Ellye Marshall

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That’s it from Ellye!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

Look how ever her divorce was made fun of:

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

Here are more of her “gems”

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

And this one explains it all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lorraine Krueger

Perky, pretty and a really good dancer, Lorraine Krueger had a brief but sweet Hollywood career, appearing mostly in B features. he gave up Hollywood to become a real estate agent. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Lorraine Krueger was born on February 27, 1918, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Johann Wilhelm Alfred Krueger and Jesse Ione Mullins. She was the third of four children, and the only daughter – her older brothers were Alfred Carl, born on September 28, 1909, and Herbert born on December 12, 1911, and her younger brother was Raymond. Her father worked as a buyer for a retail store and was an educated chandler, working with candles and wax.

Lorraine started dancing at the tender age of three, and pretty soon it was obvious the girl was a genuine talent. Dancing became the number one thing in her life, as she later told the papers, he “had studied dancing, dreamed dancing and danced”. After graduating high school, she started to work full time as a dancer. She soon found work as a ballet chorus girl, and steadily gained more and more popularity in the entertainment circles.

After she had achieved no little fame as a dancer in her own state, and buoyed by her success, decided to “go Hollywood”. But when she came to Hollywood, reality struck her. The best she could do was to secure a place for herself in the chorus of a dance number directed by Hermes Pan. At first she thought she couldn’t go so far backward in her career, but Pan immediately noticed her and after the chorus work managed to get her into “New Faces of 1937.” She will appeared in a solo dance in the picture, and that is how her career started!

CAREER

Loraine appeared in some pretty famous movies from 1930s and 1940s. She made her debut in New Faces of 1937, a typical extravaganza musical with loads of ladies and no real plot. If you like em that way, by all means watch it! Then came Everybody’s Doing It, a totally ridiculous, implausible B Comedy Mystery, with the plot of, believe it or not, gangsters trying to cash in on a picture puzzles contest craze. Sounds crazy?

But a remedy was on its way – Lorraine had the goo luck to be a part of Bringing Up Baby, one of the premier, best screwball comedies ever made. Lorraine went the low budget western route next, in I’m from the City. A bit better than Exposed, a Glenda Farrell vehicle where she plays a smart talking female reporter, ala Torchy Blane, who wrongly accuses a decent man, and the comedic fallout from that. The male lead is played by Otto Kruger, an incredible actor who had this unique cobra-line charm. Lorraine also played one of the blond showgirls in Idiot’s Delight, a delightful comedy with Clark Gable and Lana Turner. Lorraine’s last 1930s movie was All Women Have Secrets, a forgotten movie about then-contemporary post-college life for three couples.

The 1940s were a bit better for Lorraine. Her first movie of the decade was The Farmer’s Daughter, but not the famous on with Loretta Young and Joseph Cotten, but a forgotten Martha Raye comedy. Equally forgotten is Golden Gloves, a sports drama about corrupted world of box, and one of the few movies that Jeanne Cagney, the talented sister of Jimmy, made. She then appeared in a proto-feminist classic, Dance, Girl, Dance, hemled by the great Dorothy Arzner, with Maureen O’Hara and Lucille Ball playing two very different breeds of dancers. And Louis Hayward is absolutely yummy in the movie!

Next up, Model Wife, with the plot, as a IMDB reviewer wrote: Model Wife casts Dick Powell and Joan Blondell, married but on the rocks in real life, as a married couple who have to keep their marriage a secret. They work in a department store that is run by Lucile Watson who does not permit folks married to each other in her employ. That’s enough of a strain on the marriage as it is. It’s same old, same old comedies that Powell and Blondell made by the bucketful in the 1930s, so nothing really interesting to write about. Unholy Partners was definitely a bit better fare: one of the popular newspapers drama (Citizen Kane is the sterling example here), it pairs Edward G. Robinson and Laraine Day. Since I love Laraine and think Edward was a top actor, I have to say I have a soft spot for the pairing. While the movie isn’t a classic, it holds up well and is worth watching. Then came Hi, Buddy, which is perfectly summarized on the IMDB page as: A military-flavored , world war two , song-and-dance B-feature in which a fund-raising effort save a boys club from being closed. Guess not a lot of art can be found here, but a fun and watchable musical? Yep! He’s My Guy was much in the same vein, a military themed musical.

Now Sarong Girl is an interesting movie! If nothing else, it’s worth seeing to see the alluring burlesque queen Ann Corio in one of the very few movies she made, and to see Irene Ryan, always a top-line comedienne. We continue in the military vein. The Adventures of a Rookie is a sub par comedy with a totally unknown comedy duo, Wally Brown and Alan Carney. Yep, it’s a Abbott and Costello ripoff, and it’s not a good one. Career Girl was a low budget musical about a girl who want to make it on Broadway – the lead is played by Frances Langford, and the male lead in the very handsome Craig Woods. Nothing to write home about, totally mid-tier. Slightly Terrific is a Leon Errol vehicle and he hold the movie together – if you like Errol’s crop of humor, this will be top! No story, slight supporting players, but plenty of Errol and some good dancing! Then we have Henry Aldrich’s Little Secret, another one of the Henry Aldrich movies,and we all know how that goes!

Like tons of other starlets, Lorraine appeared in Here Come the Waves. This is one of those movies I wrote about several times, so no need to write again. Out of This World is a comedy about the radio world with Eddie Bracken, Diana Lynn and Veronica Lake in the leads. Bracken does most of the heavy lifting here, and is very good a low budget version of Bing Crosby – Bracken rules! Lorraine’s last movie was One Exciting Week, another low budget but funny comedy with the fabulous Jerome Cowan, Pinky Lee and Shemp Howard trio.

And that’s it from Lorraine!

PRIVATE LIFE

Why is Lorraine Krueger interesting? Well, her story shows us how extras lived and worked, and how, even when you got a small speck of fame, it wasn’t enough to parlay you into a solid career. You constantly had to work and reinvent yourself. In this regard, Lorraine’s story is very enlightening. Here is a article about the lives of the extras in Hollywood, 1930s style. This was a huge subculture in Tinsel town, one that does not get nearly the recognition that it deserves, so here are some bits and pieces from their lives:

Here’s Where 5000 Phone Calls a Day Give 500,000 People a Chance at Stardom! A little blonde girl named Lorraine Krueger plays her firs starring part in “New Faces of 1937” and a lot of people who ask where her career began. Mark Sandrich, director of the picture, says it began one day when he passed a stage where she was practicing some intricate steps with a group of chorus girls, L rehearsal for “Shall We Dance.” He liked her personality an skillful feet and gave her a bit in the picture. But Lorraine herself really began from Central insists her success with a phone call Casting. On the books of the Central Casting Bureau in Hollywood are listed approximately half a million persons representing every nation in the world, all living in Los Angeles. The names of these new-faces are tabulated on index rotary flies that are placed on the switchboard in front of seven operators. 6000 calls are a daily average and at five o’clock in the afternoon, when requests for tomorrow’s extras come in, these seven files are the busiest battery of indexes in the world. No matter what sort of odd SOS is issued from the studios, these extraordinary files are ready to meet it. Perhaps a director must be supplied with as many as 104 extras who can play speaking parts the difficult demand made in the casting of RKO’s “Toast of New York”; or the call may be for an even dozen of typical “beef-trust” chorus girls, such as were hired to dance in front of Jim Fisk, fabulous speculator, and financier, played by Edward Arnold in the same film, a brilliant spectacle of the 70’s. Another flip of the files makes available names of 100 actors needed In an oriental bazaar scene, each man speaking a different language. It la even possible to meet a call for seventy stuntmen who can recreate the wild scenes of the “Black Friday” place of more than 100 extras who will not revolt If the end of the day’s work finds them with black eyes and bloody noses. Behind It all. behind these visible files and the supply and demand that deals in blondes, brunettes, young ones and old on is that Intangible for the chance for success!

Now there are some important information about the life of an extra! At R-K-O. Lorraine salary was scaled from 75 to $100 weekly over the period of her contract. She didn’t earn a lot but enough for a normal life. Sadly, her RKO career got her nowhere, and she was shopping for better options, although that also didn’t work out in the long run. Here is the story of how she got a bit better work:

Her ability won her the the studio contract as a dancer. Without introduction she won the contract by appearing before Dance Director Hermes Pan. She did so well that Pan gave her a Short dance routine with Fred Astalre In “Shall We Dance.” Had Given Up Hope. But after that she was forgotten. It was true that she had a few camera appearance In brief dancing bits, but the long-awaited  break that would push her up to featured roles did not come. When she had given all hope up of any movie fame. Director Ben Holmes discovered her. He did not find her on the-studio lot but saw her in a picture. Holmes, spied the girl doing a dance sequence in “Everybody’s Doing It.” He was at a neighborhood theater and Immediately decided she was the girl he needed as Penner’s leading lady in “I’m From the City.” The next day Holmes told the casting department to get that girl for him. Miss Krueger- was taking a few days off from work but she was found, brought back, tested and given the leading lady role alt in a few hours. i

During WW2, Lorraine was very active in the war effort and she performed in 281 camp shows all around the US. On the other hand her private life was very low key. In September 1949 Stu Wilson, radio M. C., were shopping for wedding rings. They were married later in the year, on December 2.

Stuart Robert Wilson was born on 24 September 1903 in Chicago, Illinois, to Robert John Wilson and Edith Alomeda GrahamThey family moved to Cleveland, Ohio, where Stuart was educated. He came to California before 1930, seeking work. He worked as a salesman in a flying school before landing a gig on a radio station in the 1930s. He was married twice before Lorraine – to Lois Helen Roussel in 1924, and Thelma Maree Ferris, in 1934. He had two children with Lois, Beverly Claire, born on June 3, 1925, and Robert Stuart, born on September 18, 1928. Wilson had a very minor acting career, appearing in several popular TV shows, like Batman and The Man from U.N.C.L.E..

Lorraine and Stu enjoyed a happy and long marriage. Lorraine gave up movies in 1946, and In later years, was a real estate broker. The couple lived in Los Angeles. I could not find out if they had any children, so I would venture to guess that they did not.

Stuart Robert Wilson died on August 1, 1991. Lorraine didn’t remarry after his death and continued living in California.

Lorraine Kruger Wilson died on July 15, 2003, in Westlake Village, California.

Marvelle Andre

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is all from Marvelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gale Ronn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s i from Gale!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erin Selwyn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was it from Erin!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cynthia Westlake

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Cynthia!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

June Tolley

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

That’s all from June!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fay Morley (Lisa Carroll)

I already  noted a few times in this blog that, after writing about than 200 obscure actresses, I am not that easily impressed. However, Fay Morley really blew me of. What an incredible woman with an incredible life! Singer, songwriter, actress, all around entertainer, toy designer, educator, and the list goes on! Let’s learn more about this unusual, stunning lady!

EARLY LIFE

Fay Blossom Mogul was born in 1930 in Bismarck, North Dakota, to Freda Suzar and Manuel Mogul. Her older brother Marlowe Arnold was born in 1926 in Minnesota. Her father was a department store manager and the family was well off, employing a maid at the time of Fay’s birth.

Fay grew up in Bismarck, North Dakota, and was determined to come an actress very early, and by her teens years was taking part in acting and singing competitions. She was supported by her parents who were also showbiz aficionados – her dad was an amateur singer and her mom wanted to become an actress when she was younger.

The family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota in the late 1930s, and a few years later to Compton, California, where her father became the owner of a cigar stand. Fay attended Compton High School, and during that time won a singing scholarship and went to New York where she studied with vocal coach Madame Olsa Eisner.

Fay wanted to pursue a career in opera singing, but first she entered UCLA as a music and drama major. She took part in numerous theater shows and slowly but surely gained experience. Ultimately, she never finished her degree because she got an offer to be in pictures and got a gig in the Pasadena playhouse. And this is how her movie career started!

CAREER

Fay appeared in only a few movies and some TV shows, as her main body of work was singing, her acting career was quite slim. her first movie was River of No Return, where she played a dance girl. The movie is considered a classic today and features a very interesting pairing – Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum, and they somehow work. Mitchum was the gritty, no pretense and superficiality, hard-as-nails tough guy, and Marilyn was his in many things his antithesis – she was all blonde hair, excessive publicity pomp and careful, very conscious grooming. However, her innate sexiness and indescribable depth rub well of his minimalist, slightly brutal style. Sadly this is not a particularly good movie, with a lackluster story and only mediocre directing by Otto Preminger.

Her next movie was Battle Cry, a solid but sadly forgotten war film about US marines but told from a highly realistic perspective of life outside the battle-zone. The beginning and middle of the film deal with training, every day life, social norms and shipping of the marines to New Zealand. The last third shows us some action, but this mis-mash of genres only works half well, since most people who prefer drama will not be engaged in this part and anyone after a action war movie will never make it this far. Kudos to Van Helfin, always excellent in his roles, as the leading character.

Up next, Fay had her most meaty role in The Shrike, about a dysfunctional marriage between a stage director and his actress wife.  Fay played a problematic actress in conflict with June Allyson, the leading lady. I for one loved this movie, it’s such a raw, realistic story and leaves you with a bunch of intense feeling after watching (this is what I want my movies to do!). The performances are all first class. I generally dislike June (too squeaky clean, goodie two shoes actress with no intriguing depths), but she is actually really good here,and Jose Ferrer is pure gold!

Next came One Desire, a typical Universal drama of the 1950s – overtly dramatic, shallow of story (about a gambler and a showgirl trying to make it in the wild west) and with impossibly beautiful people suffering in a myriad of highly improbable ways. Granted, I may be too rough on these movies- they are actually often not that bad, just too stagey and artificial, and often the actor make up for it. Here we have Rock Hudson, Ann Baxter and Natalie Wood (whom I absolutely adore!), so there is enough talent to make up for any other fallacies.

Fay got some major newspaper coverage when she appeared in Diane, an overblown historical drama that is all performance and no substance – everything is beautiful but lifeless. The story concerns Diane de Poitiers, the mistress of kind . Diane is played by Lana Turner, and boy is she a mixed bag! While overall a weak actress, she did possess a certain sex appeal and charisma that was hard to ignore and what made her a star (not a real actress, but a star). In some movies it works, in some it does not. Here is works as times but let’s say she’s okay. Roger Moore, as the king, looks too young and lost amid all the lavish sets (and frankly looks ridiculous in period grab). The best role is played by the fabulous Marisa Pavan as the scheming Catherine de Médici. Fay and five other luscious girl splayed Diane’s ladies in waiting.

Except for some TV work, was that was it from Fay!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1953, Fay was in a very serious car accident that could have ended not only her career but literary her life. After singing at the Hollywood Bowl, Fay was offered an audition with the New York Metropolitan Opera (or Warner Bros, the accounts differ). On the way to the audition, a tragedy happened. Here are some details of the accident:

Fay Morley, 22, actress and singer, and her mother, Frieda Mogel, 47, yesterday announced they’d reached “a very satisfactory settlement” of their $273,000 automobile injury suits, just as a jury was being selected. Their announcement was by their attorneys, Edward and David Pollack, In the courtroom of Superior Judge Clarence L. Kincaid. The suits grew out of injuries received by the two women in a three-car crash, Jan. 3, 1953, near Barstow, in” which four persons were killed and seven Injured. 1 Estate Defendant Defendants In the two suits were Maurice Newman, executor of the estate of Harry Friedman, deceased textiles manufacturer’, and Ralph B, Ellis, construction company head. Friedman and Mrs. Friedman were among the dead from the crash. He was driver of the car in which Miss Morley and her mother were passengers, the suit stated. ..’ , Miss Morley asked $159,000 and her mother, a dress shop owner, $114,000, charging that Friedman s; car, going at, an excessive rate, of speed, as they returned from Las Vegas, failed to take a sharp curve because of construction work with inadequate barriers. The car in which they were riding veered into an east bound lane and struck two cars, they said. Injuries Listed Miss Morley charged that she had suffered a broken pelvis, broken leg, and had lost her voice for seven months. She also missed a New York engagement to play a role in “Fasten Your Seat Belts,” a musical, she averred. Her mother had a crushed chest, punctured left lung and broken ribs, her suit stated. The amount of the settlement was not disclosed.

When she was rushed to the hospital after the accident,the doctors in the emergency room doubted that she would live through the day. “And, one doctor added, “if she does, she’ll never walk or talk again.” As it is obvious from the article, Fay had a prolonged convalescence period and was unable to work during that time, as she spent eight months in the hospital, and the year after learning how to walk and talk all over again.

It was a very difficult time for Fay, but she never lost her zest for life and was unwavering in her faith. She also had external help, as she was surrounded by friends and family who lavished her with loving attention and devotion – Charlie Chaplin’s son used to come and cheer her up.

Her vocal chords, which had been paralyzed, finally healed, and almost two years after the accident, she was ready to continue her interrupted career.  Thankfully, she bounced back emotionally and mentally stronger, and she truly needed the support – her dreams career for an opera career were dashed, and Fay need to make peace with it and had to turn to other venues. She began a career in cabaret and musical theater, landing the part as Carol Channing’s understudy in “Hello Dolly.”

Being an understudy was ultimately too underwhelming for her as Carol was a workhorse that almost never missed a performance, so Fay  left the touring production in San Francisco, hopign to find new revenues at the West Coast. However, a Hello Dolly producer, enraged by her actions, decided to blacklisted her from working on Broadway.

After California she returned to New York, and, unable to find meaningful work in New York, Fay left for England, paying her way by performing on the cruise ship that took her there. There she hosted the BBC’s “Night Ride” for three years and recorded for CBS records. She returned to New York after some time, and since the bad blood ceded a bit, she made a comeback in night club work, one woman shows in the cabaret tradition, and was a hit performer in Las Vegas. She recorded a large number of songs and was considered a reliable, talented, well liked all around performer who could easily get a gig anywhere. During this time she changed her name to Lisa Carroll.

But life had some surprised in store for Fay. In 1993 was involved in another car accident, and like last time, instead of taking it in her stride and lamenting , it transformed her life. Fay was hospitalized and spent more time listening to music, reading and contemplating. And she acquired an unusual new skill – rapping! She would rap for her nurses and they loved it! Fay slowly honed her rapping capabilities, and this opened up a whole new world for her – she was able to record “Rapping with Dr. Wruth” and “Rappin Roofus.” “Rappin Roofus” was a children’s album and became a success. Thus this car accident was also a blessing in disguise for Fay.

Her rapping career pushed Fay into yet another field of expertise – toy manufacturing! She introduced her line of toys including the Hip Hop Hamilton bear, dedicated to the Broadway rap hit Hamilton. She also created a mega successful children’s Christmas album called  “Rappin’ Up Christmas: Homeys 4 the Holidays”.

Now for her romantic life. The vibe I get from Fay was that her singing and creative work was always more important to her than dating, and as far as I can tell, she never married, but had a string of handsome beaus. She was only gal Jeff Hunter has taken out since his divorce from Barbara Rush, but they were old pals and it was more friendly than flirty.

She also dated Billy Loes, Maestro Art Mooneye, composer Mack Gordon and Martin Epstein. It seems she had a special relationship with songwriter Burt Bacharach, as attested by this funny quote:

“It was my first release. They presented the song to me and, for the b-side, anything written by Burt Bacharach would have to be a success, especially since his parents were my dearest friends. I think it sold well. That was a funny situation as [Burt’s parents] were always trying to fix me up with their son between his many marriages, but it never worked out. They wanted me for a daughter-in-law. Every time he got divorced, they would ring me and say, “Now’s the time!” But by then, I’d be off singing somewhere.”

There is tons and tons of information about Fay’s musical career in the papers and some on the net, but I won’t focus on it here, needless to say she seems like an incredible and very vibrant woman!

Fay is still alive today, and, as always, I hope she is living a great life!

Ann Corcoran

This phrase is enough to describe Ann Corcoran – Model turned actress. If you read this blog, you know the drill – pretty girl who works in New York and earns good money as a model gets called by Hollywood and she decides to try her luck way down west. Yep, while we have examples that really succeeded (Lauren Bacall), most of them did not, and neither did Ann. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Katherine Ann Corcoran was born on November 22, 1923, in Los Angeles, California, to Harry William Corcoran and Catherine Josephine Flaherty. Her younger sister, Mary June, was born on March 5, 1925. Her father was an automobile parts salesman. Ann had a normal childhood, grew up in Los Angeles and attended high school there. Before she managed to graduate, in 1939, she went to New York to become a model.

Pretty soon she was the toast of New York and a highly sought after model, working for the John Powers Agency becoming a very popular Swim for Health Girl in 1940 (she was all over the papers for days). Here is a typical article from 1940:

Every year, the Red Cross and bathing-suit manufacturers co-operate to promote “Swim For Health Week.” To choose a national “Swim For Health Girl,” a contest was held among 300 professional models… Ann Corcoran, a John Power’s model, the winner, selected because of a per’ feet figure, wholesomeness and beauty will be in our sixth floor beachwear shop today through Wednesday, July 3rd. She will be glad to discuss with you the proper type suit, how to tan, and any of your swimming problems. Come and see her between now and the Fourth! !

She even appeared with Al Jolson In his stage musical, “Hold On to Your Hats”. Ann was discovered by a talent scout while modeling jewelry for a New York jeweler, was signed by Warner Bros, and off she went!

CAREER

Ann, always uncredited, made her debut in Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic American musical, with the indomitable James Cagney playing George M. Cohan. The movie is a delightful piece of fluff done the right way, with great music, a sturdy and capable cast, and with that touch of magic nobody can quite name.

Her next movie, despite begin her first credited performance, was a bit of a let down – Escape from Crime, the plot is a rehash form the older Cagney movie, Picture Snacher. A imdb review gave the perfect review IMHO:  No need to recap the already-reviewed plot. The movie is a good example of an assembly line product that studios rushed into production for undemanding wartime audiences at a time when they were crowding theaters in record numbers. The film itself may be unmemorable, but the results still show slick professionalism of the studio system (here, Warner Bros.). It’s also a chance for a newcomer like Travis to get needed exposure. He’s Hollywood handsome, performs capably enough, but leaves no lasting impression and is a good example of an actor whose real medium turned out to be TV. Ditto comedian Jackie Gleason and William Hopper of old Perry Mason show in a bit part. In fact this is precisely the level of entertainment that would later transition to TV without missing a beat.

Ann took a hiatus from movies, and emerged again in Hollywood in 1944, with Tampico, an interesting mix of various genres:  sea adventure, spy thriller, a bit of romance. The leads are played by the very capable Edward G. Robinson who usually never plays romantic leads, and the seductive Lynn Bari. It’s a pretty solid “is she or isn’t she” movie, and more than worth the hour and a half of the viewer’s time. Too bad Robinson’s golden years are behind him at this point – he’s truly a powerhouse actor and always gave magnificent performances.

Next came Take It or Leave It, a totally forgotten Phil Baker musical (literary, I asked myself who is Phil Baker?? Never heard of him!). But we do have the infinitely interesting Madge Meredith in it, google her and read more about her, she had an incredible life story!

Ann’s last movie from this period was In the Meantime, Darling. At first glance a forgettable comedy about army wives during WW2, since this is Otto Preminger after all, you have to ask yourself, what’s the catch – and there is one! Namely, although very cleverly disguised, this is a movie about class problems in the US. Jeanne Crain, quite an unusual choice for an upper class girl (she was always more of a wholesome, cute girl next door IMHO), is good here (if a bit too predictable and thin as a character, but okay), and the rest of the cast is equally is pretty solid too.

An was gone for five years from Hollywood, and returned in 1949, with Dancing in the Dark a dismal drama with William Powell and Betsy Drake. Powell plays a down on his luck former Broadway star trying to strike it again and wants to find a new leading lady. Now, Betsy is someone you can talk about until the cows get home. On paper she sounds superb – the unconventional, smart, and very capable women ahead of her time, who managed to snag and marry Cary Grant and was a Broadway sensation – but in her movies, she’s terribly… Unadept. I can’t even say she’s wooden, but she just acts the wrong way and never hits the right notes. Since she would he the highlight of the movie,m a young hopeful who Powell sees as a next big star, the movie tanks spectacularly and no amount of Powell charm can save it.

Ann’s last movie was Love That Brute, a charming movie with Paul Douglas as the brute (he’s such a wonderful actor, love him!) and the always fresh Jean Peters playing a prim and proper governess whom he tries to woo. The plot is a tad bit predictable, but who cares when you have such a good cast (throw in Cesar Romero).

That was all from Ann!

PRIVATE LIFE

In her prime,  Ann was five feet eight inches tall and weighed 117 pounds, making her a tall, cool glass of water 🙂

When Ann was appearing on Broadway under the name of Bernice Frank, it seems that Ann had a relationship with the legendary Al Jolson, who was by then divorced from Ruby Keeler. Allegedly, Ann had quit his show because docs told her she was allergic to greasepaint, but the relationship continued. Some time later Ann went to Los Angeles, and Jolson tried to keep the flame alive to visiting her a few times in Los Angeles, but they broke up ultimately not ling after she signed her movie contract.

June Millarde (whom I already profiled) and Ann got new contract with Warner Bros at the same time, and they provide minimum salaries of 75 a week and possible maximum of 700 a week. Sadly, neither girl had much of a movie career.

It seems that Anne had a slight lips when she came to Hollywood, and she worked very hard to overcome it, and here is a anecdote from that time:

Six months in Hollywood taking voice lessons to eliminate a slight lisp. Last week she was assigned her first role as a contract player, that of Phil Baker’s secretary in “Take It or Leave It.” She’s, in every scene dealing with the radio show, hands Baker the cards bearing the questions asked each contestant, and all around her there is conversation. Contestants whisper to each other, and In the audience someone shouts in excitement. But Ann Corcoran? Her lisp gone, she hasn’t a line to say to prove

Here is another anecdote from the same time, when Ann was a budding starlet:

Hollywood sometimes tells upbeat stories, and right now it tells the fantastic story of five equally lovely and equally ambitious starlets who are all working together in “I Married a Soldier” without a sign of fireworks. They are Gale Bobbins, Jeanne Crain, Doris Merrick, Jane Randolph and Anne Corcoran, and they help each other. He says Gale, who used to sing with Ben Bernie, Instructs the other girls In poise and assurance. Anne, who was a model, gives them tips on looking their best before the cameras. Jane has had the most picture experience so she coaches the others. And Jeanne and Doris help each one learn her lines.

After dating Alexis Thompson, the sportsman cum bon vivant, for a few months, Ann got hooked big time with John Rosselli, a very shady guy, in about 1942. Born in 1905, he was an influential mafia member working for the Chicago mob who helped that organization control Hollywood and the Las Vegas. He had good taste in women, dated Virginia Hill and Lina Basquette and was married before to the lovely June Lang who originally had no idea what was the true nature of his business dealing, and when she found out, she divorced him immediately.

When Johnny was not in town, Ann remained, uncharacteristically for Hollywood, totally devoted to him, chaperoned by her whole family when she went out dancing, not having any dates. The relationship lasted for more than a year, and they went from high to low then back again. They broke up, got together again, but in the end, no cigar, and were bust by 1944. Rosselli died in 1976 when he was found strangled in Las Vegas. Perhaps it’s better that Ann and Johnny didn’t get married.

Ann also dated Jimmy Ritz, the famous man about town, and here is another funny anecdote from that time.

Jimmy Ritz came up to the cloak room at the Mocambo and absent-mindedly asked for the coat of Ann Corcoran. He often goes with Ann but that night he was with Nancy Valentine who was standing right behind him and heard the slip.

Ann drops of from the radar from the late 1940s. It seems that she never married, and lived the remained of her life in various places in California, lastly living in Orange County.

Katherine Ann Corcoran died on February 28, 1997, in Orange, California.

Poppy Wilde

Poppy Wilde, heralded as one of the most beautiful showgirls in Hollywood, was exactly that – a glorified extra in more than 40 movies, a pretty face used solely for eye candy. As you can well imagine, this was not a formula for career gold and she retired after getting married, but her life story is interesting, so let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jacqueline Ruby Wall was born on December 5, 1914, in Oakland, California, to Frederick Carl Wall and Olive Helen Chaffin. Her father worked as a railroad train-master. She was the third of six children – her older siblings were sister Mary Katherine, born on June 18, 1910, in Iowa, and William, who died just a few months after birth in 1912. Her younger siblings were Helen May, born on June 18, 1916, Florence Isabel, born on May 15, 1918, and Gladys Elaine, born on July 24, 1924.

Later obituaries claimed that her father was killed in a freak accident, leaving her mother to raise the children, but since he lived until 1940, let’s assume that he left Olive and she had to take care f the children single-handedly. Unable to take care of them, she eventually put some of them up for adoption. Jacqueline was adopted by her mother’s sister Isabel and her husband, John “Jack” Wardenberg, a well-off railroad executive in Salt Lake City, who didn’t have any children of their own.

While attending St. Maiys of the Wasatch, a private girls school, Poppy aired her own radio show. In 1929 a motion picture producer came to Salt Lake and took a shine to Poppy, with her beautiful silky black hair, ivory skin and dark, seductive eyes.The family moved to southern California so that Poppy could sign a studio contract, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Ah, Poppy made more than 40 movies, which is quite a bit and I’m not gonna analyse them a great deal. She was mostly uncredited and appeared in really small parts.

I will just mention a few that are worth mentioning IMHO: Stand-In, a very funny and satirical exposee on Hollywood film making, with a superb cast of Leslie Howard, Humphrey Bogart and Joan Blondell, Angels with Dirty Faces, a classic crime movie with James Cagney and Pat O’Brien, members of our favorite Hollywood Irish mafia, Moontide, a proto noir and one of the few US movies Jean Gabin made, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, the last pairing of Ginger and Fred, Yankee Doodle Dandy, the classic musical with Cagney again, Road to Morocco, a Bing/Bob pairing deluxe, and Old Acquaintance, with tour de force performances by two divas, Bette Davis and Miriam Hopkins.

And that’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

Poppy was quite tall with feet seven Inches, and weighed only 101 pounds. Here is a short quote from Poppy about her Hollywood life:

Off the set, while other beauties marched before the camera, she undertook to answer a question: What price movie glamour? “It’s a dull and strenuous life,” she said. “More dull and strenuous than anyone outside the Industry Imagines. “When I’m not at a studio, I’m at home by the telephone. From 6:30 in the morning until 8:30 at night the telephone and I are partners. At regular intervals, I call the central casting bureau on the chance there’s been an emergency opening. “I Just Go to Bed.” “It’s dull but true that if I hope to work often, say two or three times a week, I must stay near the telephone the rest of the time. “At night I’m too tired for dinners or parties or shows. I just go to bed.” On Sundays, Poppy is free to go out. She is 22 and on her afternoon dates has had three proposals of marriage. “No one has interested me enough to accept,” she said.

Poppy married Luther Verstergard on July 31, 1934, in Orange, California. Luther Raymond Vestergaard was born on December 7, 1902, in Chicago, Illinois, to Christian Vestergard and Maytha Hecker. He studied to become a lawyer, but the lure of acting was stronger, so he made his movie debut in 1925 under the name of Paul Power. He spent more than three decades playing a variety of bit roles that included one of King Richard’s knights in The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), a Scottish highlander in I Married an Angel (1942), and a minister in Ma Barker’s Killing Brood (1960). He added television to his long resumé in the 1950s, appearing in such shows as I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, and Maverick. The couple divorced. In July 1946, he married Gertrud Elizabeth Warrington. He died on April 5, 1968 in North Hollywood.

Ruby married her second husband, talent agent Jack Crosby, on February 14, 1944, in Nevada. Jack Casier Crosby was born on September 7, 1903, in Elks, Nevada, to George Crosby and Lenore Casier, the oldest of six children. The family lived in Utah before they relocated to California, where he worked as a theater actor. Later he switched to the movie management business and was prosperous by the time he met Poppy.

Their son Dennis Brian was born on February 16, 1945. The Crosbys were very socially prominent in Hollywood, hobnobbing with luminaries like Fred Astaire, Lucille Ball and Dezi Arnaz. They were also quite outdoorsy – Jack loved to spend time in the open and rubbed it of into Poppy, who became a pro at fishing and was known to go salmon catching often. After Crosby got fed up with Tinsel Town in the 1960s, the couple moved with her to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Poppy stayed glamorous despite this change of scenery, and kept up with her old Hollywood peers, writing them voluminous letters and often visiting.

Strong willed and opinionated by nature, Poppy was also a very generous, kind person who could strike up a conversation with anyone, and was an excellent cook, her specialties being tuna sandwiches, spaghetti sauce and a tasty salad. She was a skilled crafts-maker, collecting dolls and painting rocks. Poppy also played ukulele and loved to sing.

Crosby died on January 14, 1979. Poppy was devastated and had to learn how to take care of herself financially – her husband used to do all the money stuff himself and Poppy had no idea how to manage anything. In order to earn her keep she became a hostess at the Coeur d’Alene cruises, giving history lessons and flirting with the clients. Pretty soon she was introduced to Victor Fehrnstrom. A romance bloomed and the couple was soon married.

Victor was born on February 6, 1922, in Manchester, New Hampshire, to Victor and Marion Fehrnstrom. Here is a bit about her third husband, taken from his obituary:

Vic had a long, fulfilling life. He began his life on a farm in Derry, N.H., where he enjoyed time with his brother, Ernie, and sister Marion, but was raised mostly in Boston and carried that accent forever. He served in the U.S. Air Corps during World War II and taught aircraft recognition to keep the Army, Navy and Air Force from shooting down our own planes.

After his service, he lived in California and worked for the Inglewood Police Department. He worked patrol and became a patrol Sargent, and later was a Sargent in the Detective Bureau. Vic retired in 1972 and moved with his wife, Carole and two children to Harrison, Idaho, where he farmed, logged and enjoyed his 40 acres. Years later, he moved to Blue Creek.

He moved for a short time to Prescott, Ariz., but his heart was always in Idaho, so he returned quickly. Not long after his return, he met his next wife Poppy, and became a Captain on the Lake Coeur d’Alene Cruise Boats. He loved working and/or captaining the Dancewana, the Mish-an-nock, the Kootenai, the Coeur d’Alene and his favorite, the Idaho. He enjoyed working the St. Joe River cruises, narrating tours and making sure everyone enjoyed their time on the boats. “Captain Vic,” as so many knew him, delighted passengers for almost 20 years. After he retired, he continued to live in Coeur d’Alene enjoying family and friends until his passing. He would’ve been 94 in just a few short weeks.

Vic was loving, caring, smart, brave, easy-going, charming and fun. His kindness and humor were always evident, his laughter was contagious. He loved his family deeply. He was an honorable man that was admired, was a role model to many, and someone that family and friends could always count on.

Poppy and Vic lived a happy life in Cour d’Alene, and enjoyed spending time with their families.

Jacqueline Crosby Fehrnstrom died on August 1, 2000, in Cour d’Alene, Idaho.

Her widower Victor Fehrnstrom died on January 11, 2016.