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!
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.
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!
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.