Ellye Marshall

Ellye Marshall was a well endowed, sexy peroxide blonde who was quite a looker but not really a trained actress. When the time came for her to make moves to differentiate herself from tons of similarly endowed bombshells and make a solid career out of being a luscious starlet, she chose the dumb blonde routine. It sadly backfired on her, and her career was over after just a few short years.

EARLY LIFE

Eleanor Louise Marvak was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, to Umberto Marvak and Rosella Celik. Her younger brother Bernard was born in 1931. Her father, an auto mechanic by trade, was born in Italy (then under the Austro-Hungarian empire), and came to the US in 1925. Her mother was born in Germany and her mother’s younger sister, Christina, was living with them when Eleanor was born.

The family moved to Mount Pleasant Town, Westchester, New York in the mid 1930s, and then to Danbury, Connecticut, sometime after 1940, where Eleanor attended high school. Pretty and a good dancer, Eleanor dreamed of a career in showbiz. As soon as she graduated in 1946, she was of to New York to become a chorus girl. Slowly she climbed up the ladder of success, appearing in all sorts of plays, like Ken Murrays Broadway revue, Blackouts, and was called to be an understudy for comedienne Marie Wilson. And this is how her career started!

CAREER

Ellye appeared in only five movies. her first one,Champagne for Caesar, is arguably her most famous – a bubbly, sophisticated, nicely made comedy with the even suave Ronald Colman playing an eccentric genius who, in order to get even with the pompous president of a soap company, goes on his quiz show in order to bankrupt his company. Strong support comes from veteran classic Vincent Price , Celeste Holm, Art Linkletter, Barbara Britton and even Ellye has a credited role (she plays Frosty). Classic Hollywood comedy at it’s best, a definite recommendation!

Then came sub par Second Chance, a Christian protestant propaganda movie with Ruth Warrick playing a terminally ill woman who changes her life completely as she understands she got alienated from her church and God, but it’s not too late to change that. The movie is very heavy handed with it’s message and can be bothersome to most people not in that state of mind. While solidly made and with okay performance,s it’s definitely not something especially noteworthy. Then came Rogue River, an unusual movie as the story unravels very effectively via flashback, as Peter Graves in the lead journeys by boat down the treacherous Rogue River. The axis of the movie is the relationship between Graves and Rory Calhoun, who plays his brother. Ellye plays the love interested, but is sadly overshadowed by the brotherly camaraderie and carries very little weight in the movie.

Ellye than appeared in campy deluxxe Cat-Women of the Moon, playing one of the cat women. Just go and watch the trailer and you’s understand what it’s all about. It’s truly really campy, and a true feast for those who enjoy such stuff. The costumes, the set design, the acting, it’s all so deliciously over-the-top-campy that you cannot but like the overall package! Plus nice to see some 1940s classic movie stars a bit past their prime (Marie Windsor, Sonny Tufts, Victor Jory).

Ellye’s last was The French Line . This movie can either be a total winner or a total loser, depends on what are you looking for. It you want some mindless fun with interesting costumes and passable musical numbers, go for it! If you want a coherent story, great characters and some depth, avoid like the plague. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it’s easy on the eyes and that’s it. Cm-on, the story itself is hardcore “paper thin plots” we can see in so many 1950s musicals – when her fiance leaves her, an oil heiress (played by Jane Russell) takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Anyone with half a brain can see that this has no semblance of reality – but who cares, if it’s an excuse to see Russell in a variety of racy costumes (along with a huge chorus line, where Ellye was one of the chorus girls). Russell also sings in her own (very torchy) voice.

That’s it from Ellye!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1946, barely 16 years old, Ellye made the headlines by dating the older wealthy Lothario, Huntington Hartford. They flew together around the country, and seemed a bit more than casual daters, getting so serious that Ellye’s mother was reportedly furious over the pairing. But to no one’s surprise, the romance didn’t’ last. She was also seen with Joe Kirkwood, Jr., but that too was fleeting. On October 29, 1948 Ellye got married to taxi driver James Stanley Somers. Somers was born on to James Somers and Winnie Hammon on October 26, 1925, in Port Angeles, Washington. The family moved to Los Angeles when he was a small boy, and he grew up there and became a taxi driver in the 1940s, after serving in the army for WW2.

Ellye started as a starlet and did all the usual starlet stuff – sold kisses at the Biltniore Hotel Bazaar in Bklyn, posed for cheesecake, has small snippets in the news. When she decided to go level up and gain real fame, some maneuvering was needed, and a little help from her “friends”, the studio PR machine. Ellye’s master PR manager (whoever he was) decided that his client is gonna take the dumb blonde approach and hopefully become a star. This worked a few times before – Marie Wilson is a good example, but my own assessment is that these brand of PR moves did more harm than good. They perhaps sometimes gave the starlet a brief period of intense publicity, but in the long run, the public tired easily from this kind of stunts and would forget or even be resentful of the manipulation. And let’s be realistic for  a moment here, who wants to be remembered as dumb? Almost nobody. So why did they do this? Anyway, this was the path Ellye took, and she was ridiculed like crazy in the papers, obviously in compliance with the PR machine.

Look how ever her divorce was made fun of:

Showgirl Ellye Marshall, 21, divorced taxi driver James Somers Jr. 24, today on testi-money. he called her a “jerk” and a “louse.” A friend, Claudette Thorton, also testified Somers “was always flirting” behind his wife’s back. Superior Judge Ray Brockman asked Miss Marshall how she knew her husband was flirting if her back was turned. “Well, your honor,” she said, “there are some things you just know.”

Here are more of her “gems”

Pretty Ellye Marshall, aB’klyn gal, went to Hollywood and got a good role in “Champagne for caesar,” playing a dumb blonde, But she was not so dumb, I found out at 21, where she helped celebrate the 25th wed ding anniversary of the Harry Popkins of Hollywood. She had been telling me. “Boys have a harder time getting ahead in Hollywood than girls,” and I said “Why :” “Because,” she said after thinking it over, “there aren’t any women producers

And this one explains it all:

On Broadway Ellye Marshall Is Beautiful But Dumb By Mark Barron NEW YORK She is a healthy girl as one can see by the bloom in her cheeks, her curvaceous muscles and the fact that she takes such vigorous indoor exercise as being the beautiful blond ski girl in a sports scene in Ken Murrays Broadway revue, Blackouts. On the stage Ellye Marshall looks mighty fetching as she comes on in her ski pants, ski cap and a ski jacket, the latter leaving about two feet of her neck exposed. Over her shoulder she carries a pair of skis as she sings a song about going high on the hill top to ski through the air like a ‘bird, etc. “Can you really ski? I challenged her. “No, she confessed. “In my dressing room once I got curious and tried the skis on my feet just to see how they felt. I stumbled, fell and nearly twisted my ankle. So I took them off in a hurry as I have to dance in the show. Miss Marshall has to play a dumb girl of the Marie Wilson type, but she says she has to work very hard at it “You have no idea how much work it is to be a dumb girl, she said. “For instance, when I started out to meet you, I thought and thought about something dumb to say so you would laugh and say, Gee, the girl is beautiful but dumb. “Then I figured that you undoubtedly would comment that I am pretty or I am nice, and I would open my eyes wide and reply: That’s the nicest compliment I’ve had all day. I just got up five minutes ago. So now if you just say I’m pretty, then I’ll say my dumb line and then we can get down to some talking about serious things. Gee, the girl is beautiful, but she ain’t dumb. Miss Marshall says she is always getting cast against type. She plays the ski girl on Broadway and cant ski. In Hollywood films she is usually cast as a bathing beauty but naturally but she cant swim a stroke. In the forthcoming movie, “Champagne for Caesar , she plays the role of Frosty opposite Ronald Colman who is supposed to be a brilliant quiz-show contestant, a man who can answer every question in the book. Even in a story supposed to be entirely about erudite scholars, she still is cast as a beautiful but dumb chick. In one scene Colman comments that she “has possibilities for genius. Everyone thinks I have wonderful possibilities especially men, Miss Marshall says.

And another one (the last one, I promise!):

Ellye Marshall, co – starred with Rory Calhoun in “Rogue River,” was named “Miss Profile of 1950” by a group of amateur photographers. “But why,’ she asks,-blankly, “do they always make ” m e – w e a r – a bathing suit when they photograph my profile?’

Did it help her, long term? Of course not! It usually never does. Anyway, as her career winded down, Ellye got hitched again. She married Val Grund, musical arranger, on October 28, 1950.  Val Jerald “Joe” Grund was born on October 27, 1927 in Los Angeles, to Valentine John  Grund Sr. and Lucile Pasely. Val did musical arrangements from the time he was in high school, and was even awarded for his choral setting of the 100th Psalm, along with a honorable mention in the orchestral division. He slowly started to work in the showbiz industry and landed with Ken Murray, working on his Ken Murray show.

Ellye gave up on her career to raise a family. Their daughter Valerie Jean Grund was born on November 2, 1952. Sadly, the Grunds divorced sometime after the birth of Valerie. Val died on July 14, 1965, aged only 37.

Ellye married Peter Lance at some point before 1959. I have no idea what happened to her afterwards, but as always, I hope she had a happy life!

Trudy Wroe

A beautiful mannequin who came to Hollywood via the TV route, Trudy Wroe actually nabbed herself a lead in a series of TV movies, so she became less of a starlet and seemed more and more on the way to the upper echelons of the actresses ranks in Tinsel Town. However, her lucky break didn’t belt out and she was retired within three years. Let’s find out more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Gertrude Janice Wroe was born on May 25, 1931, in Los Angeles, California, to William Kenner Wroe and Viola Frances Horn. Her older sister Anita Joyce was born on October 5, 1927. Her father was a WW1 veteran who worked as a motor car salesman.

Trudy grew up in Los Angeles and originally was not interested in a showbiz career. Trudy majored in art at Manual Arts High school, with plans to become a commercial artist. Her plans were changed, however, when Photographer Tom Kelly saw her and thought she was just the girl he was looking for for a billboard ad. So she became a model, and after graduation studied at modeling schools. She modeled for the Mary Webb Davis agency for three years before becoming a free lancer, modeling for various artists and photographers. Trudy earned really good money this way, but she hit the financial roof when she started to appear in TV commercials. She got paid every time one of her commercial was shown, and when she made a Paper Mate pen commercial, she earned about $15,000 a year out of that one alone.

The Pen commercial was so well liked that Trudy started being noticed on a larger scale than before. For extra publicity, she was paired with a young-faced actor, Tommy Irish, to be a new wholesome duet. There were preparations for a weekly late-night show with the “sweetheart combination”, and they had been chosen as the outstanding personalities in television. Trudy received more than 300 fan letters weekly and was quite popular country-wide.

However, while this Tommy Irish pairing didn’t work out in the end, something else did. Trudy underwent a grueling elimination contest of over 100 actresses to land the choice role of Lorelei in the Big Town series of telefilms. She was named to the role after two months of tests. She had no prior acting experience. She later told Lydia Lane that the secret of her success was her styling and clothes. “I was surprised to get the role of Lorelei, They had interviewed dozens of girls and when they saw me for the first time they said I looked too young for the part. But when I took,my test I made sure I wore a sophisticated dress and they changed their minds. I don’t think men realize how a girl can alter her appearance with the right clothes and make-up.”

And her career was of!

CAREER

Trudy appeared in only three movies – Son of Sinbad, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Ask Any Girl

Son of Sinbad is a movie made for visual enjoyment and little more. Plot, acting, anything of depth – no sirree. But beautiful women, great costumes and other eye candy – yes please! The movie even gently spoofs the sword-and-sandal genre, so it does have at least a bit of depth (nothing much, mind you!). Trudy was one of the many harem dancers.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the best movie on Trudy’s list, a tight, short and very well made thriller directed by the master, Fritz Lang. While it’s undoubtedly a B level production made on a shoestring budget, the writing and the story, a critique of capital punishment for circumstantial evidence, make it work. Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine play the leads – I love both of these actors so I am a big biased, and while neither especially stretches the acting muscle here, they are more than adequate. The movie’s strong point is that it takes the viewer think and ponder the classic “could it really happen?”. With the strong message and a unexpected twist, in this is succeeds nicely. A overlooked classic, this one

Trudy’s third and last movie was Ask Any Girl, with Shirley MacLaine at the quirky best – she’s utterly charming and one of a kind! The whole movie follow suit – it’s a breezy, nice little comedy with a great supporting cast – David Niven, Gig Young, Jim Backus! Old Hollywood at it’s comedic best!

That’s all from Trudy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Papers noted that she and Pat Barrett were two attractive and petite employees at Hughes Aircraft, but I didn’t find any other reference to this, but I doubt that Trudy ever worked at the air plant, as it seems she got into modeling and stayed there until she came to television. Here is a short bio of Trudy at that time:

Trudy Wroe, blond, blue-eyed, She stands 5 feet, 5 inches from the tips of her 5 shoes to the top of her natural ash-blond curls, and tips the scales at 115 pounds. . Her classic measurements in the traditional north-south manner register a pleasing 34- 23-35. Her pet economy is clothes while her pet luxury is visiting a neighborhood beauty parlor once a week. Trudy’s taste in dates and her prerequisites for a husband are as diversified as her preference in music which ranges from “hot” jazz to lulling classics. She demands, in the following order, good looks, natural personality (nothing forced), and consideration in her dates. The man that she marries must have ambition, consideration and honesty.

There was also a story how Bob Cumming’s son helped choose Trudy for stardom:

Trudy Wroe, one of the beauties featured on the Bob Cummings show, was discovered by Bob, Jr., when he was all of seven years old! Two years ago, Bob Sr. was asked to co-judge a beauty contest. At the last minute, he had a studio call to report for work. As a gag, Mrs. Cummings took Bob Jr. to represent his father. He selected Trudy out of a bevy of gorgeous girls, and the other judges concurred with his choice. As a result, Trudy got some free publicity, was selected to be one half of the Singing Sweethearts in a commercial and now works regularly on Bob’s CBS-TV series

Trudy lived with her mother and older sister at the time she hit her five minutes of fame. In her spare time she sketched and played tennis.

Anyway, within an year after getting the role of Lorelei, Trudy was sacked. Why? Well, it’s afe to assume that putting a woman with no real acting experience in such a role that demands charisma and gravitas was probably a mistake. This is something that Hollywood can never learn – while it’s fine and dandy to chose your actors based on looks, but even then there has to be more than just the visage. Trudy was beautiful for sure, but obvious could’t hold down on such a demanding job. I feel sorry for her, since she was briefly launched into the stratosphere by the Hollywood PR machine, just to come crashing down a short time later. I was not surprised that her career never recovered – unless she went into the theater to learn to act and than return to films, or had another lucky break (it has happened before, bu rarely), there was really no real chance for her to succeed after that. There are literary thousands of beautiful girls and models who swarmed to Hollywood every month, and being pretty was just not enough.

Now for her love life. Trudy dated a unnamed wealthy easterner who flew out to see Trudy, but they battled at the airport. Incidentally, at the same time the mystery guy got his other swain, Anita Ekberg, a new, eight carat sparkler. In the end neither girl ended up with him long term.

Trudy then dated young meat packing heir Geordie Hormel, who would later marry Leslie Caron. Then Trudy got involved with Bert Friedlob, the eminent producer. They dated for more than a year, from late 1954 until early 1956, and it seems that Friedlob tried to help Trudy’s career with his producing sass. Friedlob had just come out of a marriage to actress Eleanor Parker, with whom he had three children, so perhaps the timing wasn’t perfect, but they stuck out for quite a long time by Hollywood standards! Friedlob was a colorful character himself. He started out as a wholesale liquor dealer who made several fortunes and lost them all in a span of 20 years. Before Eleanor, he was married to actress Jeannette Loff, but she died in 1942.

However, it seems that Friedlob liked pretty ladies (he was generally tough as a womanizer and party animal in Hollywood, and had an affair with Lana Turner among others) and Trudy was not his one and only. He also dated Barbara Nichols on the side. While this is pretty standard in Hollywood, where everybody dated everybody else, it seems that Trudy wasn’t really satisfied with it. Why? Well, during her tenure as Lorelei Kilburne, Trudy decided that she wanted to get married. An except:

Trudy Wroe, who spent six months playing newsgal Lorelei Kilbourne while Mark Stevens was filming his Headline series, says the role gave her a bright idea: Getting herself happily married. ” After all,” she says, ” Lorelei always , has marriage in the back of her mind, and she’s a contagious character! “

Friedlob wasn’t quite in with the idea, having just gotten divorced, so the pair broke up. Sadly, he died on October 7, 1956, from cancer. I presume that Trudy still wanted to get hitched – but then chose a possibly even worse choice for matrimony – Marty Kimmel, the playboy extraordinaire who was married, very briefly, to Gloria DeHaven. Marty dated almost all the pretty girls in Hollywood, and, of course, Trudy was no exception. Unlike many of the girls, she managed to snag him for a longer time, but still, Marty was a playboy at heart and marriage was probably not in the cards.

Doubtlessly noticing this herself, Trudy decided to play the field herself, and was often seen with Bernard Shubert, the video packager. So we have a kind of a love triangle, Bernard, Trudy and Martin. She was also sometimes seen with Hugh French at the Gourmet Beverly.

As time went by, it seemed that Marty was really stuck on Trudy. One year he flew to L.A. to spend the holidays with Trudy, and they were often spied having cocktails at the . Luau. However, also, as time went by, there was no great improvement in their status, so Trudy continued to seek other opportunities on the side.

She was seen with publisher Bob Petersen and was a sometime date of Mac Krim, but the guy was massively in love with Kim Novak at the time, and only dated Trudy when Kim was out of town – when Kim returned he literary wasn’t dating anyone but Kim. She continued seeing Shubert, and ultimately broke up with Kimmel.

Trudy then dated up a storm with a string of men, in some random order: Joe Kirkwood Jr. (who was married to Cathy Downs), songwriter Jule Styne, attorney Bentley Ryan, and actor John Carroll.

In late 1958, Trudy made the papers when she was getting the rush from Prince Kazem Kashani of Iran, who was handsome, a bachelor and just 32. They were seen everywhere for a few months, but this too failed in the long run. However, Trudy had by that time already met the man she would marry – Don Durant.

They made their relationship official in Early 1959,  and pretty soon there were newspaper items that Trudy and Don were getting married February 28. Don Durant was born on November 20, 1932, in Long Beach, California, and was famous for his Johnny Ringo persona.

Trudy may have had a long string of wealthy beaus, but she definitely didn’t marry Durant for the money, as this article contests:

Don Durant, a converted linger, whose CBS Johnny Ringo” series almost but not quite gunned down its ABC competition, the high-rolling Real McCoys, was in a reflective mood. Ringo bit the dust only a month ago and Don, who cut quite a figure in the title role, still cant figure out why. Our ratings right up to the end hovered between 19 and 24, and when you can do that well (with reruns) against such a blockbuster as Walter Brennans McCoys you’ve got a hit on your hands. This rating is far better than most of the seasons new programs have been able to achieve,” he said, a steely Ringo look beginning to come into his eyes. Well, thats show biz,” I said cleverly, then added, The demise of Ringo is indubitably due to behind-the-scenes maneuvers. You know, time slots, sponsor conflicts and all that sort of thing.” I said it pontifically, just like 1 knew what 1 was talking about. I hope I fooled him.’ Don Is married to the former Miss Trudy Wroe, who at one time achieved considerable fame as the Paper Mate Pen Girl In those commercials. But her residuals have long since run out and I was greatly concerned as to how Don was now rustling up the mortgage money for their Encino mansion. Tell me, Don, how does an unemployed actor like you make ends meet,” I asked pointedly with great tact, j ‘ , Are you kidding? I never had It so good.” , You’re out of work and you never had It so good?” ‘ It turns out that as a result of his Ringo series Don Is now In great demand for personal appearances all over the Country, Hes made 40 since last May when production ended. His act runs 25 minutes. It plays rodeos, fairs, amusement parks and even the opening , of shopping centers. ; Don, as Ringo, rides onstage astride his trusty horse, his fancy seven-shooter In hand, He sings four songs, talks about the TV show, answers questions about the Old West. Then he hangs around for a’ couple of hours after the show talking with the kids. I have , made three times as much money doing this since we , quit filming last May as I earned for the entire episodes of Ringo. I like the work, too, I do everything on these P.A.s from riding a horse to kissing babies. Only last week, after a show, 1 had lunch with 4,800 kids and signed autographs for everyone of (hem.” I said, well, .that Is really earning your money the hard way. He didn’t agree. He said he likes kids very much. Don may go around kiss-1 mean babies, at supermarkets and such-like places but I think his heart still lies with Johnny Ringo. Ringo,” he told me, is far from dead. We are hoping the series will be picked up to replace one of the new network shows that will be among the bunch folding around January. If not, I feel It will at least be syndicated. Regardless of the fate of Ringo, Don will be back on the TV screen one way or another. Hes formed his own Allison Productions and plans a modern-day series. One of the networks is paging him for a one-hour series and guest shots on specials loom in the offing. . . Not too bad for a fellow who used to hang around CBS as recently as 1957 hoping to pick up extra and bit parts. You and I should make as much money as this unemployed actor.” And he has still got 250 fan clubs rooting for him.”

Trudy gave up her career for family. The Durants had two children, Heidi, born on March 7, 1962, and Jeffrey, born on March 10, 1964.  Durant was a typical Hollywood blue collar who worked and worked and worked. While he didn’t have a hundred credits to his name on IMDB, he worked constantly, be it as a singer or a real estate agent. Here is some info from his obituary:
Actor, Singer. He was a mainstay in the 1950s and the early 1960s on television making many notable guest appearances, among them “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” “State Trooper,” “Maverick,” “Perry Mason,” “Zane Grey Theatre,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” “The Wide Country” and “The Virginian.” These guest spots led to the 1959-60 half-hour TV series “Johnny Ringo” where Don played a gunslinger-turned sheriff. He brandished a LeMat handgun that featured an extra barrel that fired a shotgun round. For good measure, the talented vocalist wrote and then sang the theme song. The show was a bonanza for the toy industry. It generated board games, character puppets, gun sets and canteens. He was born Donald Allison Durae in Long Beach, California. His father was killed in a traffic accident prior to his birth. Don also, at age eleven, narrowly followed in his dad’s fate when he was struck by a cement trunk leaving him in a coma with many fractures relegating him to bed for over a year. His mother remarried, this time to a Nevada cattle rancher. Don spent a lot of his teen years on the ranch learning the ways of a cowboy, riding, roping and singing. The couple divorced and he was back in Long Beach. In junior high, he was a dee-jay on KPRO radio in nearby Riverside where he often sang. Still bothered from injuries due to his bike accident, he managed to play football by wearing special plates. He was drafted during the Korean War but a hip injury found him confined to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. He completed his military obligation with an assignment to Special Services furthering his singing experience by entertaining the veterans at Letterman. His post-military days found him pursuing a singing and acting career while touring with a theater group. Don appeared at the Sands and The Sahara in Las Vegas. He made his first serious attempt at acting with an uncredited appearance in the 1955 film “Battle Cry.” He remained active on the Hollywood scene by teaching actors how to ride horses and shoot guns and worked as a technician helping to construct the first kinescopic recorder and sound recorder. Durant had a starring role in the ‘B’ film “She Gods of Shark Reef” in 1956. He toured as a vocalist with the Tommy DorseyFrankie Carle and Ray Anthony orchestras and even recorded an album with Anthony. More and more guest-starring roles came his way, mainly western themes. However, by 1964, the days of the cowboy was over as well as the era of the big bands. His roles diminished and eventually faded altogether. He retired from show business completely while settling in Orange County operating a real estate office. He made public appearances and attended shows and conventions where he would strap on his famous LeMat pistol and sign autographs almost to the end of his days. He was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in 1992 which led to his death at age 72 in the family home located at Dana Point, California.
It seems that Don was a happy go lucky guy who constantly cracked jokes and was well liked by many. He and Trudy would often travel all over the world together always laughing and having fun. By all accounts they had a very happy marriage. Don became a multimillionaire through his real estate investments, and the couple enjoyed their retirement in California.
Don Durant died on March 15, 2005 in Orange County, California. Trudy continued living in Orange county after his death.
Trudy Wroe Durant died on November 10, 2007, in Orange County, California.

 

Shirley Standlee

Shirley Standlee had a very interesting and unusual life, but it had nothing to do with her acting career. Shirley was a method trained actress who constantly sought to better her acting sill and had a solid run in 1950s TV series and theater. But it all pales in comparison to her role as the wife of one of the 20th century most famous war correspondents and journalists, Fancois Pelou. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Shirley Standlee was born on Christmas Day (December 25), 1926 in Los Angeles, California, to Elmer Fair Standlee and Mildred Cowdery. Her older sister Suzanne was born on November 10, 1921. Her father was an affluent buyer, and the family employed at least one maid in the 1920s and 1930s.

Shirley grew up in California as a typical upper-middle-class girl, attending civic events and being active in local society. She probably attended school in Los Angeles, and went for an acting career after high school graduation – that is how it all started. Shirley remained very close to her sister Suzanne, and they often summered in LaJolla during the time that Shirley lived in New York.

CAREER

Shirley worked extensively in television, but made only one theatrical movie – Patterns. And what a movie it is! I for one loved it! Such an incredibly relevant movie to his day, it deals with greed in all it’s form. Here is a great summary from imdb: Well-done story of corporate shark, owner of a vast conglomerate, who tries to break the VP he thinks can no longer do the job. Everett Sloane plays the heartless owner who nurtures his executives with bitter words and daily shouting matches. Ed Begley plays the downtrodden VP; he’s more than able to take care of himself, but after years of fighting with Sloane he’s exhausted. He’s 62 and afraid he won’t find another job and refuses to quit; he’s worked for the company for 30 years and believes he’s got a place there. Van Heflin is the executive brought in to replace Begley, unbeknownst to them both. After Sloane tells him of his plans, Heflin tries to tell the boss that he doesn’t want the job. Begley is his friend. But deep down, he finds that he really does want it, just not at that cost.

The acting performances are uniformly excellent. Ed Bengley, usually a large ham who chewed scenery, is great as a man tired of fighting with wolves, Van Helfin displaying his beguiling mix of warmth and coldness (I love him in all the movies I’ve seen so far, he always has this dual edge), but Everett Sloane! Oh! He’s so PERFECT: I know that some reviewers consider him too histrionic and loud in the role, but this is exactly how some of these people operate – some narcissists love to be heard and seen on a grand scale. But always the menace, the ruthlessness, the egotism – how he shows is across is simply astounding! IMHO he’s a highlight of an very good movie. The story-line is trim and tight, and Rod Serling adds his personal touches here and there, enough to make it more than a pedestrian, million times seen before movie. Kudos to him and all the actors! Shirley’s role is sadly quite small.

That’s it from Shirley!

PRIVATE LIFE

Shirley was one of the rare women who saw acting as an art for, not the tool for getting rich and famous. She attended the old school acting schools in Los Angeles, and got into the theater circuit in the mid 1940s (she had no designs to become a movie star and Hollywood never interested her). Young, idealistic and talented, Shirley wanted to hone her craft and become a truly great actress. However, even when she eschewed Hollywood and worked in the theater, she was in for a rude awakening. As she later told the papers: “I supported Tallulah Bankhead in ‘Private Lives’ on the road and Helen Hayes in ‘Good Housekeeping’ in 1949, and lots of others in radio and TV since, but all I learned were tricks, effective hut phony, not the real emotion an actress must project.”

A strong inner need to develop herself pushed her to leave California and settle in New York, looking for places where she could learn more about acting. She found what she was looking for in Lee Strasberg and his Actors Studio. She studied for a few yeas with him and immersed herself into method acting. Shirley then found work in supporting roles in both television and in the theater. She worked in a variety of projects with fellow Actors studio alumni, Sidney Lumet and writer/producer Rod Serling.

Shirley married french journalist Francois Pelou in 1954 in New York. In the summer of 1960, the couple adopted a son, Christopher. And now the interesting part of her life begins!

First, something about Pelou. Born in 1924 in France, he was trained to become an economist and worked in the editing department of Agence France-Presse, (APE) preparing dispatches, but always dreamt of exotic lands and travel. In 1950, he was sent to cover the Korean war (and his wanderlust yeas started). He had a reporting stint in China, then came to the US from Tokyo and settled for a brief time in San Francisco. He then joined the AFP office in New York, where he worked in the political section before taking up the Sports section which he kept for four years. It was during this time that he met and married Shirley. For AFP, he covered the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Rome and Tokyo. Then came 1963 and his claim to fame. He was the first French journalist sent to Dallas the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and, two days later, he was a eyewitness to Oswald’s killing in the basement of the local police headquarters by nightclub owner Jack Ruby. He was interviewed by other reporters and covered Ruby’s trial the following year which gained him mainstream fame and recognition. He told the papers: “Ruby was next to me and shoved me to go kill Oswald who was coming right in front of me (…) Oswald was the first to see his killer arrive, that’s why I always believed they knew each other.”

A few months after the assassination of President Kennedy, Francois and Shirley left New York for Vietnam and lived in Saïgon (present-day Ho Chi Minh City) where he was a war correspondent and Bureau Chief for AFP. Francois got the rep of a highly-objective reported and was well regarded by both fractions. Also in Vietnam, Francois met the fierce Italian female reported Oriana Fallaci and fell madly in love with her. Their relationship would last for more than ten years and span several continents, from Saigon to Rio-de-Janeiro, from New York to Madrid, and of course Tuscany and Florence (where Oriana was from). Francois himself said about Oriana:  “Oriana Fallaci arrived in my bureau in 1967. We covered many events together, she would become very important in my life.” He called her a real tornado and she dedicated at least one of her books to him. (NOTE: Fallaci is a incredibly interesting, scandalous and divisive personality. Learn more about her here and make your own conclusions, but as far as female journalists go, she was one of the best). I wonder how Shirley felt about all of this – Francois was her husband after all. I know that its terribly hard to live in such circumstances and that lust and passion often run rampart when you are at death’s door every day, and that such affairs are commonplace, but I could find no information on how Shirley lived, was she afraid for Francois every day? or was it a bit more relaxed than I imagine it?

After four very stormy years, Shirley and Francois were evacuated from Vietnam during the 1968 Têt Offensive, and he was transferred to Rio de Janeiro the same year. It was a time of great strife in Brazil, with constant political protests between Brazilian pro-democracy moderates and right-wing forces, governed by the brutal military regime and dictatorship. There was drama for Francois here too, and this is perhaps the most intense of all of his journalistic endeavors.

Francois was working on the story about kidnapping of the Swiss ambassador, while the Brazilian secret police have forbidden the press to speak about this affair, because it is the third kidnapping of ambassador by the guerrillas of Captain La Marca (Which were a thorn in their side for a long time). They contacted AFP to give conditions for the ambassador’s release. Taking a huge risk, François immediately published this information and informed the French Embassy, ​​knowing that he has just violated the orders of the Brazilian police. He was immediately arrested and held in a dirty, stinking cell in the attic of the prison, and to make it all worse, there was a intense heat wave. During a long and grueling interrogation, he lost consciousness twice but gave away nothing on his contacts with the guerrillas.

Meanwhile his office was searched. The police took his things, including two bottles of moon-dust that he got from US astronaut Pete Conrad. However, arresting Francois proved to be a costly mistake for the regime, as he was a well known journalist, pretty famous since the death of Oswald, and when his arrest made the headlines, there was violent public outrage, with the generous backing of the American press who don’t like what the military was doing. Francois was released, brought at 3 AM, under guard, to the Rio airport, pushed into an Air France plane and immediately exiled from Brazil. He spent the end of the year in Paris, happy and satisfied to be the instigator of the release of sixty guerrilla political prisoners in exchange for the Swiss ambassador.

In the 1971, the family returned briefly to New York City, then lived in Hong Kong, Paris and, ultimately Madrid in 1975. Francois becomes very close to future King Juan Carlos, and is the first reported who learns of Generalissimo Francisco Franco’s death.

After eight years of life in Madrid, the family left for Brussels where Francois covered European issues, but he got bored very quickly and decided to retire to his house in Marbella. Around this time, Shirley and Francois separated for good, he went on to live in in France (in an ancestral home built in the 1760s, located in the city of Conques) and she stayed in Madrid. Francois entered into a relationship with a Frenchwoman, Caroline, who remained his companion for the rest of his life. In a 2016 interview Francois claimed that he gave Shirley “his word” (whatever that means) so they never had to do all the official divorce stuff. Their son Christopher moved to the United States where he lives today. He served in the US Navy before retirement. Shirley spent the rest of her life in Spain.

Shirley Standlee Pelou died on December 10, 2018, in Madrid, Spain. She was cremated..

Francois Pelou died in France in 2019.

Marvelle Andre

Marvelle Andre was blonde, pert and cute, with great riding skills and enough charm to make a make a name for herself in Tinsel town, at least as a rider and stand-in. Unfortunately this did not propel her into more substantial acting roles, but she was a very active participant in Hollywood life for a time. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alta Marvelle Anderson was born on May 12, 1919 in Kansas City, Kansas, to Harry Anderson and Hazel Hiatt. She was their only child. Her father was an auto mechanic who managed his own workshop.

The family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when Marvelle was just a baby (in late 1919), then to Long Beach, California by 1930. Marvelle attended high school there and developed a strong interest in the performing arts. Being around horses and sharp shooting were her favorite hobbies – as a result she was a champion horse rider that took parts in rodeos and other horse shows. She was also a crack shot with a rifle.

By 1940 the family settled in Los Angeles. Marvelle started to act pretty early, int he early 1930s, which means she acted before she graduated from high school.

CAREER

Marvelle broke into movies when she was barely out of her years. Her first movie was Wine, Women and Song, a completely forgotten Lillyan Tashman musical, followed by Maniac. Now this is a movie worth mentioning. Probably a great deal many people enjoy in what we call quality trash cinema – movies that are so bad they are actually good. The Room is perhaps the most well known example, but there are ample such movies, if one just tries to find then. Maniac falls squarely into this category. Corny lines, stupid story, horrible overacting… You get the picture. But, it seen as an excursion into the absurd and ridiculous., it could actually give some pleasure to he viewer! Good to know that those movies were made with gusto even in the 1930s! This was followed by by the no-plot extravaganza, George White’s 1935 Scandals.

And here comes another ridiculous movie, Marihuana. Guess the theme of he movie! I guess Hollywood made much of these kinds of movies, Most people just don’t stumble upon them today (maybe that is for the best). Luckily, Marvelle’s next movie was a quality comedy, and  a Laurel and Hardy comedy at that – Our Relations.

Only two movies were listed for Marvelle in the 1940s – Gambling Daughters and She’s in the Army. Both are low budget comedies with a decidedly B class cast, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the actors were not good! When you have Sig Arno, Lyle Talbot and the likes, at least you know you can watch the movie solely for them.

1950s were a bit more prosperous for Marvelle (although not by that much, I grant you). She appeared in The Jackie Robinson Story, a unique movie as it was about baseball great Jackie Robinson and it is truly an important film. If you strip away the fact that it was a B class move that was not widely seen and doesn’t have that much of an production value, you till get a powerful, strong movie about all the injustices and prejudices Jackie Robinson had to fight on his way to baseball stardom. And Jackie, playing himself, despite not being an professional actor, is so charismatic and likable that he does his job admirably! And he legendary Ruby Dee plays his wife, wonderful!

The Admiral Was a Lady is actually a very weird movie, about four ex-GIs who work diligently at finding ways to avoid work. Yep, not something you see in every movie! Obviously a portion of viewers will be repelled by this dilettante attitude, but my interest was tickled! Even if you are not for it, The cast makes up for any “morally ambiguous” elements – Edmund O’Brien and Wanda Hendrix! Edmund always had that sharp, dark edge in his roles, and even here you can see it beneath the breeze veneer. And I love Wanda, perhaps not solely for her acting talent. And Rudy Vallee in a supporting role. Marvelle’s next movie, Kentucky Jubilee, was a dismal comedy with a thin story with Jerry Collona and his vaudeville skits as the center piece. Luckily, next movie in line, aptly called Hold That Line, is a dolis Bowery boys comedy.

Marvelle’s last movie was We’re Not Married!, a collage comedy about five couples who learn they were not legally wed and now must make a honest appraise of their current state of affairs (literary in some cases). While the story and the script is nothing to sneeze at, we have a wonderful cast full of Hollywood luminaries – Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Louis Calhern, Ginger Rogers, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, among others), and superb costume and set design! This is one huge, puffy delicacy with no nutritional value, but oh so charming and lovable!

That is all from Marvelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marvelle got some publicity in Hollywood due to her status as a stand-in and her unique talents on horseback. This is a typical article to showcase her skills:

Marvelle Andre, a petite, 18-year-old miss whose main screen experience to date has been as a dancer. At the moment, she is stand-in for Evelyn Daw, who is playing the feminine lead opposite James Cagney in the Grand National musical, “Something to sing About,” being directed by Victor Schertzincer. Young Miss Andre has also served as stand-in for Constance Bennett, but her ambitions do not run along the line of the dramatic, singing or dancing ac tresses She wants to be a star of a type that has not been seen in years. She wants to play in westerns in which the leading character is a girl. With that end in view, she has become an accomplished trick roper an equestrienne and an expert snot with both pistol and rifle.

Here is another small quirk about being a stand-in, and it concerns hands!

The superstition of Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith and other happily married young women on the Warner Brothers star roster has brought Marvelle Andre a more or less continuous job in pictures. Miss Andre, an extra and bit player subject to studio call, has appeared, in part, in more pictures than has either of the better-known stars mentioned. “In part,” in fact, because only her parts are photographed. Miss Stanwyck, Miss Smith and a number of other feminine stars do not like to remove their wed-‘ding rings, even for picture purposes. So, when they are supposed to write letters, or wring their hands or wash dishes, as Miss Stanwyck does in “Christmas in Connecticut,” it is Miss Andre’s hands which are photographed for closeup

Superstitious for sure, but did it work in the end? While Babs’ Sanwyck marriage to Bob Taylor crashed and burned in the end, Alexis Smith’s marriage to Craig Stevens was for keeps so we can conclude that Marvelle did a mighty fine thing, at least in that regard (although there are persistent rumors about the true state of that marriage too, but who knows?). Anyway, beside being an actress, Marvelle danced the hula at the Century club by night, and practiced rope-twirling whenever she cold by day. She seemed like a really energetic woman who knew what she wanted and worked hard for it.

Marvell was very active during WW2, doing more than her bi for the war effort, and even traveled to Alaska with Ingrid Bergman and others to entertain the troops. During these war bond travels, Marvelle often did her hula skit and she was known country wide for being a hula master. Except this, due to her horsewoman skills, she often took parts in parades and tournaments. For instance, one year she was a part of the Rose Tournament where she was riding Snowball, the thoroughbred Arabian steed trained by Mark Smith especially for her use in the parade.

As for her love life, nothing was written in the papers but I fond this – by 1944, Marvelle was married to Elmer H. Adams, Burbank police chief. I don’ know the exact timeline, but hey married after 1940 since Elmer was still married to Estelle McGuire that year. So Elmer divorced and married Marvelle sometime in the interim. So who is exactly this Elmer fellow? There is much written about him, but lets streamline it a bit.

Elmer was born on July 24, 1902 in  Broken Bow, Nebraska, to John Adams and Cora Williams, the third of four children. He was a very capable man, as he finished only eight grades of elementary school before going to work in Delight, Nebraska as a laborer. Later he moved to California and found work as a police officer there. On May 20, 1927, he married  Estelle L. McGuire. Their daughter Beverly was born in 1935. In 1932 he became the youngest ever police chief of Burbank. It seems that, like Marvelle, he was a crack shot and owned a number of rifles. Taken from Burbank PD web site:

The first true appointment of a Chief of Police occurred on August 15, 1927, when Malcolm G. Lowry took office.  Some would credit George Cole as the first Chief of Police, retroactive to his days as a Marshal and being in office when the department changed its name to the Burbank Police Department.   Two additional chiefs followed Lowry, until April 15, 1932, when Chief Elmer Adams was selected to head the department.  Chief Adams remained in office for nearly twenty years.  During his tenure, allegations of organized crime and connections to gangster Mickey Cohen made the newspapers.  There were additional stories of a mob hideout on Orange Grove Terrace, and illegal gambling halls that were hidden along the rancho area. In 1951, the California Crime Commission began an investigation into Chief Adams and others within the city.  Three days after the commission publicly announced the Chief’s refusal to answer questions about his income and relationship with underworld characters, Adams resigned, followed shortly thereafter by the city manager and a councilman.  Without a succession plan in place, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department loaned Hugh C. McDonald to oversee operations.  During McDonald’s term in 1952, the Animal Shelter was opened.

This is the kind version, on other places on the internet you can find information how Adams was a classical corrupt cop who paid two yachts and an expensive home with his “loot”, was well connected with mobsters and very well greased. Learn more about the whole story on Wes Clark’s web page (it is a truly incredible story about how people, when hey band together and have a common goal for the greater good, can do wonders). When I think 1940s police, I think film noir, and of course of both good and bad cops – it seems that Adams was perhaps one of the bad cops (maybe a greedy cop is an apt description).

Marvelle quit Hollywood for the time being, but was very active in local amateur theater groups. (she acted in My sister Eileen, for instance). As she was the wife of the local police commissioner (who possibly had his fingers in more than one dough), she had a good social standing and was a valued member of the community. In 1950, after five plus years of marriage and with a will to act in more serious fare than community theater, Marvelle returned to movies, and did a few uncredited minor roles. This lasted until 1952.

After Elmer’s dismissal from the police force, the couple moved to Cosa Mesa, where Elmer started to work for the Mesa Verde Country Club.The couple continued residing in Cosa Mesa and became parents of a daughter, Donna, was born on either on November 12, 1953 or November 19, 1955.

Elmer died from a heart attack On May 4, 1966. Marvelle continued living in California, and did not remarry.
Marvelle Anderson Adams died on June 1, 1990, in Los Angeles.

 

Gale Ronn

There is not much information about Gale Ronn on the internet, and not much will be said about her. So why did I choose to profile her? Because learning about Gale and her career will brings us closer to understanding what it meant to be a Hollywood extra during the golden years and it can perhaps answer the question how did he whole extra system function and could you actually live by working as an extra? Let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Lillie Gale Randel was born on December 5, 1907, in Iola, Kansas, to Robert Elmer Randel and Nellie Clyde Capsey. Her older sister Violet was born on September 16, 1903, and her younger brother James was born on December 9, 1917. Her was father was a builder by trade. He was born at Corning, Kansas, moving to Manhattan; Kansas as a young man. Then he came to Allen, Kansas and worked in construction in the area.

The Randels were solid middle class, and Gale and her siblings grew up in the typical small-town America of yesteryear. Gale attended high school in Iola Kansas, and was often featured in the society section of the local newspaper. After graduation in 1924 she moved to Kansas City to become a fashion model.

Gale was successful enough as a Kansas city mannequin for a few years, but sound movies ushered a new era in movie making, and ton of young girls poured into Hollywood to make it and earn better wages. The lure of film also brought Gale out to Tinsel town in about 1932. Despite he fact hat she had no previous acting experience, she was successful at nabbing a contract right away. So started her career.

CAREER

Gale was a movie extra and based on the stuff I read about her, it seems she appeared in a whole lot more movies than the ones mentioned on her IMDB page. Sadly, this can actually be the case with most of the girls I profile here. But, let’s see what IMDB has to offer.

Gale’s first movie, in 1932, was Sinners in the Sun. It’s a mid of the road melodrama, with a tried and baked story, as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “standard story of a couple poor people who think money is the answer and they have to learn that it isn’t more important than love”. However, there is an ample number of very good performers in it – Carole Lombard, Chester Morris, Cary Grant in an early and small role, Alison Skipworth, Adrienne Ames (such a beauty!).

Her second movie was Stand Up and Cheer!. Since this movie has a ton of extras, I think I reviewed it at least 3 times, so I’m not gonna write anything much more about it. Gale moved to the A class productions, and appeared in The Gilded Lily This is a typical 1930s romance movie with Claudette Colbert caught in a love triangle with Fred MacMurray and Ray MIlland (poor girl, she could do worse). It’s a nice and sweet movie, nothing deep but entertaining enough and the leads are charming as always.

Sadly, IMDB next lists Gale working on a movie that was not A class anymore – A Girl with Ideas. It’s another of the madcap heiress comedies made popular by It happened one night. The heiress in the movie is Wendy Barrie, and the newspaperman is Walter Pidgeon, not exactly Claudette and Clark but not too shabby. Anyway, the film is very funny, a “terrific rush of nonsense” as the reviewer wrote on IMDB, not a classic but immensely watchable and endearing. Gale was once again in the A class with You Can’t Take It with You, perhaps the best known movie of the lot. He plot is simple enough: A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. This is one of those ultimate feel-good movies that make your week! And so many good actors – Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Ann Miller! Enjoy it!

Gale made three movies movies in he 1940s. The first was Beyond the Blue Horizon, one of the many Dottie Lamour in the jungle exotic films. What can I say, people loved Dottie in a sarong, somewhere on an tropical island, with a young, handsome and muscular man as a mate – that was pure and wonderful escapism. The movies roll, The stories changes ever so slightly, put the point stayed the same. The story here is that Dottie’s parents were killed in the jungle when she was a child, and she was raised, like Mowgli, by animals. Then comes a greedy capitalist who wants to abuse the jungle, and a handsome knight, scantly dressed, and ready to help our heroine and save the jungle (Richard Denning, not that well remembered today but what a hunk). There is a nice scenes with elephants and some good music, and it seems  a lot of folks remember watching this when it came out or just afterwards, with much nostalgia. That’s really nice!

Experiment Perilous is a lower quality version of Gaslight. It doesn’t have the solid performances of Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, but George Brent and Hedy Lamarr were adequate and the movie is agreeable enough. Gale’s last movie listed on IMDB is Repeat Performance, an uniquely insular movie. A beautiful actress kills her cheating, alcoholic husband on New Year’s Eve, but soon finds she’s getting the chance to relive the past year of her life all over again. The twist at the end is great, and the movie definitely goes outside the typical Hollywood cannon. Too bad it’s not an A class production, but good actors make up for it – Joan Leslie sheds her nice girl persona and is actually pretty good at it – Louis Hayward is his (wonderful) cynical self, and Richard Baseheart made his movie debut here! What’s not to like!

That’s i from Gale!

PRIVATE LIFE

Gale was a beautiful blonde with blue eyes who weighted 100 lbs in her Hollywood prime. The press wrote this about her beauty secrets;

Gale Ronn, a statuesque blond, who admits that one secret of beauty lies in her dressing room mirror. It is there that she spends many hours perfecting her coiffure, make-up and all details of her attire.

So, Gale emphasized taking your time to properly set yourself up – not a bad hint, and definitely one most people don’t comply, myself first!

Gale married her first husband, Phillip E. Flanagan (or Phillip Harlan) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September 1924, just after she graduated. Harlan was born in 1901 – that is literary all I know about him. I cam assume that they lived together in Kansas City, but hey divorced prior to 1930.

No other information is available about Gale’s private life. However, the reason why Gale tickled my fancy is an article that was published in 1935 that very well illustrates how a successful movie extra lived and worked, both male and female. Gale was featured as the female extra, and actor Oliver Cross as the male extra. Here is the article:

 GALE RONN, who Is blonde, 29, and Kansas City bred, has been revealed as the woman extra who earned the most money during 1934. She averaged ?50 weekly. But talk about it? Not Gale, who fears the jealous taunts of her fellow extras. Oliver Cross is the male extra whose – – . earnings last year were more man any other extra’s, man or woman. He averaged $54 weekly, but he considers the disclosure no compliment to his ability. In fact, he took just the opposite view. Although he was financially the most successful extra, he considers himself a failure. “Why advertise failure?” he asks. TWO IN ONE DAY To meet a person in Hollywood who does not want to discuss his accomplishments is rare, but to find two in one day is extraordinary. But hear the stories of the woman and the man who are tops in the extra army: “Unless one is an extra, It is dim cult to understand why I will not talk about being, as you call it, the “Number one girl,” explained Gale Ronn when I discovered her on the “Paris in Spring” set. “Many of the people with whom I work daily already have shown their resentment toward me by ‘ribbing me, and I know that others have said unkind things behind my back.” Miss Ronn implied in her guarded remarks that only an extra could realize- how jealous other players can be of one of their number’s success. That she might “get into trouble” if it became too widely known that she had had more days’ work than any other woman extra, was clearly inferred. She said “people would write letters and everything” and these letters might influence the casting bureau to give her less work. CAN’T ACT, SHE SAYS “No, I don’t. want publicity and I don’t think it would do me any good to have my picture taken,” Gale went on. “I don’t want to be an actress because I’m pretty sure I can’t act. “I make a good living and I have lots of clothes. I make more money than a stenographer, whose ambition is to live well and wear nice clothes. Why should I want to try being an actress? No, I’m satisfied being an extra.” Miss Ronn has been an extra four and a half years. She came to Hollywood from the East several years ago and first earned her living as a clothing model. A FAILURE, HE SAYS Oliver Cross came here from Buffalo, N. Y. how long ago he wouldn’t say with the hope of becoming a star. “I’m not a star,” he told me when I found him working in “In Caliente.” “I’m nothing but a clothes horse a failure. Yes, I know I’m supposed to have made more than any other extra last year, but what of it? How do you suppose I got 195 days’ work last year? Because I know a director? Nothing like it. Because I’ve invested hundreds of dollars in my wardrobe.” Cross’ inference was that studios call him to work because they know he has the clothes to wear in any atmosphere. He is tall, dark-haired and handsome.

Viola! We know a bit more about movie extras now, and Gale seems a very realistic, grounded person who knew her limits well and had a plan on how to make a living. This is totally in sync with her meticulous approach to appearances. Anyway, it seems that Gale did not remarry, and continued living in California long after her career was over.

Gale Ronn died in ? (sorry, I could not find a date, but she is listed in the obituary section in Ancestry.com). As always, I hope she had a good life!

Erin Selwyn

Stunningly beautiful and with some dancing talent, Erin Selwyn got into Hollywood the beauty pageant way and ended up like most of her peers – in the uncredited pool and retired after a few years of acting bits and pieces. Although I have to say her filmography is more substantial than one can assume! Lets learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Dorothy Loretta O’Kelly was born on to on September 26, 1917, in Chicago, Illinois, to Walter Raymond O’Kelly and Winifrid Virginia Laughlin. She was their only child. Her father was an accountant and insurance clerk who served in WW1. Dorothy grew up in Chicago, a beautiful child equally at home among books and in dancing, which she loved early.

Erin’s mother and father had planned for her to become a school teacher. Erin shone in higher mathematics at school and there was talk of becoming a math teacher but her love for the dramatics won over, and she went for a modeling job in New York and then returned to Chicago to do some secretarial work. It was in Chicago she got her start toward Hollywood by winning two beauty contests. One of the film talent scouts was scanning the evening sheets for new talent and saw Erin and you signed her up, and off she went!

CAREER

Erin signed with MGM and appeared in a string of good, mid of the road and abysmal movies, each in his genre. IMHO, let’s categorize them by genre then:

MUSICALS: A dancer by trade, it was logical that Erin would end up in the chorus at some point in her career. She was at MGM when they belted out a large number of high quality musicals, and she was cast in a good number of solid ones.

Her first movie (and musical,) was Meet the People, a mid of the road Lucille Ball/Dick Powell pairing. Not the best pairing, not the best movie, so moving on. Then came a Esher Williams aquatic musical, Bathing Beauty, colorful, enjoyable and paper thin. More of the same came with Thrill of a Romance, another Esther Williams musical, just with a different leading man (Van Johnson this time), a Betty Grable/Dan Dailey extravaganza, Call Me Mister, a mediocre Kathryn Grayson musical, Grounds for Marriage, and finally perhaps her best known musical, Brigadoon, based on the Alan Jay Lerner Broadway musical, with Gene Kelly and Cyd Charrise in the leads.

DRAMA: We have a few good movies here. Already her first drama, Mrs. Parkington, is a minor classic.Primarily a lovely, very nice to watch movie, it concerns the generations of the Parkington family, with Greer Garson plays the title namesake, the matriarch Mrs. Parkington. Walter Pidgeon is her raking, ruthless Wall Sreet husband with a wandering eye. A ton of good actors are in it: Agnes Mooehead (as a French mistress non the less!), Gladys Cooper, Edward Arnold, Cecil Kellway… Only MGM in it’s golden period could have such a cast of distinguished thespians! And the set and costume design are absolutely divine. Right after came the war movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo. If you didn’t think that Cary Grant could be serious, watch this!

Going on. While not a straight drama but more of a film noir, The Arnelo Affair cannot be categorized as either a musical or a comedy, quite the opposite. This heavy, forbearing movie about a woman who succumbs to a very dangerous man. And guess what happens after that. Yep, it’s a cautionary tale and a part weepie. The cast is meh – Frances Gifford in the lead is a wooden block, and John Hodiak, while quietly menacing, has a sub par role. Eve Arden gives a little pizzazz to the otherwise insipid story-line, but that’s hardy enough to warrant a re-watch! Erin’s next movie was much better – The Hucksters. This is a movie that I personally love, about Madison avenue PR people. Although watered down a great deal from the source material (a book), it’s sill a very relevant critique on the modern marketing world. And the cast is uniformly great – Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner. And my favorite, Sydney Greenstreet. He’s an absolute master here, tops, his scenes are a hoot! Erin also racked up two low budget but solid noirs: Close-Up and Scene of the Crime. Both are recs, as both are hard-code, no-frills movies with a dark edge.

Shadow in the Sky tackled some serious problems – psychological horrors that WW2 veteran had to overcome after the war was over. There were a few movies in he late 1940s and early 1950s that dealt with this issue – The Men with Marlon Brando and Teresa Wright being the most famous. This is a very good, but difficult and bitter movie – Ralph Meeker played the veteran confined in an asylum, and Nancy Reagan and Jean Hagen as female support.

We also have to mention Moonfleet. This is a rowdy, lightweight, super fun adventure movie about a smugglers son and his adventures. Werd that it was directed by Fritz Lang, known for making a completely dissimilar type of movies, but he’s such a good director that is just works.

COMEDIES: Plenty of good ones here. We can count Her Highness and the Bellboy as a light MGM comedy, not heavy on neiher laughs or music. I watched the movie for Hedy Lamarr – not a great actress but so beautiful and had an unique presence – I already noted that I dislike June Allyson (while she did possess some acting chops and wasn’t totally talent-less, I just don’t like her) so most of her movie are a meh, like this one. Robert Walker is okay. Then came Love Laughs at Andy Hardy, and what can I say, it’s a typical MGM feel good movie that will make your today even int he 21st century, but will leave nobody truly emotionally touched. Shallow but nice and upbeat entertainment, and Mickey Rooney is a hoot as always. And he has Bonita Granville and Lina Romay, whauza!

And now we come to the classic, Father of the Bride! The story is as easy as it gets: a girl gets married and her papa is not than thrilled! Less well known than it’s illustrious remake (anybody who grew up during the 1990s watched this movie dozens of times!), it’s a really good film with Spencer Tracy playing the gruff father and Liz Taylor playing the headstrong daughter. A dynamic mix for sure, and Joan Bennett is wonderful as the mother pitted in the middle. In a really nice easter egg moment, Erin appeared in the sequel, Father’s Little Dividend!

Erin appeared in another Robert Walker movie, The Skipper Surprised His Wife. Bob plays a skipper whose wife, Joan Leslie, breaks her leg so he has to take care of the house. This one is a charming, easy to watch and enjoyable, just don’t look for anything too deep! Watch the Birdie, in which Red Skelton plays a reporter trying to shield a heiress from money grubbers, is another nifty comedy with some good routines in Skelon’s very recognizable vein. Then we have Three Guys Named Mike, also a highly charming, light and nice comedy, just this time Jane Wyman has to choose between three Mikes (how confusing, poor girl). Erin’s last comedy and overall movie was The Tender Trap, a funny Frank Sinatra/Debbie Reynolds movie, and a interesting deconstruction of the womanizer trope. Betcha you didn’t expect this from a comedy! It’s all done in a gentle and tender manner, to be pecise, and Frankie is always watchable!

That was it from Erin!

PRIVATE LIFE

Erin was a beautiful Irish colleen and played, in one of her movies, a nurse in a doctor’s office – the script described her, through one of the characters, as “so beautiful that if men patients don’t look twice at her the doctor knows they are really sick.” Very flattering if I have to say!

Erin lived with her mom in Hollywood, and was a kinaestetics enthusiast. She endorsed these three nifty exercises in the papers, and they really seem good:

Erin O’Kelly, appearing in Zeigfeld Follies, has three favorite hip conditioning exercises. Do these daily for one month and your hips will be slimmed considerably. Exercise 1. Lie on your back with arms at shoulder level. Pull right knee back to chest and swing it across body, straighten leg. Repeat ten times. Then swing left leg across body.. Exercise 2. Lie on right side, grasping the leg of a heavy chair with right hand. Place left in front of body for balance. Pull both knees back to chest, straighten legs and then swing both down to starting position. Repeat five times; turn .over and repeat five times. You must do this swiftly and accurately feeling pressure on your hips. This also firms your midriff. Exercise 3. (This flattens your buttocks as well as hips). over carefully two or three times before attempting lt..Unless it is done correctly, you will not benefit from it. Lie flat on the floor, Raise your hips off the floor and swing them far to the right, then let weight of body fall on left buttock as you spank it down on the floor. Spank it three times hard. Then swing far to left and spank right buttock hard three times. Are your hips in shape? You need not put up with flabby pads in that region.

Little was known of her love life. Erin was so low key that until she decided to get married, nothing was written about her! Anyway, to get straight to the point, Erin was one of the many war-time brides of Hollywood – she married Russell Martin Selwyn in Grand Hall, Nebraska, on January 15, 1944, just before he was dispatched to fight in the European Theater of WW2.

Early months of their marriage, in 1944, were very much tense and uneasy. Erin never knew exactly where her husband was and what was happening with him. He would occasionally write, so both Erin ad the scribes of Hollywood were kept abreast of the situation. Thus, they knew when he made his fifth bombing trip over Germany and that he would received the Distinguished Flying Cross for flying and that he had been promoted from lieutenant to captain. Next Erinwas informed he is soon to return to his country from his base (after he has been overseas for eight months). In the end he came back to Erin just in time for her birthday in September, by which time the war was mostly over in Europe.

Now a bit about Selwyn. Russell Martin Selwyn was born Russell Martin Snyder on November, 5, 1919, to Ruth Wilcox and Martin Russell Snyder.  His mother was an actress and an overall incredibly interesting woman (I plan to profile her too!). His parents divorced and in 1924 Ruth married Edgar Selwyn, theater director and playwright who owned a chain of theaters and  helped found Goldwyn studios. Since his mother’s remarriage, Rusty became a scion of a movie centered family, one of the so called “MGM Kids” (children of highly positioned MGM functionaries) in the late 1930s. Ruth’s sister Pansy married Nicholas Schenck, making him the first cousin of the future Niki Dantine. Russell was a cadet at a military school, and liked bowling a great deal. He started dating Ann Savage, the alluring film noir actress who mostly did B movies. Ann went along swimmingly with his family and it seemed that they were on a solid path to matrimony. Then, WW2 started, Rusty had entered the military and transferred to Washington, D.C. for additional training. Unfortunately his affair with Ann ended after it was clear they were too far away, him in military school, she in Hollywood. Not long after he met Erin, and the rest is history as they say!

The Selwyns settled in Los Angeles, close enough to the movie colony although neither were actively involved in it. Rusty only did some editing work for one movie in 1955, and Erin was long retired by then. Their daughter Loretta Virginia was born on January 19, 1956, son Lloyd Selwyn on January 14, 1958 and another daughter Alicia was born in 1959.

Erin Loretta Selwyn died on August 26, 1997, in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Russell Martin Selwyn died on October 14, 2005, in Los Angeles, California.

Cynthia Westlake

Cynthia Wastlake was, at first glance, a typical chorus girl of the 1930s – pretty, bouncy, talented but with no real dramatic training, with odds stacked against her in the path to the stars. It took a deeper look and a new side of Cynthia is revealed – she was a budding writer who tried to write a book and make a slightly different impact. She traded all her career aspirations for marriage in the end. let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Cynthia Coralie Westlake was born on August 11, 1916, in Los Angeles, California, to Tom Miller Westlake and Camille Hiltabidle. Her father was a professional soldier working for the US army. He enlisted in 1898, when he was 18 years old. There is a bit of a confusion about Tom, as I found a page that clams that he was married once before, to Inez Barnes, and had a son, Richmond Earle, born in 1917. He divorced Inez and married Camille in 1919 in Kingman, Arizona, but since Cynthia was born in 1916 this doesn’t make much sense! Anyway, Cynthia’s younger brother Earle was born in 1920.

Growing up in Los Angeles when the movie industry was in it’s nascent stages was probably very stimulating and Cynthia had a natural knack for singing and dancing. Her first brush with the movie world was at age 3, and it would be quite important for her future career. Namely, noted dance director Joseph Santley saw her dancing and promised her parents that he would help her if she chose showbiz as a vocation one day.

Sadly, the family had other concerns than Cynthia’s dancing career, as her father was pensioned in 1922 and died on May 31, 1926. Being a widow with two small children was never easy, and Camille’s sister Dorothy came to live with them and help. Camille raised Cynthia and Earl in Los Angeles, where she owned and operated a beauty shop. Cynthia in the end did decide to make showbiz her vocation, and she entered movies in 1937.

CAREER

Cynthia appeared in eight movies during her brief career, always uncredited. She allegedly had a bit part in A Star Is Born, a total classic and the original that was remake so many times since. We all know the story, but it’s not about the story, it’s about the emotions and the superb acting. I love Frederic March, and he’s tops here, so what more do you need? Janet Gaynor is very fine, although I do prefer Judy in the role in a later remake. Next up was Meet the Missus, a charming comedy. There is even a character named Mrs. North-West 🙂 Cynthia appeared as one of the many nameless showgirls in New Faces of 1937, and like most movies with the year in the name, it’s stick thin in terms of plot but plenty of music and dancing. Cynthia than appeared in two mediocre movies and two absolute gems.

The two mediocre movies were: A Damsel in Distress and Night Spot. Damsel wads based on a Wodehouse novel, and you can summaries it’s a comedy of manners like most of his work, and it marked Joan Fontaine’s acting debut – she’s the thin link here, as a genteel English lady, but we have Fred Astaire, George Burns and Gracie Allen to compensate. It’s a fluffy, frilly, light entertainment and it works on many levels, but just don’t expect too much! Night spot is  a low budget comedy-mystery where Joan Woodbury gives an honest alibi for nightclub owner Bradley Page, and the police officer, played by Alan Lane, is trying to break her story. Like many classical movies it’s worth watching for the supporting cast alone – Jack Carson and Lee Patrick among others! Sweet!

The two gems that Cynthia appeared in were Stage Door and Bringing Up Baby, both from Katherine Hepburn early RKO career, perhaps her best movie period overall (although this is open for debate! While Stage Door is a straight drama and very woman centered (huge like for that), baby is considered one of the best screwball comedies ever made, so viola! Sadly, RKO sacked Cynthia not long after, and she took a hiatus from Tinsel Town.

Cynthia’s only movie after her return to Hollywood was Blossoms in the Dust, one of the string of top notch movies Greer Garson made in the early 1940s. The story shows us the life of Edna Gladney (a real figure) who opposes the unfair laws discriminating against children whose parents are unknown, and opens an orphanage for those children. This one is  areal tear jerker, with more than a touch of soap opera but done with the polished finesse of MGM and given even more flair because of Greer’s incredibly warm, engaging performance. Greer is paired with her stalwart constant acting companion, Walter Pidgeon, and has a first class supporting cast: Marsha Hunt, Fay Holden, Felix Bressart . Now this is a good classical movie drama and definitely worth watching!

That was it from Cynthia!

PRIVATE LIFE

Since this is a cute story (eve if it’s not true), I will repeat the Joseph Stanley bit from I mentioned in her early life. This article made the papers when Cynthia started her career:

A film .director who kept a promise he made when she was 3 years old launched 19-year-old’ Cynthia Westlake in the movies, today. The director, Joseph Santley, when a musical comedy star here 16 years ago, watched a tiny girl, dancer perform and promised her. parents he would help her if the opportunity ever came. Santley was casting the film “Missus America” at RKO-Radio’ when Miss Westlake, now grown to a pretty young dancer, introduced herself and held him to his promise. She was cast in a small”, role for the picture

And now for her love life! Cynthia dated director Edward “Eddie” Ludwig for a few months in 1938, and was pretty serious about him. Russian born Ludwig was 17 years older than Cynthia, a seasoned director with a craftsman approach to movie making (he made more than 100 movies in his long career, both silent and sound features, both for theatrical releases and TV). The press were sure they would get married, but for some unknown reasons, they broke up by 1939.

Trouble for brewing for Cynthia by that time. The war had started, and the studios started to cut off actors, often using dubious techniques. For instance, if a studio has a choice of ten actors for a single role it can bargain nine of them out of the way and get the tenth pretty cheap. RKO, for example, had a large contract list, and was slicing it’s contract rolls. Ida Vollmar and Cynthia were early deportees, Walter Abel followed soon after, then RKOs cut at least a dozen players. So, Cynthia was effectively without a job in the ultra competitive Tinsel Town atmosphere.

Broken up with Ludwig and possibly disillusioned by her fledgling career, Cynthia decided to do a highly romantic and unusual gesture, spend a year of living alone aboard a yacht anchored off Catalina island. It was a move precipitated by her wish to take the time out to write a book which she hoped would be a best seller and a vehicle for the screen in which she can climb to stellar holes. “The Girl Who Lost Herself” was the title of the novel, and it seems that it was written but never published.

In early 1940, Cynthia returned to Los Angeles and to movies, and met and started to date  Rudolf Ising, M.-G.-M. cartooner. The romance became serious soon, with the papers calling them “a two-alarm blaze.” They married on August 16, 1941, in Los Angeles.

Rudolph Carl Ising was born on August 7, 1903, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Henry (Heinrich) Ising and Mary Holtzschneider, one of nine children (his siblings were Elizabeth, Martha, Mary, Adele, Richard, Henry, Bruno and Herman). His father was a German-born street laborer who tried to do farm work in the US, first in Oklahoma then in Kansas, ultimately settling as a beer truck driver in Kansas City. Rudolph’s mother died in 1905, not long after giving birth to her 9th child, and Henry mostly raised the children singlehandedly. While he was still in grade school, Rudy got a job at a local portrait company, first working as a printer than as a photographer. In 1922 he was an ad for becoming a cartoonist with Walt Disney and applied, very much enamored with the concept of cartoons. Then his career took of. Here is some information from his New York Times obituary:

Mr. Ising was working at a photograph-finishing laboratory when he was hired by Mr. Disney, who advertised in a local newspaper for a cartoonist when he was starting out in the early 1920’s in Kansas City, Mo. Mr. Ising helped to ink the drawings in the first animated Disney films, the “Newton Laugh-o-Grams.”

The operation moved to California, and Mr. Ising followed. But soon he and another Disney employee, Hugh Harman, broke away to create their own cartoons. Synchronizing Dialogue and Action

Their initial production, “Bosko the Talk-Ink Kid,” in 1929, was a breakthrough as the first talkie cartoon, synchronizing dialogue on the soundtrack with the action on screen. Disney’s earlier “Steamboat Willie” had music and sound effects but no dialogue.

The Bosko cartoon was also notable for its sign off, “That’s all, folks,” which became Porky Pig’s stammered trademark.

In 1930, the two men were hired by Warner Brothers, for which they devised the “Looney Tunes” label, a takeoff on Disney’s “Silly Symphonies” series.

In 1934, they joined Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, where they created Barney Bear, the ancestor of Yogi Bear. The inspiration for the lethargic Barney came from Mr. Ising’s habit of dozing off in staff meetings.

While Mr. Harman specialized in “Looney Tunes,” Mr. Ising developed “Merrie Melodies,” which emphasized the musical element. His strength was in writing and producing rather than illustrating.

Both cartoon series became staples of the nation’s movie-theater programs. Winning an Academy Award

In 1940, Mr. Ising’s “Milky Way,” a cartoon about three kittens, won an Academy Award, the first non-Disney cartoon to capture an Oscar. Mr. Ising was also honored in 1976 by the International Animation Society.

In World War II, he worked on training films as the head of the animation division for the Army Air Forces movie unit. After the war, he worked on commercials and television projects and retired in the 1970’s.

Cynthia retired from movies to dedicate herself to family life. Their son Rudolph Carl Ising was born on April 1, 1952. Rudolph ditched animation for working in ad agency. The family lived in California, and Rudolf and Cynthia ultimately settled in Newport Beach.

Rudolph Ising died on July 18, 1992. Cynthia did not remarry and went to live in Corona Del Mar.

Cynthia Westlake Ising died on November 25, 1997, in Corona Del Mar.

June Tolley

Best known for being Frank Sinatra’s semi-serious girlfriend, June Tolley is actually a very interesting woman with a colorful life – from a rough childhood through 1950s modeling career, to a started marriage, then dating Frankie, getting engaged to royalty and finally finding her own niche in TV commercials, June lived through it all! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Bertha June Rossiter was born on June 28, 1930, in Los Angeles, California, to June Rossiter and Anna Milano. Her father was of Swedish descent (hence his name – in English it’s a feminine name, not so in Swedish) and a taxi driver by trade. She was the youngest of seven children –  her brother Peter was born on July 27, 1918, her brother Paul was born on and died on November 10, 1919, her sister Maria Helen was born October 12, 1921, her brother Frederick was born on May 26, 1923, her sister Gloria Anna was born on September 10, 1925, and her sister Betty Jean was born on August 30, 1927.

Now for the sad part – Bertha and her two sisters, Maria and Betty were put into the Los Angeles Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum sometime before 1940. While I don’t know the whole story, it seems that their father ended up in prison (St. Quentin) their mother died, and the youngest children became wards of the state. The older children were big enough to function by themselves. This is such a sad story, but June beat the odds and became a successful model. Living in Los Angeles, she had been around movie people all her life this is how she got a bit part in Bing Crosby’s movie, “Pennies from Heaven.”, but most of her work was as photographer’s model for magazine covers, fashion ads and similar.

This catapulted her, in time, to movies, and her career started!

CAREER

According to IMDB, June appeared in only two movies and her film career is definitely not one of her stronger suits. It is possible, based on my newspaper archive research, that she appeared in a whole list of other movies and TV series, but she’s not credited so nah.

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

The second one is The Joker Is Wild,actually a biopic made right. While not completely truthful to the source material, its got Frank Sinatra playing Joe E. Lewis and it works very nicely. The music is good and so is the supporting cast, so this one is a winner overall.

That’s all from June!

PRIVATE LIFE

June met her first husband, actor John Compton, at a Hollywood dance. They were married on October 13, 1948, when June was only 18 years old. John Compton Tolley was born on June 21, 1923, in Lynchburg, Tennessee, to Lem Tolley and Ethel Compton. His father owned a distillery and a large farm near Lynchburg. After John graduated from Moore high school In 1941, he studied agriculture at Tennessee Polytechnic institute at Cookeville for a while before he went Into the army. After his discharge he decided to try his luck in Hollywood. He joined a large number of young hopefuls living in a shared house, was working as a waiter and hanging around the actors’ union hall, the “hiring hall”, all day. Finally he got a job on a labor gang at one of the studios, cleaning up and doing odd jobs. Then they put him to answering the telephone, on the Columbia set, for Rita Hayworth. He began taking acting lessons on the set, and paid the teacher $100 to give him a good part in the class play. That was when the talent scout noticed him and his big break came. He got minor and not-so-minor parts In “Mildred Pierce,” “Cheyenne,” “O, Susanna” and other movies. When his film work dried out, he went to Broadway for a performance or two, than would return to Hollywood and so on. 

Since John’s Hollywood career was lackluster in the early 1950s, the couple decided to try their luck in the Big Apple (again). June and John were halfway across the desert on their way to New York when their old car broke down, and the garage man estimated that it would take $150 to repair it. John sold the car for $15 and spent the last money he had for two bus tickets to New York. “As soon as they got to New York, I had a call from Hollywood,” John said. “They wanted me back for a movie. They flew me back, all expenses paid”. June got jobs on TV shows in New York, in night clubs there and in Miami. Her continued appearing on magazine covers, frequently modeling brides’ costumes, evening clothes, bathing suits, sultry South Sea Island costumes for travel posters.

John and June together did summer stock for four years, at Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, at Denver and in Ontario, and she worked at Earl Carrolls as a chorus girl. She became one of the famous Copacabana girls. June competed for the Miss Rheingold of 1954. Although she didn’t’ win the title, here is her sales pitch:

JUNE TOLLEY I have had the thrill of louring 27 hospitals in a pie wagon, appearing on the “Show of Shows,” “Man Against Crime,” “Crime Syndicated” and other TV dramatic shows, as well as playing leads In various stock companies. My modeling career was purely secondary to my theatrical career and it is a strange twist of fat that my modeling might be responsible for attaining the greatest fame of all, “Miss Rheingold of 1954.”

Now comes the fun part. I can’t be 100% sure now since both June and John are dead, but let’s try and make heads and tails of it: It was arund 1953, the Tolleys acting career proved to me mediocre at best so they decided to move to John’s ancestral home in Tennessee and become trappers. Yep, they went to live on his father’s farm, which was on a pleasant rim of green hills overlooking a wooded valley near Mulberry creek. The creek was good for fishing and trapping, and the woods are fine for hunting. The remodeled farm house, homestead of the Tolleys for more than a century, was cozily furnished and equipped with all the conveniences of plumbing and electric heating that was made available at the time.

So they went rural and have the papers know everything about it, of course! It even looks a bit like a reality show where we have two celebrities trying to live a simple life in Mississippi, miles removed from their previous glamorous life in Hollywood. Here is a highly idealized account of June’s life as a trapper’s wife:

June took to country life immediately, John said. She “adopted” the motherless calf born soon after they arrived and she has fed it from a nippled bucket since then. She is learning to recognize mink paths and muskrat slides along the creek banks where traps are set just beneath the surface of the water. She is accustomed to the faintly gory appearance of mink hides turned wrong-side-out and stretched for proper drying. She has seen John bring in 10 minks and 75 muskrats since they came home. That was about the same time that John was walking along the road by the Fayetteville cemetery one afternoon when he saw a possum, chased it under a- car, reached in and grabbed it to bring home. “You didn’t know wild mink was trapped around here?” she asked. And then, echoing her husband, she sounded like an “old hand” at the trapping game. “It’s the best.” June turned a mink tail” back on the board where the skin was drying to show the long “guard hairs.” “Domestic mink don’t have these long hairs,” she said authoritatively. “Only the wild mink. The fur wears so much longer than domestic. And it’s so much prettier.” Everybody up and down the road is a Tolley or a Motlow, and June has her share of invitations to card parties in Lynchburg, Fayetteville and Tullahoma. She and John are going to coach a home talent play a benefit show for one of Tullahoma’s civic clubs this spring. The people who used to go see every “John Compton movie” several times every time it hit a nearby town are making John’s and June’s homecoming “mighty pleasant.”

The press was fawning all over them for a time, but ultimately it seems that their new life didn’t agree with them as nicely as they told the papers, and pffffttttttttt! The point is, the Tennessee experiment failed, the Tolleys returned to New York. Not long after June split from John, as it often happens to reality show couples. They didn’t even do the standard “divorce or not divorce” dance – June was soooo over it and was seen turning up at Armando’s with textile heir/producer Bob Evans. Not surprisingly, shortly after they officially divorced. I guess that June was more than happy to leave her trapper days behind. John retired from movies, became a successful journey as a real estate developer in the Hollywood Hills and Laurel Canyon area in the 1960s, remarried to Angela Hancock in 1964 and died on May 12, 2015.

June needed a new place of her own and roomed with fellow model Gita Hall for the time being. However, a very short while after, June moved out of their apartment in a huff because Gita’s famous beaus (Prince Christian of Hanover and Errol Flynn among others) had gone to her head and made her “overhearing.” Ha ha ha ha ha!

Next up, June was dividing her time between actor Helmut Dantine and Leonard Rogers, the young tobacco tycoon. In mid 1954, she was getting the rush treatment from Lou Stoeckiin, who took her dancing at El Morocco between and after all Copa shows

Then, in late 1954, June got involved with the ultimate Hollywood catch – Frank Sinatra. It seems that their was a passionate relationship, with Frankie first meeting her in a club (probably), wooing her, leaving her, than not being able to forget her, then crooning her and writing her long, sultry letters and giving her long distance phone calls. They alternated between New York and Los Angeles, and she was often mentioned in the papers at Frank’s girl of the moment.

However, the romance was flawed from the very beginning – not only was she just divorced (that definitely didn’t help matters) but Frank was unhappily estranged from Ava Gardner. The fact remains, Ava was his one great love and nobody could quite measure up to her. Plus Frankie was a serial womanizer who dated women by the truckload. He did introduce June to his children, and she was seen with Frankie Jr. at least once.

Frankie had a string of side pieces, but so did June – she was squired by Dick Cowell whenever she was in the East, and probably a few nameless others. Then, after months of intense left and right, Frankie went on a Gloria Vanderbilt kick and seemingly forgot June. They did some minor dating but the affair was over for the most part, and her five minutes of fame were also over.

After she and Frank were went kaput for good, June deserted LA for NY to do TV commercials. “Seventy-four per Cent of the commercials are still done in NY,” she told the papers. In NY, June became a highly highly successful TV commercialist, appearing in a large number of commercials.

Fast forward to 1960, and we have June engaged to Count Klaus Bentheim, a member of an elegant old German family. And no, this wasn’t just a newspaper park – they were seen holding hands during a dinner party at Ruby Foo, and June unveiled an engagement diamond ring. So, it truly was serious and they even had the date penciled in August 20.

While I could find any information about what exactly happened between them, the wedding never took place and my guess is that the German aristocratic in-laws didn’t take it too kindly to their son marrying a divorced working girl who did refrigerator commercials for a living. Snobs maybe? But, it’s just a guess.

June’s next serious beau was the handsome high society dandy, Harry Cushing IV. If you read this blog, you’ll know him from his wild marriage to Georgette Windsor. They dated for a few years, but didn’t get to the altar. It was also noted that June was famous as the latest Jackie Kennedy look-alike, and Jackie Gleason just used her in a White House sketch.

June falls of the newspaper radar from them on, so I can’t say what she was up to after the late 1960s. What we do know is that June married a certain Jacques B. Wilson and continued living in Los Angeles.

Bertha June Wilson died on January 13, 2001, in Los Angeles, California.

Vina Gale

Vina Gale was a chorus girl who never made it to billed parts, but it seems she was a solid dancer and that she enjoyed her dancing bits very much. After a brief career, she got happily married and raised a large family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Hervina Irene Gale was born on June 8, 1907, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, to Herbert Lancelot Gale and Eliza Ashman. She was the middle of three children – her older brother, Herbert, was born in 1904, and her younger sister Nora in 1918. Her father was a carpenter who worked as a coach builder. Both of her parents were English immigrants, her father from Bristol and her mother from Somerset.

Hervina grew up in Manitoba, possessing a strong dramatic streak since her earliest days – she performed for local crowds in various places and capacities, including for Armistice Day in St. Stephen’s church, when she was 11 years old. She probably dreamed, like many girls, of becoming a famous Hollywood actress.

Sadly Vina’s brother Wallace died in 1920 and the family moved to Los Angeles sometime after his death. I am guessing that Vina graduated from high school in Los Angeles and continued to hone her dancing skills in local dance schools. By 1930, she was working in movies as a dancer, and thus her career started!

CAREER

Vina appeared in seven movies, and literary all of them are musicals, and as you can guess, she was always an unbilled chorus girl. Before her first marriage, she made two musicals in 1929, both forgotten today – Fox Movietone Follies of 1929 and Words and Music. The only merit Word and Music have is that John Ford and John Wayne allegedly met while making it, and together they changed cinema history!

Vina returned to the sound stage in 1933, after her divorce, and made five more musicals, all very much alike – Too Much Harmony, Flying Down to Rio, George White’s Scandals, College Rhythm and Redheads on Parade. They are all typical early 1930s musicals – thin, non existent plot, a great number of pretty chorus girls parading around (sometimes half naked), often bland and boring main characters but excellent comedic support, and generally very good music. So if you’re not looking for Shakespearean style meditations on life and morals, go right ahead, these movies truly are fun and make for a perfect Sunday morning viewing. On the plus side, at least she appeared in the same movie as Fred and Ginger and Bing Crosby!

That was it from Vina!

PRIVATE LIFE

Vina was a Ziegfeld girl and during her tenure with the show became very close to a few of her fellow chorines. When Georgia Pemberton became the bride of Donald C. De War, Vina was maid of honor, and her good friends Margaret Butler and Lee Auburn were also in attendance.

Vina herself married Dr. Dee Miller in 1930. Dee Gamewell Miller was born on April 13, 1905, in Oregon, to Gamewell and Lulu Miller. The family moves to Phoenix, Arizona before moving to Los Angeles sometime int the 1920s. He became a doctor started to practice medicine before 1930. Vina gave up movies and dancing to become a housewife.

However, the marriage proved to be short lived and they divorced in 1932, with Vina testifying that he punched her in the chin. I sure hope that was an isolated incident and that she left him before more domestic violence erupted, but we can’t knwo for sure. Miller stayed in California after the divorce, continued to work in his practice, and married once again in the 1940s. He died on September 14, 1957, in Los Angeles.

Here is an interesting article about chorus girls in movies in the early 1930s, and Vina is mentioned as one of them. Read it, it’s really something!

Hollywood chorus girls think pretty well of themselves. They admit frankly they have sex appeal. Many of them consider themselves exceptionally beautiful, almost all know they possess great talent. They are proud of their figures. denounce the Mae West trend toward curves, and do not diet. On top of this they support partially or entirely support relatives, I learned as a result of talking to the 26 girls who are dancing In B. P. Schulbergs “Her Bodyguard” with Edmund Lowe and Wynne Gibson. Twenty-two of the dancers know they have sex-appeal. Seven admit they are exceptionally beautiful. Only one doesn’t claim extraordinary talent. Seventeen are proud of their figures and only five diet. All but three scoff at the possibility of Mae West making curves nationally popular. . , , The Paramount girls are typical of Hollywood, it was declared. They hare forked In “International House,” College Humor 42nd Street,” “The Gold Diggers of 1933, “Her Bodyguard” and , numerous other pictures. With an average age of 19.75 years, the LeRoy Prinz girls have amassed a total 147 years of professional experience, 102 of that n pictures. Most of them have danced about six years. The model chorus girl of Hollywood is five feet three Inches tall, weighs 144 pounds, has blue eyes, a 24-inch waist, wears a four-and-a-half B plus shoe and is a blonde. Their ideal man was shown to be a paragon of virtue. Given three qualities to demand in the ideal male, 24 of the girls asked for Intelligence, 19 for a good disposition, 16 for honesty, nine for ambition, seven for the good dresser, four for good breeding, three for masculinity and one each for the good drinker, sobriety, personality and wealth. Financial independence Is one of the outstanding characteristics of the Hollywood dancer. Twenty of the 26 are entirely self supporting. Two help support themselves. Twelve have dependents. Three contribute partially to their family’s up-keep; two support one relative; six support two relatives and one is burdened with a family of four. Exactly half of the girls live under false colors. Thirteen of them have changed the color of their hair either by bleaching or hennaing it. Thirteen are blonde, six are red heads and seven are brunettes. They have no fear of putting on weight with beer for 19 of them like the amber fluid. Fifteen of them drink stronger mixtures at times. ‘ Despite their youth, four of the girls are married and two are divorced. Only one doesn’t believe tn marriage while six are unconditionally against divorce. The typical Hollywood chorine is ambitious. Only seven of the girls have none! Those with ambition usually are aiming high. To he a successful actress, naturally, topped the list. Audrene Bier, Vee Allen, Adele Cutler, Betty Wood and Ruth Jennings wish to act Vina Gale wants to he a comedienne. Jeanette Dickson, Kathryne Hankin and Patsy want to be writers. Evelyn Carpenter has a modest request for small parts in pictures while Naomi Fay Chism demands screen stardom. Barbara McClay aspires to the stage. Three of the girls are domestically Inclined. They want success either in careers or home life. They are Virginia Dabney, Grace Davies and Joyce Murray. Sugar Geise wants financial independence and success. Peggy Allen and Georgia Clark want to be great dancers. Dorothy White hopes for a career as a costume designer.

Too bad that, of those mentioned here, only Virginia Dabney had a semblance of a career (and sadly, that’s not saying much!). Makes you wonder what happened to each of the girls in later life? Did they lead happy lived outside cinema-land? Or maybe stayed in Hollywood and worked at some backstage function?

Anyway, the papers reported that Vina, and Jack Manildi, oil man, were married in 1934. When I read this, i was sure that Minaldi was a proper, real oilman, probably from Texas, with money to spare. Not quite so. It seems that Minaldi was a different story all together.

So, a bit about him. Gildo “Jack” Minaldi (it’s even spelled Manidli sometimes, so I can’t be 100% sure) was born on January 6, 1906, in Santa Cruz, California to Eugene Minaldi and Henrietta Soria, bith Italian immigrants. He grew up in Santa Cruz and became a all-around star athlete of Santa Cruz high school. He later attended Pomona college. He was one of Santa Cruz high school students who attained his college education through the generosity of Miss Elsie M. King, teacher of mathematics at the local high school. As Jack said later in life about his education:

“I am a protege of one of your citizens, Miss Elsie M. King. I lived in her home the last two years of my high school attendance, after which she financed completely my college education. As you may know, she has financed either partially or all the education of at least six others in the years she has been at Santa Cruz, and has so unselfishly and unassumingly done so much for others. I definitely feel that her teachings and influence were instrumental in my development at a very important time in my life.”

This is such a wonderful, heartwarming story and it’s so nice to know you can find such human moments if you look for them. After graduation Jack was coach of the Harvard Military Academy for a few years and then with the Oil Well Supply company of Los Angeles (this is why they named him an oilman, ha ha ha ha) for about ten years. Ultimately ha was appointed manager of sabs for the Pacific Tube company of Los Angeles.

Minaldi married Helen Avresta Crane in 1929. She tragically died, aged only 25, after only three years of marriage, thus Jack was a widower when he married Vina.

At the beginning of their marriage Vina still wanted to continue her career, at least for a little while, which was unusual for most chorus girls. Even after their son, Jack King, was born on October 30, 1935, she still wished to pursue her dancing. However, a nasty incident occurred in late 1935:

Flames that flared Op when the transparent costume of a movie chorus girl touched an electric switch inflicted serious burns on the dancer and threw a film company into turmoil. The girl, Vina Gale, was reported in “fair” condition today at the Cedars of Lebanon hospital after, a restless night. Her husband, Jack Manildi, kept an all night vigil at the bedside with their seven-month-, old baby. The accident occurred yesterday at a studio where a musical show was being filmed. Miss Gale danced ‘ t-o close to the switch and the hoop! of her dress caused a short circuit. Miss Gale screamed and ran when her costume ignited. ‘ A studio electrician grabbed her and extinguished the flames. Several other dancers who had been touched by Miss Gale were able to slap out the fires that started in their dresses without injury. There wTere about fifty girls dancing with Miss Gale at the time. Order was quickly restored and the company went back to work today.

Here is a more poetic description of the incident:

Suddenly there is a shrill cry, a scream of fear and pain, as one of the girls leaps to her feet, her fluffy yellow dress afire. Tinsel on her skirt has come into contact with an electric cable apparently not fully protected and set her aflame. The young woman, who is Vina Gale, mother of a five-month old son, starts running for the nearest exit, while momentarily panic grips .the entire assemblage. Not all, however, lose their heads. A few who do not rush to tear off the blazing dress put out the flames. The they wrap the young woman In the first thing that comes to hand, a piece of carpet, and carry her to a near by set on which there is a bed. Soon a doctor and an ambulance arrive, and they hurry the lovely young dancer to a near by hospital as word goes around she is suffering from second degree burns about the body. A few moments later the director calls “Ready, everyone.”

Vina made a full recovery and retired not long after. The couple had four more children:  Gale Louise, born on June 12, 1938, Gary Robert, born on July 10, 1941, Stephen Crane, born on February 11, 1946, and Lynn Shelley, born on July 14, 1948. vina became a naturalized Us citizen in 1941. The Minaldi family lived in California and Vina was very active in local civic events.

The Minaldis moved to Honolulu, Hawaii, at some point, probably after Jack went into retirement. Jack died in Hawaii in September 1981. Vina stayed in Hawaii and didn’t’ remarry.

Vina Gale Minaldi died on July 29, 1994, in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Madelyn Darrow

Madelyn Darrow was as cute as a button, with a sunny smile, perfectly coiffed hair, knock-out figure. Al of this combined with an innocent girl-next-door charm made Madelyn a wonderful representation of the 1950s dream girl. The youngest of the three stunning Darrow sisters (Alice, Barbara and Madelyn), all of whom were successful models (and Barbara even a semi successful actress), Madelyn had much going her way, from a supportive family, connection in the showbiz world and natural beauty, but it seems that her heart was always more in rising a family so her movie career is slim indeed. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Madelyn C. Wittlinger was born on February 21, 1935, in Hollywood, California, to George H. Wittlinger and Alice Alexandria Simpson. She was the youngest of three siblings – her older sisterss were Alice Emeline, born on November 29, 1929, and Barbara, born on November 18, 1931. Her father was a motion picture landscape artist, and her mother a former silent screen actress. Her uncle was actor turned agent, John Darrow.

Since Madelyn was from a showbiz family and born and bred in the heart of movie-land, it’s no wonder that she could not remember any time in her life she didn’t want to be an actress. Also, her older sister Barbara went into movies pretty early (leaving high school to sign a contract), under the moniker of Barbara Darrow, a surname which Madelyn would adopt one day too.

Madelyn effortlessly stepped into the modeling field as soon as she graduated from Hollywood High school. She appeared on the covers of Life, Colliers, Pageant and the Ladies Home Journal among others. This opened her the gate to Hollywood!

CAREER

Slim pickings here! Only three movies and a few minor TV appearances 😦 So, let’s start! Madelyn’s first movie was Guys and Dolls, the classical musical brought on the screen by Joe Mankiewicz and headed by Frank Sinatra,. Jean Simmons, Vivian Blaine and Marlon Brando. Yep, the Marlon Brando, never known for his singing voice but a man with such intense and strong charisma you don’t actually care. This is a great classical musical, with everything going for it – great music, top notch dancing and a enormously talented acting cadre.

Her second movie was The Ten Commandments. Who doesn’t love this movie! It has all the hallmarks of DeMille’s best of the best – larger than life story, first class actors and absolutely lavish sets and costumes. Truly, DeMille had that magical touch and it’s hard to define what he did, but the fact is, he did ti with style and gust deluxe.

Madelyn’s last movie was The Garment Jungle. It’s the least known of the movies she made, but still when you have Mankiewicz and DeMille as your competition, you can be very, very good and still be neglected and overlooked. Actually, this is a solidly made and sharply observed movie about trade unions and factory owners and their dirty tricks and fights. There is a particularly strong cast with Lee J. Cobb in the lead and Robert Loggia, Richard Boone, Wesley Addy and Joseph Wiseman in supporting roles. Gia Scala and Valerie French are okay but not really great in their roles.

That was all from Madelyn!

PRIVATE LIFE

Madelyn’s claim to fame was being the 1958 Rheingold Girl. We have to look back and see just how popular that brand of beer was and just how big of a deal the Rheingold girl was, much like the Miss Universe pageantry was in the 1990s. After winning the title, Madelyn enjoyed a year of glamour and endless photo shoots. As she later told the papers:

“My prize was $50,000,” says Madelyn Darrow, who felt like a billionaire. “They paid for my apartment on Sutton Place. I had a limousine at my disposal. I was so young. I thought that was how all New Yorkers lived.”

Madelyn was described as the outdoor type. She liked tennis, golf and swimming. She told the papers that some day she hopes to marry, but the man she marries will have to be sincere, humble and have a sense of humor.  When asked if it is a bad thing to show some intelligence to a man, Madelyn answered:

Absolutely not. I think it’s wonderful to show any intelligence or knowledge. I think you can overdo anything, however.

And now for her love life! In 1953, a Life magazine article paired her with a local life guard, the very wholesome and handsome Bill Abell, but I can’t tel is it was a newspaper stunt or the real deal, but anyway they didn’t’ last. In 1955, Madelyn was pretty serious about Robert Dix, son of the late Richard Dix. Bob liked pretty girls, and Madelyn was just his type – dark-haired, cute as a button and fresh as a rose. However, they broke up before the year was out. Bob married another beautiful starlet, Janet Lake, in 1956.

Madelyn started 1957 by dating Ronnie Knox, and was later seen around town with oilman Stuart Cramer III (who married Jean Peters and Terry Moore). At some point, she dated arranger Buddy Bregman.  Druing their courtship, there was a tense moment in the Moulin Rouge club when Buddy’s estranged wife Gloria Haley and her date for the night, Jeffrey Hunter, were seated at the same table where Buddy and his date, Madelyn also were slated to sit. Gloria and Jeffrey tactfully shifted to another spot.

But those were fleeting romances. A more permanent beau was Marty Kimmell, the handsome, well-connected, young and wealthy New Yorker who was wed to Gloria DeHaven for a brief time. In the beginning of their relationship, Marty played the field heavily, dating singers Eileen Barton and Jill Corey, and starlet Trudy Wroe. Madelyn herself was seen around town with James Morrow and even dated Ted Kennedy from time to time.

Things changed her Madelyn went to New York for the “Miss Rheingold” contest, and she and Marty became a solid duet while on his home turf. They dated for most of her Miss Rheingold tenure and there were rumors they might even wed someday. For unknown reasons, they broke up in late 1958 or early 1959, but despite this bittersweet ending it seems that it was a really nice and romantic relationship.

In 1959 Madelyn dated Gary Crosby before hooking up with tennis champ Pancho Gonzalez. They met at a tennis club, he gave her lessons and, ultimately, married her! Okay, things didn’t go that smoothly as Pancho was still married at the time, just separated from his wife, Henrietta, his high school lady love, and father of three boys. In September 1959, after a intense relationship of a few months, Pancho went on a tour (which greatly saddened Madelyn, as the papers wrote), and after he came back in 1960, the dice was thrown – it was marriage for Madelyn and Pancho. First he divorced Henrietta – she testified at their divorce hearing that Pancho had telephoned her from New York and told her he wouldn’t return to her after completing the tour. After the divorce was made final, he wed Madelyn in 1958 and they honeymooned in Honolulu. Their twin daughter, Marissa and Christina, were born on April 13, 1961.

Pancho led a peripatetic existence during the early stages of the marriage, traveling from one tournament to the other. Things changed after Madelyn gave birth to the twins. Madelyn had the measles and is being isolated from them. Judging his life style too hectic for a normal, stable family life, Pancho decided to retire, at least for a while, and try and live in one place. The couple’s third daughter, Shauwnna, was born on October 4,  1963. The couple divorced in 1968, remarried in 1970 and divorced in 1971.

Now something about Pancho. He was born Richard Alonzo Gonzales in Los Angeles, on May 9, 1928, one of seven children. He was a self taught player who became one of the tops, a rare occurrence in any sports field but tennis especially.

Here is a very good, concise article about Pancho, taken from Sports JRank web site:

Irascible and prone to raging against his opponents and umpires, Gonzales was nonetheless popular among tennis audiences, and he always drew a crowd. As the reigning champion, he trounced Ken Rosewall, Lew Hoad, and many others. Yet he was unhappy with his touring contracts, which always offered more money to the challenging player than to him, the reigning champion. Gonzales also faced marital troubles; he and Henrietta divorced in 1958. Soon after, he married Madelyn Darrow, with whom he had three daughters.

Gonzales prevailed in the round-robin tours until his contract expired in 1961. After briefly retiring, he returned to lose a humiliating first-round match at the U.S. Professional Grass Court Championships. For the next several years he turned his attention to coaching tennis, leading the U.S. Davis Cup team to the finals against Australia in 1963, and tutoring young American players, including Arthur Ashe.

When tennis “opened” in 1968, allowing amateurs to compete with professional players, 40-year-old Gonzales, no longer in the peak of his career, returned to play the major championships. A presence at all the major tournaments that year, he made a good showing but did not win a title. In what was perhaps his last moment in the spotlight, Gonzales won a grueling 112-game match against a player half his age, Charles Pasarell, in the first round of the 1969 Wimbledon tournament. The score stood at 22-24, 1-6, 16-14, 6-3, 11-9 after the five-hour and twelve-minute match—the longest in Wimbledon history. Gonzales continued playing well into his forties, becoming the oldest man to win a tournament, in Iowa, in 1972. He retired two years later, at age 46, and played senior events until the mid-1980s

After he retired Gonzales joined Ceasers Palace in Las Vegas as a professional coach—a job that he loved, and would keep for nearly two decades. He and Madelyn had married and divorced twice, ending the relationship for good in 1980; between his two marriages to her, he had three others. His sixth and final marriage was to Rita Agassi, sister of the U.S. tennis star Andre Agassi; the couple had a son, Skylar.

We can gather from this information that he was a passionate, driven, fiery individual and probably not the easiest man to live with. Tennis was his first and foremost love, and he had a strong devotion to his children and the large Gonzalez family – it seems his wives were always somewhere down the ladder and many people noted he didn’t treat them quite nicely.  Altough, in public, Madelyn spoke highly of her husband (she often talked how they played tennis together – “Richard is still very sweet about tennis, He’ll play with me anytime I want—real tennis, too, not just hitting the ball.”), who knows what was happening behind the scenes. Actress Diane McBain got involved with Pancho in the late 1960s while he and Madelyn were still married, but in a strange and complicated separation process, and wrote in her autobiography that Madelyn had never taken to Panchos’s side of the family and was not too enthusiastic to spend time with them. Could this be the focal friction point that pushed the couple from marriage, divorce, marriage again and divorce again? it also seems that Madelyn preferred that Gonzalez pursue business opportunities rather than tennis, and we all know that tennis was the number one star in his life.

Overall, we can assume they were very much in love at one point, but they were ultimately incompatible and divorced for good in 1971. Madelyn stayed in California, living a quiet family life with her daughters, and rarely appeared in the papers. Sadly, her youngest daughter Shauwnna died at age twelve in a horseback riding accident.

Madelyn is still alive today and lives in California. As always, I hope she had a happy life!