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!
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!
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!
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.