Sunny Vickers

Beautiful New York model, Sunny Vickers was a perfect girl next door type which was so popular in Hollywood in the 1940s. Fresh faced, nice, and with a healthy dose of , alas she came to Hollywood when the demand for such types was slowly waning, and her career, despite a promising start, never belted out. She got married very quickly and left movies. Sadly, her story does not end in a happy tone. Let’s find out more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Beverly Jane Vickers was born on December 24, 1928, in Alleghey, Pennsylvania, to Edwin Vickers and Pauline Barrie. Her older sister was Barrie Claudine, born in 1927. Hr father worked as a clerk in an electric company. She was nicknamed Sunny from early childhood, due to her sunny disposition.

Her parents separated when Beverly was just a baby, and she and her sister went to live with Pauline in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Beverly grew up there and attended elementary and high school. Due to her beautiful visage, Sunny became known as a true Pittsburgh pretty, and after graduating from high school, started modeling in New York. Soon she was caught by the showbiz bug, and wanted to become an actress.

Except modeling, Sunny became a hatcheck girl at Ciro’s, a famous joint for the wealthy and famous. It seems she really wanted a career in showbiz, and being so close to the altar seemed a good idea. In 1949, Sunny moved to Miami and became a concessionaire at the Famous Door club, and later joining up with the Winnie Hoveler line in Jacksonville.

After her little Floria sojourn, she was back in New York, and this time some luck stuck. After a talent scout saw her, she was given a term contract by Columbia Pictures, and in a very unusual fashion. While Sunny previous professional acting experience, she was signed as the result of a screen test which was allegedly really grand. She studied for several weeks with drama Coach Benno Schneider before being given her first assignment, and of the went!  

CAREER

Sunny made five movies in 1951, and that was her whole movie output. Four of those were uncredited, and one was a low budget western (insert a gasp emoji here!).

Sunny’s first movie was Gasoline Alley, a light but nice comedy about two brothers that go into the restaurant business, and it follows their daily family life. Originally a comic, this seems to be one of those old Hollywood charming comedies that are rarely, if ever, made today, with a sweet juvenile cast – Scotty Beckett, Jimmy Lyndon, Susan Morrow and so on. Sunny met her future husband while making the movie, so this ended up a very important one for her life in general.

Her second movie was A Yank in Korea, where Sunny actually plays an important, although minimal screen time character. Sadly, this is a dry, uninteresting propaganda movie that shows to its dedicated viewers that the US had to send troops to Korea, to save the world from the communists! Of course, it’s terribly outdated and boring today… Everything is black and white and not thrilling in the least. Lon McAllister plays the all American boy that ends up a soldier… Sunny plays the girl that is his primary reason for enlistment (to impress her, you see). She appears only in a few brief scenes, but hey, it was something! 

Guess what? Kay then appeared in… A low budget western! Durango Kid is the main character, and the story… Who knows or who cares? Ridin’ the Outlaw Trail is the movie. Okay, I know I’m a bit severe,but as anyone knows, I don’t really like western as a genre and the low budget variety just exacerbates all the reasons I don’t like it at all… 

Never Trust a Gambler is a crime movie, a mediocre one, with nothing special to recommend it, but still well made and sturdy and worth watching is one likes the genre. Dane Clark plays a gambler on the run from the police for murder, and Cathy O’Donnell is his wife. What tick little ticker lacks in a true noir atmosphere to make it a minor classic. 

Sunny’s last movie was Saturday’s Hero, a somehow 50-style jaded view on college football. Ye, even back then it was  a racket and young men destroyed their bodies to make it in the savage sports world. When I say 50s style I mean it- while it does pack a heavy punch and doesn’t shy away from showing the dark side of sports, it’s still a 50s production, still somehow unrealistic and not wholly without a Hollywood sheen. Hard to describe but I think anyone who has watched 50s movies knows the feel. John Derek, a pretty boy who never became a top star, mostly due to his somewhat wooden acting style, plays the athlete, and Donna Reed is his wealthy paramour. However, there are treats to be found – winning turns by veteran actors Sidney Blackmer (fabulous as Derek’s ruthless benefactor), and Alexander Knox, a top notch character actor, playing a literature teacher. Watch for them, if nothing else. 

That was it from Sunny! 

PRIVATE LIFE

When Sunny came to Hollywood in 1950, Scott Brady was showing her the town, but he was busy with a lot of other dates so it didn’t grow into anything permanent. In cca September 1950, Sunny started dating Scotty Beckett, former child star who had a bit of a touch time transitioning to adult roles. Things progressed very fast, and Sunny became pregnant in early 1951. Marriage was imminent now – they wed in Phoenix, Arizona on June 27, 1951 and their son, Scotty Jr., was born Nov. 6, 1951 in Los Angeles.

Scotty was born on October 4, 1929, in Oakland, California, to Ralph Beckett and Ruth Slavan. His older brother James was born in 1919. He was a natural for performing, and was noted by a scout when he was entertaining his father and other patient in a local hospital. Sadly, his father died in 1933, and Scotty, to help the family budget, started a successful juvenile movie career. Hal Roach signed him up for his “Our Gang” series in 1934. He appeared in 15 “Our Gang” shorts, including “Hi Neighbor!”, “Mike Fright”, “The Lucky Corner”, and “Mama’s Little Pirate”. Beckett left Roach in 1935 to do features for the major studios, among them “Dante’s Inferno” (1935), “Anthony Adverse” (1936), “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1936), “Conquest” (1937), “Marie Antoinette” (1938), “King’s Row” (1942), and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” (1944). The pinnacle of his career was playing young Al Jolson in “The Jolson Story” (1946). Already on cusp of manhood by then, Scotty could not quite find a niche for him in Hollywood by the 1950s. He was married once before, to a tennis pro, Bevely Baker, but they divorced within a year.

Sunny gave up her career to devote to her new family. Sadly, the marriage turned sour pretty soon. Scotty was a volatile personality, prone to mis-mashes with the law. While he was young, his extensive experience with Hollywood made him jaded beyond his years, and much more jaded than Sunny. Living with him was probably very difficult, especially for a sanguine, happy-go-lucky girl like Sunny. Also, Scotty liked to pop pills and drink. Sunny picked up the trait, and began drinking to cope with the challenging home situation.

Scotty was relatively sedate for the first few years of the marriage, enjoying fatherhood, but his career continued to wane and so did his mental health. Beckett was arrested in 1954 on a bad check charge and three years’ probation imposed the same year for carrying a concealed weapon. Sunny’s alcoholism worsened, and she was treated by a string of doctors in California.

Things only went from bad to worse. Scotty was (again) arrested Feb. 11, 1957, at the U. S. -Mexico border crossing near San Diego on suspicion of possessing dangerous drugs. He told officers he was a student at the University of Southern California end had bought the stimulant pills for his wife in Mexico on a Mexican doctor’s prescription. The authorities imprisoned him and Sunny for four months without a trial. 

This totally busted their shaky marriage, and they separated and as soon as she could, Sunny filed for divorce and seeker custody of their son. The divorce drama had just started – during the proceedings, Sunny was put into a state hospital by her family, in a try to treat her alcoholism, but she left the facility by her own accord before the treatment was done. Scotty found out and tried to get custody:

Permanent custody of his 5-year-old son is demanded by Scotty Beckett, 28, former film ‘actor, in a cross- complaint for divorce which charges that his wife, sunny Vickers, 29, one-time screen actress, is now an escapee from a State hospital. Beckett asked that his wife’s rights to visit the child, Scott Jr., be limited to times when she is not under the influence of liquor. Shortly after the wife filed the original suit under her legal name of Beverly Beckett last Aug. 12 she was given temporary custody of her son and Beckett was ordered to con tribute $50 a month toward the child’s support But Beckett informed the court in the cross-suit that the boy is now with him 

What a sad story… Unfortunately, it was not over. Scotty ended up in the hospital on September 20, 19158, from an overdose of barbiturates. In 1959 he was caught drunk driving, and in 1964 he was jailed after hitting his stepdaughter on her head with a crutch. A very troubled man, he died on May 10, 1968 from an alleged barbiturate overdose, but legend has it he was beat up so bad he died from the aftereffects.

Little is known about Sunny’s life after their divorce. It seems that she married once more, to a Mr. Williams, but they were divorced in the mid 1960s. Sadly, Sun’y alcoholism continued to run rampart, and before long, it was too late for her.

Sunny Vickers, died on November 27, 1968, (just months after Scotty died) in Los Angeles. One can only imagine how difficult it was for Scotty Jr., to lose both of his parents so close in time-frame and at such young ages. I hope he recuperated and went on to have a healthy and happy life.

Marie DeForrest

Marie Deforest was a nice looking dancer who got into movies as a chorus girl, and decided to tackle the notoriously difficult task of trying to make it as a serious actress. She did not succeed, but married a legendary character actor and led a happy life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Marie Alice Davis was born on November 11, 1913, in Kansas City, Missouri, to Mr. Davis and Ethel DeForest. I could not find the name of her father, but what we do know is that he died not long after Marie was born, and remarried to Russell Clark Douglas on September 6, 1915, in Leavenworth, Kansas. Russell, a chandelier maker by trade, was married previously and had a daughter, Leona Ruth, born on April 20, 1907. Russell, Ethel and Marie lived in Kansas City.

Marie grew up and was schooled in Kansas City, and there she discovered she had a knack for the performing arts, especially dancing. In about 1925, the family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where Marie started to dance on a professional basis. Pretty soon she moved to Los Angeles, where she worked as a chorus girl in the musical entertainment circuit. This is how she landed in Hollywood in the mid 1930s.

CAREER

Marie obviously appeared in a myriad of movies, but IMDB lists only 6, so let’s go with hem! The first was The Bride of Frankenstein, a classical sequel to a classical movie everyone knows, Frankenstein. Technically very progressive for it’s time, with incredible and very imaginative set and costume design, and a string of top notch British actors (Colin Clive, Boris Karloff, Elsa Lancaster, Valerie Hobson), this is classic Hollywood as it’s best, at least in the horror movie stakes. Literary the world of horror movies were changed forever with the Frankenstein serial. While the later movies left much to be desired, this was pure gold! I think we all know the story and the main characters, so no need to write in depth about them. Marie played a small ballerina roles, and she got to show her dancing skills.

Marie’s second movie was Love Me Forever, a sadly forgotten Grace Moore weepie about a gambler who gives everything to help the woman he loves, a budding opera songstress (played by Moore) succeed in the world of classical music. While it does sound a bit overtly dramatic, the cast has some very good actors (Leo Carillo as the lead, which is a rarity, Louis Alberni, Douglass Dumbrille, Thurston Hall and others). I have actually never seen Grace Moore in a movie and am curious to see if the had that something the camera loves or was she just another singer turned actress without the spark.

Boy, was Marie’s next movie a weird one – Lash of the Penitentes. The name says it all, it’s a semi-documentary movie about flagellants, just with a murder mystery thrown in for good measure. Yep, real footage of flagellants is displayed in the movie, and whoa Nelly, what can I say about this? Marie even plays the leading female role. Marie’s next movie was luckily more lightweight fare, Mountain Music. Leading role – Martha Raye and Bob Burns. You can probably guess where this is going. There are hillbillies, mistaken identities, G men, singing and dancing and a whole lot of misunderstandings. The story isn’t even that important when you have plenty of comedic gangs by both Martha and Bob. If these types of comedy are your cup of tee, consume by all means, if not avoid. A similarly dim-witted but endearing movie was Marie’s next, Tropic Holiday. We just have more high caliber stars (Dorothy Lamour and Ray Milland), but Martha Raye and Bob Burns are there too! As usual, the story isn’t a oiece of art (A Hollywood screenwriter looking for inspiration for his next film goes to Mexico, where he runs into a beautiful Mexican girl who sets her sights on him), but it’s okay enough for the theme at hand.

Marie’s last movie was Artists and Models Abroad, a Jack Benny comedy hitting most of the right notes – plenty of pretty girls, song and dance, and a solid cast – except Benny we have Joan Bennett, Mary Boland (she’s a hoot!), Montey Woolley, Fritz Feld, Joyce Compton and others. The story, as you can guess by now, is secondary to all the other shenanigans, but so to be on the safe side – Benny and his troupe are stranded in Paris, he meets rich heiress Joan Bennett, but thinks she ‘s broke, and all kind of funny things happen. Nice, breezy, not a shabby choice for enjoyment watching. Marie plays a member of the troupe.

That was it from Marie!

PRIVATE LIFE

 Marie’s favorite actor and co-star was Bing Crosby, whom she thought of as the “most natural” of all the actors. Marie loved to be on water, and used famous Johnson “Sea Horse” outboard motor for daily excursions. Marie’s Hollywood career was very much frustrating and slow moving, as was the career of countless starlets. The press noted:

Marie DeForrest progressed to the spot of specially dancer but it has taken her three and a half y-ears to get a real speaking part. She hasn’t any solution for bucking the talent scouts’ indifference ‘Tve been in show business and- movies a long time but 1 still don’t know what it lakes beside luck Tins is the best break I’ve bad SO far”

This is a common enough story in Tinsel town, and I respect enormously anyone who tried this. Succeed or fail, all effort is rewarded, perhaps not the way a person expects, but some other mysterious ways… And for Marie it did, in a different way than one can assume.

As for her private life – before getting married, Marie had been engaged twice. It was noted she was quite popular with the boys, and received numerous offers for dates and similar proposals. However, Marie knew very well what she wanted, and told it to the newspapers:

A girl who could have forty dates a week, if there were that many evenings in seven days, and who averages a marriage proposal every seven weeks, revealed today she’s going to stay a bachelor girl for “a long long time.” The young lady is Marie DeForest, 22, born in St. Louis, Mo., but who spent most of her Young life in Kansas City until she came here with her parents eight years ago. “When I get married I want it to be a one and only for keeps,” said Marie, one of the most sought after misses in town as a dining and dancing partner. She actually accepts no more than three dates a Week. “I want a life companion when I marry and they are difficult to find in a town where most of the people are in your own line of business,” she explained. Marie, an accomplished dancer before the camera, wouldn’t marry n actor. “Pretty soon it would not be bearable,” she added. “It would be question of always talking shop and you’d always be bored to death of fighting a battle. “Ii don’t want to even date an actor. They don’t seem natural to or course, they must have a certain amount of egotism, I guess, so that they can have faith in their own ability.” She spurned college boys, too. “They’re so young and kind of silly. I don’t like them at all”

It’s funny, but in the end, Marie Married an actor! Surprise surprise! Well, not really, this happens more often than you think! In 1941, Marie married Bernard Ofner, aka Barney Phillips, a very prosperous character actor. Here is a short bio, taken from Mayberry fandom page:

Bernard Philip Ofner was born in St. Louis, Missouri, to Harry Nathan Ofner, a commercial salesman for the leather industry, and Leona Frank Ofner, a naturalized citizen of German origin, who went by the nickname Lonnie. Phillips grew up and was educated in St. Louis, then moved to Los Angeles, California after graduating from college in 1935.

Interested in acting, he was able to get a small part in an independently-produced Grade B western called Black Aces in 1937, but his show business career then languished. Phillips enlisted in the US Army in July 1941 under his real name, serving in the signal corps during World War II.

Following the war, Phillips procured small parts in several films during 1949-1952, before getting a regular role on the NBC television version of Dragnet, as Sgt. Ed Jacobs. He also voiced the recurring role of Hamilton J. Finger, a police sergeant in Frank Sinatra’s radio program, Rocky Fortune, in 1953 and 1954. Thereafter he was a prolific character actor in both films and television series throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1959-1960 television season, Phillips portrayed police Lieutenant Geller in the syndicated crime drama, Johnny Midnight, starring Edmond O’Brien as a New York City actor-turned-private detective. The following season, Phillips appeared as another police lieutenant, named “Avery”, in seven episodes of the syndicated crime drama The Brothers Brannagan, starring Stephen Dunne and Mark Roberts. He also made several appearances on the original “The Twilight Zone ” (1960-1963), most notably as the three-eyed Venusian Haley the Bartender in “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” (1961).

Phillips remained active in television during the 1970s.

The Ofners enjoyed a very happy marriage. They did not have any children, and lived in Los Angeles where Barney was a much sought after actor.

Barney died from dancer in 1982. Marie did not remarry, and opted to remain in California. She moved to Riverside at some point in the 1980s.

Marie Ofner died on her birthday, November 11, 1990, in Riverside, California.

Helen Deverell

Beautiful and with a fine voice, Helen Deverell achieved some fame on radio, but she wanted cinematic glory, and tried, for several times, to catch it in Tinsel town. Sadly, all her tries did not catapult her to stardom, and she retired after marrying in the late 1940s. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Helen Marie Murphy was born on December 25, 1913, (she’s a Christmas baby) in Chicago, Illinois, to William James Murphy and Florence Cooper. Her father was her first married to her mother’s older sister, Margaret, who sadly died in February 1910 after giving birth to his son, William, in 1908. William and Florence had five children: Margaret (born in 1912), Helen, Gordon (born in 1915), Florence (born in 1917) and Patricia (born in 1925). William was a machinist by trade.

The family moved from place to place, living in New Yersey just before Helen’s birth, and then moving to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Helen grew up in Los Angeles and attended school there. Helen developed a passion for acting while she was in high school, and right after graduation started working as a radio actress. She made some excursions to New York to audition for various studios, and by 1939, she was finally signed to a movie contract!

CAREER

After appearing in some movie shorts, Helen made her movie debut in 1939 with Dancing Co-Ed, a run of the mill musical that is enlightened by two things – first, Lana Turner as a young, sweet and fresh ingenue, just beginning her career (yeah, the quality of Lana’s acting can be debated, but nobody can ever say she was boring or that the camera didn’t love her – quite the opposite, she was a natural born star with more charisma tan talent), the second, seeing two top clarinet players in the same movie – Artie Shaw and Benny Goodman! She story (about finding a replacement for a successful sister duo after one sis gets pregnant) is never important as much as the overall feel and the music, so this movie was be enjoyed from that regard.

Helen then only resurfaces in Hollywood in 194, with Pardon My Sarong, an Abbott and Costello comedy. What can I say, if you like them and their brand of funny, this is a good movie, if not, don’t watch. There are plenty of very nice looking actresses in it – Marie McDonald, Nan Wynn, Virginia Bruce, Lona Andre and so on. The comedic duo somehow end up on a luxury cruise on the tropics, hence the sarong name (and without Dorothy Lamour, the queen of sarongs).

Helen then appeared in two low budget westerns, and this is perhaps her sole claim to fame today. As you already well known, I don’t know much about such movies so I’ll just let them slide (their names are Boss of Hangtown Mesa and The Blocked Trail. Helen made one more movie then, Strictly in the Groove, a Ozzie Nelson comedy about him trying to keep his fledging band alive. As you can imagine, it’s not a deep and nuanced movie, but there are plenty of good music to hear, especially hot swing, and some of the supporting actors are comedic gold (Leon Errol, Frankilin Pangborn, Shemp Howard). Fleeting but enjoyable entertainment for sure!

Helen got married and took a hiatus from movie making, and returned to Hollywood after the war ended, in 1945. She signed up with Monogram, and appeared in one of their Charlie Chan movies, The Scarlet Clue. Chan was a legendary 1940s character, and people loved seeing him solving mysteries, but when the movie serial moved from 20th century fox to Monogram, the movies became more comedy. This one is no exception – who wants real mystery should probably seek some other movie, but there are plenty of nice funny moments, especially between Chan and his son and Chan and his chauffeur. The story is bare boned (Charlie discovers a scheme for the theft of government radar plans while investigating several murders.) but it works in the setting. Anyway, watch for the comedy!

Helen appeared in two more movies in 1946. The first, The Mysterious Mr. M , is a campy serial about an evil scientist known as “Mr. M.” uses a drug he has developed called “hypnotreme” to help steal submarine equipment. Federal agent Grant Farrell is dispatched to find the mysterious villain and stop his nefarious plans. What can I say, if people enjoy stuff like Flash Gordon, why not? Over the top, completely unrealistic, but catch this, Mr. M uses a very rudimentary form of GPS here, so the movie actually features something that will come into mainstream use about 60 years later! Revolutionary, in a small way!

Helen’s last movie was Abie’s Irish Rose, based on a Broadway play that was panned by the critics but lauded by the public and ran for 5 years straight! The reviews for this one was abysmal, so let’s assume that the critics were correct at some rate at least. The plot concerns a marriage between a clean cut Jewish boy and a pretty Irish girl. You can easily connect the dots on what happens next, the families are not impressed and mayhem is assured. Joanne Dru, who plays the pretty Irish lass, started her career here, and she managed to have a solid run in Hollywood, so as a stepping stone for her, this movie wasn’t too… Shabby. To bad it’s a piece of sentimental shuck with no depth not true emotional worth, but hey, at least legendary acting coach Michael Chekov is in it (and he made only a few movies).

That was all from Helen!

PRIVATE LIFE

Helen was primarily a very successful radio actress, and got most of her fame from the medium. Here is an excerpt about the shows that Helen did:

“Continental Caprice, depicting the charm and romance of Europe in the old days, has been lengthened to 45 minutes tonight to tell a story of Christmas Eve in Vienna. A special cast has been chosen to enact the Christmas program, – Including Carol Stone, John’ Carroll and Helen Deverell. Velascos Hungarian Orchestra and Julius Klein, master of the cymbal, furnish the music. .

Little is known of Helen’s private life, as she didn’t cause much rippled in the newspapers. In 1943, she married George Cahan, who was then serving in the US army. George Middleton Cahan was born on may 24, 1919, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Louis B. Cahan and Ida Goldman, their only child. The family lived in Harrisburg for a short ime before returning to Philly, where George grew up and attended schools. In the 1930s, Cahan was a radio announcer-producer for national networks and several large stations in the East, including Stations WCAU, Philadelphia, and WHP, Harrisburg, for the Columbia Broadcasting System, and WFIL, Philadelphia, for NBC and Mutual While with CBS, he was named their special announcer for the Governor of Pennsylvania and later made several broadcasts from the Governor’s Mansion.

He enlisted in 1941, and after several months as an enlisted man in public relations and special services work, Capt. Cahan entered cadet training and receive his pilot’s wings and commission July 3, 1942, at Columbus, Miss. He was later transferred to the Troop Carried Command and ordered to New Guinea, where he was a Group Operations officer during several campaigns. When he returned to the States in March, 1944, Capt. Cahan was assigned to public relations work. He came to Stockton Field from a similar assignment at the Sixth Ferrying Group, Long Beach.

Helen followed her husband, around, and While in Stockton, the Cahans resided at 2135 Lakeside, Stockton. However, this was a typical wartime marriage, where the people involved don’t even know each other before getting married, and sadly but predictably it failed in 1945. Cahan would marry actress Alice Talton in 1950 and die on June 12, 1991.

Helen fell out of the newspaper radar, and we know why on May 1, 1947, she married to Tomas Gurza Bracho, and effectively left behind the world of Hollywood and acting to settle in her new home country – Mexico. Sadly there was not much I could find about Helen’s second husband. He was born on September 12, 1911, in Durango, Mexico, to Alberto Gurza and Carmen Ana Bracho, the fourth of seven children. He was a diplomat, and married once before to Maria Luisa Lacy.

I could not find any information about children. The couple lived in Mexico City and seemingly enjoyed a happy marriage. Bracho died on December 9,1965, from hemorrhaging related to a renal disease. Helen continued living in Mexico after Bracho died and only sporadically returned to the US (I assume).

Helen Bracho died in May 1991 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Gwen Zetter

Gwen Zetter

Most of the girls I profile on this page were in fact extras with no speaking parts. Gwen Zetter is an excellent example of how an extra lived and worked in Hollywood. She is literary the other side of the medal – what about not just the stars and the character actors, but those who were never credited and often graced a large number of movies? Let’s learn more about her! 

EARLY LIFE

Grunhild Ingrid Zettergren was born on June 22, 1910, in Wada, Sweden. I could not find any information on the identity of her parents. The family moved to Stockholm not long after her birth. Gwen grew up in Stockholm and attended school there. In the late 1920s, after finishing high school, decided to go to America and seek her fortune there. 

After Gwen landed in the US, she became fashion model first in Chicago and then in New York. It was via the modeling route that she landed in Hollywood in 1932, and her career started! 

CAREER

Gwen allegedly appeared in a large number of movies as an extra, but IMDB lists only 11 of them. With no further adue, let’s go into it! 

Gwen’s first movie on the last is She Wanted a Millionaire, which what we today consider a totally cliche story, of a pretty girl who wants a millionaire, gets one but then gets more than she bargains for when the guy ends up not quiet what she expected and murder ensures! this is worth watching for the leads – Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett, and nothing else more or less. Those two had great chemistry and really worked well together! Coming up next was Sinners in the Sun, a similar 1930s romcom, about a girl who wants a rich man and thus ends her relationship with a loving but poor man. It’s not the sory, it’s the actors once again, with Carole Lombard and 

And then the The Kid from Spain! Whoa, this movie has been mentioned here for more than 10 times, so I won’t write about ti any more. Next: The Woman Accused seems like an interesting pre-code crime drama, with Nancy Carroll playing just engaged young women who John Halliday tries to coerce into admitting her guilt over the death of her former boyfriend (Louis Calhern). And imagine who plays Nancy’s new fiancee? None other than Cary Grant! While not written well enough to be a very good film, it’s still well plotted, tight and has some interesting moments. And seeing Cary on the screen is always a plus! 

Gwen Zetter 2

And then we have The Warrior’s Husband, and what a movie this is! A story about Theseus and the Amazons (let’s brush up on our greek mythology), but in reality a story about the complicated gender roles and perhaps a reversal of those same norms? While I would have loved to see Katherine Hepburn in the leading role (she played it in the theater), another actress I like, Elissa Landi, makes an appearance, so it’s all fine and dandy! Another delightful precode comedy was  International House, a kind of a pastiche of various zany people trying to buy a patent for a peculiar TV station (and all of this is set in China). W.C. Fields, Peggy Hopkins Joyce, Stuart Irwin (the male lead, but actually the most ), The story may be thin, but there is plenty of 1930s pizzaz, absurd skits and colorful characters that it just works! Plus it’s precode, always a plus IMHO. 

Gwen then appeared in Morning Glory, a okay movie about the lives of actresses. While it’s a minor classic today, mostly thanx to Katherine Hepburn’s Oscar win, I didn’t find it particularly exalting, but it’s a solid piece of film making and there are plenty of nice roles for ladies in it, also always a plus in my book. Gwen then appeared as a chorus girl in two 1930s musicals, Footlight Parade and Roman Scandals. We know the old blueprint – no story, plenty of scantly clad ladies, some comedy, some song and dance, interesting costumes! 

Gwens last movie was Vagabond Lady, a cute romantic comedy with Robert Young and Evelyn Venable – Evie is engaged to Bob’s older, stuffy brother, but when Bon enters the picture, things change dramatically! While no work of art, it’s a breezy, nice lil movie and quite enjoyable to watch! 

That’s it from Gwen! 

PRIVATE LIFE

Gwen was a blue-eyed blond and quite tall, five feet, eight Inches in height and weighted 123 pounds. Gwen had a particular flair for white; and kept her figure with an old-fashioned diet of milk cheese and fresh green food. 

In 1935, after being in Hollywood for several years and in the US for about six, Gwen received final papers as United States citizen. Here is a short newspaper bit about it: 

Forswearing allegiance to the King of Sweden, Miss Grunhild In grid Zettergren, known on the stage and screen as” Gwen Zetter, yesterday appeared before United States District Judge McCormick and was awarded her final papers as a citi zen of the United States. The actress was one of a class of 180 per sons seeking citizenship, a majority of them former British subjects. Miss Zetter, who resides at 1075 North St. Andrews Place, has lived here for about five years, during which she has been engaged In motion picture work. She said her parents repeatedly have urged her to return to Sweden, but that she had decided she “would rather live here than any other place in the world.” “Sweden is a grand country,” she said, “but greater opportunities exist here for people of my profession and I am delighted to become American citizen.” The actress was accompanied to court by Dorothy Compton, film actress

Gwen seemed to have a brand – the “successful” extra. If she ever got any newspaper coverage, it was because she was a working gal and Hollywood extra. If you can believe the newspapers, according to the records of Central Casting, Gwen was the top money extra In the business. She averaged about $60 a week, more than a stenographer or a saleslady. Here is a very exhaustive article about her lifestyle, and more of less the reason I decided to profile her here – this is very interesting reading! 

“I want to interview the most successful extra in Hollywood,” I told Campbell McCollough, the new chief of Central Casting. He gave me the telephone, number and address of Gwen Zetter. Having made an appointment, I visited her in her home. She is a girl of whom the motion picture industry may well be proud, and I am frank to say, after talking with her for an hour, that I am puzzled to find her an extra, while so many others, decidedly inferior to her in both beauty and intelligence, have reached stardom. I have heard thousands of extras bewail their lot. The officials of Central Casting repeatedly have told me that they are unable to supply enough work to keep their thousands of registrants in food and clothing and shelter. But from Gwen Zetter I heard the other side of the story. Her success deserves the more applause because it has been won in the face of tremendous odds — but it does not mean that the average girl can earn a living as an extra. Gwen Zetter is not an average girl. I EARN my living by working as a motion picture extra. I don’t pretend to be an “actress,” and don’t profess to have “talent.” I’m just an extra — but I’m one by choice, and I wouldn’t trade jobs with any one of the salesgirls, stenographers or secretaries whom I know. Too many tears have been shed about our lot. Too many articles have pointed out “the pitfalls that lurk in Hollywood for the extra girl.”

Too many writers have exercised their flair for melodrama by picturing us as the despised victims of mistreatment on the studio sets. Of course, with so much smoke, there must be a fire. I know that I have been unusually lucky. I know that for every extra who earns a decent living, there are many who barely exist. Our “business,” like all others, is desperately overcrowded. There are nearly ten thousand of us, all registered with Central Casting, all absolutely dependent upon our work before the cameras, and all competing for employment which would be insufficient for half of our number. Naturally, the majority must fail in the competition — and Central Casting, realizing the conditions, not only refuses to register new applicants for extra work, but is systematically trying to weed out the least suited just as fast as employment can be found for them in other fields. Yet the fact remains that the girls who are best suited for extra work — Who have the best physical assets and the best mental attitudes — all earn good “living wages.”

I have been an extra for the past three years — notoriously lean ones in Hollywood — and I have not only lived very comfortably, but I have also managed to save money. I have had a great amount of leisure between jobs and I have gone to school. I consider the three years well spent Certainly, I have gained much more than I did during the three preceding years, when I worked steadily, at good salary, as a modiste’s model. But I have been unusually lucky! Before telling of my own experiences, it is necessary to explain a few facts about “the extra game.” All who are registered with Central Casting are classified as either “atmosphere people” or “extras.” The former, who need not be entirely dependent upon studio work for a livelihood, receive a minimum wage of five dollars per day; the latter, who are defined by the Motion Picture Industry Code as “Those who by experience or ability are known to be competent to play group or individual business parts and otherwise to appear in a motion picture in other than atmospheric background or crowd work,” receive a minimum daily wage of seven dollars and fifty cents.

Extras are further classified as “ordinary extras” and “dress extras” — and there lies the margin of difference between a fair living and a bare existence, for dress extras, who must maintain at their own expense a complete wardrobe, suitable for every modern setting, receive a minimum of fifteen dollars a day. Obviously, it is good business to be a dress extra — for they not only get top pay but also receive more “calls.” Frequently they are given “lines” to speak, and, in that case, they receive twenty- five dollars or more per day. Don’t think, however, that an extra works every day. We never know today whether we will work tomorrow, or next week, or a month from today. We live from day to day. If we average one and one-half days a week we are lucky; if we average three days a week, we are almost unbelievably fortunate. Central tries to spread employment as fairly as possible — and until the total number of registered extras is greatly reduced, there isn’t enough work to go around. The few of us who receive top wages fare well, the others suffer.

Thanks to my previous work as a model and to an inborn passion for clothes, I came to Hollywood already equipped with a much better than aver- age wardrobe. And, as soon as I discovered that only the dress extras can hope to earn good livelihoods, I determined to have a complete wardrobe. I skimped and scraped, and sewed and shopped, until I knew that I could accept any call. Those were hard times, and if I hadn’t been fortunate enough to have a small amount of money, saved from my previous employment, I know I could never have survived the first few months. Since then I have averaged three days’ work a week. On rare occasions I have been selected to speak a line or two of dialogue. During the last two years my average income has been at least fifty dollars a week. WITHOUT considering the fact that I have a tremendous amount of leisure, what employment can a girl in her early twenties, without any special training or talent, find that will pay her better wages? I live by myself, in a well-furnished cottage. I drive my own inexpensive car, purchased new and paid for out of my earnings. I deny myself nothing that I want in the way of food.

Contrasting my lot with that of most working girls, I believe I have a distinct advantage. But, I repeat, I have been very lucky! During my first six months as an extra I earned considerably less than I do now and I had to be extremely economical to meet my living expenses. I had been accustomed to a weekly salary and it was terribly difficult for me to budget correctly on an uncertain, spasmodic income. Whenever I had worked for several days in succession and found myself suddenly “flush,” I was tempted to go on a spending spree, forgetting that weeks might pass before I would work again. Finally, by keeping an exact record of my earnings over a sufficient time, I struck an average and made it the basis of an iron-clad budget. Since then I have fared very well. Out of every pay check I set aside a certain percentage for rent, for wardrobe, for food, for transportation and for all of the other items on my budget. And I refuse to contract debts. I honestly believe that more girls fail in the “extra game” through poor management than ever fail because of insufficient earnings.

The cost of living is remarkably low in Los Angeles, and any girl should be able to get along here on twenty-five dollars a week. Few dress extras average less. I have heard dress extras complain that it costs them every cent they earn to maintain their wardrobes. When I first reported for extra work, I was warned that it would cost me at least $2,000 to acquire a satisfactory ward- robe. Perhaps it would have cost that much if I had bought with the same reckless extravagance which most extras display. I design my own clothes. I watch the sales and I buy material in advance of my needs in order to get it at real bargain prices. I do most of my own sewing — and, whenever I lack the time to sew, I take my material and my patterns to a very capable dressmaker whose shop is in a nearby small town and whose prices are very reasonable. The net result is that I pay twenty dollars or less for an evening gown which would cost at least four times that much if purchased ready-made in one of the fashionable shops. And I have discovered that a little ingenuity, exercised in making over old things, will show a saving of several hundred dollars each year. Twenty-five to thirty dollars a month is ample to cover all of my wardrobe needs.

MOST of the extra girls whom I know have their hair dressed before each appearance on the set. So do I — but “I dress my own” instead of submitting to the prices charged by Hollywood’s most fashionable hair- dressers. When I discovered how imperative it is for a dress extra to be perfectly coiffured, I took a course in hair-dressing. It has paid for itself a hundred times. Too many extras have “star complexes.” Instead of frankly admitting that they are extras and living accordingly, they are apologetic for their status and live far beyond their means to uphold their pretensions. They are too conscious of the caste system in Holly- wood, which places a wide gulf between the extra player and the so-called featured actor. I see no reason for being ashamed of being an extra. My work is important to the finished picture; I receive a fair wage for it and I try to do it to the best of my ability. And certainly there is no cause for shame in living within one’s means. I’d much rather be a capable extra than to step beyond my abilities and be an incapable actress. I’m like most girls; I would like to be a screen star with all the fame and money that goes with it — but there’s no use in kidding myself. I’m an extra and the best thing for me to do is to stick to my own job until I have earned something better. People continually ask me about the way extra girls are treated on the sets.

I always answer that we are given exactly the treatment which we, as individuals, invite. And I think that answer is the exact truth. Girls who show by their actions that they respect themselves are seldom treated with disrespect. In three years I have never received a single “insult.” It is no more difficult to remain moral as an extra girl than it is to remain moral in any other business. It is up to the girl, herself, to determine her way of living. Several years ago, I understand, extras often were treated with lack of consideration — especially by the smaller studios. Sometimes they were required to work under conditions which were not only disagreeable but actually dangerous to their safety. But that is all changed now. If any extra meets with unfair treatment on the set, he has recourse by filing a formal complaint with Central Casting — and Central, which is a branch of the powerful Motion Picture Producers’ Association, immediately takes action. My work is interesting. I like to study people and, on the sets, I have had a chance to meet and study some of the most interesting people in the world. I have worked with almost every star and every famous director. Probably they were unaware of my existence. but I enjoyed watching them at work. I’m like all the rest of you — a dyed-in- the-wool fan. I have played in pictures laid in China, in Paris, in London, in Rome — in short, in every locale on earth. And since Hollywood’s technicians conscientiously try to make every picture a truthful reflection of its setting, I feel that I have learned more than I could have learned from a round-the-world cruise.

My education was limited and I deeply appreciate the general infor- mation that I have received on the sets. I have learned to speak better English, for I have had the opportunity, day after day, to hear the dialogue written by famous authors. And I have made the most of the opportunity, for I am Swedish and I spoke broken English when I came to Hollywood. Another thing — and this touches my one great ambition — I have been able to study the clothes designed by some of the greatest artists in the world. Eventually I want to be a designer, a modiste, and where could I possibly receive better instruction than on the motion picture sets, studying the work of Hollywood’s Travis Bantons and Adrians? The point that I have tried to make is this: being an extra is not vastly dif- ferent from being a worker in any other business. The girls who approach extra work with the proper equipment and a businesslike attitude can make it pay them satisfactory wages. It is not necessary to be beautiful, it is not necessary to have acting ability, it is not necessary to have “personality.”

It is necessary to have common sense and clothes sense. One must know what to wear and how to wear it, and one must know how to live sanely and economically. EXTRA work is the poorest of stepping-stones to screen success, for the very qualities which make a girl suitable for stardom actually handicap her as an extra. It is not best to stand out from the crowd if you wish to work regularly as an extra. If you are too noticeable in one sequence of a picture, often you are automatically barred from work in another sequence. Certainly I would not advise the av- erage girl to work extra for a living. The very fact that Central Casting now refuses to register a new applicant, no matter how suitable he or she may be for the work, is sufficient proof that the great majority of already registered extras are unable to work often enough to earn living wages. Depression and unemployment have overcrowded our ranks. And I know that the luck which has stuck with me for three years may turn against me to morrow. Still — I wouldn’t trade jobs with any one of the girls I know.

This is an nice article, and Gwen seems like a very level headed woman, although a bit naive (yeah, it’s enough not to be difficult to make it in Hollywood – very often not! There are some systematical prejudices at work, but to be kind and friendly to everyone should be everyone’s goal.)

Gwen’s parents still lived in Sweden, and she often took summer vacation to the old continent. I wonder if the came to the US after the war started, but could not find any information.

But unlike Bess Flowers, the extra who appeared in hundreds of movies and whose career lasted for decades (and is considered a legendary figure today), by 1940 Gwen was out of Hollywood. How and why? Have no idea. Here the information becomes sketchy and little is known about what Gwen did afterwards. However, we do know that she married a Harold Rymer between 1941 and 1944. The couple lived in California and it seems they did not have any children.

Ingrid Rymer died on in Moonpark, California on January 29, 1995.

Phyllis Gilman

Phyllis Gilman was a pretty lady who got married very early, had two children, then decided to become a model and actress when she was already 20+ years old. In several brief years she became a leading model and even managed to nab herself a movie contract! Sadly this didn’t last long, as other martial adventures awaited her. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Phyllis Elizabeth Gilman was born on June 18, 1910, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to William Allen Gilman and Mary H. Proctor. She was their only child. Her father was a successful flour merchant and the family employed a maid.

Little is known of her childhood. Phyllis grew up in Pennsylvania, and for a time in the late 1910s lived with her great-aunt in Delaware. Later she was allegedly educated in Italy (maybe in a finishing school?). Phyllis married right out of high school (read more below) and opted to raise a family.

She landed in Hollywood pretty late, already divorced and working as a model and part time actress, when she was 27 years old. And off the went!

CAREER

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 The name alone reveals much about the movie – it’s all about the fashions, the pretty colors and beautiful girls. Story? Characters? Zero sum! While they actually have decent actors at work here (Warner Baxter, Joan Bennett), it’s a paper thin affair.

The story is as follows (Taken from IMDB): The blueblooded Van Kletterings are broke; debutante Wendy, slated to remedy this by marrying rich bore Henry Morgan, instead leaves him at the altar and goes to work as a model for high-fashion clothing designer George Curson, whom she soon falls for. But he’s happily married (at least on his side) and going into debt financing a show to please wife Mary’s desire for stardom. Vindictive Morgan, jealous of George, hopes to hasten his ruin. Can the House of Curson be saved? oh the drama!

Overall, the movie is all style, no substance. Still, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool-worthy fashions, and that can be enjoyed. Phyllis of course plays one of the models.

That’s it from Phyllis!

PRIVATE LIFE

Phyllis landed in Hollywood as a packet of models for the movie Vogues of 1938, courtesy of the PR stunt of Walter Wanger, the famous producer. The other girls were: Olive Cawley, Katherine Aldridge, Norene Carr, Martha Heveran, Ruth Martin, Frances Joyce, Libby Harben and Mary Oakes. All of the girls were seasoned models and favorites among commercial photographers.

Much tales have been spun about Phyllis’ life before she landed in Hollywood, and as far as I can tell, most of it was false.

Phyllis Gilman, most in demand of the metropolitan lingerie models, is saving up to tour the Orient. Educated at Swarthmore College and abroad, she speaks several languages and is at much at home in Florence, London, Paris, Vienna as she is in New York. A devotee of air travel, she has flown all over Europe and this country. Besides modeling lovely undies, she has worn a Sultan’s ransom in jewels. And she is considered an authority on the lapidary’s art.

Well nope! Phyllis opted for the family way while she was still very young. Namely, Phyllis married John Ray Cannon Long in March 17, 1928 in Florence, Arizona. She was only 17 and barely out of high school. John was a bit older, born on September 22, 1905 in Louisville, Kentucky. She gave birth to their first daughter Lenore Anita Long on June 21, 1929, in Phoenix, Arizona, and their second daughter, Liane Lagier Long, on December 5, 1930, in Los Angeles, California.

Phyllis and John divorced by 1933 (he died in 1961), and it is then she started her career as a model and actress. I don’t have enough info to explain how and why this happened, but maybe Phyllis had to get work? I don’t know who was minding the children while she as working. So many questions, so few answers. However, this is an inspiring story about a woman who took matters into her own hands when she had to, and became the breadwinner for her daughter.

Phyllis allegedly dated her share of the stage door Johnnies, including Jerry Horwin, Hollywood bon vivant. By 1934, Phyllis became a member of the Monte Carlo Follies, The production went straight from New York to Europe and showing for the whole Summer Season. Phyllis continued being a popular chorine, and it seems that Phyllis also did some work in the London Palladium for the Lou Holtz show. That sure changed her life (more about it later).

So it is funny that, in 1937 when she finally hit Hollywood, Phyllis was called “a college girl who models lingerie and wants to tour the Orient”. Phyllis was in fact a seasoned working woman with a marriage behind her and two children. Was it that problematic to tell this out loud in Tinsel town? But still, as she was promoted like a youthful model (with other younger models) I can somehow understand why they tried to make her younger and more “carefree”.

Before she went made her only movie, Phyllis announced her engagement to Lou Holtz, Broadway stage and radio comedian, in Chicago while she was en-route to Tinsel town. Her and Holt’s romance was an international, dynamic one for sure! They Holtz said when both were making a picture in England the year before. He then wooed her in the British capital, Florida, and finally in New York.

Meanwhile in Hollywood, Phyllis received one-picture contract as Goldwyn girls, but dropped out of it become love was calling! Phyllis and Lou eloped to Agua Caliente and were married by a Mexican civil Judge. They returned to Hollywood in a few days and Holtz flew right away to Dallas. Tex., for a stage engagement. It seems that Lou had a hectic schedule and there was no time for a proper honeymoon.

Now something about Lou. He was born on April 11, 1893, in New Jersey. Here is more info from Wikipedia:

 He was discovered by vaudevillian Elsie Janis in San Francisco while still in his teens, and came to New York. He appeared in his first Broadway show in 1913, World of Pleasure. He appeared on Broadway in other shows with small parts, then became a star in George White’s Scandals of 1919. He reappeared in the Scandals in 1920 and 1921. A good friend of George Gershwin, Gershwin even wrote a musical for Holtz in 1925, Tell Me More, which was not received favorably and was short-lived on Broadway. Several years later, Holtz had a big hit on Broadway in 1931 when he hired his pianist to write a show for him. The pianist, Harold Arlen, would go on to write the music for The Wizard of Oz in 1939. Holtz produced You Said It. In the 1920s, Holtz became the highest paid entertainer on Broadway, with articles touting his salary as an unheard of $6,000 per week. Unfortunately for Holtz, all of that money was invested in the stock market. He later told friends that he came out of the 1929 crash with $500, while he had been worth more than a million dollars the year before. In the 1920s, Holtz’ career alternated between musical comedies and vaudeville shows where he was the headliner. He reached one of his career milestones in 1925 when he played the Palace Theater as the headliner. The Palace was the most prestigious theatre in the country, and Holtz broke all records there by playing for 10 weeks. In vaudeville shows and radio, Holtz’ comedy was based in telling long, character stories, usually with at least one character having a strong Jewish dialect. His most famous character, Sam Lapidus, stayed with Holtz for his entire career, including Holtz’ guest stints on the Merv Griffin Show in the 1970s. In the 1930s, while still appearing on Broadway, Holtz left New York twice for London and appeared in two hits at the London Palladium. Both shows were similar to his hit at the Palace years earlier. Also in the 1930s, Holtz became a regular on radio. He had long stints on The Rudy Vallee Show, The Paul Whiteman Show and many others. Holtz ended up with several radio shows of his own, including The Lou Holtz Laugh Club. One of the regulars on that show was Fanny Brice

Pretty soon the Holtzes were expecting a child, but since I could not find any additional information about it, we can assume that Phyllis lost of the baby. Their daughter Laurie Elizabeth was born on April 5, 1941 in Los Angeles.

Lou retired from performing by the time Laurie was born, and moved permanently to California. However, it seems that, like many men in the performing business when they retire, he was very restless and couldn’t’ stand still, always out of the house, and slowly but securely this eroded his marriage to Phyllis. After some tiffs, reconciliations and more of the same, they were divorced in 1947, exactly ten years after they married. Phyllis alleged that Holtz told her his home life was “boring.”

But guess what? Like most times in Tinsel town, seemingly mundane divorced were not really mundane and there were background processes happening. Phyllis already had a new husband in mind! She married Carl Leserman in November 1947. Here is a nice article about it:

Palm Springs was the scene of a wedding Saturday night at 11 p.m. when Mrs. Phyllis Holtz, exwife of the famous comedian, Lou Holtz, and Carl Leserman, well known film producer and vicepresident of Benedict Bogeaus Productions, were married at the home of a friend. Judge Eugene E. Therieau was summoned from his home at the late hour to perform the civil rites. FOLLOWING the marriage at which Grad Sears, president of United Artists, acted as best man, a champagne breakfast was given the newly wedded pair at The Stables with Charley Morrison acting as the host. Present at the breakfast which took place between the hours of 12 midnight and 2 a.m., were the following celebrities: ROBERT STERLING, William Cagney, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Hall, Mark Stevens, Diana Lynn, Bob Neal, Bob and Coletta Caldwell, Mr. and Mrs. Van Heflin, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cushing, Mervyn M. Vye, Iris Bynum, Johnny Myers, Stewart Martin and Angela Green. The bride and her groom expect to honeymoon in Palm Springs for a few days before returning to Los Angeles.

There was a funny blooper during the ceremony. Two minutes after Phyllis married movie man Carl, he turned to her and said; “You know my wife, Mrs. Holtz?” Now something about Leserman. He was born on March 15, 1901, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Isaac and Elsie Leserman. He moved to California and became a producer, working in a variety of studios. After working for a time fon Benedict Bogeaus, ultimately he became Assistant General Sales Manager for Warner Brothers Pictures and General Manager for United Artists. The Lesermans lived happily in California.

Carl Leserman died on January 2, 1969. Phyllis continued living in California after his death, and did not remarry.

Phyllis Gilman Leserman died on July 21, 1996 in Riverside, California.

Dottye Brown

Dottye Brown was a pretty Louisiana belle that got into Hollywood via the publicity gimmick way – and even played some credited roles! However, she son switched her career focus from movies to theater, ended up in Japan and her life changed dramatically! Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Dottye Dimple Brown was born on December 3, 1920, in Texarkana, Texas to John Spencer Brown and Melody Aletha Bryan. She was the one of seven children, five boys and two girls – her older brothers were Jerell, born on October 15, 1904, Algie Dee, born on March 8, 1910, Buell, O.D. and Doyle, and a younger sister, Peggy. Her father was a successful contractor and home builder.

The family moved to Shereveport, Louisiana in 1924 and stayed there for good. Dottye grew up as a a true southern belle in Shreveport, in a loving and supportive family. She graduated from Byrd high school and attended Centenary college, and was part of a sorority.

Dottye had a strong yen for acting, and after graduating from college, she got started on the road to Hollywood by acting in the local Little Theater productions. She was quite successful, as she won a minor Juvenile role In “Ah Wilderness” and got her notice on the front page of a local newspaper. She continued this with a number of Shreveport Little Theater productions including “The Barretts of Wimpole Street”. She also won the title of “Miss Louisiana” in 1946. However, this was hardly enough to make a living, so Dottye also served as a hostess for Delta Air Lines and a receptionist at radio station KWKH.

Here is a article about how Dottye ended up in Hollywood:

Louisiana’s latest offering to Hollywood, Dottye D. Brown, Shreveport, began her evening of triumph an intent contestant before a microphone, reading her lines with Bob Wayne. An actor in the Jimmie Davis film, Wayne read with the 27 girls who competed here Wednesday night in the finals of the statewide search for a Louisiana girl to play in the movie. Second photo, the vivacious brunette hears her name read as winner of the contest, which carried prizes of a Monogram studio contract, a trip to Cuba, and a diamond ring, award from a local jewelry store. Behind her, two local contestants, Evelyn Clair Hollis, left, Bossier City, and Patsy Harris, Shreveport, beam their approval of the judges’ choice. Third photo, Dottye thanks everyone who helped her to Hollywood, while Fred Messenger, casting director for Monogram studio, looks approvingly at the newest addition to his talent list. Messenger told Dottye to finish her work in the Little Theater production of “The Barretts of Wimpole Street,” then “report to him. Fourth photo, she signs the contract that Messenger held for her. “I’m too excited to read it, but I’m sure it’s all right,” was her comment on this official business. Then she asked her brother Algie D. Brown, an attorney, to check it for her. The youngest of seven children, Dottye is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. J. S. Brown, 865 Julia. Fifth photo, she admires the ring that Charlie Mitchell, executive assistant to Governor Davis, slipped on her finger. Her brother Algie looks on. Yesterday things were still a bit unreal to Dottye. The trip to Cuba, her gift from Shreveport Jaycees, will be made before she goes to Hollywood, if her schedule works out correctly.

And off she went!

CAREER

Dottye signed right away for a Poverty row studio, and appeared in mostly low budget movies. You can find real gems hidden in there, but it seems that Dottye’s offers were not that outstanding.

She was ushered to Hollywood to play a role in Louisiana, a semi musical semi biographical drama about the rocky but always interesting life of a young artistically inclined Jimmie Davis. When you read the summary, you head will spin from all the stuff that happened to our Jimmie! First he was a poor boy, but then finished college, but started singing, also became a court clerk, then became a politician, then fought against rackets… Colorful for sure! Sadly, the movie is so obscure today it doesn’t have any IMDB reviews and I can’t gauge at how the public perceived it at the time. But they really did so some PR stunts to get as publicity as they could. Stars on the Shreveport, LA, premiere junket included Gale Storm, June Preisser, John Gallaudet, Roddy McDowall, Freddie Stewart, Dottye and producer Lindsley Parsons. They sure made a big hullabaloo around it!

The studio liked Dottye and signed her for further roles. Next up was a something that low budget studios did often – low budget western! Song of the Wasteland doesn’t sound too promising, nor does the leading man, who I never heard of (I’m far from being an expert, but know the most famous low budget cowboys, and Jimmy Wakley ain’t one of them). The plot sounds like a typical good guy versus the greedy guys, in a word, nothing spectacular but fine enough for that kind of a movie I guess (taken from IMDB):

Ranger Jimmy Wakely joins a medicine show heading for Buffalo Flats. The vigilantes there have been evicting innocent ranchers and he has been sent to investigate. The evicted ranchers blame Steve Crane the head of the vigilantes but Jimmy soon learns that his assistant Lance Bennett is the culprit. But before Jimmy can get evidence against Bennett, he is framed and put in jail. Sadly, as with most

Unfortunately, Dottye’s moments of featured roles ended here. She appeared int two more movie,s and both were uncredited. The first one was Campus Sleuth, a typical young people play detective movie, and this time on a college campus. What makes it a kind of a old Hollywood memorabilia is that a famous vaudeville artist, Mildred Jorman–Little Miss Cornshucks, appeared and sang in it. It’s her only video recorded performance. It seems that a lot of people want to see it for this reason alone, sadly it’s only available tough private channels and not officially up for purchase. The movie seems to be a cookie cutter one, more or less the same as many of Monogram flicks of that time.

Dottye’s last movie was Incident, a solid B class noir. Warren Douglas plays a regular guy who turns down a ride, misses his bus and decides to walk and things start to happen to him. He gets mixed up for someone else, get beaten and decides to investigate. Things get messy pretty soon, but alas he meets a woman, played by Jane Frazee, who becomes his love interest. The plot is convoluted in places and it’s a tight budgeted movie, but does raise some interesting questions about how seemingly small decisions can change our life (or do they?). All in all, noir fans would enjoy this one!

That was all from Dottye!

PRIVATE LIFE

While living in Hollywood, Dottye resided in a studio club and enjoyed acting for it’s own sake, and also never lost her love for the theater.

Here is a short newspaper bit about Dottye:

Hollywood has kept this chic southern miss busy. At home, in Shreveport, she often played in the Little . Theater and she still loves the stage. She has accepted a part an a forthcoming church production of “The Happy Journey” here. Also, her studio has prescribed weekly lessons with a dramatic coach for her. Dottye is an attractive, blue-eyed, former sorority :girl. Any success she may have in pictures won’t change her very much, she’s sure. Publicists made one change, however, the first day she was at the studio. They lopped three years off her age to make her a fashionable 23

Just when you tough, yeah, she’s gong for a movie career, life intervened and things change! Dottye changed from movie acting to radio production work. Here is how:

 Dottye Brown Signs Radio Contract Shreveport’s Dottye Brown now working in Hollywood has signed a contract to appear on the Hank McCune radio comedy show aired over the National Broadcasting Co network according to information received here McCune considered one of the leading West Coast radio comedians will have his program broadcast nationally in the fall . Dottye was persuaded to Join the radio program after McCune’ saw her in a show presented at the Hollywood Bowl.

In 1948 Dottye went to Japan to organize and direct shows for a special service group providing entertainment for American army and air corps personnel overseas for the fifth United States air force at Kagoya. There she met Lieut. John Roeland Mason of the United States Air Force. They were smitten with each other and married on June 18, 1948 in St. Luke’s chapel in Tokyo, with a reception at The American club. Following their marriage, the couple remained In Tokyo where John was to be stationed for another year. The family finally returned to the US in 1951. They lived for a time in Texas, where John was stationed in the Lackland Air Force base.

The couple’s first child was born in Tokyo, daughter Sharon. After moving around from base to base (living for a time in Berlin, Germany and Biloxi, Mississippi), the family settled in Burlingame, California, where their three younger children were born: Sally Ann (October 13, 1956), Michael (June 14, 1954) and Stephen. Dottye had given up her career for marital bliss, but she acted on the side when she could.

Sadly, in 1967, Dottye’s son Michael, only 13 years old, died from a heart disease. The Masons became active charity donors and tireless workers for the foundation that takes care of coronary patients.

Dottye and John had a wonderful marriage and were very devoted to each other. After his retirement they moved to Rancho Murietta, CA, where they spent their golden years, moving to Sacramento at some point.

Dottye Brown Mason died on December 20, 2003, in Sacramento. Her widower John Mason died on January 15, 2006.

Georgia Lerch

Stunning chorus girl who tried Hollywood and decided it was not for her, Georgia Lerch was somehow different. She was much lauded by her contemporaries and by the papers, and it seems that even outside movies, her career was going to go upwards. However all the promising future fell away in a daze of alcohol. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Georgia Lerch was born on August 14, 1906 in Fulton, New York, the second child of John D. Lerch and Eloise Brockway. Her older brother John was born in 1904, but sadly died before Georgia was born. Her father was a wholesale cigar merchant.

Georgia grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where the family moved in the 1910s. She took dancing lessons and as a child, and developed a passion for appearing on the stage. After graduating from high school, she decided to become a professional dancer, and looked for work in the theater circuit.

In 1926, Georgia scored work in one of the best places to be as a chorine – George White’s Scandals! She was a chorine from 1926 until 1932. In 1930, she went with the other chorines to appear in Whooppe as a chorus girl, and there she went!

CAREER

Georgia appeared in only one movie – Whoopee!, an Eddie Cantor vehicle considerably cut down from the original Broadway show. But what can I say, it’s a typical Cantor movie, anyone who loves Cantor and that 1920s humor style will love it. Cantor plays Henry Williams, a nervous hypochondriac who goes west looking for a cure for his myriad of ailments and get involved in trouble along the way. There are a few good supporting players (Ethel Shutta, Paul Gregory, Jack Rutherford). While not the bottom of the barrel, the movie didn’t age well at all, since, sadly, it’s a typical product of it’s time in relation to blackface and racial stereotypes. 

That was it from Georgia!

PRIVATE LIFE

Georgia was described as a witty, experienced and clever, and extreme knowledgeable about Showbiz (so much they said she know it from A to Z). Additionally, she was called a poised, calm and ladylike person, who often smiled but rarely laughed out loud. This served her well in her work, and perhaps separated her from many of her contemporaries.

No, jokes aside, it seemed that Georgia truly was a special woman. Allegedly George White preferred her to all of his pretty chorus girls, and since he had more than a hundred, that is saying something. He trusted her implicitly and often sent photographers to take her photos for publicity purposes. I don’t know is per chance his interest was more than business, but the point is, she had a special place in the show and White thought highly of her.

So how did such a woman, a successful chorus girl who enjoyed a contemporary life in New York, end up a alcoholic? One that one is a question for the ages. Nobody really known what pushed people of so deep in addition, and I can’t say for sure for Georgia, but perhaps it was the dynamic life that chorines led, that was not suited for all girls? Perhaps it was an unhappy love? Or something else? But let’s hear more about her life first and we can make some conclusions!

But first, a secret talent of Georgia’s: She was actually handy with tinkering with stuff, and in 1926 invented a powder puff that will could carry three shades at once. She knows how to apply them all. She toured around the US to promote her patent, showing women how to use it.

In the late 1920s, when she was a White showgirl, Georgia liked to live a quiet life outside the limelight, not frequenting night clubs too much. When Georgia was in Hollywood for making Whoopee, she enjoyed going to the beach (and soaking in the California sun), but pretty soon became aware of the fact that she much preferred theater to the movies. She missed mixing with other chorines before a show, and decided to return to New York as as soon as the movie wrapped.

After she returned to New York, Georgia dated Dave Marx, a young and dynamic head of a very successful toy company (along with his brother, Louis Marx), from late 1931 until 1934. Dave was a rich young man, and Dave and Georgia almost shared the same birth day – he was born on August 11, she was born in August 14. It was a tempestuous relationship, with many ups and down, but never boring! Dave was really quite generous towards Georgia, gifting her with a string of pearls for her birthday. Georgia was a home-girl before, but it seems that Marx changed that and rushed her to be more extroverted and more outgoing. Pretty soon they both enjoyed mingling with the same showbiz crew. One of their mutual friends was famous comedian Tom Patricola, who drove from Philly to Manhattan and back again for a matinee, just to spend New Year’s in the big town , with them. They also hanged out with Dave’s brother Luis and his wife, and the great Ziegfeld was another mutual friend (but sadly he died in June 1932). Dave also took Georgia often to Miami, and they were usually guests at the Miami Biltmore Hotel.

There was also some talk that Dave’s money netted Georgia the place of a featured dancer, but I can’t say nothing substantial over this (information is lost to history perhaps). She did leave George White during this time. I would like to know more about what happened behind the scenes here, but info is lacking. Maybe Dave promised her own show, and it didn’t pan out, or perhaps White didn’t liek Georgia dating Dave. Who knows.

Georgia was also lucky in the gambling stakes, she hit one of those 2-bit machines for the largest jack-pot recorded. 

After what had seemed like a sure bet at matrimony, Dave left Georgia in early 1934, after an explosion that rocked Miami. What does that mean? Anyway, they got together again by June 1934, but were out by the end of the summer. In September 1934, Georgia went on a cruise around the world with her parents, perhaps to mend her broken heart? Afterwards, with no Dave in sight and long gone from the George White scandals, Georgia decided to move to Los Angeles, and the Lerches all decided to move with her. They settled in Beverly Hills in early 1935. I wonder is this when her alcoholism blew up? Was her unhappy love life the cause, after she and Marx parted? As I noted, I have no idea, but we can assume.

There was a nasty tidbit that happened to Georgia in 1935:

Meanwhile, Georgia Lerch, 30. of 2818 Haddington Drive, was re covering from shock and exposure alter having been pinned’ beneath her automobile for more than ten hours after the vehicle plunged out of control over a cliff near the crest of Coldwater Canyon Drive. She was found by two hikers, William Harris and Jack Mohl, early yesterday, her foot pinned by pert of the car. Removed to a county fire station she was found to have received only a bruised foot from the accident but was suffering from shock and exposure. Later she was taken to her home.

While living in California, Georgia developed a love for aviation and mingled with the local airplane set. It was there that she met her future husband, Ted Brown. They were wed on April 28, 1937.

Theo T. (Ted) Brown,was born on October 13, 1906, in Missouri, and lived in Iowa before moving to California for work. He was an owner of an aeronautical school and very active in the local airplane set.

If we were hoping for a happy marriage, nein! Sadly, this happened next year:

She might have been sweet Georgia Brown when she married ” Mr. Brown but a few months later she was just Georgia Brown. Thus declared Mrs. Georgia Lerch Brown when she came to the Domestic Relations Court of Superior Judge Still to get $125 per month temporary alimony pending her suit for a divorce against Ted Brown, aeronautics school operator. The Browns’ romance culminated in marriage in Yuma, Ariz., on April 28, 1037, and ceased to exist with their separation last July 30, the wife related. Some of the complaints of Mrs. Brown were that her husband had a propensity for staying out late at nights, associating with other women, striking her and becoming intoxicated. She also declared through Attorney Milton Golden that he insisted that, she not wear her wedding ring in public because it might injure him in his business capacity.

They were on and off for most of 1938, going back and forth, and were even reconciled for a time but separated for good in 1939 and finally divorced. Brown told the court that Georgia and he went out together and she would become Intoxicated and so abusive to his acquaintances that he lost business contacts. It seems that her drinking was out of control by then.

As for Brown, he remarried to Josephine in 1941, divorced her and married Marylinda Miller in 1956. He continued living in California, where he died in May 1988.

Not the one to waste time, Georgia married her new beau, Howard Morrell Davis, on January 30, 1941. Davis was born on May 9, 1901, in Georgia. By 1920 the family had moved to Sacramento, California, where the owned a farm. George worked as a farm laborer on the family farm, and later became a bee keeper. It seems he was never married before. Interesting to know how Georgia met Howard, it doesn’t seem like they moved in same circles but as they say, love conquers all!

Sadly, their marital bliss was not to last. Georgia died from peritonitis, caused by alcoholism, on January 20, 1942. She was just 35 years old.

Her widower, Howard Davis, died in May 1985.

Vivian Keefer

A contemporary and close friend of Lucille Ball, Vivian Keefer was another good-looking chorus girl who tried to make good in Hollywood. Unfortunately, her career didn’t pan out the way she planned it, and deciding to try out other revues in life, she returned to New York. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Vivian Keefer was born on June 4, 1909 in Spokane, Washington, to Louis Charles Keefer and Sophia Morinda Grace. She was the third of seven children. Her older brother Keifer was stillborn in 1907, and her sister, Mildred Grace, would die from tuberculosis at age 15 in 1922. Her other siblings were Irma, Beth and Lawrence. Her father worked as a railway motorman.

The family moved to Alameda, California when Vivian was a few years old. She grew up in Alameda, and attended Pasadena High School. Vivian developed a yen for dancing early on, and for years roller skated miles to take her dancing lessons in order to save money. She also became a ward of Aletha Gilbert., who was well known socially in the city. Her parents divorced during this time, and her dad remarried.

After graduation, Vivian enrolled into the University of Southern California. While enjoying the student life, Viv felt a strong stage yearning after years of training, and became a dancer in a picture-house presentation unit. With the unit, she toured around a bit, ending up in Oklahoma City. From there she paid her own fare to Broadway and promptly landed in the chorus of “Girl Crazy.” 

She was the only western girl to win a role in the Earl Carroll Vanities (of both 1931 and 1932) on Broadway. She also worked as a model on the side, and became quite famous for her Listerine ad. This got her the interest of Hollywood, and off she was to the West Coast!

CAREER

Vivian appeared in a string of musicals as a chorus girl, never playing a serious straightforward role.

Vivian made her debut in Roman Scandals, a movie that is a literal golden mine if you are looking for shapely Goldwyn girls. The girls aside, it’s a very funny movie, with a good cast and some great dancing numbers – exactly what a quality 1930s musical should be – definitely one of Eddie Cantor’s best work.

This was followed by a show girl role in Moulin Rouge, a charming but shallow pre-code comedy with Constance Bennett playing dual roles of a sexy nightclub singer and a prim and proper lady, with the even charming Franchot Tone playing the husband. As you can imagine when there are dual roles involved, it’s about mistaken identities and so on. Predictable, but fun non the less.

Next up, and interesting, 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 (although I don’t like the man, he was super wooden) and some seriously snappy dialogue. Less known was Viv’s next movie, Strictly Dynamite. While thin on the story, this comedy makes it up with the two leads, Jimmy Durante and Lupe Velez – both seasoned comedians who know their job. And an interesting duo they are too. Durante is a true relic of the vaudeville age, and that’s not that bad per se, he’s full of witty one liners and cool sayings. Too bad most directors didn’t know how to properly utilize him.

Then came a minor classic, The Gay Divorcee, a Astaire/Rogers pairing, and, not at all surprisingly, a very charming, good movie overall. As if often is in these kind of films, it’s a plot-case of mistaken identity and misunderstanding, but somehow it just works marvelously and the music and dancing are divine!

Vivian’s last movie was  Kid Millions, one of Eddie Cantor’s best movies. It’s a film about a simple Brooklyn boys who inherits a large sum of money but must go to Egypt to reclaim it. The superb supporting cast (Ann Sothern, George Murphy, Ethel Merman, Doris Davenport) make this a true delight for any musical fan!

That was all from Vivian!

PRIVATE LIFE

Vivian was shipped to Hollywood with six other New York starlets – among them the most famous one was Lucille Ball. It seems that Viv and Lucy were good friends, and that they even lived together with the other girls in an apartment to minimize the costs of living in Tinsel Town. Another starlet among those six who had at least a solid career was Barbara Pepper.

Viv gave an beauty hint to the readers which goes like this:

Although it’s only three blocks from my home to the Studio, I ride a bicycle to and from work because I like the exercise. Besides, with the bicycle on the lot, it’s easy at odd moments to pedal about —and that’s more exercise, as well as fun!

Another interesting tidbit about Viv:

 STAGE stars frequently receive letters threatening them with death unless they pay ransom, and it isn’t always a press agent stunt. Vivian Keefer, a lovely member of one of the revue ensembles, received such a letter recently, and it is pleasant to report that the day designated for her execution passed with nothing happening.

In 1934, Viv dated the colorful Mack Sennett, the guy who literary invented the slapstick comedy. So yeah, Viv literary dated a living legend! Sadly, Mack was past his prime time by the early 1930s, and not having a grand time out of it. Also, not long before the two hooked up, Mack survived a very nasty car accident that killed his friend, Charlie Mack.

Mack and Viv were together for almost a year, and the papers were constantly buzzing about possible nuptials. However, it seems that Mack, who was a lifelong bachelor, wasn’t ready to take any woman to the altar, and the broke up. Afterwards, Viv dated a string of guys: an unknown guy who wasn’t divorced yet, Dr. Irwin Epstein, a mysterious Texas oil millionaire, several actors and so on.

Viv gave up her career in 1935, but still stuck around the West coast. This happened in July 1936:

“l said we’d better not go through with this, but she Insisted.” test! fled J. F. Knemeyer, 21 years of age. yesterday when he unsuccessfully sought an annulment of his marriage in the court of Superior Judge Wood. Knemeyer, student at the University of Southern California, related that his romance with Vivian Keefer Knemeyer, 23, began last May on a local tennis court and that the two became, intoxicated! and started for Yuma to be married. The marriage took place on May 28 after she had dared him to marry her, Knemeyer said. A few hours later she told him it was only a Joke and that she did not intend to live with him. Mrs. Knemeyer corroborated his testimony, j ‘An automobile is a dangerous instrumentality,” declared Judge wood as he pointed out that any one, who could drive to Yuma with out getting a traffic ticket must have been sober enough to realize what it meant to get married.”

Viv returned to New York, did some more stage work, and then become a horse-breeder, horse owner and trainer. She commuted to Florida and learned what she could from the local conditioner of racing strips. In the meantime, her mother, by now divorced from her father, was also a very successful businesswoman. She operated a taxi business and also had a record shop. While in New York, Vivian met the man who would become her next husband – Louis Wood Jr..

Louis Wood Jr. was born on October 25, 1891, in, Memphis, Tennessee to Louis Wood and Norma Goodman. His father was a very rich man, an Alabama cotton tycoon, and Louis grew up in an affluent environment. He lived in Tennessee until he moved to New York in the 1920s and became a successful stock broker. Wood had a very intense private life before he met Vivian. He was married six times to five different women. His first wife was socialite Mary Louise Hartje, daughter of a Pennsylvania magnate, and they had a daughter, Corinne, born in 1919. Mary Louise even went to Hollywood to try to become an actress for a short time. She was known as the “richest movie extra in the world”. However, their marriage was anything but smooth sailing. They divorced for the first time in 1922, remarried in 1923 and later divorced acrimoniously in 1929.

There was much drama over the custody of their daughter, Corinne. Louis married for the third time to actress Mary Duncan on June 2, 1931. They divorced the next year, and she married the very rich polo player Laddie Sanford. In 1934 he married to Marian Wood, and they divorced in 1938 in another dramatic divorce. Wood accused his wife of sleeping with six other men, and there was much commotion in court during the proceedings. It seems that Woods sure had plenty of drama in his divorce cases!

He married once again in 1944, to Selma Freeman, but she divorced him next year in more explosive divorce cases that made the papers. Example of what was said on the stand: Selma and Louis get married in Baltimore. 18 days later, Louis gives Selma a severe tongue lashing and tosses her out of the apartment. This so unnerves her that she takes her dog and walks around the streets waiting for him to cool off. On the walk she loses a necklace and has to put up a $250 reward to get it back. But Louis refuses to pay the reward, and the necklace goes to a hock shop. What can I say, it seems that Louis had a trigger temper and was a jovial and charming man, but when sparks flew (which is bound to happen to any married couple sooner or later), he was very difficult.

While Louis’ track record wasn’t that good, but was bound to get better. How? Well, it seems that Louis had finally piped down on the drama, changed and accordingly, when he was settled, met and married the right woman. I don’t have an exact date, but it was sometime in the late 1940s.

In the mid 1950s, after his retirement, Louis and Vivian moved full time to Palm Beach, Florida, enjoying the rich local social life. Viv became very active in philanthropically minded endeavors, and was a member of the Beach Club and Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.

Louis Wood Jr. died on February 18, 1972 in Florida. Viv continued living in Palm Beach after his death.

Vivian Keefer Wood died on August 6, 1978 in Palm Beach, Florida.

 

Stephany Hampson

Perky, pretty Stephany Hampson was a California schoolgirl who became a sought after local model, then a chorus girl, then landed in Hollywood and signed with Howard Hughes. Unfortunately, like most girls who signed up with Howard, her career amounted to nothing. In the end she got married and retired. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Stephany Carole Hampson was born on February 19, 1934 in Los Angeles, California, to Richard D. Hampson and Kathleen Ruth Hampson. Her father was a truck driver for an oil company, her mother was a native Canadian who was barely 18 years old when she married. Her older brother, Denny, was born in 1939.

The family lived in San Gabriel valley in the 1940s. Stephany and her brother grew up there and attended high school. A pretty girl with a wholesome appearance and a cute visage, Stephany got into modeling pretty early, when she was just 15 years old, (cca. 1949) and was soon one of the most prominent models in the region. She hit major fame in 1950, when she was chosen Miss Food Show, and made all the local papers. A string of similar titles followed.

In 1951, Stephany graduated from being a model to having a part in a show. Los Angeles Junior Chamber of Commerce was pioneering new type of theater production by lending initial support to a show, “My LA.” William Trek was the producer, and Betsy Jennings, Marge Darby, Vivian Mason, Marilyn Perry and Betsy were the actresses. It is via this route that she landed in Hollywood in 1953.

CAREER

Stephany appeared in only one movie, the Judy Holiday vehicle It Should Happen to You. This movie is more than relevant today, with it’s meditation on fame and celebrity. Story: Judy plays a model who gets it in her head to make herself a celebrity just by putting her name on a huge blackboard, and it works in different way that she anticipated? Written by Garson Kanin, this is a vintage comedy with substance and subtext, with a superb cast . Judy, Jack Lemmon as a photographer who falls for her, Peter Lawford as an aristocratic ad man who also wants the billboard, Michael O’Shea as a sleazy TV show host… Directed by George Cukor, it’s a delightful treat from the 50s, with the impressive aesthetics and a overall feel good vibe, but just with an edge!

Ghat was it from Stephany!

PRIVATE LIFE

Staphany was one of many actresses who were under contract to the notorious Howard Hughes, and only made a few uncredited appearances. Mostly, Hughes sure didn’t put his actresses under contract for their thespian skills. I can’t claim that he abused all of them, but his reputation was hardly sterling and most of the girls signed were only used for publicity purposes, and never given any chances to act. And it seems that Howard liked having pretty girls under contract and wasting their time, just because he could. More can be found on this link: https://nypost.com/2018/12/11/inside-the-horrors-of-howard-hughes-hollywood-sexcapades/

While the girls signed contract on their own free will, the whole situation is iffy as heck. This is something not many people talk about today, but what happened to these girls is pretty much tragic. Young, impressionable, they were sure that Mr. Hughes was their path to at least steady movie employment, and nobody expected to be used and then showed aside when the next girl came. Most of them didn’t even except that signing to become an actress would not make you an actress, but a mere cheesecake at best. While I admire Hughes for some stuff he did for the movie industry, the 1950s Hughes was already borderline crazy and the things he did were certainly not nice. I hope most of them left behind that whole sordid mess unscathed.

Luckily, Stephany escaped the whole messed up situation by marrying and retiring from movies by late 1953. Her man was John Lee McElroy, and what a very colorful man he was! John was born in March 1922, in Tower Hill, Illinois to. In the mid 1920s the family to Alberta, Canada. Only to return to the US in the late 1930s. John served in the Air Corps. during WW2, and after the war ended he relocated to Los Angeles where he opened an auto body shop. He was also an passionate aviator, and flew his own planes frequently.

The McElroys had three children: Gary Steven, born on April 14, 1954, Ricky, born on December 4, 1956, and Coleen, born on December 7, 1957. John became a builder and a land developer. While living in Burbank he built houses in Van Nuys and the surrounding area. In Anaheim he built the first industrial subdivision. The family moved to Corona, Riverside in 1962, where he developed the Mountain View Golf Course.

Stephany and McElroy divorced in June 1966. John continued his active life – in 1968 he purchased acreage in Murrieta and began farming; growing oats, wheat and barley. McElroy died on January 2, 2005, in Murrieta.

Stephany married her second husband, James W. Totman on June 28, 1968.

James WIlliam Totman was born on April 7, 1929, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to William and Myrtle Totman, the youngest of three children (his older sisters were Lorraine and Bonita). James went to High school at the Pillsbury Military Academy in Minnesota. He then went to Washington University for a year. During the Korean War, James served as a staff sergeant in the U. S. Army for 21 months, 16 of which were in combat. After the war he became a building contractor for schools, apartment building, motels and other commercial works. He moved to Riverside and became a a very successful local building contractor, and today even has a stadium named after him. He had major interests in race horses. He was married once before, and had a daughter, Dana Ann, born on February 23, 1955.

Stephany and Totman lived in Riverside until their 1973 divorce. Totman died on December 5, 2002.

As far as I can tell, Stephany is still alive today. As always, I hope she had a good life!

Betty Dumbris

Betty Dumbris

Beautiful chorus girl who was a top contender in the glamorous Ziegfeld Follies, Betty Dumbris sadly didn’t achieve any king of a cinematic career, but her colorful private life makes her an interesting subject to

EARLY LIFE

Elizabeth Dumbris was born on March 30, 1913, in Washington, DC, to Anton Paul Dumbris and Sarah Ann Miller, who married the previous year. Anton was born in Lithuania and immigrated to the US, and worked as a tool maker. Sarah Ann was born in Ireland.

Betty spent her earliest years in Washington DC, and then the family moved to Anderson, Indiana, where Betty attended elementary and high school. Betty grew up into a beautiful girl who harbored dreams of becoming an dancer and actress. In 1928, when Betty was a 16-year-old high school girl, she entered the pageantry circuit, and pretty soon, she was selected from among 200  competitors to represent Indiana at the international beauty contest at. Galveston, Texas. After receiving a bit of fame, there was no way back for Betty, and she left Indiana for New York, where she landed work as a chorus girls almost right away. Not long after she scored her first gig, she became a Ziegfeld girl, which was the holy grail for all chorus girls back then. Betty was one of the most heralded of Ziegfeld’s girls, often photographer by Alfred Cheney, the famed photographer. And it was via the Ziegfeld follies that a movie career awaited her…

CAREER

Betty had a relatively long a career in showbiz, but her movie career was just a speck compared to her theater/chorus girl one. While she gained fame in 1928, she came to Hollywood only in 1934, and signed with Hal Roach Studios, but sadly made no movies. Betty freelanced from then on, trying to break into movies in other ways.

While I believe she made quite a bit more movies, on IMDB she is credited in only two movies. Roberta goes down in history as the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but even without the eternal musical duo, it’s a finely made, entertaining movie.  While the story is trivial (An American jazzman and his buddy woo a Russian princess and a fake countess in Paris), the cast is excellent. Irene Dunne is, as always, a grand dame with a great voice. There are also Randolph Scott and Claire Dodd (she’s a treasure).

betty_dumbris01a

The Girl Friend is a totally forgotten movie with Ann Sothern. A thin but seemingly funny story is that an actor and two songwriters become rural con men. Too bad it’s so obscure!

That was it from Betty!

PRIVATE LIFE

Betty married her first husband, a wealthy NYC merchant, Maurice S. Meyer, on December 17, 1932. Maurice was born in New Yersey in 1899, to Simon and Rose Meyer, the fourth of five children. He grew up in Jersey, and then moved to New York in high school. He became a merchant specializing in women-ware. He married in 1926 to Rosella Corn, but they were divorced before the decade was out, and he lived with his dad, his sister and her husband in a posh place with two servants.

Betty gave up any aspiration for a Hollywood career while married to him, but as you can surmise, the marriage did not last long and they were on the outs by 1935. Unfortunately I could not further trace what happened to Maurice, so I have no idea when or where he died, or did he get remarried.

If Betty ever got any newspaper coverage, it was in 1935 when she was dating boxing champion Max Baer.

Max Baer can take a punch on the chin, but he’s a sucker for a beautiful girl. The heavyweight champion has been K.O.D. again by Cupid. His new girl is Betty Dumbris, former Ziegfeld follies showgirl who is now under contract to ap pear in pictures for Hal Roach A week ago Max was telephoning frantically from Detroit to Chicago to find out her whereabouts. He is ready to walk down the aisle with her any time she can get a divorce from her estranged husband, Murray Mayer of New . York, according to the champion’s intimates. Baer has been in and out of love almost continually since he grew up. His first love was Olive Beck, the Livermore, Cal., waitress. He told her he loved her, and put it in writing, too, and that cost him a nice piece of change when he got in the money. She sued him for breach of promise, and he settled out of court “I was just a green country boy then,” said Max recently. “I didn’t know any better.” There were a lot of other girls and then came Dorothy Dunbar. He met her before a fight in Reno, Nev., and almost proposed from the ring. They were married in Reno and later divorced. Some say Baer still loves her. There is no disputing that she left an impression. She taught Baer how to talk, how to act and how to conduct himself in smart company. His next violent flame was June Knight, musical comedy singer. That affair reached its height before his bout with Max Schmeling. In between there were a lot of other girls, and a couple of them i went to see their lawyers about Max’s attentions. Two of them. Bee Starr and Shirley La Bell, in stituted breach of promise suits Max contends he never saw either Miss Starr or Miss La Bell. Miss Starr was a circus icrialist, and Max’s comment on her is: . “Can you imagine me going for a ‘girl on the flying trapeze’? The champion says he never heard of Miss La Bell until his lawyers advised him he was involved in another breach of promise suit. “You know this breach of promise stuff may be funny to some folks,” said Baer, “but not to me. It cost me over $10,000 last year for lawyers.” An angle that Baer resents even more than the money women have cost him is the fact that it makes him appear in a bad public light. “People who don’t know me think that all I try to do is break some girl’s heart and then forgot all about her,” Baer commented. “I like girls but I try to conduct myself around them just like anyone else. I can’t get over the fact that girls I’ve never seen start breach of promise suits against me.” Baer’s smile has broken more than one girl’s heart, despite the champion’ words. After his exhibition against Babe Hunt in Detroit last week more than a dozen girls waited around his hotel room door just for a glimpse of him a word or a smile. It’s that way whenever he woos. Society women cater to him. and more than one prominent socialite in New York. Chicago and California has bid for his attention. At least one Chicago heiress plans to go to Florida just to see him In a couple of exhibition bouts the latter part of this month

It ended up being a storm in  teacup, as they fizzled out just a few months later. Betty got her divorce, and was ready for a new marriage! She was still appearing in the Ziegfeld Follies, and obviously pretty popular with the boys,

To the surprise of no one, in July 1936 Betty remarried to Russell John, wealthy New York broker. He was very devoted, going to every show of the Follies to gaze at his beloved. Allegedly Betty wanted to travel to London to appear in a variety show there, but Russell changed her mind. Here is a short and sweet article about their marriage:

After touring madly about Long Island Sunday night in search of some one to marry them, Betty Dumbris, former “Follies” beauty, and Russell John, Wall Street broker, were honeymooning; yesterday in a cottage near the Atlantic Beach Club. Betty had intended leaving for London shortly to appear in a Charles B. Cochran Review, but John talked her out of it. The couple, together with socially prominent friends, climbed into young Bill Plankinton’s trailer and went license-hunting. They appeared at midnight at the home of Judge George Johnson in Hempstead, Nassau, where the ceremony was performed. Later a reception was held at the Rockville Country Club. John’s former wife, Mrs. Dorothy Wiley John, divorced him in Connecticut last February.

David Russell John was born in Scranton, Pennsylvania on November 16, 1904 to David R. John and Margaret Davies. He had an older sister, Margaret. Sadly, his mother died in 1911, and David moved to New York and became a financial broker and part of the high society. He was married once before to Dorothy Wiley, a colorful debutante, but they were divorced by 1935.

Their son David Russell John Jr. was born in New York, USA on September 8, 1937. Betty and Russell lived the high life in New York, Betty retired from showbiz, and it was good until it lasted. And then it just didn’t. They divorced sometime in the late 1940s. Russell died on October 28, 1977 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Betty married her third husband, William Harman Brown II, on October 27, 1953, in New York. Brown was born on October 31, 1899 in New York to a prominent family. He was the great grandson of Stewart Brown, one of the original partners of the firm of Brown Bros. Co. during the Civil War and for some time thereafter he was the junior member of the firm of Muller & Brown, gold and exchange brokers. His grandfather, William Brown, was one of the best known and most popular figures In Wall Street. He was one of the original directors of the Corn Exchange Bank, and for thirty years held that office. Mr* Brown, with other prominent men, was Instrumental In raising the money for the erection of the building of the Young Men’s Christian Association In Twenty-third-st., and he was particularly involved with the development of the free Classes connected with that Institution.

William was married once before, to Mary Horsman on October 4, 1922. They had a son, Stewart Brown, born on July 18, 1928. They divorced in the 1940s.

Betty and Brown continued living in New York, also in style. It was a happy marriage until Brown died on December 5, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York.

Betty falls of from the radar from then on. I have no idea when and where she died. As always, I hope she had a good life!