dance-in. This means that she learned a dance, for say Dinah Shore, and taught her the steps. Miss Clifford has worked on such shows as: Bob Hope specs, “The Jerry Lewis Show,” “The Gale Storm Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “Red Skelton,” and “The Frank Sinatra Show.” She danced in the “Playhouse 90” Emmy award winner, “The Helen Morgan Story.” “Ordinarily, (we work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven to ten days to polish dances on larger shows. There are times, however, when we are required to work late at night. Most of the smaller telecasts require three or four days work,” Miss Clifford explains. In preparing for presentation of “The Helen Morgan Story,” the actors rehearsed three weeks and dancers ten days. This “Playhouse 90” production, like most of its dramas, was very well-organized.

Sometime in the mid 1950s, Carmen married her third husband, Alexander Goudovitch. Goudovitch was born on May 30, 1923 in Paris, France of Russian ancestry, the son of Countess Anastasia and Count Basil Goudovitch of Monte Carlo and Nice. He graduated from the Pare Imperial at Monte Carlo. Afterwards he danced at the Ballet Russes, and during WW2 came to the US where he settled in Hollywood and worked as a dancer in movies.

On January 25, 1945 he married, Sharon Randall, glamorous musical comedy singer. The marriage did not last very long – they divorced in 1950, and Sharon singer testified her husband stayed away from home at nights and when she asked him where he had been he struck her. When he married Carmen, he was an assistant director to the director of the George Gobel Show.

Their marriage lasted for a few years in the 1950s, and they divorced as the decade was coming to a close. Alexander married Ida Mercier in 1962. He died on October 17, 1984.

Carmen married her fourth and last husband: Robert Rapport, on February 2, 1963, in San Francisco. Robert was born on February 9, 1901in Patterson, New Jersey, making him a bit older than Carmen. He moved to California in the 1920s, got married to Florence Rapport, who worked in the movie industry as a secretary. Robert later managed a theater.

The Rapports marriage was a happy one. After living in California for some time, they moved to Pennsylvania to enjoy their retirement.

Carmen Rapport died on February 15, 1981, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

Robert Rapport died on November 22, 1996 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

PS: Some good news! This blog has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 30 Classic Movie Blogs on the web!! Thank you!! Check out all of these great blogs on the list!

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Valmere Barman

Valmere Barman was a California beach blonde who came to Hollywood because she was a looker. Her career, predictably, failed, but her later life was very interesting and to some degree cosmopolitan – she lived in the far east and was a very active woman! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Valmere Barman was born on December 14, 1922, in Los Angeles, California to Wademar Jacob Barman and Edith Gay Barman. Her older sister, Edith N., was born on May 5, 1918. Her father was a refrigerator engineer.

Valmere’s childhood was pretty uneventful – she grew up in Los Angeles and developed an interest in the performing arts from her teen years. She was the assistant for the Mystical 13 Magician Association when she was 15 and her nickname was “Dolly”. She attended John Marshall High School and after graduation, opted to continue her education and go to college.

I could not find which college Valmere attended, but she was seen by a talent scout who bought her to the attention to Paramount studios – they signed her in 1942 and there she went!

CAREER

Valmere started her career in the low-budget Gene Autry western, Call of the Canyon.Who boy, can’t thing to anything more to say about these movies. Austry isn’t even half bad, so Valmere can even consider herself semi-lucky to star in his western. Happily, she did a bit better for herself in her next feature – Lady of Burlesque. A murder mystery set in a seedy, underworld burlesque house. Despite mixed reviews, this is a solid, entertaining movie with lots to offer, especially if you like burlesque, of course! Babs Stanwaxck is her usual great acting self, and there are plenty of underrated female talent here – Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Stephanie Batchelor… A unique combination of Miss Marple and Gypsy Rose Lee, it’s a definite recommendation!

Like most of Paramount contract players, Valmere appeared in Duffy’s Tavern, a cavalcade of various dancing, singing and vaudeville segments with some very nifty names to feature (Bign Crosby, Betty Hutton, Paulette Goddard, Alan Ladd and so on). Then, Valmere played a schoolgirl in Our Hearts Were Growing Up, a sequel of the better known Our hearts were young and gay. Continuing the adventures of Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, it’s a charming but lukewarm romantic comedy, base entirely on the fact that pre 1920s girls were as a naive as smuck in terms of men and sexuality. While people from the 1940s could understand this and actually laugh at it, today it’s a bit sad and even a bit shocking to watch it. But still, Diana Lynn and Gail Russell and are easy on  the eyes and good enough actresses to pull it out. As a bonus we have Brian Donlevy playing a bootlegger who romances the girls. Whauza!

Valmere then appeared in Blue Skies, a well known, classic Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire musical, written by Irving Berlin. Valmere than graces one of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie, Unconquered. It’s a story of early America, about the struggle between the colonists and the Indians. Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard star, and they make a fine couple, looking exquisite together. While the movie is lavish, stupendous and mesmerizing in its sheer scope, it has all the failings of such a production – namely, it’s not accurate historically , the plot is far-fetched and the characterization could be better –  but who cares when it’s so much fun!

In the interim Valmere made a few short movies – Boogie WoogieThe Little Witch, where she played prominent roles. Fittingly, she finished her career with one such a short, Gypsy Holiday.

And that was it from Valmere!

PRIVATE LIFE

One of Valmere Barman’s treasured possessions was a letter from Mrs. Harry Houdini. Since she worked closely with magicians from the time she was a teen, it’s safe to assume Valmere liked the whole hocus pocus industry. Valmere also performed on stage as well on screen, dancing and singing as a member of the Bob Hope Stateside USO tours during World War II.

When Valmere landed in Hollywood, she wasn’t a happy-go-lucky unattached girl looking for swains – she was in a committed relationship with her John Marshall High School sweetheart, Charles Eugene Dickey.

After a long engagement, Valmere and Charles, then a recently discharged marine sergeant, were married by Rev. W. Don Brown on November 6, 1945 at Trinity Episcopal Church. They were attended by seven bridesmaids and seven ushers.

Dickey was born on January 10, 1922 in Illinois, to Charles R. and Marie Heaton Dickey. He had a younger brother, Howard. The family love to Los Angeles, where Charles Sr. worked as a retail paint salesman. Charles grew up in Los Angeles, and after graduating from high school was drafted on February 12, 1942.

I always wonder what happens to couple that date for ages get married and then divorce in a span of one year (or something similar). Relationship fatigue? Anyway, the point of this story is that Valmere and Charles’ marriage didn’t work and they were divorced by 1948. Dickey stayed in California, remarried in the 1950s and died on June 3, 1982.

Valmere was out of the public eye by then, so little was written when she married her second husband, Frank Kasala, on September 1, 1949, in Los Angeles.

Kasala was born on May 5, 1922, to Frank Kasala Sr., whose parents were from Czechoslovakia, and Kathryn Bureker, daughter of German immigrants. His younger sister Barbara Leone was born on August 1, 1924. The elder Frank worked as a clerk. Freshly graduated from high school, Kasala was drafted into the army in 1942 or 1943.

He was a scenario writer before he entered the service and has continued in his profession as much as possible while in the service. Kasala won 3 battle stars for his work in the European theater. During the war, Kasala married Eleanor Canoy (born on July 10, 1923) on June 30, 1944 in her hometown of Marion, Oregon. Eleanor was a Majorette in the American Legion Band. Their daughter Gail Lynne Kasala was born in 1945. Tragically, the girl died just a few months after birth. The Kasala’s marriage never recovered after this, and they divorced in 1946.

Terri remarried twice (second time to to John Yeager) and lived the rest of her life in Oregon – she and her husband die don the same day in 2005.

The Kasalas lived in Los Angeles, Valmere retired from movies and ready for motherhood. Their daughter Valmere Lynn was born on March 4, 1951. Their second daughter, Cathy Gay, was born on May 14, 1953. Their third daughter, Diane L., was born on March 30, 1956. After her daughters grew a bit, Valmere worked as the Dietitian at the Pilgrim School in Los Angeles from 1961 to 1963.

In 1964, the family moved to Japan for work reasons.  The family lived in Japan from 1964 to 1968 and Hong Kong from 1968 to 1975.  In Japan Valmere taught as an elementary teacher at the International School of the Sacred Heart and was a swim team coach for the Yokohama Yacht Club from 1965 to 1968. In Hong Kong she taught as an elementary school teacher and also conducted the school choir at the Hong Kong International School in Repulse Bay. While overseas she loved to race day sailboats and sail for leisure with her family.

They returned to the US in 1975. Now, what exactly happened in the East and then in the US I cannot know, but my own take (so could be purely fiction), based on the information I have found – Frank and Valmere grew apart, their marriage slowly deteriorated, Frank fell in love with a Japanese woman, divorced Valmere and married the lady. The facts: Joe and Valmere divorced in November 1977.

Kasala remarried to Shinako Kasala, they had a son, Craig, and lived in California, where they were both passionate golfers. Shinako sadly died in 2007. Kasala died in 2017.

Valmere returned to California after her divorce. On September 13, 1980, she married Robert C Barnhart.

Robert was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1920 to Robert C. Barnhart Sr. and Edna Adams Barnhart, Bob went to Valley Forge Military Academy on a trombone scholarship prior to attending the US Naval Academy. Immediately after graduation in 1944, Bob reported to the USS Astoria as a gunnery officer and saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

After WWII, Bob served int he Navy and won a bronze star during the Vietnam war. Bob completed his 30 year career in the Navy as Chief of Staff in Philadelphia. After his retirement from the Navy, Bob settled in Lake Forest, California, where he worked for General Dynamics, Pomona for 10 years before completely retiring.

Bob married Paula Jeen Gay of Long Beach on March 24, 1945, and they had four children, Bobby, Randy, Annette Colver and Gary. Paula died in 1979.

Bob’s passion was fishing, and he and Dolly would often summer at the family fishing cabin in Pennsylvania. They also volunteered at Saddleback Hospital when not traveling.

Valmere Barman Barnhardt died on February 2, 2012 in Lake Forest, California. Her widower Bob died on December 15, 2012.

Amelita Ward

AmelitaBigOne

Amelita Ward is a vintage classic. A girl too beautiful for her own good, possessing a healthy dose of silliness and probably no small ego, she crashed Hollywood as a unique combination of good looks and a mean Texan accent. For a time it seemed that a bright future was in front of the lady. True, she did her share of slacking, appearing in a string of B movies and  was working steadily for a few years, not a small feat in cut-throat town like Tinsel town, where they can crush you down easily as an egg. However, it was Amelita’s fiery, passionate personality that was her professional undoing – after marrying a man who was ultimately totally unsuitable for her, she retired and never made another movie again. Let’s learn more about this flaming vixen.

EARLY LIFE

Amelita Culli Ward was born on July 17, 1923, in Magnolia, West Virginia, to Claudius Hatifled Ward and Pauline Pownall. Her parents were both college educated and worked as radio entertainers and singers.

Later studio claimed that Amelita was half Indian, half Irish, from Washington, was born in Texas. I don’t know about the half Indian/half Irish part, but Amelita was not born in Texas for sure. Ah, publicity stunts!

The family moved to Forth Worth, Texas, before 1930, for work reasons (her father was a production manager for NBC). They were well off, and employed a maid, Leona Phillips. Amelita grew up in Forth Worth and learned how to ride horses – anyway, she became a proficient horsewoman while still in her teens. The family returned to Fairfax, West Virginia, in the late 1930s, but Amelita returned to Texas frequently and kept up with all of her Forth Worth friends.

Sometime sin the early 1940s, Amelita went to Los Angeles and did a screen test for MGM. She didn’t pass and left her acting dreams flounder for a while. However, fate had other plans for her. She moved to Seattle, Washington, and did some radio work as a singer. In 1942, something happened, and here is a short excerpt from a newspaper article:

Producers Pine and Thomas had been questing for a new feminine star for their production which is being made on location in Texas, When Pine learned about the young lady. He heard she had made a test once for M.G.M. and wired Thomas in Hollywood to take a look. Result wan that Thomas was impressed and communicated enthusiastically with his partner. And so the new career was born. The sponsors of Miss Ward assert she’ll be going places. Paramount, the organization through which they release, is Interested.

And Amelita was off!

CAREER

Amelita started her career on a high note, with a female leading role in Aerial Gunner. Unfortunately, the movie is a mid tier war film, nothing really special. there are fighting scenes, there is a love triangle, you get the picture. This was followed by Clancy Street Boys, an East Side Kids movie. This is the first time Amelita worked with her future husband, Leo Gorcey. The movie is typical of the series – light, funny, with a decent cast.

Amelita Ward in The Falcon in Danger (1943)Amelita finally made a more worthwhile movie – The Sky’s the Limit. While not one of Fred Astaire’s best, like most of his vehicles it’s worth watching and overall it’s an okay movie. Fred plays a Flying Tiger pilot and Joan Leslie, a very likeable actress, playing his leading lady. Amelita then made an appearance in another movie series, this time The Falcon, with The Falcon in Danger. She has a meatier role here than in her previous movies – she is Falcon’s fiancee! As a genius reviewer wrote on imdb, her role in the movie is as it goes:

Plenty of colour is added to the film by the Falcon’s current ‘fiancee’, played by Amelita Ward with an authentic (rather than phoney) Texas accent as a loud and blundering Southern belle who constantly wants to ride her horse but rides the Falcon instead, relentlessly, until at the end he gets rid of her by sending her a false telegram in which her old boy friend asks her to marry him instead

So funny! And notice how he mentions the authentic Texas accent – seems this was Alemita’s selling point in Hollywood. One wonders how much good it did for her.

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

AmelitaWard4Amelita appeared in a thin plotted war propaganda movie, Gangway for Tomorrow. Unfortunately, most of these movies ages badly, and outside of WW2 context, have no real artistic merit. Amelita played her second role in the Falcon series in The Falcon and the Co-eds.  She plays one of the 40 girls at an all girls school, but not a mere stand in but rather a girl who actually does something with the plot! This is vintage Falcon – Tom Conway was as charming as his brother, George Sanders, and played Falcon with an astounding ease and fluidity – if nothing else, he should be the reason to watch the movies.

Then came Seven Days Ashore, one hot mess of a movie – the movie officially stars Art Carney and and Wally Brown is supposed to be a straight comedy with the duo in the leads, but in the end more screen time is given to Elaine Sheperd and Gordon Oliver, who play a straight romance movie. Then we have Marcy McGuire, the songstress, who plays like it’s a straight musical. Too much of everything but not in a good way. Forgettable movie in the end…

Amelita continued appearing in B class movies – Gildersleeve’s Ghost was a nice comedy, with the veteran radio entertainer playing the legendary Gildersleeve character. Rough, Tough and Ready is a completely forgotten Victor MacLagen drama. The Jungle Captive is an interesting movie! While it’s campy trash out-and-out, it does hold some rather ubiquitous qualities. The basic plot revolves around Mr. Stendall, played by Otto Kruger, a mad scientist who is trying to revive the dead ape woman, Paula Dupree, from the previous two Universal movies Captive Wild Woman and Jungle Woman. Paula is played by Vicky Lane, more famous for marrying Tom Neal and Pete Cnadoli than for any of her acting achievements.

More low-budget movies – Swingin’ on a Rainbow, a C class musical about a perky Midwestern girl trying to make it big in The Big Apple – seen the plot a thousands of times, but the movie is surprisingly funny and not a bottom of the barrel effort at all. Come Out Fighting is another Mugs McGinnis movies with Leo Grocey in the lead, but no other info is given. Who’s Guilty? is an interesting experiment in movies – it is a murder mystery, and beginning with the second chapter each suspect is trotted out after the credits while the narrator points out incriminating things about him/her. As the reviewer shrewdly notes in the review, it really does look like a movie version of the famous Clue board game, more so than the actually Clue movie that was made in the 1990s. Amelita plays the heroines, and it’s funny that despite all the perilous situations she finds herself in (she almost gets rn over by a car, etc. etc.), she plays looks picture perfect and her hair is weather resistant! Sweet! 

In 1946, Amelita appeared in The Best Years of Our Lives, for sure the best movie on her filmography, just in a small role. Amelita next played a model When a Girl’s Beautiful, a zany but sadly forgotten comedy. Amelita than appeared in the Bowery boys movie Smugglers’ Cove. And then Amelita hit the low-budget westerns rim with Rim of the Canyon. You all know what I think about those movies, but hey, they were bread and butter for many, so what is there to complain? Amelita’s last movie is one of her best – Slattery’s Hurricane, an underrated, minor gem. The main problem – censors. The original draft, written by Herman Wouk, was quite racy for the time, dealing with themes like adultery and drug addiction, but squeaky white Hollywood couldn’t touch that stuff, so most of it was cut out – leading to a lukewarm script at best. Richard Windmark gives a towering performance and sadly both Veronica Lake and Linda Darnell and underused.

That was it from Amelita!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was said for Amelita that she “looked like Hedy Lamarr and talked like Gene Autry”, which is a pretty cool combo as far as pairing Hollywood personalities go.

For a time in 1942, Amelita was in a pretty serious relationship with  Bert Gordon. Gordon appeared throughout the early 40’s in films and on radio as his character “The Mad Russian.” They broke up cca 1943. Here is an excerpt of an article about Amelita during this period:

William Clemens thought to spare Amelita Ward by having her howl offstage just as if being spanked. But Amelita said no. She’s one of 40 lovelies (count ’em, 40) in RKO Radio’s thriller about murder in a girls’ school, “The Falcon and the Coeds.” She said if the Falcon spanked her the moment he caught her rifling a desk in the principal’s office, it would be much more convincing. Do it right out in public, she urged, and she could yowl more convincingly. It would be humiliating, but one must make sacrifices for Art. So that’s the way the scene was played with Tom (The Falcon) Conway laying it on, and Amelita yelling. Director Clemens praised her devotion to Art. But he has things to learn about women. The other 39 lovelies among whom rivalry for the limelight is intense, looked on, biting their nails. Afterwards, Amelita smiled sweetly but the 39 groaned: , “Scene-stealer.” “Ah,” said Amelita. “Try to top that.”

AmelitaWard3Sometime after starring in a Bowery boys movie, Amelita got involved with Leo Gorcey, one of the Bowery boys. Leo was born on June 3, 1917, in New York, to Bernard Gorcey and Josephine Condon, both vaudevillian actors. Bernard started working in theater and film. he pushed and Leo and his brother, David to try out for a small part in the play Dead End. Having just lost his job as a plumber’s apprentice, Leo agreed and thus his acting career started. In 1937, Samuel Goldwyn made the popular play into a movie of the same name and Leo went to Hollywood. Soon he became a household name.

Leo, when he met Amelita, was married to his second wife, Evalene Bankston. He was divorced from Kay Maris, with whom he had a son.

Amelita and Leo’s illicit affair seems to have gone for some time before got a whiff of it. There was a major scandal when Leo fired three shots at detectives that barged into his house without his consent while he was with Amelita (she allegedly jumped out of the window just in time) – his wife hired them to find any proof of infidelity. The whole thing ended up in court and Leo won against the detective agency, getting 35000 $ in the process (the money went straight to his by then ex-wife as a part of the divorce settlement).

The same day that the divorce came through, Leo married Amelita  in Ensenada, Mexico. They remarried in the US a year later. They moved to a 8 acre ranch 30 miles outside Hollywood. Their son Leo Jr. was born on September 1, 1949. Their daughter Jan Lee was born on June 30, 1951.

Unfortunately, the Gorceys marriage was highly dysfunctional and not particularly happy. They fought constantly, and at some point Amelita started to “wander around”. In a cruel stroke of fate, Leo’s dad died in 1955, causing his son to sink into a deep depression and start drinking and popping too many pills. It definitely didn’t help with the already shattered marriage.

AmelitaWard2By late 1955, Leo has had enough. In February, 1956, when he asked for his third divorce, he told the judge Amelita was “rather fickle” and with tears streaming down his cheeks he accused her of misconduct with “her doctor, her dentist, a couple of other gents and a handsome cowboy.” Leo won custody of their two children, Leo, 6, and Jan, 4, but it was reported that he gave Amelita a hefty settlement with a lump sum of $50,000, 750$ a month for child support (although she didn’t have custody), and the farm.

Leo remarried twice, to Brandy Gorcey and Mary Gannon. After years of hard-drinking, he died on  June 2, 1969, just a day before his 52nd birthday.

After their divorce, Amelita moved to Reno, Nevada and there married Sid McClosy on August 10, 1965. The details were sketchy and it seems nobody was sure were they married for real or not.

Sid is an interesting character himself. Sid was born on September 20, 1927 in Greeley, Colorado, to Sidney Allen McSloy Sr. and Bessie Crawford. He grew up in Missoula, Montana. While I have no way to know 100% if this is correct, but a guy with the same name, Sidney Allen Jr., and the same residence in Missoula, Montana (so I guess it is him), was sentenced for 50 years of hard labor in a Montana state penitentiary, for, I quote, “an infamous crime against nature”. I was like, what is that? Is this some period short-code they used for less than pleasant crimes? It seems this was a “code” for, I quote Wikipedia:  identifying forms of sexual behavior not considered natural or decent and are legally punishable offenses. Whoa, who knows what really happened there. He appealed and got out of jail early, and married a girl named Mable. They divorced in 1957. He moves around and worked, like Amelita’s parents, as a radio entertainer.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, they separated and she moved back to West Virginia, seemingly to take care of her widowed mother. Her mother was quite wealthy, and Amelita had power of attorney over her estate and finances. Amelita started spending her mother’s money lavishly, even buying a Pink Cadillac for their mailman. There were several concerned friends who tired to talk some sense into Amelita. Unfortunately, Amelita contracted breast cancer and lost the power of attorney. Her son took over the care of Amelita’s mother.

Amelita Ward McSlosly died on April 26, 1987, in Durante, California or Alexandria, Virginia.

Her widower Sidney Allen McSloy moved to Newport, Virginia and lived with his companion, Thelma Bernice Jackson. He died there on September 15, 2002.

 

Eleanor Prentiss

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

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

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

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

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

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

Patricia Mace

Hello! So sorry for not updating sooner, but due to a bad case of Reylo “fever” I was detained elsewhere 😛 Anyway, what can we say about Patricia Mace? She was literary one of thousands of girls who started as models and then decided to become actresses with no real training and only minimal experience. You can guess how that story ended…

EARLY LIFE

Meredith Patricia Mace was born on May 10, 1920, in Los Angeles, California to Warren Kenneth Mace and Helen Mar Smith. She was the youngest of four children – her older siblings were Janis, born in 1911, Warren, born on January 31, 1913, George William, born on November 1, 1918. Her father was a furniture salesman, her mother a housewife.

Her parents divorced in the 1920s, and her father remarried. In 1930, Patricia and her siblings were living with their father and stepmother in Los Angeles. As she matured, it was clear that Pat was a true brunette knockout, and she was a model by the time she was in high school. Pat was very eager to succeed and quite active – she tried to put herself out there on the modeling and acting circuits much as she could. After some bits and pieces, she managed to make a huge splash in 1938, when she was chosen as “Miss Motion Pictures”. Here is a short description of what made pat a contender to win:

Alluriance! She exuded charm and tin sort of sex appeal.that causes a strong man to feel new strength, but of a protective kind; she carried everyone back to the primitive, when men guarded their women with their lives. ‘ v Study Patsy’s photo. You will find, as we did, facial allure, a Helen Hayes’ type of charm, demureness, naivety, a schoolgirl freshness. You will not find glamour, but you will find radiance and positiveness. Veiled Fire Close examination of Patsy In the flesh reveals a veiled fire In her eyes, indicating capacity for deep feeling; a mouth pleasantly curved, denoting firmness and generosity; a nose like Katherine, Cornell’s, Indicative of sensitivity, and a forehead of noble proportions, ‘” , . . But Patsy has a bad point she is too tall. However, she can do as Kay Francis has done so often during her career , , . she can act in her stockinged feet. We’ll keep the camera line above her ankles. Because of her positive personality, Patsy Mace can play only leads. She’s the type that men want to fight about. Go to your mirrors, girls, and check ‘ your qualifications against Patsy’s Perhaps you will understand better the problems of the talent scout.

By the time she was touched by fame, Pat had graduated from Hollywood High School and worked in some Little Theater groups. To make life easier, she moved in with her mother (her younger brother also living with them) in 1939. And she was ready for stardom (that never came, but who knew it then?). Due to her new title, she was signed for a contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Pat never had a credited role in a movie, which is almost the norm with the girls I profile here.

Pat’s first movie was Grand Jury Secrets, a completely forgotten John Howard/Gail Patrick movie. This was followed by The Magnificent Fraud a very fun and effective Prisoner of Zenda style romp, with Akim Tamiroff playing an actor who must impersonate a dictator of a small South American country. I usually love this kind of movies, so I’m biased, I admit.

$1000 a Touchdown was a below average football drama with Joe E. Brown and Martha Raye. Sadly, Pat’s next movie, Disputed Passage, is forgotten today, but the plot, concerning a doctor who falls in love with a Chinese girl (played by Dorothy Lamour, as per usual in Hollywod of that time!) sounds very interesting. Too bad even IMDB has nothing on the movie! Same goes for Our Neighbors – The Carters – a totally forgotten movie! Next up was The Great American Broadcast, an early Alice Faye musical, and not a bad one at that. While no classic, it’s a serviceable product, with a good cast and solid music.

Then came Aloma of the South Seas, a typical “Dorothy Lamour in a sarong” movie. No big plot, no big characters, just exotic visuals, pretty as a button Dorothy and a handsome stud for the love interest. Still better than Fifty Shades of Gray! Sadly, Pat’s next movie, All-American Co-Ed was a cheap and short Frances Langford vechicle, and boy, it shows! Not recommended! Louisiana Purchase a Bob Hope/Vera Zorina musical, and it’s while no great achievement, is still a very good musical and quite funny in some places, and generally a good movie.

Pat’s movie turned serious with This Gun for Hire, a classic film noir. Nothing more needs to be written about the movie! Alan Ladd + Veronica Lake – always a watchable combo. Her good luck continued – she was cast in Road to Morocco, one of the famous Road movies. A must watch for all Bob Hope fans, but an acquired taste IMHO. Now it was time for some movie “Magic” – Arabian Nights! Jon Hall and Maria Montez, Sabu, Technicolor (and lots of it!), an exotic location, simple black and white story, dancing-girls galore – what more do you need? The plot is actually almost non-mandatory for such movies. Pure enjoyment, specially since it was made during WW2 when people really needed something like this to distract them. Happy Go Lucky, her next movie, wads made in the same vein, just it’s a musical with Mary Martin and Dick Powell. Truly a happy-go-lucky movie, as the title says. Similar were Prairie Chickens, a goofy but likable comedy and Crazy House, a Ole/Johnson comedy with the indomitable Cass Daley. Her next movie was Ladies Courageous, the story of the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron. Loretta Young is nice in the leading role, and she has some pretty good support with Geraldine Fitzgerald and Diana Barrymore.     

In 1943, near the end of her career, Patricia changed her name from Patsy Mace to Patricia Mace, and with her new moniker, appeared in only two movies, The Powers Girl  and Riding High and neither of them is a piece of art! Unfortunately, in the end we can call Patricia movie career completely lackluster 😦

The Powers Girl is a… How to call it? It’s an overtly dramatic, not particularly smart movie. While is does have it’s good sides – good set design, nice to look at, plenty of beautiful girls – it has none of the substantial things that make a movie great – no character development, no great narrative, no particular depth. A plus is definitely the music, which is above average quality, mostly thanks to Benny Goodman.

Riding High is a very, very mediocre musical/comedy. Literary no better r worse than the hundreds such movies that were made yearly. Thus, as I said a hundred time on this blog, there is no real reason, 50 years later, that anyone would watch this one. It has a formulaic story that is barely a cover for a string of musical numbers. The music and dancing are forgettable. The actors are competent but nothing to shout about (Dorothy Lamour and Dick Powell – not their best work). The movie is too forgettable to have any impact today.

That was it from Patricia!

PRIVATE LIFE

The papers revealed that Patrici had brown hair and eyes, was 5 feet 6 and a half Inches tall, weighed about 120 lbs. It was also written that she could cook and a good and fancy diver and plays golf in the high 80’s.

After she won the title of “Miss Motion Pictures”, Patricia’s life changed rapidly. She was a born and bred California girl who hung out on the beach most days. In a matter of days, she was boarding the Matson liner Matsonia at the Wilmington dock for a sojourn in Hawaii, and was very much excited. Why? Well,  believe it or not, that was Pat’s first time going anywhere, really, since by then she had never been out of Southern California.

Here is a number of questions and answers that Patricia gave in 1943:

“Do you girls look forward to get ting married eventually?” “Yes! I know I’ll make someone a wonderful mother,” said Pat Mace, “I’m the maternal type.”
“What is your conception of an ideal man?” “It’s impossible to form a categorical conception of the ideal man,” said Pat Mace. “I’ll know the guy when he comes along!”
“What do you think about your job: “Modeling.” opined Pat Mace, “is one of the most stimulating professions offered to women. There’s no harm in trying.” .
“What is the principal topic cf conversation with Powers Girls?'””Men 100 per cent!”

By this time, Pat had been the girlfriend of Jack Warner Jr. for almost three years. They started dating not long after she broke into movies, in 1940. Pat literary dated Hollywood royalty – Jack was the son of Jack L. Warner, one of the founders of Warner Bros. Jack was born on March 27, 1916, making him only a few years older than Pat. They were often seen at the posh places in Hollywood, and it seems that his parents approved of Pat. They seems to have been very happy for a long time, but then Jack was drafted into the war and things started to change. He moved to

By late 1943, their relationship was plundering downwards fast. Pat dated Billy Wilkerson on the side, but still couldn’t shake of Jack. In one last desperate attempt to keep it all together, they decided to get married. She would come to New York and they would wed. In November, there were newspaper items that the news that Patsy was going to New York to wed Jack Warner, Jr. were slightly premature. She did go to New York, but to do modeling and perchance a play with no thought, so far, of matrimony. It seems to me they were playing Will they won’t they, but both knew deep down that they wouldn’t do it when the moment came.

Then, in early 1944, something monuments happened. Pat met the man she would marry – and guess what, it wasn’t Jack! To be blunt – Pat went east for modeling jobs and to be near Jack Warner, Jr., but then met young, handsome and wealthy George Clark, a Canadian Air Force officer. He was from a prestigious Canadian family. They hit it of right away, and started dating. The the end of the month they were engaged. So, after about three years with Jack Jr., Patricia literary ditched him for her crush of three weeks. And it proved to be the best decision she ever made. Patricia and George married in March 1944, had a child early next year, and she blended into Canadian high society effortlessly. The Clark family were close friend of Winston Churchill, among others. As for Jack Jr., he married to Barbara Richman in 1948 and had three children with her. They were still happily married when he died in 1995.

Unfortunately, I could not find any additional information about Patricia’s new in-laws, but it seems she and George led a happy family life with several children, and lived mostly in Canada.

Caroline Burke

After profiling more than a hundred obscure actresses, I can say that I am not easily impressed. More often than not I see a pattern – young girls who have a zest for life go to Hollywood and thus break with tradition, but in the end, after a short career, they often return “home” to become wives and mothers. Only a few didn’t follow this path, and those women sometimes impress me – Caroline Burke is one of them. After a short and sketchy Hollywood career, she became a very successful female producer and left her mark on both early TV and Broadway. Boy, was I impressed (I like this word, can’t you see?) with her professional achievements! But, let’s more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Caroline Flora Berg was born on July 7, 1913, in Portland, Oregon, to Charles F. Berg and Saidee Berg. Her older brother James Forrest was born on January 5, 1901 in Portland. Her father was a prosperous merchant and the family was well off, employing at least one servant at any time.

Caroline grew up in Portland, and attended high school there, developing a taste for performing at an early age. After graduating from high school, Caroline majored in art at Bryn Mawr College, and afterwards returned home to Portland. Unhappy with being a society wife, with her father’s backing and generous donations from friends, she started the art history department at Reed Col­lege in Portland. She also studied art in Paris and London during this time, but I could not find the exact years.

Caroline moved to New York at some point. As an actress, she appeared on Broadway in “Brooklyn, U.S.A.,” and Gilbert Miller’s “Heart of a City.” She was also an advertising and radio writer on the West Coast.

Then, in about 1942, she decided she wanted to “go Hollywood”. She was almost 30 – at that time, most women who came to Hollywood were 20 at best, perhaps 20 something. Yet, she was a mature woman, not a starstruck girl – and this made all the difference. See how she managed to govern a wilderness like Tinsel Town:

Some weeks ago, a petite New York miss named Caroline Burke came to Hollywood, Object: Screen career. Experience: Two bits in Broadway shows and some radio appearances. Hollywood producers were not sufficiently interested to give her interviews. Agents ·were too unimpressed to represent her. The girl’s few acquaintances. Instead of encouraging her. stressed the difficulties of crashing studio gates. But pint-size Miss Burke is a person of determination, “Others have done it,” said she, “and so can I.” After mulling her problem for days, she wrote a poem–a humorous lament about the inaccessibility of movie producers. In it. she named ~the men she had unsuccessfully tried, to see. She sent her poem After mulling her problem for days, she wrote a poem a humorous lament about the inaccessibility of movie producers. In it she named the men she had unsuccessfully tried to see. She sent her poem to Variety and the editor printed it. Within two days every man she had named tried to sign her!

And that was the story of how Caroline got into Hollywood!

CAREER

Caroline’s big moment came with The Mysterious Rider, a, you guessed it, low-budget western!! Heck yeah, and she ended up like most actresses that got their big chance sin such movies – nowhere!

The rest of Caroline’s brief acting career just serves to emphasis this sentiment: she was never credited again, appearing only in bits. In 1943 she was in Silent Witness , a solid but a tad bit too predictable Republic studios potboiler with some impressive bur very underrated cast – Frank Alberston, Maris Wrixon, Bradley Page… The story, while a bit formulaic, is not half that bad – a ruthless attorney gets dumped by his kind hearted fiancee and then the tables turn on him… Nice to see a not so sympathetic character in the lead, and he does get better as the movie progresses.

Up next came Spy Train, a completely made-to-order low-budget thriller set on a (you guessed it!) a train. If has all the typical elements for a movie of such caliber – a handsome lead who’s a reporter, a charming love interest, antagonists (this time the Nazis), and a mix up (completely identical bags). It’s obvious from a hundred miles how it’s going to end, and the movie is solidly made but that’s it – nothing more, nothing less. In a world where there are so many good movies to watch, this one just doesn’t take the cake. The cast is decidedly second tier too, with Richard Travis, Catherine Craig and Chick Chandler.

By this time, Caroline was well aware that her acting days are over. She appeared in a small role in one more movie – the best known of the lot, Rhapsody in Blue, considered one of the best musicals of the 1940s. But, instead of kicking back into domesticity and obscurity, Caroline chose another path for herself.

PRIVATE LIFE

On her first movie interview, New York actress Caroline Burke said, “I’m a complete nonentity can’t play gin rummy don’t have any wacky lapel gadgets and I’ve never been out with Vic Mature!” The press called her “unique”.

Caroline was a lover of all things beautiful and had an eye for art.  She had an impressive doll collection, which she had arranged a half-dozen small cloth peasant dolls in authentic costumes along a wide bookshelf. Behind each is Caroline’s oil painting of the doll with wood frame painted in the rich color only.

Here is a short article about hos Caroline entertained during the 1940s, when she was in Hollywood:

Caroline Burke couldn’t quite give up the spirit of the old Fourth, so to friends who dropped into her Brentwood Heights home for a patio lunch the’- tabre’ presented a gala appearance. White hollyhocks, red roses and blue cornflowers formed the centerpiece; there was a pinwheel of red and white-striped peppermint candy; bread sticks were capped with white paper, skyrocket fashion and set in pewter holders flanked by flags, while the cheese pretzels were tied with red ribbon in packets like fire-crackers and the wieners, were squared at onetend’ and giant firecracker fuses of white string were attached…

Another example:

Caroline Burke’s Birthday Honored Alton Brody played host in his Beverly Hills home Tuesday for a cocktail party celebrating the birthday of Caroline Burke, recently arrived from New York. Caroline wore, in honor of the occasion, an afternoon frock of turquoise blue shantung fashioned with slim skirt, slightly bloused bodice with drawstring neckline at which she wore a red gold clip set with diamonds, rubies and aquamarines. Guests stayed on after rock-tails for a buffet supper of chili, macaroni, salad and other dainties, and to watch Caroline slice a cake topped with blue and white candles. Later the guest of honor adjourned to The Players with a group which included the John Brights, John being the author of “Brooklyn. U.S.A.” in which Caroline made her Broadway debut last winter. Among those who attended the Brody party bearing gifts for Miss Burke and old recordings which are to be donated to the salvage drive sponsored by the American Legion were Messrs. and limes. Walter Pidgeon, John Wayne, Allen Rivkin, Ira Gershwin, Harpo Marx, Charles Feldman, Walter Kane (LynnBari,) Norman Krasna, Michael Kanin, Howard Lang, Jules Stein, William Goetz, Ben Goetz, Ben Hecht, Conrad Veidt and Budd Chase.

Caroline was obivously a natural-born hostess and no wonder she had a reputation as a sought after party girl. On a more serious note, Carole did her share for the war effort – in the summer 1943, she gave up the idea to an Alaskan cruise for shore duties at a Harbor canteen for service men.

Caroline was also a witty conversationalist. Columnist Edith Gwynn once  said that Caroline couldn’t find an apartment that would take dogs so she decided to look for a veterinary who will take people :-). Another example: Caroline reported that the following note was received by the police department in Portland: The guy who lives next door to the police station is a crook and ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I cracked his safe last night and found it full of black market coupons”. She was also friends with author Kathleen Windsor. Caroline was present when Kathleen was asked at a Philadelphia author’s luncheon whether her racy book, “Forever Amber,” is an autobiography, and she replied: “If it had been, I wouldn’t have had time to write it”. Caroline was also quite headstrong: she had the forcefulness to carry out the ideas she conceived. For instance, she wanted a work of Picasso, so she got one from him.

Caroline dated Morton Gould, the composer-conductor, for a time. He visited her when she was in the Doctors’ Hospital with a strep throat that same year, but the relationship fizzled not after.

Caroline Burke married Cyrus Max Adler, a millionaire camera manufacturer, in the late 1940s. Cyrus was born on January 19, 1899, making him 14 years older than Caroline. He was married once before, to Selma Caroline Adler, and they had a daughter, Betty, born on April 17, 1927. As a wealthy socialite,  Caroline became prominent in the art circles in the US. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and they divorced in the early 1950s. Adler died on June 22, 1959.

After her divorce, Caroline and Norman Krasna became a premier twosome-about-town. Caroline was fresh out from New York (and TV duties) and spent some time in Hollywood with her beau. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last.

From 1946 to 1956 she was one of television’s first women producers, producing, writing and directing network television for the National Broadcasting Company, including the awar-d­winning telecast of Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and the memorable Wanda Landowska [the harp­sichordist] at Home in the Wisdom Series. In 1955 she toured the Far East where she taped interviews with the heads of various governments for N.B.C.

She was also active as a Broadway producer. She wanted to produce a play of Mr. Pinter’s, so she read all his plays and then had him adapt his television play, “The Col­lection,” for the theater. In 1962 she brought Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter” and the already mentioned “The Collection” to the Cherry Lane Theater, running into 1964 with a total of 578 performances. She was co-producer of the Broadway shows “The Hostages” and “The Tenth Man” and was producer of “The New Pinter Piays”. Except staging Pinters plays, she was associate producer of Paddy Chay­efsky’s The Tenth Man, and co‐producer of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. To Off Broadway she imported N. F. Simp­son’s London comedy, “One Way Pendulum.”

Caroline married her second husband, Erwin D. Swann, an advertising executive, vice president of Foote, Cone & Belding Ad Agency (Mad Men anyone?) sometime in the 1950s. Swann was born on December 9, 1906 in New York. He was married once before, to noted Broadway actress, Tamara, who perished in the 1943 plane crash in Portugal (songstress Jane Forman was on the same flight and suffered serious injuries). Caroline and her husband lived in Manhattan and had a home in Durham Furnace, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Caroline kept busy even outside the theater sphere – was an art editor for Diplomat magazine, an owner of a California radio station, a teacher of television production at Columbia University, a sometime writer and teacher — often simultaneously. She truly did have a very impressive and varied career in the arts.

Caroline and her husband amassed an impressive collection of modern art, consisting of, among others, paintings and draw­ings by Picasso, Gauguin, Klee, Miro, Vuillard and Roualt and sculpture by Rodin, Degas, Braque and Zorach.

Caroline Burke Swann died on December 5, 1964, from a brain tumor in New York. Her widower died in December 1973.

Ariel Heath

 

 

Ariel Heath was another debutante who wanted to make it big in movies and failed. However, her life story is less orthodox than most, and she definitely did do better than most of her fellow socialites, having credited roles and actually staying in Hollywood for three years. Unfortunately, stupid publicity fastened her demise. Let’s hear it!

EARLY LIFE

Anne Harrison was born in Cinncinatti, Ohio, on January 2, 1917, to socialites Learner Blackman Harrison and Frances Kohlsaat, their first child. Her father was the great local banker who came from a prominent family. Her mother was also a debutante, niece of Herman H. Kohlsaat, an eminent Chicago editor and author. Anne had a younger sister, Frances, born in 1922, and a brother.

The Harrisons employed two servants, Margaret Dechant and Lester Wright, and lived the lavish life. Unfortunately, her parents divorced in 1924, her mother remarried as soon as the ink on the divorce papers was dry (to a younger Montecito guy, Samuel Russel Dabney) and her father remarried to Hilda Jones in 1926 (coincidentally, Hilda was born on the same day as Anne, January 2). Anne stayed with her father while her younger siblings went to live with their mother (a bit weird but okay, whatever works).

Ariel thus lived with her dad,  hard and proud Cincinnati businessman who commuted between that city and Lexington, where his mother lived, with Ariel tagging along.

In time Ariel caught the acting bug and starting from the age of eleven, she played child parts in Stuart Walker‘s repertory company while visiting her grandmother one summer. This became came a regular summer-stock routine until Mr Walker was called to Hollywood to direct pictures for Paramount studios. Then things began happening. Stuart Walker wired Ariel and her grandmother an invitation to come to Hollywood. Ariel’s father immediately put his foot down and Ariel was whisked off to Meath County, Ireland for further schooling, then to Switzerland and Paris, where she attended finishing schools. Naturally, Ariel ended up majoring in dramatics, sculpting and painting. The rumblings of war brought her back to Kentucky, her horses and her American Kennel champion dogs. She wanted to be a veterinarian but lacked the proper credits to enter a veterinary school (I guess she was too lazy to seriously study).

Then, in the early 1930s, Ariel’s grandmother moved to Hollywood, and this served as a catalyst for the young girl to make her plans. Her friend and former coach, Stuart Walker, was now firmly established as a motion picture director. She wired him, he wired back, and Ariel was in Los Angeles in a flash.

However, the day Ariel arrived in Hollywood, tragedy struck. Stuart Walker was suddenly stricken and died a week later. His death was a great shock to her, but she decided to stay and enjoy her newfound freedom. Since money was no problem, she didn’t even look for a job right away – she just idled at the sunny shores of California.

However, as stories sometimes go, when a you won’t come to the mountain the mountain will come to you, and movies found another way to claim Ariel. Ariel had a Shepherd dog, Michael. Ariel entered her prize dog in a Kennel Club Show in Beverly Hills. At the same show was Elizabeth Risdon, RKO actress, who was also showing her dog. Miss Risdon became interested in Ariel’s Shepherd then she took a second look at Ariel. The next day, Miss Risdon mentioned her discovery to one of her bosses at RKO. Ariel was called to the studio, given screen test and signed to a contract. From then on, she became best friend with Miss Risdon,  who also sent her to Helena Sorell, head of the RKO Radio Drama School troupe. And then she was pushed into movies!

CAREER

Ariel started her career in Here We Go Again, a Molly and Fiber Mcgee comedy. It’s one of those “if you like them, watch it, if you don’t, don’t” comedic series – not for everybody, but some people enjoy it. Next came the very unrealistic, strangely cast musical Seven Days’ Leave. oh yes, if you want to see Victor Mature as a soldier-crooner, do watch this! Weird. On the plus side, it’s not a bad effort and is definitely a feel-happy movie (and it’s got Lucille Ball in it!). Then came the grim and serious Hitler’s Children, a very direct criticism at Hitler Youth movement. It’s one of those movies you see but don’t enjoy, due to its brutal and nightmarish theme, but still, it packs a pretty strong punch, as it was intended. Another anti-Nazi movie, in a slightly different coating, was Flight for Freedom, hailed as the life story of Amelia Earhart – but actually a war propaganda movie. Thus, it’s not a good movie at any rate, although Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray give their best shots. Ladies’ Day was finally an easier fare – a baseball comedy with little game and plenty of zany comediennes (Patsy Kelly, Iris Adrian and Lupe Velez). It’s a B movie and it shows, but it’s got a peculiar charm of its own.

Ariel than appeared in a Falcon movie, The Falcon Strikes Back. What to say, more of the same. And then, Ariel appeared in a string of prestigious, very good movies. The first was This Land Is Mine, one of the best movie about ordinary people in war ever made. Charles Laughton shines as a mild mannered teacher turned resistance fighter, and Maureen O’Hara gives a passionate performance too. The Leopard Man is a stunning horror movie by the master of the genre, Jacques Tourneur. Sadly not as famous as the director’s other work, it’s a compelling, tightly plotted and superbly made movie. Ariel finished her golden string with Mr. Lucky, an interesting Cary Grant film where he plays a gambler turned charity donor (after he falls in love with a girl, of course). Since I like Laraine Day, it’s a definite plus that she’s in the movie, IMHO.

And then Airel got her five minutes of fame, and a credited role in a low-budget western. Yipee!! Or maybe not. The movie in question was Black Hills Express and it’s completely forgotten today. Zzzz, let’s not waste any more time on it. Ariel continued with her credited career in A Lady Takes a Chance, a fluffy Jean Arthur/John Wayne comedy. She was also prominently featured in Career Girl, a pale remake of Stage Door. Here, we have no Ginger Rogers or Katherine Hepburn – we just have Frances Langford and Lorraine Miller. While they were to some degree talented ladies, they can’t save a movie nor make it a true classic. She had another not-invisible role in Machine Gun Mama, a simple, low-key Z class comedy. Her last movie, The Big Show-Off, was of a similar vein, a little known low-budget comedy with Arthur Lake and Dale Evans (sans hubby Roy Rogers). That was it from Ariel!                

PRIVATE LIFE

Ariel was import to Hollywood as a Jean Harlow wannabe. And while she was being groomed for stardom (and many starlets don’t have this luxury), of course it didn’t work. Like many other “copies”, she crashed and burned. her studio tried to downplay on their plan, even claiming that it was NO HINDRANCE to her career that she closely resembled Jean Harlow, but this proved to be a futile attempt. This is a typical article illustrating this:

Ariel Heath — the name has the airy, ethereal fluff of a Summer cloud. But it’s a Lexington, Kentucky, girl who resembles Jean Harlow, and who was being built up by RKO on that
basis. Blessed with an Irish wit and humor, she laughs when she tells you she stopped kidding herself about becoming famous that way.
She feels she is an actress, has experience and training to back that feeling, and so, she took the part of a meanie in PRC’s present production, “Manhattan Rhythm.” At least she will get a chance to show that she can act.

They tried to sell Ariel as a Jean Harlow look-alike who cared nothing about it and wanted to be a serious actress. If only! If they really wanted to make her a serious actress, they would neither have bleached her hair nor even mentioned Jean’s name in the same sentence as Ariel’s. All in all, a general fiasco.

Ariel seemed to be a very well-bred, nice and enthusiastic young lady. When she was interviewed for the first time, the writer wrote this about her:

When I was asked to Interview Ariel Heath, whose option was recently picked Up by R.K.O. Radio Pictures, I expected to meet a very complex young lady — and I did. The lovely twenty-one-year-old blonde beauty from the blue-grass state of Kentucky was quite reticent about her own past and preferred heaping her praises upon her fellow contract players, climaxing her “press – agent- ing” with, “We all owe our good fortune, directly or indirectly, to the coaching and understanding of Miss Helena Sorrel, our dialogue director.” “That’s great! Now what about you?” I said sternly. “You’re the one I’m supposed to be interviewing.” My last words died away into a whisper. You see, I had caught her eyes. They’re a fathomless grey and when this curvaceous creature smiles, well, shades of the late Jean Harlow appear before your eyes . . and you do naught but stare. Fortunately, her grandmother, with whom Ariel shares an apartment in Hollywood, appeared on the scene and upon her insistence Ariel talked.

Another interesting tidbit: Ariel’s father and family were not aware that she was in pictures, only her grandmother knew the secret. Ariel commented on this: “You see Father is not a movie fan and would hit the ceiling if he knew. We want to break it to him gently, at the proper time.” Since her career was over soon enough, one wonders did she even mention this West Coast sojourn to her dad.

As for romance, we are a bit thin here. Lee Bowman, a noted actor, introduced Ariel Heath to his brother, Hunter Bowman, American Airlines official visiting in Hollywood from Washington, D. C., and they dated for sometime after.

Ariel was allegedly quite intelligent. When she was painted by noted artist Peter Fairchild, he called her “Hollywood’s intelligent blonde with classic features. Then they all aren’t beautiful and dumb, you see.”

Her hair color during her stay in Hollywood was known as a “whistle-blonde” shade (not platinum blonde, mind you!). Unfortunately, it was hard to upkeep it so she gave up halfway and darkened it. Also, Ariel missed Lexington quite a bit during her stay in Tinsel town. Her closest friends in Lexington were the Ed Maddens – Mr. Madden sent her a valuable thoroughbred mare shipped to Hollywood in a box stall but Ariel had to give her up since she couldn’t afford to feed it!

Ariel left Hollywood after a few roles, and was rarely featured in the papers. However, the next thing we know, she was to get married, to another socialite, Shipley Bayless.

Here is a newspaper announcement on their wedding:

THE MARRIAGE OF Mrs. Anne Harrison and Mr. Shipley Armstrong Bayless will be solemnized at 6:30 o’clock this afternoon at the residence of the late Mr. and Mm. John E. C. Kohlsaat at Santa Barbara, Calif. Only the immediate family will be present at the ceremony. Mrs. Harrison is the daughter of Mrs. Samuel R. Dabney (Frances Kohlsaat) of White Gate Ranch, Los Olivos, Calif., and Mr. Learner B. Harrison of Cincinnati. Mr. Bay-less is the son of Mr. Herman A. Bayless and the late Mrs. Alfreda Shipley Bayless. After their wedding journey Mr. Bayless and his bride will return to Cincinnati where they will be established in Mr. Bayless’s residence on Vista Avenue.

Anne and her husband were very active socially and strong members of the horse-breeding set – they owned several farms and prize-winning horses. Unfortunately, as I know next to nothing about that culture, I can’t write about it in any detail.

Bayless and Anne divorced in the 1960s, and he remarried in 1964 to Mary O’Connell. He died in 2005.

Anne Bayless died on July 21, 1973 in Santa Barbara, California.

Esther Brodelet

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Esther!

PRIVATE LIFE

Esther gave her beauty hint to the readers in 1934:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this quote:

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

In 1937, Esther dated Douglas Fowley.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wilma Francis

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beryl McCutcheon

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

EARLY LIFE

Beryl McCutcheon was born in 1925, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to James McCutcheon and Robbie Day. Her father, who worked as a building painter, was originally from Wisconsin. In the late 1900s, He 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 Beryl’s birth. 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. Her older brother David worked as a messenger boy at MGM. Unfortunately, messenger boy jobs were soon vacated by war – david, like many others, was called to fight. When messenger boys became scarce, 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 famous hoofer Gene Kelly noticed her and recognized major potential in her – MGM tested her, she passed the screen test and ultimately won a contract. So, Beryl’s 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 play 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 intense. 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 it seems she didn’t remarry, that she lived in Culver City at some point and died in Ventura County, California, in 2014.