Wanda Barbour

Wanda Barbour was a blonde and pretty go-getter who left her hometown at age 13 to make it in Hollywood. Make it she did not, but she found her own life in California and she was a professional dancer for almost a decade, which, all considering, is a small achievement in itself. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Wanda Louise “Lou” Barbour was born in 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to John V. Barbour and Catherine Newland. Her father was a well-of sales executive. Her older brother, John Jr, was born in 1925. Her maternal uncle, Indiana-born Newland Ellsworth, lived with the family when Wanda was born.

Sadly, Wanda’s father John died on February 16, 1934. He was suffering from a typhoid fever that brought on pneumonia that ultimately killed him. I don’t know what happened to Wanda’s mom,  Catherine, but, by 1940, Wanda was living with her paternal grandmother, Orpha Barbour, and her aunt, Marguerite (her dad’s sister), in Cincinnati. Also a good question was what happened to her brother, but sadly, no information is forthcoming.

Wanda was a pretty child that displayed signs of an intense dancing talent from her early years. By the time she was in elementary school, it was pretty clear that she would one day depart for Hollywood or New York to achieve the dream of becoming a professional dancer. In 1943, only 13 years old, she was sent to Hollywood to work on her dancing skills, and attended the Schicl School there. Pretty soon, she was named “Miss Hollywood of 1944” by the Screen Children’s Guild. Wanda continued learning and dancing and pretty soon was supporting herself, without any help from her grandma or aunt.

By 1946, Wanda became an Earl Carroll girl, and this exalting position catapulted her to movies.

CAREER

Wanda appeared in only three movies and a few TV series. Her first movie was The Bounty Hunter, a low-budget western. Randolph Scott, an actor sadly too early typecast in westerns, plays the rare breed that can easily combine charm and affability with a steely resolve and a frightening ability to kill. He’s the best thing in the film, although it’s a solid affair out and throughout. The director, Andre de Toth, does an okay job, and everything else is well-enough made for a low-budget movie (cinematography, music, sets…).

That same year, Wanda appeared in Young at Heart, a movie about the lives and romances of three sisters in a musical family, played by Doris Day, Elisabeth Fraser and Dorothy Malone. if you like fluffy, cute and easy on the eyes and easy for the brain, now this is your cup of tea! The gorgeous Technicolor is brimming with strong, saturated colors, Doris Day is her usual charming self, and the male lead is Mr. Frank Sinatra himself. With a cast that strong, you can’t go wrong unless you really go wrong, and they didn’t. The problem is that it’s a thin movie overall, with no great depth, but for some fun and games, it is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wanda’s last movie, made in 1955, was Women’s Prison. Unlike many of the lurid, over the top, convoluted campy 1950s movies, this one is a serious endeavor that mostly get to achieve what it wants – to show the everyday life in women’s prisons in a somewhat realistic manner. No, it’s not quite as realistic as it should be, but this is Hollywood in the decade it was least realistic and most illusionary (just look at all the Technicolor musicals). The cast is wonderful – Ida Lupino, Audrey Totter, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Howard Duff – great!

That was it from Wanda!

PRIVATE LIFE

Wanda continued to dance during her whole brief Hollywood career. She was featured in what were mostly a decorative, thankless jobs, but they paid the bills, and here is a shining example of that kind of life.:

Showmen Joseph and Frank Zucca, sued by Ken Murray in effort to keep them from calling their Culver City show “Blackouts of 1950′ went to court yesterday and took along these girls from left, Bebe Allan, Marybeth Haughton, Lou Ann Louis, top row; Lorri Collins, Ruth Rowland, top, and Wanda Barbour.

And this:

These California beauties have been selected by the LA. Press Club as hostesses for visiting Florida girls due here Wednesday. Shown at Ambassador pool they are, from bottom level: Billie Nelson, Beverly Jones, Shirley Cotterill, Totty Ames, Gloria Maxwell, Marilyn Lamb, Lillian Farmer and Wanda Barbour.

No high art in this, but I guess it could be fun sometimes. Wanda, only 18 years old, married her first husband, Thomas McDougall, on August 21, 1948, in Los Angeles. Thomas Edward McDougall was born on March 20, 1927, in Lansing, Michigan, to William McDougall and Rose Lake. His older sister Billie was born in 1923. The family first moved to Long Beach, and then back to Lansing, Michigan by 1940. After graduating from high school, Thomas returned to California. When he married Wanda, he was working as a gas-and-oil salesman.

The marriage hits the skids pretty soon, and they were divorced in the early 1950s. Wanda got into movies afterwards using her maiden name, so let’s assume she didn’t brag about her early marriage and rarely mentioned it to anyone.

Literary nothing was written about Wanda’s love life. What we know is that, by the mid 1950s, Wanda was dating a real catch by Hollywood standards – handsome Southern gent, Hoyt Bowers, the head of the casting department for Warner Bros. The couple married in the New Frontier Chapel at Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1957.

Hoyt Stephen Bowers was born on September 7, 1911, in Georgia, to Peck and Verbenia Bowers. His father was a bookkeeper. Hoyt had a younger brother, Bates, born in 1914. The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Hoyt started to work as an insurance clerk after high school, and married Patricia Nunn in 1930. Their daughter Sherry Ann was born on February 7, 1932. Their daughter Nancy Jean was born on December 1, 1937. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, both husband and wife drifted towards the lucrative movie industry. Hoyt became a casting agent, and Patricia a movie extra.

Here is a short blurb about Patricia:

Hollywood’s youngest grandmother, Patricia Bower, sits beside Actress Piper Laurie. Sirs. Bowers, currently acting as stand-in for Miss Piper, is married to Hoyt Bowers, casting executive. She is 37 years old and has two daughters, one of whom is mother of a two-year-old girl.

Whoa, I had to do the math and it’s not particularly impressive – I Patricia gave birth when she was 18, the same for Sherry. I just hope the granddaughter didn’t follow the family line and took a bit more time to get married and have children (if indeed she ever decided on such a course). Sadly, the couple divorced before 1954.

Wanda and Hoyt had a son, John Hoyt Bowers, born in 1960. Wanda gave up her career and immersed herself into motherhood and domestic affairs. The Bowers often visited Abilene, where some of Hoyt’s extended family lived.

After more than a decade of marriage, Hoyt and Wanda divorced in the early 1970s. Wanda married her third husband, Victor Bennett, on April 10, 1975 in San Bernardino, California. Victor Bennett was born in 1916 in Nebraska, and moved to Los Angeles when he was a youth. There he married Ruth Schwerdtfeger, had two sons, Charles Nicholas, born on October 4, 1938, and Vance Chadwick, born on March 9, 1942, and worked as a meat cutter. He and Ruth divorced at some point.

Wanda and Victor settled in San Bernardino, and started to trade in antique furniture. They were a well-adjusted, happy couple, and it seems that Wanda had finally found a husband worth keeping. However, this story does not have a happy ending.

Tragically, Wanda and her husband were murdered on November 14, 19179, in their home in San Bernardino, during a robbery attempt. She was only 49 years old – her husband 63. To add to this horror, her son John was arrested almost immediately after the bodies were found, as an obvious prime suspect. Of course he was innocent, but the stress and the pain had been inflicted. Here is an article about the slayings:

San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies today are questioning an 18-year-old Twentynine Palms man in connection with the slaying of his mother and stepfather. John Hoyt Bowers was arrested Wednesday night, just hours after the body of his mother, Wanda Bennett, 49, was found underneath trash at the Landers dump. Her husband, Victor, 63, was found shot to death at his home here, deputies said. Both were shot in the head. So far, deputies do not have a motive or a weapon in the slaying.

Two men wanted in California to face double murder charges were arrested early Friday, state police said. Officers said Richard W. Garrison, 38, of Hulberton, Orleans County, .was picked up in the Town of Murray, Orleans County, and Gary M. Roelle, 30, of Rochester, was taken into custody in the Town of Sweden, Monroe County . The pair, according to state police, are wanted by the San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriffs office in the robbery slayings of Victor and Wanda Bennett with a shotgun in Yucca Valley Nov. 14. “Numerous items of stolen jewelry and firearms were brought to New York state by the subjects and were seized at the time of the arrest,” according to a state police statement. “It’s believed they had been in the upstate New York area since Nov. 27.” State police said the two were being held as fugitives from justice. Garrison was being held in the Orleans County Jail and Roelle in the Monroe County Jail.

The police are looking for the motive for the killings. The Bennetts’ car was also taken, but was later recovered near Old Woman Springs Road, investigators said. The Bennetts bought and sold antiques and may have been contacted by one of the suspects who wanted to sell an old desk, Knadler said. It may have been through that contact that the suspects learned about jewelry and other items the Bennetts owned, he said. ” Documents filed in a Barstow ‘ court in support of murder warrants issued for the two men stated that after the murder Garrison was seen in possession of jewelry with Wanda Bennett’s name engraved on it. Several persons told investigators they had seen Garrison with a bag containing many items ,mostly jewelry, including a silver and turquoise squash-blossom necklace, other pieces of turquoise jewelry, an ID bracelet, a charm bracelet and numerous rings, the documents said. The bag also contained numerous American and foreign coins, investigators were told.

What a sad, sad end to a woman who had so much vitality and zest for life.

But, as always, let’s hope she had a happy life!

 

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Rosemary Colligan

Rosemary Colligan was a beautiful model that came to Hollywood to trade on her looks. She did just three uncredited appearances in movies, but managed to snag quite a prize – the great George Raft himself. However, it was anything but a bed of roses! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosemary Colligan was born in 1925 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Colligan and Helen Roach. She was the youngest of three daughters – her elder siblings were Celestine, born in 1919, and Mildred, born in 1923. Her father worked as areal estate salesman. The Colligans were a typical tight-knit Irish family, and Rosemary remained extremely devoted to them her whole life.

The family lived in Dunmore in the beginning, and then moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where Rosemary was educated. After graduating from high school, Rosemary decided to become a model, and moved to Philadelphia, where she enjoyed her first professional success.

By 1948, Rosemary moved to New York, and became an even more successful model there. She became a Camel Cigarette girl, was considered Miss America of 1949, and was signed with the prestige John Robert Powers agency. By 1951 Rosemary had decided, like many models of her stature, to try her hand at acting. This is how she was seen by a movie scout who directed her towards Hollywood, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Very slim pickings here – Rosemary appeared in only three movies, none was a classic and she was not credited even once. The first one is the completely forgotten Run for the Hills, a typical Cold War paranoia movie turned into a hilarious comedy. NOT! While it is a typical Cold War paranoia movie, it’s also a cheap, Z class production, with the always wooden Sonny Tufts playing the lead, an Average Joe insurance man who moves to a cave to avoid the potential nuclear warfare. Yep, you heard it right, he dives right into a cave! The simmering sexpot (but sadly a limited actress) Barbara Payton plays his wife. it’s a completely forgotten movie, but boy, just look at the cast, look at the story and the money involved, and I can make a educated guess about where that was going. Rosemary plays a Cave girl, reminding me of Carole Landis in all her prehistoric glory (with beefy Victor Mature next to her).

That same year, Rosemary appeared in The French Line, a no-plot, plenty of scantly clad girls, singing and dancing type of a movie, and heck, it’s not even directed by Busby Berkeley! As I said, the non existing story is as it goes: When her fiancé leaves her, an oil heiress takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Well, if you forget for a moment how silly it is, we still have the luscious Jane Russell in the lead, and the sexy senor Gilbert Roland as her love interest. Not a bad cast, I must say!

Rosemary’s last movie was Son of Sinbad, a movie you can either hate of enjoy for the sheer campiness and so bad it’s good quality. Even the short blurb from IMDB shows us just how good-in-a-bad-way the movie is – Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. Ha ha ha ha, you got that right! Dale Robertson plays Sinbad, and Sally Forrest is his dream princess, but there are more than 50 other girls to ogle at, and Rosemary is just one of them. A big, big plus for this movie is Lili St. Cyr, in one of her rare film appearances (love that woman!).

And that was it from Rosemary!

PRIVATE LIFE

I have to say that after reading a bit about her, I like Rosemary. In a world where man was king, she used them and just moved on to the better thing when she found it convenient. While this is not model behavior and I certainty don’t condone it in everyday life, when you look at the type of a men Rosemary dated, you’ll see what I mean. These were no ordinary, normal working class men who would get hurt big time if something like that happened – these were world class cads who used girls and women quite a bit (some more, some less). Somehow, getting the Rosemary treatment for them was almost like getting the boomerang right back at their heads. Anyway, read and assess for yourself.

Here are some quotes by Rosemary from the papers:

The stage door Johnny ‘”ain’t what he used to be,” Rosemary Colligan laments. “He used to be the theater alley Romeo with top hats and tails who waited outside,” the TV actress said. “Now he dresses in sport shirts and pounds at the dressing room doors”

About her hair:

For myself I prefer long hair because as a model I find that I am requested to wear my hair many different ways, and without long hair this couldn’t be done.

In 1951, Rosemary dated Matty Fox, a wealthy film and TV tycoon, but while he was crazy about her, she just liked him, and ditched him when a more interesting guy came along. And that guy was… Mike Todd!

What can I say about Todd? Born in 1909, he was a master illusionist, a devil may care, half crazy bon vivant who survived by sheer charm and a good dose of luck. he was married twice before, and his second wife was Joan Blondell, who was left bankrupt after his producing expeditions. He just ditched dames when a more interesting one came along, and he broke plenty of hearts.

Anyway, Rosemary and Todd used to ride about New York in his Cadillac, and it was clear that Mikey was all ga-ga about Rosie. But then, a movie scout saw Rosie, like what he saw and asked her to Hollywood, just left Mikey without a second glance. Mikey was crushed, but refused to admit defeat – he came after Rosie to Hollywood just a few short weeks after she departed. He came bearing gits – and what gifts those were – diamonds and diamonds! Mike was determined to keep Rosie, and it seemed that she truly was enchanted by him – they spend a wonderful few weeks in Los Angeles, and when he had to return to New York, Rosie was quite unhappy at the airport.

But alas, life goes on! In September 1952, just days after Mikey left leaving behind breathless notes and promises to see Rosie again, she met THE man, the man who changed the game for her – that old fox, George Raft.

In a space of few days, Todd was out and Raft was in, big time! And Raft literary fell like a ton of steel for Rosie. Raft was no stranger for beautiful women – he dated them by the loads, but he was rarely in love, and few of the women he loved were Virginia Pine and Betty Grable. Very inspired company, no doubt! He was also a connoisseur of local Los Angeles hookers, and employed their services for decades. He usually had at least two women a day – sometimes even more.

by the end of the year, Rosemary took George Raft home to meet the family, George charmed both ma and pa, and everything was tipped for marriage. Then, Raft had to depart US for Italy for a film assignment. He tried to persuade Rosemary to go with him, but she was unwilling to be separated from her family for such a long time, so she declined. George was so smitten that when he flew from Los Angeles to New York en route to Italy, he still (in vain) begged Rosemary via phone calls and cables to join him. As the papers wryly put it, Dapper Georgie hasn’t had it this bad in years!

While George was in Rome, Rosemary took siege in his palatial Coldwater Canyon home that once belonged to his swain, Virginia Pine), and moved her family there – mom, dad and sister. George gave them his blessings, and often called Rosemary long distance to profess his love and devotion. he planted item sin the local papers in this vein:

GEORGE RAFT is determined to marry showgirl Rosemary Colligan. And, when he returns from Rome, he’ll make his first serious try for divorce

The papers claimed that he wants to marry Rosemary at this point, but after trying at least twice during the twenty or more years he and his wife have been separated, everybody could bet he’d have a small chance of getting his freedom. He offered his estranged mate a fantastic, lifetime “deal” when he wanted Betty Grable for his Mrs. and again when he wanted to marry Virginia Pine, but she refused him both times.

This is what George wanted us to think. The truth is probably somewhere the middle – IMHO he was too cheap and chickened out whenever the deal was about to close. He really burned for the girl – be it Betty Grable or Virginia or Rosemary, but could never quite get himself to do it. He always put himself fin the first place, and that meant his money too. I refuse to believe that in Hollywood, where you can get divorced in a zillion different ways, he couldn’t persuade his wife to divorce him. Even after humiliating her time and time again by bedding literary hundreds of starlets and hookers.

Anyway, even after George returned home from Rom the Colligans showed no willingness to evacuate. George balked, but with Rosemary’s charms and Raft’s wise lawyer (who advised him not to cause any legal rumpus because of the publicity that would result in bad publicity) workings in unison, George shrugged his shoulders and decided to camp out. So, George shelled out $3,000 for his new upkeep, living in an apartment in Joan Crawford’s apartment house. George caught a heavy cold on the plane trip from Italy, and he was looked after by Rosie and her mother, so he spent a chunk of his time in the house anyway.

It was clear as day to all in Hollywood that Raft was head over heels for Rosemary. He even got her a spot at his nightly dancing show, in order to keep her close to him. He was on good terms with her family, and they spent quality time together. Rosie and Georgie were constantly seen everywhere, often dancing at clubs. It is disputable if George really curbed his well known 2-women-a-day routine, but for Rosemary’s sake let’s hope he did.

However, time went by, and no divorce was coming. Like so many women before her, Rosemary got fed up with all the waiting, and trouble began to loom on the horizon.

By October 1953, Mrs. Colligan became seriously ill, and George sent her and Rosemary to Memphis, to see a famed specialist. Rosemary’s father and sister continued to live in his Beverly Hills home. The specialist only confirmed that Rosemary’s mother was very ill and advised a change of climate. So Rosemary and her entire family went to live in Florida. George could finally give up his apartment and move back into his home, but it was a bittersweet pleasure. It was a difficult time in their relationship, as it was unclear if they were saying a permanent goodbye, or was it just temporal. When newspaper people asked Rosemary about it, she said: “It’s hard to tell. I feel that my first duty now is to be with my mother. I can always come back later.”

And indeed, in the beginning, Raft and Rosemary had a semi-successful long distance relationship, he in California, she in Florida. But, literary a few short weeks later, things started to fall apart. As there was a very slim chance that George would ever wed her, Rosie just decided to play the field like a single lady while she was on the other side of the county. Pretty soon, there were reports that she was discovered by wealthy Irving Geist. Raft panicked, but Rosie wouldn’t budge. Their relationship became icier by the second.

George was livid and unhappy with the state of the union, but could hardly do anything. Then, it all escalated with a very last phone call between them, on Christmas Eve 1953, when Rosemary called him from Florida to say that she doesn’t love him any more. And that was just that.

Same as with Betty Grable and Virginia Pine, George prolonged getting a divorce, and when the lady inevitably left him, he was shattered, like really, properly shattered. His friends were literary amazed at the torch George was carrying for Rosemary. Just a few months ago they thought he was trying to get rid of her and her family – obviously George tried to make himself a cool cat who couldn’t wait to nicely ditch the gauche Colligans and Rosemary, when the truth was quite different.

Here are some short articles that show just how devastated George was (and he WAS!):

THE MOST DEPRESSED and blue guy in our town over the holidays was George Raft. Not a wire, not a card, nary a greeting of any kind from Rosemary Colligan, her mother, father or sister who were George’s guests for over a year, living in the luxury of his home while he occupied a small apartment. “Is he carrying a torch for Rosemary?” I asked one of his pals who is frankly worried about Raft. “Maybe not exactly a torch,” his friend explained, “but he’s deeply hurt to think that these people, for whom he did so much even to paying for father Colligan’s major operation, didn’t even have a greeting for him at the holidays. There’s been no word from them since they moved to Miami, after George paid for their departure.

To add insult to injury, George had a minor car crash in January 1954:

George Raft’s auto crash injuries — five torn ligaments in his right arm — are healing a lot faster than his heart injuries-from the breakup of his romance with Rosemary Colligan. The numbness in the arm is disappearing but the hurt of Rosemary’s departure for Florida last November still throbs. In fact, George is carrying a terrific torch. “I had such faith in that girl,” he tells me, “and I thought I had done a lot for her and her family.”

It seems that for George, who only had a proper family unit when he was with Virginia Pine and helped raise her daughter Joanie, perceived Colligans as his family, and it hit him extra hard when they fell apart. So, his relationship with Rosemary wasn’t just a man-loves-woman – for him, it was a chance to, through a beloved female figure, finally have a family that had eluded him, by his own choice, for several long decades. Yes, it hurt extra hard, but since he (more or less) refused to wed a nice girl from a proper Irish family, what could he expect?

George took his time to recuperate, and reacted quite angrily when anybody mentioned Rosemary. When he was leaving for Puerto Rico and that deal Fred MacMurray to run 3 gambling casino, he was asked if he would stop in Florida to see Rosemary. Enraged, he said, “No. When she told me she didn’t love me, that was that!”

Indeed, it seems that George and Rosemary cut all contact after that, and never spoke again. I could be wrong, but Rosemary is not even a footnote in most books on George’s life – worse still, she’s not even mentioned, like she never happened! This is a pretty big omission, as Rosie was truly and earnestly George’s great love. Less glamorous than Virginia Pine, less famous that Betty Grable, she is unjustly never mentioned and this is why there is so little information about her.

Rosemary married wealthy William F. Sullivan in 1954 in Miami, Floria. Unfortunately, I could not find any other information about her afterwards, or is she indeed alive today.
As always I hope she had a happy life.

Lois Chartrand


Most of the starlets that came to Hollywood in 1940s and 1950s gave up their career to get married. Only a few of them gave up their career to get married to a clergyman. This is what happened to Losi Chartrand – and not a better woman could be found for this unique position in life, as Lois was a very religious young woman even before she met her husband. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Lois Noreen Chartrand was born on March 13, 1930, in San Jose, California, to Browning Chartrand and Norah Houston. Her younger brother, Robert Browning, was born on April 27, 1936. Her father, born in Missouri, was a highly esteemed dentist who worked at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry. The family lived with Lois’ maternal grandfather, Samuel Houston, in San Jose.

Lois grew up as a beautiful girl from a well off San Jose family. Unfortunately I could not find any information about her education, but I guess he was educated locally, in California. Lois started to attend Occidental College in 1947.  As one of the the prettiest and most popular students, she was often seen on various happenings around the campus, like the College Alumni Ball in 1948. Due to her beauty, she was named The girl with the prettiest lips by her fellow students.

In 1949, a talent scout discovered her in college (scouts often scouted local theaters in colleges of that period, although most of the actresses I profile here didn’t go to college, so most starlets didn’t come to Hollywood via that route.). After some tests she was signed to a seven-year contract for a weekly salary of $750 by the final week. And her career started!

CAREER

Lois appeared in only four movies. The first one was the abysmal Riding High, a remake of a Warner Baxter movie from 1938. It’s a typical feel good 1950s movie, with no big depth, a simple plot (a jockey trying to get his big break with a beloved horse) and no great acting performances – but it works somehow. Bing is his usual self, and Coleen Gray, despite not being a top notch actress, is pretty and can act well enough.

However, better and bigger things awaited Lois. She was cats in a substantial role in The Great Missouri Raid, a solid, middle of the road western about the James and Younger brothers and their adventures in the Wild west. Lois played a girl who was beaued by one of the James brothers – however, she was not featured in a starring tole – the female lead was, alas, played by Ellen Drew.

That same year Lois appeared in her bets known movie – A Place in the Sun. If anybody knows about Lois as an actress today, it’s this movie. Despite the fact that her role is not that big, it’s still flashy enough to warrant somebody to actually remember her. She plays a high society lady, and carried the role well enough. As for the movie, what is there to say? The story of one man’s greedy striving to wards the stars, no matter the obstacles and a unhealthy devil-take-them attitude is told with supreme delicacy and yet enough roughness to show that it’s not all martinis and canapes. Of course, the movie belongs to the stunningly good Liz Taylor, Monty Clift and Shelley Winters. No, this truly is a old Hollywood classic, a gem that shows you just how good movie could be, with a great script, very capable director and the well oiled studio machine in the background.

Lois had already retired from movies when her last movie, Something to Live For, hit the theaters. As I am a Joan Fontaine fan, there is no way I’m going to malign any movie she’s in, since IMHO she never made a truly unbearable movie. She had better ones, she had the little less good ones 🙂 This one is squarely yin the middle. The story is actually contemporary even today -Joan plays an actress who becomes an alcoholic and falls for the Alcoholic anonymous member, played by Ray Milland, who wants to help her. And he’s married! Sadly, Hollywood takes such a delicate script and turns it into a over the top melodrama, as it usually does, as it’s often unable to realistically portray emotion and relationships between people (it’s easier to overact, and as such, it’s easier to make a movie that’s overly emotional).  While not the worst movie even made, the script is lagging and never manages to make full use of the very capable stars it has – they make what they can from it.

And that’s it from Lois!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Lois first hit Hollywood, the papers wrote just one think about her for months – that she was a direct descent of famous poet Robert Browning. Since I love Browning and find his romance with Elizabeth Barrett one of the most heartwarming romances of all time, I decided to snoop a bit, and it seem this could be quite false – Browning only had one son with Barrett, and son never had any children (at least not legitimate). So this is either typical newspaper fodder or there was an illegitimate offspring who was, in turn, Lois’ direct ancestor.

The papers reported that Lois was so good looking she had been picked by Mack Sennett as his candidate for “Miss America of 1950” since Atlantic City pageant management announced they would skip a year in dating beauty winners. So, our Lois was named Miss America by a man who had seen it all 🙂

On the flip side to Hollywood and all the glitz and glamour, Lois was a very pious young woman whose religious daily life was very important. In 1950, she joined fellow Hollywoodites Colleen Townsend, Jane Russell and Hugh O’Brien when they traveled to Modesto to speak on how religion was the guiding influence in their daily lives. Colleen was quoted as saying on the gathering, “It isn’t hard discovering worthwhile things to do. While you’re helping others you’re also helping yourself.”

Almost nobody knew, but Lois was torn apart for the whole duration of her brief movie career. Why? Well, It was the matter of a movie career that might have stood in the way of Lois and her beloved, the handsome ex-Navy officer, Clarence Mason Harvey. He was her speech teacher at Occidental College, and they hit it off right away. After a year of concealed courtship young Harvey decided to enter the ministry and became a student at Princeton. Lois signed a contract with Paramount. It was very much unsure if the two would wed. But there must have been something that had cast a spell over the young couple. A year after her first movie Lois decided to quit her movie career and become wife of a student minister.

Yes, Lois gave up her career and her livelihood for a man who also had no job as he was a student. Okay, I understand that you want to get married young, before you finish college – but to expect your wife to give up her career when you have income is just plain weird. Couldn’t Lois have waited a bit before he finished school to quit her movie career? Ah, what can I say, it must have been love!

Anyway, the couple wed on September 5, 1951, and Lois said to the papers that she will accompany her husband to Princeton university where he has a teaching fellowship and “keep house” for them when he returns to school in the fall. Clarence had to go back to speech teaching to pay expenses of supporting a wife while he finished school.

Clarence Mason Harvey was born in China, in 1921, to missionary parents. His parents returned to the US, where he was educated at Occidental College. Harvey served In the U. S. Navy as a commander of a P. T. boat during World War II.

Harvey graduated from Princeton in 1952, and that same year the family moved to Denver, Colorado where Harvey became Minister to Youth at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church. He became a nationally-known youth worker, and received national publicity when Marilyn Van Derbur, “Miss America” of 1957 was credited him with being the one who started her on the way to her title. She was a member of his youth group.

Lois may have been retired from Hollywood, but in 1952 she was a leading lady in the Christian motion picture film “Decision”. The story of the picture is taken from real life experiences of young people who came to discover a reality in life at Forest Home mountain retreat and made the decision to dedicate themselves to religion. The movie’s main tag line was Lois herself – how she was a  former Hollywood Screen Star who has renounced her career to serve Christ.

Hmmmm… Now, this open for debate. Did Los really ditch a promising career for marriage and religious dedication? Yes, she did have s small role in a big movie, and maybe, with time and effort, she could have achieved a a lot more, the odds were against her here. IMHO, I just don’t see it. Firstly, she wasn’t Hollywood pretty, but rather went for the natural look that Ingrid Bergman favored, but that was a look that went out of vogue with the 1950s – it was time for sophisticates like Audrey Hepburn and blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe to shine. Secondly, while her acting chops are opened for debate, she obviously didn’t impress anyone enough to get a leading role – and as she wasn’t a pro actress, nor had any real acting experience, it’s very doubtful she was a top notch thespian. On the other hand, she did seem radiant. Ah, it is impossible to tell, and pointless of course to even try to further analyse, but the point is, Lois indeed did cut a nascent career for marriage and that was that.

The Harveys lived in Denver and had five children: StevenJeffMegan, Janice N, born on June 6, 1960, and Peter E., born on August 25, 1963. They lived a Christian family life in Colorado.

Lois Noreen Harvey died on December 26, 1978 in Marin County, California. Clarence remarried to Karen Harvey, and continued living in Colorado.

Clarence Harvey died on April 27, 2002 in Denver, Colorado.

Carmen Clifford

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valmere Barman

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Valmere!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joy Windsor

Beautiful chorus girl who did some not-too-bad uncredited work – we heard this story before. Yet, Joy Windsor is a more tragic example than most – she was forced to end her career due to illness. However, she reinvented herself as a nightclub singer and then got married and ended her career o raise a family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Emily Smith was born on February 4, 1931, in Columbia, Missouri, to William E. Smith and Emily Richards Smith. Her younger brother William E. Jr was born on March 24, 1933.

The family lived on Rolling Acres, a Hereford cattle ranch. Emily learned to ride almost before she learned to walk, ,much like her brother Will (the two remained close their whole lives). After losing everything to the dust bowl, the family moved to California in the late 1930s. Emily attended high school in Los Angeles, and somehow began dancing while in her teens. IMDB lists her first credited in 1931, the year she was born, but that is not correct – there was another Joy Windsor who was born in the late 1900s, who made her debut in 1931. Joy didn’t act as a child, but later, in the early 1950s. Anway, just fresh out of high school, she became a member of the Ken Murray chorus, and got her first newspaper mention when the show Ken mounted in Los Angeles moved East to New York:

Back into town today came the most unloved girls in New York. By the critics. And pop-eyed Union Station, attendants and red caps stared at the long-legged beauties and borrowed Ken Murray’s famous phrase “What’s wrong with that?” The girls were from the cast of “Blackouts,” Murray’s variety show that ran for seven years in Hollywood and flopped after only six weeks, on Broadway, “The critics killed us,” said Pat Williams, 18, one of the attractions of the show. “Audiences were wonderful, just like they were in Hollywood, but the critics panned us. And we closed.” Pat, who is from Tacoma, Wash., was followed off the Santa Fe’s Grand Canyon Limited by the tall, stunning blond twins, Joan and Jean Corbett, also 18. Redheaded Joy Windsor, 19, was a step behind. The three are Burbank lasses and their families were there to meet them. Joan (or Jean, they are exact twins) commented wistfully, “Maybe the critics just don’t like California products.” A train brakeman whistled and murmured, “I’m seeing double but what’s wrong with that?” Murray and his wife stayed behind in New York and will arrive here on the Chief tomorrow.

Joy continued working in Los Angeles, dancing in other shows. Probably in part due to her chorus experience, Joy was signed to a contract with a studio and started her acting career.

CAREER

Joy started her career in Sands of Iwo Jima, a well-made war movie. She then appeared in Women from Headquarters, a movie completely forgotten, but with an interesting plot and with a woman in the lead (played by Virginia Huston, whom I profiled on this blog before). Unfortunately, it’s a B effort that never raised any dust, and such movies with a feisty female lead remained a rarity for years to come (and even today still are).

After a Fun on the Run short, Joy had an uncredited role in His Kind of Woman a pretty good film noir with a fine pairing of Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. While I always tought of Russell as a not that talented sexpot, she was actually an okay actress who more than did her share in movies such as this. Joy’s next feature, Sunny Side of the Street was an idiotic musical (plot: a singer wants to get famous) with no real reasons to watch it. While it is to some degree happy-go-lucky, it still lags behind much better upbeat musicals. Terry Moore and Audrey Long are perhaps the only lights spots in the production. Joy fared no better in her next movie, The Family Secret – this one is pure low-class soap opera (courtroom style) with not enough quality drama and too much pathetic drama, and no good actors (case in point – John Derek – not that bad-looking but a trunk of wood as far as acting goes). Joy was then in another short, Hula-La-La, before doing two totally typical 1950s movies – Ten Tall Men, a typical adventure with Burt Lancaster as a French Foreign Legion soldier, and The First Time, a Robert Cummings as a first time dad comedy of manners. Both movies are well made, great to look at and amusing to some degree, but on the other hand they offer nothing truly exceptional nor do they soar above the middle of the barrel status. Another similar movie was Sound Off, a Mickey Rooney vehicle – a military musical where he plays a nightclub entertainer who is drafted and so on… It’s nice to watch and not too bad, but nothing to shout about. Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder  was a sweet and light musical with Frankie Laine.

Due to some medical problems, Joy had to give up her career after this movie (read more in the private life section). She returned to the screen one more time in 1956, with Come on Seven, another short comedy, and then retired for good.      

PRIVATE LIFE

Joy’s first Hollywood beau was David May. The press termed him a boy who ‘who plays around with department stores’, and who ‘thinks Joy Windsor is more fun’. Unfortunately nothing came of the liaison, and May married Ann Rutherford later. Hollywood stalwart Dave Siegel and Joy became pretty good friends not long after she entered the chorus world, and despite not being romantically involved, they were often seen around town, enjoying late suppers and dancing. He would remain her reliable and sturdy “go-to” guy for going out when more interesting beaus were nowhere to be seen.

In the early 1950s, Joy did quite a bit of work for the US military effort. She traveled with a plethora of entertainers to Korea and to the Caribbean, and was often seen in the newspapers.

For a time in 1952, Joy dated Buddy Rudolf, who dated and ditched June Horne right virtually to the altar (he went to Japan for business and didn’t return for two years), but the relationship simply withered after a few short months.

In December 1952, Joy started dating avowed bachelor Paul Ellis. They became seriously quite quickly – in January 1953 Paul Ellis told Joy Windsor at the Sportsmen’s Lodge that he’ll fly to Mexico to see her new night club act. However, they had a nasty bust up in April 1954 and both started dating elsewhere. In May Joy was dating Frank Harper at the Sportsmen’s Lodge, but her heart was still with Paul. In June 1954, one night,  Paul Ellis went to a fancy club with new swain Jane Wurster but she went home and he was joined by Joy Windsor who had watched the first show with Dave Siegel (and then conveniently ditched him). They spend a wonderful summer together, but storm cloud were never far from their love sky. THey had some serious issued by September, and in October had a love spat as a result of a tense and, on Joy’s side, tearful confab at Ciro’s in the midst of a concert. They “broke up”, but the same month, a funny things happened: onlookers observed an unusual situation at Ciro’s when Martha Martin Ellis ringside with Roger Valmy; at the next table sat her ex, Paul Ellis, with Lucille Barkley, and just adjacent Paul’s recent steady date, Joy Windsor, with Stanley Richardson. They couldn’t keep from each other – they were back dating the same month. They broke up in early 1954, and made up in April 1954. However, in May 1954 she was seen with famed attorney Bentley Ryan (partner of the legendary Greg Bautzer). In late May Paul gave Joy Windsor a farewell dinner before she went to Europe for three months. They resumed their romance when she returned in August. All went well for the remained of the year, but another termination came in January 1955. They made up, yet again, in March 1955.  Joy wanted to become a nightclub singer and she wasn’t kidding – that month She had flown to the Philippines for an engagement. Then the papers solemnly announced she was supposed to marry Ellis on April 16, just one months away. Ah, but what can happen in a month!

Everything seemingly went well, but then, two days before the marriage, Joy suffered a nervous collapse. The wedding was postponed. Nobody knew the reason, but the columnists rightly deducted that there was a lot more than came out in the story and wondered if the wedding wall ever take place. Then, to nobody’s surprise,  they canceled it quite acrimoniously. Both tried to act as if nothing happened and they would go on as usual. Paul Ellis dated Dorothy Porter at the Gourmet Beverly, but the truth was quite different from the illusion.

In the meantime, Joy was seen with Marshall Ebson. Then, sometime in May 1955, she caught polio and was hospitalized. Luckily, only her leg was affected, but she had to give up her movie career after this, as she had to wear a brace. In August 1955, she was still wearing a leg brace, but went dancing frequently with Bentley Ryan. In September 1955 she dated Bob Moon, a radio producer. In October 1955, things started to shift in relation to Paul – Joy flew to New York and was planning to stay there for a longer time. Paul, who heard that she was to depart to the East coast, tentatively called her, then took her to the Luau for dinner and then to the airport. Joy’s plans for a long-term New York sojourn were quickly squashed – by November she declared that the local weather was too much for her, she changed her mind about living in the east, flew home and then to the desert. She accidental “ran” into Paul there, and he bought her a dinner at the Palm Springs Ranch dub. And just like that, they were together again. The reunion lasted only a few weeks, alas. In early November Joy and Paul had a battle and everything is off again between them. ON a positive note, by late November, there were news that, if she’s careful, doctors told Joy that she can go out evenings without the brace on her leg. Early in 1956, she took off the braces for the first time and did Ciro’s with Paul (obviously they were “on” again). But Joy was still seen with other beaus – Ruth Roman’s estranged husband, Mortimer Hall, was one of the more serious ones.

1956 seemed like a tranquil year for the couple. By May she was again with Paul, and this time for good it seemed. In October Joy spent three days in the hospital fighting anemia. In early 1957 she was seen around with Paul, often with  company like Joyce and Noel Clarke, Grace Pope and her sister Helen Sanders and so on.

Then, in May 1957, literary out of nowhere, Joy married bandleader Charlie Barnet. Trust me, I was shocked to read this. After such a wonderful year with Paul, marrying a guy who…. She was his (wait for it!) 10th wife!!! Imagine this! Ten wives, and you are not yet 50. He said, somewhat ironically, that “I like the girls to match the upholstery of the car.” “We are ideally happy and deeply in love,” Joy said to the papers. She said she met Barnet two weeks ago and started singing with his band. They decided to elope Wednesday after attending a cocktail party. They flew to Yuma for the wedding ceremony and returned the next day. The couple planed a week-long honeymoon in Hollywood (how romantic… NOT) and after it was over, continued living there. Barnet was born on October 26, 1913, into a wealthy New York family, making him almost 20 years Joy’s senior. Instead of becoming a lawyer like his parents expected him to, he became a jazzer.

The marriage was very stormy and they separated in early June. By mid June, Joy was already dating Leonard Ackerman. On June 28, she hits the newspapers by seeking an annulment for he marriage. “I got an ulcer.” she famously said to the judge. She charged him for never intending to consummate the marriage and that he refused to set up a proper household. What a sad and worrisome affair 😦 She won the annulment on August 9, 1957. Barnet married his last wife, Betty, in 1958 and stayed married for the next 30+ years.  He died on Septeber 4, 1991.

Just a few days later she was back with Paul Ellis. What a roller coaster their relationship was. After all the ups and downs, they married on August 12, 1957 in Carson City, Nevada. They honeymooned in Hawaii with Paul’s ex-wife and daughter (weird!). By October Joy was pregnant, and in November ended up in the Cedars of Lebanon hospital suffering from a flu attack.

Ultimately, Joy and Paul had two children: Richard William Ellis, born on May 9, 1958 and Paula Lee Ellis, born on June 18, 1959. Joy settled into a peaceful family life from then on. Her brother William Smith went on to become a popular actor, and always credited his sister with helping him get a foothold in Tinsel Town.

Joy Windsor Ellis died on November 6, 2006 in Santa Monica, California.

PS: Happy Christmas people!!!

 

Caroline Burke

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

Another example:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.