Mozelle Britton

The story of Mozelle Britton is a strange one, as she truly was a polarizing personality. A dedicated actress and later a successful business woman, she was inspiring in some facets of her life. However, she was also a difficult personality who caused herself much heartbreak. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mozelle Britton was born on May 12, 1912, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Adolph Valentine Britton and Ida Bell Walker. Her father was a real estate salesman. She was the fifth daughter and youngest child – her older sisters were Vivian, born on January 22, 1896,  Alice, born in November 14, 1897, Maude, born on December 12, 1901, and Ruth, born in July 1907. Little is known about Mozelle’s early life – the family lived in Oklahoma city until 1922,  when they moved to small town of Fletcher, Oklahoma. Mozelle attended elementary school there. The family moved back to Oklahoma city by 1930. Sadly, her sister Ruth died on October 11, 1918.

After graduating from high school in 1930, Mozelle decided to become an actress and moved to California. In Los Angeles, Mozelle worked as a secretary at the Columbia studio casting office, before nabbing a movie contract, and there she went!

CAREER

Mozelle appeared in only 4 movies, and was a casting director for a few more. She made her debut in 1930’s Paramount on Parade, which is basically a musical revue with tons of stars and music. Interested? Eh, no. No story, no character development, no real art – just singing and dancing. While it’s a somehow funny movie, I’ll say it: just no.

Her next movie was made in 1934, and named The Fighting Ranger. Guess what it is? Yep, you’re right, it’s a low-budget western! Is there anything more tacky when a low-budget westerns i named like a low-budget western? Didn’t think so too! Anyway, Mozelle isn’t even the leading lady (that dubious honor went to Dorothy Revier), gasp!), but she was billed and does play a credited role, so  this is a big uppity for Mozelle. Unfortunately, that was it from Mozelle in 1934, and she only had her next role in 1936, in Rainbow on the River. This is actually an adorable Bobby Breen movie, and if you like Shirley Temple, you’ll like this. Cuteness galore!

Mozelle’s last movie was Night Waitress, a mediocre drama with Margot Grahame as a girl on probation who is trying to get her life together working in a waterfront dive run. Supports are played by Gordon Jones and Vinton Hayworth. And that was it from Mozelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mozelle was married just before graduation from high school. The groom was Edgar Farrington, the date was March 24, 1930, the place was Guilford, North Carolina. I have no idea how did she get there, but there it is. Edgar was born on September 28, 1909, in North Carolina to William and Mary Farrington.

The couple separated soon after the wedding, and by 1932 Mozelle was a free woman, ready to pursue her Hollywood dreams. Farrington remarried and died in 1974.

Mozelle married her second husband, Alan Dinehart, on June 28, 1933. They met during a making of a movie. As both were practical jokers, they played a joke on their friends – while they were waiting in the living room of the house, the couple got married in another room. Funny “har har”, especially since you came to a wedding, not a circus, but there goes!

Dinehart was already established in Hollywood by 1933 and the marriage raised Mozelle’s status in the film colony immensely. Now something about the new groom. Dinehart was born on October 3, 1889, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in Minnesota and aspired to be a priest. However, the call of the theater was too strong and he became an actor instead. He started acting at his alma mater, Missoula University in Montana. He left university to appear on stage with a repertory company. All in all he appeared in more than twenty Broadway plays. Wanting to branch out into other forms of entertainment, Alan went into the vaudeville circuit before signing a contract with Fox in May 1931. He became a solid character actor and worked non stop from the moment he was signed. Married once before, to Louise Dyer, whom he divorced in 1932, he was a father of a son, Frederick. Sadly, Louise died in 1934, just two years after their divorce was made final.

The Britton-Dinehart wedding was not without some drama, however. Right after he wed Mozelle, there was some legal trouble brewing for Alan:

A settlement out of court has ended the $250,000 “heart balm” suit filed against Alan Dinehart, Hollywood screen actor, by Betty Kaege, former Follies dancer. A dismissal of the suit was on file in Superior Court today. Henry Haves, attorney for Miss Kaege, said the settlement was reached In Chicago between Miss Kaege’s attorneys there nnd Los Angeles attorneys for Dinehart. Haves said details of the settlement were not revealed to him In his Instructions from Chicago counsel to file the dismissal. Miss Kaege filed the suit August 31, after Dinehart had married Mozelle Britton, screen actress, June 28. She charged Dinehart had promised to marry her after a divorce from his former wife was obtained.

While Alan acted like an inconsiderate creep in this particular case, suing somebody for marrying somebody else seems like a stretch – it’s not like you can make them marry you regardless of what he wants. However, this just goes to prove how hard it was for women back then, as it was a serious social injury to their overall character when somebody courted then and then, gasp!, married somebody else. Guess some women really had little choice in he matter. Anyway, the suit was settled in the end.

It seems that Alan and Mozelle were truly two well matched individuals who enjoyed each other’s company immensely. She put her career on holds to be able to help him with his career, and they wanted to appear together in more theater plays and less movies. There is a funny story about their salad days:

Moving into their new Beverly Hills home, Alan Dinehart and his wife, Mozelle Britton, numbered among their first callers a small monkey. Efforts to find the owner failing, they bought an elaborate cage and installed the Simian, only have the ape’s boss show up a couple of days later and walk off with the pet. Now they either are the market for another monkey

On April 30, 1936, Mozelle gave birth to the couple’s only child, a son named Mason Alan. Both parents enjoyed their new role with much gusto. Everything was fine and dandy until April 1939 auto crash in which Mozelle went head and shoulders through a windshield and also broke her ankle. Her husband, who was driving, fared better. Alan probably owed his life to the fact that he was wearing a heavy overcoat at the time of the crash. The steering wheel broke off but the coat protected Dinehart from being impaled.

Mozelle was being treated by a premier plastic surgeon who believed that she would recover without permanent scars. Doctors took 127 stitches on her face and predicted six weeks more recovering from her crash injuries.

Mozelle and Alan filed suit for $150,000 damages against George B. Higgs of Burbank, driver of the other machine. Mozelle was soon discharged from the hospital, with a tendency to return if there was any impediments in her recovery. After a brief period of convalescence, it was decided that she didn’t have to return to the hospital after all, with the prognosis that she would be all right and on crutches for another month and a half. As soon as she got the green light to do so, Mozelle left for Oklahoma City with their 3-year-old son, Mason Alan. In Oklahoma she was taken care by her mother, which she obviously needed after a particularly stressful period of her life.

Mozelle continued to recuperate, but had to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary on crutches with Alan playing new records for the party touch. As time went by, it was clear that Mozelle would have no scars from her auto accident and her ankle healed satisfactory. Time to go back home!

After Mozelle returned to Los Angeles, she wanted to make up for all the lost time, and pushed herself too much. She ended up in the hospital again, and doctors had ordered her to cancel all social engagements and have a complete rest for three months. This was fine by her – she had other venues on her mind. Namely, her husband had  acquired the right for a stage play called “Thanks for my Wife”, later called Separate rooms. As soon as Mozelle was well enough, they went on tour with the play. Here is a short article about the play:

A Film Players to Appear in New Play Here Alan Dinehart, Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot and Mozelle Britton, who have been shadow boxing in the movies for years, return to the stage in a new comedy, “Thanks for My Wife,” to play Jan. 25, 26 and 27, with matinée Jan. 27, at the Lyceum theater here. The play is on tour from the west coast, where it received unanimous enthusiasm from dramatic critics, to New York, and is one of the few ever to be presented here before the New York opening. ‘ It was written by Joseph Carole and Dinehart, formerly a player in St. Paul. . . It tells the story of a young playwright annexed by a show-worn siren. Dinehart, a misogynist columnist, completes the penthouse triangle, while Talbot is the playwright and Miss Farrell the daffy stage and screen star. Mozelle Britton plays Dinehart’s “Girl Friday.” Both Dinehart and Miss Farrell play the type of comedy roles in which they were successful before the movies snatched them from the stage. A cast of well-known stage and screen character names upholds the support.

Mozelle toured with the play for a good chunk of 1940, but then her old maladies returned and she had to leave the play and enter a sanitarium Loomis, N. Y.. Well, what was exactly wrong with Mozelle? Actually, I have no idea. She only had physical injuries that had healed in time, so I really don’t understand why she had to enter the sanatorium. It’s not like she suffered from tuberculosis or suffered a broken back, something that warrants a really long convalescence period. I have a theory, which can be wrong or can be right – either there was a more serious injury they kept under wraps to the public OR it seems that Mozelle was emotionally unhinged after the accident and needed psychological help. Since this was a taboo subject back then, in order to hide it, she tried to paint it as a physical malady in the press.

Mozelle would spend more than a year in the sanitarium. In trying to keep active, she organized the Loomis Players there and tried  some new plays with them. She also kept busy inventing “theater hats” for women. She also slimmed down a great deal – she shed 43 pounds since her entered the facility. At one point during her stay, she came into a handsome legacy and planned to become a Broadway producer, but it all seemed a faraway dream.

Mozelle was let out for a week during the Christmas holidays, and here is a truly sad bit about her short New York sojourn:

Mozelle Britton, the wife of Alan Dinehart, is back in New York, alter a year s siege at a sanitarium. The doctors have given her a holiday of ten days before recalling her to the hospital for final adjustments. … I asked her how it felt to be back in town. . . . “It s an amazing thing,” she said. “You develop a completely new philosophy when you are laid up for a year. Once I was blase and bored with life. Now it’s a deep thrill to step on a sidewalk, a thrill to look at shop windows decorated for Christmas, a thrill to have these few days to myself”

In 1942, underwent another operation (her third) in New York, and she was on the road to getting better. She was moved to Liberty, N. Y., to recuperate. In the meantime her son Mason had been living with his grandmother. Her husband was very optimistic. “I think Mozelle will be able to join me in Hollywood in a couple of months,” he told the papers, and returned to the film capital after more than  year of theater work.

A few short months later, there were reports that Mozelle had made a complete recovery after a two-year illness and that she would be back acting before the next season gets too far under way. However, right about that time, when Mason was celebrating his birthday with Mozelle’s mother, he fell and cut his hand. His grandmother rushed him to a hospital, and en route, the car hit a bad bump. . . . Shielding the child, Mrs. Britton suffered a fractured spine!

In the meantime, Mozelle was still recuperating despite the all too optimistic reports elsewhere. Here is another article:

Mozelle Britton, wife of Alan Dinehart, a letter in which she pays tribute to the late John Barrymore. Toward the end of her note, Miss Britton, who still is bedridden due’ to her injuries from an automobile accident, reveals that plans for reviving “Separate Rooms” for a summer tour have been abandoned because Dinehart will continue with picture work in Hollywood. As soon as the physicians give permission, she will join him at their ranch in Riverside, California, and return in the fall with a new pay for Broadway.

Ultimately, Mozelle returned to the Riverside Ranch, and decided to give up movies/any acting work to be a full-time wife and mother. The Dineharts lived a normal family life, with Alan commuting to Los Angeles for film work and spending the rest of the time in Riverside. Always an active woman with relentless energy, Mozelle soon started to grow chickens the rabbits and became quite good at it. Since he was over the age limit, Alan was not drafted into the Army during WW2, and their home life was stable. Here is a short, sweet snippet of their shared life:

A letter from Mozelle Britton tells how she and Alan Dinehart let their five-year-old son see his daddy for the first time on the screen. They picked “Girl Trouble,” because Alan had a light comedy role instead of playing the villain. “But the idea was a mistake,” writes Mozelle. “In the first place, Sonny couldn’t see why his father was running around loose with Joan Bennett. He kept wanting to know when mommy was going to show up. Besides this, if Alan left the screen for a few minutes, he was furious. It was a hectic night, and one that we won’t care to repeat for some time to come.”

Everything was going well until in mid 1944 Alan caught pneumonia while touring with a theater play. He returned home immediately, but there was little to be done – he died on July 18, 1944. Mozelle was crushed and emotionally totally drained. Another array of problems arose with the will – Alan’s will was written more than 10 years before his death, that is before the birth of his second son and marriage to Mozelle. After stressing it over with her stepson, Mozelle was appointed administrator of the estate. Their son, as a natural heir, received one-fourth of the $50,000 estate. Income from literary works of Dinehart were divided among his widow and two sons. Mrs. Dinehart will receive one-half and the elder son, Frederick, one-fourth and Mason the remaining fourth.

Mozelle was under such stress that had lost a great deal of weight, and went on dating right away. She was seen with executive Vic Oliver, Jr. everywhere just months after Alan’s death. I know this isn’t unusual by Hollywood standards, but it seemed to me that Mozelle was desperately trying to regain her mental health by dating, and as always, this isn’t quite the way to do it.

Her romantic overtures continued. In 1945, she dated Lyle Talbot, and even at some point was slated to waltz down the aisle with Juan Duval. Duval was the nephew of Maria (Tipi-tipi-tm”) Greiver, Spain’s outstanding songwriter. However, Mozelle ditched him just before the ceremony. Wonder what exactly happened?

For a brief time, Mozelle worked as a fight promoter, and then gave it up to become a Hollywood columnist. She wrote a popular gossip column and earned solid money by doing it. With her wit and insider knowledge of Tinsel town, she was a perfect person for the job, thus becaming a successful business woman in her own right, not really needing the money from Alan’s inheritance nor royalties from his work. Kudos to Mozelle!

After dating Bud Fayne in early 1947, Mozelle entered into a substantial relationship with Sergio de Karlo, the popular Cuban “King of Bolero”. A bandleader by trade, he had  dazzling smile and charm by ogles. He came to Hollywood to be tested for the role of Rudolph Valentino. Although he ultimately lost it to Anthony Dexter, he decided to stay and Mozelle became his unofficial manager.

Theirs was a tempestuous, crazy twosome. It seems that Mozelle, always a bit stung up and often too emotionally unbalanced, only slipped further into drama with this relationship. For instance, they had a big fight one night. She rushed away to Palm Springs and didn’t even answer his frantic phone calls until a few days later. While this could be unrelated, but in 1948, during the height of their relationship, Mozelle seriously gashed her arm when she accidentally put it through a window. She had nine stitches taken at the hospital and then, trooper that she was, went on to make a scheduled appearance at a television show. But, let’s be real, most of these accident are caused by something more than mere clumsiness, and maybe Sergio was involved?

In the end, Mozelle and Sergio got engaged. When they were practically at the altar, she called off their engagement. She said to the press their careers clash, but it’s a safe bet to assume she snapped “out of it” and saw the relationship for what is was – one juicy, delicious but overtly excessive mess. They obviously enjoyed the theatrics between them, but that hardly made for a stable liaison.

After such a volcanic experience, Mozelle met a low-key, normal guy, and married him! The guy in question was aeronautical engineer Thomas Gasser. Gasser was born on January 7, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. He was married once before to Jean Gasser, but they were divorced in the mid 1940s.

The couple wed in 1949 and spent their honeymoon at El Conquistador hotel. It seems that Mozelle was finally happy. And she truly was, for a time. Her son was growing up with a new stepdad, she had her own successful job and a good marriage.

Time flew by, until 1953. Mason, who just turned 17, fell in love with a pretty model named Evelyn. Mozelle, perhaps a bit of an overbearing and overachieving mother, pushed Mason to become a “top student” – he was an ROTC adjutant, a prize-winning debater and a member of the football and track teams. With an Ivy league university in sight for her son’s future, of course Mozelle was against Mason’s union with Evelyn and frowned upon it as a distraction. Mason, madly in love, a teenager to boot and perhaps a bit fed up with his demanding mother, persuaded Evelyn that they should elope. The two youngsters went to Porterville, California, to find a minister, without telling their parents.

Mozelle had a nervous breakdown. After a furious search mission, which started in California and extended to North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, the sweethearts were found the and returned home. Alas, their attempts to get married failed. They tried several places to get a marriage license, but were unsuccessful because of their ages.

In the meantime, doctors were worried about Mozelle’s condition – she has been on the verge of a nervous collapse and started acting irrationally. In addition to the drama of the apparent elopement, Mozelle separated from her building contractor husband, Thomas. There was no divorce in mind but she asked for separate maintenance. My theory is that Thomas took the boy’s side in the argument, and didn’t back down. Mozelle, unable or unwilling to concede that both she and Mason went over the line, decided to end the marriage then and there. Perhaps there is a deeper and more complex story behind all of this, but one thing was clear: Mozelle never managed to recuperate fully from the car accident, and became so fragile that common stressors one has to deal with when raising a precocious teenager pushed her over the limit. Instead of seeking help, she was only sliding further and further downwards.

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser died on May 18, 1961. She was only 43 years old. Her cause of death was not noted, so we can only assume it was connected to her frail health after the accident.

Unfortunately, the real drama had just started after her death. On the reading of her will, some unusual things had been revealed:

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser, Hollywood columnist and former actress,” left virtually, her entire $60,000 estate to her mother, Mrs. Ida Belle Britton, was admitted to probate yesterday by Superior Judge Victor R. Hansen. The document, written only eight days before Mrs. Gasser, 41, died last May 18, left her son; Mason Dinehart, 17, and her estranged second husband, Thomas W. Gasser, 48, building contractor, $1 each. But in the case of her son, Mrs. Gasser wrote that she acted “knowing that, my mother will take care of his needs.”

What a sad end to this story! Its obvious now why I consider Mozelle to have been too strung up for her own good – even when she was dying, she didn’t let go. She undoubtedly loved her son dearly, but couldn’t accept him making his own choices at such a crucial moment in his life. Luckily, Mason grew up to become first an actor and later a successful businessman, so today we can say Mozelle did an impressive job of raising him. Kudos!

Check the great Bizarre Los Angeles site for more info on Mozelle!