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.
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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.

Nadine Dore

Nadine Dore had a pretty standard career path – beautiful girl who aspired to become an actress, stared dancing young, worked as a chorus girl, and got to Hollywood via the pageant route. And it all ended with Nadine, barely in the 30s, retiring from movies after a string of uncredited roles. Let’s learn more about Nadine!

EARLY LIFE

Pyhllis Nadine Redman was born on September 18, 1912, in San Jose, California, the only child of Joseph M. Redman and Nina Koehler. Her father was a florist.

Phyllis grew up as a California beach girl, very much interested in the performing arts, dreaming to become a dancer and actress some day. She started attending beauty pageants when she was 13 years old, and pretty soon was a regular on the circuit, winning more of them than not.

After Nadine graduated from high school, she packed her bags and moved to New York, becoming a show girl. Nadine proved to be quite popular as chorine, but for unknown reasons she returned to California a year later. She became a member of the cast in the revue at the Hollywood Music Box.

1931 was a big year for Nadine, and one can say that Pyhllis Redman became Nadine Dore right then and there. In a short time-span she was successively named “Miss Los Angeles” and “Miss North America” in beauty contests. After she became Miss North America, Hollywood came knocking on her door, and she started her acting career that same year!

CAREER

Nadine appeared as a Goldwyn girl in the aptly named Palmy Days, a very good Eddie Cantor musical. Don’t expect any real depth, but there are plenty of funny lines, physical gags and good music, so that’s all we are asking for! Then came Good Sport, a perfect example of the best of elegant Pre Code comedies, with an implausible plot (a woman unwittingly rents an apartment from her husband’s mistress while they are both in Europe – whoa Nelly!) , but made with a dash of style and panache! The only minus is that John Boles is in it – one of the least memorable wooden faces ever! And he always plays the nice guy (boring as heck). But a plus to Linda Watkins and Greta Nissen, both underrated actresses!
Next up was The Scarlet Brand, a forgotten Bob Custer western. Ditto Bill Cody’s Law of the North. Luckily, Nadine went back to non western movies afterwards. A Parisian Romance  was another funny pre-Code sexual romp, the kind of they don’t even make today.
Nadine got her first credited role in A Strange Adventure, a Regis Toomey/June Clyde murder mystery. Imagine a cheery 1930s film noir and you’ve got it.
Nadine was then in Dancing Lady, a Joan Crawford musical, where Joan plays, surprise, a working girl who becomes a star! So atypical for our Joanie, no? While this movie is no masterpiece, I love it – mostly for Franchot Tone, whom I generally adore. His relationship with Joanie is the movie was tops! Sadly, this means her proper romance with Clark Gable (as the male lead) just didn’t do it for me. Ah, that happens when you act opposite your husband and your lover in the same movie!
Next: She Couldn’t Take It, a very-rich-and-plain-crazy-family doing some crazy things screwball comedy in t he mold of My Man Godfrey (made several years later). Unfortunately, the leads, played by George Raft and Joan Bennett, fare better in non comedic roles and don’t quite have the punch to make it work, but the supporting cast is tops (Billie Burke, Walter Connolly, Donald Meek…).
Nadine lost her contract, and decided to give herself a seocnd life under a different name, Carol Wyndham. Carol appeared in as a lead in the low-budget western, Roamin’ Wild. But that was about it with leading roles. She was back to uncredited role with The King Steps Out, a totally romanticized version of the Franz Josef/Sisi courthsip (much like the popular 1950s movies with Romy Schneider, not grounded in reality one bit, sadly). The movie has Franchot (as Franz Josef) so it’s a go go go for me! Sisi is played by Grace Moore, whom I find to be a bland actress to meh! Carol marched on. Venus Makes Trouble is a completely forgotten comedy, and Start Cheering is actually a pretty decent romance musical with Jimmy Durante. And that was it from Carol Wyndham.
Nadine’s last two movies, made under her original name in 1937, long after the code had taken place, were When You’re in Love and Women of Glamour, both inspired, made-by-the-book comedies with no real merit…
And that was it from Nadine!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Nadine weighted 116 pounds in her prime and had brown hair and sparkling blue eyes.

Nadine boasts a unique distinction of probably being one of the few chorus girls in history that owned an airplane and were able to fly It.  She was a proud proprietor of a swallow plane in which she took lessons in plain and stunt flying under the tutelage of Finley Henderson, stunt aviator. Prior to the purchase of the plane, when she was about 19 years old, Nadine had acquired a reputation for air stunting, but had never flown a plane.

Nadine married her first husband, Chester G. Miller, in Yuma, Arizona. Like most dramatic elopement cases, the marriage went kaput in short order. Already in 19134 there was this mini-scandal in the papers:

Beauty Charges Beating in Her Divorce Plea Nadine Dore Miller, screen actress and former beauty contest winner, filed suit in Superior Court yesterday for divorce from Chester G. Miller. Last Monday after accusing her of being too friendly with another man he beat and choked her, she charges in her complaint. They were married last April 22. As Nadine Dore Mrs. Miller won title of “Queen of Beauty” at the First National Beauty show in 1929 and in 1931 she was acclaimed “Miss North America” at the Ocean Park Municipal Auditorium.

Obviously that was hardly a high quality marriage. They divorced not long after.

Nadine Dore Suing To Rescind Contract 3 (Bv Associated Press) LOS ANGELES, Dec. 15 Nadine Dore, who two years ago was acclaimed as having the Ideal physical measurements for a screen actress, today filed suit against the Fox Film corporation to have rescinded a contract under which she never was paid more than $49 a week as an actress.

As we already learned elsewhere on this blog, suing a studio in the 1930s was a really, really bad idea, especially if you were a non name actress with no thick background. Olivia de Havilland and Bette Davis did it later in the 1940s, but they were both famous actress with plenty of clout – and Nadine most certainly was not.

So, Nadine decided to try again. he changed her name to Carol Wyndham, and tried to pick for stardom. As you ould read in the Career section, this also backfired. She did get some minor newspaper coverage over it – here is an example article:

Carol Wyndham started winning beauty contests when she was 14 and won too many. She says now it is hampering her chances for a motion-picture carer. She has changed her name to shake the jinx and has just been assigned a small part in a film.

She won the beauty contest titles of ” Miss Southern California” in 1927 ” Miss C a 1 i f or-nia ” in 1929, and “Miss North America ” in 1931, was espied playing a featured bit in the Carole Lombard-Fredric March picture, “Nothing Sacred,” at Selznick’s. Miss W y n d h am has her first speaking part in this film. Commenting on her long apprenticeship as a film dancer and part of the “beauty background” in so many pictures, this actress, now 24, uttered the following sage remark: “Too good a shape is a detriment for a girl in the movies. If a girl wants to be a star, it is her personality that she must make noticeable. ” After I won those beauty contests I thought for a while that I was wonderful But a couple of years in the movies knocks that feeling out of you,” she continued.

But no, it wasn’t really enough to fix the jinx. Nadine retired from Hollywood after Carol Wyndham outing, and married for the second time to Dell Henderson in Idaho in 1941.

Unfortunately, there was nothing else I could find about Dorine. According to the IMDB, she died on April 20, 1992, in Riverside, California. As always. let’s hope she had a happy life!

 

Adele Lacy

A Midwestern girl came to Hollywood armed only with a nice face, good body and some dancing skills, and actually got a chance to play leads in low-budget movies. This could go both ways – either it’s a springboard to something better or it’s a peak of an otherwise abysmal career. Unfortunately, Adele Lacy suffered the former fate, and after an initial short blast spent the rest of her career in the chorus.

EARLY LIFE

Adeline Charlotte Fergestad was born on September 8, 1911, to Morris Fergestad and Mina Johnson, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her paternal grandparents were born in Norway, and Mina’s family were also of Norwegian stock, making Adeline of the Minnesota Scandinavians. Her older brother Marvin was born in 1910. Morris Fergestad was a postal clerk at the local post office.

The family lived in Colfax Avenue, Minneapolis with two lodgers. Adeline was a vivacious red-haired child who had a knack for dancing and performing – she often played leads in local shows. She studied under Ruby Helen McClune of the Junior School of Expression. Beautiful and talented, she was appearing in several Kiddie Revues at the State theater, subsequently taking minor roles at the Schubert theater. When McClune went to Los Angeles to learn more dancing techniques, Adeline accompanied her. She loved the city, and vowed to return one day. But it was back in Minneapolis for now. Adeline’s first claim to fame was appearing in a Gus Edwards revenue in 1926 – she was chosen among hundreds of other Minneapolis dancers.

As for academia, Adeline attended Jefferson Junior high school and West school. In 1928, before Adeline graduated from West high school, she packed her bags and left for Hollywood, hoping to break into movies after getting some slack by appearing in Gus Edwards show.

In Tinsel town Adele attended Hollywood high school, from which she graduated that same year. She did dancing work and some minor uncredited work in movies (could not find any information about what movies). In 1933 her luck changed when she got picked From 1,000 actresses to be a leading lady for a series of western pictures starring Lane Chandler. And thus her career started

CAREER

Adele’s first known role, and one of the few where she was credited, was Vanishing Men, a lost low-budget western. Adele had the dubious honor of playing leading roles in two more low budget westerns The Wyoming Whirlwind and When a Man Rides Alone. While none of these movies have any impact on the world of film, viewers actually seem to like When a Man Rides Alone and it got strong kudos! You could say I was surprised – I never expect anybody to watch these old cheapies. Obviously, people still like Tom Tyler and watch his movies, but the question was, did Adele benefited from acting opposite such a western icon?

Short answer, no. Like most B western heroines, Adele’s career went nowhere fast. While she started pretty good – leading roles after all, it was dissolved from then on, and she remained a chorus staple in some good movies, but she was still just one of the chorus girls, rarely noticed.

She was a Goldwyn girl in The Kid from Spain, the ultimate Goldwyn girls classic. She was also in the legendary 42nd Street, and this is for sure the highlight of her career. It seems that being a Busby Berekely chorus girl was a career path many girls took when they arrive in Tinsel town. Too bad only a small fraction outgrew this fun and quite limited function.

Adele appeared in Busby’s movies with an almost alarming frequency: Gold Diggers of 1933Footlight ParadeRedheads on Parade. They are all the typical Berkeley musical – slim plot but lavish dance numbers and a whole loads of scantily clad girls to go over.

And sadly, that was it from Adele

PRIVATE LIFE  

Adele had natural red hair, hazel eyes, was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 114 pounds in her prime.

Adele married her first husband, Madison S. Lacy, in 1929. Madison was born on August 2, 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He worked in Hollywood as a stills photographer from the late 1910s. He later became a successful cheesecake photographer and took photos of many famous pin-up girls and actresses. His best known work are the stills of Ingrid Bergman from 1944.

Madison undoubtably helped her wife carve her path in Hollywood, but other than that little is known of the marriage. They divorced about the time her career came to an end, cca 1935. Madison remarried to actress Lois Lindsay and died on April 26, 1978.

In 1935, Adele left her movie career to become a special correspondent in Shanghai, China for a U. S. news syndicate. She was there for roughly a year, and then moved to London, England, also as a correspondent. After a year spent in London, she returned to New York, went back to Minnesota for a short time, and decided to take the big plunge and get married again. My guess is that she met her future husband during her two years outside the US, but anything is possible.

Adele married Walter Abel Futter in December 1937. Futter was an interesting, larger than life character.

Futter was born on January 2, 1900, in Omaha, Nebraska. Walter and his brother Fred were known in the early 1930s as the “junk-men of filmdom” because of their successful stock footage library. The two started buying negatives of bankrupt firms and amateur cameramen in 1926, calling their firm “Wafilms.” By 1928 they made profits by buying “short ends” of movie reels and selling them at big prices. Futter also produced short movies for Columbia studios, specializing in travelogues – his biggest ace was Africa Speaks – where a Colorado expedition visited Africa. In a world before internet, where a majority of the population never left the continent, and where Africa was a half mythical country, these movies were a smashing success. He tried to repeat the formula several times after, but never managed to react the success of Africa speaks. He was also one of the first filmmaker to show a zombie on-screen.

Futter was married once before, in 1927, to Patricia Elizabeth Murphy, they divorced a few years later.

In 1938, the Futter moves to London, where he produced British movies. When the war started in Europe, they returned to the US, living in New York. The Futters moved to Market, New Yersey, in 1944.

Reports Wife Missing On Trip to Manbattan New Market Police announced last night that Mrs. Adele Futter, 34, of Poe PI., had been missing since noon Tuesday when she left in her car for New York City. According to Arthur H. Schlun-sen, police chief of Piscataway Township, Mrs. Futter was last seen in Manhattan Tuesday by her doctor whom she visited during the day. Five feet two inches tall and weighing 120 pounds, the missing woman is the wife of Walter A. Futter, producer of motion picture short subjects and travel films. The Futters moved to New Market approximately one month ago.

And here is it how it ended:

Mrs. Walter Futter, 34, of Coe place, former actress, who had been missing for nearly a week, has returned to her home, police revealed today. The woman, who had left home last Tuesday to visit a physician New York City and then mysteriously disappeared, stated last night she had been visiting in Moorestown, Pa., and did not realize her husband had been alarmed about her. Futter notified police late Sun day night he was satisfied where wife was and asked the tele type alarm be recalled. Mrs. Futter stated she had telephoned a woman friend she knew the Orient while in New York City and discovered there had been a death in; the family. She decided to visit the friend in Moorestown and had asked someone to telegraph her husband to that effect Evidently, she said, in the excitement of the invasion, the telegram had not been sent. Mrs. Futter immediately tele phoned her husband when she read in the paper she had bee missing and came home yesterday. Her husband is a producer of motion picture shorts and travel forms.

This look normal to you? I am on the edge, this kind of gaffes can happen all the time, but something I feel something fishy… Maybe Futter was just an overtly dramatic man?

I’m guessing that Futter wasn’t  a picnic to live with (larger than life people seldom are), but the information about the union is scarce so no concrete evidence for that. Aside from that, the Futter lived in a small farm and even started to grow animals. Here is an article:

“Little lawnmowers” is what Mrs. Walter Futter of Burnt Mills Farm, Burnt Mills, calls the flock of sheep and lambs which she and her husband have on their farm. They advertise ‘today, “Choice milk-fed Easter lambs.” Mrs. Futter said that when they decided to get a few lambs some time ago, they were going to buy three “just to keep the grass down.” Instead, they got a flock of 24 and discovered they had to be fenced in properly or they eould eat flowers and shrubs as well as grass. Now the flock has grown to 80 and the Futters sell Easter lambs. Mrs. Futter also told us that the sheep is called “the animal with the golden hoof because Its manure, pounded into the ground with little hoofs does not disturb the sod and prevents weeds from growing. This is the kind of sod sold for landscaping. Mr. and Mrs. Futter also have a riding horse, chickens and French miniature poodles,

In 1953, Adele learned she had cancer – after a traditional treatment in the US, she moved to Mexico City for alternative treatment. Unfortunately, it was too late for Adele.

Adele Lacy Futter died on July 3, 1953 in Mexico City, Mexico, survived by her husband and brother.

Adele’s widower, Walter, married painter Howard Hoyt s ex-wife Betty Bartley in November 1955.

Betty got pregnant a short time later, and the awaited their child in June 1956. Unfortunately, when the baby was born it lived only 8 hours. Their one year marriage perished with it, and they were divorced by late 1956. However, the soap opera hardly stops here! In early 1958, they were in court again:

Walter Futter, 58, who is being sued by his blonde showgirl wife, Betty Futter, 35, for separation and $’.00-a-week temporary alimony, made it known today that from now on he wants her to pick up her own tabs. In a paid newspaper advertisement, Futter said: “My wife Betty, having left my bed and board, I am not responsible for her debts.” Futter was served with a complaint in Betty’a action last Friday. In her papers, Betty charged he was “insanely jealous,” falsely accused her in public and private of infidelity, and frequently beat her up.

The drama came to a halt when Walter Futter died on March 12, 1958.

 

Audrene Brier

Audrene Brier was a dancer who failed to become a proper actress, and mostly appeared in chorus girl roles. What sets her apart from tons of other chorus girls that never broke into acting is the fact that, after her “acting” career was over, she became a choreographer of repute and effectively had a second life in Tinsel town!

EARLY LIFE

Audrene Ethel Brier was born on September 28, 1914, in Los Angeles, California, to Huber Benjamin Brier and Lillian Abraham. Her father was a carpenter, her mother a housewife. Her maternal grandparents were British. She had an older sister, Lucille, born in 1912.

She was a child actress at 3, a protegé and a discovery of Gus Edwards, and worked in bits all during her younger years, but unfortunately I could not find these credits. Audrene was also enamored of dancing from the star – she had studied ballet with Ernest Belcher (father of Marjorie Champion) for ten years and tap dancing with Nick Castle for almost the same length of time. I assume she also attended high school, but could find no information about it.

Audrene was also socially active in various pageants and parades all around Los Angles, even winning awards for her frocks several times (it seems Audrene was a clothes horse!). However, she didn’t make a “proper” movie until she signed with Warner Bros in 1933, and off she was!

CAREER

Audrene’s career can be divided into three very distinct chapters. The first one were her dancing days in the early 1930s. She entered movies in 1933, under contract to Warner Bros. Her first movie was Gold Diggers of 1933, the best of the Gold Diggers string of movies. Warren William plays the lead what can I say, I love William and find him one of the best Pre-code actors. The plot is good enough, music and dancing are superb – exactly what you would expect from a Busby Berkeley production. Unfortunately, the rest of her output didn’t soar as high. It’s Great to Be Alive is an idiotic musical cum SF (yep, you heard that right), Too Much Harmony  is a typical Bing Crosby musical of the early 1930s, nothing to shout about. Audrene made three more musicals for Warner Bros, and all three of them were mediocre fare at their bets, and totally forgettable at their worst (Stand Up and Cheer! , All the King’s Horses and Redheads on Parade). She was literary one of thousands girls that came pouring to Hollywood every year, get their small chunks of movie time in the chorus, and get forgotten in a year or two. However, Audrene decided to stick around and make something more out o her not-to-impressive career.

She sailed to the UK in the mid 1930s, and tried for  a career there. The pickings were slim, but they were there – Darby and Joan , a completely forgotten comedy, Wise GuysThe Reverse Be My Lot , both likewise forgotten, but Audrene was credited in all of the movies and actually appeared on-screen outside the chorus line. While not much, it still was something. The war looming in Europe, Audrene returned to the States, and settled into a dancing life.

She returned to movies in 1941, and this begins the third “chapter” of her movie career – back to the chorus or at least to lightweight comedy. The first movie was Down in San Diego, a solidly done wartime adventure/comedy with all the usual suspects – Nazi spies, military secrets, the navy and so on. Bonita Granville is in it – that’s a slight plus if nothing else. Audrene played a secretary in Born to Sing, a formulaic and not especially good ‘let’s put on a show’ film – it’s decidedly B class material and that’s that.Even more preposterous was Joan of Ozark, a Judy Canova idiotic wartime movie where she singlehandedly foils a German spy ring. As one reviewer wrote, it’s a “propaganda films of very dubious quality”. While Judy can be amusing at times, the story is most certainly not. Like many other starlets, Audrene was in Parachute Nurse, and ended her career in Call of the Canyon, a cheap but able musical western. And that was that!

PRIVATE LIFE

After leaving movies for the first time, Audrene worked as a professional dancer. She appeared in Chicago fairs and doubling at the Congress hotel with Billy Taft for a partner and to Eddie Duchin’s music. She also did some nightclub work in both New York and Chicago, before returning to Los Angeles. Why did she return, you may wonder? Simple – love.

She married Nathan Rosenberg on February 12, 1936, in Los Angeles. Nathan was born on 1904 to Maurice Rosenberg and Sarah Carr. His uncle was renown producer Carl Leamme. Known as Nat Ross, he worked in the film industry as a director under his uncle’s guidance. He was a veteran of over 60 directing gigs by the time he married Audrene, and a well-known staple in Hollywood. Yet, his career was effectively over by 1931, and he dreamed of other, better opportunities for his talents.

Buoyed by a union of two artists who wanted something better than just scraps, Ross and Audrene decided to go to England, where he went inot producing movies and she acted in several of his features. The movies proved to be When she came back to America, she decided that she had enough of being an actress, and she devoted herself solely to being a dancer, thus returning to the chorus once again. Unfortunately, she and Nat separated, and by 140s, she was living with friends in Los Angeles (she is listed as their guest). Then, something quite horrible happened. Nat Ross, Audrene’s husband, was killed in a shooting in February 1941. Here is a brief article about it:

Nat Kerns, 36, identified by Detective-Lieutenant C. A. Gillan as a former movie producer and director, was shot and killed last night in a doorway of a rag factory of which he was foreman. Maurice L. Briggs, 25, a recent employee of the plant, was arrested a few blocks away. He was booked at city jail on suspicion of murder. Among 25 women witnesses to the shooting was Briggs’ wife Betty, 21, an employee of the factory. They were married five months ago. Gillan said Ross, also a part owner of the plant, formerly managed a New York city theater, then became a film salesman, joining the old Universal studio in 1920. He was an assistant to the late Irving Thalberg, produced “The Leather rushers” and “The Collegians” and for years was a director in Hollywood and a producer in London. Ross was married four years ago to Audrene Brier, an actress. Gillan said witnesses told him Rosa discharged Brings a month ago, re-employed him, then discharged him again two weeks ago. Carl Lacmmle, Jr., son of tho late head of Universal Studio, and Robert Hartman of Hollywood, a cousin of Ross, conferred with Gillan at the police station following the shooting. Laemmle identifield himself as a close friend of the dead man.

Unfortunately, there is only a brief mention of Audrene in the article, and it doesn’t mention their marital state, but I guess they were still separated when the tragedy happened. But anyway, it was a terrible blow to Audrene. She recuperated by working in movies again, and slowly moving from the front of the camera to behind the camera – she became a dancing teacher, and in time, a choreographer. he racked up some impressive credits to her name – Jolson Sings Again and Million Dollar Mermaid , just to name the most famous. Here is a short peek at her choreographing days:

 Audrene Brier to Assist Cole – Audrene Brier has been set as choreographic assistant to dance director Jack Cole on Columbia’s Cinemascope Technicolor musical, “Three for the Show,” which stars Betty Grable, Marge and Gower Champion and Jack Lemmon. Jonie Taps produces and H. C. Potter directs. Miss Brier previously served Cole in the same capacity at Columbia, when he designed the dances for Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” and “Down to Earth.”

Audrene married, secondly, to prominent set decorator Norman Rockett, a 06 Oct 1946 in Los Angeles, California. Rockett was born Norman Walter Harrison on August 8, 1911, the son of a laundry route salesman and a lingerie saleswoman who lived in Long Beach. After his parents divorced and his mother remarried, he took the name of his stepfather, Al Rockett, an executive with First National Studios in Burbank. He was drafted into the army during WW2 and served int he Pacific Theater – He had been assigned as a naval photographer’s mate to the Pennsylvania, only to arrive for duty a month after the ship was damaged in the Pearl Harbor bombing of Dec. 7, 1941.Later he used this experience when making sets for his most famous movie, Tora tora tora!

The couple lived quietly in Sherman Oaks (Audrene did mostly choreographing jobs by now, with no acting in sight), and raised a daughter, Susan, born on March 31, 1948. It was a harmonious and happy family life.

Norman Rockett died on April 5, 1996. Audrene Rockett died on January 13, 2002 in Los Angeles.

Tut Mace

Tut Mace was a kind of girl that we only sometimes see in Hollywood – girls born to dance, girls who danced become they felt a passion for it, notfor the money and fame. Pretty, talented and a seasoned pro by the time she was 20, Tut was a good match for Tinsel Town, but her career there was brief and not notable, so she took up the dancing circuits and had much success. A stormy marriage and possible alcoholism sadly overshadowed her dancing abilities.

EARLY LIFE

Katharine May Tut Mace was born on January 26, 1913 in Los Angeles, California, to Lloyd Russell Mace and Katherine G. Higgins. She was their only child. Her father was a medical doctor, then a local practitioner – he later became an official physician of the Olympic auditorium (State Athletic Commission to be more precise).

From early childhood, it was obvious that Tut was extremely talented in kinetics, dancing included, so he parents, fully supportive, tried to do everything to help her develop this talent. She was sent to several of the leading dancing schools and she took private lessons with trained of movement with acrobatic ability. She was also a Girl Scout troop leader.

Her first real showbiz experience was appearing in the local annual pastiche of dancers, dancing what was known then as a “different” acrobatic dance. Day by day she honed her skill and blossomed into a highly talented dancer. She made waves before she hit 18 – here is an example article about her early career days:

In the success scored by Lupino Lane’s new Hollywood Music Box revue, which opened to a capacity audience Tuesday night, the star-producer has not overlooked home talent. He points with pride to Tut Mace, the little dancer who registered the opening night. Little Miss Mace, is just 16 years of age, born in Los Angeles, and received all of her dance instruction here. She is the daughter of Dr. Lloyd Mace, official physician of the Olympic auditorium, and local practitioner. Although Miss Mace is so young, she has already been featured in several acts in vaudeville, and has danced in them as far East as Chicago. Her acrobatic talent is described as bringing exclamation of wonder from Music Box audiences.

Tut danced all over the US, including the prestigious Tabor Theater in Denver, where she joined the Fanchon and Marco “Hollywood Collegians” idea. And not long after, she did land in Hollywood. Pretty soon, she became very popular in Hollywood as a dancer, and was developing so rapidly…

CAREER

Sadly, for such a talented dancer, tut appeared in so few movies – only three! Her first two movies were the Three Stooges shorts, Hollywood Lights and The Big Idea. Since I never saw any of the Stooges shorts and known next to nothing about them nor their body of work, let’s just leave it at that.

Sadly, her only full length movie, She Was a Lady, is a completely forgotten one – little is known about it, but a sure plus is that is had Helen Twelvetrees in the lead. The plot is an outright critique of the social class divide, with Helen playing a daughter of an aristocrat and a servant lady. The plot follows her love life and striving to make something out of her mixed heritage. It actually doesn’t sound half as bad, but sadly I have no idea is anybody has watched this movie in ages.

And that was it from Tut!

PRIVATE LIFE

Tut’s private life was quite stormy and being with one very important man – Gary Leon. Leon was born on february 5, 1906, in Illinois. His family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was a boy. He was a dancer who danced with Rita Hayworth. Leon married Marion Mitchell, his dancing partner, in Detroit. The wedding was staged at the theater where they were appearing, a symphony orchestra playing Lohengrin’s Wedding March as the martial knot was tied before a large audience. And then, a year later, Tut comes into the picture. Wonder how? Here is an article about it:

Gary Leon, dancer, and former Santa Monica athlete, divorced his wife, Marion Leon, in Superior Judge Kincaid’s court yesterday because she was overly Jealous of him. “She insisted on being present in all my business dealings,” Leon testified. “She accused me of being in love with my dancing partners. Always she was out front watching me.” Asked by his attorney, Marshall Hickson, about threats of his wife to end her life, Leon replied it was just her “annual gag” to cause him further annoyance. Marcia (Tut) Mace, Leon’s dancing partner, testified that ,. Mrs. Leon’s jealousy caused Leon to be much upset and that it once resulted in their losing an engagement. The Leons were married December 14, 1933, and separated last April 1

This was not the first time Leon got some slack from the papers. He first got some infamy when he was accused by none other than  Rudy Vallee of keeping rendezvous with his then wife, Fay Webb, in New York. Leon claimed he had known Fay since she was “a little girl with pigtails,” but that he said he had not seen her. He refused to take sides in commenting on the Vallee-Webb case, remarking he was just the innocent victim caught in a cross-fire of a domestic quarrel. He didn’t want to take sides, so he gave affidavits to both sides, and was not further concerned in the matter.”

Har har har, while he was trying to paint Marion as a green-eyed monster, Gary truly was cheating on her with Tut – quite a low punch, I have to say. Just a few short weeks after his divorce, Gary and Tut announced they will be married soon at Agua Caliente. Although California law prescribed a year’s wait before either party may remarry, Leon and Tut evaded the ruling by living apart.

In contrast to Leon’s first marriage, his second wedding to Tut was performed at the Foreign club, Tijuana’s largest gambling house. They left for soon on a combination honey moon and professional tour of Europe. Another thing they kept mum was that Tut was pregnant – their daughter Andree Antoinette was born sometimes in 1935, not long after the wedding.

Leon and Tut’s marriage was a tumulus one. They danced all around the US and Europe, mostly in Great Britain. They often had stormy fights just to make up later and everything was lovely dovely. Like most such stories, the ending was not a nice one.

After a difficult marriage, they finally divorced in 1945. Even then it was a major fiasco – the court proceedings got into papers, and they were not nice. It was said Tut listed her monthly expenses at $156.50, and asked a restraining order to prevent her husband molesting her. Soon, Tut found out she was pregnant again, and gave birth to their second daughter, Pamela Mary Leon, on July 5, 1946, during their divorce proceedings. But the divorce went on as usual – it seems there was nothing that could keep the two of them together.

Tut faded from view, gave up dancing and remarried a Santa Monica businessman, Phillip Malouf.

In 1955, Tut and Gary went to the Santa Monica Superior Court to begin a legal battle over the custody of their 11-year-old daughter. The suit was heard by Judge Stanley Mosk. She was seeking custody of her daughter Pamela, who has been living with’ her father and her paternal grandmother since she and Gary were divorced years ago. Leon, then a chief of security at me Kami corp was likewise remarried by that time. Now this is truly sad: Tut’s husband Philip Malouf testified that he recently attempted the role of peacemaker between Leon and his former wife, where upon Leon went into a tirade and said he wished his former wife were dead and that he would have killed her if he thought he could get away with it. Leon had answered his ex- wife’s demand-for custody of the child and charged that she has been an alcoholic for the past seven years. Tutn, in her affidavit, said she has hot had a drink for 18 months. Judge Mosk advised the parties that he will confer with the girl prior to resumption of the hearing this morning. Sadly that was all I could find of the case, and I have no idea what happened in the end with the custody case.

To sum everything up, it seems that Gary and Tut were at odds for a long time even after that, and I can only hope they reached some sort of agreement on the custody of their daughter. One wonders what could have happened to install so much venom into their hearts.

Tut lived a quiet life in Santa Monica with her husband, and danced only for fun. But unfortunately, it seems that she could have been an alcoholic. Because, she just died too young.

Catherine “Tut” Malouf died on July 26, 1966. I have no idea when Philip Malouf died. Gary Leon died on March 30, 1988.

Pluma Noisom

Obscure actresses are usually extras or chorus girls – so far we haven’t’ touched another large portion of the often nameless thespians – the stand ins! Not officially actors, they do all the heavy lifting for the stars, standing as the technicians set the light, cameras and so on before the scene is shot. Pluma Noisom hit her five minutes of fame as the stand in for Claudette Colbert, with whom she shared an uncanny physical similarity. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Pluma Hope Noisom was born on February 14, 1913 in Detroit, Michigan, to George Frederick Noisom and Helen June Harrison. Her younger brother George Jr. was also born in Detroit on February 14, 1915. The family moved to King, Washington after George returned from serving in WW1 (in about 1919), but returned to Detroit not long after.

Pluma was a talented child who enjoyed dancing and wanted to make it her life’ vocation. Her parents, more than supportive to her wishes, decided to move to Los Angeles to further her chances to having a dancing career. They packed their bags and by 1922 were living in Los Angeles, where her younger brother Derry was born on September 22, 1923.

Pluma’s mother, by then pretty much determined to get her children into show business, changed their names to make them more theatrical. Hans J. Wollstein’s “All Movie Guide” mentions that her brother George Noisom went by the name Bubbles Noisom, and Pluma became Pluma DaVonne. Her brother appeared in the Wizard of Oz and was arguably the most successful of the siblings. Pluma started to attract attention with her dances in several films, and her career was of!

CAREER

Judging by IMDB, Pluma never had a featured role but instead was a stand in for Claudette Colbert. I don’t think this is the whole truth – it seems she was a chorus girl before she became a stand in, and she was a stand-in in more than three movies listed on the profile page. But anyway, Pluma gave up her career as a movie dancing girl to be the stand-in for Claudette, and their first movie was Cleopatra.

Pluma was Claudette’s stand in in The Gilded Lily, actually a pretty nice romantic comedy. The plot is simple enough: While its no high art, I for one like these kind of fun, sharp but still dreamy enough to be part escapism. The cast is uniformly good – Claudette, Fred MacMurray and Ray Milland.

That same year she was stand in for She Married Her Boss, another semi-comedy combined with semi-drama. Much like the Gilded Lilly, it mixes the two genres and it mixes them nicely. Overall, it’s bit uneven in the quality department (low points: the ending is downright terrible, the costumes are terrifyingly bad), but more than watchable. And I love Melvyn Douglas, he’s a tush! 

Accordign to IMDB, Pluma’s last movie was Under Two Flags, an adventure movie. The opinions are divided about this one – while it’s a solid movie overall, some thing it could have been much better – some think it’s great just the way it is. But anyway, it’s indisputable that he movie has an impressive cast (Claudette, Robert Donat, Rosalind Russell) and a good plot, taken from Ounida’s novel.

According to the papers, Pluma doubled for Claudette in some of the long shots of “Imitation of Life,” because Claudette had to start another picture, and when Claudette was ill, Pluma played in some of the faraway scenes of “Maid of Salem.”

And that was it from Pluma!

PRIVATE LIFE

Pluma married her first husband, James P. Whitaker, on July 1,4 1930, in Los Angeles. Whitaker was born on in Missouri in 1910, to Jasper Whitaker and Mary Walsh. They family moved to California in the 1920s, and James worked in Los Angeles in the cleaning business, being a salesman of cleaning fluids. The marriage was very short-lived and the divorced early the next year. Whitaker remarried in the 1930s, was drafted into WW2 in 1942 and I have no idea what happened to him afterwards.

Pluma wasted no time in finding her number two – she got remarried on September 5, 1931, in Los Angeles, to Thomas S. Peterson. Peterson was born on February 6, 1908 in New Mexico, to Charles S. Peterson and Minnie K Tudor, 12 years older than his brother Jack. After living for a time in Indiana, the family settled in California, where Thomas worked as a pharmaceutical salesman. This marriage also did not last long and was terminated before 1935. Peterson was also drafted into WW2 and died on August 25, 1988 in California.

And now, for some of the details of Pluma’s life as Claudette’s stand in. Here is a short article about her:

For seven weeks Pluma Noisom, blond “stand-in” for Claudette Colbert, has donned a heavy wig each morning because a stand-in’s hair must be the same color as the actress for which she substitutes while lights are being arranged and the set is being prepared for the filming of a sequence. But the weather has been warm and the wig uncomfortable. Today Miss Noisom appeared at the studio and returned the wig to the property department. Overnight she had become a raven-haired brunette.

In 1936, Pluma was about to get married again, but didn’t have the free days to do it. When Claudette Colbert contracted influenza and had to take a few days of production, Pluma got the few free days that  she needed. Taking advantage of this opportunity, she eloped to Riverside and married Ward Schweizer, former college athlete. The marriage was disclosed when Pluma appeared for work the next day and forgot to remove her wedding ring.

Pluma’s new intended was Ward Cotrell Schweizer, born on January 22, 1908 in Los Angeles, to John Melchior Schweizer and Hester Willson. He grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from Occidental College, where he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Alpha Tau Omega. He served in World War II and achieved the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army. He joined Pacific Telephone in 1930 and moved to San Francisco in 1940. He became an executive vice president and officer in the AT&T Bell System and served on the boards of Pacific Bell and Nevada Bell. After his retirement in 1972, he joined the board of telecom equipment provider Lynch Communications.

I could not find much information about Pluma and Ward’s marriage, but it seems that they had two children, two sons, John Schweizer and Marc Schweizer (born on September 17, 1947). The couple divorced in the early 1950s.

Schweizer remarried in 1958 to Constance McPherson, and they lived in Atherton, California for 45 years until his death in 2003.

Pluma allegedly remarried to a Mr. Proulx but I could not find any information about the union. She continued living in Los Angeles.

Pluma Hope Proulx died on May 22, 1981, in Los Angeles, California.

Martha Merrill

Martha Merrill was one of those girls who get to Hollywood via the dancing route, manage to climb out of the chorus pit, but sadly never amount to much. However, Martha proved her versatility when she became a professional writer after her acting days were over, and was hailed as a fine poetess! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Martha Baum was born on February 22, 1916, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, to James and Pearl Baum. She was the sixth and last child – her siblings were Josephine, born in 1894, twins Mannie and James Jr., born in 1899, Samuel, born in 1904 and Pearl, born in 1909. Both of her parents were Russian immigrants and her father worked as a furniture buyer at a department store. The family was well off as they employed a servant and a nurse for the children.

The Baums moved to Chicago, Illinois by 1925, where Martha grew up. She was interested in dancing from her early teen years and seriously considered it as her future vocation.

Martha attended University High school and after graduation attended College Preparatory school of Chicago and then started to dance professionally. At some point she landed in Hollywood, but was not signed by a studio, rather she danced in the chorus as a freelancer.

Dick Powell proved to be Martha’s claim to fame. While filming Dames, a cameraman needed a girl to pose with Dick for a picture. Martha volunteered, among others. Dick picked her to assist in making a “trailer”.  Although the photograph was never used it found its way to the desk of an executive at Warner Bros studio.  He ordered a screen test for her and she so favorably impressed studio officials by her work, that she was signed under contract, and of the went!

CAREER:

Martha appeared in a string of musicals as a chorus girl – George White’s ScandalsHere Comes the Navy andDames 

Martha than appeared in a more serious movie fare – The St. Louis Kid, and The Firebird, a sly, well made but still out of the mill crime whodunit (Ricardo Cortez is the victim – he was often the victim in the 1930s!). She then appeared in another Cagney film, Devil Dogs of the Air. This one is a so-so effort, pretty weak in several important elements (story – a cocky pilot learns manners – so cliché!, characters – no real depth, Cagney is great because he plays his usual character), but with solid performers and some nice looking aerial scenes.

Martha finally got her first credit in Living on Velvet, a type of melodrama that doesn’t have a lot of plot but does have a lot of emotion. The whole movie thus rests on the shoulders of the leading actors – George Brent and Kay Francis. I like Kay, she was effortlessly charming, and find Brent a cool tall glass of water! While he could be a wooden statue at times, at other times he was like butter, so creamy and nice! Here, the two make it work, so it’s a good enough movie, worth watching once. Martha was back in the musical saddle with Gold Diggers of 1935Shipmates ForeverIn Caliente and Go Into Your Dance. They are more or less all the same, just with different actors and slightly different stories. A better musical was Show Boat, with the indomitable Irene Dunne as Magnolia.

Luckily, Martha did appear in some more substantial movies like ‘G’ Men, another early Cagney vehicle where he plays a FBI agent at the time when agents didn’t even have authority to carry firearms, Don’t Bet on Blondes, a shallow romantic comedy with Gene Raymond and Claire Dodd, the delightful and puffy Personal Maid’s Secret, a very well done B movie with Ruth Donnelly and Margaret Lindsay set in Park avenue (very interesting to see how Park Avenue people lived in the 1930s – a great time piece!), and Nobody’s Fool, a solid Edward Everett Horton comedy about a country bumpkin who comes to the big city.

The rest of Martha’s filmography was covered by mediocre comedies: They Met in a Taxi, a Chester Morris brain-dead comedy (but still a fun one), Cain and Mabel, a lukewarm pairing of two acting greats, Marion Davies and Clark Gable (they could do better for sure), The Cowboy Star, which luckily is not a western just has a cowboy in the name, and More Than a Secretary, a Jean Arthur movie that’s far from her best work.

Martha’s last movie was perhaps the best one she appeared in, and most certainly my own favorite – History Is Made at Night. This incredible, dream like movie won’t leave you indifferent – and how could it when it pairs Jean Arthur with Charles Boyer, along with a special favorite of mine, Colin Clive (what a shame that he did too little movies!).

That was it from Martha!

PRIVATE LIFE

Martha was famous for her shapely gams. She was selected by none other than Busby Berkeley, dance director, as the possessor of Hollywood’s most beautiful legs. Martha’s thigh measured eighteen and one half inches, calf thirteen and a half and ankle seven inches.

Martha was a writer from her early teens, and even when she was an actress, she looked for any writing outlets she could find. During the 1930s, a Beverly Hills magazine published her poem, Heart Flutter.

She was also chosen as the perfect showgirl in her prime. Here is an article about it:

She’s Martha Merrill back home in Ft. Wayne, Ind. as the “ideal type” out of 200 dancers. Miss Merill is five feet five, weighs 115 pounds, has a waist measurement of 26 inches, an eight-inch ankle and “midnight blue” hair. , Prinz, a director, said the American movie public decided on the changed style in beauty and helped him select Miss Merrill. “Ideas of what constitutes a beautiful girl change just as do standards in clothing,” he explained. “Apparently what the vast bulk of people want those who are interested in a girl’s looks, that is a taller type. Maybe it’s because the race is getting bigger. “From a technical standpoint, at any rate, it is rare that we find real beauty without stature. A girl who stands around five feet or five-two may be pretty, but it’s physically impossible for her to have much dignity or queenliness. “

Here is another article about our busy bee Martha:

Martha Merrill is a young ingenue. Her name may ‘ mean nothing to you, although she has screen credit I mention her because of all the youngsters I have met, she seems more ambitious and willing to work than most. Recently a young man fell in love with her. He dogged her steps, pleading for social dates, but her nights were so filled with studies that she refused. His persistence in the end paid off, but after such a long time…

I have no idea who that young man could be, but as far as her love life was concerned, Martha was married briefly to a Los Angeles physician, a Dr. Parrish. However,I could not find any marriage certificate, I just know that they were divorced prior to 1940.

In 1936, Martha was serious for a time with Ross Alexander, a fellow Warner Bros contractee. As Ross was a highly unhappy individual, it was actually a blessing in disguise when they broke up later that year (Ross killed himself in 1937). Around that time Martha was also seen with Lyle Talbott.

Unfortunately, Martha suffered from an unknown physical malady, and by the late 1930s had to put short her acting career. Trying to find another occupation for herself, producer Edgar Selwyn persuade her to try short story writing and submitted her first effort to a national magazine,which led to a five-year contract at Paramount-studio’s as a scenarist. Unfortunately, I could not find under which name she wrote as she has no writing credits under her acting name.

After this switch of careers, Martha lived part of the year in New York, and there met and fell in love with noted theater critic George Jean Nathan. They dated for a time, and she spent even more time in New York so their relationship could blossom, but they broke up int he early 1940s.

On June 9, 1944, Martha married her second husband, Emanuel Manheim. Manheim was born on November 13, 1897, in New York, to Levi and Rachael Manheim. He was quite a bit older than Martha, but was never wed before.

Funny, but Mannie’s obituary has the best biography written about him i could find:

 Emanuel (Mannic) Manheim, a New York-born humorist who wrote three decades of radio and TV comedy for the likes of Groucho Marx, Frank Sinatra and Art Link-letter, and once presided as the “mayor” of Schwab’s during the drugstore’s Hollywood heyday, has died. Manheim was 90 when he died at Santa Monica Hospital on June 26, according to family and friends. In the mid-1930s, Manheim came to Hollywood from Syracuse, N.Y., for a brief vacation, but at the behest of a friend, composer Harold Arlen, he stayed and stayed, for more than 50 years, writing first for the most popular radio shows of the time and then for television as recently as the 1970s. “A very clever, very witty, very nice man,” recalled writer and playwright Arthur Marx, Grouch-o’s son and a fledgling writer when Manheim got him his first writing job, on Milton Berle’s radio show. In Hollywood, Arlen introduced him to Marx, who gave him his first assignment: writing a Groucho -Chico sequence for radio, according to Manheim’s wife, Martha. Man-heim’s most memorable one, an absent-minded bit known variously as “Hello Olive” and “The Thorndykes,” is a skit Groucho used repeatedly for years. Groucho was performing with Bob Hope and ad-libbing his way through a Manheim script when he was spotted by a TV producer who cleared the way for “You Bet Your Life,” and Groucho wryly credited Manheim with helping to launch his TV career, said Arthur Marx. Among his other radio credits were shows for Edgar Bergen, Frank Sinatra, Rudy Vallee, Jackie Gleason and, for several years, Al Jolson. He also wrote material for Bob Hope and Bing Crosby, and served as head writer for Milton Berle’s radio program. Manheim’s daily calendar was consulted by everyone on that show, his wife said, and one day Berle caught sight of the notation “Book Mencken,” Manheim’s reminder to himself to pick up the latest copy of pundit H.L. Mencken’s work. “What the hell right have you got,” Berle supposedly snarled, “to book Mencken without my consent?” Manheim wrote for television from its infancy. He wrote and produced “The George Jessel Show,” and wrote for “People Are Funny” as well as occasional scripts for “The Real McCoys,” “The Donna Reed Show” and, at the end of his career, for such shows as “My Three Sons.” But “he was at his best,” said his wife, “in those big musical comedy shows you don’t see any more.” At Manheim’s request, there were no services. He is survived by his wife and his brother, Het.

Martha and Mannie lived in California and enjoyed a very happy union. They did not have any children, but it seems that this did not put a strain on the marriage. In 1958, Martha started studying philosophy at Santa Monica College, and was a straight A student each semester.

Manheim died on June 28, 1988 in Los Angeles. Martha lived a quiet life in their home and didn’t remarry.

Martha Baum Manheim died on April 2, 1991, in Los Angeles, California.

Mary Casiday

Mary Casiday came to Hollywood as a pretty model, managed to nab a studio contract and stayed. She never did any serious dramatic work, but like most girls who had such careers, her whole life was shaped by Los Angeles, a town she would have probably never visited if not for Hollywood. Let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Alice Irene Casiday was born in 1917 to Samuel Carlyle Casiday and Daisy Elizabeth Harrower in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father was a plumber. Her older brother was Carlyle Leure, born in 1916, and her younger sister was Daisy Elizabeth, born in 1919. The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska at some point and Mary grew up there. After she graduated from high school (St. Mary’s Convent), she found work as a model in Omaha.

Mary was a model for a short time when she decided to try the movies. Her story is actually a very inspiring one – in a town where many girls pine for months (and sometimes for years) for their chance to appear in movies , May had it very easy – she applied for a job on a Friday and got her first call the following Monday. As a complete newcomer, she knew so little about Hollywood that she went to the wrong studio on the first day of work. Luckily, she managed to find the correct studio and her career was of!

CAREER

This is pretty slim, as Mary appeared in only two movies – Dames and Westward the Women

What to say about Dames? A typical Busby Berkeley musical, that is the same as most of his other work – no plot, lots of dancing, singing and scantly clothed chorus girls. And guess who Mary was? A chorus girl, of course! While I myself am not a fan of such movie,s it’s still very, very impressive to see the perfectly choreographed scenes and one can’t help but admire Busby’s impeccable sense for elegant but abundant (is there a word that can truly nail it down?) motion. While not his best, this one stand the test of time and it’s more than watchable today.

Westward the Women is a different story. While this is no work of art comparable to the bets movie ever made, it’s still a great movie from William Wellman, one of the undisputed masters of the 20th century. The movie is about a trail guide escorts a group of women from Chicago to California to marry men that have recently began settling there. And boy, is it one of the very few movies realistically depicting pioneer life! Like it usually does Hollywood glamorized the hard knock, very difficult pioneer life, but not so much here, as she movie tackled it head on and hides nothing. As a result, it’s not easy to watch it, but it’s incredibly interesting and even inspiring to see people who beat terrible odds to keep living on a normal life in such surroundings. The cast is also pretty good – from Robert Taylor, already past his pretty boy stage, to a whole arena of female actresses (Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, Marilyn Erskine, Hope Emerson and so on), Wellman makes it work as smoothly as clockwork, and it’s a testament to his prowess as a director.

Unfortunately, that was it from Mary as far as IMDB claims. Her obituary tells a different story – allegedly she worked for Warner Bros and later William Randolph Hearst Production Co.  all the way until the mid 1950s. That means she could have been in other movies or TV shows under different names, or IMDB just doesn’t have all the information, but now I guess we’ll never know unless somebody goes some through information digging. The obituary also states that she appeared in several Busby Berkeley movies with their lavish production numbers, and was selected Miss Golden Girl in the Berkeley troupe. But let’s leave it at that!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1939, Mary started dating Clifford Welch (whoever he was!). In typical Hollywood style, whenever Welch was not in town, she had other swains. Once they were Anthony Averill and Dick Purcell who were her “gay caballeros” (as the columnists called them) while Cliff was back in the East. They squirmed her at Grace Hayes’ Lodge.

However, Cliff was Mary’s one true hearty toddy. That same year, Clifford Welch flew in from New York just to help Mary celebrate her birthday. It seemed that they were a serious couple for a time, but it seems they broke up the next year.

Mary made a personal appearance at the San Francisco Fair last week-end for Princess Do Ling, former lady in waiting to the late Empress Dowager of China. A barbecued chicken dinner following a long horseback trek was enjoyed by the clever hostess (Mary).

In 1940, after she and Cliff called it quits, she nabbed Dick Purcell, her old swain, from her love rival Vicki Lester. Hollywood sure was a small place back then, and people dated extensively.

Here is a short, fun story about Mary’s chorus days in Hollywood:

Chorines just now are rehearsing from noon until 6 p. m.. and performing; from 8:30 until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday evening, about 8 o’clock, Carroll’s chief aide-de-camp, Herman Hover was descending a flight of backstage stairs. Suddenly a bell began to jangle under his feet and with a horror-stricken shout of “TIME BOMB LOOK OUT:” Mr. Hover took the rest of the steps at a single bound. And from under the stairs where they had made a bed of blankets and pillows emerged Mary Casiday and Patti Sacks. Too tired to go home, they had set an alarm to insure waking up in time for the show

In 1940, there were news that Mary would undergo an appendectomy as soon as her strength is built sufficiently for the ordeal. It seems Mary was generally a fragile little thing and was not in the best of health for periods of time. The operation didn’t go as planned and Mary was allegedly hovering between life and death for some time afterwards. Time went by and she was no better and her friends were greatly worried. Luckily, after a dark time, she recuperated and resumes her Hollywood career.

It seems Mary was involved with handsome actor Lyle Talbot for a time – she gave him a big farewell party when he was scheduled to leave for Philadelphia to play in “Thanks for My Wife”. Unfortunately, the relationship ended soon afterwards. However, Mar’y love life continued unhindered. In 1941, she was getting a terrific rush from Edmund McDonald, in the construction business in San Francisco. Soon, there were stories all around how Edmund asked her to marry him and wedding bells would sound soon for the duo. And then nothing happened. I mean literary, no information about why they broke up or anything.

In May 1942, Mary was back in the hospital for another operation, but this time it all went well, and she got ready for the big event of the year – her wedding. In December 1942, Mary married Cecil Joseph Bye. Here is a newspaper clip about the marriage:

BYE-CASIDAY The wedding date of Dec. 30 for Miss Mary Casiday and Cecil Joseph Bye was announced at the surprise bridal shower given for the bride-elect by Mrs. Frederick Maxwell Karger in her Hollywood home. The marriage will be solemnized at the Sacred Heart of Mary. Miss Casiday is a graduate of St. Mary’s Convent, Omaha, and vice-president of the Army Camps Kmergency Service. Mr. Bye Is attending officers’ candidate school, Camp Davis, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.

Cecil Joseph Bye was born on December 10, 1907, the son of William Harry Bye and Adiliade Peiling. He was a successful Los Angeles businessman when he married Mary. Little is known about the Bye’s married life, except that they were California-based and Mary retired after the marriage.
Bye died on May 3, 1986 in Los Angeles. Mary never remarried and continued living in the city.

Mary Casiday Bye died on November 3, 1998 in Los Angeles.