Clarice Sherry

Clarice Sherry was a promising, talented small town girl reared to become a successful actress. Sadly, despite all of her talent Hollywood just didn’t embrace her and she retired after just a few years of working. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Clarice Marie Shierry was born on December 21, 1914, in Hawkeye, Iowa, to Leon Shierry and Etta C. Brukhart. She was their only child. Her father was a barber who had his own barber shop, her mother designed hats and dresses (including those worn by her daughter in the future).

The Shierrys spent the first four years of Clarice’s life in Hawkeye, then they lived in Mason City for two years before the family went to Los Angeles, California in 1928, where Clarice attended high school and junior college. A striking blonde, Clarice had  been carefully reared by her parents, with much love. Although she early showed signs of artistic talent, she was not allowed to commercialize it nor to make public appearances during her school life, except in recitals with other pupils. Piano and dancing lessons were part of her education, which was obtained in a Los Angeles private dramatic school.

Due to her beauty, she was chosen to model gowns and to pose for automobile advertisements. Her face has also appeared on magazine covers. In March, 1934, Warner Brothers signed her for her first chorus work, and she has made progress ever since. She appeared in choruses in Dames, North Shore, Sweet Adeline, Gold’ Diggers of 1935, Go Into Your Dance, Sweet -Music and others, then took a voice test in the summer of 1936. That test resulted in a passing grade of 100 per cent, and she went into the speaking parts.

CAREER

Clarice appeared in a string of musical movies as a chorus girl. She was featured in three Sonja Henie movies – One in a Million, Thin Ice and Second Fiddle. Since my dislike of Sonja Henie is more or less obvious if you read this blog, let’s just let it slide.

Other musicals that Clarice appeared in are: The Girl Friend, a totally forgotten Ann Sothern musical, Sing, Baby, Sing, a weak and not very memorable Alice Faye vehicle, Broadway Melody of 1938, a typical pastiche musical with Robert Taylor, playing a non-singing guy, trying to act out a flimsy story about a Broadway producer, but everybody is watching Eleanor Powell, Judy Garland and Sophie Tucker singing and dancing, Kentucky Moonshine, a abysmal Tony Martin musical with the Ritz brothers supplying (or trying to) some minor comedy, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, perhaps the bets musical she made, a Alice Faye/Tyrone Power classic with a great deal of Irving Berlin songs, and Honolulu, a charming Eleanor Powell movie with an idiotic story but good dancing.

Clarice had bigger parts in non musical movies, and if she’s even remembered, it’s for them. We have The Emperor’s Candlesticks, a witty, urbane spy-romance movie with William Powell and Luise Rainer (with that superb pairing, anything goes!), Man-Proof, a champagne comedy with Myrna Loy playing a unhappy in love girl trying to woo the desire of her heart and Franchot Tone trying to stop it (and wooing Myrna, of course), the absolute classic The Women, and Fast and Furious, which, despite it’s intense name, is actually a light murder mystery, with Ann Southern and Franchot Tone’s zany marriage being the core value against a meh plot and a lot of pretty young women in bathing suits (Clarice among them).

Clarice’s last movie deserves a special mention. Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe is a cult classic, as are most Flash Gordon movies. Whatever one may think of Universal series, this one is of a pretty good quality. Buster Crabbe was made to play the heroic Flash Gordon and Charles Middleton makes an incredible Ming. However, it is the action sequences that are the true highlight here. Watch it! Clarice had a small part as Queen Grend,a but at least she’s visible!

That was it from Clarice!

PRIVATE LIFE

Clarice was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and had glorious hair famous around Hollywood. It was pale natural blond, waved slightly and went all the way to her waist. Here is a funny story about Clarice’s adventures in Hollywood:

“It’s a great life if you don’t weaken,” gasped Clarice Sherry, when shooting stopped for a moment on “The Great Ziegfeld’ set the other day “But I’m distinctly wakening.” h added. The i costume she bad on weighed only 102 pounds. It’s for a very elaborate promenade and posing number. It is called “Northern Light” and Is made of 2,000 yards of pleated tulle and 700 large pear-shaped crystals. The former Hawkeye-Mason City girl has to wear special shoulder pads with it

Her private life was very stable. Clarice married Sidney D. Lund, technical executive at Universal studios, in a secret elopement to Reno in 1935. The couple hurried back to Hollywood the next day, so that Clarice could obtain a screen role in a new picture in which she appeared with Melvyn Douglas, Virginia Bruce and Warren William. Afterwards the Lunds establish residence in Los Angeles.

Sidney Lund was born on January 10, 1905, in Los Angeles, California, to Burton Lund and Abby Holt. His parents divorced and both remarried, and he had a maternal half sister and half brother, Mary and Conrad Klemm. He was trained as an electrician and became a movie technician for Universal Studios. He was married once before , to dancer Sada E. Hindman, on May 3, 1930 in Los Angeles. They had no children and enjoyed a very tempestuous marriage with at least one major scandal – in January 1931, Sada accused actress Dorothy Janis with stealing her husband’s love while the pair were making a picture in the South Seas. After much drama, Sada dropped a $25,000 alienation of affection suit. Dorothy and Sidney did not end up together, as she married Wayne King in 1932, so I guess Sada and Sidney made up. After more ups and downs, Sada finally divorced Sidney in 1933, charging desertion, nonsupport and cruelty.

Unlike his first, Sidney’s second marriage worked like a charm. Clarice retired from movie work, and dedicated herself to family life. The couple had a son, Gary Robert, born on October 18, 1940 in Los Angeles. Sidney continued working in the motion industry.

The Lunds enjoyed a happy union, lived in a two stories high residence in North Hollywood, had many good friends and were able to travel widely and saw a great deal of the world. Clarice also painted many beautiful pictures and portraits, and loved Oriental art and gardening.

Clarice Sherry Lond died at the ripe old age of 98 of an aneurysm on October 4, 2012 in Los Angeles. She is interred at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in the Hollywood Hills.

Agnes Craney

Agnes Craney was one of the girls who landed in Hollywood not thanks to her extensive dancing skills, nor her modelling career, nor indeed any acting prowess – she won her entry into Tinsel town via a publicity stunt! As you can imagine, that’s one of the worst ways you can gain entry into movie,s since you have no bankable skills and being pretty just ain’t gonna cut it in the town where hundreds of pretty girls arrive every day. As you can guess, Agnes made only two movies, married and retired to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her! (sorry for not having a close up of Agnes, she is in the photo somewhere!)

EARLY LIFE

Agnes Jane Craney was born in 1917 to George Thomas Craney and Pearl Winifred Morss in Madison, South Dakota. She was the third of four children: her older siblings were a brother, Morris Charles, born in 1911, and a sister Leone, born in 1915. Her younger sister was Rita, born in 1922. Her father worked as a real estate salesman. The family moved to Long Beach in the mid 1920s for her father’s work.

Agnes grew up like any normal, middle class girl in Long Beach,  and attended the Long Beach high school. What set Agnes apart from her peers was her obvious beauty and her star-stuck dream of becoming an Hollywood actress. And something massive happened when Agnes was just 17 years old and a junior in high school. She applied for a “Search for beauty” contest that was promoted all over the US. It was an instant gateway to Hollywood for a few lucky ones who won the coveted title of Beauty.

Agnes and Jack Jenkins, 205-pound Beverly Hills High School star tackle defeated some 100,000 rivals In the contest a “Search for Beauty.”, and they were awarded contracts with the Paramount film company as a result of the proceedings. It was noted that Agnes’ measurements most nearly correspond to the average of the fifteen most beautiful girls. She Is more slender, more graceful and more compact than the ancient Grecian goddess of love, Aphrodite, just as Jack was bigger than Apollo. How did they know the measurements of Aphrodite and Apollo is left open for debate, but it’s a publicity ploy much like any other from that time.

It appeared that Agnes was slated for big things in Hollywood, and her career started!

CAREER

Agnes appeared in only two movies in her career. The first one was Search for Beauty, the movie that was more ballyhooed in the press and in the beauty pageant circuits than it has any artistically or indeed any merit. But there is plenty of nude girls, sexy dances and sensual stuff if one likes it. Never again will classical Hollywood make such carnal musicals, with such visceral scenery and atmosphere. Ah, Busby Berkeley and his kind although he didn’t make this movie)! Agnes played one of the beauty winners of course.

8 Girls in a Boat is a more interesting fare. While not a masterpiece by any stretch of imagination, it’s a solid movie dealing with a topic Hollywood made taboo after the production code was kicked in high gear – unwanted underage pregnancy. Dorothy Wilson is a student at an exclusive girl’s school, and a member of the shell racing crew (hence the 8 girls in a boat). She gets pregnant by chemistry student Douglass Montgomery, but he doesn’t have no money to marry her. The movie deals with the aftermath of this situation, and featured Kay Johnson as a sadistic, brutal rowing teacher, a acting highlight of the movie. Dorothy Wilson, a much underrated actress, is very good in the leading role, but sadly Agnes played one of the school girls and is very blink and you’ll miss her.

And that was it from Agnes!

PRIVATE LIFE

Agnes gave a beauty hint to the papers:

I find exercise one of the most important factors in keeping the figure beautiful and the body fit. Swimming is my favorite exercise. But, in swimming, es in ether forms of sports care must be taken not to over-do. Too much swimming may over-develop the muscles.

Let’s reflect on the way Agnes got into Hollywood. While the Search for Beauty did give us one wonderful actress (Ann Sheridan), the bigger question is were these kind of pageants harmful for people int he long run? It seems to me they were. They gave false hopes to a plethora of young, inexperienced people, who had little to recommend themselves, that they can make it. And they can, but everything is stacked against them. While I am sorry to be perhaps a bit harsh, but the majority of girls who came to Hollywood because they looked good did not have an ounce of acting talent, and often did not work even one iota to posiblys remedy this disadvantage. They would last for a few months at most, then had to find other jobs, go back home, maybe be ostracized and generally suffer a period of depression since their dreams didn’t’ come true. Of course, it’s impossible to generalize, but this happened to more than 90% hopefuls who came to Hollywood in the 1930s, and most girls on this blog shared such a fate. We can have nothing but respect for any girl who has enough grit and guts to leave home and try to be something but a housewife, plunging head on to Tinsel town and hoping for the best was like trying to win a lottery. A few lucky ones would make it, most of them would not. Point is, it was much better to be a trained actor with some experience if you wanted to make it. Even if Hollywood rejected you, you could always do theater, summer stock and so on. Looking good usually isn’t enough, even for such a shallow town like Hollywood was (and still is).

Back to Agnes. Agnes married Wiliam Norton Hilliard on July 14, 1936, in Los Angeles. Hilliard was born on June 6, 1912, to Salvester Elven Hilliard and Emily Crave Norton in Colorado, the second of four children (his siblings were Charles, born in October 17, 1908, Eleanore, born on August 18, 1918, and Richard Francis, born on June 2, 1921). his father was a building contractor, and the family lived in Iowa for a time, before moving to California, where Hilliard started to work.

Hilliard was a store minder for oil supply machinery. The couple had three sons: William Norton, born on May 39, 1938, Gerald Thomas, born on January 4, 1940, and Michael John, born on May 25, 1948. After living for years in California, they moved for Hilliard’s work to Texas, where they stayed after William retired.

Agnes Craney Hilliard died on November 19, 1989, in Montgomery County, Texas.
Willian Norton Hilliard died on November 15, 2007 in Conroe, Texas.

Mary Jo Mathews

Mary Jo Mathews did not go down the usual starlet route. A fine Southern miss, she was a college graduate who first seeked her fame in the theater, and only by chance ended up in Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood, did not work out for her, but she married a successful agent and led a happy family life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Josephine Mathews was born on April 11, 1909, in Mannington, West Virginia, to Harry J.  and Blanche Mathews. Her older brother, Marshall, was born in 1904. Her father owned a drug store. The family was well of, lived in Mannington and employed at least one maid. Mary grew up like any other upper middle class Southern girl, and it was clear from her teen years that she was a stunning beauty with a strong penchant for dramatics.

After graduating from Mannington high school, Mary enrolled into the West Virginia university at Morgantown. Mary, a lush brunette with a soft Southern accent, was a hit with the lads, and in 1927, when she was a sophomore, she was voted the most beautiful girl student on the campus.

Next year, she was chosen by the students as “Miss’ “West Virginia University, and not long after, was named by Governor Conley as West Virginia’s representative at the annual rhododendron festival at Asheville, and later  attended the Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival in Winchester in the spring of 1929 as “Queen Shenandoah VI” . It seems that Mary really did do extensive social rounds and was very successful in those stakes. Back then, Mary Jo planned to become a school-teacher and received an AB. degree from the University of West Virginia. Then She won the Winchester Ky.) Apple Blossom Festival prize for beauty in 1929, after which she went to New York, married an actor and decided to become an actress herself, and there was no turning back!

Mary Jo became a member of the cast of “The Band Wagon,” Broadway’s revue success, and starred the head of a road company which was presenting one of the George White’s Musical company. Then she was a member of the cast of “Let ‘Em Eat Cake“. In the interim, Mary worked as an understudy. In a later interview she claimed that to became an understudy one had to be at least three times as talented as the leading lady to get the job.  At one point, Mary was understudying three roles – for Adele Astaire, the dancer; Roberta Robinson, a singer, and Helen Carrington, comedienne. Naturally, Hollywood noticed her, and she was signed to a contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Mary Jo made her debut in Twentieth Century, one of the funniest comedies of the 1930s, with the unbeatable combo of John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. No comment needed, just watch the movie and laugh! Barrymore is such a large ham you can’t help loving him, and Lombard is a pixie charmer to boot!

Mary Jo played a small role in Society Doctor, here is a review from Imdb: Morris plays a hotshot young Dr. Morgan in a metropolitan hospital, and Taylor is Dr. Ellis, his friend, who is a little less ambitious. Instead of being laser-focused, he wants to enjoy life, too. Both of them are interested in the nurse Madge (Virginia Bruce). She’s in love with Morgan but he’s too dedicated to get involved with anything but medicine. Ellis, however, makes a big play for her. When Morgan gets in trouble with the head of the hospital, he contemplates becoming a society doctor, and a patient (Billie Burke) offers to set him up in practice.

The movie is actually interesting as we have on unlikable main character, played by Morris as a hotheaded, stubbornly foolish all-too-focused doctor, and a young and stisl not quite polished Robert Taylor as his friend/rival. Virginia Bruce is as lovely as always, too bad she never became more than a B class star. Mary Jo’s next movie was the completely forgotten One New York Night.

Mary than appeared in tow movies that are well known and regarded today. The first one was Reckless, a William Powell/Jean Harlow drama, based on the infamous Libby Holman/Zachary Reynolds case. The movie starts of as a sparking comedy, a genre which Harlow excelled in – she’s tops, and Powell and May Robson, as her support, are in a high class too. However, the movie turns into a over the top melodrama in it’s second half, and this jarring change of pace somehow kills the overall effect, although it’s watchable and not at all that bad. Franchot Tone is impeccably elegant as a wastrel playboy who lusts after Harlow, and Rosalind Russell has a small role (which is always a plus, when Roz appears in a movie). Mary Jo plays a chorine.

The second movie was Mad Love, based on a book, with an implausible plot (taken from an imdb review): Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a brilliant surgeon who is obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Francis Drake). She tells him she is leaving the stage to be a full time wife to her husband Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), a concert pianist. Gogol is crushed. Stephen Orlac loses his hands in a train wreck. At the request of Yvonne, Orlac grafts on a new pair of hands to Stephen. Unfortunately, they happen to be the hands of Rollo, an executed murderer who loved throwing knives. It seems the hands have a life of their own–Stephen can’t play the piano anymore but can throw knives accurately and he has a desire to kill. He slowly starts to go crazy. Gogol again tells Yvonne that he loves her. She rejects him and Gogol cracks. He sets out to drive Stephen mad–and drive Yvonne into his arms.

But, as the reviewer wrote, the plot is completely secondary to the sheer brilliance of Peter Lorre, absolutely killing it as the man doctor. Whenever he’s on the screen it’s impossible to even look at somebody else, such is his magnetism! The movie also gives a good role to Colin Clive, a tragically underrated actor whose career never gave him the chance to truly shine. Frances Drake is nice enough as the doctor’s object of desires. The movie is very good at conjuring a non-bloody horror feeling, and stands very well today. Sadly, Mary Jo was literary just an extra and the role made on impact on her career. She only made one more short movie before retiring.

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was musically inclined and knew how to play the piano and the organ. As a special peculiarity, she also broke mirrors for good luck.

Mary married her first husband, Charles Coleman, in Marion county in 1929. Charles Bradford Coleman was born on August 14, 1905 in Pratt, West Virginia to Charles Bradford Coleman and Margaret Caldwell Frazer, one of three children. Mary and Charles tried their luck together in New York, lived for a time in Chicago (guess for work related reasons) in 1930, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in 1933. Coleman went to Hollywood and acted under the name of John Bradford. He had credited roles in movies like 365 Nights in Hollywood and Life Begins at 40, but gave up movies in 1937. He died on June 29, 1993 in  Charleston, West Virginia.

When she came to Hollywood, Mary Jo had a pet dachshunds and often hung out on the beach at the Del Mar Club, Santa Monica. While in Tinsel town, Mary was tutored by dramatic coach Earl Hinsdell to become a star. Here is a short description of the process:

Mary Jo Matthews is one of the “students” who. in Hinsdell’s opinion, will reach stardom in three sears. of years no difference, as a real star will stano out in any picture. “I regard the preserving of individuality as most important in my work of coaching is to be willing to train potential stars for that length of time longer if necessary. This trio is comprised of Agnes Anderson, Mary Jo Matthew and Margaret Ehrlich. Hinsdell has his own method of training, which may be at variance with the ideas of other coaches but it has proved rather successful so far. Myrna Loy. Jean Parker and Robert Young all are graduates of his school. When Myrna Loy went to him about a year and a half ago she was practically through in pictures. For years she had been cast in exotic siren role. He detected a flair for light comedy, developed that quality and launched her on a new career which already has carried her far beyond any goal she had been able to attain before. First of all. this instructor refuses to put his students through a routine training which stamps them all alike. For the most part he trains them individually. However, he frequently brings them together in groups to give them the fundamentals of timing, shading and the ability to fit their voices to those of their co-workers. He also insists that all of his students take singing lesson, the theory here being that the singing and speaking voice really is the same and the development of one helps the other. “Then there are long periods of reading aloud to develop round tones. “It sounds strange, but I am quite insistent that my students go to art galleries and study the works of the old masters,” declares Hinsdell. “I also advice them to acquire a knowledge of the history that is behind most of these great works. “Such a procedure seems remote to most of the students, just as it does to outsiders. but such a study can have a very definite effect upon acting. To be a good writer. artist, sculptor or actor one must have both a knowledge and understanding of beauty. And there is no place this can be found better than in an art gallery. “I do not think a person can express that which he has not felt, or at least understood. All art is expression. Thus one helps another.” HINSDELL believes in allowing those he trains to think for themselves. He shows them the right and the wrong then lets them work out the rest. He feels that he has failed as a coach if one of his graduates is not ready to go with any director. His students must learn more than just to do things his way. They must learn to act. To further their experience, he stages frequent shows at a local theater. This gives the youngsters an actual stage training that is of infinite value. They learn how to appear at ease before an audience, get a taste of real audience reaction, and gain a confidence which can be acquired in no other manner. Besides, it gives studio executives and directors an opportunity to see the potential talent which is at their disposal. Hence these student are certain to be given a chance to display the results of their training in front of the movie cameras. As for the average movie-struck girl or lad who has visions of being a star of 1940 or some later date, Hinsdell’s advice i “forget all about pictures.” “Most of these hopefuls have no talent.” he explains. “They’re just mesmerized by that state of mind called Hollywood and they’re due for disappointment if they hold on to the idea. “Of course, to those among them who do have talent and something to give, my advice would be no barrier. If that alone would stop them, they wouldn’t be worth anything anyway. “Those who are really serious about acting should become affiliated with a Little Theater group. More and more, producers of both the stage and screen are realizing that their greatest source of talent is the Little Theater. With such a training behind them, young men and women are already thinking and acting more or less like troupers when they enter professional work.”

Interesting, but sadly neither of the girls mentioned achieved any real success, although I do think that his method is very good.

In 1935, Mary eloped from Hollywood to Yuma, Arizona., with Arthur William Rush, studio executive. Arthur was born on April 2, 1907, to, in Graysville, Pennsylvania, to, one of six children. His siblings were brothers Malcolm, Clarence and Charles and his sisters were Elizabeth, and Helen. The family left Greene County when his father was transferred to Ohio by Columbia Gas. William lived for a time in Hanoverton, Ohio, before moving to California in 1931. William was a graduate of Bethany College, and quickly became West Coast manager for RCA Victor.

In the fledgling Los Angeles recording industry in the 1930s, Rush produced radio shows and recordings by Glenn Miller, Dinah Shore, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubenstein and others. In 1937, Rush left RCA and became an agent for Columbia Management of California, a CBS subsidiary, where he managed the careers of Mary Martin, Vladimir Horowitz, Orson Wells and others. He formed his own talent agency in 1939, Art Rush Inc., from which he managed Nelson Eddy for 22 years, in addition to  Jackie Gleason. He also discovered and launched the career of tenor Mario Lanza.

The couple enjoyed a happy, harmonious marriage, lived in Los Angeles and had two children, two sons, William Arthur Rush, born on August 25, 1936, and Robert Nelson Rush, born on January 14, 1943.

The Rushes were especially close to his clients Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact, Arthur and Mary served as best man and matron of honor  when Roy and Dale were married. Rush became Roy ’s agent after they met in a Hollywood restaurant in 1941. Their collaboration was sealed with a handshake and the two men never signed a formal contract. As a sign of devotion, Rogers’ best-selling book, Happy Trails, was dedicated to Rush and contained a glowing message of thanks for helping Rogers become a legendary Hollywood star.

In his later career, Managing  the Sons of the Pioneers, Rogers’ musical group, became the focus of Rush’s work. He was the mastermind behind the marketing of more than 400 products and establish more than 500 Roy Rogers Restaurants, in association with Marriott Corp. Rush called his 48-year collaboration with Rogers and Evans “the richest experience anybody could hope for in the entertainment world.” Roy’s son said of him “He wasn’t just an agent. We called him ‘Mother Rush’ because he took care of dad and the Pioneers.

Mary Josephine Rush died on September 30, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Arthur William Rush died of complications from a Thanksgiving auto accident on December 2, 1989.

Prudence Sutton

Prudence Sutton was one of many nice looking small town girls that crashed Hollywood hoping for at least a glimpse of fame. Unlike man others, she was noticed and given a starring role in a not inconsiderable feature. When the movie failed, she lasted for a few more years in Tinsel Town with no great success, and in the end traded it all for a stable family life. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Prudence Lovicia Sutton was born on April 24, 1907, in Sayre, Oklahoma, to Walter and Hattie Sutton. She had an older sister, Allie, born in 1904, and tow younger brothers, William Walter, born in 1909 and Tyson, born in 1911. Her father was a minister, her mother a housewife. The family lived in Beckham, Oklahoma in the 1910s.

Prudence attended Sayre high school and had a normal upbringing in a loving, tightly knit family. However, Prudence’s carefree teen years were abruptly cut short when her father was shot and slain by a cattle rustler not long after she graduated from high school in 1925. Her mother, a very resourceful woman, took the children and moved to Southern California. There Prudence got into movies in 1927. How exactly? Well, a bathing suit contest!

Prudence entered a Bathing’ Beauties most beautiful contestant. While she did not win, she and six other girls, Margaret Andrews, Evelyn Hunt, Caroline Burt, Josephine Hoffman, Harriet Mathews and Lorena Rhodes won cash, prizes, and, ultimately, a studio contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Prudence made only two movies in her short career: Pitfalls of Passion, a silent movie from 1927, and Paramount on Parade, a sound feature from 1930. I usually don’t write much about silent movies since I am not well versed in them, but since Pru made only two, let’s concentrate a bit on them. Her first movie, Pitfalls of Passion, was supposed to be her jump of to fame, as it was her very first role and a leading role at that! Pru plays a demure and slightly bewildered country girl who runs off to the city with her lover. Then as the unfortunate victim of circumstances who is sold into moral bondage, and finally as the woman of the streets—beaten and forlorn.  The papers heralded Pru as a natural talent, noting that Miss Sutton gives a sterling performance that is startling because of its realism. It was quite an expensive movie to make – at one point, there were 800 people appearing in mob scenes. The movie is completely forgotten today, sadly.

Prudence’s second feature was Paramount on Parade, a pastiche of various stars singing and dancing. Forget about the story, about characters or anythign remotely deep – this is fun, pure and simple! As one reviewer from IMDB nicely sums it up:

When “Paramount on Parade” was filmed – Paramount had more musical stars than any other studio. The other studio revues (MGM’s “Hollywood Revue of 1929” and Warner’s “Show of Shows”) may have been more flashy but most of the stars were not singers or dancers and people went for the novelty of seeing their favourites trying to sing or dance.

There is little reason to see the movie today, unless one is a old musical buff, but there are worse movies one can watch!

That was it from Prudence!

PRIVATE LIFE

Prudence had a very stable and peaceful love life – she married young businessman Joseph Bonadiman on April 11, 1931, in Los Angeles. Joseph E. Bonadiman was born on March 21, 1903, in California, to Carlo Bonadiman and Domenica Passarini, one of four children (he had a brother, Charles and two sisters, one of them Mary). His parents were both immigrants from northern Italy (which was under Austria-Hungary at that time). Prudence gave up her career in 1931 to marry and devote herself to family life.

The Bonadimans had a solid middle class family life. Their first son was born on Joseph Carlosutton was born on August 24, 1932 in Los Angeles, and their second son, William Walter, on June 21, 1935, also in Los Angeles. Joseph became a director of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and head of the civil engineering firm of Joseph E. Bonadiman & Associates, which was founded in 1942. His obituary nicely sums up his life’s work:

Engineer Joseph E. Bonadiman, who pioneered hillside developments from Hollywood Hills to San Bernardino, died of heart Tailure Monday at Redlands Community Hospital, his relatives said Tuesday. He was 86. “He was the first engineer to do hillside developments of any size in Los Angeles County,” recalled his elder son, Joseph C. Bonadiman. Chavez Ravine now home to the Los Angeles Dodgers was among the early projects. In San Bernardino’s steep foothills, he engineered developments near David Way and later throughout the Verdemont area. Although he had become less active during the last five years, he never fully retired. His last  day at work was Friday. The son of immigrant Austrians, Bonadiman came to California as a boy. He lived briefly on a 160-acre apple ranch in Apple Valley, where he arrived by wagon through Cajon Pass. He earned his engineering degree at UCLA where he once sold a used tuxedo to classmate John Wayne. “My dad needed some money and Duke Morrison John Wayne needed a tuxedo, so they traded,” his son said. Working as an engineer in a largely undeveloped state, Bonadiman found himself helping to build bridges, dams, subdivisions and a few airfields. “He designed Ontario International . . . Hawthorne . . . and a couple I don’t remember,” said his son.

In 1960 the family moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino where the engineering firm had already developed extensive
business connections. The Bonadimans nicely blended with the locals, and soon became a well known town staple couple, and Prudence was very active in the local catholic church and various charities.

In early 1966, Prudence had been taken ill. She had been hospitalized for more than a week and was apparently holding her own when an embolism, or blood clot, in the lung resulted in death on January 10, 1966. She was buried in San Bernardino.

Joseph Bonadiman died on January 29, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

Kay Harding

 

Kay Harding was a pretty small town girl who dreamed big, went to California to attain fame and fortune, worked as a truck driver (interesting no?), and even managed some minor success in Hollywood before giving it all up for marriage. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Jackie Lou Harding was born on January 5, 1924, in Cushing, Oklahoma to James and Thelma Harding. Her younger brother, Buddie Harding, was born two years after her in 1926. Her father, James, born in Colorado, worked in the oil industry as a laborer. Jackie grew up in Cushing in a normal, middle class family, and had an unremarkable, stable childhood.

Yet, there was a hunger for fame in Jackie, and by the time she hit puberty, she was active in local beauty pageants and had designs to become an actress. She attended Northeast high school in Oklahoma City, where she was elected “All-Around Girl” of the school, and once won a contest in a bathing beauty show. After graduation, Jackie left for California, hoping to realize her long time dream of becoming an actress.

In 1944, in Cushing, via a telegram, word had been received that Miss Jackie Lou Harding had signed a contract with Universal Studios in Hollywood, and her career started!

CAREER

Kay first appeared in Tinsel town films in Weird Woman, a well-paced, tightly knit horror movie with a great trio of lead actors – Lon Chaney Jr., Anne Gwynne and Evelyn Ankers. The plot is pretty basic (Chaney, as a professor at a college returns from a visit to a South Seas island with his native wife, played by Anne. His vindictive ex girlfriend, played by Evelyn, tries to her revenge. Chaney makes his wife burn all her superstitious, good luck charms, the things go horribly wrong), but the script is crisp, the performances fitting and the spooky atmosphere on point. Kay moved to more cheery fare with Hi, Good Lookin’!, a sugar coated, cute, and music-filled movie with nothing really memorable about it, but it’s good enough to watch on a Sunday afternoon. This was followed by Follow the Boys was another all star extravaganza they used to make during WW2 purely for patriotic reasons and not really for the art – Kay was just one of many stars and starlets who appeared in it.

Kay’s last four movies were all horrors/thrillers, and are the reason she is remembered (if at all), today. The first is The Scarlet Claw, one of the Basil Rathbone/Sherlock Holmes movies. What more do we need to say about this serial? All Sherlock fans will love it, and even people beyond the circle – they are after all very well made movies with a outstanding cast. Kay’s last movie was also another from the same Sherlock Holmes series, The Woman in Green.

Kay also made one horror comedy – Ghost Catchers, featuring the team of Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. The story is a cardboard cutout – a spooky mansion which is, surprise!!, located next door to a night club is the place, and the characters are a Southern colonel and his two daughters. The movie, albeit short (a bit more than 60 mins) features a great deal of music, which can be either a detriment or a joy, depending on your own preferences. it’s not really a scary movie, of course, it has a few funny gags and Johnson/Olsen are their usual selves. Kay plays a minor role, so she’s blink and you’ll miss her.

Kay’s most famous and enduring movie today is The Mummy’s Curse, the fifth and final installment of Universal’s mummy series and the third to star Lon Chaney as the ancient Egyptian priest Kharis pursuing his much desired princess Ananka. The plot is same old, same old, closely following the last installment (An irrigation project in the rural bayous of Louisiana unearths Kharis, who was buried in quicksand twenty-five years earlier.) but fans of old school horror will love this – it’s Lon Chaney, after all, and everybody who cares about horror loves to see a mummy chasing after frightened people. Kay has a lively role as a doctor’s assistant, a good girl opposed to Virginia Christine’s bad girl (Ananka).

That was it from Kay!

PRIVATE LIFE

Allegedly, before Kay became an actress, she was a helms-woman on a delivery wagon. While I cannot gauge how true this story is, it makes for interesting reading if nothing else:

This business of writing pieces about Hollywood has gone completely haywire. Today, to keep up with things, we had to interview a lady truck driver. Or rather an ex-lady truck driver now in the movies. But gash, we couldn’t quarrel with Universal studio for signing up a lady truck driver. She was beeeutiful. Streamlined chassis. Fancy grill work. Nice paint Job. Sturdy upholstering. No miss in her remote. A real traffic stopper. Her name is Kay Harding. Her parents came to California about two years ago and Kay immediately tried to get into pictures. No luck, so she got a Job driving a truck for the U. S. Rubber Company in Los Angeles. One day she had to deliver some synthetic rubber to Universal studio for Claude Rains mask in “Phantom of the Opera.” Kay, wearing a trim uniform, drove her truck on the lot and there was a good deal of whistling. Dignified studio executive Dan Kelley also saw her. “He called me over,” Kay said, “and asked a lot of questions. I told him I had acted in high school plays, with the Community Players in Whittier, Calif., and that I was dying to get into pictures. He said to telephone him in a few days, maybe he could arrange a screen test.” “I was so excited,” she said, “I drove through a traffic signal and got a ticket.” Kay took the screen test. Studio executives looked at the film and gave her a contract. She made her film debut as a secretary in “Phantom Lady,” then played the ingenue lead with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in “The Scarlet Claw.” It’s probably a good thing there is one less lady truck driver on Southern California’s highways. Pin-up girls behind the wheel of a truck, Kay Harding said, are bad on morale. Not to mention fenders-and life and limb. “Gosh,” she said, “they let me drive that truck only three days after I got my driver’s license. I didn’t know the streets, or anything about a truck. I backed into a parked car the first day and smashed up a couple of fenders.” Then there was the convoy problem. “I’d be driving down the street,” Kay said, “and pretty soon there would be a lot of cars bunched around me. The guys in them would wave and whistle. If I slowed down, they’d all slow down. If I drove faster, they’d tag right along. It’s a miracle we all didn’t crack up in one colossal accident.” Then there was that California state law which prohibits a woman employee, even a lady truck driver, from lifting anything weighing more than 25 pounds. “I’d drive into a place,” Kay said, “with some heavy packages. I’d ask someone to carry them in. Well, the word would get around that there was a lady truck driver needing help, and 50 gents would leave their work to come outside and help me.” Kay said she earned $25 a week during the two months she drove the truck. “But every time I dented a fender, or got a traffic ticket, they took it out of my salary.” Kay said she didn’t keep score, but there were quite a few dented fenders. But only two traffic tickets one on the day she was promised that screen test. “Gosh,” Kay sighed, “it’s wonderful. When I quit my job the boss said I could come back and drive the truck any time if things in Hollywood didn’t pan out.”

Kay’s private life was pretty stable and low-key. Like many starlets, she did her bit for the war relief, and so met her future husband, who was serving in the Navy then. Kay and L. N. “Loyd Pat” Patterson, A.M.M. 2nd Class, were married in 1944 in a double ring ceremony at the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, Glendale. The ceremony was performed by Rev. M. Owan Kellison with Patricia Martin, Kay’s only attendant, as maiden of honor, and Tom Stone, A.M.M. 3rd Class, the groom’s fellow sailor, as best man.

Unlike some wartime marriages, the Pattersons’ marriage was a happy and harmonious one, and produced a daughter, Michael Lyn, born on February 23, 1946, in Los Angeles. The couple moved from LA to Soledad at some point after Michael was born. Kay had given up on the acting world by then and was content with her domestic life.

Kay and Loyd lived in Soledad for many years before moving to Tracy. When she got sick, she was moved to a facility in Palo Alto, California.

Jackie Lou Patterson died on in Palo Alto, California.

Totty Ames

Totty Ames is a incredible, inspiring woman. She lasted more than 20 years as a model, acted sporadically and without much success, but her claim to fame was the choice to become a songstress when she was in her 60s, and succeeding brilliantly! She reinvented herself several times, and always marched on. Let’s learn more about Totty!

EARLY LIFE

Winifred Estelle Totty was born on November 3, 1922, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Flavel Arthur Totty and Annie Belle Carothers, both native Oklahomans. Her father was a fireman, her mother worked as an elevator operator. In 1930, the family were boarders in a Oklahoma City flat with another family, the the Tillerys.

Estelle’s parents divorced in the 1930s, and her mother remarried to Alec Cope, who worked for a power company. Alec, Annie and Estelle lived in Oklahoma City in 1940, and Estelle worked as a cinema cashier to make some pocket change.

Estelle knew that she was destined for a showbiz career and so, after graduating high school she continued working as a cashier for a time, then in 1943 she hopped onto a bus bound for Hollywood. To get some financial footing, she started to work as a cashier at the Egyptian Theater on Hollywood boulevard. In her later years she started that she loved watching the world go by there, on the Boulevard.

Estelle tried to modeling and acting assignments, and pretty soon leading photographers hired her to model clothing, swim wear and lingerie, and pretty soon she signed with the Gene Nelson modeling studios in Hollywood. She became a sought after pin-up and was named, among other titles, Miss Night Fighter of 1943.

This is how she broke into movies quite late, in 1963.

CAREER

Totty was a late bloomer as far as movie roles were concerned – her first role was in 1963, in Wall of Noise, a mediocre drama movie with a solid if uninspired story: Joel Tarrant (Troy Donahue) an ambitious horse trainer working at the Hollywood Race Track. He works for the coarse Matt Rubio (Ralph Meeker) and his wife Laura (Suzanne Pleshette) expresses a special interest in the social life of Joel. Donahue was a pretty boy who never showed any real acting chops, but was adequate in most role she played – on the other hand, both Ralph Meeker and Suzanne Pleshette were very good thespians and many a movie is worth watching just to see them (Meeker especially, I definitely have a soft spot for him!). Another plus is seeing Ty Hardin and Dorothy Provine in supporting roles, and enjoying the very good cinematography by ace cinematographer Lucien Ballard. it’s not an innovative, top of the crop movie, but an okay effort form the early 1960s.

Totty’s minor claim to fame today are her appearances in two Flint movies – Our Man Flint and In Like Flint. Flint is a more energetic and less suave version of James Bond, and as a character tailor made for star James Coburn’s talents. I love Coburn, and, while he was not a handsome man nor a particularly good actor, he was extra charismatic and absolutely unique as far as actor go, so any movie he made is worth watching to see him alone (much like Meeker).

Both Flint movies are in their core spy parody films and they are good as such. The plots are ridiculous, but who’s watching it for the story – there’s Coburn, mod 60s set and clothes design, groovy music, that overall Steve-McQueen-cool atmosphere and a heap or very pretty (and scantly clad) girls.

Totty’ last movie was Skullduggery. Barnaby Rudge, a reviewer on IMDB, perfectly summed up the movie like this: Skullduggery is a strange, strange film based on the novel “Ye Shall Know Them” by Vercors. To unleash criticism at the film feels really unkind, since it is a movie that deals with earnest themes like humanity, and pleas for upright moral standards and tolerance. But in spite of its honorable intentions and its well-meaning tone, Skullduggery simply isn’t a very good film. For me, the main problem is the terribly disjointed narrative which can’t make its mind up how best to convey its message. The first half of the movie is like watching a standard jungle expedition flick of the Tarzan ilk; later it teeters into sci-fi fable; by the end it slips into courtroom melodramatics. The differences in tone between each section of the movie are too great, too jarring, to overlook. They stick out like a sore thumb and remind you constantly that you’re watching a muddled, disorganized movie.

A nice try, but not a successful one unfortunately.

That was it from Totty!

PRIVATE LIFE

Before she ended up in Hollywood, Estelle had a short marriage to a fellow Oklahoman, Harold F. Douglas. The two wed on June 29, 1940, in Canadian, Oklahoma, – she was only 17 and he was barely 21 years old. Douglas was born in 1919 in Oklahoma.

While some of these youthful marriages do work, this one did not and they divorced in about 1942. Douglas remarried to Mary Elizabeth Hinze, went to serve us the Us army in Korea and sadly died there in 1951.

Judging by some later articles, there seems to have been more marriages on Totty’s plate, but I could find only one – to Leonard Herman Barnet. They wed on November 21, 1951, in Los Angeles, California. Leonard was born in 1928 to Harry Barnet and Sarah Turppin, and worked as a suede cutter when he wed Totty. However, the marriage was anything but harmonious, as this article can attest:

Winifred Barnet, 31- year old fashion model, received a decree of divorce yesterday after testifying that six weeks after their marriage her husband degraded her from his beloved to his house’ keeper. Superior Judge Kenneth C. Newell granted her the decree from Leonard Barnet, 26, a suede cutter, to whom she was married here Nov. 21, 1952. “For the first six weeks I was very happy, with him,” said Mrs. Barnet, known professionally as Totty Ames. “Then one day he brought another woman to our home and the two of them announced they were in love.” “Did he say he was leaving you?” asked her attorney, Bentley M. Harris. “Oh, no,” she replied. “He wanted me to continue keeping love affair on the side.” Mrs. Barnet said she nevertheless tried to keep her marriage together but that she and the other woman

Totty worked tirelessly as a model and actress for decades to come, but her true renaissance happened when she was in her 60s.  Namely, at age 65, Totty made her professional singing career performing in leading Los Angeles cabarets. Her career included Executive Assistant to Neil Diamond and co-owner of a designer showroom.  Here is an article from her time as a songstress:

Many wannabe singers can work the microphone, the way the pros did it. But for a lot of reasons the dream got lost in the hustle of trying to make it. Make it she did, as an actress and a model, wending her way through marriages that didn’t work and stepchild-raising she could have done without. She likes to say she got into film the old-fashioned way, by sleeping with the producer, then adds wryly, “I was married to him.” On stage, she’s equally peppery, advising an audience she’s going to sing a mix of old tunes because “I’m 70 years old and I can damned well sing what I want.” After one career ended, someone said to Totty she ought to be doing what she’s always wanted to do, singing on stage, and she said why not? “If not now, I asked myself, when?” She began studying at age 64 and a year and a half later hit the stage at Gardenia. “Isn’t it wonderful,” she says now, “being 70 and doing exactly what I want to be doing?” I was thinking as she walked us through the sleepy gardens of “Deep Purple” how great it would be if we could all find that way around time and reach down to where energy once burned like magnesium and become a Totty Ames. I left the club still hearing music and drove home wrapped in the mist of a memory, thinking about time and a distant rain. “She’s 70?” Cinelll said, stunned by the willowy presence that held the spotlight like she was born in it. “We should all look so good.” Totty could have been In her early 40s, but looks weren’t the only thing. It was the way she sang with strength and youth that Impressed, as though she’d discovered a way around time and had returned from a secret place to baffle the aging. I know 70-ycar-olds who can’t make it across a driveway without a walker and whose voices quaver with the Infirmities of age; those who allow themselves to fall through time to eternity without so much as a struggle, like leaves carried away by an autumn wind. And thon there’s Totty behind a mike looking good and doing “ieep Purple” over a room with candle-lit tables until there isn’t another sound, only the hush of people remembering. What makes it remarkable Is this Is a whole new career for her, one that began In this same club just four years ago. She came to U A. from Oklahoma when she was 21 for the same reason most kids come here, to be a part of the magic. She had $10 and a dream. Totty loved music from the beginning, a little girl grabbing a broom and pretending it was a There’s gotta be 10,000 clubs In LA. that offer entertainment. Sometimes it’s just a guy at a piano looking distracted as he churns out tunes faintly similar to Muzak, other times It’s a vocalist or someone on an alto sax or a small band or magicians or comics or something. Maybe 10,000’s an exaggeration but it seems that way. I get calls from corners of the county where you’d never expect a club to be, saying come and hear the next Blllie Holiday or Billy Crystal or see a nude dancer named Tiffany who’ll knock your aocks off. I don’t go most of the time because I’m not a nightclub writer and haven’t got time to be everywhere, and nudity on stage has yet to knock my socks off. But a credible friend who used to write a column for the Houston Post said I Just had to hear Totty Ames. His name Is David Wcsthelmcr. You know him as the guy who wrote “Von Ryan’s Express” and “Sweet Charlie” and a lot of other good things. He hangs out at a restaurant in Venice called Casablanca along with Dan Seymour, one of the last remaining actors from the movie. Recently, every time I’ve seen David he’s mentioned Totty Ames. The guy’s persistent. We’d be talking about his new book, a memoir of his years in a PCW camp culled “Silting it Out,” unci he’d slip Totty’s name into the conversation. “Wht’s with this Totty?” I finally asked him one night. He said, “She’s a 70 year-old singer who didn’t start singing until she was OB and she’ll knock your socks off.” So the other evening I took Cinelll to a club on the Westside with the unlikely name of Gardenia. It was the day of the big rain In I ..A. and street lights reflected In the wet pavement, casting the night In an amber glow, recalling rainy nights long ago. Magic Is afoot on those kinds of nights when u storm has swept through and stars cmorgc like diamonds on black velvet. Music can carry you back to times and places you haven’t been in a lifetime of forgetting. Totty is like no septuagenarian you’ve ever seen. Up there In a gold lame’ pantsuit, she shines with an aura that defies age.”

Totty never really retired, always active and vital until the last moment.

Totty Ames died on July 10, 2015 in Glendale, California.

Laurie Shevlin

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

And that was it from Laurie!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

Here is a beauty hint from Laurie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nora Gale

 

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Nora!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geraldine Farnum

Daughter of a silent film pioneer and a movie extra, Geraldine Farnum was predestined to become an actress herself. Sadly, except being a dancer in a long string of movies, she never came remotely close to being a true thespian before retiring to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Geraldine Ann Smith Farnum was born on November 13, 1924, in Los Angeles, California, to Franklyn (Smith) Farnum and Edith Walker. She was their only child.

Geraldine’s dad Franklyn was a colorful character. Born in Boston, he was on the vaudeville stage at the age of 12 and was featured in a number of theater and musical productions by the time he entered silent films near the age of 40. His very long career consisted mostly of western movies. One of his three wives was actress Alma Rubens, to whom he was briefly married in 1918 (the couple divorced in 1919). Franklyn had one daughter, Geraldine’s older half-sister, Martha Lillian Smith, born in 1898.

Geraldine’s mom was a movie extra who married her dad in 1921. In the late 1930s, Edith still worked as an movie extra (very impressive, to work as an extra for so long!) and earned good money for it. Franklyn, after giving up on movies for a time, was an assistant manager in a cigar plant. From early childhood it was clear that Gerry would also end up in showbiz like her parents – she was a talented dancer and wanted to become a actress when she grew up. her parents were naturally supportive and that it seemed there was nothing standing between Gerry and stardom, if she caught the right breaks that it.

After graduating from Fairfax High School, she had been signed to an acting contract by Warner Bros studio, and thus started her career.

CAREER

Geraldine’s career can be roughly divided into two parts: from 1944 until 1947, and from 1950 until 1952. Both periods were pretty lackluster to Geraldine as an actress, but at least she racked up 22 credits!

During the first part of her carer, Geraldine mostly appeared as a dancer in musicals, and, surprise, surprise! like her dad, she appeared in her fair share of lower-budget westerns (my favorites, NOT!). Since I never review westerns, here are all of the western movies where she played a dancer: The Yellow Rose of Texa, Utah, Bells of RosaritaMan from Oklahoma, Trail of Kit CarsonSunset in El Dorado, Dakota, Don’t Fence Me In, andAngel and the Badman. That was a mouthful, right?

Aside for the westerns, there was a smaller number of more  or less interesting movies – Casanova in Burlesque a mid tier, sometimes funny comedy about a professor who is also a burlesque comic (played by Joe E. Brown), Brazil, a generally entertaining musical with nice dance numbers and Tito Guizar is one of his rare Hollywood appearances, It’s a Pleasure, a Sonja Henie brain dead musical (I know I don’t like Henie, one has to wonder how a great ice skater but dismal actress like her succeeded in Hollywood in 1930s, when there was tons of talent there! How? Oh, you can never guess!), Earl Carroll Vanities, typical Earl Carroll fare, with a great number of scantly clothes beauties and no plot (of course Gerry was one of the beauties), Hitchhike to Happiness a surprisingly watchable early Dale Evans musical, when she displaying sexiness and slinkiness she would never late recreate in her Dale Evans, cowgirl persona, Behind City Lights a completely forgotten crime movie, based on a Vicki Baum novel, Love, Honor and Goodbye, another totally forgotten movie with no reviews on imdb, not even a summary, The Tiger Woman, a nifty crime movie, where the leading man is a private detective who gets mixed up with the luscious Adele Mara (The Tiger woman of the title) who needs some help getting her husband out of trouble, as he is 100 grand in debt to a bookie, and finally, the last one, Murder in the Music Hall. Now, this movie is worth writing about some more. A film noir at heart, it’s swanky and posh as heck and this dichotomy between a gritty genre and luxurious setting makes it a true standout. While the story starts as a typical whodunnit thriller against the setting of Radio City Music Hall, it has enough twists and turns and the acting is generally good (Vera Hruba Ralston, although much maligned, could pull out decent acting chops under some circumstances). Plus, there are Helen Walker, Ann Rutherford and Nancy Kelly to lend plenty of support.

Gerry got married after this, took a break, and returned to movies in 1950 with Copper Canyon, a unusual western – first the leads are played by European urbanites Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr, it’s an attractive looking film, with color by Technicolor and colorful costumes by Edith Head. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight of the movie, although all in all it isn’t a bad effort, just not a particularly good one. Gerry appeared in three more movies: Call Me Mister, a so-so Betty Grable musical, Son of Paleface, a hilarious Bob Hope romp, and Destry, a sub par remake of the more about Destry Rides Again.

And that was it from Geraldine!

PRIVATE LIFE

Geraldine married John Weidmer in the Church Around the Corner, in a ceremony headed by Reverend Neal Dodd, in 1943. It was first marriage for both. John Robert Weidmer, born on March 5, 1922 in Iowa to John Weidmer and Jean Lewis, who would later live in Chicago. He lived in Iowa for a time, then moved to California, and was drafted into the US Navy during WW2. When they married, Weidmer was stationed at San Pedro. The marriage, like most wartime marriages, was of very short duration, and they divorced by 1945. John died on January 15, 2002, in Nevada.

After her divorce Gerry started to date actor George Shepard Houghton, commonly known as Shep Houghton. They married in 1946. Here is an imdb profile on Shep:

Born George Shephard Houghton on June 4, 1914, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Shep is the youngest of two sons born to George Henry Houghton and Mabell Viola Shephard. Far from being born into show business, his father was an insurance company representative who moved his family to Hollywood for business reasons in 1927. As luck would have it, they rented a house on Bronson Avenue just two blocks from Paramount Studio’s iron front gate, and not far from the Edwin Carreau studio. Picked off the street by an assistant producer, Shep’s first work in the movie industry was in 1927 as a Mexican youngster in Carreau’s production of Ramona, released in 1928. As a thirteen-year old he also worked in Emil Janning’s The Last Command, and continued to work for director Josef von Sternberg in several subsequent pictures. He found movie work to his liking, and out of high school he worked through Central Casting for Mascot Productions, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Fox Film Corporation, and Warner Brother’s, where he became a favorite in the Busby Berkeley musicals as a dancer and chorus singer. In 1935 he married Jane Rosily Kellog, his high school sweetheart. Together they had one child, Terrie Lynn, born on September 22, 1939. They were divorced in October, 1945.

Gerry and Shep’s son Peter William Houghton was born on August 19, 1947, in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, this marriage was quite spotty and the couple divorced in 1949. Here is a short article about the proceedings:

George Houghton has divorced actress Geraldine Farnum on charges of desertion. They separated on July 10, 1948, lie said, after she went to the beach for a vacation and then refused to come home, saying she wanted to have her, own life. Miss Farnum, daughter of the Franklyn Farnum of the pioneer film family, did not contest the divorce, but Houghton’s attorney said that the couple had agreed to the actress being granted custody of their young son.

After their divorce, Shep continued to work in both movies and television until his retirement in 1976. He married Mel Carter Houghton in 1975. Shep died at the ripe old age of 102 on December 15, 2016 in Hoodsport, Washington.

Geraldine also kept busy after the divorce. Here is an early 1950s article about Gerry:

Geraldine Farnum is as pretty as, for example, Anne Baxter and as graceful as Betty Grable. But you don’t read much about Gerry. She’s one of the movies’ unsung actresses— extra, bit player, dancer, showgirl. Working in so many categories, she admits bewilderedly, when you ask how to classify her: “I don’t exactly what I am.” Gerry is 25. a bleached blonde, a divorcee, and the mother of a two-year-old son Peter. The fact that she is the daughter of a silent-screen western star, Franklin Farnum, has helped her get movie work. Her father still plays bits. He is often confused with two other prominent early- movie Farnums—William and his late brother Dustin. The two families are not related. Gerry started movie-acting when she was 19. She was under contract for a time to two studios, then retired to have her baby. Recently she resumed her career again. What are her chances of being picked for stardom? She says: “Probably as good as everybody else’s. I’d appreciate it—can’t honestly say I wouldn’t be thrilled. But I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I have my child, and that’s responsibility enough.” I found Gerry arrayed in a feathery headdress and scanty costume for a number with Grable in “My Blue Heaven.” In “Down to Earth” she doubled for Rita Hayworth—back view— walking down a cloudy ramp on a day Rita wasn’t at the studio. More recently she was a bar-girl in one sequence and a square dancer in another of “Copper Canyon.” As a dancer she earns $111 weekly unless lifted off the ground, even a teeny bit, by another performer. Being lifted pays more—$137.50 a week. It’s a standing beef of dancers that showgirls receive still more when, Gerry says, “all they have to do Js stand there and look pretty.” As a showgirl she has been paid $175 a week. She grossed about $4,000 last year. Her dues in the actors’ and extras’ guilds total $8.50 per quarter. “Right today,” Gerry would advise other girls, “if you want to make a living you shouldn’t get into pictures. They’re not making the lavish musicals they did. But,” she concedes, “it’s fun to work in pictures.” Wolves are no problem for a smart working girl, Gerry reports, especially if it’s known she has a boy friend. Hers is a stunt man. Her best friends are members of the crew. A cameraman once had two stars sit farther apart in a close-up—so Gerry, in a row of extras behind them, could be seen.

While Geraldine was working with her dad, Franklyn, in “With a Song in My Heart,” he revealed to the press that Gerry was engaged to stuntman James van Horn. She married Van Horn in 1951. Van Horn was born on September 24, 1917, in South Dakota, to Frank Avery Van Horn and Edna Racette. He came with his family to California and started her acting career in 1927, and ended it in 1929. He mostly worked as a stuntman since 1939, but returned to acting in 1950. His crowning glory was that he appeared with Barbara Stanwyck in the 1955 adventure film “Escape to Burma.”

Their son Casey Lee was born on December 12, 1952, in Los Angeles. Since he came from a showbiz family, it was no wonder that the two-months-old Casey played the part of Natalie Cantor, one of Eddies five daughters, in the Warner Brothers musical, The Eddie Cantor Story” in 1953. Geraldine retired from movies to take care of her family, and never acted again.

James and Geraldine divorced at some point in the mid 1950s. van Horn continued working in the movie industry, and died on April 20, 1966. Geraldine married, in the late 1950s, to a Mr. Rose.

I have no idea if Geraldine is alive today, and as always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Jean Ames

When she first hit Hollywood, Jean Ames claimed that her only dream in life was to become a great actress, and that everything she did in life served that “higher” purpose. And indeed, she rose from a uncredited performer to a credited performer, and there was a upwards swing in her movies at the time… It didnt’ go quite as smoothly as it may have done, but something was happening. And then puff, she got married, left movies and never returned to trying to achieve her great dream. Surprised? Not really. Let’s learn more about Jean!

EARLY LIFE

Irma Salzman was born in August 24, 1919 in New York City to Walter Salzman and Minnie Eppler, their only child. Both of her parents were Austrian immigrants. Her father was a high end fur merchant.

The family moved to Boston in the mid 1930s and Irma attended grammar school there. She completed her education at Hollywood high after her family moved to Hollywood. During her school days, when she wasn’t appearing in class plays and studying, she was playing basketball and swimming. One notable thing is that she passed Senior Red Cross Life Saving swimming tests and was a certified lifeguard. She was also a champion high diver. However, Irma’s ambition had always been to be a great actress and she took additional acting classes to prepare herself for her future career.

Sadly, William died in the late 1930s, and in order to help her mother financially, she began working behind the counter in a dress shop. When she was fitting a new spring dress in the show window, an agent’s spouse spotted her and judged her as possible screen stuff. The agent signed her, and her career started!

CAREER

Jean made her debut in Million Dollar Baby, a nice, pleasing comedy with May Robson playing a crusty old millionairess who wants to pay back some money to Priscilla Lane, and gets caught up in her love life. Good acting and charm galore, this is classic Hollywood at it’s simple, unassuming comedic best. A similarly very good screwball comedy was Jean’s next movie, The Bride Came C.O.D., a kind of a It happened one night rip of with the dynamite pairing of Bette Davis and James Cagney.

It was time for some serious fare with Manpower, a heavy, sultry, manly movie (as the name implies, of course), with George Raft and Edward G. Robinson playing two rugged lumberjacks, sparring for the attention of the alluring Marlene Dietrich. Sadly, jean’s next movie, International Squadron, was a lesser effort with Ronald Reagan the lead. A bit better was the navy themed Navy Blues, with Ann Sheridan and Jackie Oakie.

Jean’s next foray into movies, , was a peculiarity in itself. As one reviewer on imdb claims: Anatole Litvak, who directed so many women’ pictures, directs this odd little film that starts out as a kind of “small town band does good” picture, takes a turn into gangster territory, and then gets really dark with a venture into film noir and mental illness. An interesting combo for sure! The leads were played by Priscilla Lane and Betty Field, both underrated actresses.

1942 was jean’s best year. She got credited and acted in a string of solid movies. She started with All Through the Night, a less known but very good Humphrey Bogart movie, where he plays a rowdy bookie/swindler who accidental stumbles upon a Nazi conspiracy. Great, great cast (Jackie Gleason, William Demarest, Phil Silvers, and Frank McHugh, Petter Lorre, Judith Anderson), a innovative combo of a comedy-musical and straight-laced spy movie make this a unusual if superb winner. Highly recommended! Jean actually has a credited role in the movie.

Jean then appeared in The Male Animal, a comedy set on a college campus, dealing with free speech, censorship and democracy. While not nearly as good as the original Broadway play, it’s still a biting satire and worth a look, if nothing than to see Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland together in a movie. Next came the tearjerker Always in My Heart, only worth watching to see Walter Huston and Kay Francis.

Jean had a prominent role in Larceny, Inc., a surprise gem – it’s a very funny comedy with extremely witty dialogue and top notch performances from Edward G. Robinson, Jack Carson and Broderick Crawford, who plays three crooks who want to rob a bank and in the interim fall into the “keeping shop” mode and become successful at it. Then came You Can’t Escape Forever, a lightning-fast, lightweight murder mystery/haunted house/romance/gangster movie. it’s  another example of genre blending,  and it mostly works – while not a top classic it’s charming and holds up even today.

Jean started 1943 with The Hard Way, an Ida Lupino film all the way. if nothing else, it’s worth watching just to see her play a ruthless, get-what-you-want manager who milks her younger sister (played by Joan Leslie) for all she’s worth (and more). Jean was one of the ton of pretty girls in The Powers Girl – the film you watch for the scenery, not for the story or performances.

 Jean appeared in three B movies for the closing of her career: first one was Silent Witness, a so-so comedy crime drama about a corrupt lawyer who gets reformed when his DA girlfriend leaves him. It’s solidly made but with nothing to truly recommend it. The second movie was Truck Busters, another formulaic low budgeter, and the third one was Follow the Band, worth watching for Leo Carrillo alone.

And that was it from Jean!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jean confessed to the papers that if she was not an actress, she would turn to modeling. Next to acting, Jean was most interested in music and painting, her artistic avocations being playing the piano and doing landscapes in water color. She also designed many of the smart clothes she wore.

Another peculiarity: Jean looked so much like Ida Lupino she had difficulty getting jobs. She also wrote once to the casting department that “I am a healthy Ida Lupino.” But otherwise she was a typical run-of-the-mill Hollywood working girl, who even rode to the studio on a bus. Here is an interesting bit on Jean:

Jean Ames Is willing to suffer for her art but Warner Bros won’t let her, not on concrete, at any rate, She has to ride a bicycle without using her hands for “The Male Animal”, and had been practicing on the studio’s concrete streets. But, during one rehearsal whirl, she narrowly avoided colliding with a prop truck. On another, she did collide with Henry Fonda. On still a third, she collided with the pavement when the bike went out of control. She came up with a skinned knee and various black and blue marks. ) Orders were promptly Issued that thereafter she practice on a soft dirt track.

Jean’s first real Hollywood beau was Bruce Cabot, and that was semi serious, as Bruce was well known for his appreciation of pretty Hollywood girls, and Jean was just one in a long string of pretties.

Then, in 1943, famous aviation captain Capt. Vincent B. Evans, skipper of the famous bomber Memphis Belle, visited Hollywood and it was love at first sight between him and Jean. Vincent had to return to Amarillo for aviation practice, and Jean, head over heels in love, visited him during her leave of absence from the studio.

They were young, pretty, the world was at war and marriages were at an all time high – it’s no surprise that Jean and Vince, despite knowing each other for only a few days at most, had planned to marry while she was in Amarillo, but later decided on the postponement. Instead of a hurried marriage, Jean returned from Amarillo to Los Angeles by plane with the announcement that she will be a June bride.

They eloped to Las Vegas on Sept. 17. Hollywood, and Jean was married under her real name, Irma Salzman. The honeymooners went to Texas, Vince’s home State.

Vincent Evans was born on September 6, 1920, in Fort Worth, Texas. Some time after 1930 his family moved to Henderson, Texas where the Vince attended the North Texas Teachers College after graduating from the Henderson High School.

He was already running a successful logging company, but wanted some excitement in his life, so he enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Army Air Forces for Bombardier training on January 5, 1942, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his Bombardier Wings at Victorville Army Air Field, California, on July 4, 1942.

While she was honeymooning in Texas with Evans, trouble was in the works, for her predecessor insists Vince was a bigamist.

Dinusa “Dinny” Kelly Evans, former wife of Capt. Vincent B. Evans, often deco- rated bombardier of the famed Flving Fortress “Memphis Belle,” today claimed ;her husband’s marriage to Movie Starlet Jean Ames was s illegal. Capt. Evans I eloped here Sunday and his attorney said a Mexican divorce had been award- ‘ed the Army fiier three weeks ago at Juarez. “If there has been a divorce, i haven’t heard about it,” Mrs. Evans said, “and I haven’t signed any papers yet. Mexican divorces are illegal and I’m going to fight to have this decree invalidated u there was one.” The newspapers say he got his divorce on charges of incompatibility after a year’s separation,” she continued. “That’s not true. He lived with me last summer and early fall. He started to get a divorce last fall but dropped proceedings when I told him I would fight it. I’ll fight this divorce to the end, and the battle will start immediately.” Capt. Evans marriage to Miss Ames was not entirely unexpected. The couple met in Hollywood when Capt. Evans was on a visit after completing 25 missions over Europe.

I have no idea how this got solved, but somehow it did, and the Evans remained married. But, it seems that Vince was a well known womanizer – while he was married to Dinny, he romanced a night club singer named Kaye, whom Evans met in London. Some said he was planning to return to her after the war and they would marry, but guess it didn’t happen that way.

Vince was deployed at the Pacific Theater in September 1944. He was action in Saipan and Guam. He left active duty on August 6, 1945

The Evans had a daughter, Valerie Brooke Evans, born on February 14, 1945 in Los Angeles, while her father was still in the army. Their marriage was tempestuous, and it didn’t last long. After World War II, Vince began a career in acting and wrote screenplays.

The couple divorced in the late 1940s. Vincent became a business man in Buellton and Solvang, California, remarried to Marjory Winkler, and died in a airplane accident in 1980.

Jean completely falls of the radar from then on, and I have no idea what happened to her.

Jean Ames died in 1975.