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.

Joan Thorsen

A very beautiful woman and a successful photo model before she came to Hollywood, Joan Thorsen was given a solid contract not on account to her thespian skills, but rather her looks. Like any other girl in the long line of models turn actresses, she did some minor work and left the industry. let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Joan Marie Hoff was born in 1918 in Auburn, Indiana, to John Hoff and Lottie Wolford. She was their second daughter – her older sister, Mary J., was born in 1911. Her father owned an auto repair shop. The family lived with Lottie’s mother, Clara M. Wolford.

Joan grew up in Auburn, where she was a graduate of the Auburn high school. She then attended Northwestern university at Evanston, Illinois, for three years, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

As an interesting trivia, we can note that the Freshmen class at Northwestern University in 1938 certainly contributed its quota to the entertainment world. Living in the same dormitory were: our Joan, Anne Lee, later a minor Hollywood actress; singer Julie Conway (she was later vocalist with Kay Kyser), and Jennifer Jones. Girls were registered under their real names. All four have adopted different ones for professional use.

She has achieved fame as a model in New York City and her pictures appeared in many popular magazines. This is how she landed in Hollywood in 1942., primarily to make tests for the famous beauty lover, Howard Hughes, and she stayed there, hoping for a career.

CAREER

Joan made her debut in The Heat’s On in a not completely insignificant role – too bad the movie is a really, really insipid and bland Mae West vehicle – unfortunately, what worked in 1932, when Mae was a Hollywood leading light, was not quite what worked in 1943, and the movie did nothing for Joan’s career.

Joan was uncredited in A Guy Named Joe, a touching, high quality, touching WW 2 movie with an interesting duo of actors, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy. 

Despite her obscurity, Joan had the honor of being a (albeit minor) part of the wonderful MGM musicals of the 1940s and 1950s – as far as the genre goes, you couldn’t do much better than that! She was in Two Girls and a Sailor Week-End at the WaldorfThe Harvey Girls and The Hoodlum Saint. I’m not a particularly big fan of musicals and rarely watch them, but these movies make for fine viewing – a great Sunday evening viewing!

In 1945, Joan appeared in the slightly more serious Adventure, the first movie Clark Gable made after his return from war. He was paired with Greer Garson, and actress I absolutely adore, but sadly, it’s a polarizing film, parts lackluster parts pure genius. Much deeper than the plot suggests, it does tackle some quite profound psychological issued, especially for soldiers returning from war, but, like most ambitious movies, it gets lost in too many directions and fails to capture its own brand of charm. Gable and Garson are an interesting couple and an unusual pairing, but they didn’t really click like she did with Walter Pidgeon or he did with Claudette Colbert. All in all, worth a viewing, but nothing to write home about.

Joan’s last movie was Undercurrent, one of the woman in peril movies made popular by Gaslight. It’s a good, edge of your seat film, headed by Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Bob Mitchum. Yep, imagine, Kate and Bob int he same movie!

And that was it from Joan!

PRIVATE LIFE

During her college days at Northwestern University, Joan met and married the boy-next-door, Robert Edward Thorsen, in 1940.

Tragedy struck when Joan gave birth to a daughter on September 13, 1941, but the girl died the same day. Not long after, her husband was drafted. Lonesome and trying to ease the pain, Joan took up acting and due to her beauty, she was noticed by Hollywood. After being tested by Howard Hughes, she was signed to a seven-year Paramount contract in 1942. She was to receive 1350$ a week during the life of the contract (which is quite  a lot and left me quite surprised!).

Despite her new job, Joan tried to keep her marriage in top shape, and often visited her husband, then Ensign Thorsen, who was stationed at Cleveland in 1942 and 1943.

Joan did her part for the war effort, as this article can attest:

Joan Thorsen visited the Army camp near Las Vegas, and while there they showed the picture, “A Guy Named Joe,” in which she has just a bit. When she flashed on the screen, the film stopped, and the soldiers made her get on – the stage for a speech.

in her spare time, Joan took Spanish lessons in a Beverly Hills High school, along with fellow contractees Marc Cramer, Bob Sully and Bonnie Edwards.

However, the strain of being apart got to Joan, and by mid 1943, she started to date eligible Hollywood bachelors, like George Raft and Sherman Fairchild. Raft was even semi serious with her, dating her for a few months. Things didn’t look good for the Thorsen’s marriage, and they tried for a reconciliation in November 1943 while Robert was on a furlough, but it didn’t yell and Joan decided to declare game over.

In late 1943, Joan moved temporarily to the Last frontier in Las Vegas, in order to win a divorce from her husband. It was there that she learned she was pregnant, but hardly changed her mind – the divorce was still on. There she met writer John Gunther, who was also there trying to divorce his spouse, and the two got romantically involved. After her divorce came trough, she had started to show, it was time to go back to the safest place – her family home in Auburn.

Joan arrived in Auburn in May to spend the summer months with her parents, John and Lottie. Her baby was expected in August and she hoped to return to her motion picture work the last part of September. After a tranquil summer, that she spend in part corresponding with Gunther, her daughter, Pamela Christina, weighing seven pounds and twelve ounces was born on August 9, 1944. Joan still expected to return to Hollywood with her daughter in the near future to resume her work in motion pictures. First she went to New York in September 1944, and spent some time with Gunther. She returned to LA afterwards, and Gunther gave  a magnificent farewell party for her.

Joan’s mother followed her to LA to take care of Pamela. She tried to resume her career, and still dated Gunther, just long distance. She was also feted by Fefe Ferry, the famous impresario, who was also her manager. Another swain was famous humorist Robert “Bob” Benchley. Joan used to take her mother as a chaperone on her dates with Benchley, to the delight of gossip columnists 🙂 Allegedly, when Joan, after being invited to dine by Robert, asked if he would mind her mother accompanying them. “Mind?” he said. “I should say not. I am flattered!”

However, Gunther was the number one man in her life. In January 1945, her former husband came to see their daughter for the first time, but no reconciliation happened. She and Gunther dated for the better part of 1945- Then, in November 1945, Joan met a man who swept her of her feet and suddenly, Gunther was out. That man was Vincent Fotre, the former beau of Ann Miller. Things progressed pretty quickly, and the wed in December 1945.

Here is an article about Joan’s second marriage:

The marriage of Mrs. Joan Thorsen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Hoff of 123 North Indiana avenue, Auburn, and Vincent Fotre of Beverly Hills, Calif., a millionaire shoe manufacturer, is being revealed. The wedding, kept secret, was solemnized on Dec. 21, 1945. The bride is a former well-known Auburn girl.  For the past four years she has been a starlet under contract to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios in Hollywood. She has appeared in a number of pictures. Mrs. Thorsen and Mr. Fotre were married near Las Vegas, Nev. The former was in a group of movie starlets who went to Las Vegas to pose in a series of six pictures for Liberty magazine which were used in connection with an article “From Sun to Snow in 60 Minutes.” Mrs. Thorsen was in one individual picture in a ski outfit and appeared with two other actresses in ski clothes, ski jackets and sweaters. Mr. Fotre flew from California for the wedding ceremony. On March 22 of this year she represented the MGM studio in a style show, “East Meets West,” at the Ambassador hotel in Beverly Hills, sponsored by the Theta Sigma Phi sorority. She modeled a Grecian gold green evening gown styled by Irene, the studio’s famous designer. Pictures- were taken of the style show in technicolor and will be shown throughout the country. The former Mrs. Thorsen and her daughter, Pamela, are now residing in the home of her husband in Beverly Hills. Mr. Fotre is the father of two children by a previous marriage. They are planning to erect a new home in Beverly Hills as soon as building restrictions are lifted.

Vincent Valentine Fotre was born on February 14, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois, to Jacob and Catherine Fotre. He was married once before, to Kathryn Guinnee. They had a son, Vincent G, born on May 10, 1924, and a duaghter, Patricia Anne, born on May 11, 1927. They divorced in the 1930s, and Fotre dated a few of the Hollywood starlets prior to the marriage.

Their son Terry Vincent was born on May 17, 1948. Their daughter Janet Christina was born on April 18, 1954. They lived in California and were socially active, but sadly divorced in the late 1950s.
Fotre remarried to starlet M’Liss McClure in 1966, and they divorced in 1970. Fotre died on December 20, 1975. 
Joan married James S. Kemper on December 29, 1960, in the Bel Air Country club. It was a third marriage for both of them.
James Kemper was born on April 14, 1914, in, to James S. Kemper and Mildred Hooper. His father was at one time the US Ambassador to Brazil. Kemper was a studied at Yale and worked as a lawyer all around the States before taking over his father’s company. He joined the Kemper organization in 1960. He was named chairman and chief executive officer in 1969 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979. During Mr. Kemper’s tenure, the Kemper organization expanded in both the insurance and financial services marketplaces.
Kemper was nationally known for his work in the field of alcoholism. As a former alcoholic who went clean, he had plenty of experience and a lot of good will to help others. President Carter appointed him to the National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Related Problems. President Reagan named him to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, and he was chairman of the board of trustees of its successor committee, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving. He served as a member of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Interagency Committee on Federal Activities for Alcohol and Alcoholism. He was also a director of the National Council on Alcoholism.

Kemper was the father of five children:  James, Linda, Stephen, Judith and Robert. The Kempers lived in Golf, Illinois, and at a vacation home in Pauma Valley, California. They were both passionate about golf and very much active in civic affairs.

Kemper died on July 2, 2002. Joan continued to live in Illinois after his death, but I could not find any information as to what happened to her afterwards.

As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Virginia Maples

wilmington_news_journal_wed__jan_7__1942_

Virginia Maples was an Earl Carroll dancer who crashed Hollywood and actually managed to get in front of the camera. However, her true claim to fame were not her acting chops, but the man she dated – she was a serious contender to become both Mrs. Phil Silvers and Mrs. George Raft. Let’s hear her story.

EARLY LIFE

Virginia Lillian Maples was born to on January 13, 1921, in Los Angeles, California to Cornelius William Maples and the former Evelyn Rae Kavanaugh. Her father was an army captain who headed the Camp Tulelake. Her younger brother, Richard, was born on March 25, 1926.

Virginia grew up in Manhattan Beach, and dreamed to being an actress/dancer from early childhood. She started dancing before she went to school. In 1937, at just 16 years old, Virginia won the title of Miss Los Angeles. Earl Carroll saw her, liked what he saw, and signed her to become a Carroll girl. Barely 16 years old, Virginia was on her way to greater and bigger things.

There are several version of the story how Virginia was discovered for the movies. In a newspaper article she claimed she was discovered on a beach near her mother’s house. Years later, she claimed she came to the studios gates one day, and said to the guards she wanted to act. Luckily, they needed a dancer that very day, and she got the part. While I can’t be sure, I just think that her engagement in Earl Carroll’s vanities catapulted her to the screen. Anyway, she signed with a major studio in 1941 and started her career.

CAREER

Virginia made her debut in 1941 with Week-End in Havana, a fun, no-brains-required Alice Faye musical with her standard stock actors – John Payne, Carmen Miranda and Cesar Romero. Truly, Alice’s 1930s and 1940s movies were pure enjoyment, perfect escapism at the end of another mundane working day. The plot is pretty silly (from imdb: In this case it’s Alice Faye, a shopgirl who saved her money for a cruise and in this case the cruise ship ran aground on a reef on the Cuban coast. She just doesn’t want to sign a waiver to get the company off the hook for a lawsuit. So John Payne who is about to become Barbier’s son-in-law is sent to get that waiver by hook or crook.), but you know it’s just an excuse to paste together several singing and dancing scenes.

oakland_tribune_sun__jan_2__1944_Virginia started 1942 with The Mad Martindales, a movie more or less lost today. It’s a pity – the movie seems like a charming, likable family romp with Jane Withers in her usual perky role. Next Virginia appeared in the highly sanitized and inaccurate biography or Ernst Ball, an Irish songwriter, called Irish Eyes Are Smiling. If you watched any musical/biographies, you know the drift – the plot only has minor similarities with the real life of the man it portrays, and there is plenty of nice music and dancing. Dick Haymes, in the leading role, was not a good actor for sure , but he sings well enough, and June Haver witth her happy go lucky act and nice snging saves the day.   

Virginia appeared in only one more musicals – the “war musical” Something for the Boys. Like most propaganda movies, it’s thin int he art but abundant in the fun/morale department. It’s entertaining and nice to watch, but easily forgettable (even Carmen Miranda and Vivian Blaine can’t elevate it to a upper tier status).

virginia-maplesYou know it’s the beginning of the end, or a beginning of a new career when you start appearing in low budget westerns, like Virginia did with Wildfire. After that, you either sink and leave acting, or swim and become a B western heroine. Since the movie was easily forgettable, Virginia left movies for a period of time. She worked in nightclubs and so on.

She only returned to Hollywood in 1954, to appear in tow glossy, high class productions: Woman’s World and Black Widow. Woman’s world is one oft he best movies made abut the corporate world, about three hotshot salesmen and their wives, and the rat race to get ahead int he business. Black Widow is a mixed bag of pleasures. The plot is something right out of Hitchcock (taken from imdb: Van Heflin gives a striking, forceful performance as a theatrical producer in New York City who befriends a lonely 20-year-old girl at a party; she’s a would-be writer hoping for success, he takes a shine to her and offers a helping hand…but then she turns up dead!), and the actors are good enough, but it’s all so overtly dramatic it hurts!

Virginia left movies for good after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

While Virginia was one of the Earl Carroll girls, she dated Lionel Newman, the Earl Carroll orchestra leader, and there was talk the two would wed. They never did.

virginia-maples2After Newman, Virginia was seen several times with Laurence Tibbett Jr. In May 1942, she was seen with Victor Mature.

Then, in September 1943, Virginia started dating comedian Phil Silvers. Things got serious pretty soon, but theirs was a turbulent, love/hate relationship that just went up and down for about six months. They were cooing one moment, next they were fighting, then they were separated, then they were buying jewelry… It was pretty obvious the relationship would not last. They broke up in April 1943.

Virginia then took up with another famous beau, George Raft. To be sure, George was a notorious skirt chaser that dated all the girls in Hollywood (slight exaggeration, but just slight). He had just come out of a intensive relationship with Betty Grable, who ditched him when his wife refused to grant him a divorce (he used his wife a great many times to excuse himself from remarriage). Betty was furious when she found out that George started dating Virginia, and she tried to make her life a bit more complicated – only an intervention from the studio brass managed to calm down the situation.

George allegedly carried a huge torch for Betty. Since Virginia was a dear ringer for Betty in terms of looks, you can guess where that comes from… To my surprise, they actually dated for a long time – three months!!

virginia-maples3In July 1943, she switched to Tex Feldman. Then dirty laundry came out. Allegedly, when Virginia replaced Betty as George’s number one lady, he forced her to imitate Betty in everything from walking to fashion style. Virginia got sick of it and left him for Feldman. What can I say about Raft? The more I read about him and his ladies, the less I like him. The guy obviously had some ego problems, as he dated ladies by the load but never remotely considered getting divorced from his wife who lived on the other side of the country. Some sources claim he was unable to divorce his wife, but hey, I think there are means of divorcing somebody if you really want to! Good for Virginia to get out of such a distressing relationship.

But then (WAIT FOR IT!) they got together, again!! Ugh. And they stayed together for two more years. George went overseas during the war to tour war camps, and left his car to Virginia. It must have been love 😛 Anyway, he returned and they continued their idyll, until about mid 1945.

albuquerque_journal_sun__may_7__1944_After that, Virginia, started to date Bill Burton, Dick Haymes’ manager. Then she was seen with hotshot lawyer, Bentley Ryan. Then she dated Arturo de Cordova in December 1945. By then, Virginia Maples worked as an exotic dancer at the Club Riviera, and was out of the movies.

Virginia’s last known Hollywood beau was Walter Kane, Howard Hughes’ right hand man. They dated in early 1946 for several months, but she denied reports she was to marry him.

Then, Virginia met and fell in love with a handsome Brazilian, Envidio Sanctos (they met at one of Carmen Miranda’s parties). They eloped in 1947 and got married in Brazil. She effectively left behind her career to live in the Amazon jungle with her new husband. They spent their time between Brazil and the US. Their daughter, Diana, was born on April 17, 1950, in Kansas City, Missouri. The couple separated and divorced in 1962.

In 1975, Virginia moved to Isles of Capri and opened a gift shop, Diana’s Gifts, in East Naples. She continued working until she was 70 years old, and retired in Naples after that. She was a much loved member of the community.

Virginia Maples Sanctos died on January 13, 2010, in Naples, Florida.

 

Gayle Mellott

James Montgomery Flagg  "Gayle Mellott "  Charcoal - Museum Purchase 1971

Gayle Mellott… Stunningly beautiful, not without charm, and with a strong showbiz background… So, what went wrong? I honestly have no idea. Maybe she did not catch the right breaks, maybe she was not “talented” enough, maybe she was too “beautiful”… But, as it happens so frequently in Hollywood, there are no sure answers, and Gayle remains one of many actresses that never realized even a bit of their potential.

EARLY LIFE

Edna Gayle Mellott was born on August 21, 1916, to Lawrence Clement Mellott and his wife Frances Wick in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was the middle of three children – her older brother, Lawrence, was born on March 17, 1914 (in New York). Her younger sister, Nancy, was born on April 27, 1920 in West Virginia.

Her father was from Ohio, and her mother from West Virginia. The family lived in Wheeling with two lodgers. While the papers paint Gayle as a member of a rich southern family, I get the impression her parents were normal, working middle class. Gayle attended high school there, and developed a love for horses, riding form the time she was a child. Her emerging talent in dancing also became a prominent factor in her life from the time she was in her early teens. By the time she graduated from high school, there was no doubt in her mind – she would enter showbiz and make her luck there.

Gayle moved to New York in circa 1935. She used her talent for horse riding, and got a stop at the Billy Rose’s Jumbo revenue. In the meantime, to supplement her income, she modeled for John Powers Agency and did a bit of summer stock. She also studied designing and attended beauty pageants with some frequency. To further her career, she decided to move to Los Angeles in 1938.

Gayle’s father died on November 21, 1938. Her widowed mother decided to move to Los Angeles along with her youngest child, Nancy. In 1940, Frances and her three children (Gayle, Lawrence and Nancy) were living together in Los Angeles.

CAREER

Gayle followed the same old story line many stunningly beautiful girls went through – the town belle comes to Hollywood, hoping to become a star, but in the ultra competitive environment of Tinsel Town, she’s not the best looking gal in town anymore. Usually these girls have little to to no acting experience (and are mostly chorus girls),never break from the uncredited tier, last for a short time and then fizzle away.

Gayle1Missing Daughters, her first feature, is a crime movie quickie with a solid cast: Richard Arlen, Rochelle Hudson, Marian Marsh and Isabel Jewell. The plot is actually pretty interesting, dealing with a try to break the Broadway Hostess ring, but the movie slid into obscurity and has no reviews on IMDB. Too bad, just one of many with a similar fate.

The Saint in Palm Springs, one of the few George Sanders made playing the famous Leslie Charteris character, this time involved in trying to find priceless stamps. It is an fine, amiable movie, a very good way to spend an hour and a half. Interestingly, Sanders himself hated the movie and considered it the nadir of his career, but he was certainly too harsh with the criticism – while no masterpiece, it’s well made, with Sanders giving his usually cool, sophisticated performance and the plucky Wendy Barrie playing his love interest with her typical gusto (can’t help it, I like Wendy Barrie). The end is quite unexpected and the whodunnit is more interesting than one perceives it at the first glance.

In the Navy  is a level up for Gayle. The plot involves crooner Russ Raymond (Dick Powell) dropping out of the celebrity spotlight, only to join the Navy under the name of Tom Halstead. He is relentlessly pursued by newspaper photographer Dorothy Roberts (Claire Dodd). The movie, despite some shortcomings (silly, silly silly), is a genuinely funny, witty romp. Powell and Dodd are a nice enough couple, and the music is more or less fine. Gayle was seemingly on her way up.

Manpower is Gayle’s most famous movie and most prominent role. The movie boasts not one or two but three top tier names: Marlene Dietrich, George Raft and Edward G. Robinson. Even is teh story was a shallow one liner, it couldn’t have been bad with that cast! While it’s not a top movie for either of the stars, . Gayle has the role of one of Marlene’s “girls”.

And then, poof pow, Gayle’s career started to slide, and slide fast. Just as one would hope better roles were waiting around the corner… No.

Gayle5Flying Blind did Gayle’s career no favors. A dull, uninteresting B movie about pilots and airplanes. I was surprised how that cast, otherwise not an untalented lot, gives so little, like they didn’t really want to act here. You can still enjoy the sight of pretty Jean Parker and luscious Marie Wilson, but it’s hardy enough to make a compelling viewing.

Hard Guy came next. I already mentioned this movie, and I am goign to quote a revierew from IDB who summer the movie nicely:

The film is set mostly in a nightclub run by Jack LaRue. LaRue had an up and coming career with MGM, but by 1940 was forced to act in anything–and this fit that bill nicely. As he often did, he played a heavy–a cheep hood hiding in the guise of respectability. His specialty was getting the women in his employ to marry rich men and then get quickie annulments or divorces–splitting the money with him. This was a big problem with the film, as there is no reason for any woman to split the money with LaRue–it just made no sense. Nor did it really make sense for them to give up on their ‘sugar baby’ so quickly. When one of the women develops a conscience, LaRue kills her and makes it look like her new husband did it! So it’s up to a bunch of idiots to somehow unravel the mystery

Yup, what more do I need to write?

The Falcon Takes Over is another in the Falcon series of movies with George Sanders. Still, it’s not the typical Falcon movie, having a shade darker atmosphere, a complex story packed into 65 minutes. George Sanders was always the epitome of elegance and charm in his roles, and this one is no exception. This is by far the best of Gayle’s roles in her post-Manpower filmography.

Gayle3Cinderella Jones is an idiotic film. There, I said it. Okay, while I can’t claim it’s one fo the worst movie or anything similar, it has an absurd story, and the actors were obviously bored by it, you get the idea they wanted to be anywhere but on the sound stage. Just look at this summary:

Judy Jones, sings with a band and also works at an aircraft plant. She takes part in a “missing heirs” radio program and is discovered to be an heiress to a fortune. But the will provides that she must be married by a certain time or lose the inheritance. She then has to decide whether rivals-for-her-hand Tommy Coles or Bart Williams, loves her for herself or for her fortune. What’s a girl to do?

Oh yes, what more is there to add? While some movies take brainless plot but the sheer charm and vivacity of the leads push them into enjoyable viewing, not so much for this movie.

Gayle’s career was, to be frank, on the total downslide, and she retired after this movie.

PRIVATE LIFE

Gayle was a Republican, and passionate about the choice, even trying to run for congress in her home state (she lost, obviously).

In November 1935, Gayle was just beginning to get her name in the papers for the first time, and she was dating a T. Sweeney. In late 1936, Gayle the papers pegged Gayle as a Californian bride to be. We never learn the name of the lucky fella, and it seems the marriage did not happen. In April 1937, she was seen with C. Vanderbilt Jr., who was till convalesing from his car crash. Sadly, Vanderbilt was quite the ladies man, and Gayle was probably just another notch on his (pretty big) belt. In May 1937, Gayle dated the clean cut, perfect American Yale boy, Larry Kelley. This was just what the society of the time expected from a girl like Gayle – date such a steady, dependable guy, get married, have kids. Yet, it seems Gayle was not quite the type to take that advice…

In February 1943, it was reported that the luscious Gayle was dating Al Busiel, the millionaire cosmetics firm executive. The two weer wed in early march 1943.

Alfred Hamilton Busiel was born on 1900, in Chicago, Illinois, to Aaron Cohen and Miriam Cohen. His siblings were Simon Cohen Coates; Esther Wallace; Ida Patten (Padnos, Cohen); Otto (Abraham) Jay Cohen; Syma Busiel; i Florence Hamburg. He was a savvy businessman and became a executive with the lady Esther Comspetics company by the time he was 40 years old. 

Gayle4He was married once before to Carolyn Busiel, and had a daughter with her. Unfortunately, Gayle and Al’s marriage was a catastrophe from the very beginning. At the time when most newlyweds experience bliss as they will never experience again, Gayle and Al quarreled constantly. Busiel tried to remedy it with expensive gifts, but hey, we all know that never works, right? By September, it was more or less all they could take, and a separation occured. In November, it was in the divorce court.

Some dust was raised int he papers due to the divorce,  but than again, the papers just loved it when a showgirl marries a millionaire after a short courtship and then divorced him not long after. They preyed over such opportunities like vultures. Gayle accused her husband of running away fromt he couple’s shared home with some valuables and the horses her gifted her (WHAT? How?!). After some tiffing, Gayle was awarded a handsome sum (undisclosed in the papers, unfortunately), but had to return the 50 000$ necklace he gifted her. Some fine gentleman he is!

After his divorce from Gayle, Busiel married Suzette Childeroy Compton, a noted writer and member of the jet set. It was her second marriage. Busiel died suddenly in Honolulu, Hawaii, in 1951.

Little is known what happened to Gayle after the divorce. She gave up her career, and slipped into total obscurity. I have a nagging feeling I once read that she dated George Raft in the 1950s, but I could not find that newspaper article anywhere. I have no idea if she ever remarried, but she died with her maiden name, signaling she was single at the time.

Edna Gayle Mellott died on in December 16, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

 

Virginia Pine

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The elegant society lady made little impact on Hollywood on her own, but was a large influence on one of Tinsel Town’s biggest stars of the 1930s and 1940s, George Raft. Without a doubt, Raft would not be George Raft we all known today without her, and as a result, his immense influence on several great directors would never have been the same.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Pine was born as Virginia Marie Peine in Chicago, Illinois, on August 11, 1912 to Adolph Peine and his wife, Mabel Rees, married in 1903. She had an older brother, Jack Peine. Her family was solidly upper middle class, and Virginia grew up in an affluent, secure environment, mingling with the Chicago high society. She was educated in private schools.

Virginia came out as a debutante in 1929, when she was 17 years old.

CAREER:

Virginia got to Hollywood in late 1933 and right away was signed by Fox. However, during filming, she refused to appear in a scantly clad costume and lost the contract. Her only appearance is in the early and sadly forgotten Spencer Tracy film, Bottoms Up. The movie has much to recommend itself, not just Tracy as a likable hero-villain, but a strong supporting cast including John Boles and some seriously snappy dialogue.

george_raft_and_virginia_pine_pictureVirginia was signed by Warner Brothers in March 1934. Her stint with the studio lasted for a year and produced four appearances in movies. Her first try was Doctor Monica, a Kay Francis vehicle. And rarely has Hollywood made a movie about a shockingly relevant subject in a such a melodramatic, soap-operish way. Everything that happens in the movie was possible in reality back then and is even now, but of course we have simplistic characters that are morally either superior and mentally strong (Kay Francis), whinny and irresponsible (Jean Muir),  or caddish, slightly negative (Warren William) . All perfectly plausible people in real life, but much too straightforward. Yet, the cast is excellent and did their job well. Virginia played Monica’a friends and is briefly on the screen.

Virginia than had roles in two completely forgotten comedies, a small one in Fugitive Lady and the lead in Hot Off the Press. No info is given about the movies, and we can assume they have been forgotten for a reason. Her only other credit from this time is The Whole Town’s Talking, a top notch Jean Arthur/Edward G. Robinson comedy.

From then on, Virginia only acted sporadically, appearing in one of the best movies of Hollywood’s golden year, 1939, The Women. It would take another five years for her to make her last movie, Boogie-Woogie Dream in 1944. The charming short showcases Lena Horne at her best.

Virginia went to the Broadway stage to continue her acting days. She was featured in Heart of a City and Lady in the Dark before marrying in 1942 and leaving it all behind.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Virginia married for the first time when she was about 17, to William I. Watbel, an athlete, and divorced him in February 1931. Her second husband was the wealthy department store heir, Edward John Lehmann, 10 years her senior, whom she wed in late in 1931 in Boone, Illinois. Her daughter Joan Lehmann was born in 1933 in Chicago. They separated soon after the birth.

geovirgNow, the stories of how Raft and Virginia met differ. One source claims that he visited Chicago and met Virginia. She fell madly in love with him, left her husband and followed him to Hollywood. The version that sounds more accurate is that Virginia was a friend of Jock Whitney, a notorious millionaire playboy, who introduced George to her. Beautiful, fair skinned and blonde, Virginia was the Botticelli Venus for Raft – and her cool, sophisticated manner and was a direct contrast to his own frugal upbringing and the more crude, less polished women he usually dated. Virginia fiddled with Raft on their first date, driving the well heeled womanizer to dust. Later she claimed she did or the fun and to humble him – in other words, Virginia was a woman who knew what she wanted, knew how to play and play well she did. George fell fast and hard.

Virginia and George dated for the next seven years, from 1933 up until 1939/1940. It was his most meaningful, sincere and earnest relationship. She completely changed his image from a badly over-dressed hoodlum from Hell’s Kitchen to a slick, alluring gentleman who always had that whiff of danger within him. The Pygmalion scheme (in reverse to the usual older man/younger girl scenario as she was both younger and a woman) included dressing him, teaching him the social graces, proper way to eat and drink, how to talk, what to talk about and so on. It really rubbed off him, and George became the man today known – one of the best Warner Bros stars in the 1930s, standing hip to hip with James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart.

George built a palatial house in Coldwater Canyon where Virginia and her daughter Joan lived. They went for holidays on Catalina island, attended the horse shows at Santa Anita racetrack, and were an all around acknowledged Hollywood couple. George himself was a perfume connoisseur and bough Virginia a big number of rare and expensive perfumes from abroad she would cleverly use to further enchant him. He was also a terrific father figure to her daughter, Joan, who was just a baby when the two started dating. In many ways, George WAS Joan’s father, as she spent her formative years (from ages of 1 to 7) with him and trusted him completely. In return, George adored the girl and enjoyed taking her to the park and doing other paternal activities.

As with most real life stories that sound like fairy tales, there is a catch, and not a small one. George was still technically a married man. His wife, Grace Mulrooney, lived in New York, as they had been separated for a long time, but she was a Catholic and refused to give him an divorce. She was paid handsomely by getting 10% of everything George made in Hollywood. As most women living in the 1930s, Virginia opted for marriage and wanted to wed George after it was clear they were suited to each other, but this was one thing George could not give her. Soon, all the money, fame and social status became meaningless in the shadow of living as an unwed couple. Yet, George could not or did not want to get an divorce, no matter how much Virginia pushed him.

3y7n0xecb2ewx0cyThen, the inevitable happened – Virginia started to date other guys. This was a huge blow to Rafts ego, and he was so jealous he sometimes stalked Virginia and her escort-of-the-hour to the nightspots. One especially nasty example of this was when Virginia dated Joseph Schneck, the powerful and wealthy movie mogul. Raft followed them to Schneck’s house, rang the bell and when no one opened the door,broke it down, entered, saw Virginia and Schneck on the couch, just glared at them, turned and left.

From there the relationship went downhill mighty fast. Virginia started avoiding Raft, and when they were together, they fought constantly. Soon he decided to end the misery, giving her 15 000$, which she used to move to New York in 1940. He moved to her Coldwater Canyon house with his best friend, Mack Grey. Raft himself admitted that the end of their affair was a great blow to him, and how Virginia was the love of his life. In his biography, Raft constantly blames his wife for not giving him a divorce, but several other sources claim he was too cheap to divorce Grace since he knew she would take too much money. Whatever the truth, the fact remains, Raft and Virginia did not end up married and it was a huge burden for the rest of their lives.

Virginia married war correspondent, Quentin Reynolds, on March 26, 1942 in a civil ceremony. She became a Catholic to be able to have a church wedding. They enjoyed a hefty social life in New York and could often be found in the newspaper social column. According to Wikipedia, in 1953 a scandal with Reynolds in the middle happened:

In 1953, Reynolds was the victim of a major literary hoax when he published The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk, the supposedly true story of a Canadian war hero, George Dupre, who claimed to have been captured and tortured by German soldiers. When the hoax was exposed, Bennett Cerf, of Random House, Reynolds’s publisher, reclassified the book as fictio

She and Reynolds divorced in 1960, and the next year Virginia married Byron Foy, a wealthy New Yorker and vice-president of Chrysler whose late wife Thelma Foy was, for ages, on the international best dressed lists. Foy died in 1970.

In 1972, Virginia married the widower of Constance Bennett, Colonel John Theron Coulter. They settled in New York.

Virginia Coulter died on March 17, 1984 in New York.