Marla Shelton

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we begin…

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another funny bit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Theo Coffman

Theo Coffman was a beautiful girl who rose from her modest working class origin to become a singer and dancer of some repute. After achieving minor success in Chicago, Hollywood beckoned and she tried to become an actress. Unlike many others, she really tried, even taking dramatic lessons, but, unfortunately, it did not work. She quite Hollywood after only one movie. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Theo L. Coffman was born in 1915, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Oscar Coffman and Josephine Snyder. Her father worked as a carpenter in a railroad company. Theo’s masculine name was due to her unusual familial circumstance – she was the only girl among five children, and her parents expected her to be a boy (pretty optimistic, don’t you think?). Her older brothers were Paul, born in 1910, and Alva, born on June 12, 1912, and her younger brothers were Oscar Jr., born in 1918 and Orville, born on January 1, 1921.

Theo was reared in Indianapolis, and attended Public Schools 28 and 8. She started singing and dancing when she was a child and pretty soon it was clear she had a good voice and some presence. In July 1931 her father died and her mother took over the reins of the family. Theo attended and later graduated from Manual Training High School. Her first job was as a cashier and secretary in a local Indianapolis shoe store. Feeling that she could give more to the world as a singer, she decided to try her luck in show biz. She danced for a while in the old Chez Paree, and sang with Paul Collins’s Orchestra. During this time she learned to dance like a pro on a roof of a Indianapolis hotel. Wanting more out of her career, she went to Chicago in 1938. by day she worked as a cashier, living with Ethel M Vandeveer, who was listed as her business partner. Yet, she hoped for a more stable career in dancing, so she teamed with Raoul Gomez in an exhibition dance act that was featured in Chicago in the Colony Club.

On a visit to New York in 1940, a film executive told her she should be in the movies, so she went to Hollywood, and obtained a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract and a role in “DuBarry Was a Lady.” And there she went!

CAREER

Theo’s sole credited remained Du Barry Was a Lady, the movie she was brought to Hollywood for. Du Barry has a plot that was used a hundred times in a hundreds of types of movies (summary from IMDB) – A night club’s coatroom attendant whose in-love with the club’s singer accidentally sips a drugged drink that makes him dream he’s French King Louis XV courting the infamous Madame Du Barry. While not a top musical, it’s one of the most beautiful, shot in stunning Technicolor, almost like being in a pastel wonderland, just two shades short of Heaven. All the craftsmanship is first class – the set design, the costumes, the lightning, the editing. And the fabulous music by the premier big bands of the era. The supporting actors are a great bunch too (Zero Mostel, Douglas Dumbrille, Louise Beavers…) . Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly in the leads are good too – but it seems they are overshadowed by everything else, and the musical doesn’t quite work as it did on Broadway. Still, it’s a sweet little piece of escapism, worth watching for sure.

And that was it from our Theo!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was often noted in the papers how Theo comes from a large family with several brothers. One of her four brothers, Oscar, got employed at MGM. Her other brothers, Paul, Alva and Orville, remained in Indianapolis. Growing up with a bunch of unruly bros, Theo developed a unique way to fend of all the hungry wolves, a handy skill to have in Hollywood. Here is a short bit from 1942, just after the war started, about that:

The other day at I ha Beverly Hills swimming pool, a “wolf” was trying to impress Theo. Coffman with his importance. “Just a year ego,” he said, “I had a suite at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel In Honolulu.” “You can have it again,” said Miss Coffman, “if you join the Marines.

Theo an ardent deep-sea fisher, her best catch being a 150-pound marlin which she landed off Florida after a fifty-five-minute tussle. Eager to play light comedy roles, Theo was reported taking dramatic lessons from Maria Ouspensknya, the noted actress. Her Hollywood home was a cottage formerly occupied by Victor Mature. Theo was also a pretty good seamstress who designed her own clothes. Here is a short article about one of her creations:

It all began when Theo Coffman, a shapely showgirl, strolled onto the set of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s frothy Technicolor musical, “Du Barry Was a Lady.” Theo’s avocation is dress designing and she was wearing one of her own creations, a tight-bodiced pink pique number with a wide flaring skirt. This skirt was the match that touched off the argument. Appliqued around its hemline were bold bars of music, clef, notes, and all. Admiring onlookers fell into Immediate dissension. “I say the notes make a melody!” “I say they don’t!” Theo’s dress was about to cause more trouble than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow when Tommy Dorsey happened by. Whipping out his trusty trombone, the sentimental gentleman of swing started in on Theo’s appliqued music. Listeners cocked anxious ears. Smiles cooled their faces. The notes did spell a melody: “Deep Purple,” Theo’s favorite song.

As Theo came to Hollywood via Du Barry, she was immediately associated to others girls hired to the movie. She got a years worth of publicity, the crowning moment being of course when noted illustrator Alberto Vargas made an illustration of the perfect girl, who was a composite of all the best parts the Du Barry girls – the hands of Inez Cooper, the hair of Mary Jane French, the feet of Theo, the hips of Ruth Ownbey, the waist of Eva Whitney, the bust of Aileen Haley, the legs of Hazel Brooks, the arms of Kay Williams, the profile of Kay Aldridge, the lips of Natalie Draper, the ankles of Marilyn Maxwell and the eyes of Georgia Carroll.

The press tried to report on a rapport between girls with snippets like this:

 Hoofing is traditionally cruel to the discovers between takes on a dancing sequence. Inez Cooper lends a sympathetic ear to Theo’s woes. Her own tootsies are killing her! Right Time out for repairs is taken by piquant Ruth Ownbey while Theo Coffman offers moral support.

And now for her romantic ventures, and there sure. Theo’s first Hollywood beau was Phillips Holmes, the gentle, feminine looking actor who worked so well with Nancy Carroll in several good 1930s movies. They dated for a few months before he join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died in a mid-air collision in 1942.

In started May 1942 dating set designer Merrill Pye. This proved to be her longest liaison, and certainly the most tempestuous. They dated for almost six months in 1942, but it was a sketchy, spotty, passionate affair with lots of ups and downs. Merrill was freshly of his long relationship with hoofer Eleanor Powell, and dated almost half of the Du Barry girls team, including Ruth Ownbey. Yet, Theo proved to be the most resilient of the lot, lasting the longest (except one, you’ll see which one). Theo downplayed the relationship in the papers, saying there is nothing serious between her and Merrill. At least, not yet. . . . Nevertheless, she got Pye’s permission to go to the fights with Tommy Dorsey. So you judge how serious it was 🙂

Somewhere in September 1942, she took up with the playboy Jimmy Ritz, who dated a whole of other girls that way, so obviously it was nothing serious. The Ritz affair helped chill Theo and Merrill for good. Theo then switched to international producer Raymond Hakim.

She lingered for a bit more with Merrill, but it was truly over when he started to date his future wife, another DuBarry girl, Natalie Draper. Like most couples in Hollywood, they had a post scriptum, but that was that. Theo started to date her old beau, Eddie Braugnau, of Chicago. Then, in a strange twist of fate, Theo was seen with both Robbie Robinson and Merrill Pye, and even the press called it an odd threesome. Guess it truly was.

In early 1943, Theor was seeing Bill Hawks, brother of Howard and Kenneth, had a few dates with Pye (this time truly not serious), and was showing the town to Richard Jacobson of Chicago. Jacobson was a newspaper publisher, and the man who Theo ultimately chose.

In March 1943, Theo married Richard Jacobson. Jacobson was a wealthy publisher, who bought he Evanston News-Index, (which had been in bankruptcy for a few months by then), and was already publishing Standard Opinion in Chicago. Jacobson owned a palatial 51-foot yacht powered by 140 horsepower engines.

After the marriage ceremony, she went home to Indiana to sort out her affairs, and Richard went back to Chicago, looking after business, but they had plans to return and live in Hollywood, and were looking forward to their purchase of Joe Penner’s Beverly Hills home.

Theo used to joke that whenever she went to Indianapolis to visit her mother, she was invariably pressed to work at housecleaning. “It doesn’t seem to matter much what time of year I get here,” Theo said, laughing, “house-cleaning is just about to start and I get in on it.”

This is where I lost all track of Theo – did she remained married to Jacobson, did she have children, is she alive today – all remains  a mystery to me. We can only say for sure that she didn’t make any more movies under the birth name. As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

 

 

Mimi Berry

The dame with the quirky name, Mimi Berry reached the pinnacle of her success on Broadway, way before she departed for Hollywood to try her luck in movies – from this sentence alone, you can summarize that her Hollywood sojourn was not a success. Luckily, she married, retired and found other venues for her talents. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mildred Emma “Mimi” Berry was born on February 2, 1924, in Ridgefield Park, New Yersey, to William Berry and Lillian Allinson. Her older brother William Jr. was born in 1915. Her father worked in the chocolate business as a salesman.

A dancer since she was 2 years old, Mimi branched out into the modeling field at 8. Until she reached the sixth grade she attended Lincoln School in Ridgefield Park. Berrys were a generous family, and they could always be count on for help, and Mimi often danced at local benefit parties. She also saved a certain man named Blind John from drowning and was known locally for it.

While working as a model and dancer, Mimi was also very passionate about swimming. She had her first lessons in the pool at Roosevelt School, Ridgefield Park. She was interested also in golf and riding, skating and roller skating. Henry I. Marshall, composer of “The Five Fifteen” and other songs, taught Mimi to sing and she had her first dancing lessons at the Morton School in Ridgefield Park at 2 years old.

Mimi started on her professional career as a dancer by accident. Her parents were spending their summer vacation at Cornwell, Ontario, when someone saw the then 5-year-old tow head practicing acrobatics on the lawn. She must have been pretty good even then because the passerby went in and saw Mrs. Berry (Lillian) and prevailed on her to let Mimi take part in the Cornwell, Ontario Legion, meet. The Legionnaires were delighted but there really was no class in which she could compete for a prize. “She wouldn’t be doing it for a prize anyway,” Mrs. Berry said. Mimi wasn’t half through before the judges chose the biggest shiniest trophy at their disposal for the little girl. For the six following summers Mimi and her mother returned to Cornwell for the show.

When Mimi was in the sixth grade, she and her parents moved to 3240 Henry’ Hudson Parkway, New York. Mimi’s crowded routine made the change necessary.  She became a pupil at the Professional Children’s School in New York. Someone told Harry Conover, head of the Conover model agency on Vanderbilt Avenue in New York about her. He went to the show December 28, agreed, signed her on the same day. Her first job through the Conover firm followed in short order, December 31. During her last year of high school, she became a Life cover girl.

Then her acting career took off. She tried out for “Keep Off the Grass” and was accepted. There was nothing much doing so she tried out for the Aquacade. Billy Rose selected her among hundreds of other girls. But that was not all. The producers of “Louisiana Purchase” saw her and signed her for the show. Ditto for the American Jubilee.

After all this ballyhoo, she was signed to Keep Off the Grass, and then was cast in Panama Hattie, with Ethel Merman in the lead. Mimi joined the production when it opened in New Haven, and later the show moved on to Broadway, where it enjoyed a long run. After it was finished, Mimi continued in Michael Todd’s Star and Garter. But this was all dancing work, with Mimi as a chorine – she wanted something bigger and better.

While still appearing in Star and Garter, she joined the cast of A Connecticut Yankee because she had a chance to speak a few lines and was assigned the job of general understudy. At one time during Monday night’s performance, one of the male leads blew a line and Mimi tossed it back to him coolly and the audience was none the wiser. It seemed that big things were in store for Miss Berry.

Mimi planned, after Star and Garter show ended its run, to try Hollywood. However, before the show ended it’s run, scouts took notice of her, and she was presented with a few potential studio contracts. At first she turned them all down to stay in New York until she show ended, and she had a special other reason – namely, her boyfriend. Then she had a quarrel with the boyfriend, they broke up, and she went to Hollywood and that was it!

CAREER

Now this a one paper-thin filmography. Mimi appeared in only three movies, and none of them made any real impact, so overall, she’s truly a minor footnote in Hollywood history.

Her first movie was Here Comes Troubleone of the “Sgt. Doubleday” series that was popular during and just after WW2. Little known comedian William Tracy played Doubleday, and is his dim witted sidekick, Ames. The point is that Doubleday is just as, if not more, dimwitted as Doubleday. And we have the famous “two morons working together to set things right” comedy sub genre. here, Doubleday and Ames are out of the army and in civilian life, with Ames becoming a cop and Doubleday a reporter. Of course the unwittingly save the city from gangsters. While it’s not the top of the pops, it’s a okay low-budgeter, with enough spunk and charm to make it an enjoyable, if forgettable experience. A plus is that Hal Roach, the indisputable king of comedy in the 1920s and 1930s, did the movie – it’ some of his later efforts.

Mimi’s next movie came only 3 years later, in 1951, was made in a similar vein, fun but shallow – Here Comes the Groom. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with Sargent Doubleday, but rather with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman – he plays a foreign correspondent who has 5 days to win back his former fiancée, or he’ll lose the orphans he adopted. Heartwarming 🙂 The movie was directed by Frank Capra, better known for his more serious fare, but he’s a good director no matter the movie type and it’s more than evident here – the film is breezy, light, with great timing and charming performances. While it never did win any Oscars, it’s a true classic Hollywood fare, worth watching more than once.

Mimi also did her last movie in 1951 – My Favorite Spy, one of Bob Hope‘s lesser 1950s movies. While it’s far from being a horrible piece of dumpster fire trash not worth anyone’s time, it’s a barely so so comedy, with the only really comic element being Bob – everybody else seems to play a straight drama role, including his leading lady, Hedy Lamarr. I like Hedy, but will always admit she was very hard to cast – too beautiful for her own good and not talented enough, she only and truly worked in a certain setting in a certain type of a role, and this is just not it. The story is a one Bob’s movie used to death – a sap, namely Bob, has a look-alike who is a master spy, and of course Bob, instead of running for the hills, has to get mixed head-first into the whole mess.

And that was it from Mimi!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mimi was 5 feet 7 inches and 116 pounds in weight, and was called a girl “symbolic of personable American girlhood” by a noted Life magazine photographer. She attended Children’s Professional High School and had plans to attend University of Southern California from which her big brother graduated (she did not, sadly). In New York, Mimi lived with her mother up on Henry Hudson Parkway, about 20 minutes from the center of New York. Here is a short quote about Mimi’s education and preferences:

 The Victorian novelists, particularly Charles Dickens (believe it or not), are the favorite authors of Mimi Berry, who sings and dances in the chorus of “Panama Hattie,” which boasts Ethel Merman as its star.  As for her favorite study at the Professional Children’s school (high school and college prep), where she has been a student for the past six years. Mimi calmly announces that it is mathematics. Her reason for this, she says, is that if she ever should find herself  looking for a new kind of job a ‘knowledge of mathematics would offer the best general qualification.

As most girls her age, Mimi was absolutely love struck, and she said she prefer the boys of the neighborhood to the more sophisticated Broadway crowd. Don’t know if this is true, but it sure seems that Mimi dated her Broadway acquaintances more than her next door neighbors.

Since Mimi was under age when she hit Broadway, when the wolves started to call, there were some rules that had to be reinforced: Beaux who take out have to call for her at Dinty Moore’s, where her mama gives the okay and they had to return her to mom at Moore’s after the date. During her days as “Panama Hattie” chorine, she was involved with one of the featured males in the cast. After they broke up, she was seen with Jay Conley, the Shubert theater stage manager. That also didn’t last long.

A bit later, Mimi was pretty serious for a time about Thaddeus Brown, son of the late Ohio Senator. Perhaps class differences or perhaps meddling mothers separated the young lovers, and they broke up. In 1943, she was again serious about a guy – Ensign Bill Taylor, who was serving in the US Army during WW2 when they dated. He was sent overseas, and Mimi often send him lovely letters of encouragement.

The relationship did not last, alas, and Mimi found  a new swain – Jimmy Ritz. She graduated from high school while she was dating him, and the first serious reports about her hitting the altar were written about this time. Sadly, Jimmie was married and separated from his wife, and this coupled with some personal difference led to their demise.

She rebounded by dating Capt. Paul Kirich, but then fell in love with Corporal Tony Martin. Their favorite pastime was to to to the  ball park and enjoy themselves there. However, she left to Hollywood by this time, and thus effectively broke up with Tony. He would marry Cyd Charisse later.

Mimi hit the papers in Hollywood, but not for the reason you might think – her career – but for her romantic exploits. Namely, in October 1944, this happened:

Col. Alex Guerry, much- decorated air hero – now flying bombers in the South Pacific, is generally in a hurry. Not for him the regular mail, or even air mail, when he decided to propose to blond and beautiful. Mimi Berry. He used V-mail. So did Miss Berry for her acceptance. They met In New York a year ago and began a correspondence with the above development. Miss Berry, on the 20th Century-Fox studio lot, said yesterday the wedding would take place when Col. Guerry gets his next leave.

A bit theatrical, overtly dramatic and over-the-top, but still, that’s young, lovely and during war time, so we have to try and understand it. By February 1045, all was finalized – Mimi would marry Alex in a few months. And then, ZAP! For unknown reasons, Guerry and Mimi broke up. Trust me, I really would like to know what happened to part them, but no information is given. I was surprised to see that Alex married a Louise Pemberton in October 1945. Louise looked quite a bit like Mimi! Talk about finding girls who want to marry you in a hurry! Mimi kept low for a time in the romantic arena, and later dated Nate Pearlstein, the advertising executive.

On February 1, 1946, Mimi married Errol Karl Silvera in Los Angeles. It was the first marriage for both. Karl was born on October 16, 1919, in Los Angeles, California, to Ivan E. Silvera and Elfriede Etta Balogh. He grew up in Los Angeles, and became a studio make-up man. He began his career at RKO in 1943 and moved to Paramount in 1946.

The couple had three sons: Darrell Karl, born on September 19, 1951, John Steven, born on June 8, 1954, and William, born on September 26, 1956. The couple lived in Los Angeles, with Mimi devoting her time to friends and family, and never returning to the stage. Mimi’s husband Karl achieved his greatest claim to fame in the 1960s, when he worked as a make up artist on the TV show The Munsters –  he was the creator of the iconic Herman Munster make-up.
Sadly, their son Darrell died on January 10, 1970. I could not find a cause of death.
Mildred Berry Silvera died on August 6, 1984. Her widower Karl remarried to Judith Silvera, and died in August 2013.

 

Marjorie Deanne

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER:

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

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Marjorie!

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Adele Longmire

It’s rare that I profile a true, dyed-in-the-wool actress on this blog – most of the girls I profiled before were starlets that didn’t have that much acting chutzpah. Adele Longmire is different. She is as obscure as they come today, but decidedly not a starlet – she was an unique talented, intensive girl whose rep reached Hollywood long before anyone even saw her in person (something not seen everyday, for sure!). She wanted top be a theater actress, and this is probably the main reason she never made it as a movie actress, but there are still several performances of her that we can enjoy today.

EARLY LIFE

Adele “Billie” Longmire was born on June 27, 1918, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to John and Germaine Longmire. She was the oldest of four children, and the only daughter. He younger brothers were John, Charles and Robert. Her father was a clerk in the financial sector. The family lived with their maternal grandparents, Albert and Corinne Rocquet. Albert was a physician, and came from a prestigious, old money family, thus Adele was considered something akin to Southern royalty.

Adele grew up in New Orleans, and was inspired to become a serious actress from her teenage days. She attended the local St. Joseph Academy Convent, and later recounted about the moment she decided to become an actress:

 “It was so strong It worried me.I really thought I must be headed straight for hell. I simply had to a peak to somebody about It. So finally I screwed up my courage and told one of the sisters. I expected to be scolded for having such wicked ambitions. But instead the was sweet about it. You can’t Imagine how surprised I was. She actually encouraged the idea and helped me In all sorts of ways. I wish I could tell you her name, but I’m afraid she might not like it.”

In 1936, after graduating from the Convent, she started to work as a stenographer and joined the local Little Theater, and started to do amateur theatrics. Her plan was to save enough money to go to New York and become a Broadway alumna.

In early 1937, while George Cukor was scouting all around the US and looking for a girl to play Scarlett O’Hara, and he heard about Adele. As a member of the esteemed New Orleans Little Theater (Petit Theater de Vieux Carre), she was known for her ferocity and prodigious talent, and was nicknamed Creole Girl. She refused to come to Hollywood, no really interested in a movie career, but opting to become a stage star. Cukor went to New Orleans and met Adele, and by all accounts was completely enchanted with her. He didn’t think she was made of the right material to play Scarlett, but that she was an unusual intensity and that Selznick should sign her. He tried – Adele refused. Warner Bros and MGM both chimed in, trying to find out who the girl with the hype was, but she turned them down smoothly. She did not want to be tangled up in a long term contract, still enamored of the stage and wishing to achieve artistic brilliance in that regard.

Adele  first attracted the notice of insiders on Broadway when the American Theater Council, formed In 1937 precisely to help talented young people in the theater, gave her a chance to show what she could do in a single brief scene from “Bury the Dead,” and she passed with flying colors. As a result of this showing, two producers interviewed her for parts in two projected productions. Neither production reached Broadway, but indirectly the interest she had aroused gained her a small role in “Ruy Bias” at Central City, Col., under the direction of Robert Edmond Jones. This is where she was noticed by famed playwright Elmer Rice.  He engaged her for the role of Anne Rutledge in Robert E. Sherwood’sAbe Lincoln in Illinois.” Thus Adele joined the Playwrights Company and was on her way to theatrical success. In 1940,. she was on the stage with Old Acquaintance. In 1941, she was nabbed by Hollywood to appear in the movie version – this failed but she stayed in Hollywood at least for some time.

CAREER

Adele had a solid if too short career on Broadway and more extensive one in summer stock, but a slim career in movies. She only appeared in six movies, and the leading role in one, was uncredited in two and was a supporting player in three. While not the worst track record around here (most starlets I profile never made a credited appearance), this seems like such a letdown for an obviously unique, very talented actress. Ah, that’s life!

Adele’s sole leading role was in Bullet Scars. Imagine Adele, a  prodigiously talented,known far and wide, theater reared and Broadway-made actress, who was a contender for the Scarlett O’Hara role and revered by such prestigious directors as George Cukor, finally comes to Hollywood and they put her in a small budget, B class film noir. WHAT? Anyway, it’s a solid but uninspired, seen it hundred times before gangster film. Regis Toomey plays a doctor who is conned into helping treat a bank robber – Adele plays his nurse. The performances are good and overall it’s a decent effort, but nothing to shout about. Adele was quickly forgotten, as was the movie.

Adele returned to Hollywood only in 1952, with People Will Talk, a truly intelligent well made Cray Grant movie. Most of Cary’s movies were screwball or sophisticated comedies with little to recommend them on a higher level – but this one is an exception, as a socially conscious, highly cerebral movie hiding more than it meets the eye. Adele only played an uncredited role, alas, and was not remembered for it. She had small parts in two additional movies in 1952: With a Song in My Heart , a quality biopic about Jane Forman, played by the indomitable Susan Hayward, and Something for the Birds, a movie that combines elegant comedy with a strong ecological flavor – can you believe that Hollywood sometimes did these movies? Patricia Neal, an absolute favorite of mine, plays a conservationist who will do anything to preserve the natural habitat of an endangered California condor, including crash the gates of Washington DC, and Vic Mature is the oily lobbyist fighting against her. Add Edmund Gwenn to the mix, and you have a winner!

Adele had a more meaty role in the gritty, serious The Turning Point, film noir about a government committee investigating mob activity and corruption in a fictional city. Great cast – William Holden, Edmond O’Brien, Alexis smith and Ed Begley makes this an above average fare, despite the formulaic story, and the director, William Dieterle, is more than capable of making a fine movie and it shows, he knows what he’s doing.

Adele’s Hollywood sojourn ended in 1953 with Battle Circus. It’s a June Allyson/Humphrey Bogart pairing, and what a strange pairing it is! I didn’t particularly like the movie, and I dislike June in general, so I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s degrading to women in general, since all that Allyson does in the movie (which is not a straight comedy, but rather a drama with comedic elements) is run after Bogart, and Bogart himself is absolutely sleepwalking through the role.

Adele did some TV work on the side from 1948 until 1954, and then left the industry that year.

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first hit the papers in 1940, Adele gave advice for your girls in a form of an essay:

There is no better time in her life for a young girl to practice good sportsmanship, that Invaluable attribute to charm, than during high school and college years. Even if her character when she was very little is something her best irritants would rather forget, she can take herself in hand, while in her ‘teens, and really learn to be a good sport which simply means being unselfish. Once that is accomplished her chances of growing up to be a kindly understanding person with fine manners are very good indeed. Get into the habit of seeing others’ viewpoints, of really listening when they speak, of forgetting their shortcomings and magnifying their good points. Make it your business to know all types of people. If you try to forget yourself and whether you feel superior or inferior, you will make friends wherever you go. Among young girls there is a tendency to carry the idea of self-expression much too far. Less concentration on one’s self and less frequent use of the personal pronoun make for kindness, the very fundamental of charm. And, speaking of carrying self-expression too far, I think it’s a mistake to talk too much about yourself the first few weeks you are in a new community, in a girls’ club or a dormitory. Listen to others for a while, saving something of yourself for later on. Don’t tell your entire history and go into detail about every emotion you ever have experienced until you have had time to look around and find your own level among people whose friendship you will want to keep. There’s nothing more unpleasant than realizing that a person whom you have grown to dislike knows too many of your innermost secrets and all because you told them yourself. It is better to be shy and retiring, letting yourself go quite unnoticed for weeks, even at the risk of being homesick and lonely, than to be a flash-in-the-pan person-liked, noticed and talked about for a short time, then pushed back into oblivion all too quickly.

Adele had even written a comedy, “Fun to Be Fooled.”, but it was never staged. After trying Hollywood in 1941 and 1942, In 1943, Adele returned to New York and Broadway, and got the leading role in Nine Girls, which ran for literary 5 performances.

Adele married Robert Harris in Alameda County in 1941, and divorced him before 1945. I could find no additional information about Harris nor their marriage. While appearing in “Old Acquaintance” Adele dated actor Bill Hawkins, then actor/director Howard de Silva, and then Carol Bruce’s manager. During WW2, she was “a heartillery barrage” with Edmund O’Brien, then a Private fresh off his success with Winged Victory.

WW2 was raging by 1944, and Adele decided to do something about it. Her last Broadway appearance before embarking on War relief work was “Outrageous For tune.”. And then she joined the Foxhole Circuit. She did a six months’ tour of North Africa and Italy, playing an important role in the Camp Shows version of Ruth Gordon’s hit play, “Over 21.” Here is a funny anecdote from that time:

A YOUNG sailor was asleep in the hold of a sub-chaser at Salerno. His sailor dreams were interrupted by a loud thud. He opened his eyes, turned on his flashlight and found a beautiful young girl. “May I use your bunk?” she asked. . . . “Of course,” said the sailor, trying to believe that he was awake. … He wasn’t dreaming. The girl was Adele Longmire, the Broadway actress touring in the U.S.O. company of “Over 21.” She had been invited to inspect the blacked-out sub-chaser’s chart room, tripped and fell 12 feet into the hold. She needed the bunk to recuperate from the shock and concussion.

After she returned to the US in early 1945, Adele continued her relief work by giving lectures.

All over the US, from her first-hand experiences at the front, Adele used to recount how USO-Camp Shows operate on every battlefront of this global warp and how it felt to give American servicemen entertainment at the front; how a USO Camp Shows troupe bridges the gap between home and foreign lands. Here is a short example of her stories:

-Actress Adele Longmire’s advice regarding ways of helping returning service men is to “just leave them alone.” Miss Longmire, who gave up the stage temporarily to go with the USO camp shows, told the Rotary club that soldiers “don’t want a lot of well-meaning sympathy and suggestions when they return.” “They’ll have a difficult enough time to readjust themselves,” she said, “and all they want is to make the transition on their own.” Four British paratroopers who are touring Utah industrial centers were’in the audience.

After returning to acting, Adele married actor Arthur Franz in 1946.

A leap year baby, Arthur Franz was born on February 29, 1920, in Perth, New Yersey. Wikipedia stated that, during World War II, Franz served as a B-24 Liberator navigator in the United States Army Air Forces. He was shot down over Romania and incarcerated in a POW camp, from which he later escaped.

Before he became an actor on Broadway, and had minor TV roles, and worked in a “one-arm” lunch room to make a living during his first years in Hollywood. He worked there whenever parts were scarce, and later remembered it with real affection. After several successful stage roles in the United States and Australia, Franz was awarded a long-term contract by Columbia Pictures.

Adele and Arthur had two daughters: Melissa Merrill, born on June 22, 1949 and Gina, born on May 30, 1953. It seems that Adele, at least for publicity purposed, had a pretty harmonic home life. Her husband was happy to call himself a handy man around the house, and was a great help with the care of their daughters. he also did some minor cooking – he could whip up pretty passable spaghetti, hamburgers and strawberry shortcake. It is funny how we should applaud a man if he decided to take care of his child. WTF! it’s your child, of course you have to take care of it and not ask anyone to pat your back for doing it. This is still the prevalent mindset in society even today – that if a man tales care of a child, it’s just an added bonus. Argh!

The Franzes divorced in about 1962. Adele didn’t remarry. Arthur remarried in 1964 to Doreen Lang. Doreen died in 1999, and Arthur remarried to Sharon Keyser in February 2006, and died the same year on June 16, in Oxnard, California.

For many years Adele was a writers’ agent in Beverly Hills with AshleySteiner and later in New York with IFA and ICM, as well as an Administrator of the Television Academy for three terms. She was also a Story Executive for Universal Pictures in New York and Daytime Editor for producer Tony Converse.

Adele falls from the radar after the early 1960s. She moved to New Mexico, and probably lived there in quiet retirement.

Adele Longmire Franz died on January 15, 2008, in Taos, New Mexico.

Joan Thorsen

A very beautiful woman and a successful photo model before she came to Hollywood, Joan Thorsen was given a solid contract not on account to her thespian skills, but rather her looks. Like any other girl in the long line of models turn actresses, she did some minor work and left the industry. let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Joan Marie Hoff was born in 1918 in Auburn, Indiana, to John Hoff and Lottie Wolford. She was their second daughter – her older sister, Mary J., was born in 1911. Her father owned an auto repair shop. The family lived with Lottie’s mother, Clara M. Wolford.

Joan grew up in Auburn, where she was a graduate of the Auburn high school. She then attended Northwestern university at Evanston, Illinois, for three years, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

As an interesting trivia, we can note that the Freshmen class at Northwestern University in 1938 certainly contributed its quota to the entertainment world. Living in the same dormitory were: our Joan, Anne Lee, later a minor Hollywood actress; singer Julie Conway (she was later vocalist with Kay Kyser), and Jennifer Jones. Girls were registered under their real names. All four have adopted different ones for professional use.

She has achieved fame as a model in New York City and her pictures appeared in many popular magazines. This is how she landed in Hollywood in 1942., primarily to make tests for the famous beauty lover, Howard Hughes, and she stayed there, hoping for a career.

CAREER

Joan made her debut in The Heat’s On in a not completely insignificant role – too bad the movie is a really, really insipid and bland Mae West vehicle – unfortunately, what worked in 1932, when Mae was a Hollywood leading light, was not quite what worked in 1943, and the movie did nothing for Joan’s career.

Joan was uncredited in A Guy Named Joe, a touching, high quality, touching WW 2 movie with an interesting duo of actors, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy. 

Despite her obscurity, Joan had the honor of being a (albeit minor) part of the wonderful MGM musicals of the 1940s and 1950s – as far as the genre goes, you couldn’t do much better than that! She was in Two Girls and a Sailor Week-End at the WaldorfThe Harvey Girls and The Hoodlum Saint. I’m not a particularly big fan of musicals and rarely watch them, but these movies make for fine viewing – a great Sunday evening viewing!

In 1945, Joan appeared in the slightly more serious Adventure, the first movie Clark Gable made after his return from war. He was paired with Greer Garson, and actress I absolutely adore, but sadly, it’s a polarizing film, parts lackluster parts pure genius. Much deeper than the plot suggests, it does tackle some quite profound psychological issued, especially for soldiers returning from war, but, like most ambitious movies, it gets lost in too many directions and fails to capture its own brand of charm. Gable and Garson are an interesting couple and an unusual pairing, but they didn’t really click like she did with Walter Pidgeon or he did with Claudette Colbert. All in all, worth a viewing, but nothing to write home about.

Joan’s last movie was Undercurrent, one of the woman in peril movies made popular by Gaslight. It’s a good, edge of your seat film, headed by Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Bob Mitchum. Yep, imagine, Kate and Bob int he same movie!

And that was it from Joan!

PRIVATE LIFE

During her college days at Northwestern University, Joan met and married the boy-next-door, Robert Edward Thorsen, in 1940.

Tragedy struck when Joan gave birth to a daughter on September 13, 1941, but the girl died the same day. Not long after, her husband was drafted. Lonesome and trying to ease the pain, Joan took up acting and due to her beauty, she was noticed by Hollywood. After being tested by Howard Hughes, she was signed to a seven-year Paramount contract in 1942. She was to receive 1350$ a week during the life of the contract (which is quite  a lot and left me quite surprised!).

Despite her new job, Joan tried to keep her marriage in top shape, and often visited her husband, then Ensign Thorsen, who was stationed at Cleveland in 1942 and 1943.

Joan did her part for the war effort, as this article can attest:

Joan Thorsen visited the Army camp near Las Vegas, and while there they showed the picture, “A Guy Named Joe,” in which she has just a bit. When she flashed on the screen, the film stopped, and the soldiers made her get on – the stage for a speech.

in her spare time, Joan took Spanish lessons in a Beverly Hills High school, along with fellow contractees Marc Cramer, Bob Sully and Bonnie Edwards.

However, the strain of being apart got to Joan, and by mid 1943, she started to date eligible Hollywood bachelors, like George Raft and Sherman Fairchild. Raft was even semi serious with her, dating her for a few months. Things didn’t look good for the Thorsen’s marriage, and they tried for a reconciliation in November 1943 while Robert was on a furlough, but it didn’t yell and Joan decided to declare game over.

In late 1943, Joan moved temporarily to the Last frontier in Las Vegas, in order to win a divorce from her husband. It was there that she learned she was pregnant, but hardly changed her mind – the divorce was still on. There she met writer John Gunther, who was also there trying to divorce his spouse, and the two got romantically involved. After her divorce came trough, she had started to show, it was time to go back to the safest place – her family home in Auburn.

Joan arrived in Auburn in May to spend the summer months with her parents, John and Lottie. Her baby was expected in August and she hoped to return to her motion picture work the last part of September. After a tranquil summer, that she spend in part corresponding with Gunther, her daughter, Pamela Christina, weighing seven pounds and twelve ounces was born on August 9, 1944. Joan still expected to return to Hollywood with her daughter in the near future to resume her work in motion pictures. First she went to New York in September 1944, and spent some time with Gunther. She returned to LA afterwards, and Gunther gave  a magnificent farewell party for her.

Joan’s mother followed her to LA to take care of Pamela. She tried to resume her career, and still dated Gunther, just long distance. She was also feted by Fefe Ferry, the famous impresario, who was also her manager. Another swain was famous humorist Robert “Bob” Benchley. Joan used to take her mother as a chaperone on her dates with Benchley, to the delight of gossip columnists 🙂 Allegedly, when Joan, after being invited to dine by Robert, asked if he would mind her mother accompanying them. “Mind?” he said. “I should say not. I am flattered!”

However, Gunther was the number one man in her life. In January 1945, her former husband came to see their daughter for the first time, but no reconciliation happened. She and Gunther dated for the better part of 1945- Then, in November 1945, Joan met a man who swept her of her feet and suddenly, Gunther was out. That man was Vincent Fotre, the former beau of Ann Miller. Things progressed pretty quickly, and the wed in December 1945.

Here is an article about Joan’s second marriage:

The marriage of Mrs. Joan Thorsen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Hoff of 123 North Indiana avenue, Auburn, and Vincent Fotre of Beverly Hills, Calif., a millionaire shoe manufacturer, is being revealed. The wedding, kept secret, was solemnized on Dec. 21, 1945. The bride is a former well-known Auburn girl.  For the past four years she has been a starlet under contract to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios in Hollywood. She has appeared in a number of pictures. Mrs. Thorsen and Mr. Fotre were married near Las Vegas, Nev. The former was in a group of movie starlets who went to Las Vegas to pose in a series of six pictures for Liberty magazine which were used in connection with an article “From Sun to Snow in 60 Minutes.” Mrs. Thorsen was in one individual picture in a ski outfit and appeared with two other actresses in ski clothes, ski jackets and sweaters. Mr. Fotre flew from California for the wedding ceremony. On March 22 of this year she represented the MGM studio in a style show, “East Meets West,” at the Ambassador hotel in Beverly Hills, sponsored by the Theta Sigma Phi sorority. She modeled a Grecian gold green evening gown styled by Irene, the studio’s famous designer. Pictures- were taken of the style show in technicolor and will be shown throughout the country. The former Mrs. Thorsen and her daughter, Pamela, are now residing in the home of her husband in Beverly Hills. Mr. Fotre is the father of two children by a previous marriage. They are planning to erect a new home in Beverly Hills as soon as building restrictions are lifted.

Vincent Valentine Fotre was born on February 14, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois, to Jacob and Catherine Fotre. He was married once before, to Kathryn Guinnee. They had a son, Vincent G, born on May 10, 1924, and a duaghter, Patricia Anne, born on May 11, 1927. They divorced in the 1930s, and Fotre dated a few of the Hollywood starlets prior to the marriage.

Their son Terry Vincent was born on May 17, 1948. Their daughter Janet Christina was born on April 18, 1954. They lived in California and were socially active, but sadly divorced in the late 1950s.
Fotre remarried to starlet M’Liss McClure in 1966, and they divorced in 1970. Fotre died on December 20, 1975. 
Joan married James S. Kemper on December 29, 1960, in the Bel Air Country club. It was a third marriage for both of them.
James Kemper was born on April 14, 1914, in, to James S. Kemper and Mildred Hooper. His father was at one time the US Ambassador to Brazil. Kemper was a studied at Yale and worked as a lawyer all around the States before taking over his father’s company. He joined the Kemper organization in 1960. He was named chairman and chief executive officer in 1969 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979. During Mr. Kemper’s tenure, the Kemper organization expanded in both the insurance and financial services marketplaces.
Kemper was nationally known for his work in the field of alcoholism. As a former alcoholic who went clean, he had plenty of experience and a lot of good will to help others. President Carter appointed him to the National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Related Problems. President Reagan named him to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, and he was chairman of the board of trustees of its successor committee, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving. He served as a member of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Interagency Committee on Federal Activities for Alcohol and Alcoholism. He was also a director of the National Council on Alcoholism.

Kemper was the father of five children:  James, Linda, Stephen, Judith and Robert. The Kempers lived in Golf, Illinois, and at a vacation home in Pauma Valley, California. They were both passionate about golf and very much active in civic affairs.

Kemper died on July 2, 2002. Joan continued to live in Illinois after his death, but I could not find any information as to what happened to her afterwards.

As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Rosalee Calvert

Rosalee Calvert was a perfect California mannequin int he 1950s and 1960s, tall, lean and aristocratic looking – like man yo fher peers, she tried for a movie career. She was more successful than most, but still not enough to fully devote herself to acting. She remained a high sought after model for decades and seemed to have lived a happy life in California. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosalie Coughenour was born in December 13, 1926 in Dearborn, Michigan, to Lowell and Rosa Coughenor. She was the youngest of three children – her older siblings were William, born in 1921, and Mary, born in 1925. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1937.

I could not find any information on Rosalee’s education, nor her childhood – what I know is that she was modeling by mid 1940s, and by 1948 she was featured as a new, promising model in the papers. It was only natural that Hollywood snagged her before long, and in 1949, she made her movie debut.

CAREER

Rosalee started her career in Little Women, the all time favorite classic, a decent adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott novel. No Katherine Hepburn here, who needs her when you have June Allyson (insert irony here!)! Anyway, a good enough start for sure.

Next, Rosalee played a model in the so-so drama thriller, East Side, West Side. While the movie has a really good cast (James Mason, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner) and some , it’s overall a lackluster film – not nearly interesting enough, and too transparent to be truly thrilling. After a brief hiatus of a year, she appeared in The Lemon Drop Kid, a Bob Hope Christmas classic.

Then came an uncredited role in Here Comes the Groom, a typical Bing Crosby vehicle – lots of singing, thin plot and a pretty co-star (this time Jane Wyman). Roselee than appeared in a two more musicals that, while not top-tier classic, have a nostalgic, good sheen today – Two Tickets to Broadway and Lovely to Look At.

The last movie Rosalee made before a several year hiatus was the Mickey Rooney movie Sound Off . Sadly, Rooney was way past his prime here (and only 32 years old), and it shows. His character, a brash entertainer who gets drafted, is an unlikable egomaniac, and the public just never connects to him. For a musical, this is a major, major minus.

When Rosalee returned to moviemaking until 1959, when, as a total anthesis to happy-go-lucky musicals, she appeared in a lurid, even untasteful, shocking drama, the semi trashy The Louisiana Hussy While the story isn’t the worst ever and the production actually had more than 5 bucks for props, the acting is absolutely appealing! The only reason o watch the movie is to enjoy all the “badness”.

Roselee was off the screen until 1962, when she appeared in another wholesome, cute movie – If a Man Answers, a Sandra Dee/Bobby Darrin pairing. While I like Sandra Dee – she was a doll – and her movies often carry a sarcastic bite, it’s too naive most of the time.

In 1966, Rosalee appeared in Made in Paris – I have a true fondness for this movie, despite it being a total guilty pleasure. It has a ridiculous, over the top story and seriously pedestrian direction, but the actors and the character make it an enjoyable experience plus, I love movies with great fashion, and this one is a full clock of stunning gowns! And Ann Margret, with her kitten with a whip sexuality, so outdated today,y is incredibly charming! And Louis Jourdan, swoon, too bad he always played the same character, but he’s parfait in the tole!

Rosalee made her last movie appearance that year, in The Oscar, a camp deluxe 1960s film, in league with Valley of the Dolls. However, I have a soft spot for Stephen Boyd, who played the lead, and thus give it a carte blanche although it’s a worse movie than the mentioned Dolls.

That’s it from Rosalee!

PRIVATE LIFE

Rosalee gave a beauty hint to the readers:

Eyes will look larger and more wide awake with a white or light beige eye shadow.

Little is known about Rosalee’s early Hollywood life. She was an active Hollywood model from 1948 onward, but was low profile in the romantic department. In October 1951 Rosalee married Peter Coe in Ensenada, Mexico.

Peter Coe was born Petar Knego in Dubrovnik, then Austo Hungary (that fell apart literary the day he was born), today Croatia (making him by fellow countryman!). Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England and came to the US, starting his Hollywood career in 1943. He played ethnic roles in a string of movies.

The couple had three sons: Armand Brian, born on June 9, 1952 in Los Angeles, Vincent L., born on May 7, 1957, and Peter C., born on September 7, 1960. The couple owned a ranch and lived the quiet family life when Peter and Rosalee were not working.

Rosalee’s acting career was finished by 1960s, but her modeling career lasted much longer and was more successful. Rosalee was tight with designed Jimmy Galanos:

West Coast designer Jimmy Galanos, whose small beginnings I remember, brought at least 150 new designs to town for his show at the Ambassador. Prolific Jimmy also fathered 50 hats and produced 40 pairs of special shoes by David Evins for his clothes. Before a packed ballroom, he paraded new versions of the jeweled, Persian-printed evening chiffon so many smart women are wearing this winter. His lates have jeweled. Paisley tops and white organdie skirts as full as a ballet dancers. If the price tags stagger you the winter Paisley cost just under $1000 remember that art comes high. Jimmy’s embroi of hair, who helped model the collection, is Rosalie Calvert, an outdoorsy California girl, who leads a normal, ranch house type existence with a husband and two little boys.

Being a model + having a stable family life – this is a great combo, and a one not that many women can achieve, so kudos to Rosalee!

In the 2010s, the octogenarian Rosalee gave an interview for the Palm Springs (you can see the whole interview on this link) , alongside Barbara Sinatra and a few others, about their lives in old Hollywood:

Rosalee Calvert of Palm Desert remembers a harder life. Breadwinner for her sons, an actor husband, and a housekeeper, she worked nonstop during her double-decade modeling career. A favorite of fashion photographer John Engstead, she says, “He saw me through three pregnancies. He’d call me up and say, ‘What’ve you got left, Rosie? Hands, feet, legs?’”

Though she made her name in Los Angeles in couture by Jean Louis and James Galanos (“She was stunning,” Galanos says), Calvert was an instant hit in New York. One of her first assignments was a Vogue post-deadline reshoot by renowned photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. It showed a patrician blonde in a leopard coat. Before long, her agent, the formidable Eileen Ford, could be heard fielding phone calls linking the newbie with two of the leading mannequins of the midcentury. “Well, I could give you Dovima, [Jean] Patchett, or Calvert.” Client: “Calvert?” Ford: “Page 52, current Vogue.” And then she’d hang up. “She loved to hang up on people,” Calvert recalls, chuckling.

“The most interesting and fun fashion shows ever were for [studio designer] Edith Head,” Calvert says. She modeled costumes for Carole Lombard, Lucille Ball, and Greta Garbo. “Lombard was sooo small,” she says, breathing inward and then adding, “John Engstead shot me in some of Marlene Dietrich’s costumes.” A close encounter with the icon herself followed.

“Marlene Dietrich was a good friend and client of Jean Louis.” She volunteered to help behind the scenes at a fashion show. Looking at Calvert, she said, “I’ll be your dresser, darling.” Calvert was nervous. She’d heard rumors, and worried that the diva wouldn’t know how to handle the frantic quick changes. But, Calvert notes, “She was excellent. She had everything unzipped and ready for me.” And Calvert walked away with the ultimate compliment: “You are so beautiful,” Dietrich said. “You look just like me.”

Interesting story, but when I dig a little, I noticed that Peter Coe was  a working actor for most of the 1950s and 1960s, so I still hope he did bring some money to the family table. They divorced in the late 1960s.

For most of the 1970s, Rosalee was dating Richard Gully. Now, one has to wonder, who is Richard Gully? When I first started to delve deeper into the world of old Hollywood, there were names that constantly popped up, but nobody could tel me exactly why were they mentioned in the papers (usually for dating starlets). They were not actors, producers, directors of anything remotely connected to technical aspects of movie making. Some of them, like Greg Bauzter, were lawyers, some were rich boys who came to Hollywood to squire pretty girls, some were con artists (Johnny Stompanato) and so on.

Richard Gully was one of those names. The bets I could find is that he was an aristocratic Englishman, born on June 8, 1907, in the UK, and was aide-de-camp for Jack Warner. Gully’s specialty was that he knew everybody there was to know in Tinsel town and had a very active social life. The gossip columnists all loved him, as he put forth a great deal of gossip fodder by dating eligible Hollywood bachelorettes.

Here is a funny little article about Gully and Rosalie:

Richard, first earl of Gully, with Rosalie Calvert and a gorgeous actress from Munich Birgit Bergen. Birgit kept eating grapes but first washing them in champagne. A touch of class.

Their relationship ended sometime prior to 1980. Gully died on October 4, 2000 in Los Angeles.

In the 1980s, Rosalee lived in Westwood, California, and was a grandmother several times over.

As far as I know, Rosalee is still alive today and living in Palm Desert, California. As always; i hope she had a happy life and is enjoying herself right now!

Valmere Barman

Valmere Barman was a California beach blonde who came to Hollywood because she was a looker. Her career, predictably, failed, but her later life was very interesting and to some degree cosmopolitan – she lived in the far east and was a very active woman! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Valmere Barman was born on December 14, 1922, in Los Angeles, California to Wademar Jacob Barman and Edith Gay Barman. Her older sister, Edith N., was born on May 5, 1918. Her father was a refrigerator engineer.

Valmere’s childhood was pretty uneventful – she grew up in Los Angeles and developed an interest in the performing arts from her teen years. She was the assistant for the Mystical 13 Magician Association when she was 15 and her nickname was “Dolly”. She attended John Marshall High School and after graduation, opted to continue her education and go to college.

I could not find which college Valmere attended, but she was seen by a talent scout who bought her to the attention to Paramount studios – they signed her in 1942 and there she went!

CAREER

Valmere started her career in the low-budget Gene Autry western, Call of the Canyon.Who boy, can’t thing to anything more to say about these movies. Austry isn’t even half bad, so Valmere can even consider herself semi-lucky to star in his western. Happily, she did a bit better for herself in her next feature – Lady of Burlesque. A murder mystery set in a seedy, underworld burlesque house. Despite mixed reviews, this is a solid, entertaining movie with lots to offer, especially if you like burlesque, of course! Babs Stanwaxck is her usual great acting self, and there are plenty of underrated female talent here – Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Stephanie Batchelor… A unique combination of Miss Marple and Gypsy Rose Lee, it’s a definite recommendation!

Like most of Paramount contract players, Valmere appeared in Duffy’s Tavern, a cavalcade of various dancing, singing and vaudeville segments with some very nifty names to feature (Bign Crosby, Betty Hutton, Paulette Goddard, Alan Ladd and so on). Then, Valmere played a schoolgirl in Our Hearts Were Growing Up, a sequel of the better known Our hearts were young and gay. Continuing the adventures of Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, it’s a charming but lukewarm romantic comedy, base entirely on the fact that pre 1920s girls were as a naive as smuck in terms of men and sexuality. While people from the 1940s could understand this and actually laugh at it, today it’s a bit sad and even a bit shocking to watch it. But still, Diana Lynn and Gail Russell and are easy on  the eyes and good enough actresses to pull it out. As a bonus we have Brian Donlevy playing a bootlegger who romances the girls. Whauza!

Valmere then appeared in Blue Skies, a well known, classic Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire musical, written by Irving Berlin. Valmere than graces one of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie, Unconquered. It’s a story of early America, about the struggle between the colonists and the Indians. Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard star, and they make a fine couple, looking exquisite together. While the movie is lavish, stupendous and mesmerizing in its sheer scope, it has all the failings of such a production – namely, it’s not accurate historically , the plot is far-fetched and the characterization could be better –  but who cares when it’s so much fun!

In the interim Valmere made a few short movies – Boogie WoogieThe Little Witch, where she played prominent roles. Fittingly, she finished her career with one such a short, Gypsy Holiday.

And that was it from Valmere!

PRIVATE LIFE

One of Valmere Barman’s treasured possessions was a letter from Mrs. Harry Houdini. Since she worked closely with magicians from the time she was a teen, it’s safe to assume Valmere liked the whole hocus pocus industry. Valmere also performed on stage as well on screen, dancing and singing as a member of the Bob Hope Stateside USO tours during World War II.

When Valmere landed in Hollywood, she wasn’t a happy-go-lucky unattached girl looking for swains – she was in a committed relationship with her John Marshall High School sweetheart, Charles Eugene Dickey.

After a long engagement, Valmere and Charles, then a recently discharged marine sergeant, were married by Rev. W. Don Brown on November 6, 1945 at Trinity Episcopal Church. They were attended by seven bridesmaids and seven ushers.

Dickey was born on January 10, 1922 in Illinois, to Charles R. and Marie Heaton Dickey. He had a younger brother, Howard. The family love to Los Angeles, where Charles Sr. worked as a retail paint salesman. Charles grew up in Los Angeles, and after graduating from high school was drafted on February 12, 1942.

I always wonder what happens to couple that date for ages get married and then divorce in a span of one year (or something similar). Relationship fatigue? Anyway, the point of this story is that Valmere and Charles’ marriage didn’t work and they were divorced by 1948. Dickey stayed in California, remarried in the 1950s and died on June 3, 1982.

Valmere was out of the public eye by then, so little was written when she married her second husband, Frank Kasala, on September 1, 1949, in Los Angeles.

Kasala was born on May 5, 1922, to Frank Kasala Sr., whose parents were from Czechoslovakia, and Kathryn Bureker, daughter of German immigrants. His younger sister Barbara Leone was born on August 1, 1924. The elder Frank worked as a clerk. Freshly graduated from high school, Kasala was drafted into the army in 1942 or 1943.

He was a scenario writer before he entered the service and has continued in his profession as much as possible while in the service. Kasala won 3 battle stars for his work in the European theater. During the war, Kasala married Eleanor Canoy (born on July 10, 1923) on June 30, 1944 in her hometown of Marion, Oregon. Eleanor was a Majorette in the American Legion Band. Their daughter Gail Lynne Kasala was born in 1945. Tragically, the girl died just a few months after birth. The Kasala’s marriage never recovered after this, and they divorced in 1946.

Terri remarried twice (second time to to John Yeager) and lived the rest of her life in Oregon – she and her husband die don the same day in 2005.

The Kasalas lived in Los Angeles, Valmere retired from movies and ready for motherhood. Their daughter Valmere Lynn was born on March 4, 1951. Their second daughter, Cathy Gay, was born on May 14, 1953. Their third daughter, Diane L., was born on March 30, 1956. After her daughters grew a bit, Valmere worked as the Dietitian at the Pilgrim School in Los Angeles from 1961 to 1963.

In 1964, the family moved to Japan for work reasons.  The family lived in Japan from 1964 to 1968 and Hong Kong from 1968 to 1975.  In Japan Valmere taught as an elementary teacher at the International School of the Sacred Heart and was a swim team coach for the Yokohama Yacht Club from 1965 to 1968. In Hong Kong she taught as an elementary school teacher and also conducted the school choir at the Hong Kong International School in Repulse Bay. While overseas she loved to race day sailboats and sail for leisure with her family.

They returned to the US in 1975. Now, what exactly happened in the East and then in the US I cannot know, but my own take (so could be purely fiction), based on the information I have found – Frank and Valmere grew apart, their marriage slowly deteriorated, Frank fell in love with a Japanese woman, divorced Valmere and married the lady. The facts: Joe and Valmere divorced in November 1977.

Kasala remarried to Shinako Kasala, they had a son, Craig, and lived in California, where they were both passionate golfers. Shinako sadly died in 2007. Kasala died in 2017.

Valmere returned to California after her divorce. On September 13, 1980, she married Robert C Barnhart.

Robert was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1920 to Robert C. Barnhart Sr. and Edna Adams Barnhart, Bob went to Valley Forge Military Academy on a trombone scholarship prior to attending the US Naval Academy. Immediately after graduation in 1944, Bob reported to the USS Astoria as a gunnery officer and saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

After WWII, Bob served int he Navy and won a bronze star during the Vietnam war. Bob completed his 30 year career in the Navy as Chief of Staff in Philadelphia. After his retirement from the Navy, Bob settled in Lake Forest, California, where he worked for General Dynamics, Pomona for 10 years before completely retiring.

Bob married Paula Jeen Gay of Long Beach on March 24, 1945, and they had four children, Bobby, Randy, Annette Colver and Gary. Paula died in 1979.

Bob’s passion was fishing, and he and Dolly would often summer at the family fishing cabin in Pennsylvania. They also volunteered at Saddleback Hospital when not traveling.

Valmere Barman Barnhardt died on February 2, 2012 in Lake Forest, California. Her widower Bob died on December 15, 2012.

Eleanor Prentiss

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

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

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

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

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

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

Margo Woode

Margo Woode is great proof that it’s sometimes better not to take Hollywood too seriously, and try to bend its rules to suit your needs rather than the other way around – after some minor success, Margo left Tinsel town, devoted herself to family and other pursuits but still returned to movies when she had a chance. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Margo Ketchum was born on April 11, 1922, in Phoenix, Arizona, to Raymond Ketchum and Alma Odell Bumph. Her older brother Raymond Sr. was born on October 6, 1920 and died four days later. Her father worked as an embalmer and undertaker. Newspapers later claimed that  Margo was of royal Indian descent , the great-granddaughter of a full-blooded Cherokee princess. I didn’t go that far in the family tree to try to verify it, but it’s entirely possible.

Margo grew up like any normal, happy child in  Phoenix and attended North Phoenix High School.  Luckily for Margo, her uncle was prominent dance teacher, Gene Bumph, and she studied at his Gene Bumph School of Dancing. She was discovered when she was 18 by Fred Astaire and began her film career that year under the direction of Hermes Pan. Darryl F. Zanuck signed her to a 20th Century-Fox contract and of she went to Hollywood!

CAREER

Margo had an uncredited role in Springtime in the Rockies, a cheery musical, in 1942, and then took a hiatus until 1945, when her career really took steam (eh, it didn’t blow full steam like with Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, but it’s better than most others). She appeared in The Bullfighters, a lesser Stan Lauren/Oliver Hardy comedy, the classical musical State Fair and had all of her scenes deleted in The Spider, but fortunately for Margo, the movie turned out to be mediocre and is more or less completely forgotten today.

Then, suddenly, Margo made a string of three movies that woodlice remain her only claim to fame in any shape or form. From an uncredited glorified extra, she actually had solid roles in solid pictures.

Somewhere in the Night remains Margo’s masterpiece. The movie itself is a minor classic, and Margo gave the bets role of her career in it. Somewhere in the night is one of those rare few noir that never reached cult status, but remain stunningly good films, with a strong metaphysical undercurrent and almost archetypal storytelling. Joseph Mankiewicz took a solid story, spins it the right way and made a dark, compelling and intense movie. What starts as a story of a traumatized veteran soldier ends up a meditation on identity and consequences of war. Unfortunately, this is still a B production, and what it lacks is a top-level leading man – John Hodiak is good, but he never managed to make a lasting impression, at least to me, in any of the movies I saw. Same for the leading lady, Nancy Guild, as stunning beauty but not a smoldering femme fatale at any rate (although she does play the good girl, but these characters tended to be boring). Yet, the supporting cast is excellent. Here we see the full power of the Hollywood studio system – so many good characters actor sin one place!

Margo appeared in another B effort, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog. This one is more of a curiosity than a particularly good movie – made right after the war ended, we have this neither here nor there period when women still stood up for men in various jobs that would, just a few years later, become forbidden fruit. It is interesting to see Carole Landis as a female police inspector. In 1947, Margo appeared in Moss Rose, a serviceable 19th century drama/action movie with the alluring Peggie Cummings in the leading role. Just when Margo gained some momentum, it all stopped. She took an acting hiatus to give birth to two children an never made a movie that topped these three.

She returned to the Hollywood fold in 1950. She had the smallest role in No Sad Songs for Me, a cry-your-eyes out soaped with Margaret Sullavan (the woman was a dynamo, that’s for sure), then in When You’re Smiling,  a cheap and so-so Columbia musical with Frankie Laine. And then Margo disappeared again, to live in Phoneix, Arizona.

She did some minor television work in 1952, and then returned to Phoenix once again. She was Hollywood bound in 1957, and appeared in two movies – Bop Girl Goes Calypsoa kitschy, tasteless, cheap calypso musical, the sole reason to watch is to see Judy Tyler on-screen (she died at the tragically young age of 23 so not a lot of her movies left), and Hell Bound, a much better  film noir – despite it’s very humble C movie roots, it’s actually a powerful mediation on the world after WW2. John Russell is very good as a mobster hell bend on getting a cargo of drugs the military want to get rid of so he can sell them and get major money pretty quick. Margo plays his girlfriend who gets up her neck in trouble. Margo had a knack for playing in film noir, but sadly this proved to be her last foray into the genre. She sis some minor Tv work, and returned to film only in 1961, with The Touchables, a low-budget nudie movie. Margo’s last movie, Iron Angel, was made in 1964.

PRIVATE LIFE

When she came to Los Angeles, Margo began studying with acting legend Maria Ouspenskaya and caught the excitement of true acting. She ducked her dancing contract and made a bid for an acting contract, and this determined the course her career took later.

There was a bit of drama in Margo’s love life. Namely, her first serious Hollywood beau was Les Clark, a former vaudeville actor who rose to become a movie actor and ultimately a dance director. He was born in 1905, making him a bit older than Margo. They kept their relationship under wraps, but the general consensus was that they were going to get hitched sooner rather than later. Here is an article about I.

Reason pretty Margo Woode won’t play ball with studio publicists is because she’s secretly engaged to Les Clark, an actor

And then, all of a sudden… On July 22, 1948, Margo married proficient manager Bill Burton. They got engaged in April 1948. Literary a few months after making the papers with Clark, she was first engaged and them married to another man. Whoa, I would love to have heard what happened behind the scenes here, what made Margo make such a 180 turn. Here is a very revealing article form the period:

Les Clark, the dance director, and Marion Marshall, the Fox Star let, are going steady. He’s the lad his pals thought would marry Margo Woode until Bill Burton moved in

So, Les was probably blinded-sided with the breakup. Poo guy, but then again, who knows what exactly happened in the background. Anyway, little is known about what Les did afterwards, except that he lived for a time in the UK and died in 1959 in London.

Margo and Bill Burton honeymooned in New York. Margo also requested from her lawyers to end her contract to 20th Century-Fox. It seems a movie career took second place to something else. Burton was Margo’s manager – he was formerly manager for Dick Haymes, Maureen O’Hara, Margaret Whiting, Ray Noble, and Piano Students.

On May 3, 1948, Margo gave birth to a son, Niles Bruce. Margo gave birth to a daughter, Karen Nini, at Santa Monica on August 31, 1949. When Karen was about one year old that they decided to give up the hectic Hollywood lifestyle for something more family friendly and laid back. Burton as an agent had an especially gruelling schedule and as he was getting older, it was deemed that for his health, he should take it easy. So they decided to move to her hometown, Phoneix, Arizona.

Margo gave up her career last year so that her children might grow up in the “friendly warmth” of Phoenix. Burton, restless as he was by nature, didn’t last long in retirement he held out six weeks. And took the reins of KPHO as an executive-producer.

Margo commuted to Hollywood when it was needed. Sadly, her husband died n the late 1950s (could not find the exact date, but I’m guessing about 1959 or 1960).

After Bill’s death, Margo continued her acting career, but she was in Hollywood only sporadically. During one visit, she met another former student of her uncle, Ron Beckett. He was dancing in “Damn Yankees,” “Silk Stockings,” and on the Guy Mitchell Show. They hit it of right away, and married not long after. After their marriage, they decided to come back to Phoenix (where it’s fun to raise children), and take over Gene Bumph’s dance school. Thus, Margo and Ron were co-partners in their dance studios. Here is a short article about their school:

Margo Woode, Dancer, Star Of Pictures And Television, Local Housewife with Betty Grable and Harry James in “Springtime in the Rockies.” And for those who’ve lived here not quite that long, she was the wife of our first television station manager, Bill Burton in the midst of all the excitement our first television caused around here. “I’ve retired from show business half a dozen times,” laughs the pretty matron, mother of Gigi, 2, Bruce, 16, and Karen, 14. “I just keep slipping back into it.” man, or any other, or you will find yourself 21 years old with TWO failures. Now she runs a dancing school with her husband, Ron. Margo and Ron believe that dancing is wonderful for children, parents, and grandparents. Their-youngest student is 3, their oldest 83.

Beckett-Bumph School of the Dance was located at the 4741 N. Central Ave. The Beckett were great professional partners, but their private life also blossomed. Their daughter Gigi was born on August 3, 1962. It seems that it was a good life, in sunny Phoneix.

According to IMDB, Margo is still alive today, at 96 years old.