Rosemary Colligan

Rosemary Colligan was a beautiful model that came to Hollywood to trade on her looks. She did just three uncredited appearances in movies, but managed to snag quite a prize – the great George Raft himself. However, it was anything but a bed of roses! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosemary Colligan was born in 1925 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Colligan and Helen Roach. She was the youngest of three daughters – her elder siblings were Celestine, born in 1919, and Mildred, born in 1923. Her father worked as areal estate salesman. The Colligans were a typical tight-knit Irish family, and Rosemary remained extremely devoted to them her whole life.

The family lived in Dunmore in the beginning, and then moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where Rosemary was educated. After graduating from high school, Rosemary decided to become a model, and moved to Philadelphia, where she enjoyed her first professional success.

By 1948, Rosemary moved to New York, and became an even more successful model there. She became a Camel Cigarette girl, was considered Miss America of 1949, and was signed with the prestige John Robert Powers agency. By 1951 Rosemary had decided, like many models of her stature, to try her hand at acting. This is how she was seen by a movie scout who directed her towards Hollywood, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Very slim pickings here – Rosemary appeared in only three movies, none was a classic and she was not credited even once. The first one is the completely forgotten Run for the Hills, a typical Cold War paranoia movie turned into a hilarious comedy. NOT! While it is a typical Cold War paranoia movie, it’s also a cheap, Z class production, with the always wooden Sonny Tufts playing the lead, an Average Joe insurance man who moves to a cave to avoid the potential nuclear warfare. Yep, you heard it right, he dives right into a cave! The simmering sexpot (but sadly a limited actress) Barbara Payton plays his wife. it’s a completely forgotten movie, but boy, just look at the cast, look at the story and the money involved, and I can make a educated guess about where that was going. Rosemary plays a Cave girl, reminding me of Carole Landis in all her prehistoric glory (with beefy Victor Mature next to her).

That same year, Rosemary appeared in The French Line, a no-plot, plenty of scantly clad girls, singing and dancing type of a movie, and heck, it’s not even directed by Busby Berkeley! As I said, the non existing story is as it goes: When her fiancé leaves her, an oil heiress takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Well, if you forget for a moment how silly it is, we still have the luscious Jane Russell in the lead, and the sexy senor Gilbert Roland as her love interest. Not a bad cast, I must say!

Rosemary’s last movie was Son of Sinbad, a movie you can either hate of enjoy for the sheer campiness and so bad it’s good quality. Even the short blurb from IMDB shows us just how good-in-a-bad-way the movie is – Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. Ha ha ha ha, you got that right! Dale Robertson plays Sinbad, and Sally Forrest is his dream princess, but there are more than 50 other girls to ogle at, and Rosemary is just one of them. A big, big plus for this movie is Lili St. Cyr, in one of her rare film appearances (love that woman!).

And that was it from Rosemary!

PRIVATE LIFE

I have to say that after reading a bit about her, I like Rosemary. In a world where man was king, she used them and just moved on to the better thing when she found it convenient. While this is not model behavior and I certainty don’t condone it in everyday life, when you look at the type of a men Rosemary dated, you’ll see what I mean. These were no ordinary, normal working class men who would get hurt big time if something like that happened – these were world class cads who used girls and women quite a bit (some more, some less). Somehow, getting the Rosemary treatment for them was almost like getting the boomerang right back at their heads. Anyway, read and assess for yourself.

Here are some quotes by Rosemary from the papers:

The stage door Johnny ‘”ain’t what he used to be,” Rosemary Colligan laments. “He used to be the theater alley Romeo with top hats and tails who waited outside,” the TV actress said. “Now he dresses in sport shirts and pounds at the dressing room doors”

About her hair:

For myself I prefer long hair because as a model I find that I am requested to wear my hair many different ways, and without long hair this couldn’t be done.

In 1951, Rosemary dated Matty Fox, a wealthy film and TV tycoon, but while he was crazy about her, she just liked him, and ditched him when a more interesting guy came along. And that guy was… Mike Todd!

What can I say about Todd? Born in 1909, he was a master illusionist, a devil may care, half crazy bon vivant who survived by sheer charm and a good dose of luck. he was married twice before, and his second wife was Joan Blondell, who was left bankrupt after his producing expeditions. He just ditched dames when a more interesting one came along, and he broke plenty of hearts.

Anyway, Rosemary and Todd used to ride about New York in his Cadillac, and it was clear that Mikey was all ga-ga about Rosie. But then, a movie scout saw Rosie, like what he saw and asked her to Hollywood, just left Mikey without a second glance. Mikey was crushed, but refused to admit defeat – he came after Rosie to Hollywood just a few short weeks after she departed. He came bearing gits – and what gifts those were – diamonds and diamonds! Mike was determined to keep Rosie, and it seemed that she truly was enchanted by him – they spend a wonderful few weeks in Los Angeles, and when he had to return to New York, Rosie was quite unhappy at the airport.

But alas, life goes on! In September 1952, just days after Mikey left leaving behind breathless notes and promises to see Rosie again, she met THE man, the man who changed the game for her – that old fox, George Raft.

In a space of few days, Todd was out and Raft was in, big time! And Raft literary fell like a ton of steel for Rosie. Raft was no stranger for beautiful women – he dated them by the loads, but he was rarely in love, and few of the women he loved were Virginia Pine and Betty Grable. Very inspired company, no doubt! He was also a connoisseur of local Los Angeles hookers, and employed their services for decades. He usually had at least two women a day – sometimes even more.

by the end of the year, Rosemary took George Raft home to meet the family, George charmed both ma and pa, and everything was tipped for marriage. Then, Raft had to depart US for Italy for a film assignment. He tried to persuade Rosemary to go with him, but she was unwilling to be separated from her family for such a long time, so she declined. George was so smitten that when he flew from Los Angeles to New York en route to Italy, he still (in vain) begged Rosemary via phone calls and cables to join him. As the papers wryly put it, Dapper Georgie hasn’t had it this bad in years!

While George was in Rome, Rosemary took siege in his palatial Coldwater Canyon home that once belonged to his swain, Virginia Pine), and moved her family there – mom, dad and sister. George gave them his blessings, and often called Rosemary long distance to profess his love and devotion. he planted item sin the local papers in this vein:

GEORGE RAFT is determined to marry showgirl Rosemary Colligan. And, when he returns from Rome, he’ll make his first serious try for divorce

The papers claimed that he wants to marry Rosemary at this point, but after trying at least twice during the twenty or more years he and his wife have been separated, everybody could bet he’d have a small chance of getting his freedom. He offered his estranged mate a fantastic, lifetime “deal” when he wanted Betty Grable for his Mrs. and again when he wanted to marry Virginia Pine, but she refused him both times.

This is what George wanted us to think. The truth is probably somewhere the middle – IMHO he was too cheap and chickened out whenever the deal was about to close. He really burned for the girl – be it Betty Grable or Virginia or Rosemary, but could never quite get himself to do it. He always put himself fin the first place, and that meant his money too. I refuse to believe that in Hollywood, where you can get divorced in a zillion different ways, he couldn’t persuade his wife to divorce him. Even after humiliating her time and time again by bedding literary hundreds of starlets and hookers.

Anyway, even after George returned home from Rom the Colligans showed no willingness to evacuate. George balked, but with Rosemary’s charms and Raft’s wise lawyer (who advised him not to cause any legal rumpus because of the publicity that would result in bad publicity) workings in unison, George shrugged his shoulders and decided to camp out. So, George shelled out $3,000 for his new upkeep, living in an apartment in Joan Crawford’s apartment house. George caught a heavy cold on the plane trip from Italy, and he was looked after by Rosie and her mother, so he spent a chunk of his time in the house anyway.

It was clear as day to all in Hollywood that Raft was head over heels for Rosemary. He even got her a spot at his nightly dancing show, in order to keep her close to him. He was on good terms with her family, and they spent quality time together. Rosie and Georgie were constantly seen everywhere, often dancing at clubs. It is disputable if George really curbed his well known 2-women-a-day routine, but for Rosemary’s sake let’s hope he did.

However, time went by, and no divorce was coming. Like so many women before her, Rosemary got fed up with all the waiting, and trouble began to loom on the horizon.

By October 1953, Mrs. Colligan became seriously ill, and George sent her and Rosemary to Memphis, to see a famed specialist. Rosemary’s father and sister continued to live in his Beverly Hills home. The specialist only confirmed that Rosemary’s mother was very ill and advised a change of climate. So Rosemary and her entire family went to live in Florida. George could finally give up his apartment and move back into his home, but it was a bittersweet pleasure. It was a difficult time in their relationship, as it was unclear if they were saying a permanent goodbye, or was it just temporal. When newspaper people asked Rosemary about it, she said: “It’s hard to tell. I feel that my first duty now is to be with my mother. I can always come back later.”

And indeed, in the beginning, Raft and Rosemary had a semi-successful long distance relationship, he in California, she in Florida. But, literary a few short weeks later, things started to fall apart. As there was a very slim chance that George would ever wed her, Rosie just decided to play the field like a single lady while she was on the other side of the county. Pretty soon, there were reports that she was discovered by wealthy Irving Geist. Raft panicked, but Rosie wouldn’t budge. Their relationship became icier by the second.

George was livid and unhappy with the state of the union, but could hardly do anything. Then, it all escalated with a very last phone call between them, on Christmas Eve 1953, when Rosemary called him from Florida to say that she doesn’t love him any more. And that was just that.

Same as with Betty Grable and Virginia Pine, George prolonged getting a divorce, and when the lady inevitably left him, he was shattered, like really, properly shattered. His friends were literary amazed at the torch George was carrying for Rosemary. Just a few months ago they thought he was trying to get rid of her and her family – obviously George tried to make himself a cool cat who couldn’t wait to nicely ditch the gauche Colligans and Rosemary, when the truth was quite different.

Here are some short articles that show just how devastated George was (and he WAS!):

THE MOST DEPRESSED and blue guy in our town over the holidays was George Raft. Not a wire, not a card, nary a greeting of any kind from Rosemary Colligan, her mother, father or sister who were George’s guests for over a year, living in the luxury of his home while he occupied a small apartment. “Is he carrying a torch for Rosemary?” I asked one of his pals who is frankly worried about Raft. “Maybe not exactly a torch,” his friend explained, “but he’s deeply hurt to think that these people, for whom he did so much even to paying for father Colligan’s major operation, didn’t even have a greeting for him at the holidays. There’s been no word from them since they moved to Miami, after George paid for their departure.

To add insult to injury, George had a minor car crash in January 1954:

George Raft’s auto crash injuries — five torn ligaments in his right arm — are healing a lot faster than his heart injuries-from the breakup of his romance with Rosemary Colligan. The numbness in the arm is disappearing but the hurt of Rosemary’s departure for Florida last November still throbs. In fact, George is carrying a terrific torch. “I had such faith in that girl,” he tells me, “and I thought I had done a lot for her and her family.”

It seems that for George, who only had a proper family unit when he was with Virginia Pine and helped raise her daughter Joanie, perceived Colligans as his family, and it hit him extra hard when they fell apart. So, his relationship with Rosemary wasn’t just a man-loves-woman – for him, it was a chance to, through a beloved female figure, finally have a family that had eluded him, by his own choice, for several long decades. Yes, it hurt extra hard, but since he (more or less) refused to wed a nice girl from a proper Irish family, what could he expect?

George took his time to recuperate, and reacted quite angrily when anybody mentioned Rosemary. When he was leaving for Puerto Rico and that deal Fred MacMurray to run 3 gambling casino, he was asked if he would stop in Florida to see Rosemary. Enraged, he said, “No. When she told me she didn’t love me, that was that!”

Indeed, it seems that George and Rosemary cut all contact after that, and never spoke again. I could be wrong, but Rosemary is not even a footnote in most books on George’s life – worse still, she’s not even mentioned, like she never happened! This is a pretty big omission, as Rosie was truly and earnestly George’s great love. Less glamorous than Virginia Pine, less famous that Betty Grable, she is unjustly never mentioned and this is why there is so little information about her.

Rosemary married wealthy William F. Sullivan in 1954 in Miami, Floria. Unfortunately, I could not find any other information about her afterwards, or is she indeed alive today.
As always I hope she had a happy life.

Jayne Shadduck

Jayne Shadduck truly is an inspiring woman. Okay, maybe her Hollywood career is as thin as air and she never really tried to be a serious, accomplished actress, but she managed to more than make up for this slight by being a pioneer aviatrix and successful businesswoman (and this long after leaving Tinsel town behind). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jayne Dunham Francis Shadduck was born on July 1, 1915, in Walla, Walla, Washington, to Joe F. Shadduck and Francis Shadduck. She was their only child. Her father was a general director of an automobile sales salon, and the family was relatively well of.  

By 1930, the family had moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jayne attended high school. Jayne caught the dancing bug early, and was in the chorus before she graduated from high school. She moved to California and started her Hollywood career in 1932, only 17 years old.

She was one of the few girls who signed a contract with RKO. All the girls were chosen from a chorus recently developed In Hollywood by Busby Berkeley. There were eighty members of the chorus, who, in turn, were chosen from among more than 5,000 applicants. And Jayne was of!

CAREER

Sadly, Jayne appeared in uncredited minor, minor roles in only three movies. Two of those were top of the shelf 1930s musicals – 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Forget the story, enjoy the visuals and the dancing!

Jayne’s third movie was The Little Giant, a delightful, sharp and witty comedy with Edward G. Robinson playing a former bootlegger going straight. And fun ensures! Plus for featuring Mary Astor and Helen Vinson, both very capable, yummy actresses.

And that’s it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne gave a beauty hint to the readers in 1933:

Cologne is a boon for a variety of uses, such as scenting the bath, toning up tired pores and perfuming lingerie and handkerchiefs. When I am fatigued, I soak a pad of cotton with the refreshing liquid and press it to my temples, relaxing at the same time for a half hour, or as long as I can spare. It is most refreshing.

Jayne had a slight mishap during her early career, in 1932:

Jayne Shadduck, screen actress of “Forty-second Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933,” was painfully injured yesterday while working in a tank scene in a new musical picture. “Footlight Parade,” on a Warner Brothers sound stage. She suffered a contusion of the nose when she struck the arm of another girl during rehearsal

In 1933, Jayne dated first Lyle Talbot and then left him for Mike Francovitch, Joe E. Brown’s adopted son and star footballer at the U. C.L. A. That didn’t last either – Mike married Binnie Barnes in 1940.

Next on the line was the much-married director, Eddie Sutherland (one of his wives was Louise Brooks), who just left Grace Bradley to date her. It didn’t last either.

Interesting to note that Jayne and Katherine Hepburn got their contract on the very same day at the same judge! Here is a short article about it:

Pair Choose Day of Jinx to Get Approval of Judge for Picture Work When Adalyn Doyle, “good luck girl” for Katharine Hepburn, and blonde Jayne Shadduck. raised their right hands in .Superior Judge Mc-Comb’s court yesterday and swore to tell the truth concerning their contracts to appear in motion-picture productions of the Twentieth Century Pictures, Inc., they crossed their fingers. “Oh, we told the truth, all right,” they chorused, “but, after all, It Is Friday the 13th and we aren’t taking unnecessary chances.” The contracts cover a period of years with gradual increases in salary until, in the event all the options are exercised, both will receive weekly salaries in four figures and without any decimals strewn therein. Both contracts were approved.

In late 1933, Jayne met playwright Jack Kirkland. Soon, she was telling the papers that the marriage to Jack was more desirable than a career in the movies. Here is a laughable and pretty silly article about Hollywood starlets and matrimony from that time:

Six of the Goldwyn girls who adorned Eddie Cantor’s “Kid From Spain,” “Roman Scandals” and other recent hits have called off their vow against matrimony. Jayne Shadduck, Vivian Bannon Keefer, Dolores Casey, Jane Hamilton, Barbara Pepper and Bonny agreed none would wed until all had progressed to be something more than show girls. Most of them had recent bits in Radio’s “Strictly Dynamite.” Miss Shadduck holds a studio contract and now she’s engaged to marry Jack Kirk-land and the other five girls declare it open season for orange blossoms.

This truly is a bit of make-believe – most starlets with no acting experience and no real wish to become the next Sarah Bernhardt didn’t’ come to Hollywood to establish a career – they wanted to have fun  and get married! Let’s not kid ourselves, most of the starlets I profiled here go squarely into this category. If they really wanted to act, they would have gone to a drama school and did theater before landing into movies. There will always be exceptions, but Jayne wasn’t one of them. She was aiming to wed and that was that.

Jayne was preparing a get-out for Hollywood, and get-in for matrimony. She married Jack on march 23, 1934, and left immediately for a honeymoon in Spain.

Like most hasty marriage,s this one ended in a fiasco. They got into an intense tiff and decided to divorce while on their honeymoon. However, when they returned to Los Angeles, the situation changed from day-to-day – one weekend they went from tavern to tavern , dancing and drinking together, the other they were separated and awaiting a divorce.

After an up and down period of about half a year, they finally did divorce in February 1935. Jayne testified that Kirkland often absented himself from home for days without an explanation, and that he was abusive in his language to her. The final decree was to come in February 1936.

However, even after they divorced, Jack and Jayne couldn’t keep their hands of off each other. They still went out regularly and maintained a very flirty and sexy front. The reporters predicted that their divorce would not last for long and that they would remarry. But, well, life operates in strange ways, and this is an interesting story.

During the throes of their post divorce passion, Jayne left for Honolulu for a short break. Kirkland, like a love-struck youth that he was, drove her to the ship and almost forgot to come off before the gang-plank was lifted. he was expecting Jayne to return in a few weeks so they can continue their liaison and probably get married once again. BUT!

A romance that started under a tropical moon in Hawaii in May 1935, and it wasn’t Jack. Jayne and Henry J. Topping, Jr., New York banker and wealthy heir, fell hard for each other, and announced, literary two weeks later, that they will be married next February. I can only imagine how Jack felt, but he didn’t waste any time in finding new swains – he married three more times (to Julie Laird, Halia Stoddard and Nancy Hoadley), sired several children, among them the famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, and died on February 22, 1969.

Jayne went to Reno to speed up the nuptials. The press joked that she had to pay extra fare to Reno because Bob Topping’s diamond ring is so big. In Reno, Jayne won a final divorce from Jack Kirkland, on. charges of cruelty and was boarded a night plane for New York to meet Topping. Like in a fairy tale dream, Topping was right on job to greet Jayne when she arrived by air from Reno. Oh, so sweet!

The happy couple wed in August 6, 1935. Bob and Jayne were the town before sailing on that South American honeymoon. After their return from the honeymoon (no honeymoon divorce this time!), they continued living the high life in New York City, a solid part of the local jet set.

One of the first female pilots in the United States, Jayne flew a six-passenger plane from Detroit to New York in 1937, for which she was featured in Life magazine.

However, in August 1937, Bob and Jayne parted! They went to Hawaii together. He returned from Honolulu solo and flew right on to New York. Jayne followed on the next boat and is flew east to woo him back. For the next few months, there was scant information about the couple, but then in October the bomb fell: Topping said he had told his wife,  to “get a divorce.”, but he refused to confirm or deny rumors of a $500,000 settlement. The soap opera continued, with ups and downs, much like her first marriage. Will they or wont’ they?

First, they were being sued by the Wall St. lawyer who once smoothed out their differences. Okay, so they had outside help in the marriage, but it seems that it didn’t work quite as expected. In May 1938, this happened:

The secretly filed divorce action of Henry J. Topping Jr. of Greenwich, big-game hunter and heir to a tin plate fortune, was revealed today when his pretty actress wife, Jayne Shadduck -Topping, petitioned the Superior Court that the action be thrown out. Miss Shadduck, accuses her husband of bad sportsmanship by violating the hard and fast rules of divorce procedure. Topping’s application to sever his marriage is based on grounds of intolerable cruelty and was written into the record last April 25. Apparently the decision to go ahead with the proceedings was delayed, since the original papers were dated April 16. He Charges Cruelty. Topping claims that a year and four days after their marriage, Aug. 6, 1935, in the elopers’ paradise of Armonk, N. Y., his actress wife started to show signs of cruelty. Her acts of cruelty, he states, continued until April 16 of this year.

In reality, Topping wanted to divorce Jayne so he could marry socialite Gloria Mimi Baker, and finally it cost him a pretty cool $500,000. Jayne put the price tag on the marriage and said: pay and get divorce or no pay no divorce. And she got her money. Such was Toppings passion for Gloria. Topping married  three more times after Gloria (to Lana Turner, Arline Judge and Mona Topping) and died on April 21, 1968.

Anyway, Jayne decided, wisely, to stay away from romance and enter the business arena: She said: “I have no romance whatever in my life now. And I’m not interested in romance. I’m interested now in the ice cream business.” In December 1938, she arrived in Hawaii, accompanied by A. Rost, who will be her partner in a Honolulu ice cream business.

Soon, Jayne was a staple in Hawaii and even started to sponsor various sports teams:

Jayne Shadduck Topping Signs Contract To Sponsor Gridders Jayne Shadduck Topping yesterday definitely decided to sponsor a football team composed of ex-college stars next fall, signing a contract to finance the team which will play in the Hawaii Football association, local senior circuit. The aggregation will be known as the Hawaiian Polar Bears. Bob Patrick will be associated with her as advisor, while Francis Brickner will be the business manager. John Masterson, director of the annual East-West Shrine football game, is the Mainland representative with headquarters in San Francisco. He will assist Mrs. Topping and Brickner in contacting and selecting the players. The team wm be selected by July 15

In January 1940, Jayne married her third and last husband, Richard Durant. She settled into a highly satisfactory family life in Hawaii afterwards. Richard Church Durant was born on April 25, 1906, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Clark Durant. He was a sportsman graduate of Yale and Harvard, and became a surgeon who helped found Kaiser Hospital in Hawaii.

The Durant’s daughter, Louise, was born on March 20, 1941. Their son Clark was born in August 1942. Their last child and son Payson was born on March 19, 1951.

Jayne was later embroidered a scandal concerning the divorce of James Roosevelt from his wife – it was the same scandal that touched fellow actress Andrea Leeds:

Denials that they are among the women named in letters from James Roosevelt to his wife were made yesterday by these two former actresses. Andrea Leeds (left), now the wife of Robert S. Howard, a millionaire resident of Palm Springs, Calif., said she “never had a date with the man.” She agreed with Mrs. Richard Durant (right), the former Jayne Shadduck, that the names listed could have referred .to any women so named. ” Her name was one of nine listed in a letter which Mrs. Roosevelt filed with her suit for separate maintenance. Roosevelt’s attorney is expected to file an answer today

Mrs. Durant said she had cabled Roosevelt demanding an Immediate public retraction of “the false, libelous statement” linking her name and his. Mrs. Durant declared today that it does not “exonerate him from the responsibility of smearing innocent person.” She said in a statement “a lot of damage has been done to a lot of innocent people. I cannot condone Mr, Roosevelt ever signing any document containing such damaging lies … in order to extricate himself from his personal problems … no matter what the circumstance.” Mrs. Howard said she felt compelled to make a public statement.

This one is open for debate, but I somehow believe, in this case, where there is smoke there is fire. Why would anyone put a random society woman living for years in Hawaii (by then) on such a list? While there can be some vindictive bastards who would do such things, I somehow think it’s not the case here. If the affair did happen, it happened around 1945, 5 years after Jayne married Richard.

Anyway, Jayne had a rich and varied life in Hawaii. She was vice president of the Hawaii Hotel Association in the early 1950s. She raced canoes with the Kahana-moku brothers and Doris Duke. She was also an ardent angler and landed many big tuna and marlin during fishing trips off Kona and Oahu. She was a member of the Friends of Iolani Palace. Durant was an avid traveler and had seen much of the world with her husband.

The Durants had lived in the penthouse of the Palms Condominium since it was built more in the early 1960s to replace the Palms Hotel. The Na-hua Avenue hotel, which Durant owned and managed, was often the vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities before and after World War ll. All in all, Jayne made quite a life for herself in Hawaii and it seems she led a truly happy existence there.

Richard Durant died in September 1973. Jayne stayed at the island and continued with her civic and professional work.

Jayne Durant died from cancer on May 29, 1993, in Honolulu.  Her last trip was to Kenya in November 1992, after she learned she had cancer. When she died, her grandchildren told these touching lines in her obituary:

Jayne Shadduck Durant, actress, pilot, hotel owner, deep-sea angler, world traveler, lived a life that was larger than life. After she learned last fall that she was terminally ill, she invited granddaughter Sonja Freebairn on a safari to Kenya, then they stopped in London to see some of the new stage shows. “Her life was more packed than anyone’s,” Freebairn said. “She was so much fun to talk to. In all those years, we never had the same conversation twice.” “She was a glamour girl,” said grandson Robert Freebairn.

The grandchildren were learning new things about her this weete as they found magazine and newspaper clippings about Durant’s full life. “She wasn’t a bragger,” said Sonja Freebairn. “She was so low-key about her accomplishments. ;. “She wouldn’t let us do a videotape of her stories. But she knew very much, she never forgot anything,” Robert Freebairn said. One clipping they found was about her piloting a small aircraft, breaking a flight record between Detroit and New; York in 1937. “

She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Martha Outlaw

MarthaOutlaw2

With beautiful, exotically slanted eyes, a well sculpted face and a slim but womanly body, Martha Outlaw was the paragon of a stunning 1940s woman, ending up a highly successful model, a failed actress and in the end a happy family woman.

EARLY LIFE:

Martha Rascoe Outlaw was born on April 29, 1914, in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Edward Ralph Outlaw and Louise G. Greenleaf. Her older sister, also named Louise, was born in 1908. Both of her parents were from Elizabeth City.

The family lived in Elizabeth City until the 1930s. Martha’s dad Edward was a college educated boat captain who worked in the Texas oil industry. In his spare time, he was a passionate lover of early American history and was well known collector of the Pasquotank area (where Elizabeth City is situated) local stories. The stories were later privately published by Martha’s mom Louise in a book named Old Nag’s Head (this was to in 1954, after Ralph’s death).

The Outlaws were a well liked, popular local family, and both Martha and Louise were local debutantes, making social column notices in the paper and flirting with local boys.

Martha wanted a career, and decided upon a modeling one. She started modeling in cca 1942, pretty late, when she was almost 30 years old. She was soon a sought after model, and in 1943, was summoned to Hollywood to act in Cover Girl.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

MartthaOutlawHer first  credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Helen was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

MarthaOutlaw8Martha appeared in one more movie, albeit uncredited. But, it’s a pretty good one – Since You Went Away, a WW2 classic. Unlike many other WW2 movies, it has nothing to do with the battleground but all to do with the people left behind, just as much victims of war as the soldiers were. While this is not a master piece, not by far, as it is marred by cons typical of the patriotic WW2 movies (too preachy, a bit unrealistic, too sentimental), it still features some superb performances and that is its core strength that raises it above the typical WW2 propaganda film. Claudette Colbert, Jennfier Jones, Shirley Temple, Robert Walker, Joseph Cotten, Monty Woolley are all solid performers and all give spirited performances. All in a all, a promising start. Yet, it was as much a start as it was the end of Martha’s career.

Martha left the film world to become a wife and mother after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1942, Martha dated James McKinley Bryant, the well known cafe society broker and author. They actually dated for almost a year but broke up before she departed for Hollywood.

MarthaOutlaw3In Hollywood, Martha suffered an appendicitis attack in October 1944 and lived in a single room with fellow starlet, Karen Gaylord. Gaylord even had problems when she wanted t marry her love, Ted Knoll, since there was a shortage of housing in Los Angeles then (during the war).

Martha married Henry Edwards Huntington II on May 17, 1944, while he was in the Army Air Force. He was the grandson and name sake of Henry E. Huntington, famous millionaire philanthropist. Born on January 3, 1921, his father was Huntington’s only son, Howard Edwards Huntington, and his mother was the former Louise Thayer Green from Berkeley, California. He was the youngest of six children (his siblings were Elizabeth,  Margaret, Harriet, Howard and Leslie). Sadly, Henry was just one year old when his father died.

The couple lived a lavish life in California and had two children, two sons, Henry III, born in 1945, and Edward “Ted”, born on August 25, 1947.

Martha separated from her husband in November 1951, and sued him for divorce in December 1951. She claimed he took 9,000$ dollars from their shared account and left California without providing any means for her or the boys. There was a bit of push and shove since Huntington, in hopes of getting a swift divorce, moved “permanently” to Nevada, became a Nevada resident, and filed for his own divorce proceedings. He charged Martha with mental cruetly and was awarded a default divorce in March, but since Martha signed a separate divorce petition, there was a bit of a wobble. In the end Martha was awarded 2900$ monthly temporary alimony in January, and the final divorce decree was given in June 1952. Martha even hired two private detectives to tail her husband, who laid low in Nevada, but they never did manage to catch him. Martha testified that Huntington could frequently get her up at all hours of the  night so he could tell her about his “conquests”, and that he abused her verbally.

MarthaOutlaw6.comHuntington tried later to nullify Martha’s California divorce by his own Nevada divorce, but the judge rules it as a sham. All in all, the show dragged on for a while…

In the meantime, Martha wisely choose to give up on the whole sordid game and married Secondo Guasti III, scion of a well known California wine making family, on April 17, 1954. It was true love, since Martha gave up her 1,000$ alimony after the marriage (Huntington only had to continue paying 600$ per month for their two sons). Guasti was Martha’s junior by 10 years, being born on October 13, 1925. His grandfather was Secondo Guasti I, founder of the Italian Vineyard Company. Secondo came from Italy to the US in 1881 and slowly built his business from the ground up. Within 20 years he had founded his own vineyard and town, and his name became synonymous with Southern California wine. A simple testament to his success – penniless when he arrived, Guasti later lived in a mansion on West Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles that was said to have cost $500,000 to build.

His father was Secondo Guasti Jr, Secondo Sr’s only son (he also had a daughter). Secondo’s mother was a well known gourmet cook who combined several ethical cuisines into a compact new cuisine, and wrote cookbooks. Sadly, Secondo Guasti Jr. died in Santa Barbara on April 6, 1933 at the age of 42. His widow remarried in 1935 and moved to New York. Secondo later moved back to California.

Martha and Secondo had a happy, fulfilling marriage and were socially prominent in Pasadena, often giving their famous gala parties for friends. The charmed life lasted until Secundo’s death in 1973. Martha’s former husband, Harry Huntington, died in 1978. He remarried in 1954 to Lucille Barnes Noonan.

Martha continued to live in California, and was very active in the local community.

Martha Guasti died on December 30, 2002 in Santa Barbara.

Diane Cook

DianeCook3

Tall, good looking Diane Cook was a very good dancer and Hollywood utilized that talent – just not the way that warrants anyone fame and fortune, but is a short way into obscurity.

EARLY LIFE:

Maybelle M. Cook was born on January 8, 1913 in Valdez, Alaska, to John Cook and Margaret Hardie. Her father was an Englishman, her mother from Washington. Maybelle was the eldest child and only daughter – her younger siblings were all brothers: John, James and William.

The family lived in Valdez in 1930, where Maybelle attended high school. She started dancing pretty early and decided to make it her career. In 1933, she left Alaska for the West Coast and started her career in Hollywood in 1934.

CAREER:

Some of the best musicals of the 1930s can be found on Diane’s resumee – sadly, she was a uncredited chorus girl in all of them, one of many who never got noticed. it’s no surprise that she stay in Hollywood for about six years before calling it quits (hey, longer than some, but not nearly enough to be called a true working actress).


DianeCook1Dames i
s just the first of several Busby Berkeley musicals – and a very good one at that, with Berekely’s best cast – Dick Powell; Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell. Kid Millions is one of Eddie Cantor’s best movies, about a simple Brooklyn boys who inherits a large sum of money but must go to Egypt to reclaim it. The superb supporting cast (Ann Sothern, George Murphy, Ethel Merman, Doris Davenport) make this a true delight for any musical fan!

Roberta goes down in history as the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but even without the eternal musical duo, it’s a finely made, entertaining movie.  Irene Dunne is, as always, a grand dame with a great voiceBroadway Melody of 1936 is one of the Broadway Melody series movies, while not the best, it’s not the worst by far. The plot is, as usual with these type of movies, quite thin, but it’s funny enough, and the musical numbers are seamlessly integrated in it. And who doesn’t like Jack Benny? And of course, the young and stunningly handsome Robert Taylor, while not a great actor by any chance, it very nice to look at.

The Great Ziegfeld is The best Picture Oscar winner, so nothing new to note here. Bill Powell is a tour de force in any movie he appears in, and playing the Great Ziegfeld did him no harm! Myrna Loy as his partner is that comes so naturally that it’s weird when they are not in the same movie!  Sing, Baby, Sing is a decent musical pairing off quite an unlikely duo – the angelic, sweet Alice Faye and the funny, sharp Patsy Kelly. And the pairing works great! I wish we had more of these interesting female pairings in movies!

DianeCook5Then, Diane started appearing in Sonja Henie movies. I never tried to hide the fact that I dislike Sonja Henie movies. Sonja, while very cute with her round face and quite a capable skater, was, IMHO, quite  a talent-less actress and mostly made extremely simplistic movies without  a hint of intelligence. Thus, anything I say about One in a Million won’t sound kind, so I’ll just skip it. Thin Ice  gets the very same treatment.

 Man-Proof was finally a non musical movie! While it’s not a very good one, it still veered Diane a bit off her usual fare and branched her into other genres. While the movie boasts a first class cast (Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon), it’s quite predictable and some moments comes of as highly contrived ones. How to Watch Football is a hilarious, 9 minute Nathaniel Benchley shortHonolulu is what you would call a musical with an completely idiotic plot but with plenty of soul and sass. Robert Young and Eleanor Powell head off the cast of great supporting players (George Burns, Gracie Allen, Rita Johnson, Clarence Kolb, Ruth Hussey – 1930s was a gold mine of SUPERB supporting players!)

Then it was back again to Sonja Henie movies with Second Fiddle – at leas we have Tyrone Power in this one, and one can enjoy the beautiful visage! Another non musical film came in the form of I Take This Woman, a Hedy Lamarr/Spencer Tracy movie. Hedy is a truly unique actress, incredibly beautiful and immensely talented, but one has to pass several checkpoints to actually understand both her talent and her appeal. It took me literary years to finally see her in a true light – I tough of her as a beauty with a big ego and no talent before this. Tracy, as any classic movies fan knows, is one of the best actors that ever lived. The film did not utilize neither him or her very well and is a type of movie you watch and forget 2 hours after it ends. Still, I enjoyed seeing the soft spoken, ethereal Laraine Day in it!

Like many of her contemporaries, Diane left movies for marriage in 1940.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Diane had had a surprisingly small newspaper coverage. She was never mentioned as a solo starlet, but mostly in the context of a larger group of starlets. Not that much information was given about her as a result and there is not much to write on 😦

DianeCook4

Diane married her first husband, Henry Frederick Shilling, in May 1935. Schilling was born in 1905, making him 8 years older than Diane. The marriage was very brief and ended in 1936.

Diane married her second husband, Fred Fredericks, a well known hair stylist working for Max Factor, in October 1939. Fredericks was born in 1907 in New York. At some point he moved to the West Coast and was very well paid for his work.

They had two children, a son, Jerry Louis Fredericks, born on January 26, 1940, and a daughter, Diane Katherine Fredericks, born on March 22, 1945.  They divorced sometime prior to 1967. Fredericks died in 1984.

Diane married her third husband, Vincent Keating, on February 2, 1967 in Santa Barbara, California. She and Vincent owned a string of  liquor stores in Southern California, living in Los Angeles until their retirement. They moved to San Diego to enjoy their golden years.

Diane Cook Keating died on July 6, 1994 in San Diego, California.

 

Florence Lundeen

Florence Lundeen

The stunning blonde amazon was a short lived Hollywood extra, following suit of many other Goldwyn girls.

EARLY LIFE:

May Florence Lundin was born on February 9, 1922, in Los Angeles, California, to Carl Ludin and his wife, Selma Lenden. Both of her parents were born in Sweden. Her older sister, Gerda, was born in California in 1918.

Florence grew up in Los Angeles. Her parents separated sometime during the the 1930s. In 1940, Florence lived with her mother, sister and brother-in-law (Keith Garrick) and nephew in Los Angeles and worked as a model.

She trained as a stenographer at J C Fremont high school and was dancing as a junior hostess at Hollywood Canteen when discovered by MGM’s Ida Koverman (Koverman was Louis B. Meyer’s secretary and a very influential woman). She signed a contract with M G M and the following day was loaned out for Up in Arms.

CAREER:

Florence had a very, very minor career. She appeared in only four movies, all uncredited.

She made her movie debut long before she was noticed by Ida Koverman, in 1941, by appearing in Hitchhike to Hell, an exploitation movie. Needless to say, it’s a low quality work of dubious reputee, and it is even possible that Florence appeared in more of these movies to cash in some loot.

Her first proper movie was Broadway Rhythm, where she played a autograph seeker. A imdb reviewer wrote nicely of the movie

A pleasing enough entertainment, working primarily as a pageant of various MGM specialty acts – impressionists, contortionists, nightclub acts, tap-dancers, as well as the standard musical theatrical numbers. The film isn’t a musical in the traditional sense, as all the musical numbers are in the contest of an actual performance (some done toward the camera). It’s much more in the tradition of a 1960s-70s variety TV show.

FlorenceLundeen2In other words, it’s a typical bread and butter musical with the “it was always there but you never saw it” theme. For a newcomer like Florence this was not the worst way to start a career.

Being a tall and shapely Teutonic maiden, Florence was cast a one of the Goldwyn girls in Up in Arms. Again, I am not writing any more about this movie. Obviously a huge number of nice looking girls appeared in it, and Florence was just one of the masses.

Florence’s last appearance was in Meet the People.A modest film with no big production values, it’s far from a very good movie but it fits the bill of a mid tier musical. Lucille Ball and Dick Powell aretypically good in the leads, plus is features some other MGM musical stock actors and actresses like Virginia O’Brien, Bert Lahr and June Allyson.

After this, Florence got divorced and probably left Hollywood.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Florence hit the papers before she even made a proper movie debut. Due to her “Scandinavian blond” good looks, she was a sought after girl about town as early as 1940. She dated noted songwriter Garwood Van, but hit the jackpot when she was noticed by Franchot Tone. She happily let the two men vie for her affections. Franchot won out, but he was a all around charmer, dating Peggy Moran at the same time. Franchot, ever the perfect gentleman, used to wine and dine Florence at the Beachcomber’s, a famous sea food restaurant in Los Angeles. Predictably, it did not last long.

Florence married actor Robert Conway in 1941. He was born on June 12, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois as Robert Anderson.

Florence gave birth to twin daughters, Jeannette Kathryn Andersen and Judith Anne Andersen on April 27, 1942. Sadly, her marriage to Andersen was a very troubled one, and they separated in September 1943. She went back home to her mother Selma, and never returned. They divorced in 1944.

I have no idea what happened to Florence afterwards. IMDB lists her death on January 23, 1961, but I could not find any Florence, born on February 9, 1922, who died on that day. There is a whole list of women named Florence born on February 9, 1922 who died at  a later date, ranging from 1980s until 2000s, and our Florence could be any of these women.

What I do know is that Florence’s sister, Gerda Garrick, died on 2000. Her former husband, Robert Conway, died in 1969.

 

 

 

 

Inna Gest

InnaGest2

Inna Gest tried to live the Hollywood dream – a Russian immigrant making it big as an actress. Of course, she never made to to top brass, but did much better than many girls in similar positions, playing leads and working steadily for a few years.

EARLY LIFE:

Inna Gest was born on February 11, 1921, in Odessa, Ukraine, to Arseny Gest and Maria Kaminina. The family moved a round quite a lot during her earliest years, and lived in Czechoslovakia and Poland for a brief time.

In 1925, her parents immigrated to the US, and settled in California. Her brother Vladimir (called Walter) was born in 1928. Her father died sometine in the 1930s, and her mother got  job as a neck tie operator. Inna graduated from Hollywood high school in 1939 and decided upon a showbiz career. A major factor in that decision was her uncle, Morris Gest, a well known theater producer who gave Inna her first push by introducing her to all the important people. Along with Margaret Roach, daughter of Hal Roach, she was signed to a movie contract the same year.

CAREER:

To be perfectly honest, when I started exploring the career of Inna Gest I fully expected to find her to be like most of the Goldwyn girls  – a glamour gal with a very slim, almost nonexistent movie output. I was proven wrong and ended up pleasantly surprised after discovering she was in fact a western leading lady and that she really worked from 1940-1944, making several appearances in a year.

Inna started her career in 1939 with Babes in Arms . Her next one was one of thebest (and the first) Harry Aldich movies, What a LifeFast and Furious is a mediocre murder mystery, only heightened by the genial pairing of Franchot Tone and Ann Southern as husband/wife sleuth team.

51777255030ae_149919nInna got noticed by the studio brass and her career went up. She had her first credited role, and a female lead one at that, in the not-that-bad low budget western, The Golden Trail, playing opposite Tex Ritter. She continued the trend, playing leading ladies in man’s movie (where the female lead is mostly decorative and not as important to the plot as the male lead’s machinations). Her next movie was Boys of the City, where she played second fiddle to the East Side Kids. She reached the pinnacle of her career in Gun Code, again as the female lead. A well paced western with a good balance of characters, story and action, it is certainly one of Tim McCoy’s best movies.

Road Show was a silly comedy of little merit, Hard Guy is probably one of Inna’s better known credited movies, for no other reason than that it’s her only gangster movie (very popular at the time) and features Jack LaRue. It’s not even a good movie to start with – it’s premise is extremely ridiculous (as one user masterfully wrote on imdb):

His specialty was getting the women in his employ to marry rich men and then get quickie annulments or divorces–splitting the money with him. This was a big problem with the film, as there is no reason for any woman to split the money with LaRue–it just made no sense. Nor did it really make sense for them to give up on their ‘sugar baby’ so quickly. When one of the women develops a conscience, LaRue kills her and makes it look like her new husband did it! So it’s up to a bunch of idiots to somehow unravel the mystery.

So very funny… Yes, they made movies like this before 😛

Just when things could have turned out nicely for Inna, she gave up movies for the time being to become a wife. Sadly, her change to become a solid actress was gone by the time she returned to the movie arena in 1943, when her husband was off fighting in WW2.

In 1943 she made You Can’t Beat the Law, a run of the mill low budget thriller, two well made war movies, Hangmen Also Die! and The North Star. Both can still be seen on television today.

She had one lead role, in Six Gun Gospel, a totally forgotten Johnny Mack Brown western. Sadly, Inna was never to have a lead after this, but totally slipped into uncredited territory.  

Up in Arms was Inna’s chance to finally appear as a Goldwyn girl. I mentioned this film so many times on this blog that I’m so fed up with it and am not going to mention it again. Show Business is a wacky, vulgar pastiche of vaudeville shorts and RKO musicals footage with some very racy jokes. Ladies of Washington is an interesting movie about the housing shortage in Washington during WW2 and how people deal with it, but sadly not widely known today.

InnaGestInna’s only movie in 1945 was Bring on the Girls, a sparking, vivacious comedy with Eddie Bracken and Veronica Lake. Veronica’s career was already on the downhill, and except Blue Dahlia, would never regain her early 1940s fame. Such a shame for this uniquely talented femme fatale…

After the filming was over, Inna decided to devote more time to her infant daughter and husband and gave up Hollywood for the time being.

Inna made two more uncredited appearances, one in 1947 in Northwest Outpost, one of Nelson Eddy‘s last movies (and nothing to write home about, Nelsonw as never a good actor and he sue did not become any better with his last features), and No Minor Vices, an interesting comedy that received mixed notices, but boasts a fine cast (Dana Andrews, Lili Palmer, Louis Jourdan).

That was all from Inna.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Inna started her career as a typical starlet with strong familial connections, but grew into a working B class actress and was rarely featured in the papers. Except a brief flash of interest that followed her around when she entered the Hollywood scene in 1939, she got some minor publicity in 1944, when she was doing war relief work. She posed with Malinki, a cat found floating in a bucket by a Naval officer during the battle for Guadalcanal.

InnaGest3Ina married Clarence H. Peterson in the early 1940s. Their daughter Victoria Inna Peterson was born on November 6, 1944. They divorced in cca. 1947/48.

Inna married Alex Grobenko in San Francisco in the late 1940s. He was born on November 6, 1895 in Russia, moved to the US and became a naturalized citizen in 1932. They divorced a few years later. Grobenko remained in California and died there at the ripe old age of 93 on January 31, 1989.

Inna married her third and last husband, Alexander Istomin. Istomin was born on June 12, 1923, making him the only husband who was younger than Inna. Like Grobenko, he was born in Russia and became a naturalized US citizen (just in 1953 not 1932).

Inna Gest Istomin died on December 31, 1964, from hepatitis B, aged only 43.

Inna’s widower, Istomin, married Irina Thompson in 1968. On a sad note, Inna’s only child, daughter Victoria, died in 1969 in Eldridge, California, aged only 24.