Gloria Youngblood

Gloria Youngblood had one of the most interesting lives I have encountered while profiling classic Hollywood actresses. While she wasn’t an actress of any note, she was an active woman who made her own path and never looked back! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Minnie Gloria Youngblood was born on May 12, 1916, in Madison, Illinois, to Adolph Herman Youngblood and Laura Pillsbury. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1914. She was of Native American (Cherokee) descent on her father’s side. Her father worked as a maintenance man for a western cartridge company.

When the United States went to war Adolph husband decided that it was his duty to go into the navy. He sought a release from the Exemption Board, saying his wife was willing for him to go and leave her with their two children. He was told his wife would have to come to the board and make her acquiescence known, and she did. She expressed herself as being perfectly willing to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children. She said she could work, and that she believed, with what he would send her, she would be able to “get by”. Finally the husband and father got the desired release. He joined the Navy and has been in service on a torpedo boat.

On November 12, 1918, Laura died at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Pillsbury from influenza. The family tried to get into touch with the husband to inform him that the two little children he left at home are motherless. Adolph returned soon, and married Rose Youngblood, a widower with had two children from her late husband’s previous marriage (whoa, what a family!). They lived with Rose’s parents in Alton. Gloria and Margaret lived with their grandparents, but obviously maintained a tight relationship with their father.

Gloria grew up in Alton, in her grandparents home. She attended Alton High School, and after graduation in 1935, went to New York to become a model. And this is how she got in touch with Tinsel town, and how her career started.

CAREER:

Gloria appeared in only three movies, all made in 1938. The first one was The Goldwyn Follies, The plot is as silly as the movie in general: Movie producer chooses a simple girl to be “Miss Humanity” and to critically evaluate his movies from the point of view of the ordinary person. What? Yes, I was as shocked as you were. These kinds of movie,s where the story is completely irrelevant and where singing and dancing is everything, are rarely good – while everybody can enjoy a good dancing number, movies as a format were not ideally suited for this – I can watch a dancing video if I wanted this. I expect more style, substance and art from movies, not nonsensical dancing. Well, this movie doesn’t have it. While there are truly spectacular dance sequences, overall it just doesn’t hold a candle to truly great musicals.

A much better movie was The Adventures of Marco Polo, and that’s saying something! This movie, known today as the movie where Lana Turner had to shave her eyebrows that never grew back later, is corny, wean and uneven. While the sumptuous set and costume design is breathtaking, everything is too stagy and absurd to be believable at any degree. Even Gary Cooper couldn’t save this dud!

Gloria’s last movie was Trade Winds, a fun traveling romp with Frederic March and Joan Bennett. The plot is bare bones: March is a former SFPD detective, hired to find and bring back Joan Bennett, who’s suspected of murdering Sidney Blackmer. The movie mixes genres from whodunnit, to travelogue, to screwball comedy, to romance, to courtroom drama and does it with its own unique flair. March and Bennett are great, very slinky and sexy, with a great cat and mouse game going on, quite a feat for the Production code ridden late 1930s. Kudos to supporting actor Ann Sothern and Ralph Bellamy who are impeccable in their stereotyped but very effective roles.

That was it from Gloria!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to New York, Gloria was homesick, and treated her malady by buying local Alton newspapers  – she would stroll from her Hotel Edison at Forty-seventh and Broadway to the out-of-town newsstand in back of the Times Building at Broadway and Forty-second street every night to get the newspapers from her home town. Back before the inter,et this is the closest you could get abreast all the new events happening in Illinois, so nifty!

In 1937, Gloria hit the papers by begin her sister’s witness in her divorce from Chris Larkin. By September 1937, we see her as the girlfriend of A.C. Blumenthal, the fabulously wealthy financier. Blumenthal was shorter than Gloria, so they made a cute couple 🙂 They also had a daily routine: They swim every morning at eight, which everybody saw as a pretty strong test of devotion. But, int he long run, it didn’t work.

Why? Well, because Gloria met a new Romeo – Rudy Vallee, the famous bandleader and Lothario. Vallee dated such a large number of girls that the press often lost count – they met in New York, introduced by noted puppeteer Edgar Bergen. He escorted her around town for a few weeks, and then went back to Los Angeles, where he lived. When Gloria was the writing on the wall, and that Rudy was escorting other girls, she packed her bags and simply moved to LA to try her hand at acting. No prior experience needed! They resumes dating in Los Angeles, and all was fine and dandy.

This all happened in a span of literary weeks. And in October 1937, Gloria hit the papers hit. How? Well, the well oiled studio publicity machine saw an opportunity and literary snatched her – Gloria was hopeful that Rudy would marry her, the studio was hopefully that Rudy would stop Casanoving women around, and viola, it was a perfect match! One small detail/problem. Rudy wasn’t in on it. While he certainly liked Gloria, he had no intention whatsoever of getting married again. His last marriage, to Fay Webb, was very tempestuous, and their divorce was highly dramatic. Fay died after their divorce was made final, in November 1936, and this truly crushed Rudy. He played the field almost carelessly, and it was clear to most who knew him that Rudy wouldn’t marry for at least a few more years. The studio turned a blind eye to all of that, and, conspiring with Gloria, first invited her father to California to meet Rudy. After that went swimmingly, the studio took this as a cue to act, and organized a press release.  Feigning that she was shocked by the press being there, Gloria said: “I didn’t intend to say anything at this time, but Mr. Vallee and I are deeply interested In each other and we hope to be married by the end of the year.” Gloria was expecting an engagement ring, but she didn’t’ quite get it.

Rudy was staggering mad, but he knew how the studio operated and decided to take it in his stride. He called the press, and gently and emphatically but firmly denied reports that he is engaged to Gloria. “I have not been engaged to her, am not engaged to her and do not anticipate an engagement with her.” I wish I knew what was going on in the backstage of this minor drama! In the end everything just blew up, with the press speculating about this and that. But no matter what they wrote, Rudy wouldn’t budge. After a tiffy period they made up, but again, no ring.

Gloria and Rudy continued dating afterwards, and dated well into 1938. They were seen everywhere together – at the local hotpots, at horse races, at tennis games. Here is a very short and sweet blurb about their courtship:

Rudy Vallee so absorbed in Gloria Youngblood at the Perry-Vines tennis match that he lost a treasured scarf and had the ushers looking madly for it.

And so it went, but Rudy’s philandering ways remained unchanged, and he dated other girls on the side – socialite Judy Stewart, June Knight, Wendy Barrie, and the list goes on! Gloria was not happy about it, but could do little. So it went back and forth until May 1938, when, after quite a bit of tiffs, Rudy went for New York again. Gloria stayed for a bit in Los Angeles, dated Alexander Korda, the famous British producer, and then went to New York herself, allegedly not because she wanted to follow Rudy but to become a legitimate actress. I don’t think anybody believed her, but hey, anything goes in love and war.

In New York, Gloria was serious about George Johnston, a lawyer working for Walter Wanger, for a few months in the mid 1938. Later she was seen with ice skater Jack Dunn, and Roy Randolph. She started 1939 by dating bandleader Bobby Parks. That year proved to be a monumental year for Gloria in general. In March 1939, Gloria and four other girls went to London with noted showman George Hale to try their luck at dance halls. Here is a bit about the show.

Georgie Hale is readying another cargo of feminine charm for English consumption. Georgie must have been a lucky baby for look what he’s doing now. Must be tough work to stand out there and tell such dolls as Cynthia Cavanaugh, the “Duchess’ (she’s already counting on a stray British title); Gloria Youngblood, Rudy Vallee’s girl friend; Arlene Stone and Myra Stephens what to do. Georgie is a keen faced little guy, temperamental, yet patient with his charges. Watching him put the girls, through their paces, he seems absolutely unconcerned about their actions.

Gloria’s first beau in the UK was Guy Middleton, a fellow thespian. She received girls from fans – for instance, a fancy white cap described as gift from Prince Fefeal of Saudi Arabia. And this is how Gloria met her first husband, Eddie Meade. Now, who is Eddie Meade?

Meade was fight promoter and manager. He became famous for being the manager of heavy weight Henry Armstrong. Eddie was a promoter in Los Angeles long before Armstrong even came to town. Born in, he was a Jolly, fat man with charm aplenty and a gregarious spender. he earned big bucks, but spent them just as quickly. Meade was only mid teir successful before he encountered Armstrong. During one of the weekly Hollywood Legion fights, in front of a star-studded crowd, Armstrong distinguished himself, scoring a sensational knockout. Two of the stars, Ruby Keeler and Al Jolson, took a liking to the human hurricane and underwrote the purchase of his contract for their friend, Eddie Meade.

Henry and Eddie were in the UK at the same time as Gloria. Henry fought Ernie Roderick and won without difficulty (both Gloria and Cynthia were there in the audience, watching). Eddie collected enough pounds sterling to paper the inside of a battleship and set out with Brig. Gen. Critchley. and Sid Hulls, his matchmaker, to fee the town. Their first stop was a night club in Leicester Square. It was the working of destiny. Featured at the club was an act called “The Eight American Glamour Girls,” Most glamorous of the eight was of Gloria. Eddie came, saw her and lost his heart to Gloria. When she Returned to New York They Were Married. But wait, what about the return! Well, there is a whole story about this!!!

Gloria Youngblood Jailed By French as German Spy; Home After Harrowing Trip Liner “w’as Escorted from France by Convoy of Destroyers How she escaped a firing squad or possible imprisonment for the duration of a drawn-out war was related to a Telegraph reporter Thursday night by Gloria Young- Wood, screen and stage actress, who arrived in Alton from France after a narrow escape from French soldiers and a hectic crossing of the Atlantic on the liner “Manhattan.” Miss Youngblood, who happened to be in Switzerland at the,outbreak of hostilities in Europe, started for Bordeaux France, with 10 other actresses and their manager. The trip, which ordinarily requires nine hours, took three days under war conditions. Once In France, however, Miss Youngblood’s troubles were only starting; for in war-torn Europe even an American, whose publicity claims for her an appreciable portion of American Indian blood, is not above suspicion. No sooner did she and her friends arrive In Bordeaux than she was taken Into custody as a “government prisoner.” Grounds for Suspicion She was lodged In a common jail and all her baggage was subjected to an Intensive search. Even the lining of her travelling bags and coats were tipped away in an effort to connect her with the Nazi regime In Germany. Miss Youngblood admits, however, that the French had some grounds for suspicion; for When she left Switzerland she had In her possession a knife, which had a Swastika sign on the blade. In a continent ripped wide open with hatred and a necessity for self- preservation, the most remote precaution is necessary. Someone in Switzerland had Informed the French of her possession of the knife, a gift from a friend, so she had no more than arrived at Bordeaux than she Was taken into custody. Long before she arrived at Bordeaux she had thrown the knife away, but It was too late to avoid the French version of the “third degree.” She was arrested and held In jail until her manager arranged for her release. She then was compelled to disguise herself by using no make-up and tying a bandanna around her head, In order: to get away on the liner “Manhattan,” which sailed early one morning under the cover of darkness, Destroyer Convoy The liner left Europe under a French and English convoy of destroyers,. There were three French and three English. which convoyed the liner for a day. After the liner was considered to be out of danger of violence ‘the warships left But that was only the beginning, She said. From then on Into the coast of America a storm of the highest ‘caliber hove the ship to and fro for six days. Even the hardiest seamen were sea-sick. The ship was Intended to carry 1200 passengers, but actually carried 800 more than that, and under crowded conditions there was nothing for one to do but hold one’s head and ‘like It, Miss Youngblood related. She still sighs when she thinks of the escape from the French military, who seemed to suspect her even after she had more or less established her innocence, which was done largely through a,manager, who pulled wires right and left to effect her release. Once, .she’ said, she was taken from her call and told that she could walk about the jail, If she desired to do so. She said she was allowed certain liberties because she was a “government” prisoner and not,regarded as an ordinary transgressor. This meant that she had a menu from which to order food, Nevertheless, the French seemed to want to either shoot her or hold her until hostilities were over. She Wears a Diamond Once in New York, where she landed on Sept 30, she was met by Eddie Meade. none other than the manager of Welterweight Champion Henry Armstrong. Eddie’s diamond ring adorns the Youngblood finger. Eddie telephones her frequently wherever she may be, from whatever point on earth he may be at the time. A short time before she talked with a representative of the Telegraph, she said, Eddie had phoned her from Minneapolis, where Arm- Strong Is scheduled to fight in a few days. She once was reported engaged to Rudy Vallee. An exclusive side-light to her arrival in America was given to the Telegraph by Miss Youngblood. Prince Yauka Troubetzkoy of the old Russian aristocracy will follow her here. In New York reporters asked her about a rumor that a Russian prince had been somewhat •mitten. She said she refused to give them the Information, but divulged to the Telegraph that Prince Yauka had seen her frequently in Europe and had told her that he would arrive In America as soon as he could obtain passage. Even Wlnchell wanted confirmation of this report, she said. Miss Youngblood told of an incident of the war encountered near a small French town, which was being evacuated, Many .persons were fleeing, one of whom was an ill woman, borne on a stretcher. The woman obviously was soon to become a mother, she-said. The American actress begged the woman to remain where she was, but the woman said it would be at least a month yet and added that she must go on, because she was expecting mail in – the next town- from her officer-husband. Even when Miss Youngblood offered to sacrifice her passage home* to stay with her, the woman—little more than a girl- refused, saying that she must go on. . • ‘ *; • > Miss Youngblood will leave Alton Saturday by. airplane for Hollywood, where t site hail been offered a movie contract by M.G.M. She told a Telegraph reporter that she means to accept the terms of the contract but if they do not meet her approval, she will go back to New York to take part in a show now being rehearsed by Olson and Johnson, stars and producers of “Hell-Za-Poppin’.” She has tried out for the part In the Olson and Johnson opus.

Huh, also, Eddie was married. Desperately in love with Gloria, Mr. Bountiful reluctantly came home a few weeks later and laid his cards on the table for Kitty. The outcome was that she went to Reno for a divorce, unselfishly sacrificing herself for Eddie’s happiness or the reasonable facsimile thereof that he mistook for it. Gloria returned from her triumphant London stay shortly thereafter, hurried by the war clouds which were growing blacker every day in that ominous Summer of 1939. The way thus cleared for him, Eddie planned to marry Gloria.

After Gloria returned to New York, Rudy came like a hurricane, ardently courting her and buying her flowers and whatnot – but Gloria was firm – after so many disappointments, she knew that Rudy was hardly poised to change, and decided to go through with her planned marriage to Meade. The two married in Mexico on October 2, 1939. Gloria was 27, Meade was 20 plus years older.

After they married, Gloria tried to straighten Eddie out. He was a play hard, work hard type who ate and drank way to much for his own good. The couple made their permanent home at the swanky address in East Seventy-seventh street, at Park avenue.

Then, literary a year after their Mexico wedding, Eddie had a heart attack, and had to retiree to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a cure. Gloria first went to visit her parents in Alton, and stated she was to Join Mead In Hot Springs for the Christmas holidays. Her career In motion picture has been shelved temporarily so she can devote more to John, and was, taking time preparing for a radio debut, after Eddie got better. in other words, a beautiful, young woman just on the cusp of the good life had to give it all up as to be a nursemaid to a man who bought on that to himself by years of excessive living. While there are cases of women who were unselfishly devoted to their husbands and nurse them through thick and thin, it seems that Gloria was not quite that woman.  And Eddie, being himself, didn’t help the suit.

Their marriage started to disintegrate pretty soon, but both Eddie and Gloria were vehemently trying to cover it, even telling whoever will listen about the very first time they met and how perilously close they came to not being introduced at all. But, such mambo jumbo talk did little to help the final situation, and they were separated by October 1941, and talking about divorce by November. In the end, they remained married but living separately. Eddie shackled in Palm Springs to help his health, but he was out of cash and on the brink of bankruptcy, even unable to pay Gloria any alimony. After not seeing each other for two months, they were reunited, by, of all things, a robbery. As Eddie was a gin-rummy expert as well as a world champion at backgammon, and Gloria was good at gin rummy too, they were both up In Palm Beach on the night of the burglary since there was a gin rummy tournament happening. They tried for a reconciliation, but it didn’t yell, and separated yet again.

In April 1942, Gloria went to Florida, and was intent on getting her Miami divorce, but admitted to everybody that she was carrying the torch for Eddie. There was talk of more reconciliation, and things were constantly going back and forth, with no resolution in sight. Then the worst possible resolution happened, the most permanent one.

In May 1942, Eddie died from a heart ailment in front of his hotel. His passing was mourned along Jacobs’ Bach, hangout of Gotham’s boxing fraternity, and in boxing centers all over the country because of his honesty and reputation for being a “square shooter.” Mead managed Henry Armstrong and Joe Lunch to world’s titles and made and spent a fortune. He had been inactive in boxing since Armstrong failed to recapture the welterweight crown from Fritz Zivic. However, Armstrong was effectively left destitute by Eddie’ death – Eddie died completely broke, so there was not any money to inherit for Gloria (but as far as I can tell, she wasn’t in it for the money, at least not solely). Despite the fact that they were separated, Gloria was inconsolable. At the funeral, Gloria, in mourning clothes, wept hysterically. She ordered a shower of red roses, tied with a ribbon labelled “All of My Love.”

However, it didn’t take Gloria long to remarry In fact, I find it quite weird (and trying not to use a more direct word) how she remarried only months after Eddie’s death. Granted, they were separated at the time, but still! Anyway, her new husband was named Francis Buckeley Fields, and was an heir to insurance millions. They wed in August 1942, while we was on a furlough from the Army Air Corps, in Union City, N. J. Eddie had been dead for barely three months, but let us not forget that it was war-time and a great big number of hasty marriages happened because of these extreme circumstances.

Freddie and Gloria spent most of their early marriage apart, due to the war. They were finally reunited in 1944, and after he was shipped to Europe again, he was wounded by a’ bomb in London, and ended up in a British hospital. In the meantime, Gloria found out she was pregnant – she was due in September 1944 and awaited the happy occasion with much joy. Unfortunately, she miscarriaged. Freddie returned to the US in late 1944, but their marriage, shaky to begin with, only sank further and further apart. They separated not long after his return, but were still not intent on divorcing, hoping to see how it went, will they separate for good or merge again.

And it didn’t’ go well for Freddie. Gloria was courted right of the bat by liquor magnate Sam Sokol, but that was only a temporary arrangement. A more permanent beau was on the horizon – Luthero Vargas, son of Brazilian president Vargas. They dated for more than a year, from Late 1944 until late 1945 (some overlapping with Fields, perhaps?). Luthero was often seen around New York hotspots with Gloria, especially after he was discharged from the Royal Air Force in September 1945. I was sure, reading the papers, that Gloria and he would get hitched and move to Brazil. Sadly, it didn’t’ happen, and they busted sometime in 1946. Why? No idea, but Gloria was not yet divorces nor was there any talk of marriage in the papers, which is a bit funny if you ask me, they wed people who went on a few dates, and never mentioned it for Gloria and Luthero who dated for more than a year. Anyway, that was that.

In 1946, Gloria finally divorced Frederic Fields, and started dating Al Capp, famous cartoonist, whom eh dated until 1947. Long retired from Hollywood by now, she dropped of the newspaper radar, but emerged again when she operated a hat shop, and then became an employee of New York public relations firm (Henry Levine agency). Later she worked for a Binghamton Insurance firm, , and did a magnificent job of selling policies to the over-the-hill set. In 1949, she dated Jack Frye, but he was also involved with Nevada Smith, whom he ultimately married.

Later that same year Gloria became engaged to marry wealthy Toronto barrister Joel Okell, whom she met at her pyramid party. The engagement was dropped a few months later due to unknown reasons.

In 1950, Gloria married her third husband, John Prescott Cann. Cann was born on June 4, 1919, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to Wentworth Prescott Cann and Glada Cann. His father died young and his mother remarried to a Mr. Brand. John graduated from Chambersburg high school, and went into aviation after serving in the army in WW2. Cann worked as a navigator for TWA Airlines, and lived in Egypt for three years. Later in his career he did the Los Angeles – Hawaii route, and did 39 trips to Vietnam, earning a citation from President Nixon. Cann was married once before and had a daughter, Cindy. After the marriage, Gloria moved from N.Y. to Westlake Village, California. Gloria was an active horse rider and rode often in her later years in California.

The Canns enjoyed a wonderful marriage, and often traveled together all around the world (especially since Cann had discount on all TWA flights 🙂 ). Cann’s daughter Cindy was close to her stepmom, and spoke highly of her in later life.

John Cann died on September 11, 1971, in Los Angeles. Gloria remained in Westlake Village, and enjoyed a happy retirement.

Gloria Youngblood Cann died on October 25, 2003, in Los Angeles, California.

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Marla Shelton

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so we begin…

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And another funny bit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Marcella Martin

A pretty large number of budding actress came to Hollywood hoping to win the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara. As we know today, the role went o Vivien Leigh, and the rest was history. Of all the girls who were in the pecking order for the role, most of them failed to parlay the sojourn into a stable career. On the other hand, a few of them actually developed impressive careers later (Susan Hayward is an excellent example), and some established mid tier, solid careers Sadly, Marcella Martin belongs into the former category. Despite her obvious talent and pleasing looks, she opted to remain a theater actress, and made only two movies of lesser quality. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Elsie Marcella Clifford was born on June 5, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, to William Clifford and Clara Kessberger. She was the oldest of three children, three sisters – her younger siblings were Catherine C, born in 1918, and Ruth C, born in 1925.  Her father was a State Senator of Champaign, making her a high society debutante.

Marcella grew up in Chicago, attended high school there and discovered an intense love for acting when she was a teen. Determined to become an actress, she got a degree in dramatics from the University of Illinois, where she was active in the debate club. Ready for bigger and better things, she said “goodbye” to her home town and started to look for opportunities around the US. Her first serious acting job was a few months tour with a Midwestern stock company. After a peripatetic life with a touring company, she settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, where her first husband was from. She wasted no time in gaining acting momentum, and immediately joined the local Little Theater. She started her acting tenure by appearing in two sound stage hits, “Stage Door” and “Tovarich”. Marcella studied southern diction on the side and became quite an expert at it. People could rarely detect that she was originally from Illinois due to this handy skill.

Sadly, acting gigs hardy payed the mounting bills, so Marcella started by selling various merchandise, at firsts az Felbleman’s-Sears, Roebuck and company and then at Goldring’s,  but rehearsing diligently at the local theater at night. In 1938, Maxwell “Max” Arnow, scout for David O. Selznlck, saw Marcella in a rehearsal at the local theater. He was touring the South in search of actors to play parts in Gone With ‘ the Wind” (Including for the elusive Scarlett). Thus, Arnow “discovered” Marcella.

Arnow reported his discovery to Selznick in a memo dated Nov. 16, 1938. “The results of the eighteen day trip through the South were quite meager with one exception. In Louisiana, at the Shreveport Little Theater,” he wrote. “Ran across a girl by the name of Marcella Martin. This girl is quite good-looking, has a nice figure, and is a grand actress. Without doubt she is the best of the hundreds of people who I interviewed during my trip.” Very kind words from Mr. Arnow indeed!

A short while later he wired Marcella to go to New York for screen tests. And so she went.  Two weeks in the rush and bustle of New York studios, and she was back in Shreveport. Then she was called again this time to Hollywood for further screen tests. Once in Hollywood, she was originally tested for Scarlett and Melanie. Along with two other Southern girls, Alicia Rhett and Bebe Anderson (in the future known as Mary Anderson), she was given a bit role in the movie, but that was just a part of the prize – she got a long-term contract, a possible crack at bigger things.

And this is how she landed in Hollywood!

CAREER

Marcella was tested for the role of Scarlett, which went to Vivien Leigh (and the rest is history, as they say!) got a memorable consolation prize. She earned the speaking role as Cathleen Calvert, who confides the inside skinny on Rhett Butler to O’Hara during the classic barbecue scene. “Cathleen, who’s that?” Scarlett asks as she locks eyes with Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler for the first time. “Who?” “That man looking at us and smiling,” Scarlett answers. “The nasty, dark one.” “My dear, don’t you know?” Cathleen answers with a grin. “That’s Rhett Butler. He’s from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.” Scarlett looks away for a second, then back. “He looks as if… as if he knows what I look like without my shim”. Great moment! On a side note, a columnist wrote that the producers had to compromise when casting Scarlett, for this reason: “The compromise may be forced in the matter of waist-line. The specifications call for a 17-inch girth. Even the most rigorous Hollywood diets haven’t achieved any such miracle as this.” (how true :-P) Also, Marcella was Leigh’s trailer roomie on location and taught her how to speak with a Southern dialect.

Marcella appeared in only two more movies before retiring altogether. The first one was West of Tombstone, a totally obscure low-budget western with Charles Starrett in the lead. The plot concerns Billy the Kid and his alleged demise – is he dead or not? UnfortunatelyWhat is funny about this movie is how Marcella is attired – the story takes place in the early 20th century, 20 years after the reported death of Billy the Kid, but she wears strictly 1942 fashions, with knee-length skirts, high-heeled shoes and bobbed hair. Ah, Hollywood!

The second movie was another low-budget western, The Man Who Returned to Life. This is another better-of-forgotten type of movie, about a man on the run from the law for murder (of course he’s not really guilty). Marcella plays the third female lead, after Lucile Fairbanks and Ruth Ford.

And that was it from Marcella!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marcella married John “Jack” Martin in about 1935, and moved with him to Shreveport, Louisiana. The marriage didn’t last, and they were divorced by 1939, before she landed in Hollywood.

Marcella met her second husband, James Ferguson, in the theater – they acted together in several plays before getting hitched in 1940 at the home of the Marcella’s parents in Champaign, in the presence of relatives and a few close friends.

James Ferguson was born on August 15, 1913  to Mr. and Mrs. William Ferguson in Izmir, Turkey. His parents were British subjects. He attended elementary school in Scotland and later moved with his family to Whittier, California, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1930. He graduated from high school in 1931 and from Fullerton Junior College, California, in 1934. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1934 and underwent flying training the following year and completed it in July 1936. He was a flying cadet for one year before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1937. Later, Ferguson He rose to the rank of full general in the Air Force.

Ferguson acted for fun, and this is how he met Marcella. This is a short article about it:

Marcella Martin and James , Ferguson Have Leads; Opens Oct. 10 , Miss ‘ Marcela Martin and Lieut. James Ferguson will have the leading roles In the first production of the Little Theatre season “Tovarlch,” to open at 8:15 pm, Oct. 10, John Wray Toung, director of the theater, announced Tuesday. Miss Martin will play the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, the exiled White Russian noblewoman in Jaques Deval’s comedy. Lieutenant Ferguson will ‘ play her husband, Prince Mikhail Alexandrovitch Ouratleff.

He he he, the fun doesn’t stop here – there is a whole juicy story of the Ferguson-Martin courtship. Listen to this: In early 1938, Marcella’s first appearance on the Shreverport Little Theater stage had her in a minor role in “Stage Door,” which also featured in its cast a Barksdale Field lieutenant, William E. “Ed” Dyess. Her co-lead in “Tovarich” was another Barksdale Field flier, Lt. Jim Ferguson.

One of Marcella’s best friends from Chicago was Marajen Stevick, a publishing and media heiress. It seems that Marcella hobnobbed with the Chicago high society, and often asked them to visit her in Shereverport. There was a lot of rivalry going on with Dyess and Ferguson, as they were after Marcella, both of them. Marajen was Marcella’s house guest and ended up with Dyess, and Marcella ended up with Ferguson. Dyess was the third of Stevick’s five husbands.

Dyess died a hero in World War II. A survivor of the Bataan Death March, he survived a year’s captivity in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, escaped, was on the run for three months, was rescued by a submarine and returned home to write a gripping account of the Japanese brutality to their prisoners after the fall of the Philippines in 1942. A recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He died heroically in a training accident Dec. 22, 1943. He was flying over heavily populated Burbank, Calif., when his airplane caught fire. Instead of bailing out, he stayed with the airplane to make sure it didn’t crash into a school full of children. Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene, Texas, is named in his memory.

Stevick became an Italian countess a through one of her later marriages, she died on the anniversary of Dyess’ death, Dec. 22, 2002.

Despite the fact that Marcella got her big break via Shreveport Little Theater, she left the city for good after 1939. She returned in the early 1940s to sign various legal papers relating to end her previous marriage but never lived there again. She was active in the theater for a few years afterwards, appearing in plays by Tennessee Williams among others, before retiring for good in the 1950s.

Years later, Marcella’s younger sister Ruth Brown, remembered meeting Leigh in New York City in 1963 through Marcella. Oddly enough, Leigh was performing in a stage version of “Tovarich,” in the same role Martin had played when she was discovered 25 years earlier. Vivien suffered from a bipolar illness, tuberculosis of the lungs and was divorced from Laurence Olivier, but nonetheless won a Tony Award for her work in “Tovarich. Marcella sent a note back to Vivien, She wasn’t sure she would remember her, though they had been very close in the making of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ It was wonderful. The people making ‘Gone With the Wind’ wanted Vivien to listen to Marcella’s accent. She had lived in Louisiana so long she had picked up pretty much a Southern accent, but it wasn’t too much. The producers didn’t want a real ‘Y’all’ accent, they wanted a ‘soft’ Southern accent, and Marcella had it. They didn’t know she had grown up in Champaign.”

Marcella and James Fergson divorced in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Laterm he remarried to Roberta Wilkes. He served in Korea and from 1955 until 1970 he was based in Washington DC. In 1966 he became a full general, and retired in 1970. Roberta died in 1977. Ferguson died on July 13, 2000, in Sarasota, Florida.

Marcella married her third and last husband, Robert Lee McGratty, in 1953 in Duval, Florida. McGratty was born on October 22, 1908, in New York City, to Charles and Frances McGratty. He grew up in Suffolk, New York, and worked as a hotelier in Florida, running the Floridian hotel.  He was married in 1943 to Frances Stuart but the marriage didn’t’ work out, and  he divorced her a few years later.

The couple did not have any children, but enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage. They moved to Houston, Texas after McGratty’s retirement. McGratty died there on January 21, 1979. Marcella remained in Texas after his death, opting not to remarry.

Marcella Martin McGratty died on October 31, 1986, in Houston, Texas. She is buried with her father, former Illinois State Sen. William E.C. Clifford, and her last husband, Robert McGratty, in Champaig, Illinois.

 

 

Theo Coffman

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

And that was it from our Theo!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Mimi Berry

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Mimi!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wanda Barbour

Wanda Barbour was a blonde and pretty go-getter who left her hometown at age 13 to make it in Hollywood. Make it she did not, but she found her own life in California and she was a professional dancer for almost a decade, which, all considering, is a small achievement in itself. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Wanda Louise “Lou” Barbour was born in 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to John V. Barbour and Catherine Newland. Her father was a well-of sales executive. Her older brother, John Jr, was born in 1925. Her maternal uncle, Indiana-born Newland Ellsworth, lived with the family when Wanda was born.

Sadly, Wanda’s father John died on February 16, 1934. He was suffering from a typhoid fever that brought on pneumonia that ultimately killed him. I don’t know what happened to Wanda’s mom,  Catherine, but, by 1940, Wanda was living with her paternal grandmother, Orpha Barbour, and her aunt, Marguerite (her dad’s sister), in Cincinnati. Also a good question was what happened to her brother, but sadly, no information is forthcoming.

Wanda was a pretty child that displayed signs of an intense dancing talent from her early years. By the time she was in elementary school, it was pretty clear that she would one day depart for Hollywood or New York to achieve the dream of becoming a professional dancer. In 1943, only 13 years old, she was sent to Hollywood to work on her dancing skills, and attended the Schicl School there. Pretty soon, she was named “Miss Hollywood of 1944” by the Screen Children’s Guild. Wanda continued learning and dancing and pretty soon was supporting herself, without any help from her grandma or aunt.

By 1946, Wanda became an Earl Carroll girl, and this exalting position catapulted her to movies.

CAREER

Wanda appeared in only three movies and a few TV series. Her first movie was The Bounty Hunter, a low-budget western. Randolph Scott, an actor sadly too early typecast in westerns, plays the rare breed that can easily combine charm and affability with a steely resolve and a frightening ability to kill. He’s the best thing in the film, although it’s a solid affair out and throughout. The director, Andre de Toth, does an okay job, and everything else is well-enough made for a low-budget movie (cinematography, music, sets…).

That same year, Wanda appeared in Young at Heart, a movie about the lives and romances of three sisters in a musical family, played by Doris Day, Elisabeth Fraser and Dorothy Malone. if you like fluffy, cute and easy on the eyes and easy for the brain, now this is your cup of tea! The gorgeous Technicolor is brimming with strong, saturated colors, Doris Day is her usual charming self, and the male lead is Mr. Frank Sinatra himself. With a cast that strong, you can’t go wrong unless you really go wrong, and they didn’t. The problem is that it’s a thin movie overall, with no great depth, but for some fun and games, it is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wanda’s last movie, made in 1955, was Women’s Prison. Unlike many of the lurid, over the top, convoluted campy 1950s movies, this one is a serious endeavor that mostly get to achieve what it wants – to show the everyday life in women’s prisons in a somewhat realistic manner. No, it’s not quite as realistic as it should be, but this is Hollywood in the decade it was least realistic and most illusionary (just look at all the Technicolor musicals). The cast is wonderful – Ida Lupino, Audrey Totter, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Howard Duff – great!

That was it from Wanda!

PRIVATE LIFE

Wanda continued to dance during her whole brief Hollywood career. She was featured in what were mostly a decorative, thankless jobs, but they paid the bills, and here is a shining example of that kind of life.:

Showmen Joseph and Frank Zucca, sued by Ken Murray in effort to keep them from calling their Culver City show “Blackouts of 1950′ went to court yesterday and took along these girls from left, Bebe Allan, Marybeth Haughton, Lou Ann Louis, top row; Lorri Collins, Ruth Rowland, top, and Wanda Barbour.

And this:

These California beauties have been selected by the LA. Press Club as hostesses for visiting Florida girls due here Wednesday. Shown at Ambassador pool they are, from bottom level: Billie Nelson, Beverly Jones, Shirley Cotterill, Totty Ames, Gloria Maxwell, Marilyn Lamb, Lillian Farmer and Wanda Barbour.

No high art in this, but I guess it could be fun sometimes. Wanda, only 18 years old, married her first husband, Thomas McDougall, on August 21, 1948, in Los Angeles. Thomas Edward McDougall was born on March 20, 1927, in Lansing, Michigan, to William McDougall and Rose Lake. His older sister Billie was born in 1923. The family first moved to Long Beach, and then back to Lansing, Michigan by 1940. After graduating from high school, Thomas returned to California. When he married Wanda, he was working as a gas-and-oil salesman.

The marriage hits the skids pretty soon, and they were divorced in the early 1950s. Wanda got into movies afterwards using her maiden name, so let’s assume she didn’t brag about her early marriage and rarely mentioned it to anyone.

Literary nothing was written about Wanda’s love life. What we know is that, by the mid 1950s, Wanda was dating a real catch by Hollywood standards – handsome Southern gent, Hoyt Bowers, the head of the casting department for Warner Bros. The couple married in the New Frontier Chapel at Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1957.

Hoyt Stephen Bowers was born on September 7, 1911, in Georgia, to Peck and Verbenia Bowers. His father was a bookkeeper. Hoyt had a younger brother, Bates, born in 1914. The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Hoyt started to work as an insurance clerk after high school, and married Patricia Nunn in 1930. Their daughter Sherry Ann was born on February 7, 1932. Their daughter Nancy Jean was born on December 1, 1937. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, both husband and wife drifted towards the lucrative movie industry. Hoyt became a casting agent, and Patricia a movie extra.

Here is a short blurb about Patricia:

Hollywood’s youngest grandmother, Patricia Bower, sits beside Actress Piper Laurie. Sirs. Bowers, currently acting as stand-in for Miss Piper, is married to Hoyt Bowers, casting executive. She is 37 years old and has two daughters, one of whom is mother of a two-year-old girl.

Whoa, I had to do the math and it’s not particularly impressive – I Patricia gave birth when she was 18, the same for Sherry. I just hope the granddaughter didn’t follow the family line and took a bit more time to get married and have children (if indeed she ever decided on such a course). Sadly, the couple divorced before 1954.

Wanda and Hoyt had a son, John Hoyt Bowers, born in 1960. Wanda gave up her career and immersed herself into motherhood and domestic affairs. The Bowers often visited Abilene, where some of Hoyt’s extended family lived.

After more than a decade of marriage, Hoyt and Wanda divorced in the early 1970s. Wanda married her third husband, Victor Bennett, on April 10, 1975 in San Bernardino, California. Victor Bennett was born in 1916 in Nebraska, and moved to Los Angeles when he was a youth. There he married Ruth Schwerdtfeger, had two sons, Charles Nicholas, born on October 4, 1938, and Vance Chadwick, born on March 9, 1942, and worked as a meat cutter. He and Ruth divorced at some point.

Wanda and Victor settled in San Bernardino, and started to trade in antique furniture. They were a well-adjusted, happy couple, and it seems that Wanda had finally found a husband worth keeping. However, this story does not have a happy ending.

Tragically, Wanda and her husband were murdered on November 14, 19179, in their home in San Bernardino, during a robbery attempt. She was only 49 years old – her husband 63. To add to this horror, her son John was arrested almost immediately after the bodies were found, as an obvious prime suspect. Of course he was innocent, but the stress and the pain had been inflicted. Here is an article about the slayings:

San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies today are questioning an 18-year-old Twentynine Palms man in connection with the slaying of his mother and stepfather. John Hoyt Bowers was arrested Wednesday night, just hours after the body of his mother, Wanda Bennett, 49, was found underneath trash at the Landers dump. Her husband, Victor, 63, was found shot to death at his home here, deputies said. Both were shot in the head. So far, deputies do not have a motive or a weapon in the slaying.

Two men wanted in California to face double murder charges were arrested early Friday, state police said. Officers said Richard W. Garrison, 38, of Hulberton, Orleans County, .was picked up in the Town of Murray, Orleans County, and Gary M. Roelle, 30, of Rochester, was taken into custody in the Town of Sweden, Monroe County . The pair, according to state police, are wanted by the San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriffs office in the robbery slayings of Victor and Wanda Bennett with a shotgun in Yucca Valley Nov. 14. “Numerous items of stolen jewelry and firearms were brought to New York state by the subjects and were seized at the time of the arrest,” according to a state police statement. “It’s believed they had been in the upstate New York area since Nov. 27.” State police said the two were being held as fugitives from justice. Garrison was being held in the Orleans County Jail and Roelle in the Monroe County Jail.

The police are looking for the motive for the killings. The Bennetts’ car was also taken, but was later recovered near Old Woman Springs Road, investigators said. The Bennetts bought and sold antiques and may have been contacted by one of the suspects who wanted to sell an old desk, Knadler said. It may have been through that contact that the suspects learned about jewelry and other items the Bennetts owned, he said. ” Documents filed in a Barstow ‘ court in support of murder warrants issued for the two men stated that after the murder Garrison was seen in possession of jewelry with Wanda Bennett’s name engraved on it. Several persons told investigators they had seen Garrison with a bag containing many items ,mostly jewelry, including a silver and turquoise squash-blossom necklace, other pieces of turquoise jewelry, an ID bracelet, a charm bracelet and numerous rings, the documents said. The bag also contained numerous American and foreign coins, investigators were told.

What a sad, sad end to a woman who had so much vitality and zest for life.

But, as always, let’s hope she had a happy life!

 

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.

Anita Thompson

Anita Thompson didn’t come to Hollywood because she was an actress, or a dancer, or a model – she came just because she was pretty, wanted to become famous and had monetary support from her parents. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, despite her beauty, but she did meet her husband in Hollywood, married him, and enjoyed a happy family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Anita Merle Thompson was born on December 15, 1915, in Dallas, Texas, to Hicks Ellington Thompson and Bessie Merle Cory. She was their only child. Her Texas-born father was an independent oil operator and manager, and the family was well off – they employed a servant when Anita was a little girl.

Anita grew up in Dallas and Galveston, Texas and attended high school there. She sometimes appeared in the society columns, as a beautiful young debutante. Despite her placid, safe life, Anita wanted more, and after graduating from high school, decided to try her luck in Hollywood to become an actress. She came to Hollywood in mid 1933, and started to work as an extra.

It was probable that Anita would have loitered in the extra ranks if not for a publicity gimmick. After being in Hollywood for a few months, with no roles behind her and unlikely to succeed, Anita had almost given up hope and returned home to Texas. Yet, just in the nick of time, 20th Century Fox revealed in the papers that they had found a way to help “unknown” actresses. The procedure was: Three extra girls were singled out to face the cameras In small roles. The three chosen were the ones who topped the field in beauty over a hundred chorines. They  were shown in closeups and given a chance to speak a few lines. Anita was one of those girls. Their small parts may lead to greater roles, studio officials said. Of course, this proved to be a false alarm – neither of the girls ever achieved much, but Anita’s career was launched.

CAREER

Anita started her career in Gold Diggers of 1933, top of the barrel Mervyn LeRoy/Busby Berkeley musical. It has all the right ingredients – a thin but serviceable story about young hopefuls in New York trying to make it in the musical theater, large, lavish and incredibly staged musical numbers, and well plotted but not over the top drama. And the cast! Warren William, Joan Blondell, Aline MacMahon, Dick Powell, Ruby Keeler… Except Ruby, who was a good dancer but dismal actress, all the others are tops!

The rest of Anita’s slim career followed the lavish musical path, and she always played chorines or other dancers. It seems that she was aimed to be seen, not to be heard or indeed to act.

First came Arizona to Broadway, a completely uneven movie about con men conning other con men that starts good but goes south pretty soon, and second came Dancing Lady, actually a pretty decent Joan Crawford musical with the same old Joan story – poor girl makes good. But I love my Franchot Tone, and he’s tops in this one! Anita’s contract went on, but she didnt’ appear in any movies in 1934.

In 1935, she appeared in Redheads on Paradea completely forgotten musical, with Bing Crosby’s wife Dixie Lee as the leading lady. In 1936, she appeared in King of Burlesque, the funny but not particularly memorable Warner Baxter musical, with Alice Faye as the singing sensation. The second movie was Song and Dance Man, another totally forgotten musical with Claire Trevor in the lead.

Anita’s last movie was High Tension, a straight comedy with no singing or dancing numbers – finally, something that isn’t a musical!! Despite a plot that sounds vaguely interesting (brawling cable layer Steve Reardon, played by Brian Donlevy, doesn’t want to marry girlfriend Edith but he also doesn’t want her to date other men), the movie is a B effort, completely forgotten, and did no one any favors. Anita played a very small role in it anyway – it was clear that her career was on the skids, so going into retirement wasn’t the worst choice she could make.

That’s it from Anita!

PRIVATE LIFE

Anita had light brown hair (which was bleached during her brief Hollywood sojourn), hazel eyes, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, and weighted 115 lbs.

When she was given a stock contract by Twentieth Century-Fox studios, she was lamented as a cute type, miniature, but perfect. with some of the vivaciousness of a Dorothy Lee or a Lupe Velez. Well, couldn’t say if they were right or nit – but she for sure never had a career to match the ladies mentioned (despite them not being big stars themselves). Interesting fact: when Anita went into Los Angeles court to get. action on her film contract, She was so busy with her work that she didn’t have time to change from her beach suit-slacks attire, and went dressed like that. Her contract wasn’t half bad – calling for a wage of $75, with options up to ‘$1,000 a week.

Anita also gave a beauty hint to the readers:

A “DRY shampoo” twice a week is an effective aid to hair beauty. Massage dry cornmeal thoroughly into the scalp, then brush it out. The treatment will invigorate the scalp give the hair a natural gloss and keep it fluffy.

As for her love life, it was a calm affair. Anita dated James Dunn in March 1934, but it didn’t work and he ultimately married Frances Gifford in 1937.

By late 1934, Anita started to date John Quillan, her manager. In June 1935, the papers noted that Anita went to visit her father Hicks Thompson, a Magnolia employee, at the Navarro Hotel, in Corsicana, Texas. She was accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Hicks Thompson, and Johnny Quillan, then the party went to Galveston. It all seemed completely normal – a starlet visits her parents after not seeing them for some time – but, the papers didn’t mentioning the true reason for her visit – Anita wanted her father to meet her betrothed. After she returned to Los Angeles, she was finally “busted”. How? The papers made her engagement into a semi romantic story about how she was found out:

There is nothing unusual these days in the sight cf a woman knitting in public, but friends of Anita Thompson. Twentieth Century-Fox film actress, became suspicious when they found her at the studio embroidering the initial “Q” on table linens. “How come?” they asked, and Miss Thompson was just smiling enigmatically.

Cute, no? Anyway, Anita married John Quillan on October 8, 1935, in the Los Angeles based Church of the Blessed Sacrament, in a service read by Father Edward Whalen.

John Joseph Quillan was born on June 25, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Quillan and Sarah Owen, who were both vaudeville performers. Quillan made his stage debut at an early age alongside his parents as well as his siblings in their act titled ‘The Rising Generation’. By the early 1920s the family moved to Los Angeles, where Mack Sennett signed his younger brother Eddie to a contract in 1922. John didn’t particularly like acting, and he appeared in only a dozen movies during his 15 years in Hollywood – he preferred working in the backstage aspects of the business, becoming a manager for bit players. Later became a comedy writer for several radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s.

The family lived in Los Angeles and had five children: Barbara Bess, nicknamed Bobbie, born on May 21, 1937, Irene Penelope, born on February 1, 1941, John Joseph, born on July 31, 1945, Edward Francis, born on December 24, 1950, and Joseph F., born on November 27, 1956.

In the mid 1950s, the family moved from Los Angeles to Palm Springs, where John became a succesful real estate broker. They had a big family house with a pond in the background. The husband-wife team also opened a roller staking rink, as this article from 1954 can attest:

The new roller-skating rink at the Recreation Center, Indian avenue and Radio road, is proving highly popular. It will be operating again under the direction of Johnny and Anita Quillan tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday.  Anita Quillan said that the introduction of roller skating here for the short duration of seven weeks exceeded their most optimistic expectations. They will return early in the Fall and plan an ambitious program with many private parties to be allocated their own evenings.

All in all, it seems that Anita and John enjoyed a very happy, fulfilling family life, and that this is a happy story coming from Hollywood. their daughter Barbara was an child actress for a short time, and their son Joseph became a renown artist.

John Quillan died on August 27, 1985 in Los Angeles.

Anita Thompson Quillan died on 23 December 1991, in Sherman Oaks, California.

 

Jayne Regan

Jayne Regan was a debutante-wants-to-become-star type – a pretty girl from upper echelons of society who acts because she likes it, not because she needs it or because she is passionate about the art. Her career, although slim, still exceeds the careers of many other like minded debutantes, as she actually played leading roles (in low budget westerns, but still!). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Augusta Jane Stoffregen was born on July 28, 1910, in St. Louis, Missouri, to  Herman C. Stoffregen and Anna Hartmann, both of German ancestry. Her older brother Carl was born 1905. Augusta came from a prestigious family – her father was a socially prominent and quite wealthy coffee importer. The family always employed at least one maid.

Augusta was a precocious, energetic child that was a holy terror to her parents and everybody around her by the ti,me she was 10 years old – as a passionate tomboy, she was constantly falling in trouble and getting injured. Fittingly, she was nicknamed Bobbie by her peers, and the nickname stuck her whole life. However, as she mature,d it was clear that Bobbie was a knockout, a truly pretty girl. Combine this with her family’s prestige and wealth, and Bobbie was a fixture on the local St. Louis social scene, being a much laded debutante that seemingly had it all – looks, money and charm.

After finishing high school, Augusta went on to study at the Washington University in St. Louis. She was popular on the campus with the boys, and was named Queen of the School of Engineering. Unfortunately, other female coeds shunned her – was it jealously or something more, it’s impossible to say. Bobbie was also a pretty reckless driver – in 1932, a verdict of $3,500 for personal injuries was brought against her before a jury Circuit Court by F. E. Schellenberg, who claimed he was injured when a truck he was driving with an automobile driven by Bobbie. She also enjoyed Welch’s, the local bar. “After a particularly arduous exam or a dry lecture,” she told the papers “Welch’s is ideal for “bucking one up.’ It’s fine to add flavor to fruit punches too.”

Bobbie graduated from Washington in 1932. Two years later she met noted director Cecil B. de Mille at a social function in St. Louis. Cecil was a man with a keen eye for beauty and talent, and he advised her to try a movie career – he would help of course. This meeting resulted in Augusta’s admittance to the Twentieth-Century-Fox stock school, and of her career went up!

CAREER

Before I make a more through analysis, I have to say that Jayne appeared in her fair share of low budget westerners I will not write about, just list them: Ridin’ ThruWest on ParadeTerror of the PlainsThe Cactus Kid and Texas Jack. Nuff said about that.

Jayne also appeared, thankfully, in other genres. She started her career in 1932 in Cleopatra, a De CeMille movie from a time when he was sexy and edgy and not didactic and overblown, like many of his later works. And the cast, the superb cast! Claudette Colbert, Henry Wilcoxon, Warren William (I love that man!!), C. Aubrey Smith and the list goes on! Wonderful, and if you want a epic movie, this one is for you!

In 1935, after some dismaying westerns, Jayne appeared in One More Spring, a charming. bittersweet drama about homeless people living in Central Park, played by Janet Gaynor and Warner Baxter. Then came Dante’s Inferno, a measly Spencer Tracy drama, most notable for being a showcase for the dancing skills of young Rita Hayworth.

In 1936, Jayne was in Ladies in Love, one of the famous three girls seeking  husbands subgenre. The genre thrived all the way until the 1960s, with movies like Three Coins in a Fountain, The best of everything and the Pleasure Seekers. This one is even a bit above average, with Janet Gaynor, Loretta Young and Constance Bennett as the eponymous trio. And one of the man is played by Tyrone Power, whauza! The same year Jayne had a credited but smaller role in the too cute for your teeth Shirley Temple movie, Stowaway, where Shirley play, you guessed it, a stowaway!

Jayne was one of the many dancers who appeared in the Sonja Henie musical, Thin Ice (the less I write about Henie, the better). The year was 1937, and Jayne also appeared in This Is My Affair, a typical romance/drama with Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck. What can I say, she had the acting chops, he had the looks, and together they made it push somehow. Joking aside, Babs was a much better actress than her hubby, and it shows, but their chemistry sizzles! The story is bland and predictable, with Taylor playing the same old boring hero, appointed by then President McKinley to uncover the band that systematically robs banks. Much more interesting in his role is Brian Donlevy as a bad guy. All in all, a meh-meh movie.

Jayne then appeared in You Can’t Have Everything, a typical Alice Faye musical. So, what makes an Alice Faye musical? Well, just one thing – it’s a movie where where Alice Faye plays Alice Faye. No matter what her name is, it’s always just her. Everything else is more or less secondary. The came a subpar romantic comedy, Wife, Doctor and Nurse, where Warner Baxter is the doctor, Loretta Young the wife and Virginia Bruce the nurse. And now guess the story! Formulaic entertainment for sure, but not a particularly bad one.

Jayne was finally credited again in Second Honeymoon, a same old, same old Tyrone Power/Loretta Young vehicle. She plays a beautiful young divorce who stumbled upon her former playboy husband just after getting married for the second time. Just In a few years Tyrone would gradate to swashbucklers, and Loretta would slowly go towards more serious drama, but this is a paper thin, very light calorie movie. While not bad, it’s not very good either.

Jayne appeared in two Mr. Moto movies,. Thank You, Mr. Moto and Mr. Moto’s Gamble. A bit more interesting was Walking Down Broadway, a overtly dramatic but female-centric movie about 6 chorus girls that have a get together years after the show they appeared in closed. It has a solid female cast (Claire Trevor, Lynn Bari, Phyllis Brooks, Dixie Dunbar…), and is an unusual movie of the period, so definitely worth watching. Similarly good was Josette, a sophisticated comedy about two young men trying to wrest their father from the clutches of a gold digger but by mistake think the woman is a young nightclub singer with whom they both fall in love. The woman is played by Simone Simon, and the men were Don Ameche and Robert Young, and it’s a charming old comedy. Then came Always Goodbye, a soapy, weepy but ultimately satisfying Barbara Stanwyck melodrama.

Jayne had her last starring role in White tiger, a low budget and lackluster jungle movie. That’s it – you know the type, bad sets, no acting, implausible plot, just set in a jungle and with an exotic slant. Jayne last movie was Keep Smiling, a charming Jane Withers vehicle. And that was it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne was 5 feet 4 inches in height, weighted 111 pounds, and had brown hair and grey-brown eyes. She was also very superstitious, loved to golf and played it often, and got terrible scores. She was painted in the papers as a St. Louis debutante who forsook the glittering society of the Midwestern city and came west to break into the movies and really wanted to act. She used to say “I’m really sincere in wanting to work in motion pictures, but I suppose the producers just don’t realize it.”

Here is a short background on Jayne:

She particularly likes historical biographies. Jayne also sketches and designs some of her own clothes. She’s written a lot of short stories none of which she has sold and has been trying to do a novels. She had hopes of becoming a topline singer but, after studying for some time, was convinced that she would miss the upper rung of the operatic ladder by some distance. Then she chucked music aside and now sings only in the shower. She and her mother have a Hollywood apartment and three or four times a year her father spends a couple of months out here with them.

Jayne made minimal newspaper coverage .She dated J. F. T. O’Connor, Controller of the Currency, for a time, but they didn’t get to the altar.

Bobbie married Jarrell Emmett Gose on December 18, 1937. Jarrell was born on October 29, 1901, in Wise County, Texas, to Stehphen Mathus Gose and Ollie Allie Jarrell. He was married to Kittie West SCHREINER in 1927, but divorced her by 1935. He left Texas for Los Angeles in the early 1930s, became a production manager at Twentieth-Century-Fox studio.

Not long after their marriage, Jarrell gave up movies to work as an independent oil distributor and real estate broker. Following suit, Jayne also gave up her film work to become a housewife.

The Goses lived a normal life in California until their 1951 divorce. It seems that the divorce turned nasty at some point:

Jarrell E. Gose. 43. real-estate broker, yesterday blamed his mother-in-law for failure of his marriage but his wife, Jayne B. Gose, 41, former film actress, said he drank too much. In court of Superior Judge William S. Baird, where their contested divorce hearing is under way, Mrs. Gose said her husband borrowed large sums of money from her to use in his business but that he did not work. She asked that the court order the money returned. trial, in which Gose’s main grievance is mother-in-law. Gose complained that Mrs. Stoffregen would not speak to him, or even to his relatives. Through Atty. Royal M. Calvin, he asked that the family home at 11121 Montana St, West Los Angeles, and its furnishings, be declared jointly his. Mrs. Gose said she was known in films as Jayne Regan.

In the end, Jarrell won the right to keep his portable bar, and was also awarded a radio, piano and violin. Funny.

Jayne wasted no time in getting married again – she married Milo Monroe Turner on August 8, 1952, in Los Angeles or Monterey. Turner was born on July 26, 1916, in Mason City, Nebraska, to Milo Turner and Kathryn Monroe. His younger sister Reta was born in 1919. Sadly, his father died a few months before his sister was born, in December 1918. His mother remarried to a Karl Losey, had another son, Karl, in 1921, and died in 1925. Milo and his siblings were raised in Shawnee, Kansas, and then he moved to Los Angeles. He served during WW2 in the US Army, and ultimately became a Lieutenant. After his return from war, he became as a stock broker in Los Angeles.

Long retired from Hollywood by now, Jayne enjoyed a life away from the spotlight and didn’t make any newspaper headlines, so information about her life from 1953 until her death are scarce. She occasional returned to her hometown, St. Louis, often for film festivals, to talk about her film career, and lived with her husband in Anaheim, California, for a time.

Jayne Regan Turner died on March 19, 2000,in Redlands, California.

Milo Monroe Turner died on May 15, 2002, in Riverside, California.

 

Lois Chartrand


Most of the starlets that came to Hollywood in 1940s and 1950s gave up their career to get married. Only a few of them gave up their career to get married to a clergyman. This is what happened to Losi Chartrand – and not a better woman could be found for this unique position in life, as Lois was a very religious young woman even before she met her husband. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Lois Noreen Chartrand was born on March 13, 1930, in San Jose, California, to Browning Chartrand and Norah Houston. Her younger brother, Robert Browning, was born on April 27, 1936. Her father, born in Missouri, was a highly esteemed dentist who worked at the University of California, San Francisco School of Dentistry. The family lived with Lois’ maternal grandfather, Samuel Houston, in San Jose.

Lois grew up as a beautiful girl from a well off San Jose family. Unfortunately I could not find any information about her education, but I guess he was educated locally, in California. Lois started to attend Occidental College in 1947.  As one of the the prettiest and most popular students, she was often seen on various happenings around the campus, like the College Alumni Ball in 1948. Due to her beauty, she was named The girl with the prettiest lips by her fellow students.

In 1949, a talent scout discovered her in college (scouts often scouted local theaters in colleges of that period, although most of the actresses I profile here didn’t go to college, so most starlets didn’t come to Hollywood via that route.). After some tests she was signed to a seven-year contract for a weekly salary of $750 by the final week. And her career started!

CAREER

Lois appeared in only four movies. The first one was the abysmal Riding High, a remake of a Warner Baxter movie from 1938. It’s a typical feel good 1950s movie, with no big depth, a simple plot (a jockey trying to get his big break with a beloved horse) and no great acting performances – but it works somehow. Bing is his usual self, and Coleen Gray, despite not being a top notch actress, is pretty and can act well enough.

However, better and bigger things awaited Lois. She was cats in a substantial role in The Great Missouri Raid, a solid, middle of the road western about the James and Younger brothers and their adventures in the Wild west. Lois played a girl who was beaued by one of the James brothers – however, she was not featured in a starring tole – the female lead was, alas, played by Ellen Drew.

That same year Lois appeared in her bets known movie – A Place in the Sun. If anybody knows about Lois as an actress today, it’s this movie. Despite the fact that her role is not that big, it’s still flashy enough to warrant somebody to actually remember her. She plays a high society lady, and carried the role well enough. As for the movie, what is there to say? The story of one man’s greedy striving to wards the stars, no matter the obstacles and a unhealthy devil-take-them attitude is told with supreme delicacy and yet enough roughness to show that it’s not all martinis and canapes. Of course, the movie belongs to the stunningly good Liz Taylor, Monty Clift and Shelley Winters. No, this truly is a old Hollywood classic, a gem that shows you just how good movie could be, with a great script, very capable director and the well oiled studio machine in the background.

Lois had already retired from movies when her last movie, Something to Live For, hit the theaters. As I am a Joan Fontaine fan, there is no way I’m going to malign any movie she’s in, since IMHO she never made a truly unbearable movie. She had better ones, she had the little less good ones 🙂 This one is squarely yin the middle. The story is actually contemporary even today -Joan plays an actress who becomes an alcoholic and falls for the Alcoholic anonymous member, played by Ray Milland, who wants to help her. And he’s married! Sadly, Hollywood takes such a delicate script and turns it into a over the top melodrama, as it usually does, as it’s often unable to realistically portray emotion and relationships between people (it’s easier to overact, and as such, it’s easier to make a movie that’s overly emotional).  While not the worst movie even made, the script is lagging and never manages to make full use of the very capable stars it has – they make what they can from it.

And that’s it from Lois!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Lois first hit Hollywood, the papers wrote just one think about her for months – that she was a direct descent of famous poet Robert Browning. Since I love Browning and find his romance with Elizabeth Barrett one of the most heartwarming romances of all time, I decided to snoop a bit, and it seem this could be quite false – Browning only had one son with Barrett, and son never had any children (at least not legitimate). So this is either typical newspaper fodder or there was an illegitimate offspring who was, in turn, Lois’ direct ancestor.

The papers reported that Lois was so good looking she had been picked by Mack Sennett as his candidate for “Miss America of 1950” since Atlantic City pageant management announced they would skip a year in dating beauty winners. So, our Lois was named Miss America by a man who had seen it all 🙂

On the flip side to Hollywood and all the glitz and glamour, Lois was a very pious young woman whose religious daily life was very important. In 1950, she joined fellow Hollywoodites Colleen Townsend, Jane Russell and Hugh O’Brien when they traveled to Modesto to speak on how religion was the guiding influence in their daily lives. Colleen was quoted as saying on the gathering, “It isn’t hard discovering worthwhile things to do. While you’re helping others you’re also helping yourself.”

Almost nobody knew, but Lois was torn apart for the whole duration of her brief movie career. Why? Well, It was the matter of a movie career that might have stood in the way of Lois and her beloved, the handsome ex-Navy officer, Clarence Mason Harvey. He was her speech teacher at Occidental College, and they hit it off right away. After a year of concealed courtship young Harvey decided to enter the ministry and became a student at Princeton. Lois signed a contract with Paramount. It was very much unsure if the two would wed. But there must have been something that had cast a spell over the young couple. A year after her first movie Lois decided to quit her movie career and become wife of a student minister.

Yes, Lois gave up her career and her livelihood for a man who also had no job as he was a student. Okay, I understand that you want to get married young, before you finish college – but to expect your wife to give up her career when you have income is just plain weird. Couldn’t Lois have waited a bit before he finished school to quit her movie career? Ah, what can I say, it must have been love!

Anyway, the couple wed on September 5, 1951, and Lois said to the papers that she will accompany her husband to Princeton university where he has a teaching fellowship and “keep house” for them when he returns to school in the fall. Clarence had to go back to speech teaching to pay expenses of supporting a wife while he finished school.

Clarence Mason Harvey was born in China, in 1921, to missionary parents. His parents returned to the US, where he was educated at Occidental College. Harvey served In the U. S. Navy as a commander of a P. T. boat during World War II.

Harvey graduated from Princeton in 1952, and that same year the family moved to Denver, Colorado where Harvey became Minister to Youth at Montview Boulevard Presbyterian Church. He became a nationally-known youth worker, and received national publicity when Marilyn Van Derbur, “Miss America” of 1957 was credited him with being the one who started her on the way to her title. She was a member of his youth group.

Lois may have been retired from Hollywood, but in 1952 she was a leading lady in the Christian motion picture film “Decision”. The story of the picture is taken from real life experiences of young people who came to discover a reality in life at Forest Home mountain retreat and made the decision to dedicate themselves to religion. The movie’s main tag line was Lois herself – how she was a  former Hollywood Screen Star who has renounced her career to serve Christ.

Hmmmm… Now, this open for debate. Did Los really ditch a promising career for marriage and religious dedication? Yes, she did have s small role in a big movie, and maybe, with time and effort, she could have achieved a a lot more, the odds were against her here. IMHO, I just don’t see it. Firstly, she wasn’t Hollywood pretty, but rather went for the natural look that Ingrid Bergman favored, but that was a look that went out of vogue with the 1950s – it was time for sophisticates like Audrey Hepburn and blonde bombshells like Marilyn Monroe to shine. Secondly, while her acting chops are opened for debate, she obviously didn’t impress anyone enough to get a leading role – and as she wasn’t a pro actress, nor had any real acting experience, it’s very doubtful she was a top notch thespian. On the other hand, she did seem radiant. Ah, it is impossible to tell, and pointless of course to even try to further analyse, but the point is, Lois indeed did cut a nascent career for marriage and that was that.

The Harveys lived in Denver and had five children: StevenJeffMegan, Janice N, born on June 6, 1960, and Peter E., born on August 25, 1963. They lived a Christian family life in Colorado.

Lois Noreen Harvey died on December 26, 1978 in Marin County, California. Clarence remarried to Karen Harvey, and continued living in Colorado.

Clarence Harvey died on April 27, 2002 in Denver, Colorado.