Suzanne Ames

Suzanne Ames truly is an example of a woman who had a lackluster career in Hollywood but an incredibly rich and rewarding private and professional life outside of Tinsel Town. She really is an inspiration, as you will see int he story of her life…

EARLY LIFE

Suzanne Marguerite Ainbinder was born on December 31, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Myron “Marcus “Ainbinder and Florence Grosse Ainbinder. Her father, a salesman by trade, was born in Illinois to immigrants parents from Poland.

Both Myron and Florence were lovers of the fine arts, and were more than happy when their only child got into singing from a young age – Suzanne her professional debut at age 4 by singing on radio station WGN in Chicago. She was also passionate about dance from the time she could walk, taking ballet lessons. The Ainbinders moved to Akron, Ohio for Myron’s work in 1937. They lived as lodgers with a building contractor and his wife.

Suzanne grew up in Akron and considered it her hometown. She attended Our Lady of the Elms, an independent Catholic college preparatory school immersed in the Dominican tradition for girls grades one through 12 and co-ed preschool through kindergarten. She was a member of the Elms chapter of the National Honor Society at the Elms school since her sophomore year and had the highest grades in her class several years in a row. She had a record of straight A’s and graduated with honors in 1949.

After graduating, she studied ballet and music in Cleveland, being chosen as a protege of ballerina Rosella Hightower. Then she moved to New York.

For a year, Suzanne was understudying four people in the Agnes DeMille musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds,” and was offered the dancing lead in the road company of “Call Me Madam.” The Ballet Theater was also after her for its European company. But she turned them all away in favor of her favorite – after auditioning she became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She became a leading ballerina, performing not only in operas but at the Met during the regime of Rudolf Bing.

Suzanne’s first real success was a role in The Fledermaus. Here is a brief description of it:

The Metropolitan Opera thinks Akron’s ballet dancer, Suzanne Ames, who’s only 17, is old enough to play a woman of the world. Suzanne, the pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Ames, who used to live at 3 Cyril ter., Akron, but moved to New York, has been as-signed the role of “Ida” In the Met’s April 5 production of “Fledermatis” here. “Ida” is a famous Vienese ballerina who is much favored by the gentlemen, and who educates her younger sister in the ways of the wicked world of the 1800s. . CURIOUSLY, Patrice Mun-sel, a veteran of the Met, will , play the younger sister to Suzanne’s “Ida.” “I thought I’d be playing the part in the road production of ‘Fledermaus’ in Chicago and Rochester,” Suzanne said, “but then I saw my name on the casting sheet for the New York showing.” “Patrice Munsel, who’ll play my younger sister, is about 10 years oMer than I am,” Suzanne, a graduate of Our Lady Of The Elms, in Akron, said.

It was via MET that she got a chance to appear in Hollywood movies, and off she was to Los Angeles.

CAREER

Suzanne’s first movie was the legendary musical that half the dancers appeared in Two Tickets to Broadway. Sorry to say, despite the stellar cast it’s a purely mid tier musical – no big trash nor no big thrill. In view of all the other good musicals to watch, I guess this one is a skip.

Slightly better was The Las Vegas Story, a sultry, heavy film noir with a typical love triangle and interesting actors – Jane Russell, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. No,it’s not a staple of the genre nor a particularly good movie, but it has a strange charm of its own and the actor really work somehow (despite the fact that Mature was an abysmal thespian). Then came a small role in The French Line, the infamous Jane Russell extravaganza with tons of beautiful girls and thin plot. Yep, you can’t say that Suzanne was ta all visible in it, flaked by 100 of other wanna-be starlets.

Suzanne took a short breather from Hollywood, and returned two years later in Son of Sinbad, a typical colorful, happy-go-lucky 1950s costume pastiche. Just mix handsome actors and actresses, lavish sets and sumptuous costume with a hokus exotic story and you have a box office bonanza. Far from any semblance of art, but hey, they made it for the money not the artistical achievement. Her next feature, Kismet, was made in the same vein (Exotic location, tons of pretty girls), but overall it’s a better movie, with a slightly better story and some pretty good musical numbers (and Ann Blyth! Gotta love Ann Blyth!!).

Unfortunately, as time went by, Suzanne’s career didn’t seem to soar, and the quality of her movies never reached a satisfying level. She was in I Married a Woman, a lesser effort for both of it’s stars, Diana Dors and George Gobel. It’s about a cranky middle aged man married to a gorgeous model. Yawn.

It’s sad that Suzanne’s last movie was by far the best one she even appeared in – Bells Are Ringing. The man highlight of th emovie is of course, it’s star, Judy Holiday – she was simply wonderful, so buoyant, bubbly, irresistible, truly one of the most talented comediennes ever to grace the silver screen. She is aptly supported by Dean Martin – and the movie is all about them, their relationship, their singing and dancing. Everything else is just a bonus – but a nice and lofty bonus, with a strong supporting cast, great music and solid (if a bit stagy) direction. A recommendation for sure!

That was it for Suzanne’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

When Suzanne lived in New York as a MET dancer, she said of her life:

SUZANNE finds the life here rigid. She can’t have dates during the week because she must be fresh for the rehearsals at the Met. “I’ve had a few dates with Cesare Siepi. He’s quite young and very nice.”

Siepi and Suzanne dated for some time, but were over by the time she left for Hollywood. When she came to Hollywood and was a Goldwyn Girl, she was five feet seven and one-half inches tall. Weight: 121 lbs, Hips 36 Waist 2o. Unfortunately, her career as a Goldwyn girl and actress never left the ground, and she returned to New York for good in 1960.

Suzanne traveled a great deal with MET, and appeared in a great number of plays. Of her experiences in American cities, Suzanne said:

“Minneapolis is one of my two favorite cities. The other is Atlanta, Ga. People here are so literate. They understand opera and don’t ask silly questions about it; they meet and talk to you as friends.”

Suzanne said countless that she liked dancing in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and was proud of the fact that occasionally the Met gives her an opportunity to sing as well as dance. Her dedication to the arts was boundless, but her private life was very scantly covered in the press. Finally, Suzanne married Albert Landry in 1975. Here is a short bio of Landry:

Born on Oct. 9, 1915 in New York City, he was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, having participated in the D-Day invasion in the European theater. He received his master’s degree in art history from Columbia University in New York in 1948 and advanced studies in painting from Atelier Fernand Leger in Paris, France. An art dealer, historian and consultant, he had served as assistant director for Galerie Villand-Galanis until 1954. He was director of special projects for Associated American Artists from 1954-59 and president of Albert Landry Galleries from 1959 to 1963. He was executive director with the J. L. Hudson Co. and an advisor to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mr. Landry was also vice-president of Marlborough Galleries in New York until 1968 when he became adviser and curator for the London Arts Group. He served as publisher and distributor of original graphics and multiples for the Nabis Fine Arts of New York until 1974. An associate for the Gruenebaum Gallery of New York from 1977 thru 1980, he continued working as a private dealer and art consultant for major corporate clients, including Aldon Industries, Atlantic-Richfield, Avon, Ford Motor Co., Smith Barney, International Paper and US Steel. He was also a consultant and associate for Landry-Settles Inc. and the David Settles Gallery Ltd., both of Houston, Texas and was affiliated with Stephen P. Edlich & Co. until 1986.

Suzanne danced until the mid 1970s. Here is a short description of what Suzanne did after her retirement from an active dance career – she stayed in the industry as an knowledgeable insider with much to offer:

After retiring as a dancer, she became an executive of Atlanta’s Performing Arts Center and then head of a U.S. State Department cultural exchange program that established a ballet company in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Why? Well, because in 1968, she was sent to Brazil along with Arthur Mitchell and Gloria Contreras by the U.S. State Department at the behest of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to assist in the establishment of the first National Ballet of Brazil and maintained close ties to the company.

Landry went on to serve as director of General Copyright Administration for Frank Music Corporation, CBS/SK Songs and EMI Music Publishing.

Eventually, she went into music publishing and became a copyright specialist. She managed the administration of Frank Music Corp., Paul McCartney’s publishing companies, and then became a vice president for EMI Music Publishing in New York.

 

A crowning achievement of Suzanne’s life happened when the she established the new Suzanne Ames Landry Performing Arts Studio at the Our Lady of the Elms School in Akron, Ohio, her alma mater, through a bequest of half of her total estate. Truly, Suzanne lived a fulfilling and very active life!

 

Following many years in New York City, she and her husband moved to Saratoga Springs, where they had vacationed for many years. Never the one to sit idly, she continued working in Saratoga Springs:  Suzanne provided volunteer work at the National Museum of Dance and gave many pre-performance lectures at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Here is a short description of her volunteer work:

 Suzanne Ames Landry considers the National Museum of Dance and Saratoga Performing Arts Center as Spa City treasures.

She is no less valuable to them as a volunteer, drawing upon her own unparalleled career as principal ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

Whether giving tours or organizing files, she pursues each task with heartfelt enthusiasm stemming from a lifelong love of the arts.

“Anything they want me to do, as long as it’s not fattening, I’ll be happy to do,” Landry said with a laugh. “This is the only National Museum of Dance in the United States. It is a jewel. What it does is tell the history of dance, which is important.”

There’s no need for Landry to read from a text when giving museum tours. She simply relates much of her own personal experience and especially likes sharing stories with children.

“You have to give back the feeling of it,” she said.

She also organizes archives at the SPAC and the Dance Museum.

“Everything has to be filed,” she said. “Not everybody like files. I find it extremely relaxing to get these things in order. Once it’s in order, anybody can find it easily.”

SPAC opened in 1966, and Landry has organized clippings, reviews and programs of virtually every classical and popular artist who’s ever performed there.

“You have to have a library and it has to be a logical one,” she said. “It’s your background and helps you keep going forward. It’s something I find very interesting.”

Landry also instructs dance history classes at the museum. One program, called “Dancing Through Time,” is designed specifically for people ages 55 and older.

She also does historical research for exhibits such as one now showing at the museum called “Classical Black,” a look at black dancers who danced classical ballet.

On June 20, Landry will present a special lecture on “The Evolution of the Firebird Ballet,” including a history of the Diaghilev Ballet Company and notes on choreographers Mikhail Fokine and George Balanchine. The talk is set for 7 p.m. at Saratoga County Arts Council’s building on Broadway.

“That’s what I saw growing up,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to give something back to this lovely city.”

But at the same time, Landry admits to having a slightly selfish motivation, because her volunteerism keeps events and activities alive that she thoroughly enjoys.

“You’re paying yourself by having these venues,” she said. “If the volunteers don’t help, where are they going to get a cast of thousands?”

Landry is also involved with Lake George Opera Company, which performs at the Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park. This summer, she’ll be doing brief talks prior to the production of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Suzanne’s husband Albert died on May 13, 2001. Suzanne continued to live in Saratoga Springs and was very active in the local civic life.

Suzanne Ames Landry died on June 6, 2008 in Saratoga Springs, Florida.

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.

 

Jana Mason


Jana Mason was a talented singer who set aflame stages al over the States with her sensual, jazzy style. Unfortunately, this did not warrant her cinematic success – she never had a credited part and appeared in only a handful of movies. Let’s hear more about Jana…

EARLY LIFE

Ursula Comantadore was born on September 11, 1929, in Jersey City, New Jersey, to Joseph Comendatore and Frances Caiezza. Her younger sister Dolores was born sometime after 1940. Her father worked first as a fruit and fish salesman – he had his own stall, and her mother was a factory worker in the early 1930s. Later on her father worked at the shipyards – her mother became a housewife.

Jana grew up in Jersey City in scant circumstances. To help her family make more money, she had to give up on her education (she never got past the 10th grade), and started to sing professionally. She was soon singing in several radio stations and after she moved to New York, worked in various nightclubs. In the early 1950s, she moved to Las Vegas and slowly but securely built up her “brand”. Here is a short article about her:

Jana Mason, the canary with the fabulous figure (at Basin Street), is making a fast climb up the success ladder. In the same hour the past week, she signed to do two Bing Crosby shows and put her signature on a Decca contract. She’s been singing professionally for only 14 months.

She was already a seasoned performer with hundreds of concerts and appearances under her belt, and sang for more than the 14 months like the article claims.  Thus she easily landed in Hollywood in 1955.

CAREER

Jana’s first movie appearance was in Women’s Prison, a low-budget women’s prison movie (boy, the name does say it all!). but, that’s not the reason to watch this little “trashy gem” – rather, it is a great women’s cast – Ida Lupino, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Audrey Totter and Phyllis Thaxter. Despite it’s overly dramatic story and obvious flaws, it’s entertaining and ultimately satisfying. Just beware, this ain’t Shakespeare!

Jana’s next feature, 5 Against the House, one of the 1950s caper movies (let’s rob a casino!) that Rat Pack excelled it. No Rat Pack here, but he have some interesting substitutes – Guy Madison, Brian Keith, Alvy Moore, Kerwin Mathews. Let’s be clear, all of them were pretty boys that never won Oscars, but they are more than tolerable here, and Keith is still a notch above the median, and stands up as the best fo the lot.  What this movie does right is the psychological profile of the caperers – they are all different people with their own “demons and angels”. Another plus is a very young Kim Novak – as soon as she enters the screen, it’s clear there is something about Miss Novak that would make her a star a few short years later.

Jana was then featured in My Sister Eileen, the second adaptation of the well-known book. Unfortunately, it’s a lesser movie than the first adaptation (with the wonderful Roz Russell), but it’s still a breezy, happy-go-lucky movie, a true Hollywood delight for taking the blues away.

Jana’s last movie was The Wild Party. It there is one word that can descrive the movie, it’s sleazy. We have Anthony Quinn, playing an over-the-hill football star that holds a thrill-seeking wealthy couple captive. The movie was supposed to be a social commentary on the rich vs. the poor, but dilutes into a semi-exploatation movie with intense sexual innuendo and some pretty lurid scenes (for the 1950s). High art it ain’t, but it’s not a complete waste either. The social message, while it does get lost in the sleaziness most of the time, comes across to some degree, the cinematography is almost noir-like (always a plus in my book!), and Anthony Quinn, oh my! The man was a charismatic powerhouse and did most of his roles justice, and the movie would hardly work with a lesser actor in the leading role of the deranged football player. His supporting cast is less than stellar, but sturdy enough to make it work (Carol Ohmart, Kathryn Grant and so on).

Jana did some TV work on the side, but retired from movies after her marriage for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Little is known about Jana’s early life. We know she had a cat that the press dubbed “the real cool cat”. It slept on the air conditioner. Funny.

Jana married her first husband, David Victorson, on December 28, 1953, in Los Angeles. Both of them worked in Las Vegas, just in different nightclubs.

David was born on June 23, 1916, to Louis Victorson and Hanna Smith. He was married once before, to Jean Victorson, whom he divorced in 1937. He and Jana met in New York and moved to Las Vegas to further their careers (but in reality to primarily further her career).

Their marriage was not long-lived. In 1955, Jana got involved with a man who would completely change her life – Jackie Barnett, the songwriter for Jimmy Durante. if the name rings a bell to you, I’ll just say it should – Barnett dated a string of Hollywood beauties in the 1940s and 1950s, and was even engaged to several starlets I profiled here on the blog. He sure had a rich social life!

Madly in love with Barnett, Jana and David divorced in 1956 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Victorson married Angela Velasquez in 1961 and died in 1973 in New Yersey.

After that Jana and Jackie went full yuh-voom. They were often seen together eating supper at the late bistros, seemingly without a care int he world and madly in love. However, the relationship was a stormy one, and they constantly fought only to make up later. Their first real break came in early 1956. In June 1956 Jana met sportsman Jim Kimberly, who would become a serious beau and later change the course of her life (read on to find out how!!)

Jana didn’t stick just to Kimberly – she also dated disk jockey Bill Williams. However, by early 1957, Jackie and Jana were back in each other good graces and in April there was talk that Barnett checked city hall about marriage regulations. His bride-to-be was of course Jana. However, nothing came out of it, and they were kaput once again by September 1957.
In November 1957 dated comic Phil Foster, of the “Halavah Hilarities” cast. She claimed it was an “An old friendship.”, and truly, it didn’t last. By December of that year she was back again with Jackie Barnett, and there were again rumors of an impending marriage.

But oh my, to everybody’s eternal regret Jana and Jackie broke up! (NOT). And this time, it was for good. But, Jana was in no shortage of male company. She was singing in Chicago back then, and the wolves-about-town lined up with mistletoe to greet Jana after every Camellia House performance. Jana took up with her old beau Jim Kimberly, and he then introduced her to .his close friend, socialite Freddie Wacker.

Their mutual interest in modern music was a starting point of what ended up a wonderful romance, ultimately culminating into marriage. Frederick Wacker was born on July 10, 1918, in Chicago, Illinois. He was a grandson of Charles H. Wacker, sponsor of the City Beautiful plan and of Wacker drive. He was a professional drummer and passionate race car driver – he participated in five Formula One World Championship races. Here is what their 1958 wedding looked like:

Frederick G. Wacker Jr., musician, sportsman, and industrialist, left the ranks of Chicago’s most eligible bachelors yesterday when he took Miss Ursula Comandatore as his bride in New York City. The ceremony took place at 5 p. -m. in the Madison Avenue Presbyterian church, with a reception in Hampshire House. Mr. Wacker, son of Mrs. Wacker of Lake Forest and the late Mr. Wacker, is a grandson of the late Charles H. Wacker who headed the Chicago Plan commission for 19 years and for whom Wacker drive is named. The bride is known professionally as Jana Mason and was singing in the Drake hotel when she and Mr. Wacker met a few months ago. Her parents are Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Commandatore of Jersey City, N. J. For the wedding, the bride wore a white lace gown and white pillbox to which a net veil was attached. She carried white orchids. Her only attendant was her sister, Miss Dolores Commandatore. Charles Wacker II was his brother’s best man. After wedding trip to Europe Mr. Wacker and his bride will live in his Lake Shore drive apartment.

The Wackers had three children: Frederick Wacker, III (born on January 5, 1960), Wendy, born on August 27, 1961, and Joseph, born in 1963.

Like many ladies whom I profiled on this site, Jana was a victim of a carefully planned burglary in 1965. There was a long and painful list of valuables taken, including several diamond rings and bracelets, two fur coats, and a fur stole.

Jana in the late 1950s and early 1960s was the embodiment of a seemingly dream-like existence – wealthy, healthy, she had an adoring husband and three wonderful children, but she was unfulfilled and wanted more. So, in the mid 1960s, she went back to work. She sang in Monetral, Chicago and Las Vegas. A short article illustrated her life back then:

Freddie Wacker, the social register’s only professional drummer, flew to Montreal to bring his singing wife, Jana Mason, home from her short but smash engagement at the Queen Elizabeth hotel up there. Freddie reportedly wanted no publicity in Chicago on the deal and isn’t overjoyed at talented Jana’s return to the night clubs.

However, her husband’s distaste aside, Jana found her re-enty into the world of showbiz shallow and insipid. Unhappy qand without a clear idea what can be done about it, she one day met a woman who taught Bible lessons, going from door to door. Jana’s interest was enflamed after she met the woman twice, and she joined their group and found a new meaning in life soon after. Determined never ever again to sing a secular song, she teamed up with old friends from the music industry, and recorded a gospel album. Thus, Jana toured the States with a gospel group for several years, and this completely changed her life. She would later say:

“Everybody tries to pressure himself to live up to the guy next door. I used to spend a couple of hours to get ready to go to a party. I was so uptight. Why? Insecurity? I seemed to believe that life revolved around me. There are no special people under God. We are all together, and we need more love. We need to be touched and loved. We are afraid to clap, to touch, to sing out.”

She retired in the 1980s from all forms of performing and lived quietly with her family. Jana’s husband, Freddie Wacker, died on August 18, 1998, at the age of 80. After his death, Jana divided her time between Lake Bluff, Illinois and Indian Wells, California, where her daughter Wendy lived.

Jana Mason Wacker died on August 22, 2013, in Illinois.

Jana’s son, Joseph, died in 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

Millicent Deming

millicentdeming

Young, pretty Millicent Deming proved to be a more apt businesswoman than she was an actress – she worked in a modeling agency as a tutor from her late teens, and later was successful in real estate and had her very own modeling agency. too bad her acting career was so thin… Let’s find out more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Millicent Louise Deming was born on June 12, 1933, in Los Angeles, California, to Robert Edwards Deming and Mildred Fulton. Her father came from a progressive Iowa family – his older brother was William Edwards Deming, a prominent 20th century engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant. Robert worked as a super service station proprietor (I have no idea what it is, but it’s written like this on the 1930 census so go figure?)

Millicent grew up in a upper middle class family in Los Angeles, and discovered her love for acting from an early age. Here is a short article about her social life from the late 1940s:

Visitors Coming from Bel Air to attend the junior-senior prom at [shadow Mountain Club tonight is pretty Millicent Deming, who will be squired by Kenny Jackson of P. S. High. Miss Deming has taken junior parts in several movie shorts, one of which was shot down here at the airport with Kenny playing opposite her. She will he the house guest of Mrs. Mildred Jackson

Millicent became a successful businesswoman early in life, before she graduated from high school. Her father opened a modeling school where she worked as a instructor, giving girls lessons in how to be feminine and pose for the camera. On the side, she also worked as a secretary for famous impresario Nils Grauland, and did a nightly KTSL (2) show. She met the right people, and it was only a matter of time before she landed in Hollywood.

CAREER

Millicent’s first movie was Two Tickets to Broadway, the all too familiar musical with tons of unknown actresses playing chorus girls (I think that about 7 or 8 actresses I profiled here actually had an uncredited role in that movie). There is nothing much to say about it, it’s a lower mid tier musical with a moronic story, colorful cinematography and sadly forgettable music. Skip.

Millicent’s second, much better movie, was The Garment Jungle, a bag of mixed pleasures. Basically a racket movie, it’s part film noir with dramatic touches, a so-so mesh of it’s two directors – Vincent Sherman and Robert Aldrich. And boy, we can hardly find two such disparate directors!Sherman was known as a woman’s director in the vein of George Cukor – he excelled in melodrama and worked with great divas like Miriam Hopkins, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Robert Aldrich was the master of unseen violence, one of the few directors that showed what a phantom menace looks like. Combine them and you have an interesting experiment – not a completely successful one, mind you. The movie, which ended up begin completely unknown afterwards – has flashes of brilliance as much as some truly dismal parts. The story is nothing to gape about – racketeering in the garment district of New York – but it works as a framing device for some very relevant questions and punches you hard when you finally realize that those things happened in real life. Oh yes, people literary died in these rackets. The actors are a mixed bag too. There are wonderful actors like Lee J. Cobb and , and on the other hand, we have Kerwin Matthews in the lead, handsome enough but a total wooden pole. However, the atmosphere and the style overall is superb. There is much “angry silence”, menace and doom in the air, and you can easily feel that Robert Aldrich did a large portion of the movie. It’s his signature style – brutal yet always subtle. Sherman infuses the more “intimate parts”, and they are lacking compared to the rest of the movie. The female love interest, played by Gia Scala, is so marginal to the story it’s almost sad, and Matthews was too thin an actor to truly pull of the more challenging gentle scenes. If you could pull out the redundant cheesy side of the movie, It’s almost a wonderful film noir, and it’s a shame it so neglected today, despite it’s shortcomings.

Millicent did some TV work (Peter Gunn) before retiring from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Millicent was 5’ 6”, 34-23-34, blonde haired and hazel eyed. In 1951, at just 18 years old, Millicent was engaged to Serge Ross, a Hollywood stalwart. The engagement was terminated, and she was seen around town with well known attorney Milton Golden.

Millicent married John Anthony Restifo on May 5, 1953. Restifo was born on December 30, 1916, in Washington DC, to Thomas Charles Restifo and Madeleine DiCamillo. He was the oldest of four children (John, Joseph, Nancy and Margaret). His father, who ran a successful beverage business, died sometime in the late 1930s. His mother took over as the head of the business, running it with John and his brother Joseph. John moved to Los Angeles a few years later, along with his mother, and there met Millicent. Little is known of the marriage. They divorced in the late 1950s. Sadly, Restifo died in Mexico in 1964.

Millicent married her second husband, Jorge Ugalde, sometime after the divorce. Their son Mark was born on July 31, 1962 in Mexico City. They divorced in 1963 and Millicent returned to the US.

Millcent married, for the third time, to Gerald Fishbein on January 29, 1964. Fishbein was born on March 12, 1930, to Joseph Fishbein and Esther Levin. His younger sister Joan was born in 1940. His father was a successful jewelry salesman – they always had a servant in the household. His parents moved to New York not long after his birth. They lived in Queens where Gerald grew up. Gerald returned to California at some point.

Gerald adopted Mark, and Millicent and Gerald’s only child, daughter Leslie, was born on March 17, 1966. After living n Los Angeles with a lofty social life, Millicent and Gerald divorced on December 22, 1982. He married Emily S. Adehlson in 1985 and continued living in California.

Millcent married her third husband, William T. Reynolds, on April 6, 1985.  Born in Trenton, New Jersey, February 11, 1923, to parents William Titus Reynolds, Sr. and Mary Knode Reynolds, he attended schools in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida before moving to California following service in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. He was a graduate of the University of Southern California with a B.S. in Finance (Magna Cum Laude), and an M.B.A. He had a long career in financial services. While in graduate school, he was employed by Hill Richards & Co. in Los Angeles. In Pasadena, he was broker/manager at Blyth & Co., later Blyth Eastman Dillon, Paine Webber and, finally, UBS. He was a Past President of the Bond Club. Reynolds was married once before, to Mary Electa Nehman, and they had three daughters: Cornelia, (born on June 30, 1948), Electa (born on October 28, 1950), and Rosemary (born on May 12, 1953).

Never the one to sit idly after the demise of her acting career Millicent ran the Millicent Deming Commercial Modeling Studio for several decades, and has been a licensed real estate agent in California for 37 years and is currently with Exclusive Estate Properties in Northern Hollywood. Millicent focuses on Pasadena, where she has lived for many years.

As for her civic life, Millicent served as Member of the Advisory Committee of The Pasadena Symphony among others. Sadly, Millicent and William divorced in the 1990s or 2000s. Millicent moved to La Canada-Flintridge after the divorce.

Wiliam T. Reynolds died on April 9, 2013 in San Gabriel.

Millicent Deming Reynolds lives in California today.

 

Georgia Clancy

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harriette Tarler

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Beautiful women who crashed Hollywood only thanks to their looks and charms were plentiful, but rarely did they achieve anything worthwhile. Harriette Tarler, one of those women, did find her bit of fame with the Three Stooges shorts, but not much more. Let’s find out something about her!

EARLY LIFE

Harriette Gerthrude Hecht was born on November 4, 1920, in New York, to Adolph Hecth and Charlotte Reicher. Her parents were both Hungarian immigrants – her father worked as a furrier and wholesale fur merchant. Her older sister Beatrice was born in 1914.

The family moved to Los Angeles at some point, and Harriette graduated from high school there. She got married, had a family, and lived in Los Angeles until 1950, when she started her career (sorry, I don’t have any more info about this).

CAREER

Since my knowledge of the Three Stooges is very limited at best (I’ve never seen any of their movies or shorts, heck I can’t even name al three of them), I’ll simply skip Harriette’s claim to fame – her roles in Three Stooges shorts. She was the girl who got the pie in the face. For more information about her roles in the shorts, visit the fabulous Three Stoones site on this link.

Now, let’s take a look at some of her other acting achievements. Unfortunately, she was always uncredited and did no big service to the movies she appeared in… Thus, her career outside the Three Stooges shorts was a bit lackluster at best.

harriette-tarler-diana-darrin-arline-hunterIn 1957, she appeared in The Joker Is Wild, a surprisingly touching and nuanced biography of comedy legend Joe E. Lewis. Sinatra was in top form playing a man who was a personal friend for many years. Recommended! The next year Harriette was in The True Story of Lynn Stuart, a film noir about operatives going undercover, but with a whole new premise – the operative is a housewife, who, after her nephew died from a drug OD, decided to do something and help the police. it’s a low-budget movies and the cast is second tier, but it’s unusual, out of the ordinary and interesting.Next came The Party Crashers, a typical delinquent youth 1950s movies with Connie Stevens trying to choose between wild boy Mark Damon and nice guy Bobby Driscoll.

As Young as We Are was a rare B movie that tackled the student/teacher romance in the 1950s. While today you wouldn’t even flinch at the theme, back then it was dynamite and never shows in A budget movies. While this is a half-baked, lowly made film, make no mistake, the performances are good enough to warrant it a watching. Pippa Scott is pretty good in the female lead, and Robert Harland hits a right note as the highschool in love with his teacher.

The Buccaneer is an entertaining, fun, well made adventure movie. It’s not a classic nor is it a work of art, but it more than fulfills it’s promises. Yul Brynner is the eponymous buccaneer, and Anthony Quinn in the bad guy. Pirates, high seas, sword fights, pretty ladies, oh my!

Don’t Give Up the Ship is a typical Jerry Lewis comedy, this time on a ship and mocking naval 1d39cfee15d2cec41d1a805310b604e1beaurocracy. What can I say, if you like Jerry Lewis you’ll like this movie for sure. Since I’m not a fan (quite the opposite), I’ll just say no. The only reason I could find to watch this is the gorgeous Dina Merrill in the female lead role. Love Dina!!

Last Train from Gun Hill is a western that manages to outgrow that (IMHO) limited genre to become sa semi classic. it’s not as well-known today as some other staples of the genre like High Noon or 3:15 to Yuma, but it’s a sounding hit in almost al departments. Stalwart story (it starts like a run of the mill revenge story) that hides more depth than you think – check. Good actors – Kirk Douglas, Anthony Quinn, Carolyn Jones – check. Great cinematography – check. Suspenseful action scenes – check. Horses – check. Nothing else you need!

Harriette moved to New York and left movies behind for another career.

PRIVATE LIFE

Harriette was an interesting, colorful person with some major flaws. She was immensely charming and easily won people over. She also intrinsically understood how HOllywood worked, and knew that talent and beauty were not enough to gain fame – you needed a gimmick. Hers was being nicknamed Tiger and singing her autographs with a tiger paw next to her name. Long after her career ended, she moved to New York and decorated her apartment wholly in tiger print. She also wore tiger print silk dresses.

63627888_1460942147Harriette married  Leo M Schechtman on June 1939. Leo was born on April 20, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois, to Max and Lona Schechtman. Their daughter Stephanie Shelton was born on November 16, 1942. They divorced not long after her birth. Leo was allegedly a mean-spirited, tight-fisted man who never contributed anything to Stephanie’s well-being, even stole her the money Harriette gave her. He later remarried and had children. He died on March 4, 1990.

Harriette married for the second time to Arthur Tarler on November 3, 1951. Tarler was born on July 9, 1921, in Germany, to Siegmund Tarler and Regina Heimberg. He immigrated to the States in 1938, just before the start of WW 2. He lived with his maternal uncle in the Bronx, New York. Somehow he got to California in the mid 1940s and started a lighting fixture business. The marriage was short-lived, and here is an article about their August 1954 divorce:

Actress Harriette Tarler, 27, who now is engaged in a divorce contest with Arthur Tarler, 33, in the courtroom of Superior Judge Gordon Howden. Tarler, with Tobias G. Klin-ger as his counsel, had just withdrawn his cross-complaint charging mental cruelty, and was contesting only his wife’s claim to certain of their community assets. The husband is in the lighting fixtures business …
“I’m only beginning to see the light on this,” she told the court. Questioned by her attorneys, Henry J. Gross Jr. and Jacques Leslie, the actress said her husband stayed out nights until 4:30 or 5 in the morning. Her friend, Pauline Goddard, a fashion co-ordinator, corroborated her. She said that at a party one night someone complimented Mrs. Tarler, and “her husband immediately started belittling her.” The hearing will be resumed Monday.

So you get the drift, another messy divorce. But, that was the way divas did it back in the 1980s. Anyway, the two divorced and went on with their lives. Arthur remarried to Judith Rappapor, and had two children, Regine L, born on November 7, 1956, and Stacy J, born on January 30, 1959. Artur retired in the 1980 and went to live in Denver, Colorado, with his wife. He died there on August 23, 2009.

In 1958, Harriette left everything in Los Angeles (including Stephanie who was 16 years old) so she can move into the New York Plaza hotel suite, paid by her married boyfriend. Stephanie had to fend for herself (remembered, she was only a high schooler then) – the relationship between mother and daughter was strained (at best) after that. It seems that Harriette, for all of her immense charm and allure, was simply not a maternal woman. She was competitive, even with her own daughter, and too much of an egoist to really care about other people. Sadly, she never managed to outgrow this fatal flaw of hers, and both her daughter and her grandchildren felt it keenly.

10712698_742243325842384_7268080002787469464_nHarriette married her third husband, Roy Price Steckler on September 11, 1959, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Steckler was born on January 1, 1926, in New York, to Samuel and Stella Steckler. His father was a wealthy druggist and drug store owner – the family lived in Park Avenue and employed two servants in the 1930s. Little is known about the marriage and they divorced him in the 1960s.

Harriette became very testy about her age as time went by. She and Stephanie would travel to Las Vegas and double date as sisters (weird!!). She forbade her granddaughter to call her grandma, and her own daughter never refered to her as mom. Nobody was sure how old she really was, and she kept her true age a secret until the day she died.

Harriette found work as a telephone sex therapist in the 1980’s and 1990s. She would lie about her age, counsel her client, and demand payment via credit card. She owned a black cat called Tuthancamon, which looked like a a miniature panther, and she grew a rare breed of orchids in her apartment. She was excentric, larger than life and one of a kind, and people adored her, for all her bad sides. (much information about Harriette comes from her granddaughter Jessica Queller’s fabulous memoir! Jessica was a writer for Gossip Girl series, and she’s a true gem!)

Harriette’s health declined in the 1990s, and she spend more and more time in the hospital.

Harriette Tarler died on November 18, 2001, in New York City.

 

Lucy Knoch

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Barbara Freking

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One of the model-turn-actress crop, Barbara Frekign gave Hollywood a go for a few times, and achieved no bug success. However, she remained a highly succesful model for a long period of years and did more than well for herself!

EARLY LIFE

Barbara Freking was born on January 28, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois,to Henry Louis Freking and Dorothy Edredge.Her father was a newspaper publisher, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother was a housewife born in South Carolina. She had an older brother, Henry Louis, born on May 4, 1918 (who sadly died on May 7, 1918), and a younger brother, also named Henry Louis, born on July 21, 1922.

Henry, born in 1878, was already married once before Dorothy, to Ida Naomi Long, in 1900. They divorced sometime in the 1910s. Dorothy and Henry married in about 1915, lived in Indiana for a short while, moved to Chicago, where their first son and Barbara were born, and then moved to Michigan where the younger Henry was born. From there, they moved to Spencer, Indiana and later Atlanta, Georgia, where Barbara grew up and attended high school.

Her parents later moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but by this time Barbara had already left their home and was living and working as a model in New York. She landed in Hollywood in 1947, when she was an experienced, mature 27-year-old looking to break into movies.

CAREER

Barbara made her debut in If You Knew Susie, a entertaining,mid tier Eddie Cantor/Joan Davis comedy. While nothing outstanding, it’s a shining example of casual, nice, benevolent 1940s movies, led by some seriously talented people. Her second movie was the poor man’s Body and soul, In This Corner. We haven’t got John Garfield and Lili Palmer, but Scott Brady, a handsome but highly wooden actor, and Anabel Shaw, a nice looking but not overly talented actress. The story however is a good one, with tight noir moments and plenty of sleazy boxing underworld elements. Appointment with Murder was another entry into the Falcon movie series, and it any much better or much worse than the rest of them. The Falcon is played by notable magician John Calvert, who lived to perform at the ripe old age of 100 (interesting man!).

barbarafreking5Barbara moved up a notch with the A movie, East Side, West Side, a grim story of a shallow society man who ruins hi smarriage for a brief dalliance with an old flame. Boasting  a strong and capable cast, the movie is good enough, but not outsanding. Barbara Stanwyck, for one, is too old to play the leading female role, and James Mason, otherwise a wonderful actor, is pretty much wasted in his bland role. The supporting players have it better – Van Helfin is great, and is Ava Gardner. Next, Barbara was one of the Petty girls in The Petty Girl, a handsome but none too deep musical with Joan Caulfield (beautiful for sure, but not a good thespian), and Bob Cummings. Barbara then appeared in a string of prestige movies, not al of the same quality:

The Lemon Drop Kid is one of Bob Hope’s better movies, a brisk, witty piece of amusement, about a likable but flawed con artist who has to repay a debt. His Kind of Woman was a guilty pleasure, the type of movie you can only make when the leading man is Robert Mitchum and the leading lady is Jane Russell. Forget the story, the supporting characters or the direction – there are important but secondary – Bob and Jane are the reason to watch this. Two Tickets to Broadway is another one of those insipid, dull musicals that are ultimately likable enough to watch at least once. The Las Vegas Story is another Jane Russell movie, this time with Victor Mature instead of Bob Mitchum. And Vincent Price on the side. Barbara was then again in a Bob Hope movie – Casanova’s Big Night,. not one of his best effords but far from a total waste. Plus his leading lady is the outstanding Joan Fontaine.

Barbara’s last movie was Jet Pilot, a John Wayne vehicle. After this, Barbara went back to modeling full-time.

PRIVATE LIFE

Barbara was a seasoned New York model by the time she landed in Hollywood, and probably had more amorous experiences than most starlets (of which we sadly know nothing about!)

In early 1949, Barbara went to Costa Rica to participate in the making of a documentary about a fabulous treasure-hunt expedition, led by James Forbes, by filmmaker Paul Parry. About that time, barbara was dating Horace Schmidlapp, former husband (and official widower) of Carole Landis. As Horace was shorter than Barbara, she often had to take of her shoes when the two went dancing. By April she was back from Costa Rica, and dating Franchot Tone (boy, that man really dated almost all of the Hollywood starlets!)

barbarafreking4By May, she was seen with Ralph Dandies. Barbara then moved to Columbia joining two other b.b.s from New York, Vera Lee and Marjorie Slapp In December 1949, she was beaued by Sterling Edwards, and they were often seen at the Mocambo. Edwards was far from the only man in Barbara’s life – she also dated rich Spaniard Ricky De Vega on the side.

In early 1950, Barbara took up with Howard Lee, wealthy Texan oilman and future husband of Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney. That man sure had taste! Then in mid 1951, Barbara started to date that man who would change her life – Oleg Cassini.

What to say about Cassini? Slick as a snake, handsome in a dry, Continental way, a true connoisseur of fashion and beauty, he had his good sides – but plenty of bad sides to match them. He was women as objects that needed to be conquered, put himself first and was the supreme bon vivant egoist. Cassini was still married to Gene Tierney when they hooked up, and by January 1952, it was clear that Gene would divorce Cassini, and that Barbara could seize her chance of becoming the next Mrs. Cassini.

In march, there was this article in the papers: The Hollywood models who know.her best say that Barbara Freking will never wed dress designer Oleg Cassini, who’s been divorced by Gene Tierney. You know what? And they were right. 50 years after the fact, I do know that Barbara would never marry Cassini… But neither Barbara nor Cassini probably knew it back then. And I can only say – all the better for it. As a first danger signal – Cassini was also dating another model, June Myers, at the same time.

barbarafreking3Barbara spat back by dating producer Charles Feldman for a short time in late march/early april. She then dated a string of men – attorney Ralph Fields, Dan Dailey, theatrical producer Herman Levin, and returned to new York. obviously there was some correspondence between Cassini and Barbara, and when she came back to Los Angeles in October 1952, they were again seen together.

Everything was swell and fancy until April 1953, when things turned once again sour. Barbara was despondent, and in a fit of depression, took an overdose of sleeping pills. Only the quick thinking of her mother, who called the ambulance saved her from a grim fate – the doctors came just in time to save her. After this unfortunate incident, Barbara and Cassini reunited, both professionally and privately. A newspaper article followed:

 The Cassini charm was in full force yesterday for the opening duo of fashion shows presented by the Children’s Museum Guild In the William II. Block Company auditorium. Count Oleg was master of ceremonies, pointing out the highlights of his fall and winter collection. AH the guild members who modeled were sent out to buy waist cinehers to do .justice to his shepherdess line around the middle, and often came on the runway in pairs to show the same dress with belt or without. Asked about his stand in the hemline controversy, he said: “For the tight sheath I think a little shorter is all right. It is effective with a straiefit skirt, but full skirts I think should be longer.” Two New York models accompanied him for the show, Miss Carol Walker and Miss Barbara Freking. As Barbara was walking around the elaborate centerpiece the guild had created at the foot of the runway, Cassini asked her to tell whore she came from. Her answer vas “Spencer, Ind.” She still has friends there although her career has taken her to South Carolina and California before New York. The show will be repeated at 12:30 o’clock today.

They shuffled between California and New York and were firmly a couple, until another spat. The spat was named Grace Kelly, and it effectively ended their relationship… For then. Barbara was clearly devastated, and here you can see how Cassini operated – he just changed one beautiful woman for another. Barbara, obviously madly in love, couldn’t see the signs and always went back to him – Grace, on the other hand, was much more frugal and understood just what a cad Cassini was. She enjoyed his company for a time, then sacked him for a more suitable man. I can’t say I’m sorry for Cassini – IMHO, if you operate this way, you shouldn’t be surprised when it hits you right back in the heart.

barbarafreking2Barbara started to date mobster John Sorrenti in March 1954. Then she reunited with Ralph Fields, and casually dated Bill Eaton, famous man about town. In early 1955, Orrin Lehmann took over, and squired her all around New York. Jerry Herzfeld, the race track ace, took over by may 1955 from Orrin.

However, Cassini was never far from Barbara’s mind. They reunited yet again in early 1956. of Barbara, will you never learn! The relationnship lasted for a year-and-somethig this time. They broke up in early 1957. By June, she was dating Jerry Herzfeld again. Then Cassini cut in, AGAIN. They dated until late 1957. In January 1958, she was seen with Hugh O’Brian. By that time, Barbara and six other aspiring actresses lived in a sorority house they called “House of the Seven Garbos”.

It seems that Barbara and Cassini were business partners, and if they did date, it was half-hearted. Barbara kept Jerry Herzfeld on a short leash for a time, but he also settled for another lady in the end.

In his autobiography, actor/comedian Don Harron claims that Barbara had an affair with his second wife, actress Virginia Leith, before the two were married. If this is true, then Barbara was a bisexual, but this of course had to be kept from the tabloids of the time. Yep, it was expected of all women back then to be lilly-white and family oriented.

It seems that Barbara never married, and worked as a model for a long time. She retired to Connecticut at some point.

Barbara Freking died on August 25, 2008, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Evelyn Lovequist

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Many girls come to Hollywood via the chorus line, with no dramatic experience but with impressive physical attributes. Another variation of that theme are the girls who landed in Hollywood via the beauty pageant route. They often have no dramatic background, but are young, nimble and beautiful. Evelyn Lovequist was one of these girls, and she experienced first-hand how unfortunate and ungrateful it was to be a pageant winner who came to Hollywood hoping for a career. Nobody took you seriously and you could amount to little more than an extra. Some broke the mold, the vast majority did not. Evelyn, for all her striving, never did break the mold. She did have, however, a successful secondary and career and ended up quite the businesswoman.

EARLY LIFE

Evelyn Ellen Lovequist was born on March 30, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Martin Lovequist and Helen Mackey. Her younger sister Myrna was born on March 9, 1939, in Chicago.

Her father, who was born in Sweden and emigrated to the US in the 1920s, was a manufacturer of tools for sewing machines and dies for sewing. He owned his very own company (Lovequist Inc.) and was well off. In his youth he was a keen amateur boxer. Her mother was born in Wisconsin and was a housewife.

The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1940s. Evelyn graduated from Hollywod high school in California, and became a serious contender on the beauty pageant scene. She won hundreds of titles, and she became Miss USA in 1950, and this netted her a contract with a movie studio.

CAREER

Evelyn started her career in Two Tickets to Broadway, one of the thinner 1950s musicals. The plot: Janet Leigh, Gloria de Haven, and Ann Miller want to make it big in show-business, and decide to stage a show that they hope will be taken up by the Bob Crosby Show (brother of the better known Bing). Enter Tony Martin as the male love interest. It’s can’t compete with the cream de la crem of the genre, despite a good cast and not so bad music. Ah well!

evelyn2She switched studios and appeared in more serious fare, The Las Vegas Story. While no master piece, it’s a late film noir worth watching for some good chemistry between the leads – Jane Russell, Victor Mature and Vincent Price. Neither was a top thespian, but all three have immense charisma and charm and they rub of each other deliciously well. The story is atypical love triangle with gangster thrown in, but as I said, nobody is going to watch it for the plot. Evelyn then appeared in Aaron Slick from Punkin Crick, a insipid, totally mediocre movie about a county bumpkin who lands in the great big city and of course, falls in a jam with gangsters and swindlers. People nowadays only watch it to see Dinah Shore in one of her “most embarrassing roles”- since I’m not a great fan, no reason to see it in fact.

Evelyn’s last movie under her contract ended up being Eight Iron Men, one of the few low-key war movie with little to no action and plenty of drama. The movie shows the relations between eight GIs stuck in a small town during WW2. They are all on the edge, mentally and physically, after fighting for what seems like an eternity. It’s a mature and serious movie, and there is nothing breezy and fleezy about it. The cast is made out of actors who, with the exception of Lee Marvin, never reached upper echelons of stardom – Arthur Franz, Dickie Moore, and Richar Kiley, but they are all good in their roles and make it work.

evelyn1Evelyn took a hiatus from movie work, and returned only in 1955, with Son of Sinbad, a movie made for visual enjoyment and little more. Plot, acting, anything of depth – no sirree. But beautiful women, great costumes and other eye candy – yes please! The movie even gently spoof the sword-and-sandal genre, so ti does have at least a bit of depth (nothing much, mind you!).

Her last movie appearance was the Three Stooges short comedy skit, Hot Stuff. And that was that from Evelyn and the big screen. She did some theater work in the late 1960s, was a regular in Bob Cummings Show, appeared in a string of unknown TV series, and then retired from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Evelyn married Warren Homer Smith on September 24, 1949, when she was only 18 years old. Warren was only a few year older, born on January 27, 1928 in Los Angeles, to Warren Smith and Mildred Miller. I could not find any information about Warren, so I have no idea what he did for a living and how did the two meet. The marriage was of brief duration – the next year, Evelyn competed to become Miss America, so she was quite probably divorced by then. Warren later married Audrey Blanche James on November 12, 1955, divorced her, and married Alayne L Harmon in 1980. He slips from view from then on.

Evelyn married her second husband, James Robert McClelland, on January 4, 1953. McClelland was born in 1926 in Ohio, to William McClelland and Marion Lamond. He moved to California ta some point and started working for her father’s firm, and that’s how they met. They settled in Los Angeles. Their son, James Martin McClelland, was born on November 7, 1954.

evelyn4Evelyn was very dismissed of her career as a beauty queen later, when she became an actress. She claimed that nobody took beauty queens seriously, nobody even expected them to be anything but pretty faces. Her acting career was not helped but rather hampered by this. She liked the publicity a beauty queen got, but it lasted only a brief time and never amounted to much more. She claimed she would have done it differently is she could do it al over again, and go to drama school and the stage first, and then

Here is a short article about Evelyn from 1956:

Ever wonder what happens to the hopeful beauty after she becomes Miss America or loses to Miss Universe and packs her bathing suit and goes home? Well, everybody thinks they marry millionaire playboys and live happily ever after but some of them don’t, since it’s the fashion today to have brains as well as beauty. They’re doing things that require brains as well as beauty. Like Evelyn Lovequist. She was named Miss America in 1950 and she cashed in on her title to some extent by doing professional modeling and some acting. In Exclusive Club She’s a member of another exclusive club, the Bob Cummings Girls’ Club, which is a unique organization composed of beauties “second to none,” says Bob, who have appeared on his show. But acting and modeling are only a sideline with Evelyn. She has a profession that has nothing to do with show business and one that will last long after her professional beauty days are over. She’s a sales engineer. Of course, she got the job the easy way. She works for her dad. But that doesn’t stop her from being a real good sales engineer. She knows such uninteresting and unexciting things as schematic diagrams, cost indexes and variable condensers. She goes on the road representing Lovequist Engineering Co. of Van Nuys and she brings home the MISS AMERICA trophy for 1950 decorates modern desk of Evelyn Lovequist, singer, dancer, actress, model and tales engineer, and she accomplished it all with figures. wid world potato bacon, which in this case is the order that keeps the firm’s wheels turning. In Seattle recently, Evelyn had an appointment with the office manager of a local firm who got the surprise of his life when the expected “contact man” walked into his office complete with brief case and a breath-taking red knit outfit that didn’t do its wearer a bit of harm with her impressionable customer. In fact, it may have had some- in today’s busy world?

Orders invited on pettyskirt thing to do with her landing the desired contract. Evelyn is no girl to hide her natural talents under a bushel. When she goes on the road, she carries enough wardrobe changes and applies her make-up -as deftly as though she was about to walk on stage. Easy and Attractive “There’s just no use kidding ourselves,” she says. “Men are men, thank goodness, and there’s no use pretending that they aren’t impressionable. I always feel that it’s a good idea to make their work as easy and attractive as possible, and I choose my wardrobe with an eye to that end.” In addition to her professional and business life, Evelyn is a successful wife and mother. She’s married to James McClelland, who’s sales manager at the Lovequist plant, and the McClellands have a 2-year-old son James Jr. Jim and Evelyn are considering buying their own plane to expedite their coverage of business conferences and conventions in all parts of the country and Evelyn is taking flying lessons and will get her pilot’s license soon. We tried to figure out just how and why a professional beauty should be such a success in business and we think we have it. Figures! Whether they’re mathematical or physical, figures are the answer. Slide rule or bathing suit, it’s figures that bring success to a beauty who also has brains and who has time for the other kind.

Evelyn also always stressed out the importance to good posture and a ladylike carriage. In a Lydia Lane article from 1957, she claimed that it was her posture that won her the title of Miss USA – there were more beautiful women than her on the pageant, but she always stood straight as a pole and won her due.

Evelyn and James divorced sometime before 1960. Evelyn married her last husband, David J Levinson, on December 30, 1961. Levinson was born in 1916, making him a bit older than Evelyn. Little is known of the marriage. They divorced in 1977.

Evelyn Lovequist Levinson died on May 31, 1996 in Los Angeles, California.

Virginia Maples

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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