Pretty Dawn Oney was a local Minnesota beauty that tried to make a career in Hollywood based solely on her looks. Predictably, this failed. Let’s learn more about her…
Donna Mae Frank was born on July 4, 1930 in Mankato, Minnesota. I could not find the names of her parents. When still a baby, she was adopted by her second cousins, Arthur C. Frank and Beatrice Oney. Arthur was a candy salesman and Beatrice was an insurance agent. Beatrice’s younger brother Ivan Oney lived with the family until the early 1940s.
Donna grew up in Mankato and was a precocious child, her principal talent was standing on her head. It was clear from early childhood that Dawn was a stunner – aiming for a better life, she left Mankato for Minneapolis as soon as she graduated high school. She took the name Dawn Oney, became a model and became a sounding success in a very short time-span – for instance, eminent local Minneapolis photographer Anthony Lane frequently used Dawn in commercial work. The earliest photography work by Dawn I could find was in 1949, when she appeared in a short article:
Dawn Oney (right), 3301 Four-teenth avenue S., shows Helen Augustson, 894 Twenty-first avenue S.E., her dress made from the new cotton print sacks being used by the King Midas Flour Mills, Minneapolis. Printed in gay, lively sun-fast, tubfast colors in a wide variety of patterns, these flour sacks are being used for making aprons, playsuits, bathing suits, pillow cases and a variety of other household items.
In 1951, she applied and won a beauty contest conducted by RKO Radio Pictures. The prize was access to Hollywood itself – and she won! She left for Tinsel town that same year, and became one of the tons of movie aspirants picking for stardom.
Dawn appeared in only two movies – the first one was The French Line . This movie can either be a total winner or a total loser, depends on what are you looking for. It you want some mindless fun with interesting costumes and passable musical numbers, go for it! If you want a coherent story, great characters and some depth, avoid like the plague. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it’s easy on the eyes and that’s it. Cm-on, the story itself is hardcore “paper thin plots” we can see in so many 1950s musicals – when her fiance leaves her, an oil heiress (played by Jane Russell) takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Anyone with half a brain can see that this has no semblance of reality – but who cares, if it’s an excuse to see Russell in a variety of racy costumes (along with a huge chorus line, where Dawn was one of the chorus girls). Russell also sings in her own (very torchy) voice.
Dawn’s second movie was Son of Sinbad. Now, if The French Line was bad, then Sinbad is even worse. If French Line was good, Sinbad can be even better. Truly, for a camp lover who revels in the idiosyncrasies of such a genre, this is pure gold. I mean, just look at the summary: 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. So, sex, gunpowder and turbans all the way 🙂 As always, the cast is second rate with Dale Roberts and Sally Forest (although Sally had some talent – just sadly she rarely acted in anything worthwhile) – but you can also see the most enchanting of all burlesque girls, Lili St. Cyr, in a more substantial role than usual – she’s wonderful! All in all, typical low quality but majorly fun 1950s Hollywood product, perfect to transport you to another world!
And that was it from Dawn!
When Dawn moved from Mankato to Minneapolis, she did not just leave behind her birth town, she also left behind her sweetheart, Carl Harvey Carlson. Carlson was born on March 30, 1929, in Minnesota. Dawn and Carl meet in high school and dated for a few years before she left for Minneapolis and later Los Angeles. Not wanting to be apart any more, they married in about 1949 and Carl followed his wife to Los Angeles.
Their son Daniel “Danny” Bruce Carlson was born on August 12, 1951. However, her marriage did not work out and she divorced Harvey in 1953, citing incompatibility. He went on to work as a mining engineer in Japan, later returned to Minnesota, remarried to Joan Nelson and had two daughters. he died on May 14, 1999 in Minnesota.
After her first batch of movies failed, Dawn tried to revive her career in several ways – she continued to audition and went on modeling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it. So, in 1954, she became Miss Montana. Yes, you heard that right – a woman born and reared in Minnesota became Miss Montana. Before you ask anything, the judges knew that Dawn had a son and was divorced. Dawn was a great crown favorite an it seems she knew how to please them – she was vivacious, gracious and funny. Here is some tidbits about her private life in 1954, taken from an article:
She now lives in Hollywood with her son. ‘That little boy is the joy of my .lifer” she smiled. “I want four more just like him.” She said she has a boy friend .whom she likes very much but declined to name him. Dawn entered the Miss Universe contest because she wants a screen career, and it is -likely she will get a crack at it, win or lose.
Being Miss Montana did nothing for Dawn’s movie career. I hope she acted elsewhere. However, if Dawn had a claim to fame in the papers, it was about her her unique skills – carpentry! Here is an article from the 1950s about her hobby, written when she was named a Television Venus:
Dawn Oney. the pretty NBC T-Venus is one of the best adjusted and happiest persons I have ever known. She’s a good actress, but that isn’t all, she’s a superb lady carpenter. I asked her if we might take a picture of her with her latest project, which was a group of little animal pull toys she had just completed. It seems she had made these for some little tykes in her neighborhood. “This is the kind of project I like best.” Dawn said. “Each little animal is real easy to build and when they’re finished, they each have a different personality. You’d be surprised at the number of compliments I get when my friends stop in and see my menagerie. Of course the kids are always happy when they get them for Christmas.” Anyone can make little pull toys like the ones pictured which Dawn has just completed. All you need are a few scraps of wood and the full size patterns. Simply trace the pattern on wood, then saw it out and finally put it together.
Unfortunately, Dawn faded bit by bit from the Hollywood scene – she was last seen in the papers in 1971, still a “working actress” (what, where?).
More than 20 years after her divorce from Carlson, Dawn married Gordon A. Frantz on January 9, 1976, in Orange, California. Frantz was born on December 1, 1925, in New York. He was married once before to Dahlia E Guarino. As far as I can tell, the couple lived with two girls, Beatrice and Cynthia Louise “Cindee” (who was born in 1959). I am guessing that Cynthia was born from Gordon’s first marriage, and perhaps they adopted Beatrice. They family lived in Santa Clara and enjoyed a happy family life.
Donna Mae Frantz died on September 12, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.