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!
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!
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 Guys, The 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!
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.