Laurie Shevlin

Laurie Shevlin was an alluring Scottish lass who ended up in Hollywood as a chorus girl and made only one movie. She tried for movies a second time, but that was another kaput, and her road from there was rocky, but ultimately she managed to carve out a happy life for herself. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Catherine Laurie Shevlin was born on March 15, 1914, in Annathill, Scotland, UK, to Frank and Annie Shevlin, the youngest of six children (Laurie had three brothers, one of them named William, and two sisters, one of them named Anna). Her father, an Irish immigrant, was a manual laborer, and allegedly once ran for Parliament on the Labor platform, although I find this very hard to believe. She spent her childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, but her parents decided to move to the land of opportunity, to the US.

Laurie arrived to the US in 1928 with her family. She was barely out of elementary school, but times were hard and all of the family had to go to work. There could be no more school for Laurie. She worked as a waitress and made more than her brothers. She was serving food in the public dining room of the Presbyterian Hospital, New York, when she won a beauty contest at a local theater. She was then 15. The contest caused her to be given a job in Earl Carroll’s “Murder at the Vanities” as the murdered girl. Wanting to improve her skills, she also started to attend Paramount School of Dramatic Art in New York.

Laurie stayed with the Carroll show two years, going to Hollywood to take part in the screen production, in the chorus. And that is how it started!

CAREER

Laurie appeared in only one movie – It’s a fast-moving, fast-talking, sexy movie all the way, the kind you couldn’t make after the Production code was enforced in 1934. The movie’s main highlight are giggly showgirls and a incredible blend of classical and hot jazz. The story is nothing to sneer at: a Murder investigation goes on back stage while The Vanities, on its opening night, plays on to an unknowing audience, but the movie mix and matched crime and musical so it’s an exciting novelty even today, 80 years after it was made. You can also see the infamous “Sweet Marijuana” number in this movie. Gertrude Michael, a underrated actress at any rate, has a meaty role as a bitchy actress and excels in it, making the leading duo of Kitty Carlisle and Carl Brisson somehow boring in comparison. Laurie of course played a chorus girl, just one in the pool of beauties.

And that was it from Laurie!

PRIVATE LIFE

Laurie was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighted about 120 lbs when she came to Hollywood.

Here is a beauty hint from Laurie:

To stimulate the growth of the eyelashes, a little castor oil rubbed on each evening before retiring is effective. Doing it regularly will result in thick, long lashes.

Sadly, Laurie’s stay in Hollywood was not a very happy one. Since she had arrived in Tinsel Town, she has had a narrow escape from pneumonia, has had dental trouble which necessitated a lanced jaw, and has fallen down stairs. On a side note, Laurie wasnt’ interested in getting married back then, like some of her fellow chorus girls. They said this to the papers:

Hollywood blonde; Marion Callahan, yellow head from New York; Dorothy Dawes, brunette from the same Big Town, and Laurie Shevlin, of Scotland, with snapping dark eyes, babble that they have always looked forward to careers, that they don’t know what all the fuss is about marriage, that they “prefer to be alive!”

Well said girls! When you are 20 years old, still learning and trying to find yourself, maybe it’s better to wait for the right time ot get married, despite all the societal pressure.

After she appeared in his one and only movie, Laurie was not recognized then as star material and came back to New York for an engagement with a Carroll troupe at a night club. Then she went into George White’s “Scandals” show. She decided she wanted to be a dramatic actress. She wrote and asked Oscar Berlin, chief talent scout for Paramount, and Cecil Clovelly, the director of the Paramount school, to let her enter. They granted her an interview, but turned her down at first, because of her accent. So she worked on it at home, on buses, in subways, at cocktail parties, making everyone correct her when she sounded like something fresh off the moors. Finally, her persistence and her charm overcame them. They let her in, but it took a great deal of work, every day, hour upon hour, delivering lines, learning to walk, learning to hold up her face so the strong lights of the studio would not make shadows. Before it came time to make her test, they put her through a course in how to dress herself, how to emphasize her good points. They tried to sell her as an rising star on this story – to make her a kind of a Scottish Cinderella whose voice had to be modulated before she could enter movies.

Here is a short article about Laurie’s elocution abilities:

, Tilt Gives Laurie Shevlin the Unique Charm Hero Captured by the Cameras In the Course of Her Test for a Film Contract. Compare This Photo of Her with That (Below) . . . By Dorothy Ducas S HE looked small and helpless sitting under the fierce glare of the studio lights. But when she spoke .her voice was as vibrant with youth and life as the mist-blue eyes under her curling, naturally long, black lashes. “You don’t believe thot? Well you con. It’s trrrue!” Delicately, but as arrestingly as a glimpse of purple heather, an accent lay upon her words. It was no simulated accent, it was real. A Scotch lassie! That was why she wore the tartan like one to the heather born. She continued: “I was born of a Russian mother and a Scotch fatherrrr — on a Dutch ship — on the high seas.” She flashed an impish grin. Laurie Shevlin was taking her ACID TEST It Takes Extraordinary Poiso for a Screen Hopeful to’ Bear Up Under the Severe Conditions Surrounding Movie “Tests.” Above Is One of the Few Photos Ever Made During the “Test” of a Future Possible Star, Taken as Laurie Shevlin Was Facing the Cameras for the Picture Which Won Her Her Chance at Stardom, and Made Happy Her Mother (Below), Who Naturally Thinks Laurie Looks Her Best In the Scotch Kilt Costume She Is Wearing at Right.  Another View of the Making of the “Test” Film Which Marked Laurie Shevlin’s Graduation from the Paramount School In New York, Where She Studied for More Than a Year to Win Her Chance at Capturing Film Fame. . . . Showing Laurie Shevlin at the Time She Arrived In This Country with Her Family, an Immigrant Girl from Her Native Scotland. screen, test after months . of. .studying to rid her tremulous voice of the burr of her native land, by playing a scene from Elizabeth Bergener “Escape Me Never.” She was playing it with a Scotch instead of a German accent, for some of the objectionable burr remained; playing it with all the yearning of her young soul in her voice. “Please,” she was saying to herself, “please make them like a Scotch accent as much as a German one!” She . was thinking of the international success of German-born Elizabeth Bergener. Laurie Shevlin’.’, rich “r’s” and narrow “a’s” were all that stood between her and a movie contract when she first came under the eye of a Paramount talent scout. Garbo has’ done rather well with Swedish overtones In her voice; exaggerated British accents are in demand, and the Spanish accent of Lupe Velez and other Latins has never seemingly grated on the ears of photoplay-goers. Yet an executive thought those same movie audiences wouldn’t like a Scotch accent! So Laurie Shevlin, who thought she was done with learning the Three It’s, went to school again. She read whole books aloud to her mother, her brother, her friends, practicing words and watching lip motions in the mirror in her bedroom. She stayed in the Paramount school for “finds” months longer than any of their other “discoveries,” she whose beauty was outstanding, whose ability made it possible for her to cry real tears without coaching. She stayed to “kill” the accent But for all her study she could not eliminate the trace of it. Fortunately, too, for it was that delectable sound which made the West Coast and fame beckon, following her screen test. Overnight that which had been her bug-a-boo became a passport to golden opportunity. “And why not?” asks Laurie, bubbling over with happiness. “Harry Lauder made a pile of money out of his accent.”

This try for a career faltered just as did the first one, and Laurie returned to New York for good, and continued appearing in Earl Carroll’s night clubs. The years went on, and at some point, she gave up her chorus work.

Now, I have no idea how it came to this, but by 1942, Laurie was disillusion with everything in general, and, probably not seeing a viable way out, tried to commit suicide. Yes, she tried to drown herself in Central park. Highly unusual suicide method, that one. Here is an article from that unhappy occurrence:

Laurie Shevlin, 26 years old, a former chorus girl in Earl Carroll’s night club in Hollywood, was In Bellevue after two attempts to take her life. already end her life by jumping into a pool  Central park. Miss Shevlin Jumped heard her scream, leaped in.

Patrolman Robert Pilsen dragged her to shore. When he let her go, however, she jumped back in. Patrolman Louis Schmidt and numerous others pulled her out again and took her to the hospital.

So, she tried to jump two times – something really serious must have happened to her. Perhaps a love affair gone awry, financial problems, something else? But, bottom line, she pulled out of the chasm, survived, and returned stronger. How do we know that? Well, the next we hear, Laurie was in the papers for a happy occasion – a marriage!

She married Warrant Officer Homer Wilfrid Anderson on October 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. Anderson was born on April, 2 1916, in Orange, New York, the son of Homer Wilfird Anderson Sr. and Lena M. Anderson. He became a certified public accountant In civilian life, was inducted into the Army February 11, 1942. He is stationed in Los Angeles, with the Contract Audit Air Forces. He was just out of the Army when they hitched.

I have no idea what happened to Laurie afterwards – how solid was her marriage, where did she live and so on. I just know that Homer Wilfrid Anderson died on February 7, 2003, in Virginia.
As always, I hope she had a good life!

Nora Gale

 

Nora Gale – a chorus girl who crashed Tinsel town with scant experience but luckily got a contract, danced in various movies, never made it to a credited role, returned to the stage and in the end, married and left showbiz. Heard this story before? Anyway, let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Nora Gwendalyn Gale was born on January 20, 1917 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, to Herbert Lancelot Gale and his wife Liza Ashman.  Her father worked as a carpenter, her mother was a housewife.

Herbert and Liza actually met and married in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1906. Her mother was married once before, in 1903, to James Wiliam Fear, who tragically died in November 1905. They had a son, Nora’s older half-brother, Wallace James, born in 1904. The Gales lived in Canada until shortly before Nora was born, and then returned to Bristol. It seems that Wallace remained in Canada, living with relatives.

Tragedy struck the Gale family when James, barely 16 years old and working as a rivet heater for a railway company in Winnipeg, drowned in 1920. The family moved to California, and they became naturalized US citizens in 1932. Nora was a outgoing, talented child who was adept at dancing, and wanted to become an actress. She started to work as a chorus girl while she was in high school, and by the age of 16 was an experienced chorine. Somehow she met dance director LeRoy Prinz, and he put her into the good graces with a studio that signed her in 1935.

CAREER

Nora started her career with Murder at the Vanities, a sensual, bawdy and rowdy murder mystery made before the code was reinforced – and boy, could this movie never be made after 1934. Plenty of skimpily clad girls, songs with dubious drug references lyrics , weapons, a sleek killer, murder in the ceiling and dripping blood.. You get the picture! Nora was of course one of the showgirls. Nora’s second movie, Lottery Lover was in a lower tier – a pleasant but not all too interesting musical.  Nora was back in the sexy pool with Rumba, a George Raft/Carole Lombard pairing. Their first pairing was the ultra slinky Bolero which made ton of money for the studio, so they made a repeat, but this movie, made after the code was enforced, had none of the lusty sensuality and energy of the original, not to mention trading the bittersweet ending for  atypical Hollywood happy one, so it’s a mid tier movie at best, perhaps worth watching for the dancing and for Carole/George fans.

Nora undertook a brief hiatus from Tinsel town, got married and divorced in the UK, and returned to Hollywood in 1938. She made only three small movie appearances in this iteration of her career: The Big Broadcast of 1938 and Sing, You Sinners and Artists and Models Abroad.All three movies are musicals with comedic touches, but are quite different in tone – Artists and Models is a more traditional romance, Big broadcast is a pastiche of various performers doing their stuff and even with some animated segments, while Sing you sinners is a charming family movie about three brothers (played with aplomb by Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor). Then Nora took another hiatus after this.

In 1941, Nora made an appearance in the most well known movie of her filmography – the James Cagney/Rita Hayworth/Olivia de Havilland/Jack Carson classic The Strawberry Blonde, a witty, nostalgic comedy with a great cast and a actually highly realistic story. The plot is simple: Carson as Hugo Barnstead marries Virginia Brush (Hayworth), “stealing” her away from Biff Grimes (Cagney) who later marries Amy Lind (de Havilland), on the rebound. Years later, Biff sees reality of what it would have been if he had married the vapid Virginia (when he’s asked to pull Hugo’s tooth), and hence better appreciates his own wife. This is a golden role for Jimmy Cagney – atypical from his previous gangster movies that made him a household name, here Cagney plays a softer character, albeit still brash and rough around the edges.

Nora’s last movie was The Great American Broadcast, and as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “actually has a fun if unremarkable plot, pretending to be about the history of radio, but really just an excuse to let its stars do what they do best: Alice Faye to sing in her throaty, comforting contralto, John Payne to look handsome (he also warbles a bit, and not badly), Jack Oakie to clown (less annoyingly than usual). Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote many gorgeous ballads;  It moves fast–positively at a gallop, by Fox standards–and though there are anachronisms everywhere, in the costumes and the dialog and the sets, this time you don’t mind. A very entertaining, unpretentious Fox musical.”

That was it from Nora!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nora had a brief one year career in movies before becoming a full time showgirl. She was working in the UK when she and a group of other chorus girls ( Luanna Meredith, Patricia King, Nora Gale, Harriet Haddon and Jeannette Dickson) had toleave England immediately because the Ministry of Labor has refused to extend their labor permits. Nora, who visited her family in Bristol and reconnected to a previous swain, decided to stay and marry him.

So, in 1936, Nora married Alec G. Henstridge back in Bristol. Alas, the marriage was not meant to last, as they were divorced by the time Nora returned to the US in 1938 and started acting in movies again. Here is a article about being a chorine back in those days :

Hollywood had cated, too, because the studios today make dancing a secondary consideration, look first to personality. “Personality and carriage are the two prime attributes we seek,” Prinz explained. “Personality with naturalness, without coyness. A girl may not be pretty, may even be homely, but if she has nice features, can be herself, can walk properly or learn to do it, we can transform her in 30 days so that you won’t recognize her. She might not have been able to get a job in the Five-and-Ten before, but when we get through with her, she’s ready for a place in any smart shop.” To EFFECT these magic changes, the studio teaches the girl: 1 how to walk; 2 how. to talk, and not to talk too much; 3 how to use makeup according to her type; 4 how to dress her hair; 5 how to pick and wear clothes; 6 to study her own personality and how to bring out her best points. Only after the girl has been thus remolded does her ability to dance come into the picture. Even then, dancing is preceded by the teaching of rhythm, which is essential not only to dancing but to proper walking. “In teaching rhythm,” said Prinz, “I have the girl walk to a waltz, then to a fox-trot, finally according to her own idea of how she should do it and pointing towards a natural but graceful interpretation.” As outstanding examples of the new type screen chorine Prinz named Nora Gale and Harriet Haddon. “Nora came to me when she was 16,” he said. “She was just another chorus girl who wore slacks and carried a little grip with a baby doll painted on it. She wanted to break her neck doing acrobatic dancing. Now she is a smart and poised young lady.” Later we met Miss Gale. . She seemed a serious-minded young person with an urge toward getting somewhere in pictures. “I want to be a comedienne,” she confided. “Most of the girls are pretty earnest about their careers, and work hard for advancement.” I fall Mm University. Then she got a summer Job in the studios. One reason Hollywood girls are movie sophisticated than they used to be, she believes, is to be found In the influence upon them exerted . by numbers to Broadway girls who have come to the film studios in the past few years. ‘ “Since I started here I’ve worked both in New York and London,” sha said. “The Broadway girls used to be so much older for their, years than the girls here. At 17 they were like youthful women of 25. You would never catch a New York chorus girl running around in bobby socks, sweaters and slacks and low heels, with a scarf on her head.” Miss Haddon agreed, as did Dorothy Haas, whom we met and immediately listed as our personal selection.

In Hollywood, Nora was mighty serious about Mack Gray, George Raft’s right hand man (also known as Raft’s companion-bodyguard-shadow in the press) and a close friend of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. For unknown reasons the two broke up after about a year together. In 1940, she was beaued by Louis Zamperini, the U.S.C. intercollegiate track star and one-mile champion whose later wartime experiences would later serve as the basis for the Angelina Jolie movie Unbreakable.

Then, there were reports that Nora was secretly married to Ned Stewart. It seems that they were very much close to the altar, but something thwarted them and they gave up. We can assume that Nora was quite bitter over the experience, here is a newspaper snippet written after their crash-and-burn romance:

Not all actresses prefer actors for boy-friends. Nora Gale seems definitely typical. Young and attractive and sufficiently talented to win a part In “Unmarried,” with Buck Jones and Helen Twelvetrees, Miss Gale has this to say about the stated situation: “I’ve been in pictures about a year and a half and I have yet to find a movie actor who didn’t consider himself a pretty competent article indeed. I mean most of them are of the firm opinion they are the real McCoy.” Nora’s preference is for young business men. When she steps out over the holidays, it will be with young business men, the same kind of young men you find in Toledo, O., or South Bend, Ind., just as well as in Hollywood. Nora prefers them to actors. “They know more and talk less.”

Ouch! One wonders what exactly happened to warrant this kind of an outburst. There is usually a very good reason why actresses date more actors, movie people (or in some cases millionaires) than normal business people, but Nora was hurting and perhaps she truly needed a break from Tinsel town? Anyway, next thing we know, Nora gives up Hollywood and becomes a member of the St. Regis ice show.

Unlike many other starlets who said all sorts of stuff to the papers and then did the exact opposite, Nora really did date and in the end marry a businessman. She was wed to George Shannon Baker, a wealthy liquor magnate of Minneapolis, in January 1942 at a 4 p.m. ceremony at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cedric Adams, with the The Rev. Frederick D. Tyner officiating. The couple lived in Minneapolis after the nuptials, and Nora retired from the movies for good.

Unfortunately, the Bakers were divorced in 1951. I have no idea what exactly did Nora do after the divorce, did she stay in Minneapolis or move back to Los Angeles?

Roughly 20 years after they were almost married in Los Angeles, Nora married Ned G. Stewart on November 2, 1961. The couple moved to Hawaii to enjoy their mature years.

Norah Gale Stewart died on July 21, 1996 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Gloria Youngblood

Gloria Youngblood had one of the most interesting lives I have encountered while profiling classic Hollywood actresses. While she wasn’t an actress of any note, she was an active woman who made her own path and never looked back! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Minnie Gloria Youngblood was born on May 12, 1916, in Madison, Illinois, to Adolph Herman Youngblood and Laura Pillsbury. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1914. She was of Native American (Cherokee) descent on her father’s side. Her father worked as a maintenance man for a western cartridge company.

When the United States went to war Adolph husband decided that it was his duty to go into the navy. He sought a release from the Exemption Board, saying his wife was willing for him to go and leave her with their two children. He was told his wife would have to come to the board and make her acquiescence known, and she did. She expressed herself as being perfectly willing to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children. She said she could work, and that she believed, with what he would send her, she would be able to “get by”. Finally the husband and father got the desired release. He joined the Navy and has been in service on a torpedo boat.

On November 12, 1918, Laura died at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Pillsbury from influenza. The family tried to get into touch with the husband to inform him that the two little children he left at home are motherless. Adolph returned soon, and married Rose Youngblood, a widower with had two children from her late husband’s previous marriage (whoa, what a family!). They lived with Rose’s parents in Alton. Gloria and Margaret lived with their grandparents, but obviously maintained a tight relationship with their father.

Gloria grew up in Alton, in her grandparents home. She attended Alton High School, and after graduation in 1935, went to New York to become a model. And this is how she got in touch with Tinsel town, and how her career started.

CAREER:

Gloria appeared in only three movies, all made in 1938. The first one was The Goldwyn Follies, The plot is as silly as the movie in general: Movie producer chooses a simple girl to be “Miss Humanity” and to critically evaluate his movies from the point of view of the ordinary person. What? Yes, I was as shocked as you were. These kinds of movie,s where the story is completely irrelevant and where singing and dancing is everything, are rarely good – while everybody can enjoy a good dancing number, movies as a format were not ideally suited for this – I can watch a dancing video if I wanted this. I expect more style, substance and art from movies, not nonsensical dancing. Well, this movie doesn’t have it. While there are truly spectacular dance sequences, overall it just doesn’t hold a candle to truly great musicals.

A much better movie was The Adventures of Marco Polo, and that’s saying something! This movie, known today as the movie where Lana Turner had to shave her eyebrows that never grew back later, is corny, wean and uneven. While the sumptuous set and costume design is breathtaking, everything is too stagy and absurd to be believable at any degree. Even Gary Cooper couldn’t save this dud!

Gloria’s last movie was Trade Winds, a fun traveling romp with Frederic March and Joan Bennett. The plot is bare bones: March is a former SFPD detective, hired to find and bring back Joan Bennett, who’s suspected of murdering Sidney Blackmer. The movie mixes genres from whodunnit, to travelogue, to screwball comedy, to romance, to courtroom drama and does it with its own unique flair. March and Bennett are great, very slinky and sexy, with a great cat and mouse game going on, quite a feat for the Production code ridden late 1930s. Kudos to supporting actor Ann Sothern and Ralph Bellamy who are impeccable in their stereotyped but very effective roles.

That was it from Gloria!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to New York, Gloria was homesick, and treated her malady by buying local Alton newspapers  – she would stroll from her Hotel Edison at Forty-seventh and Broadway to the out-of-town newsstand in back of the Times Building at Broadway and Forty-second street every night to get the newspapers from her home town. Back before the inter,et this is the closest you could get abreast all the new events happening in Illinois, so nifty!

In 1937, Gloria hit the papers by begin her sister’s witness in her divorce from Chris Larkin. By September 1937, we see her as the girlfriend of A.C. Blumenthal, the fabulously wealthy financier. Blumenthal was shorter than Gloria, so they made a cute couple 🙂 They also had a daily routine: They swim every morning at eight, which everybody saw as a pretty strong test of devotion. But, int he long run, it didn’t work.

Why? Well, because Gloria met a new Romeo – Rudy Vallee, the famous bandleader and Lothario. Vallee dated such a large number of girls that the press often lost count – they met in New York, introduced by noted puppeteer Edgar Bergen. He escorted her around town for a few weeks, and then went back to Los Angeles, where he lived. When Gloria was the writing on the wall, and that Rudy was escorting other girls, she packed her bags and simply moved to LA to try her hand at acting. No prior experience needed! They resumes dating in Los Angeles, and all was fine and dandy.

This all happened in a span of literary weeks. And in October 1937, Gloria hit the papers hit. How? Well, the well oiled studio publicity machine saw an opportunity and literary snatched her – Gloria was hopeful that Rudy would marry her, the studio was hopefully that Rudy would stop Casanoving women around, and viola, it was a perfect match! One small detail/problem. Rudy wasn’t in on it. While he certainly liked Gloria, he had no intention whatsoever of getting married again. His last marriage, to Fay Webb, was very tempestuous, and their divorce was highly dramatic. Fay died after their divorce was made final, in November 1936, and this truly crushed Rudy. He played the field almost carelessly, and it was clear to most who knew him that Rudy wouldn’t marry for at least a few more years. The studio turned a blind eye to all of that, and, conspiring with Gloria, first invited her father to California to meet Rudy. After that went swimmingly, the studio took this as a cue to act, and organized a press release.  Feigning that she was shocked by the press being there, Gloria said: “I didn’t intend to say anything at this time, but Mr. Vallee and I are deeply interested In each other and we hope to be married by the end of the year.” Gloria was expecting an engagement ring, but she didn’t’ quite get it.

Rudy was staggering mad, but he knew how the studio operated and decided to take it in his stride. He called the press, and gently and emphatically but firmly denied reports that he is engaged to Gloria. “I have not been engaged to her, am not engaged to her and do not anticipate an engagement with her.” I wish I knew what was going on in the backstage of this minor drama! In the end everything just blew up, with the press speculating about this and that. But no matter what they wrote, Rudy wouldn’t budge. After a tiffy period they made up, but again, no ring.

Gloria and Rudy continued dating afterwards, and dated well into 1938. They were seen everywhere together – at the local hotpots, at horse races, at tennis games. Here is a very short and sweet blurb about their courtship:

Rudy Vallee so absorbed in Gloria Youngblood at the Perry-Vines tennis match that he lost a treasured scarf and had the ushers looking madly for it.

And so it went, but Rudy’s philandering ways remained unchanged, and he dated other girls on the side – socialite Judy Stewart, June Knight, Wendy Barrie, and the list goes on! Gloria was not happy about it, but could do little. So it went back and forth until May 1938, when, after quite a bit of tiffs, Rudy went for New York again. Gloria stayed for a bit in Los Angeles, dated Alexander Korda, the famous British producer, and then went to New York herself, allegedly not because she wanted to follow Rudy but to become a legitimate actress. I don’t think anybody believed her, but hey, anything goes in love and war.

In New York, Gloria was serious about George Johnston, a lawyer working for Walter Wanger, for a few months in the mid 1938. Later she was seen with ice skater Jack Dunn, and Roy Randolph. She started 1939 by dating bandleader Bobby Parks. That year proved to be a monumental year for Gloria in general. In March 1939, Gloria and four other girls went to London with noted showman George Hale to try their luck at dance halls. Here is a bit about the show.

Georgie Hale is readying another cargo of feminine charm for English consumption. Georgie must have been a lucky baby for look what he’s doing now. Must be tough work to stand out there and tell such dolls as Cynthia Cavanaugh, the “Duchess’ (she’s already counting on a stray British title); Gloria Youngblood, Rudy Vallee’s girl friend; Arlene Stone and Myra Stephens what to do. Georgie is a keen faced little guy, temperamental, yet patient with his charges. Watching him put the girls, through their paces, he seems absolutely unconcerned about their actions.

Gloria’s first beau in the UK was Guy Middleton, a fellow thespian. She received girls from fans – for instance, a fancy white cap described as gift from Prince Fefeal of Saudi Arabia. And this is how Gloria met her first husband, Eddie Meade. Now, who is Eddie Meade?

Meade was fight promoter and manager. He became famous for being the manager of heavy weight Henry Armstrong. Eddie was a promoter in Los Angeles long before Armstrong even came to town. Born in, he was a Jolly, fat man with charm aplenty and a gregarious spender. he earned big bucks, but spent them just as quickly. Meade was only mid teir successful before he encountered Armstrong. During one of the weekly Hollywood Legion fights, in front of a star-studded crowd, Armstrong distinguished himself, scoring a sensational knockout. Two of the stars, Ruby Keeler and Al Jolson, took a liking to the human hurricane and underwrote the purchase of his contract for their friend, Eddie Meade.

Henry and Eddie were in the UK at the same time as Gloria. Henry fought Ernie Roderick and won without difficulty (both Gloria and Cynthia were there in the audience, watching). Eddie collected enough pounds sterling to paper the inside of a battleship and set out with Brig. Gen. Critchley. and Sid Hulls, his matchmaker, to fee the town. Their first stop was a night club in Leicester Square. It was the working of destiny. Featured at the club was an act called “The Eight American Glamour Girls,” Most glamorous of the eight was of Gloria. Eddie came, saw her and lost his heart to Gloria. When she Returned to New York They Were Married. But wait, what about the return! Well, there is a whole story about this!!!

Gloria Youngblood Jailed By French as German Spy; Home After Harrowing Trip Liner “w’as Escorted from France by Convoy of Destroyers How she escaped a firing squad or possible imprisonment for the duration of a drawn-out war was related to a Telegraph reporter Thursday night by Gloria Young- Wood, screen and stage actress, who arrived in Alton from France after a narrow escape from French soldiers and a hectic crossing of the Atlantic on the liner “Manhattan.” Miss Youngblood, who happened to be in Switzerland at the,outbreak of hostilities in Europe, started for Bordeaux France, with 10 other actresses and their manager. The trip, which ordinarily requires nine hours, took three days under war conditions. Once In France, however, Miss Youngblood’s troubles were only starting; for in war-torn Europe even an American, whose publicity claims for her an appreciable portion of American Indian blood, is not above suspicion. No sooner did she and her friends arrive In Bordeaux than she was taken Into custody as a “government prisoner.” Grounds for Suspicion She was lodged In a common jail and all her baggage was subjected to an Intensive search. Even the lining of her travelling bags and coats were tipped away in an effort to connect her with the Nazi regime In Germany. Miss Youngblood admits, however, that the French had some grounds for suspicion; for When she left Switzerland she had In her possession a knife, which had a Swastika sign on the blade. In a continent ripped wide open with hatred and a necessity for self- preservation, the most remote precaution is necessary. Someone in Switzerland had Informed the French of her possession of the knife, a gift from a friend, so she had no more than arrived at Bordeaux than she Was taken into custody. Long before she arrived at Bordeaux she had thrown the knife away, but It was too late to avoid the French version of the “third degree.” She was arrested and held In jail until her manager arranged for her release. She then was compelled to disguise herself by using no make-up and tying a bandanna around her head, In order: to get away on the liner “Manhattan,” which sailed early one morning under the cover of darkness, Destroyer Convoy The liner left Europe under a French and English convoy of destroyers,. There were three French and three English. which convoyed the liner for a day. After the liner was considered to be out of danger of violence ‘the warships left But that was only the beginning, She said. From then on Into the coast of America a storm of the highest ‘caliber hove the ship to and fro for six days. Even the hardiest seamen were sea-sick. The ship was Intended to carry 1200 passengers, but actually carried 800 more than that, and under crowded conditions there was nothing for one to do but hold one’s head and ‘like It, Miss Youngblood related. She still sighs when she thinks of the escape from the French military, who seemed to suspect her even after she had more or less established her innocence, which was done largely through a,manager, who pulled wires right and left to effect her release. Once, .she’ said, she was taken from her call and told that she could walk about the jail, If she desired to do so. She said she was allowed certain liberties because she was a “government” prisoner and not,regarded as an ordinary transgressor. This meant that she had a menu from which to order food, Nevertheless, the French seemed to want to either shoot her or hold her until hostilities were over. She Wears a Diamond Once in New York, where she landed on Sept 30, she was met by Eddie Meade. none other than the manager of Welterweight Champion Henry Armstrong. Eddie’s diamond ring adorns the Youngblood finger. Eddie telephones her frequently wherever she may be, from whatever point on earth he may be at the time. A short time before she talked with a representative of the Telegraph, she said, Eddie had phoned her from Minneapolis, where Arm- Strong Is scheduled to fight in a few days. She once was reported engaged to Rudy Vallee. An exclusive side-light to her arrival in America was given to the Telegraph by Miss Youngblood. Prince Yauka Troubetzkoy of the old Russian aristocracy will follow her here. In New York reporters asked her about a rumor that a Russian prince had been somewhat •mitten. She said she refused to give them the Information, but divulged to the Telegraph that Prince Yauka had seen her frequently in Europe and had told her that he would arrive In America as soon as he could obtain passage. Even Wlnchell wanted confirmation of this report, she said. Miss Youngblood told of an incident of the war encountered near a small French town, which was being evacuated, Many .persons were fleeing, one of whom was an ill woman, borne on a stretcher. The woman obviously was soon to become a mother, she-said. The American actress begged the woman to remain where she was, but the woman said it would be at least a month yet and added that she must go on, because she was expecting mail in – the next town- from her officer-husband. Even when Miss Youngblood offered to sacrifice her passage home* to stay with her, the woman—little more than a girl- refused, saying that she must go on. . • ‘ *; • > Miss Youngblood will leave Alton Saturday by. airplane for Hollywood, where t site hail been offered a movie contract by M.G.M. She told a Telegraph reporter that she means to accept the terms of the contract but if they do not meet her approval, she will go back to New York to take part in a show now being rehearsed by Olson and Johnson, stars and producers of “Hell-Za-Poppin’.” She has tried out for the part In the Olson and Johnson opus.

Huh, also, Eddie was married. Desperately in love with Gloria, Mr. Bountiful reluctantly came home a few weeks later and laid his cards on the table for Kitty. The outcome was that she went to Reno for a divorce, unselfishly sacrificing herself for Eddie’s happiness or the reasonable facsimile thereof that he mistook for it. Gloria returned from her triumphant London stay shortly thereafter, hurried by the war clouds which were growing blacker every day in that ominous Summer of 1939. The way thus cleared for him, Eddie planned to marry Gloria.

After Gloria returned to New York, Rudy came like a hurricane, ardently courting her and buying her flowers and whatnot – but Gloria was firm – after so many disappointments, she knew that Rudy was hardly poised to change, and decided to go through with her planned marriage to Meade. The two married in Mexico on October 2, 1939. Gloria was 27, Meade was 20 plus years older.

After they married, Gloria tried to straighten Eddie out. He was a play hard, work hard type who ate and drank way to much for his own good. The couple made their permanent home at the swanky address in East Seventy-seventh street, at Park avenue.

Then, literary a year after their Mexico wedding, Eddie had a heart attack, and had to retiree to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a cure. Gloria first went to visit her parents in Alton, and stated she was to Join Mead In Hot Springs for the Christmas holidays. Her career In motion picture has been shelved temporarily so she can devote more to John, and was, taking time preparing for a radio debut, after Eddie got better. in other words, a beautiful, young woman just on the cusp of the good life had to give it all up as to be a nursemaid to a man who bought on that to himself by years of excessive living. While there are cases of women who were unselfishly devoted to their husbands and nurse them through thick and thin, it seems that Gloria was not quite that woman.  And Eddie, being himself, didn’t help the suit.

Their marriage started to disintegrate pretty soon, but both Eddie and Gloria were vehemently trying to cover it, even telling whoever will listen about the very first time they met and how perilously close they came to not being introduced at all. But, such mambo jumbo talk did little to help the final situation, and they were separated by October 1941, and talking about divorce by November. In the end, they remained married but living separately. Eddie shackled in Palm Springs to help his health, but he was out of cash and on the brink of bankruptcy, even unable to pay Gloria any alimony. After not seeing each other for two months, they were reunited, by, of all things, a robbery. As Eddie was a gin-rummy expert as well as a world champion at backgammon, and Gloria was good at gin rummy too, they were both up In Palm Beach on the night of the burglary since there was a gin rummy tournament happening. They tried for a reconciliation, but it didn’t yell, and separated yet again.

In April 1942, Gloria went to Florida, and was intent on getting her Miami divorce, but admitted to everybody that she was carrying the torch for Eddie. There was talk of more reconciliation, and things were constantly going back and forth, with no resolution in sight. Then the worst possible resolution happened, the most permanent one.

In May 1942, Eddie died from a heart ailment in front of his hotel. His passing was mourned along Jacobs’ Bach, hangout of Gotham’s boxing fraternity, and in boxing centers all over the country because of his honesty and reputation for being a “square shooter.” Mead managed Henry Armstrong and Joe Lunch to world’s titles and made and spent a fortune. He had been inactive in boxing since Armstrong failed to recapture the welterweight crown from Fritz Zivic. However, Armstrong was effectively left destitute by Eddie’ death – Eddie died completely broke, so there was not any money to inherit for Gloria (but as far as I can tell, she wasn’t in it for the money, at least not solely). Despite the fact that they were separated, Gloria was inconsolable. At the funeral, Gloria, in mourning clothes, wept hysterically. She ordered a shower of red roses, tied with a ribbon labelled “All of My Love.”

However, it didn’t take Gloria long to remarry In fact, I find it quite weird (and trying not to use a more direct word) how she remarried only months after Eddie’s death. Granted, they were separated at the time, but still! Anyway, her new husband was named Francis Buckeley Fields, and was an heir to insurance millions. They wed in August 1942, while we was on a furlough from the Army Air Corps, in Union City, N. J. Eddie had been dead for barely three months, but let us not forget that it was war-time and a great big number of hasty marriages happened because of these extreme circumstances.

Freddie and Gloria spent most of their early marriage apart, due to the war. They were finally reunited in 1944, and after he was shipped to Europe again, he was wounded by a’ bomb in London, and ended up in a British hospital. In the meantime, Gloria found out she was pregnant – she was due in September 1944 and awaited the happy occasion with much joy. Unfortunately, she miscarriaged. Freddie returned to the US in late 1944, but their marriage, shaky to begin with, only sank further and further apart. They separated not long after his return, but were still not intent on divorcing, hoping to see how it went, will they separate for good or merge again.

And it didn’t’ go well for Freddie. Gloria was courted right of the bat by liquor magnate Sam Sokol, but that was only a temporary arrangement. A more permanent beau was on the horizon – Luthero Vargas, son of Brazilian president Vargas. They dated for more than a year, from Late 1944 until late 1945 (some overlapping with Fields, perhaps?). Luthero was often seen around New York hotspots with Gloria, especially after he was discharged from the Royal Air Force in September 1945. I was sure, reading the papers, that Gloria and he would get hitched and move to Brazil. Sadly, it didn’t’ happen, and they busted sometime in 1946. Why? No idea, but Gloria was not yet divorces nor was there any talk of marriage in the papers, which is a bit funny if you ask me, they wed people who went on a few dates, and never mentioned it for Gloria and Luthero who dated for more than a year. Anyway, that was that.

In 1946, Gloria finally divorced Frederic Fields, and started dating Al Capp, famous cartoonist, whom eh dated until 1947. Long retired from Hollywood by now, she dropped of the newspaper radar, but emerged again when she operated a hat shop, and then became an employee of New York public relations firm (Henry Levine agency). Later she worked for a Binghamton Insurance firm, , and did a magnificent job of selling policies to the over-the-hill set. In 1949, she dated Jack Frye, but he was also involved with Nevada Smith, whom he ultimately married.

Later that same year Gloria became engaged to marry wealthy Toronto barrister Joel Okell, whom she met at her pyramid party. The engagement was dropped a few months later due to unknown reasons.

In 1950, Gloria married her third husband, John Prescott Cann. Cann was born on June 4, 1919, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to Wentworth Prescott Cann and Glada Cann. His father died young and his mother remarried to a Mr. Brand. John graduated from Chambersburg high school, and went into aviation after serving in the army in WW2. Cann worked as a navigator for TWA Airlines, and lived in Egypt for three years. Later in his career he did the Los Angeles – Hawaii route, and did 39 trips to Vietnam, earning a citation from President Nixon. Cann was married once before and had a daughter, Cindy. After the marriage, Gloria moved from N.Y. to Westlake Village, California. Gloria was an active horse rider and rode often in her later years in California.

The Canns enjoyed a wonderful marriage, and often traveled together all around the world (especially since Cann had discount on all TWA flights 🙂 ). Cann’s daughter Cindy was close to her stepmom, and spoke highly of her in later life.

John Cann died on September 11, 1971, in Los Angeles. Gloria remained in Westlake Village, and enjoyed a happy retirement.

Gloria Youngblood Cann died on October 25, 2003, in Los Angeles, California.

Marla Shelton

Marla Shelton was a multi-talented, unusual woman who started as a beauty pageant winner, had a so-so acting career (but managed to grew out of the starlet phase and even playing meaty roles in decent movies), and later became a songwriter! A interesting road to take indeed! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alberta Pearl Maria McKellop was born on October 12, 1912, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to Arthur McKellop and Pearl Shelton. Her godfather was future secretary of war, Patrick J. Hurley. 

Marla was later lauded as one of the first Native American feminine personalities in Hollywood history. Why? Well, because she was granddaughter of Albert Pike McKellop, famous leader of the Cherokee nation, who at one time was the wealthiest man in Oklahoma. Marla’s Indian name was Waletka, meaning Rippling Water.

Marla grew up at her grandparents home in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended school there. She became a professional radio operator at the age of 12, the youngest person to receive the license. In 1926, during the Great Miami Hurricane, she and her father tirelessly sent wireless distress signals from Houston. Yet, Marla didn’t see her life going down the wireless route, and wanted to act, sing and dance. Since she was a ravishing beauty with long black hair, she decided to go down the beauty pageant route.

In 1927 Marla, pretending to be a bit older, won the Miss Houston title. In 1929 she entered the Miss Universe contest as Miss Tulsa, under the fake name of Theda Delrey, but was found out and had to quit. In 1930 she competed as Miss California in the “America’s Sweetheart” contest, early forerunner of Miss America, in Miami, Florida and placed second in the competition, but she was disqualified two months later. She continued doing the beauty pageant circuit, hoping for a big break into movies.

In 1931, in a San Diego hotel, after speaking to a group of school children in connection with the opening of ’”Trader Horn”, director Woody Van Dyke received a call from Marla. She wasn’t a child anyone, but at 19 was still young enough to pass for a newcomer (which she was not, after all the pageants and the murky business with them). She wanted to know if there was any chance for her in Hollywood if she trained herself. The director, who has many such visits on his trips, gave her some good advice, he told her to read all the books and plays she could lay her hands on, and to seek out amateur theatricals. With the passing of years, she did just that.

Two years later, Marla came to Hollywood, got married and retired for a bit, but went back to movies after her divorce. She went to Van Dyke, introduced herself as Marla Shelton, entered his office. Woody was dully impressed. She had not only gotten a chance in pictures, and was even later awarded a second lead in “Personal Property,“c o-starring Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor with Van Dyke directing. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Van Dyke, I would have been, completely discouraged about one day being in pictures, and more than that, I wouldn’t have known how to start to become an actress without the advice he gave me,” she declared later to the papers.

And so we begin…

CAREER

Marla’s career was divided into three stages, depending on her marriage. She came to Hollywood in 1933, and made only one movie, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, today a minor classic, Flying Down to Rio. Then she got married, and left movies for a time.

After her first divorce, Marla hit the movies again, and this period proved to be her most fruitful. She was in Nobody’s Fool, a solid Eward Everret Horton comedy, then in the low budget western, The Phantom Rider. where she played the leading female role. She played an unnamed stewardess in Postal Inspector, a low budget, low quality Ricardo Cortez mystery where he plays the eponymous inspector. Nothing much doing for her career, but it was work. Same goes for The Girl on the Front Page, where Marla played a secretary – only this movie is about a hair brained socialite, played by Gloria Stuart, who wants to work in the newspaper business (owned by her family). The editor gets an instant headache, if you know what I mean.  Marla was again uncredited in Magnificent Brute, a steamy love triangle movie with Victor McLagen plays the brute.

After some minor, blink and you’ll miss them parts, Marla started to get better and bigger things. She was credited in Flying Hostess, a completely forgotten movie about stewardesses. A better bet was Under Cover of Night, a low budget MGM thriller with Henry Daniell playing  murderous professor who wants to get done with his wife. While the movie is anything but thrilling, the cast is good and this being MGM, the sets and direction was unusually good for such a C class movie.  Similar was Dangerous Number, another MGM B classer, with Robert Young and Ann Southern playing a couple who can’t be together nor can they be apart. It’s a fun, breezy movie, nothing to shout about but well done.

Marla was again uncredited in When’s Your Birthday?, a semi-funny Joe E. Brown comedy. The plot is vintage Joe – he plays a goofball astrologer who has much more luck than brains and manages to foresee stuff like games and races outcome and such. And the fun begins! Marian Marsh is his leading lady.  These comedies are certainly not for everybody, but if you like Joe E. Brown, then watch away, there is nothing not to like about the movie.

Marla had a much meatier role in Personal Property, this time a A class MGM feature with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor.  The movie was made the year Harlow died, so it’s one of her last ones –  but he looks good nonetheless. The plot is as it follows: Taylor returns to his family after being in the brig, and gets job watching the house and furniture of widowed Jean,  without knowing she is engaged to his brother. The high lite of the movie is the banter between Jean and Bob – and they do have good enough chemistry to make it work. Marla plays a flirt who wants to steal Bob from Jean. Unfortunately, Marla’s next movie was Song of the City, a formulaic, bland drama about a young stock broker who accidentally falls into the sea and gets saves by a fisherman. He meets the fisherman’s family, fall sin love with his daughter, blah blah.. You get the picture.

Marla was uncredited in the absolute classic A Star Is Born, and then went on to make There Goes My Girl, a mid tier screwball comedy about feuding reporters, played by Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern.

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 is all style, no substance movie. Yep, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool worth fashions, and that’s about it. Marla plays one of the models. Marla’s most famous movie today is Stand-In, becouse she was a prominent role in it. It’s a hilarious, witty comedy about the inner workings of a Hollywood studio, with an outstanding cast – Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Marla made one more movie, 52nd Street before taking a short hiatus.

She returned ot the screen in 1939, to appear in Coast Guard, a typical love triangle movie with Randolph Scott, Frances Dee and Ralph Bellamy, the Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey charming and fluid Balalaika, and Escape to Paradise, a Bobby Breen musical. Bobby was the singing Shirley Temple, and barely 12 when he made the movie. Imagine being 10 years older than him and playing his leading lady – well, that’s how Marla was set up here. Breen’s musicals, are to saccharine, too unrealistic and frankly too boring,t but there is a certain ethereal charm to them. Marla finished this period of her career with her only 1940 movie, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady. It’s the typical Lone Wolf – always the same plot, but with plenty of sass, and Warren William is superb as the former thief-turned-detective-and-lady-killer. Special plus is Jean Muir, a wonderful actress that never got what she deserved in Hollywood.

After yet another divorce, Marla returned to movie sin 1942, with the low budget western Bells of Capistrano. Since WW2 had begun, Nazi had become favorite movie villains, and Marla fought against them in Secrets of the Underground, a so-so thriller with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey. Marla’s last movie in this all too brief working period was When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a Universal musical with Allan Jones playing a soldier on a furlong who wants to remain anonymous in a small town, but as you know, that fails miserably, in a funny way of course

Marla returned to movies in 1945 in the interesting Saratoga Trunk, one of Ingrid Bergman’s best performances (IMHO). And let’s not forget Gary Cooper! There is a cute story on how she got the coveted role: we have to thank her 20- month-old daughter, Maria Jr. Marla was one of several actresses tested and won the nod from Director Sam Wood. “I’d never met Mr. Wood,” says the actress, “but little Marla did her best to vamp him one day. We were having luncheon in a restaurant near a Hollywood studio when he came in with Gary Cooper. The baby spent the rest of the lunch hour throwing kisses and cooing at them.”

Marla’s last movie appearance was in Do You Love Me, a love triangle musical with a yummy cast –  Maureen O’Hara plays a female musical college dean, she falls in love with a singer man , played by Dick Haymes, and another musician falls for her (Harry James). Maureen undergoes a transformation, and everybody ends up happy!

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marla was a good-looking dark-haired woman with a slight exotic slant. She kept her curvy figure trim by doing her favorite sport, cycling.

Marla came to Hollywood in 1933, and almost immediately hooked herself a big fish – Richard K. Polimer, a successful theatrical agent. They married on June 13, 1934. Polimer was born on April 28, 1904, in Massachusetts, son of Austrian immigrants. He moved to New York City when he was a child, attend high school there, and then moved to Hollywood during the 1920s and became a literary and theatrical agent. His clients were Ann Sheridan, Dean Jagger, Noah Beery, Sr., Theodore Dreiser and Rupert Hughes. In the 1930s Polimer was a famous rancor and was very socially prominent – his Malibu house was often the scene of many fancy parties. He hosted people like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. Obviously, Marla did quite well for herself.

After the wedding, Marla retired from the movies, at least for the time being. Sadly, the marriage did not last long – they separated in June 1935, and by 1936, they were divorced. Marla testified in court that Polimer away from home all night. She said she didn’t mind waiting dinner for him, but thought it was a bit too much when he failed to come home at all after phoning he’d “be a little late.”She also complained that when he was at home he addressed her in harsh language and often was rude to her. She won the divorce.

Following World War II, Polimer closed his agency and began working in film distribution and production. He remarried to Ruth May Rosnie in 1946, and had two daughters with her. Polimer died at the ripe of age of 95 on June 19, 1999.

After the divorce, it was time for the new Marla to shine, and to begin the for phase two of her career. This was a typical article from the period:

She’s Now Exotic Type; Formerly Outdoor Girl ‘By Associated Press I Hollywood, Dec. 26 Seen through different eyes, the same girl in Hollywood can be two different people. Maria Shelton. at one studio where she was under contract for six months, was seen as an ideal outdoor girl the sort who would be just right to support Buck Jones in the western star’s serial. She did a few bits besides, but when option time came the free lance avenue seemed best for her. At another studio Bill Grady, casting director, took a look and saw something else again. Makeup, long eyelashes, an exotic hair-dress and a slightly foreign accent and Maria Shelton, in a slithering evening gown, stepped forth as the first possible successor to once-renowned Theda Bara and her “vampire” roles. She is playing her first such part in “Under Cover of Night”, a mystery thriller. Her real name Is Alberta McKillop. Her age is 22. she as tiny freckles across her nose, and she was born in that exotic town Muskogee, Okla., She Is three-eighth Cherokee Indian, and her grandmother’s name was Rogers. She thinks she is probably some distant relative of the late Will Rogers, but is not sure. Of more immediate concern to her is the fact that the artificial hair the make-up people used for her coiffure cost $175. And to think my own, which I bobbed, was practically Knee-length!” she laments. “And I threw It away!”

For six months she was given a ballyhoo buildup by MGM. Everyone heard about her beauty and acting ability and her certainty of stardom. But option time came and executive failed to renew her contract. Unhappy with that course of events, she signed a five-year agreement with independent producer Walter Wanger. An hour later—and too late—up dashed a breathless Metro messenger, but she had to turn him down.

Marla appeared quite a bit in the papers during this time. Here is a bit about old Hollywood tricks:

In “Stand-In,” you will see Marla Shelton climbing a snow covered slope. Then the camera will pan backward to reveal an illusion. You will see that Miss Shelton is walking on a treadmill. She’s getting nowhere at all, but cotton snow on another endless belt is passing her in the opposite direction. Also passing her is a procession of pine trees on wheels. Overhead is a revolving perforated cylinder from which falls snow in the form of uncooked corn-flakes. Yes, it’s funny. But again it isn’t Hollywood. Movie magicians do those things much better these days. They do ’em so well that even visitors on a set are captured by illusion.

And another funny bit:

Maria Shelton donned a pair of slacks for protection against drafts the other cool morning when she had to go on outdoor location In an 1885 period gown. As the day warmed, Maria stepped behind what seemed a solid wall of shrubbery to remove the ‘ slacks and just at the crucial moment a couple’ of prop men removed the shrubbery.

In her private life, Marla married make up artist Jack Dawn on May 28, 1937, in Los Angeles. John Wesley Dawn was born on February 10, 1892, making him 20 years older than Marla in Fleming; Kentucky, to Henry Walker and Pearl Smoot. As teenager he became a sculptor and later worked as a painter in New York City. He started working at Mack Sennett’s as a make-up man. After doing his bit in WW 1, he moved to Hollywood, working for 20th Century, and moving to MGM in 1935. In 1939 he was promoted to head the studio make-up department. Dawn was married once before to Anna Catherine Cousins in 1926, and divorced her in 1926. They had one child, a son, Robert Dawn, born on October 22, 1921.

The Dawns settled into a family life, with Marla giving up her career. Their son, John Wesley, born on December 18, 1938,.After John was born her weight zoomed to an alarming 180 pounds. While reducing, she began taking dancing lessons and started to act again. She did a few movies before her daughter, Marla Jo, was born on August 1, 1941. Despite an oral agreement that Marla could keep her job, it was expected that she still give up her career for good now.

But, you can’t keep a good woman down, and Marla was ready for more acting jobs. This created a huge rift in her marriage. She tried to leave him several times before, but her church group, the Oxford Movement, dissuaded her from it. Then, Jack went past all limits and it was over. What started as a nice marriage ended up in a very nasty divorce. Here is a newspaper article:

“It was understood when we were married,” she testified, “that I could play in pictures if I so desired. But last July when I told him that I wanted to work in a picture he said that if I did he would burn the house down and would scar me so that my own children wouldn’t recognize me.” ‘ ‘ ,.. Miss Shelton then added, under the questioning of her attorney,- Roland G. Swaffield, that she became so frightened that she took refuge in the room occupied by the children’s nurse, Rita Haggarty.who corroborated the story in court. “Mr. Dawn came to the door and called Mrs. Dawn a coward for hiding in my room,” the nurse informed the Judge. i Property Settlement Dawn had filed an answer denying the charges hut did not appear for the trial, though he was represented by Attorney Martin Gang. The court approved a property settlement agreement under which community property valued at $50,000, including the home, 15426 Valley Vista Blvd., is to be divided. In addition the agreement provides Miss Shelton with $75 a week alimony for three years. She retains the custody of her daughter, Maria Jo, IS months, while Dawn will have the care of their son John Jr., 4. Three months each year, however, the children will be exchanged, it is also specified in the document, which gives Miss Shelton $25 a week for support cf the children. The couple were married in Salt Lake City on May 28, 1937, and the separation occurred last Aug. 8.

In the end, The court awarded each the custody of one of their two children and approved a property settlement. This is a strange set up, but what can I say, whatever works. Dawn had a long and prestigious career as a make up man. he aided disfigured soldiers of World War ll. He worked closely with San Diego Naval Hospital in 1943, creating inlays for hands and faces so that patients could appear normal between multiple plastic surgery operations. He retired in 1956 and remarried at some point to Coleen Dawn. He died on June 20, 1961 in Glendale, California.
Marla started to date like mad after the divorce almost trying to make up for lost time. She was often seen with actor John Waburton dancing cheek-to-cheek. A bit later she was seen with Phil Baker, known as a derby twosome. Then came Harvey Priester and after him actor Barton Yarborough. During this time she was singing at the Clover Club, and all of her boyfriends came to watch her there. Marla was also a popular house guest: After dinner the guests would gather in the living room and Maria would entertain with some amusing little bits of verse set to music. This way she discovered her unique ability with making up song lyrics that will make a big impact on her life later.

In 1945, Marla became Mrs. Louis Alter in a small ceremony in Beverly Hills. Louis Alter was born on June 18, 1902 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He played piano as accompaniment for vaudeville stars Nora Bayes, and after her became a songwriter. In 1929 he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote songs for films. He also continued his piano accompaniment for other singers, including Beatrice Lillie and Helen Morgan. He did Broadway musicals on the side. In 1941, when WW2 started, he worked with the United States Air Force, performing for troops and  coordinating shows and other entertainment at various West Coast air bases. He also became a piano soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Marla quit acting to collaborate on songwriting with Lou. She became quite proficient at it – at one point she wrote the lyrics to Cart Fisher’s tune “Black Lace” which was very popular in it’s time. The Alters lived in New York and maintained a summer residence on Fire Island.

Despite this seemingly satisfying artistic  collaboration, the marriage failed in the long run and they divorced in 1948. Alter continued composing and died on November 5, 1980 in Manhattan.

Marla dated Producer Herman Levin for a few months after the divorce. In 1952 she created a minor scandal at the Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles, when she interrupted a rehearsal and attended, uninvited, a luncheon for contestants. It appears that it was a publicity stunt of some sort and it received some publicity.

Marla married her fourth and last husband, N. Gayle Gitterman, in 1955. Gitterman was born on July 23, 1908, in Illinois, and came to Hollywood in the 1930s. Originally a scriptwriter, he became an assistant producer ta MGM. He earned the rank of sergeant during WW2. After the war he worked for the Bing Crosby Enterprises and later became  a freelance producer. He also held writing workshops in Los Angeles. He was married once before, to Mona LaPage, from 1933 until the mid 1940s.

This proved to be Marla’s most successful marriage. The Gittermans lived in Laguna Nigel after his retirement.

Gitterman died on March 25, 1976. Sadly, Marla’s son Wes died on August 21, 1990.

Marla Shelton Gitterman died on February 14, 2001, in Laguna Nigel, California.

 

Anita Thompson

Anita Thompson didn’t come to Hollywood because she was an actress, or a dancer, or a model – she came just because she was pretty, wanted to become famous and had monetary support from her parents. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, despite her beauty, but she did meet her husband in Hollywood, married him, and enjoyed a happy family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Anita Merle Thompson was born on December 15, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, to Hicks Ellington Thompson and Bessie Merle Cory. She was their only child. Her Texas-born father was an independent oil operator and manager, and the family was well off – they employed a servant when Anita was a little girl.

Anita grew up in Dallas and Galveston, Texas and attended high school there. She sometimes appeared in the society columns, as a beautiful young debutante. Despite her placid, safe life, Anita wanted more, and after graduating from high school, decided to try her luck in Hollywood to become an actress. She came to Hollywood in mid 1933, and started to work as an extra.

It was probable that Anita would have loitered in the extra ranks if not for a publicity gimmick. After being in Hollywood for a few months, with no roles behind her and unlikely to succeed, Anita had almost given up hope and returned home to Texas. Yet, just in the nick of time, 20th Century Fox revealed in the papers that they had found a way to help “unknown” actresses. The procedure was: Three extra girls were singled out to face the cameras In small roles. The three chosen were the ones who topped the field in beauty over a hundred chorines. They  were shown in closeups and given a chance to speak a few lines. Anita was one of those girls. Their small parts may lead to greater roles, studio officials said. Of course, this proved to be a false alarm – neither of the girls ever achieved much, but Anita’s career was launched.

CAREER

Anita started her career in Gold Diggers of 1933, top of the barrel Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley musical. It has all the right ingredients – a thin but serviceable story about young hopefuls in New York trying to make it in the musical theater, large, lavish and incredibly staged musical numbers, and well plotted but not over the top drama. And the cast! Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler… Except Ruby, who was a good dancer but dismal actress, all the others are tops!

The rest of Anita’s slim career followed the lavish musical path, and she always played chorines or other dancers. It seems that she was aimed to be seen, not to be heard or indeed to act.

First came Arizona to Broadway, a completely uneven movie about con men conning other con men that starts good but goes south pretty soon, and second came Dancing Lady, actually a pretty decent Joan Crawford musical with the same old Joan story – poor girl makes good. But I love my Franchot Tone, and he’s tops in this one! Anita’s contract went on, but she didnt’ appear in any movies in 1934.

In 1935, she appeared in Redheads on Paradea completely forgotten musical, with Bing Crosby’s wife Dixie Lee as the leading lady. In 1936, she appeared in King of Burlesque, the funny but not particularly memorable Warner Baxter musical, with Alice Faye as the singing sensation. The second movie was Song and Dance Man, another totally forgotten musical with Claire Trevor in the lead.

Anita’s last movie was High Tension, a straight comedy with no singing or dancing numbers – finally, something that isn’t a musical!! Despite a plot that sounds vaguely interesting (brawling cable layer Steve Reardon, played by Brian Donlevy, doesn’t want to marry girlfriend Edith but he also doesn’t want her to date other men), the movie is a B effort, completely forgotten, and did no one any favors. Anita played a very small role in it anyway – it was clear that her career was on the skids, so going into retirement wasn’t the worst choice she could make.

That’s it from Anita!

PRIVATE LIFE

Anita had light brown hair (which was bleached during her brief Hollywood sojourn), hazel eyes, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighted 115 lbs.

When she was given a stock contract by Twentieth Century-Fox studios, she was lamented as a cute type, miniature, but perfect. with some of the vivaciousness of a Dorothy Lee or a Lupe Velez. Well, couldn’t say if they were right or nit – but she for sure never had a career to match the ladies mentioned (despite them not being big stars themselves). Interesting fact: when Anita went into Los Angeles court to get. action on her film contract, She was so busy with her work that she didn’t have time to change from her beach suit-slacks attire, and went dressed like that. Her contract wasn’t half bad – calling for a wage of $75, with options up to ‘$1,000 a week.

Anita also gave a beauty hint to the readers:

A “DRY shampoo” twice a week is an effective aid to hair beauty. Massage dry cornmeal thoroughly into the scalp, then brush it out. The treatment will invigorate the scalp give the hair a natural gloss and keep it fluffy.

As for her love life, it was a calm affair. Anita dated James Dunn in March 1934, but it didn’t work and he ultimately married Frances Gifford in 1937.

By late 1934, Anita started to date John Quillan, her manager. In June 1935, the papers noted that Anita went to visit her father Hicks Thompson, a Magnolia employee, at the Navarro Hotel, in Corsicana, Texas. She was accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Hicks Thompson, and Johnny Quillan, then the party went to Galveston. It all seemed completely normal – a starlet visits her parents after not seeing them for some time – but, the papers didn’t mentioning the true reason for her visit – Anita wanted her father to meet her betrothed. After she returned to Los Angeles, she was finally “busted”. How? The papers made her engagement into a semi romantic story about how she was found out:

There is nothing unusual these days in the sight cf a woman knitting in public, but friends of Anita Thompson. Twentieth Century-Fox film actress, became suspicious when they found her at the studio embroidering the initial “Q” on table linens. “How come?” they asked, and Miss Thompson was just smiling enigmatically.

Cute, no? Anyway, Anita married John Quillan on October 8, 1935, in the Los Angeles based Church of the Blessed Sacrament, in a service read by Father Edward Whalen.

John Joseph Quillan was born on June 25, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Quillan and Sarah Owen, who were both vaudeville performers. Quillan made his stage debut at an early age alongside his parents as well as his siblings in their act titled ‘The Rising Generation’. By the early 1920s the family moved to Los Angeles, where Mack Sennett signed his younger brother Eddie to a contract in 1922. John didn’t particularly like acting, and he appeared in only a dozen movies during his 15 years in Hollywood – he preferred working in the backstage aspects of the business, becoming a manager for bit players. Later became a comedy writer for several radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

The family lived in Los Angeles and had five children: Barbara Bess, nicknamed Bobbie, born on May 21, 1937, Irene Penelope, born on February 1, 1941, John Joseph, born on July 31, 1945, Edward Francis, born on December 24, 1950, and Joseph F., born on November 27, 1956.

In the mid 1950s, the family moved from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, where John became a succesful real estate broker. They had a big family house with a pond in the background. The husband-wife team also opened a roller staking rink, as this article from 1954 can attest:

The new roller-skating rink at the Recreation Center, Indian avenue and Radio road, is proving highly popular. It will be operating again under the direction of Johnny and Anita Quillan tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  Anita Quillan said that the introduction of roller skating here for the short duration of seven weeks exceeded their most optimistic expectations. They will return early in the Fall and plan an ambitious program with many private parties to be allocated their own evenings.

All in all, it seems that Anita and John enjoyed a very happy, fulfilling family life, and that this is a happy story coming from Hollywood. their daughter Barbara was an child actress for a short time, and their son Joseph became a renown artist.

John Quillan died on August 27, 1985 in Los Angeles.

Anita Thompson Quillan died on 23 December 1991, in Sherman Oaks, California.

 

Marjorie Deanne

Beautiful Marjorie Deanne was a beauty contest winner that came to Hollywood, hoping for a big break. Like with the majority of girls who took down that route, her break never came. However, she became a proficient businesswoman, and in the end, retired to raise a family.

EARLY LIFE

Clara Pauline Boughton was born on January 28, 1917, in Brownsville, Texas, to Walter M. Boughton and Catherine Lieb. Her father was a fire chief. The family lived in Meridian, Mississippi for a time after Clara’s birth, and her brother Edwin was born there in 1922. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid 1920s. Clara attended school there but was very much involved with her Texan side of the family and often visited them in Corpus Christi.

Clara was a natural-born beauty, and from the time she was a high school student, she attended beauty pageants and won titles like “Miss Southwest Texas” and so on. After graduating from high school, she decided to make a career out of it and entered showbiz.

After winning a trip to Hollywood through Corpus Christi’s Splash Day beauty contest in 1935, Clara’s acting career started. Joking! When she came to Hollywood for the first time in 1935, Clara at least she hoped something would happen. She would get an acting gig, she would dance, she would do something. But, alas, it was not meant to be. She spent 12 months knocking vainly at the studio gates and then, with her bank account drained and her courage a bit shattered, finally give up and took a job selling tickets for a Hollywood theater.  She had the usual luck of beauty contest winners and eventually got a job as usherette at the Grauman’s Egyptian theater. At some point, pursuing her regular duties, Marjorie ushered a man to a seat. It was director John Farrow. He decided Marjorie was a screen type and had plans to make her a proper actress. Unfortunately, as with many such cases, nothing happened, and Marjorie was back to square one.

Deciding to try other options a working girl had in that time and age (very, very limited!), she became a traveling saleslady. After noticing that the hosiery business was blooming, she started selling men’s shirts and socks. Soon, she started a profitable business in Hollywood as representative for an Eastern shirt and hosiery mill. Business was good and she hired a salesman. It kept on being good and she hired some more. Now she has 40 salesmen and they support her in luxury while she haunts the casting offices. She did some bit work in movies.

Marjorie, by then wealthy enough to work for and not for money, got a job in the Earl Carroll Theater as one of his beauties. She did some touring with the Theater going to New York in 1939, and then returned to Hollywood and finally started her tenure as a working actress.

CAREER:

Marjorie is most famous today for appearing in a string of Three stooges shorts – Violent Is the Word for CurlyDutiful But Dumb Matri-Phony Three Smart Saps . She also appeared in a string of other comedy shorts – The Nightshirt BanditMutiny on the BodyThe Sap Takes a Wrap and so on.For more information about this, visit Lord heath’s link about Marjorie Deanne.

As far as full length movies go, Marjorie made her debut in 1938 in The Goldwyn Follies, followed closely by Freshman Year and Girls’ School. All three movies are alike as they are the typical fluffy 1930s movie with no real depth but some degree of fun – While the Follies are a plot-less but entertaining musical,  Freshman Year a Dixie Dunbar college musical, and Girls’ School a juvenile story about high school girls and their love squabbles, with the radiant Anne Shirley in the leading role. Marjorie’s only 1939 role in a full length movie was A Chump at Oxford, the witty Laurel/Hardy movie. Marjorie then took a great from movie acting to tour with the Earl Carroll Theater.

She returned to movies in 1941, and that ended up as Marjorie’s most productive year – she appeared in no more, no less than 10 movies! let’s see her full length ones. I’ll Wait for You is a formulaic movie about a bad guy reforms after meeting hard-working, decent folks, only slightly elevated by the endearing performances by Marsha Hunt and Virginia Wiedler (this cannot be said of the leading man, Robert Sterling, performance – he doesn’t have enough gravitas to truly play a hard-core gangster). Then came West Point Widow, another forgotten Anne Shirley comedy, and then Kiss the Boys Goodbye, an interesting musical  based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce which was inspired by the search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. The original play had to be watered down to the extreme, and it works well as a musical/showcase for Mary Martin. Buy Me That Town was also based on superior material – a Damon Runyon story about a crook who wants to bankrupt a small town to suit his own nefarious deeds. The movie is sadly completely forgotten today, but except a solid plot it boasts a good cast (Loyd Nolan and Albert Dekker). Next was Niagara Falls, a completely silly comedy with the Jean Harlow wannabe Marjorie Woodward. The movie is watchable only if you try really hard not to take it seriously in any capacity. Equally dismaying was New York Town Design for Scandal, another Mary Martin semi musical, semi comedy.  

In 1942, Marjorie appeared in only two full length movies: Tarzan’s New York Adventure and the patriotic Star Spangled Rhythm. I don’t think anything needs to be written about the famous Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies – it’s something that you find either charming and educational and slightly idiotic. I guess Maureen O’Sullavan saves the day for both camps, as her warmth endears her to virtually anyone who ever watched the movies.

In 1943 Marjorie actually appeared in some solid movies, although not all of them were on the same level of quality by  along shot. The first was The Crystal Ball, a lightweight but funny Paulette Goddard/Ray Milland comedy. They were a pretty good combo, and have superb chemistry together, so it’s worth watching just for them. Next was Salute for Three a completely forgotten musical, and a Jimmy Rogers western comedy, Prairie Chickens, which isn’t half as bad as you would think it was. The bets movie of the year was For Whom the Bell Tolls, no more information necessary! So watch it! Marjorie was then in Let’s Face It, a watered and dumbed-down version of a saucy stage play, worth watching if only for Bob Hope and Betty Hutton. Equally sub par was Riding High, a Bob Hope cast off that went to Dick Powell – and he just isn’t the type to make it work. the plot is silly enough: A train arrives in the west and deposits a showgirl (Dorothy Lamour), an eligible bachelor (Dick Powell), and a swindler (Victor Moore), and the fun starts there. Dick and his leading lady, Dorothy Lamour, are completely overshadowed by a funny supporting cast (Victor Moore, Cass Daley and so on).  Luckily, Marjorie then appeared in True to Life, an above average comedy. The plot, while nothing special (A writer for a radio program needs some fresh ideas to juice up his show. For inspiration, he rents a room with a typical American family and begins to secretly write about their true life) lends itself nicely to the crazy family cliché that works because of a hilarious supporting cast. Dick Powell, Franchot Tone and Mary Martin are also top form, and do this kind of comedy with their eyes closed.

And that was it from Marjorie!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Marjorie dated actor Alexander D’Arcy at one point, and was on friendly terms with Frank Feltrop, tennis pro, and actress Movita, who later married Marlon Brando. Not much else was written about her private life.

Then, on March 19, 1944, Marjorie flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, to get married to Capt. Abraham Albert Manuck, attached to the Lifegarde General hospital dental staff there. It was noted that she expected to “settle down to a career of marriage with the captain.”

Abraham Albert Manuck was born on October 4, 1900, in Ehaterinslov, Russian Empire, to Benjamin Manuck and Rachael Sperans. he immigrated to the US, where he finished dentistry school and started to work as a dentist. He moved to San Francisco, and easily merged with the local high society. Manuck was married twice before – to Alba Baglione, whom he divorced in 1936 in Reno, Nevada, and Alla Manuck, whom he divorced in 1941 in Reno, Nevada. (guess Reno was his go-to destination for divorces).

Even before the marriage, Marjorie said to the papers she would not return to Hollywood and indeed cut her ties with the dream factory most thoroughly. She had obtained her release from the Actors guild and from Paramount studio, buying out her contract. Indeed, she would never return to Tinsel town and never made a movie again, opting for family life.

After the war ended, the family moved to Santa Clara, California. The couple had three children: Richard Albert, born on October 8, 1945, Stephen Bennett, born on December 3, 1948, and Denise Cheryl, born on June 19, 1951. All of the children were born in San Francisco. The Manucks enjoyed a happy family life in Santa Clara, and were active members of the local society, doing charity work and being quite civic-minded.

Clara Manuck died on May 21, 1994, in Redwood City, California.

Her widower Abraham Manuck died in 2000, aged almost 100.

 

Jayne Shadduck

Jayne Shadduck truly is an inspiring woman. Okay, maybe her Hollywood career is as thin as air and she never really tried to be a serious, accomplished actress, but she managed to more than make up for this slight by being a pioneer aviatrix and successful businesswoman (and this long after leaving Tinsel town behind). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jayne Dunham Francis Shadduck was born on July 1, 1915, in Walla, Walla, Washington, to Joe F. Shadduck and Francis Shadduck. She was their only child. Her father was a general director of an automobile sales salon, and the family was relatively well of.  

By 1930, the family had moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jayne attended high school. Jayne caught the dancing bug early, and was in the chorus before she graduated from high school. She moved to California and started her Hollywood career in 1932, only 17 years old.

She was one of the few girls who signed a contract with RKO. All the girls were chosen from a chorus recently developed In Hollywood by Busby Berkeley. There were eighty members of the chorus, who, in turn, were chosen from among more than 5,000 applicants. And Jayne was of!

CAREER

Sadly, Jayne appeared in uncredited minor, minor roles in only three movies. Two of those were top of the shelf 1930s musicals – 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Forget the story, enjoy the visuals and the dancing!

Jayne’s third movie was The Little Giant, a delightful, sharp and witty comedy with Edward G. Robinson playing a former bootlegger going straight. And fun ensures! Plus for featuring Mary Astor and Helen Vinson, both very capable, yummy actresses.

And that’s it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne gave a beauty hint to the readers in 1933:

Cologne is a boon for a variety of uses, such as scenting the bath, toning up tired pores and perfuming lingerie and handkerchiefs. When I am fatigued, I soak a pad of cotton with the refreshing liquid and press it to my temples, relaxing at the same time for a half hour, or as long as I can spare. It is most refreshing.

Jayne had a slight mishap during her early career, in 1932:

Jayne Shadduck, screen actress of “Forty-second Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933,” was painfully injured yesterday while working in a tank scene in a new musical picture. “Footlight Parade,” on a Warner Brothers sound stage. She suffered a contusion of the nose when she struck the arm of another girl during rehearsal

In 1933, Jayne dated first Lyle Talbot and then left him for Mike Francovitch, Joe E. Brown’s adopted son and star footballer at the U. C.L. A. That didn’t last either – Mike married Binnie Barnes in 1940.

Next on the line was the much-married director, Eddie Sutherland (one of his wives was Louise Brooks), who just left Grace Bradley to date her. It didn’t last either.

Interesting to note that Jayne and Katherine Hepburn got their contract on the very same day at the same judge! Here is a short article about it:

Pair Choose Day of Jinx to Get Approval of Judge for Picture Work When Adalyn Doyle, “good luck girl” for Katharine Hepburn, and blonde Jayne Shadduck. raised their right hands in .Superior Judge Mc-Comb’s court yesterday and swore to tell the truth concerning their contracts to appear in motion-picture productions of the Twentieth Century Pictures, Inc., they crossed their fingers. “Oh, we told the truth, all right,” they chorused, “but, after all, It Is Friday the 13th and we aren’t taking unnecessary chances.” The contracts cover a period of years with gradual increases in salary until, in the event all the options are exercised, both will receive weekly salaries in four figures and without any decimals strewn therein. Both contracts were approved.

In late 1933, Jayne met playwright Jack Kirkland. Soon, she was telling the papers that the marriage to Jack was more desirable than a career in the movies. Here is a laughable and pretty silly article about Hollywood starlets and matrimony from that time:

Six of the Goldwyn girls who adorned Eddie Cantor’s “Kid From Spain,” “Roman Scandals” and other recent hits have called off their vow against matrimony. Jayne Shadduck, Vivian Bannon Keefer, Dolores Casey, Jane Hamilton, Barbara Pepper and Bonny agreed none would wed until all had progressed to be something more than show girls. Most of them had recent bits in Radio’s “Strictly Dynamite.” Miss Shadduck holds a studio contract and now she’s engaged to marry Jack Kirk-land and the other five girls declare it open season for orange blossoms.

This truly is a bit of make-believe – most starlets with no acting experience and no real wish to become the next Sarah Bernhardt didn’t’ come to Hollywood to establish a career – they wanted to have fun  and get married! Let’s not kid ourselves, most of the starlets I profiled here go squarely into this category. If they really wanted to act, they would have gone to a drama school and did theater before landing into movies. There will always be exceptions, but Jayne wasn’t one of them. She was aiming to wed and that was that.

Jayne was preparing a get-out for Hollywood, and get-in for matrimony. She married Jack on march 23, 1934, and left immediately for a honeymoon in Spain.

Like most hasty marriage,s this one ended in a fiasco. They got into an intense tiff and decided to divorce while on their honeymoon. However, when they returned to Los Angeles, the situation changed from day-to-day – one weekend they went from tavern to tavern , dancing and drinking together, the other they were separated and awaiting a divorce.

After an up and down period of about half a year, they finally did divorce in February 1935. Jayne testified that Kirkland often absented himself from home for days without an explanation, and that he was abusive in his language to her. The final decree was to come in February 1936.

However, even after they divorced, Jack and Jayne couldn’t keep their hands of off each other. They still went out regularly and maintained a very flirty and sexy front. The reporters predicted that their divorce would not last for long and that they would remarry. But, well, life operates in strange ways, and this is an interesting story.

During the throes of their post divorce passion, Jayne left for Honolulu for a short break. Kirkland, like a love-struck youth that he was, drove her to the ship and almost forgot to come off before the gang-plank was lifted. he was expecting Jayne to return in a few weeks so they can continue their liaison and probably get married once again. BUT!

A romance that started under a tropical moon in Hawaii in May 1935, and it wasn’t Jack. Jayne and Henry J. Topping, Jr., New York banker and wealthy heir, fell hard for each other, and announced, literary two weeks later, that they will be married next February. I can only imagine how Jack felt, but he didn’t waste any time in finding new swains – he married three more times (to Julie Laird, Halia Stoddard and Nancy Hoadley), sired several children, among them the famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, and died on February 22, 1969.

Jayne went to Reno to speed up the nuptials. The press joked that she had to pay extra fare to Reno because Bob Topping’s diamond ring is so big. In Reno, Jayne won a final divorce from Jack Kirkland, on. charges of cruelty and was boarded a night plane for New York to meet Topping. Like in a fairy tale dream, Topping was right on job to greet Jayne when she arrived by air from Reno. Oh, so sweet!

The happy couple wed in August 6, 1935. Bob and Jayne were the town before sailing on that South American honeymoon. After their return from the honeymoon (no honeymoon divorce this time!), they continued living the high life in New York City, a solid part of the local jet set.

One of the first female pilots in the United States, Jayne flew a six-passenger plane from Detroit to New York in 1937, for which she was featured in Life magazine.

However, in August 1937, Bob and Jayne parted! They went to Hawaii together. He returned from Honolulu solo and flew right on to New York. Jayne followed on the next boat and is flew east to woo him back. For the next few months, there was scant information about the couple, but then in October the bomb fell: Topping said he had told his wife,  to “get a divorce.”, but he refused to confirm or deny rumors of a $500,000 settlement. The soap opera continued, with ups and downs, much like her first marriage. Will they or wont’ they?

First, they were being sued by the Wall St. lawyer who once smoothed out their differences. Okay, so they had outside help in the marriage, but it seems that it didn’t work quite as expected. In May 1938, this happened:

The secretly filed divorce action of Henry J. Topping Jr. of Greenwich, big-game hunter and heir to a tin plate fortune, was revealed today when his pretty actress wife, Jayne Shadduck -Topping, petitioned the Superior Court that the action be thrown out. Miss Shadduck, accuses her husband of bad sportsmanship by violating the hard and fast rules of divorce procedure. Topping’s application to sever his marriage is based on grounds of intolerable cruelty and was written into the record last April 25. Apparently the decision to go ahead with the proceedings was delayed, since the original papers were dated April 16. He Charges Cruelty. Topping claims that a year and four days after their marriage, Aug. 6, 1935, in the elopers’ paradise of Armonk, N. Y., his actress wife started to show signs of cruelty. Her acts of cruelty, he states, continued until April 16 of this year.

In reality, Topping wanted to divorce Jayne so he could marry socialite Gloria Mimi Baker, and finally it cost him a pretty cool $500,000. Jayne put the price tag on the marriage and said: pay and get divorce or no pay no divorce. And she got her money. Such was Toppings passion for Gloria. Topping married  three more times after Gloria (to Lana Turner, Arline Judge and Mona Topping) and died on April 21, 1968.

Anyway, Jayne decided, wisely, to stay away from romance and enter the business arena: She said: “I have no romance whatever in my life now. And I’m not interested in romance. I’m interested now in the ice cream business.” In December 1938, she arrived in Hawaii, accompanied by A. Rost, who will be her partner in a Honolulu ice cream business.

Soon, Jayne was a staple in Hawaii and even started to sponsor various sports teams:

Jayne Shadduck Topping Signs Contract To Sponsor Gridders Jayne Shadduck Topping yesterday definitely decided to sponsor a football team composed of ex-college stars next fall, signing a contract to finance the team which will play in the Hawaii Football association, local senior circuit. The aggregation will be known as the Hawaiian Polar Bears. Bob Patrick will be associated with her as advisor, while Francis Brickner will be the business manager. John Masterson, director of the annual East-West Shrine football game, is the Mainland representative with headquarters in San Francisco. He will assist Mrs. Topping and Brickner in contacting and selecting the players. The team wm be selected by July 15

In January 1940, Jayne married her third and last husband, Richard Durant. She settled into a highly satisfactory family life in Hawaii afterwards. Richard Church Durant was born on April 25, 1906, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Clark Durant. He was a sportsman graduate of Yale and Harvard, and became a surgeon who helped found Kaiser Hospital in Hawaii.

The Durant’s daughter, Louise, was born on March 20, 1941. Their son Clark was born in August 1942. Their last child and son Payson was born on March 19, 1951.

Jayne was later embroidered a scandal concerning the divorce of James Roosevelt from his wife – it was the same scandal that touched fellow actress Andrea Leeds:

Denials that they are among the women named in letters from James Roosevelt to his wife were made yesterday by these two former actresses. Andrea Leeds (left), now the wife of Robert S. Howard, a millionaire resident of Palm Springs, Calif., said she “never had a date with the man.” She agreed with Mrs. Richard Durant (right), the former Jayne Shadduck, that the names listed could have referred .to any women so named. ” Her name was one of nine listed in a letter which Mrs. Roosevelt filed with her suit for separate maintenance. Roosevelt’s attorney is expected to file an answer today

Mrs. Durant said she had cabled Roosevelt demanding an Immediate public retraction of “the false, libelous statement” linking her name and his. Mrs. Durant declared today that it does not “exonerate him from the responsibility of smearing innocent person.” She said in a statement “a lot of damage has been done to a lot of innocent people. I cannot condone Mr, Roosevelt ever signing any document containing such damaging lies … in order to extricate himself from his personal problems … no matter what the circumstance.” Mrs. Howard said she felt compelled to make a public statement.

This one is open for debate, but I somehow believe, in this case, where there is smoke there is fire. Why would anyone put a random society woman living for years in Hawaii (by then) on such a list? While there can be some vindictive bastards who would do such things, I somehow think it’s not the case here. If the affair did happen, it happened around 1945, 5 years after Jayne married Richard.

Anyway, Jayne had a rich and varied life in Hawaii. She was vice president of the Hawaii Hotel Association in the early 1950s. She raced canoes with the Kahana-moku brothers and Doris Duke. She was also an ardent angler and landed many big tuna and marlin during fishing trips off Kona and Oahu. She was a member of the Friends of Iolani Palace. Durant was an avid traveler and had seen much of the world with her husband.

The Durants had lived in the penthouse of the Palms Condominium since it was built more in the early 1960s to replace the Palms Hotel. The Na-hua Avenue hotel, which Durant owned and managed, was often the vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities before and after World War ll. All in all, Jayne made quite a life for herself in Hawaii and it seems she led a truly happy existence there.

Richard Durant died in September 1973. Jayne stayed at the island and continued with her civic and professional work.

Jayne Durant died from cancer on May 29, 1993, in Honolulu.  Her last trip was to Kenya in November 1992, after she learned she had cancer. When she died, her grandchildren told these touching lines in her obituary:

Jayne Shadduck Durant, actress, pilot, hotel owner, deep-sea angler, world traveler, lived a life that was larger than life. After she learned last fall that she was terminally ill, she invited granddaughter Sonja Freebairn on a safari to Kenya, then they stopped in London to see some of the new stage shows. “Her life was more packed than anyone’s,” Freebairn said. “She was so much fun to talk to. In all those years, we never had the same conversation twice.” “She was a glamour girl,” said grandson Robert Freebairn.

The grandchildren were learning new things about her this weete as they found magazine and newspaper clippings about Durant’s full life. “She wasn’t a bragger,” said Sonja Freebairn. “She was so low-key about her accomplishments. ;. “She wouldn’t let us do a videotape of her stories. But she knew very much, she never forgot anything,” Robert Freebairn said. One clipping they found was about her piloting a small aircraft, breaking a flight record between Detroit and New; York in 1937. “

She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Myrla Bratton

Girls that came to Hollywood in the 1930s could be neatly boxed into a few categories (trained actresses, chorus girls, models, debutantes and so on…). Myrla came from the “beautiful but not trained” background. Most of these girls never amount to much in terms of a career and sadly this goes for Myrla too. But, here is the catch – instead of marrying and settling into sweet domesticity, she decided to stick out on her own as a theater actress. After her acting days were over, she worked as a secretary. Kudos to Myrla and all the women that did more than well for themselves! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Myrla Cook Bratton was born on February 12, 1910 in Cave Spings, Alabama, to William Bratton and Tennie Bell Bratton. She was the oldest of four children – her siblings were Harvey William Bratton, born on March 2, 1912 , Myra Ethel Bratton, born in 1914 and James Leon Bratton born on August 11, 1920. Her father was a farmer.

Myrla and Harvey were taken to live with their maternal grandparents, James and Nancy Danley in Florence, Alabama, in the late 1910s. Myra Ethel remained with her parents, as did James Leon. I can assume money was scarce so the Danleys took care of the two elder children, but it’s only a guess. Myrla grew up around horses and was an accomplished rider from early childhood.

Sadly, William Bratton died in the mid 1920s, living Tennie a widow. The family bunked together once again, and by 1930, Harvey was the keeper of the family, working as a potter.

After graduating from high school, due to hard time and little money, Myrla went to work too. As a typical starstruck teen who dreamed of acting, she got the perfect job as an usherette at the Tivoli Theater in Montogery, AlabamaFrank Dudley, manager of the Tivoli, would later recall her early ambition to “let a break in the movies.” This was in 1930 – by 1933, Myrla was in Hollywood, making movies (to learn more about her path to “stardom”, go to the Private life section).

CAREER

Myrla made her debut in Roman Scandals, a movie that is a literal golden mine if you are looking for shapely Goldwyn girls. The girls aside, it’s a very funny movie, with a good cast and some great dancing numbers – exactly what a quality 1930s musical should be – definitely one of Eddie Cantor’s best work.

A similar snappy, happy musical was Moulin Rouge, where Myrla was again a chorus girl. Same for Wild Gold, a completely forgotten pot boiler where Mryla plays one of the Golden girls (chorines by any other name).

Myrla then tried her luck in the low-budget western arena. She did one full length movie, The Way of the West, where she played the female lead (in most cases, that equally a decorative pretty girl who get kidnapped and screams a lot) and two shorts The Lone Rider and West of the Law. The Way of the wets is allegedly a truly abysmal movie, with a bad script, horrible acting and laughable action sequences. Myrla made one more western, Timber Terrors, where she was billed below the horse (figures, the horse has more acting time than her). Okay, being billed below the horse in a western is not actually that bad – but here, Myrla was billed below the dog. Yes, the dog! obviously this is a western where the dog is more important than the leading lady, so figures!

In the end, Westerns didn’t pay, so Myrla decided to return to dancing. As she was auburn haired, she found her way to the already legendary Redheads on Parade. If you like lavish, huge 1930s musicals, this is for you. Nothing too nifty, but good enough to watch.

Myrla tried her hand at the then popular college musical – the name of the movie is Collegiate (how imaginative), and it’s actually not that bad – the plot is very much predictable (A Broadway playboy inherits an almost bankrupt girls’ school and tries to save it by a big show) and the leading man, Joe Penner, is rightfully completely forgotten today (very annoying, one wonders how anyone in the 1930s found him funny – but hey, they obviously did). However, the day is saved by the ever funny Ned Sparks and the ethereal Frances Langford. Also watch out for an early role of Betty Grable!

Myrla’s last movie was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the censoritis syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that’s it from Myrla!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1929, 19 years old Myrla married R.J. Renfroe in Montgomery, Alabama. Renfroe was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but I couldn’t find anything else about him (how old he was, what was his profession – all a mystery!). On June 17, 1931, Myrla gave birth to a baby boy – unfortunately, the boy died the next day. The Renfroe’s marriage didn’t’ survive this unhappy occurrence – they divorced the next year, and knowing full well how life is short and fickle, Myrla decided to “just do it” – she quit her usherette job and went to Hollywood. Kudos to her brave decision!

By the 1940s, Myrla was out of movies and on the stage In New York City, studying under John Hutchinson and made appearances in the then nascent television industry (but under a different alias I could not find, so no TV credits are known for her). All considering, Myrla did really well for herself, and managed to pave her way into real acting, something not many actresses managed to do.

Myrla married for the second time to a James V. Moriarty on August 30, 1958 in Reno, Nevada. I couldn’t find any concrete information on this particular James, sorry. Unfortunately they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

After her acting career was over, Myrla lived in San Francisco for a time where she worked as a secretary. She later lived in Dallas, Texas, and several years later moved to Billings, Montana. Since she lived alone and was seemingly not in contact with her family, she was transferred to Valley Health Care Center when she became too feeble to take care of herself.
Myrla Cook Bratton died from natural causes on November 16, 1987, in Billings, Montana.

Bonita Barker

Bonita Barker was firmly cast in a Hollywood stereotype – a pretty girl from a good family who wanted to dance since she was a toddler, and slowly her “talents” morph into a wish to become a movie star. Heard that story before? Oh yes, and most of them ended dismally – with the girls in question out of Hollywood before they did anything of worth. Same can be said of Bonita – after three short years and some dancing roles, she retired, married and led a quiet life of domesticity. Let’s hear her story!

EARLY LIFE

Bonita Beryl Barker was born on July 21, 1916, in Rocky, Oklahoma, to Omar Barker and Mable Morris. She was their only child. Her father worked as an automobile salesman, her mother was a housewife.

The family moved to Hobat, Oklahoma, in about 1918, where Bonita attended elementary school, before moving to Ventura, California in the mid 1920s. Her father ditched his auto business and went into the sand/gravel business, again as a salesman. He became quite successful and was an esteemed member of the Ventura society, making Bonita a type of young, up-and-coming socialite.

Bonita caught the dancing bug as a pre teen girl, and always by 1926, when she was barely 10 years old, she was dancing in various local events where the genteel people of Ventura would gather. She was the best pupil at the Meglin Dance Stadio and perhaps one of the few that went into dancing professionally. She became a dancing fixture in town and was well-known for her skills.

Pretty soon, by the early 1930s, she  was appearing in the famous Hollywood Bowl in ballets and in more than a score of amateur and little theater programs all around the US.

In 1933, barely graduated from high school, she was noted by agents and brought to Hollywood.

CAREER

Bonita made her debut in the semi-idiotic musical, It’s Great to Be Alive. Whoa boy what a way to start your Hollywood career! She fared a bit better in her next show, Arizona to Broadway, a very polarizing movie that gets many things right but ultimately goes wrong. Whats starts as a promising story about con-artists trying to con other con-artists melts into a cheap, no-brainer stupidity. Too bad! But still, things got better, and they got even with Dancing Lady. i know this movie is not top of the class, best musical ever made, but I for one love it. Joan Crawford looking her best, playing an independent, strong-willed dancing lady, Franchot Tone as a wealthy suitor plus Clark Gable as a rough around the edges choreographer – whats not to like? And a special bonus – Fred Astaire in one of his earliest movie role! Whauza!

Like tons of other chorines, Bonita appeared in Stand Up and Cheer!, which is less a movie with a normal narrative and more of a pastiche – depends if you like these sort of things – I prefer my movies with more story and characterizations, sho skip! And then Bonita went the usual downhill route – she started to appear in low-budget westerns. I know I may be too critical towards this, but most actresses that went this way ended up nowhere (there are exceptions of course, but Bonita ain’t one of them). The movie was Outlaw’s Highway and there is nothing substantial to be said about it.

Bonita made her first and only college musical (a genre popular back then) in 1934, called College Rhythm. It’s quiet a good example of the genre, with a solid cast and some decent music. The stories are more or less all the same – young people goofing around in college (and nobody ever studies!), but it’s the energy and the charm that count, and this movie has them enough.

After so many happy-go-lucky musicals, Bonita appeared in a bit more serious fare – Rumba – it’s not a cry your eyes out drama, but it’s more than fluff. Leads are played by George Raft and Carole Lombard (who were involved in real life – love there small trivia trinkets!). Unfortunately, it’s a pale version of the superior Bolero (with the same acting team) and with a somehow similar story (Raft is a dancer who comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Carole is a ritzy society girl). Raft can dance, that much is obvious, and Carole is a very capable actress and stunningly beautiful, but the movie lacks bite. One of the reasons is probably the newly minted production code that forced producers and directors to water down most stuff – and the white-hot chemistry between George and Carole was definitely one of them.

The Big Broadcast of 1936  is another of the pastiche musicals – IMHO, skip. There are tons of talented performers here, but that ain’t enough for a truly good viewing experience. Bonita’s last movie, made in 1936 was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the “censoritis” syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that was it from Bonita!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Bonita came to Hollywood, she expressed a particular lack of enthusiasm as far as men are concerned to the papers. This of course was all tell and no-show – girls sometime did this to gather publicity (“she doesn’t want to get married, gasp!!” effect).

Bonita’s first Hollywood beau was Sammy Finn, who was toting her around the Club Colony for months but it didn’t get to the altar.

Like most young, unestablished starlets, Bonita appeared in the fashion and coiffure columns with some frequency. here is an example:

A coiffure like Bonita Barker’s would be becoming to you. The hair is parted on the right side, combed off the brow with a curl coming down over the left temple to the eyebrow, a wave below this and curled ends over the ears.

Bonita also wrote about her eating habits. Due to being in the chorus, she had to work long hours and did strenuous dance routines, and dieting too much just didn’t cut it out for her. As they said about chorines:

A dainty little sandwich and a soda may be good for the thinning office girl at noon, but not enough for the girls who want to keep their curves to stay in the chorus, these days. These screen dancers must eat, to regain the weight they lose daily in their work, and eat they do, even if it’s a soda between meals.

It seems that Bonita was a serious antiques collector. Her prized possession was pipe with a twenty-six-inch stem which once belonged to Emperor Frederick III, father of Kaiser Wilhelm. Famous director Lewis Stone used to smoke from it when Bonita loaned it to Paramount.

In the late 1930s, Bonita got engaged to Oren William Haglund , and actor and former husband of Warner bros actress Priscilla Lane . Oren and Priscilla were married for one day sharp – imagine what an awkward marriage that was. A wedding date between Oren and Bonita was set, but never reached. Yup, they never married. Who knows what happened between them, although Hollywood is notoriously cheap in this department – engagement were made and broken almost daily, like something extremely mundane.

Bonita traveled extensively after her Hollywood career. She visited Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Europe several times. In fact, she was in Italy when WW2 started – she returned to the US from Genoa just a few days after September 1st. In 1940, she visited Cuba.

Bonita married Bennett Albert Robinson on October 7, 1941 in Los Angeles. Bennett was born on February 12, 1906, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis Robinson and Rose Waxler. He studied to become a chiropractor and moved to Los Angeles for work. It was the first marriage for both.
Bennett was drafted into the US army on August 20, 1942, but after serving for a few years came back happily home (sometime before 1945).
Bonita gave up marriage to devote her life to her husband and family. The couple had one child together (couldn’t find the name, sadly). They lived in California where Bennett worked as a chiropractor.
Bennett Robinson died on July 10, 1982, in Los Angeles, California.
Bonita Barker died on May 11, 2006 in California.

Eleanor Prentiss

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

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

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

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

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

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