Irene Winston

Irene Winston was a very rounded actress that appeared in everything a 1950s could – movies, TV, radio, theater. She literary did it all, and was more or less successful in most of the fields mentioned. Sadly, her movie career was pretty thin and except from Hitchcock aficionados, she is rarely mentioned today. But yes, she appeared in Rear Window and probably will never be completely forgotten due to this fact. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mable Irene Winston was born on July 18, 1916 in New York City, New York. She was a Brooklyn girl, born and bred, and attended elementary and high school there.

After high school graduation, Irene entered New York University with the idea of becoming a doctor. After a year or premedical studying, however, she was presented with an unexpected chance to try out In a play. She snapped it up, and when she was finished went back to school, only to find that she had missed her year-end exams. Also, the role in a stock company production changed her mind and her ambition.

Rather than repeat the year of pre-med work, Irene decided she d be come an actress. She then appeared on the stage to “Tovarich , “Boy Meets Girl” and “Having a Wonderful Time, and four years ago made her radio debut. Later she admitted that she didn’t get far into the mysteries of medicine. “Just six months of pre-medics, I think I really started it as a shield to my real ambition. I was afraid if I told people I wanted to be an actress, they would not understand.”

She started to divide her tint between the theater and the Chicago studios of NBC, plus a career in radio. And this is how her acting career started!

CAREER

Irene appeared in one of my all ti favorite movies, Gone to Earth (IMDB mentions the English cut, not the Sleznick US one, this is important to note!). I generally love the director, Michael Powell, plus Jennifer Jones, another one of my favorites, and David Farrar, such a yummy, sexy guy! All of this aside, the movie is a minor classic, visually stunning, with incredible cinematography and a multi-layered story with some profoundly moving themes and deep philosophical discussions! Irene plays Jennifer’s mother in a very small role, but just being  apart of this piece of magic is more than enough.

Dear Brat is a okay young adult movie with the formulaic plot of (taken from an IMDB review): “a teenager who decides to rehabilitate a criminal by hiring him to work at her father’s home. Her father was the judge that sentenced him.” Seeing a young Natalie Wood on the screen is perhaps the movie’s only claim to fame today. Mona Freeman sadly got stuck playing these kind of brats for a portion of her career, too bad for her since she had some talent that just wasn’t properly used.

My Son John is a weird, outdated movie about the the Red Scare in the 1950s, but on a more intimate level – family. Robert Walker (that unique actor that truly was, for a man, fairest of the fair, an unappreciated waif, never to be repeated afterwards) plays the black sheep of a picture perfect Mid Western American family, returning home after changing his outlook life. He is… horror of horrors, a Communist now! Yep, that’s the worst they could pin on a guy. In a world where there are so many worst offences, this is what they find as the biggest one… For a conservative 1950s American that is. The cast is actually solid – Walker, Helen Hayes, Dean Jagger… But the story is so simplistic and borderline  that it’s almost obsolete do watch it today.

Carrie is another Jennifer Jones movie, and serious drama. Based on Theodore Dreiser’s novel, it deals with some serious issued like a woman’s place in society, sexual obsession and the price of breaking societal norms. Jennie is as good as always, and Laurence Olivier is tops against her (I have yet to see Larry give  a bad role – he appeared in some dismal movies, but he’s always in top form, the perfect consummate actor). Interesting to see Miriam Hopkins in one of her more mature roles, she’s also a class act although she did her share of below average movies.

Rear Window is Irene’s claim to fame! What needs to be said about this absolute classic? Just go and watch it! After some TV work came The Delicate Delinquent, a typical Jerry Lewis movie. What can I say, I don’t especially like Jerry Lewis and find his brand of humor not really interesting or my cup of tea, so I’ll say a definite skip, but to each his own! Here Lewis plays a bumbling janitor who befriends a juvenile delinquent and helps him become a straight laced citizen. Predictable.

And that’s it from Irene!

PRIVATE LIFE

Here are some bits and pieces about Irene:

Irene said: “Still learning wanted to be an actress, they’d look at me and say: ‘You?’ ” Her hope is to get through stage training; to do “something worth while” behind the footlights, and then think of the films. Dramatic parts are what she likes best. She’d like to sing, too, but “I always find myself losing the key.” For the rest: she’s not married, nor engaged; doesn’t care much for outdoor sports; delights in travel end reading plays; enjoys being on the road and hopes to put on four more pounds.”

Irene was also quiet passionate about the art of acting and seemed ready to go that extra mile for thespian brilliance. Another article:

She’s been on the stage about three and a half years, and on the radio about the same length of time. She says she still has much to learn. And she has a quaint notion that the best way to do this is to put all there is in every part, even if it isn’t the lead. For example, she enrolled in a beauty school in New York, just because she wanted to be sure she’d wield her file like a real manicurist.

Irene had two favorite pastimes — surf bathing and bowling. Her Christmas favorite was Cranberry Maple Syrup Pie and she even shared her recipe for making it with the papers. She also shared some tricks for swollen feet:

 Irene Winston, pretty dancer, uses this bubbly type of footbath every night. After the soaking she rinses her feet in cool water, dries them very thoroughly and massages with scented alcohol. Then she dusts on her foot powder as the finishing touch to make her feet happy. They are pretty, too, for she keeps the nails tinted and the cuticle around them well oiled. Ordinary foot weariness will vanish after such treatment, but when long hours in tight shoes have made feet swollen and tender, the old standby, the contrast footbath with a basin of very hot water and one of cold water, is more effective than soaking for restoring normal circulation. The dips in the cold water should be very brief. The massage following this foot bathing should be done with feet elevated while you Rotate each toe, knead the sole and Instep, stroke down from toe to ankle. After ten minutes of this, rest with feet elevated on a high pillow.

And here are some more tips for feet care:

Are you tired of hot weather, are yon having trouble with tired, burning feet? Much of this, of course, is due to shoes that don’t fit. Be careful about electing open sandals that give no support, or wearing comfortable shoes which are really oat of shape and worn down at the heels. You’ll want your feet to he as well groomed as your hands, now that you spend so much time at the beach, so take these few tips from Irene Winston of Columbia networks When a Girl Marries series. Clip nails straight across and smooth with an emery board. Rub each nail separately with a semi-stiff brush, then push back cuticle with an orange stick dip-pod in oily cuticle remover, rinse and dry thoroughly. Separate toes with wads of cotton and apply polish. When dry, massage with skin lotion and pat on a bit of cologne. Doesn’t that make you feel better?

By 1940, Irene was living in a boarding house in Manhattan, New York and was active in the dating world. Irene Winston and Victor Christian, who played opposite her in “Brooklyn, U. S. A.,” were an item for some time, but larger dangers were looming over Irene.

It seems that Irene was a sickly and accident prone person who ended up in the hospital with some frequency. For instance, she fell and was injured as she alighted from a cab at the studios. At some point, she became very, very ill at Manhattan General, and literary almost died. Luckily, she was reported mending again after nearly kicking the well-known bucket.

Irene then dated Ham Fisher, Joe Palooka‘s creator, but it seems that Ham carried a torch for his ex-wife and the relationship went nowhere. Not long after, Walter Coy, of the “Hamlet” cast, was reportedly engaged to Irene, and they planned for wed when his divorce from Ann Burr was made final. Walter and Anne truly did get divorced in 1950, but Walter and Irene did not get married.

Naturally, she relocated to Hollywood for a brief time to appear in movies. During her Hollywood sojourn, Irene met and fell in love with John Shelton, previously married to Kathryn Grayson. They married on September 11, 1948. Shelton flew to Las Vegas from Oklahoma, met his bride there on her arrival by plane from New York. They lived in Hollywood, but the marriage was rather short lived. Shelton was born Edward Price Shepperd in 1915 in Los Angeles, to Edward Price and Madge Shepperd. He was a actor and singer.

They separated in 1949, and started divorce proceedings in June 1951.  Irene accused Shelton of deserting her a year after their marriage, asking for $300 ‘a month alimony in a superior court suit filed yesterday. Finally, by late 1953, they were divorced. However, they stilled work on stories together for some time afterwards. The dropped that in the end, and Shelton died under mysterious circumstances in Sri Lanka in the 1972.

Irene wasted no time in finding new beaus. She and Henry Hull Jr. dated while they were appearing in the theater show “Having Wonderful Time”. After the broke up,  she consoled herself by dating Chester Stratton for a few months. Here is another fun bit about Irene:

Walter Piiranty, the war cor-respondent, Irene Winston, the actress, and George Jean Nathan, the actor, were playing The Word Game when Duranty called “re-vng”. . .”In what sense,” inquired Mr. Nathan, “do you mean it?” “In the sense.” said . Duranty, “of doing something to someone because he or she did “Something to you. .Getting even.” “Sweet!” called out Irene, who is just divorced. “Marriage!” echoed Nathan, who is still an old maid.

Irene then dated actor Harry Lewis before more or less completely disappearing from the newspaper circuit. What we do know is that Irene lived in jointly in New York and California for the rest of her life. She traveled extensively, visiting Puerto Rico, Bermuda, Brazil and so on.

Irene Winston died on September 1, 1964, in Hollywood, California, from pneumonia.

 

Neila Hart

Pert and pretty, Neila Hart was the sister of the famous actor Bob Sterling, but didn’t have quite the same luck in Hollywood as her older sibling. She got some publicity due to the familial connection but ultimately sliding into obscurity. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Nellie Holmes Hart was born on August 22, 1921, in New Castle, Pennsylvania, to Walter K. Hart and Vera Holmes. She was the youngest of three children, her older brother was William Sterling, born on November 13, 1917, and her older sister Helen, born in 1919. Her father was manager of Sylvan Heights golf course. In his younger days, he was prominent in athletics and played professional baseball, where he attained success as a catcher.

Neila grew up in New Castle and was a very athletic child with great flexibility. In 1937 Walter’s health became impaired and the whole family went to California to reside with Robert, who was by then then beginning his success as a film actor. Neila finished her education in Los Angeles and graduated from high school, After graduation, she started to work as 5-and-10-cent-store girl, secretly dreaming of becoming an actress, patterning herself after her brother. She was finally noticed when her Robert was in the Army Air Corps. She was signed by Columbia Studios and her career started.

CAREER

Neila appeared in only three movies in a span of few years. Are You with It? was her first Hollywood movie, a pleasant affair with a carnival background story. Originally a Broadway play that was watered down for Hollywood in a form of a low budget musical. Those type of movies were always the same – a non-existing (sometimes even absurd) story, some song and dance numbers (mostly not from top line composers), but usually the leading lady/man fill out all the holes with their presence. here was have Donald O’Connor, a man of immense dancing talent and modest but lovable charm, and Olga San Juan, a petite but fiery senorita who could set aflame blocks of ice.

Since You Went Away is the most recognizable movie that Neil appeared in. It’s the classic family-in-wartime film. The brain child of David Selznick, it is best known today for its august cast – Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Wooley and so on. Showing the daily life of families left behind during WW2, it’s sincere, well acted and written – if it is a bit syrupy on the edges, remember that it was made during the war, and people needed their Mrs. Minivers and other light-beats-the-dark characters very, very much. This is classic Hollywood at it’s best – it’s not a superbly inspired, artistic movie, but it’s perfectly made for the source material and does it’s job more than admirably.

Neila’s last movie was Good Luck, Mr. Yates, a so-so wartime movie, with a overtly dramatic story-line about a Military Academy instructor who is 4-F and thus loses the respect of his students. He quits to join up but ends up working in a shipyard and tried to redeem himself. The cast is mediocre, with the generally uninteresting Jesse Barker in the lead and Tom Neal always playing the same hoodlum. Claire Trevor and Edgar Buchanan fare a bit better, but not by much.  Overall a forgettable movie.

And that’s it from Neila!

PRIVATE LIFE

Neila changed her first name from Nellie “because everyone told me Nellie sounded too much like a horse.” I like Nellie, it’s such a innocent, cute name, but okay, whatever Jan. As the new girl on the block, Neila was feted and beaued by a number of Hollywood personalities. For a time she was seen with Van Johnson at the Somerset house and with Tom Neal at the Mocambo.

After her Hollywood career failed lightning fast, Neila decided to stay in the Hollywood circuit and became a publicity woman with the Alan Gordon Agency. She also started dating Steven Crane, former husband of Lana Turner. Steven was, at the time, looking for a house to rent with a nursery for his and Lana’s daughter Cheryl, and it seems that such a set up was not very constructive to his relationship with Neila, so they broke up not long after.

In 1944, while Neila was in the hospital recovering from an appendectomy, her father died. Neila and Bob received the whole of Hollywood’s sympathy on his death, in a testament of how well liked the brother and sister were in Tinsel Town. Then, to the surprise of almost everyone, Neila married Maj. Dick Benjamin. Richard Benjamin was born in Beatrice, Nebraska, the son of Mr. and Mrs. D. E. Benjamin. His father was a staff photographer with the Sun-Telegraph. He grew up in Beatrice, and attended Fairfax High School. He served with the air corps during WW2, and  had seen plenty of action in New Guinea and Burma. He was Jackie Coogan’s commanding officer, and this is how he came to the attention of various Hollywood glitterati. He dated songstress Helen Forrest before meeting Neila.

In March 1945, Dick was shot down over Germany and spent two months in a German prison camp, and was later sent home on a furlough. He had to scrape for the money, too, because his back army pay hasn’t come through yet. Neila quit Hollywood for a time to devote herself to family life, but the marriage was over by 1948. She came roaring back to the dating scene, and was seen with Bruce Cabot at the Tallyho. A few short months later, in 1949, she secretly married in Tijuana a certain Rocky Mario, night club entertainer. Mario also worked as an Arthur Murray dance instructor.

This marriage also did not last long, and they were divorced by the mid 1950s. Neila married her third husband, Edward Cass, in the late 1950s. Their daughter Carla Helen was born on August 20, 1961. The Cass marriage also disintegrated sometime in the early 1980s.

After the divorce, Neila moved to Atmore, Alabama and lived there and in Mobile, Alabama, for the remainder of the life.

Nellie Holmes Hart died in 2003. Sadly, her daughter Carla Cass died on January 14, 2011.

 

Patricia Farley

Hollywood always asked their actresses to be very thin, sometimes at great prices. Patricia Farley is a great example of a girl who wasn’t really fat but was nudged by studio brass to lose weight very quickly – this type of yo-yo dieting this is never a good idea. She managed to lose the weight at a large cost, as she became sick and almost died later. Luckily she got out of the rat race and lived happily in California. Let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Zedna May Farley was born on September 27, 1914, in Toronto, Canada, to Harry Farley and Betsy Morgan. Her older sister Minnie was born in 1913. Her father was a draftsman (drafting technician makes detailed technical drawings or plans for machinery) for a telephone company. The family moved to California in in 1919, and Zedna grew up in Pasadena, where she attended high school.

Since she was a beautiful girl not adverse to public appearances, Zedna participated in a number of beauty pageants and talent contests while in high school. In 1928, she was one of the Court of the Queens of the Valencia Orange Show–the “Queens” were future starlets Mona Rico and Dorothy Day.

Zedna won A “Miss Canada” title (to be clear, this was a contest held by the Southern California Canadian Society, she was not a Miss Canada in the full sense, chosen in Canada) later, in 1929. In 1930, she ran away from home to get married at only 16 years old. She soon realized her mistake and going to Reno was the result. She liked the city and decided to stay there working as hostess and later as entertainer In a night club, where she began to put on weight.

Patricia moved to new York not long after and she was employed for a time by a New York club. She won the notice of Paramount studio officials because of the way she exchanged flip repartee with Mae West while playing the tiny role of a hat check girl in “Night After Night,”. But it wasn’t an easy road – an observing pair of eyes in Paramount’s New York office, however, took more than passing note of Patty. Certain photographs, “stills” from the production, were brought out, the one of that particular scene was produced, and an informal council of New York advertising men agreed that Patricia was a good screen prospect. This opinion was wired to Hollywood, along with the suggestion that studio executives give the girl further opportunity. In the end, she was awarded a contract. And off she went!

CAREER

Pat m,ade a few comedic shorts in 1932, and her first movie was the Mae West Night After Night – quite a successful concoction of delightful ingredients – George Raft, Mae West and Constance Cummings, with gangsters, drama and comedy! It’s an interesting movie definitely worth watching! Pat’s second movie was the Tarzan rip-off, King of the Jungle, with Buster Crabbe in the lead. Crabbe was actually an okay actor who doesn’t get the credit he deserves, and his movies are mostly very much watchable, including this one.

Then came the George Raft/Sylvia Sidney movie, Pick-up. Sidney was, as one reviewer perfectly wrote, “princess of gloomy tragedy” and she works this movie like a charm. Pat than made tow low budget westerns, Under the Tonto Rim and Sunset Pass, and as you know I never write about such movie so skip.

Patricia rounded of 1933 with perhaps the weirdest movie she has made, Narcotic. How to sum it up? Here is a great review from IMDB: “While not as over-the-top as Dwain Esper’s MANIAC or as professionally made as his MARIJUANA: WEED WITH ROOTS IN HELL, NARCOTIC is a unique film experience. It has a jumpy, elliptical style–sometimes the next scene may be a few days after the prior scene, sometimes a few months or even years. Add to this the use of stock footage from silent films (in the first half) and stock footage of animals killing each other (in the last third).Also, the script mixes philosophy with medical jargon with drug slang with hard-boiled dialogue. And Esper’s preference for odd, off-putting camera angles and introducing characters by showing their shadow.The whole thing, in under one hour, has a grimy feel to it.” An unusual movie experience, that’s for sure!

Pat appeared in three movies in 1933. All of Me, a so-so PreCode drama where Miriam Hopkins, in the leading role as a spoiled heiress, is the least interesting part of the movie, and the laurels go to George Raft as a ex con who can’t get a steady job to support his pregnant girlfriend. We also have Frederic March, but he’s almost not quite interesting. Good Dame was a movie in a similar vein, a so-so movie with some strange stuff in it. We again have Frederic March, but this time he plays a con-artist thug and speaks in a weird accent that’s totally unbelievable, and Sylvia Sidney, as the girl who believes she can reform him. You see where this plot is going? Yep, you guessed it! And since this is Sylvia Sidney we are talking about, you know it’s not gonna end well. Pat’s last movie is 1934 was the best one, the witty, sparkling comedy The Merry Widow, with Jeanette MacDonald and Maurice Chevalier. Now this one is worth watching!

In 1935, Patricia started strong in Naughty Marietta, the first of the famous Jeanette MacDonald /Nelson Eddy pairings, and a charming, fluffy movie to boot! Classic Hollywood at it’s best, what can I say! Another minor classic was Diamond Jim, The story of legendary gambler Diamond Jim Brady and his romance with entertainer Lillian Russell, with Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur in the leads and Jean doesn’t even play Lillian, Binnie Barnes plays her!). Pat then appeared in a minor classic, Barbary Coast, with the grand team of Miriam Hopkins, Edward G. Robinson and Joel McCrea. Pat’s last movie was the charming whodunit Grand Exit, about tracking down an arsonist, with Edmund Lowe and Ann Sothern.

That was it from Patricia!

PRIVATE LIFE

Patricia was known in Hollywood as the gal who looked like Gloria Swanson. I can see a slight resemblance, but not that much I have to say. Patricia married her first husband,  Thomas B. Hearn, on November 3, 1930, when she was just 16 years old. Thomas Baker Hearn was born on September 21, 1907, in Connecticut/Rhode Island to William Hearn and Margaret baker. He was an electrician by trade. The marriage lasted only a short time, ending in June 1932 (and Patricia went to Reno and the rest is history!). On August 21, 1937, Thomas married Marylynn Ruth Titus. He died on may 27, 1962 in Los Angeles.

When Patricia landed in Hollywood, movie scouts told her she was overweight and would have to reduce. A contract was written, contingent on her weight at the end of one month. She dieted, exercised, submitted to pounding and twisting on the massage tables and took off 15 pounds in 30 days. It was considered a record, even In the movie colony. So she got the Job. Here are bits and pieces from her journey:

Fruit juices and .on small salad these Items make up three meals a day for Patricia Farley, eighteen, who believes a movie contract Is worth heroic dieting. ‘ Patricia, Canadian-born Pasadena girl whose beauty attracted attention on a mpvl set where sh wa working as an extra, has won bar contract by taking off fifteen pounds In thirty days, and sh Is still dieting and reducing, not to cease until she ha regained her normal weight of 118. ‘I weighed 145 pounds that day they first noticed me,” sh says, “I weighed 130 the day I signed the promised contract. Today I weigh. By a strict -liquid diet composed mainly, of fruit Juice anal supplemented by water she pulled down from 145 and she say shell maintain the rigorous scheduled diet til she reaches 115 pound. 125 and am losing pounds at the rate, of four a wek!”

“I’m not afraid my diet will hurt me, even though it Is rather stringent and it might not be good for others,” sh says. For breakfast she ha orange Juice, for lunch more of the same and the salad, and for dinner Just orange juice. , Coffee sh takes cream-less and sugarless. But diet Is only a small part of her reducing program; Exercise does the rest. This is what she did: Thirty minute of rope-Jumping, bicycling, rowing and bending exercises, ten minutes In the electronic vibrator, fifteen minutes in a steam bath, five minutes in hot and cold shower, thirty minutes of massage.

“I didn’t mind it a bit,” she said “The first two or three days the most difficult. I was not accustomed to so much exercise i my muscles became stiffened i sore. The diet didn’t bother m. all, for actually my menu was reasonable and adequate. I now convinced that the average woman eats far too much food today. Exercise is very important in reducing, and, in my case found it well to avoid too much sleep. Inactivity adds pounds, of course, adequate rest is essential.” Patricia Farley, weighing around 118 pounds, seems destined for a very happy and fortunate H wood career.

I don’t know what to say about this story – it’s heartbreaking and sad. This healthy young woman had to undergo extreme dieting conditions to be given a contract – while she did have a choice to just let it all go and give up Hollywood, we are well aware that she, in real life where stuff are grey and not black and white, was more or less pushed into it. And you think this just flows by without any serious damage to the person doing it? Not a chance, and it was pretty obvious that something was going to pop, sooner or later.

And that something came just a few short years later. Patricia was seriously ill with pneumonia for a few weeks in 1935. Several days before she was Injured in an automobile accident. In convalescence she took pneumonia. It was very much close to the edge for a time, and nobody knew for sure she would make it. The moral of the story: don’t do yoyo dieting. It truly doesn’t’ pay and get back at the user tenfold. Being slim/fit/not fat is a long and rhythmical process where a person must change her whole set of habits to integrate balance into his or her lifestyle. Otherwise it just wont’ yell. To some people it’s easier, to some it’s more difficult, but it’s always the same method (finding a middle road), just with a million different ways of achieving the goal.

Patricia’s illness changes her life drastically. She gave up Hollywood, and started playing a guitar at evangelistic services. Patricia married for the second time to Reuben B. Deweerd on March 9, 1938, long after she left Hollywood. Reuben was born on May 22, 1913 in Holland, Michigan, to Bert Deweerd and Sadie Waterman, the oldest of four children. His mother died in 1921 while giving birth to his youngest sister, Sadie. He moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s and became a professional cook. Sadly, this marriage did not last and they divorced in about 1940. Reuben later returned to Holland, Michigan, remarried to a local, Ruby Helena Weighmink, and died there in 1984.

Patricia married her third husband, Larry Morey, on March 7, 1942. Here is a short bio of Larry from IMDB;:

American lyricist and author Lawrence L. ‘Larry’ Morey was chiefly noted for co-writing (with the composer and songwriter Frank Churchill) the musical numbers for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), including “Heigh-Ho”, “I’m Wishing” and “Whistle While You Work”. He also worked on the picture as a sequence director. His second claim to fame was adapting Felix Salten‘s 1923 book, “Bambi, a Life in the Woods”, for the screen (as well as co-writing the score with Churchill). Assisted by Perce Pearce, he is further credited with devising the characters of Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk, primarily to lighten the mood of the picture. One of the musical numbers from Bambi (1942), “Love is a Song”, was nominated for an Oscar, as was “Lavender Blue” (sung by Burl Ives) for So Dear to My Heart (1948). This piece was adapted from a popular folk song.

Morey worked for Disney from 1933, following stints at Paramount and Warners. He joined ASCAP in 1938.

It seems that third time was the charm for Patricia, as she hit the marital jackpot. The Moreys lived happily in Los Angeles until Larry’s death on May 8, 1971.

Patricia married Jack Winnett on 24 January 1973. Jack J. Winnett was born on may 2, 1917, in Los Angeles, to . He worked as an order clerk for a sporting goods wholesale store. The couple separated and divorced in 1977 and it was made final in 1979. Jack died on April 24, 1981.

Patricia married for the fifth and final time to Joe Paysnick on May 23, 1984. Saul Joseph Paysnick was born on December 14, 1922, in Massachusetts, to Abraham Paysnick and Rose Bore. He served in the US army during WW2 and continued working for the army after the war ended. He married Mavis Pauline Neibs on 26 Nov 1947 but they divorced in the 1950s. IMDB claims that Joe and Patricia divorced, but I couldn’t find any proof so let’s assume they remained married.

Zedna died on July 25, 2001, in California. Her widower Joe Paysnick died on February 17, 2007.

Audrey Conti

Audrey Conti is a great example of how Cinderella stories cannot really be taken for granted. A  normal Mid Western girl who was courted by powerful movie scouts due to her beauty and charisma, it seemed that she was on her way to the starts after she was signed by a studio. Not! Nobody knew what to do with her, and after wasting away, she did some TV work and retired after a really short time as an actress.

EARLY LIFE

Audrey Conti was born on January 31, 1933, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Rudolph and Sophia Conti. Her older brother Eugene was born in 1932. Her father was from France/Italy, her mother from Poland. Her father was a boiler operator at a local electric power plant.

Audrey grew up in St. Francis (A small town in the Milwaukee county), and showed no signs of wanting to become an actress. She graduated from high school and took up a job ads a Pabst Brewery Tour Guide. She worked as a tour guide for a few years when she appeared on the CBS Game Show “What’s My Line?” in March of 1954. She made such an impression that she was swamped by calls from the program’s fans. A studio scout visiting Manhattan noticed her and she was signed pronto. Unfortunately, she spend time in the studio not really doing anything, just going from one photo shot to the next, but then she was finally put into movies. And her career started!

CAREER

Audrey appeared in six movies and a small number of TV shows. Her first movie was The Birds and the Bees, a sub-par remake of the wonderful comedy, The Lady Eve. Yep, some movie just can’t be remade, and Lady Eve is certainly one of them. While Mitzi Gaynor is even good enough in the Babs Stanwyack role, George Gobel is not up to the task in the Henry Fonda role. Godel’s comedy is a very acquired taste and doesn’t really work here, but it still boils down to personal preference so quite  afew people actually like this version more than the original.

Her second movie was Ten Thousand Bedrooms, a peculiar Dena Martin musical where he has to marry of three older sisters before he can marry the youngest one. Today the movie has a bad rep, mostly thanks to the fact that this was Martins’ first solo effort after his series of movies with Jerry Lewis, and it was a dismal failure that almost ended his career. While the movie is not bottom of the barrel bad, it’s not particularly god either – Dean plays a role much better suited for Cary Grant (suave older tycoon), and the story is somehow silly and paper-thin. Good points are the gorgeous location filming in Rome and a solid supporting cast Walter Slezak is especially good as the girls’ father!

Then came Spook Chasers, a Bowery boys movie. Short description from IMDB: The Bowery Boys must battle crooks when a real estate agent sells their friend Mike (Percy Helton) a rundown piece of land. The group end up finding money there, which draws the attention of a couple gangsters who plan on making the boys think the house is haunted so that they’ll leave. Moronic story but good enough for Bowery boys fans, otherwise don’t bother.

Invasion of the Saucer Men is a teen-horror camp movie deluxxe. The plot is really uninspired (A teenage couple accidentally awakens an alien after hitting it with their car.), the costumes are quite amateurish and the actors are a mixed bag (some good support). It’s not even a top campy movie, but it does have it’s moments, and recommended fo rthe fans of 1950s teen over-the-top movies.

Audrey’s last two movies were her best known. The Joker Is Wild is a above average biopic, with Frank Sinatra playing the Roaring 20’s icon, Joe E. Lewis. Sinatra excels at playing bitter men with serious vices, and Lewis is a great showcase for his talents. The movie doesn’t shy away from less savory aspect’s of Lewis’ life, and is not your typical saccharine 50s biopic. Jeanne Crain and Mitzi Gaynor are able female support, as well as Eddie Albert and Jackie Coogan.

Audrey’s last movie was The Naked and the Dead, a lukewarm adaptation of the Normal Mailer novel. The movie is sadly a typical 1950s Hollywood product, too sanitized and banalized to have an impact (even if it is directed by the great Raoul Walsh!). Instead of a nuances portrayal of a group of WW2 soldiers, we get the good vs. bad soldiers story, the one we have seen a thousand times before.

And that’s it from Audrey!

PRIVATE LIFE

As she had literary no acting experience, Audrey had to learn from scratch when she landed in Hollywood, and dedicated a great deal of her free time to acting, singing and dancing lessons. Believe it or not, Audrey was quite popular back then (in a niche kind of a way), as she got thousands of letters due to her What’s Your line appearance. She diligently answered each and every letter, no matter how long it took (and it took years for it to die down).

As I already mentioned it, Audrey is a great example of how getting discovered by Hollywood was literary just the first 20% of the process. While not a small feast and it doesn’t’ happen to everybody (a  great deal of actresses were not discovered but had to actively work for Hollywood to notice them), it is by no means a sure sign that you are going to make it. I watched Audrey’s what’s my line episode, and I have to say I just don’t see it. While she is a cute, good looking girl, she’s not really charismatic and didn’t’ tickle my fancy one bit. Guess Hollywood scouts noticed this after she came to Tinsel Town. In a town where thousands of new comers appear every week, you need something to single you out, to make you jump form the crowd, and looks almost always are not enough.

With no prospects on the horizon, that was more or less it for Audrey. After some lackluster TV roles, she gave up acting, but I have no idea what she did for a living. Audrey married Gary Clarence Steenlock  in the late 1960s. Gary was born on 14 Jul 1940, in Minnesota, to Clarence Steenblock and Goldie Lokach. He really wanted to go to college, and even sold his prized car to get tuition money. Later, in 1964, he served in the US Marines, reaching the rank of lieutenant. On December 30, 1963 he married Judith F Green, but they divorced a few years later.

The couple went to live Olmstead, Minnesota. Sadly, Gary died on August 30, 1971.

After Gary’s death Audrey returned to live in Milwaukee, and maintained close ties to her brother, Eugene. Eugene died in 2019. Audrey also owned a dog, a schnauzer, who died in 2009.

As far as I know, Audrey still lives in the Milwaukee region.

Ellye Marshall

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That’s it from Ellye!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

Look how ever her divorce was made fun of:

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

Here are more of her “gems”

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

And this one explains it all:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trudy Wroe

A beautiful mannequin who came to Hollywood via the TV route, Trudy Wroe actually nabbed herself a lead in a series of TV movies, so she became less of a starlet and seemed more and more on the way to the upper echelons of the actresses ranks in Tinsel Town. However, her lucky break didn’t belt out and she was retired within three years. Let’s find out more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Gertrude Janice Wroe was born on May 25, 1931, in Los Angeles, California, to William Kenner Wroe and Viola Frances Horn. Her older sister Anita Joyce was born on October 5, 1927. Her father was a WW1 veteran who worked as a motor car salesman.

Trudy grew up in Los Angeles and originally was not interested in a showbiz career. Trudy majored in art at Manual Arts High school, with plans to become a commercial artist. Her plans were changed, however, when Photographer Tom Kelly saw her and thought she was just the girl he was looking for for a billboard ad. So she became a model, and after graduation studied at modeling schools. She modeled for the Mary Webb Davis agency for three years before becoming a free lancer, modeling for various artists and photographers. Trudy earned really good money this way, but she hit the financial roof when she started to appear in TV commercials. She got paid every time one of her commercial was shown, and when she made a Paper Mate pen commercial, she earned about $15,000 a year out of that one alone.

The Pen commercial was so well liked that Trudy started being noticed on a larger scale than before. For extra publicity, she was paired with a young-faced actor, Tommy Irish, to be a new wholesome duet. There were preparations for a weekly late-night show with the “sweetheart combination”, and they had been chosen as the outstanding personalities in television. Trudy received more than 300 fan letters weekly and was quite popular country-wide.

However, while this Tommy Irish pairing didn’t work out in the end, something else did. Trudy underwent a grueling elimination contest of over 100 actresses to land the choice role of Lorelei in the Big Town series of telefilms. She was named to the role after two months of tests. She had no prior acting experience. She later told Lydia Lane that the secret of her success was her styling and clothes. “I was surprised to get the role of Lorelei, They had interviewed dozens of girls and when they saw me for the first time they said I looked too young for the part. But when I took,my test I made sure I wore a sophisticated dress and they changed their minds. I don’t think men realize how a girl can alter her appearance with the right clothes and make-up.”

And her career was of!

CAREER

Trudy appeared in only three movies – Son of Sinbad, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt and Ask Any Girl

Son of Sinbad is a movie made for visual enjoyment and little more. Plot, acting, anything of depth – no sirree. But beautiful women, great costumes and other eye candy – yes please! The movie even gently spoofs the sword-and-sandal genre, so it does have at least a bit of depth (nothing much, mind you!). Trudy was one of the many harem dancers.

Beyond a Reasonable Doubt is the best movie on Trudy’s list, a tight, short and very well made thriller directed by the master, Fritz Lang. While it’s undoubtedly a B level production made on a shoestring budget, the writing and the story, a critique of capital punishment for circumstantial evidence, make it work. Dana Andrews and Joan Fontaine play the leads – I love both of these actors so I am a big biased, and while neither especially stretches the acting muscle here, they are more than adequate. The movie’s strong point is that it takes the viewer think and ponder the classic “could it really happen?”. With the strong message and a unexpected twist, in this is succeeds nicely. A overlooked classic, this one

Trudy’s third and last movie was Ask Any Girl, with Shirley MacLaine at the quirky best – she’s utterly charming and one of a kind! The whole movie follow suit – it’s a breezy, nice little comedy with a great supporting cast – David Niven, Gig Young, Jim Backus! Old Hollywood at it’s comedic best!

That’s all from Trudy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Papers noted that she and Pat Barrett were two attractive and petite employees at Hughes Aircraft, but I didn’t find any other reference to this, but I doubt that Trudy ever worked at the air plant, as it seems she got into modeling and stayed there until she came to television. Here is a short bio of Trudy at that time:

Trudy Wroe, blond, blue-eyed, She stands 5 feet, 5 inches from the tips of her 5 shoes to the top of her natural ash-blond curls, and tips the scales at 115 pounds. . Her classic measurements in the traditional north-south manner register a pleasing 34- 23-35. Her pet economy is clothes while her pet luxury is visiting a neighborhood beauty parlor once a week. Trudy’s taste in dates and her prerequisites for a husband are as diversified as her preference in music which ranges from “hot” jazz to lulling classics. She demands, in the following order, good looks, natural personality (nothing forced), and consideration in her dates. The man that she marries must have ambition, consideration and honesty.

There was also a story how Bob Cumming’s son helped choose Trudy for stardom:

Trudy Wroe, one of the beauties featured on the Bob Cummings show, was discovered by Bob, Jr., when he was all of seven years old! Two years ago, Bob Sr. was asked to co-judge a beauty contest. At the last minute, he had a studio call to report for work. As a gag, Mrs. Cummings took Bob Jr. to represent his father. He selected Trudy out of a bevy of gorgeous girls, and the other judges concurred with his choice. As a result, Trudy got some free publicity, was selected to be one half of the Singing Sweethearts in a commercial and now works regularly on Bob’s CBS-TV series

Trudy lived with her mother and older sister at the time she hit her five minutes of fame. In her spare time she sketched and played tennis.

Anyway, within an year after getting the role of Lorelei, Trudy was sacked. Why? Well, it’s afe to assume that putting a woman with no real acting experience in such a role that demands charisma and gravitas was probably a mistake. This is something that Hollywood can never learn – while it’s fine and dandy to chose your actors based on looks, but even then there has to be more than just the visage. Trudy was beautiful for sure, but obvious could’t hold down on such a demanding job. I feel sorry for her, since she was briefly launched into the stratosphere by the Hollywood PR machine, just to come crashing down a short time later. I was not surprised that her career never recovered – unless she went into the theater to learn to act and than return to films, or had another lucky break (it has happened before, bu rarely), there was really no real chance for her to succeed after that. There are literary thousands of beautiful girls and models who swarmed to Hollywood every month, and being pretty was just not enough.

Now for her love life. Trudy dated a unnamed wealthy easterner who flew out to see Trudy, but they battled at the airport. Incidentally, at the same time the mystery guy got his other swain, Anita Ekberg, a new, eight carat sparkler. In the end neither girl ended up with him long term.

Trudy then dated young meat packing heir Geordie Hormel, who would later marry Leslie Caron. Then Trudy got involved with Bert Friedlob, the eminent producer. They dated for more than a year, from late 1954 until early 1956, and it seems that Friedlob tried to help Trudy’s career with his producing sass. Friedlob had just come out of a marriage to actress Eleanor Parker, with whom he had three children, so perhaps the timing wasn’t perfect, but they stuck out for quite a long time by Hollywood standards! Friedlob was a colorful character himself. He started out as a wholesale liquor dealer who made several fortunes and lost them all in a span of 20 years. Before Eleanor, he was married to actress Jeannette Loff, but she died in 1942.

However, it seems that Friedlob liked pretty ladies (he was generally tough as a womanizer and party animal in Hollywood, and had an affair with Lana Turner among others) and Trudy was not his one and only. He also dated Barbara Nichols on the side. While this is pretty standard in Hollywood, where everybody dated everybody else, it seems that Trudy wasn’t really satisfied with it. Why? Well, during her tenure as Lorelei Kilburne, Trudy decided that she wanted to get married. An except:

Trudy Wroe, who spent six months playing newsgal Lorelei Kilbourne while Mark Stevens was filming his Headline series, says the role gave her a bright idea: Getting herself happily married. ” After all,” she says, ” Lorelei always , has marriage in the back of her mind, and she’s a contagious character! “

Friedlob wasn’t quite in with the idea, having just gotten divorced, so the pair broke up. Sadly, he died on October 7, 1956, from cancer. I presume that Trudy still wanted to get hitched – but then chose a possibly even worse choice for matrimony – Marty Kimmel, the playboy extraordinaire who was married, very briefly, to Gloria DeHaven. Marty dated almost all the pretty girls in Hollywood, and, of course, Trudy was no exception. Unlike many of the girls, she managed to snag him for a longer time, but still, Marty was a playboy at heart and marriage was probably not in the cards.

Doubtlessly noticing this herself, Trudy decided to play the field herself, and was often seen with Bernard Shubert, the video packager. So we have a kind of a love triangle, Bernard, Trudy and Martin. She was also sometimes seen with Hugh French at the Gourmet Beverly.

As time went by, it seemed that Marty was really stuck on Trudy. One year he flew to L.A. to spend the holidays with Trudy, and they were often spied having cocktails at the . Luau. However, also, as time went by, there was no great improvement in their status, so Trudy continued to seek other opportunities on the side.

She was seen with publisher Bob Petersen and was a sometime date of Mac Krim, but the guy was massively in love with Kim Novak at the time, and only dated Trudy when Kim was out of town – when Kim returned he literary wasn’t dating anyone but Kim. She continued seeing Shubert, and ultimately broke up with Kimmel.

Trudy then dated up a storm with a string of men, in some random order: Joe Kirkwood Jr. (who was married to Cathy Downs), songwriter Jule Styne, attorney Bentley Ryan, and actor John Carroll.

In late 1958, Trudy made the papers when she was getting the rush from Prince Kazem Kashani of Iran, who was handsome, a bachelor and just 32. They were seen everywhere for a few months, but this too failed in the long run. However, Trudy had by that time already met the man she would marry – Don Durant.

They made their relationship official in Early 1959,  and pretty soon there were newspaper items that Trudy and Don were getting married February 28. Don Durant was born on November 20, 1932, in Long Beach, California, and was famous for his Johnny Ringo persona.

Trudy may have had a long string of wealthy beaus, but she definitely didn’t marry Durant for the money, as this article contests:

Don Durant, a converted linger, whose CBS Johnny Ringo” series almost but not quite gunned down its ABC competition, the high-rolling Real McCoys, was in a reflective mood. Ringo bit the dust only a month ago and Don, who cut quite a figure in the title role, still cant figure out why. Our ratings right up to the end hovered between 19 and 24, and when you can do that well (with reruns) against such a blockbuster as Walter Brennans McCoys you’ve got a hit on your hands. This rating is far better than most of the seasons new programs have been able to achieve,” he said, a steely Ringo look beginning to come into his eyes. Well, thats show biz,” I said cleverly, then added, The demise of Ringo is indubitably due to behind-the-scenes maneuvers. You know, time slots, sponsor conflicts and all that sort of thing.” I said it pontifically, just like 1 knew what 1 was talking about. I hope I fooled him.’ Don Is married to the former Miss Trudy Wroe, who at one time achieved considerable fame as the Paper Mate Pen Girl In those commercials. But her residuals have long since run out and I was greatly concerned as to how Don was now rustling up the mortgage money for their Encino mansion. Tell me, Don, how does an unemployed actor like you make ends meet,” I asked pointedly with great tact, j ‘ , Are you kidding? I never had It so good.” , You’re out of work and you never had It so good?” ‘ It turns out that as a result of his Ringo series Don Is now In great demand for personal appearances all over the Country, Hes made 40 since last May when production ended. His act runs 25 minutes. It plays rodeos, fairs, amusement parks and even the opening , of shopping centers. ; Don, as Ringo, rides onstage astride his trusty horse, his fancy seven-shooter In hand, He sings four songs, talks about the TV show, answers questions about the Old West. Then he hangs around for a’ couple of hours after the show talking with the kids. I have , made three times as much money doing this since we , quit filming last May as I earned for the entire episodes of Ringo. I like the work, too, I do everything on these P.A.s from riding a horse to kissing babies. Only last week, after a show, 1 had lunch with 4,800 kids and signed autographs for everyone of (hem.” I said, well, .that Is really earning your money the hard way. He didn’t agree. He said he likes kids very much. Don may go around kiss-1 mean babies, at supermarkets and such-like places but I think his heart still lies with Johnny Ringo. Ringo,” he told me, is far from dead. We are hoping the series will be picked up to replace one of the new network shows that will be among the bunch folding around January. If not, I feel It will at least be syndicated. Regardless of the fate of Ringo, Don will be back on the TV screen one way or another. Hes formed his own Allison Productions and plans a modern-day series. One of the networks is paging him for a one-hour series and guest shots on specials loom in the offing. . . Not too bad for a fellow who used to hang around CBS as recently as 1957 hoping to pick up extra and bit parts. You and I should make as much money as this unemployed actor.” And he has still got 250 fan clubs rooting for him.”

Trudy gave up her career for family. The Durants had two children, Heidi, born on March 7, 1962, and Jeffrey, born on March 10, 1964.  Durant was a typical Hollywood blue collar who worked and worked and worked. While he didn’t have a hundred credits to his name on IMDB, he worked constantly, be it as a singer or a real estate agent. Here is some info from his obituary:
Actor, Singer. He was a mainstay in the 1950s and the early 1960s on television making many notable guest appearances, among them “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” “State Trooper,” “Maverick,” “Perry Mason,” “Zane Grey Theatre,” “The Twilight Zone,” “Alfred Hitchcock,” “The Wide Country” and “The Virginian.” These guest spots led to the 1959-60 half-hour TV series “Johnny Ringo” where Don played a gunslinger-turned sheriff. He brandished a LeMat handgun that featured an extra barrel that fired a shotgun round. For good measure, the talented vocalist wrote and then sang the theme song. The show was a bonanza for the toy industry. It generated board games, character puppets, gun sets and canteens. He was born Donald Allison Durae in Long Beach, California. His father was killed in a traffic accident prior to his birth. Don also, at age eleven, narrowly followed in his dad’s fate when he was struck by a cement trunk leaving him in a coma with many fractures relegating him to bed for over a year. His mother remarried, this time to a Nevada cattle rancher. Don spent a lot of his teen years on the ranch learning the ways of a cowboy, riding, roping and singing. The couple divorced and he was back in Long Beach. In junior high, he was a dee-jay on KPRO radio in nearby Riverside where he often sang. Still bothered from injuries due to his bike accident, he managed to play football by wearing special plates. He was drafted during the Korean War but a hip injury found him confined to Letterman Army Hospital in San Francisco. He completed his military obligation with an assignment to Special Services furthering his singing experience by entertaining the veterans at Letterman. His post-military days found him pursuing a singing and acting career while touring with a theater group. Don appeared at the Sands and The Sahara in Las Vegas. He made his first serious attempt at acting with an uncredited appearance in the 1955 film “Battle Cry.” He remained active on the Hollywood scene by teaching actors how to ride horses and shoot guns and worked as a technician helping to construct the first kinescopic recorder and sound recorder. Durant had a starring role in the ‘B’ film “She Gods of Shark Reef” in 1956. He toured as a vocalist with the Tommy DorseyFrankie Carle and Ray Anthony orchestras and even recorded an album with Anthony. More and more guest-starring roles came his way, mainly western themes. However, by 1964, the days of the cowboy was over as well as the era of the big bands. His roles diminished and eventually faded altogether. He retired from show business completely while settling in Orange County operating a real estate office. He made public appearances and attended shows and conventions where he would strap on his famous LeMat pistol and sign autographs almost to the end of his days. He was diagnosed with lymphocytic leukemia in 1992 which led to his death at age 72 in the family home located at Dana Point, California.
It seems that Don was a happy go lucky guy who constantly cracked jokes and was well liked by many. He and Trudy would often travel all over the world together always laughing and having fun. By all accounts they had a very happy marriage. Don became a multimillionaire through his real estate investments, and the couple enjoyed their retirement in California.
Don Durant died on March 15, 2005 in Orange County, California. Trudy continued living in Orange county after his death.
Trudy Wroe Durant died on November 10, 2007, in Orange County, California.

 

Lorraine Krueger

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s it from Lorraine!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gale Ronn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s i from Gale!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Erin Selwyn

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was it from Erin!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cynthia Westlake

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Cynthia!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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