Diane Cassidy

Pretty tennis player and part time model, Diane Cassidy was noticed by Mervyn Leroy and hoped to become like his other protegees, Lana Turner and Clark Gable. Sadly, this didn’t’ happen, as Diane only made a few movies (in minor roles). Always socially active and beaued by more than a few millionaires, it wasn’t a surprise when Diane retired to become a socialite.

EARLY LIFE

Diane Mary Cassidy was born on March 8, 1932, in Southampton, Long Island, New York, to Joseph and Mae Cassidy. Her younger sisters were Clare, born in 1935 and Jean, born in 1939. Her father worked as a manager for a private practice.

Diane grew up in Southampton, and started playing tennis when she was a bit more than a toddler – by her teen years, she was known as a local tennis champion. After graduating from high school, she commuted to New York City for work – she began as a Powers model in the city, modeling undies. Her coincident display of gams and curves nailed down her movie contract. How exactly? Well, while she was in Hollywood on vacation, Mervyn LeRoy tapped her on the shoulder at a Hollywood restaurant, and it was the beginning of a new life for Diane. She was literary caught eating hamburger and onions.

LeRoy was famous in Hollywood for having an sharp eye always on the lookout for future stars – his eagle eye spotted Lana Turner in a sweater outfit and Clark Gable acting a small part in a stage play Accordingly, everybody was hoping that Diane was going to be next star to achieve such caliber of fame. Diane sailed through a screen test, was signed to a $200 per week contract as a start and will draw $1700 eventually every week. And so it started!

CAREER

Diane had a credited, but not really meaty role in Invitation, a high quality weepie with Dorothy McGuire playing a sickly rich girl and Van Johnson plays her “bought” husband (of course she doesn’t know this). The plot is pretty obvious from here, with a third women barging in (this time it’s my favorite, Ruth Roman), and overprotective father, played by Louis Calhoun, trying to hush things up. While no masterpiece, it’s a solid, good movie, with  a great performance by Dottie, so a recommendation by all means. I never particularly liked Van, but when he gets serious, he’s much better than playing the nice boys next door he usually did during his MGG years.

Diane than did a string of MGM musical movies (six of them to be precise). Whoa, sound nice doesn’t it? Well, here we go:

The first musical was Skirts Ahoy!, a Esther Williams musical. Unlike many of other movies Esther made for MGM; this one isn’t a blown out spectacle with impressive aquatic sequences, but s more low key, character driven drama sprinkled with singing/dancing numbers. The viewer is left to decide if he likes it or not – but if you want your typical golden age musicals, this movie is not for you. If you want an endearing, low calorie drama with an upbeat message, this might just do the trick. The plot is very bare bones: Three young ladies sign up for some kind of training at a naval base. They fall in love with three different men and try to woo them. While a bit outdated, overall it’s a fine movie. A plus is seeing a whole array of talented performers doing musical numbers – Bilyl Eckstine, DeMarco Sisters, Debbie Reynolds

The second musical was Lovely to Look At. The movie has quite a basic premise: Howard Keel plays an aspiring Broadway producer, trying to get a new musical off the ground. When his fellow impresario, comic Red Skelton, inherits Parisian dress shop they and pal Gower Champion decide they’ll sell up and splash the cash on their stage show – until they catch a look of the tasty co-owners (Kathryn Grayson and Marge Champion). They fall in love and the rest is history. While it’s just a big fat piece of fluff, it’s gorgeous fluff with great dancing, good singing and some stunning fashions (designed by the all time great Adrian). Diane+’s role is small, and it seemed she wasn’t particularly going forward in her career.

Diane’s third musical was Because You’re Mine, a problematic Mario Lanza movie. Problematic! How and why? Well, there is a story how Lanza didn’t want to make the movie and to sabotage it, he gained a massive amount of weight. He also didn’t like his co-star, Broadway alumna Doretta Morrow, and found the story unappealing. You can guess why – they used the same old Lanza character and put him in the army. Extremely unimaginative. Anyway, the final product isn’t as bad as it reputation warrants, but it’s far from Lanza’s best work.

Diane’s fourth movie was Everything I Have Is Yours, a Marge and Gower Chamption movie. Since the Champions were very limited as thespians, their movies have to hide this sad fact and boast their dancing ability to compensate. This movie services it well enough. The story is pretty simple – a professional husband/wife dancing team sound familiar) are having marital problems and so on and so on. Of course, there is a happy end and tons of dancing, so maybe it’s a good movie to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Diane’s last movie was Million Dollar Mermaid, this being of Esther William’s most famous movies. It’s actually a biopic of Annette Kellerman, the trailblazing female swimmer, but the whole phrase became synonymous with Esther (especially after her biography was called like the movie).  Like any typical Hollywood biopic, most of the plot of Million Dollar Mermaid is fictitious and made more theatrical than it was in reality, but one didn’t watch these movies for the story but for the aqua ballet and the dramatics. Victor Mature plays the husband with an “I can sell anything” charm and it’s interesting seeing him in such a role (and yes, this is pure imagination too, Kellerman’s husband wasn’t a Hollywood promoter).

And that was it from Diane!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Diane came to Hollywood, she was legally under age, so her contract had to be court approved. Sadly, it seems that Diane had some previous debts she had to cover first –  at least so she told Judge Frank S. Swain, and claimed that these debts shrink her $200-a-week salary to $70. The judge ordered the young actress to put 10% of her salary into U.S. Savings Bonds, and gave her a discourse on being thrifty. Very handy advice!

Here is an article about Diane from this period:

For a 19-year-old girl Diane combines the freshness of “sweet sixteen” and the smoldering oomph of the more mature film lovelies. Take the word of such an old hand as producer Mervyn LeRoy that Miss Cassidy is “The Whistle Bait Queen of .Hollywood.” LeRoy discovered the pulsating beauty at a race track, and followed her until she signed on the dotted line. Diane, only recently removed from Southampton, N.Y., told International News Service demurely that “Some cheesecake is awfully sexy and not too nice—but I don’t mind the refined type.”

That statement by the M-6-M beauty should bring on more refined cheesecake, or just more cheesecake by any other name. Miss Cassidy is willowy, and while not threatening the throne of Jane Russell, can do a lot of things to a bathing suit. Diane lifted her two arms expressively to the skies, like a gal in a filmy evening gown looking at the moon: “I think the kind of cheesecake is all right where they take your picture in a filmy, evening gown looking at the moon.” Lest students of the more charming gender of anatomy be discouraged, Miss Cassidy added: “It’s all right to take pictures on the beach, too—if you’re wearing a suit that a girl actually would don to go to the beach.” The light auburn-haired charmer added coyly: “Anyway, why should I object to  cheesecake? Every girl has to do it in Hollywood, unless she is Jane Wyman, a Greer’ Garson or somebody like that.”

“I’m not in love, but I was several times back in Southampton,” says Miss Cassidy. “Right now Hollywood has been such a thrill that I haven’t given romance a thought But, maybe sometime, huh?” Her biggest thrill, she said breathlessly: “The other day Clark Gable said ‘Hello, Baby’.”

In 1949, when she was 17 years old, Diane was pretty serious about wealthy Peter Salm, who she dated for almost a year. Salm was the son of Millicent Rogers and her first husband, Austrian aristocrat and tennis player, Ludwig “Ludi” von Salm-Hoogstraeten. Salm owned a huge property in Diane’ hometown, Southampton, and this is probably how they met.

Anyway, in early 1950, the relationship broke apart and Peter started dating Charlene Wrightmsan. Not the one to be idle, Diane made  Peter a repartee by going out with the young and wealthy Bob Neal. It was a no go, since Peter and Diane didnt’ reconcile, and rarely saw each other from then on. In October 1950, she was seen with Joe Perrin, but they busted before the year was out.

In 1951, Diane was dated by both Huntington Hartford and by Pat Di Cicco. Both liked pretty ladies and both dated them by the shovel load. Pat was involved with the temperamental tennis star Gussie Moran at the same time, and the press was expecting fireworks, but in the end nothing really dramatic happened. She also dated Ted Briskin – Ted planed in from Chicago and spent a few days at his ex, Betty Hutton’s home with the kids, to whom he gave a pair of Shetland ponies. Afterwards he took Diane Cassidy to the Beverly Gourmet and to Ciro’s and from having another date with Gwen Caldwell.

In late 1951, Diane got hooked up with wealthy Chicago paper mill heir, Michael Butler, son of Paul Butler. This proved to be her most endearing, serious relationship – she went to Hollywood, but he kept in touch, and the two youngsters agreed to meet in Acapulco, Mexico, when she caught some free time. They did meet there in February 1952, had a grand time there, and upon their return, were feted as almost engaged and just a step away from matrimony.

In Mid 1952, Diane decided to take a European vacation and sailed to France. While there, she met the love of her life. Thus, In October 1952, married wealthy Venezuelan oil king, Bartholmay Sanchez. Fully named Bartholme Sanchez Pernia, he was born on October 12, 1913, in Venezuela.

The couple settled jointly in New York (with a Park Avenue address) and Venezuela, and had two children, a son, Bartholome Ricardo, born in 1953, and a daughter, Diana, born in about 1955. They traveled around quite a bit and lived the jet set life.

There was not a whole lot I could find about the Sanchez family, and it seems the most famous person in the family was his nephew, Bartus Bartolomes, who became a noted artist. Here is a bit about him:

The family of Bartus owned the “Sanchez Pernia Estate”, one of the largest coffee plantations in the country covering more than 90,000 hectares from 1898 up to 1960’s. However, the newly emerging governments from the sixties, riding the waves and riches of a new oil boom, began to expropriate the land and reduced the agricultural production of coffee and other crops to a minimum.

In the expropriated lands, the government promoted and built the Uribante Caparo Hydroelectric Dam, a project that became detrimental to the Eco-systems of three Venezuelan states: Táchira, Mérida and Barinas, decreasing the productivity of the traditionally cultivated areas, affecting the rivers, local plants and bird migrations because among other things, this area was a pathway or transit corridor used by birds who migrated from Canada to Argentina and vice verse.

These expropriations and the negative effect they had on the environment he grew up in, affected the sensitivity of Bartus. He increasingly devoted his creativity to establishing links between art and water, and he promoted some cultural events that highlight the consequences of human intervention on the environment such as environmental pollution and global warming. Bartus considers the natural environment a legacy that must be protected, and water is the link that keeps all natural environments healthy one way or another.

The Sanchez settled in West Palm Beach in the end. Bartholome died at some point (couldn’t find the exact date of death).

Diane Cassidy Sanchez is still alive today and lives in West Palm, Beach, Florida.

 

Lucille Barkley

Lucille Barkley was a pretty girl who came to Hollywood with great expectations, and, unlike many starlets, was not without some background – she was a semi-seasoned actress who did some theater and was even educated in the acting arts. Against all odds, she did manage to nab roles in several high-profile movies and was a highly publicized personality in Hollywood for a few months. However, her career ultimately went nowhere and she retired after 30 something odd films and TV appearances. All in all , not a bad record for a place where most girls stay for a year or two (if the are lucky!)

EARLY LIFE

Lucy Oshinski was born on November 3, 1924, in Ranshaw, Pennsylvania to Florian and Verna Oshinski. She was one of nine children – her siblings were out of five sisters and three brothers, namely, from elder to younger: Stella, Anette “Tessie”, Helen, Eleanore, Henry, Thomas, Evelyn and Donald.  Her father worked in the coal mining industry.

Lucy spent her childhood years in Ranshaw, which was a typical Pennsylvania coal town. She attended St. Anthony’s Elementary School, and after completing her freshman year in Coal Township High School, Lucille moved with her parents to Rochester, N. Y., where she graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School.

Lucille got her start in show business with the Rochester Community Players with whom she had roles in “My Sister Eileen” and “Arsenic and Old Lace”. She also was a model far Eastman Kodak Company and took prizes in a number of beauty contests before going to New York. After studying a few semesters at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, with the goal of becoming a Hollywood film star. She also did modeling for the prestigious Conover agency and a little dramatics for a couple of years.

While in New York, An agent had discovered her, and whisked her of to Los Angeles. Lucy expected she’d get a contract with 20th Century possibly a lush role in “Forever Amber.” After several weeks of tests, it didn’t work out that way. Lucy was out of work and going nowhere fast.

The agent planned to have her tested but one afternoon Lucille walked Into the Beverly-Wiltshire hotel and was accosted by a stranger, who said: “You should be in the movies.” Yep, he was a Paramount talent scout, he approached her and asked if the “pretty girl” would be interested in a movie career. The “pretty girl” was definitely interested, the studio executives were impressed, and she signed a contract without ever having made a screen test.

CAREER

Lucille started her career as one of the many, many girls featured in the Variety Girl, and continued her array of uncredited performance with Where There’s Life, a mid-tier Bob Hope movie with Bob playing his usual self (this time, a hapless American son of an Eastern European monarch wounded in an assassination attempt becomes a target for a terrorist organization). Then came another Hope vehicle, Road to Rio (at least this one is a classic). This was just the first of several classic that Lucy was to grace, back to back.

Lucille had the luck to appear in one of the bets thrillers ever made, The Big Clock. Ray Milland plays a charming but caddish man who become s a pawn in a deadly game all cooked up by Charles Loughton’s impeccably-played, deliciously devious newspaper tycoon. Then Lucy had a modest but visible role in another classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, this time with Bing Crosby.

Lucille appeared in an unusual MGM film, the hard-boiled noir Scene of the Crime. We have Van Johnson, the perpetually sunny golden boy of the studio, playing a disillusioned, bitter cop who gets smacked left and right but never gives up. While the story is your typical noir staple, the script is witty and the performances are surprisingly good. Of special note is Gloria de Haven, playing  a femme fatale and begin very good at it (unlike her usually happy-go-lucky musical roles).

Lucy than appeared in two mediocre crime movies. The first one was Trapped (not a bad movie overall but made a shoestring budget,and as a plus, you can see Barbara Payton is one of her all to few movie roles! While not a top thespian, she sure had that something and could set the screen aflame!) and The Great Plane Robbery (which is completely forgotten today!)

Lucille then appeared in Diana Lynn cuteness-abound movie aptly called Peggy (they so rarely make movies like that today!), and the exotic escapist fare, The Desert Hawk (with Yvonne De Carlo, who acted in so many such movies I get confused often).  Lucy continued appearing in lightweight movies with The Milkman , where Donald O’Connor and Jimmy Durante star as ambitious milkman and his mentor.  O’Connor is a good physical comedy actor, and his movies work at least on that level. Next stop – Frenchie, a low-calorie western where Shelley Winters plays a saloon queen returning to her hometown of Bottleneck to find the vagrants who killed her father 15 years earlier. It’s loosely based on Destry Rides again, and features a strong female lead, played by the brassy Shelley Winters – more than enough reasons to watch the movie!

In 1951,m Lucille reached the peak of her career with Bedtime for Bonzo, where she actually had a credited, and quite meaty part. Yep, she was the “wrong woman” compared to Diana Lynn’s right woman, but still, it was major progress for her career. The movie itself, which was wildly successful is a thin but amusing comedy, with Ronald Regana playing a scientists who tries to prove that people are a product of their upbringing not genetics, with a help of a very lively chimp named Bonzo. Guess the rest!

She continued in uncredited parts in Up Front, a comedy based on the famed W.W.II cartoons: Lowbrow G.I.s Willie and Joe , and Francis Goes to the Races, one of the Francis series of movies. Lucille finally got a larger role in The Fat Man, a Damon Rumyon movie where the eponymous fat detective tries to solve a dentists’ murder.

Lucille than appeared in a string of low-budget movies – western Arizona Manhunt (where she played one of the leading roles but the leading female role went to a 13-year-old girl!), the adventure The Golden Horde (actually a pretty interesting movie with Ann Blyth and David Farrar fighting against Ghengis Khan – they are a great acting combo!),  Flight to Mars (an early science fiction movies), and the laughable Prisoners of the Casbah,with the always hard-boiled Gloria Grahame playing a demure princess (can’t even imagine this!). The only exception to the low-budget rule was the superb Otto Preminger film noir, Angel Face, with Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons, where Lucille plays a waitress.

Aware that her movie career left much to be desired, Lucille turned to TV, doing quite a bit of TV shows. Her television engagements have given her a role in a Fireside Theater production, a commercial spot on Groucho Marx‘s quiz show, some Boston Blackie bits and an appearance on Walter Winchell‘s TV program, among others.

Lucille made only two tow more movies before retirement: the first was The Other Woman, an above average Hugo Haas movie. Like all of Haas’s work, it’s a low-budget affair and more than  with surprising flashes of genius and some interesting dialogue thrown in. Not for everybody’s taste, but very good nonetheless. The bad, oversexualized gal, a staple in all of Haas’ movies, here was played by Cleo Moore.  

Lucille’s last movie was Women’s Prison, a gritty drama set in a woman’s prison where the head superintendent played by the superb Ida Lupino is the most dangerous person inside the prison walls. Featuring a ton of good actresses (Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Phyllis Thaxter…), it’s a rare all-woman-cast movie and it’s a good one. While no A class classic, it’s well made, swift, with good pacing and with great acting performances.

And that’s it from Lucille!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to Hollywood, her press agent tried to boast her PR standing by having Lucille claim that all Hollywood men are wolves. According to the papers, Lucy made a test for Forever Amber, but blushes so intensely that she was impossible to photograph normally – they had to wait for the blushes to subside in time. The reporters teased her about it, but when reporter ran I into her again she said “I may be blushing, But you should  see’ the gown in which I am going to wear!” Positive thinking Lucy! Here is another article from that period:

Luscious Lucille Barkley who once rated all Hollywood man as wolves, doesn’t have time any more to be beset by them. She’s too busy with her dramatic lessons, now that Paramount has signed her to it very nice contract. ’1 hardly have a minute to myself,” Lucille said when your reporter ran into her on the set of •‘Variety Girl.” “Not even tune for those wolves you used to tall: about?” your reporter persisted, “Oh, no”, replied the brunette beauty from Rochester, N. Y “I am too busy now!”

As for her love life, Lucille Barkley and Tony Curtis were an item for some time in the early 1950s. After the broke up, she was seen jitter-bugging like mad with Joan Davis’s ex-fiance, Danny Ellman. This also didn’t last long.

In 1950, she nearly drowned at. Lake Arrowhead while water skiing. A pullmotor saved her just in time.

Lucille first really serious romance in Hollywood was with manufacturer Lester Deutsch. They dated for almost a year, but broke up for  unspecified reasons. She also had a tempestuous, on off relationship with Edmond Herrscher, who was known as the romanfickle Nobhillionaire among the newspaper set. He was the man who ho turned The 20th Century Fox movie studio backlot into the futuristic Century City entertainment and business complex, and who was quite a bit older than Lucille.

Up next was Pete Rugulo, who used to date Betty Hutton, but that too didn’t last too long. Not long after came Brad Dexter, who was later married to Peggy Lee for 10 days (or something like this). At some point, Lucille dated Paul Ellis. There was a really CONFUSING situation observed at Ciro’s when Martha Martin Ellis ringsided with Roger Valmy at the next table ‘ sat her ex, Paul, with Lucille and just adjacent Paul’s recent steady date, Joy Windsor, with Stanley Richardson. Imagine the great table talk!

Around this time, Lucille discovered a thief stole her make-up case and Abbott and Costello TV film wardrobe from her car while she was having a cup of coffee at Schwab’s. What a great booty for the robbers, eh?

Lucy falls of the newspaper radar in the late 1950s, marrying and opting for a quiet family life. She married a Mr. Burgener, moved with him to San Diego, and had a daughter, Lisa C., born on July 30, 1960. Lucy and Burgener divorced at some point, and she moved back to Rochester, where most of her family was still living.

Lucille Oshinski Burgener died on August 11, 1998, in Rochester, New York. (note: her IMDB has a wrong date of death!)

Nancy Brinckman

Nancy Brinckman was pretty, blonde and a starlet – yep, she checks all of the boxes for the run-of-the-mill type you could encounter by the dozens in 1940s Hollywood every day. However, she got her five minutes of fame due to a swanky publicity trick. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Nancy Lou Muck was born on August 13, 1922, in Hollywood, California, to Harry Muck and Elsie Brinckman. Her older brother Harry Jefford was born on February 23, 1915. Her father was a salesman. Her mother, a native San Franciscan, came to Los Angeles in 1895 as a baby and acted in silent movies as an extra until she got married.

Nancy grew up in Los Angeles, California, and was interested in performing arts since she was a small child – she danced and sang. Nancy’s parents divorced in the 1930s and Nancy and her brother were given their mother’s maiden surname, Brinckman, for “stage names”.

Nancy attended University of Los Angles (UCLA), starting in 1941, but dreams of an acting career dashed her scholarly aspirations and she became a model and then a theater actress. This is how she landed in Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Nancy appeared in some 20-odd movies, and only a few were credited and most of them were completely forgettable. The first one was Fall In, a Sargent Doubleday movie from the eponymous series of movies. Doubleday and his croonie William Ames are dimwitted soldiers have plenty of dumb luck and Tracy has the nifty ability to memorize things at a glance, and gets a prestigious military job he is hardly qualified to do. This being a Hal Roach comedy, of course he manages to bust the bad guys and save the day (or the world in this instance, as the bad guys are Nazis).  She then appeared in another Roach serial movie, Prairie Chickens , the Third and final film in Jimmy Rogers and Noah Beery, Jr. serial. They play cowboys who get mistaken for a guest of honor and chaos follows. Similar comedies with a thin plot but plenty of zany were Gals, Incorporated and Hoosier Holiday. Nothing doing for her career long-term, but it was solid work and perhaps a stepping stone for something bigger and better.

Something “bigger and better” came with Follow the Boys . As IMDB summary notes, “During World War II, all the studios put out “all-star” vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot–often playing themselves–in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were meant as morale-boosters to both the troops overseas and the civilians at home. This was Universal Pictures’ effort. It features everyone from Donald O’Connor to the Andrews Sisters to Orson Welles to W.C. Fields to George Raft to Marlene Dietrich, and dozens of other Universal players. ” Of course Nancy gets minimal screen time, and is hard to even notice, let alone to achieve any dramatic moments, but still it was progress. Nancy then appeared in a Similar war propaganda movie, totally forgotten today, is She’s a Soldier Too, with Nina Foch and Beulah Bondi.

The first really interesting movie Nancy appeared in was The Missing Juror, a proto-noir with a great, heavy atmosphere but sadly no budget. The story is formulaic (a madman trying to avenge his wrongful sentencing by murdering the jury that condemned him), the camerawork and the acting is plenty good and George MacReady as the deranged but wrongly condemned man takes the acting cake, with the alluring Janis Carter as a juror coming in second. Then came a completely forgotten Ross Hunter vehicle, A Guy, a Gal and a Pal.

You Came Along starts as a romantic comedy set right after the war, with Bob Cummings playing an aviator who gets stuck on a rally bond and Lizabeth Scott playing the treasury agent in charge of the rally. Of course, they get hitched after getting poked by Cupid’s arrow. Nothing unusual, true, but then everything changes and the movie ends up a major tear-jerker. This wierd mish mash either completely alienated the viewers or left them enraptured, so make your pick! The leads are played well enough by Bob and Liz, and there are messages of hope dispersed throughout, so it’s a nice movie overall. Afterwards, Nancy was one of the many girls featured int he exotic A Thousand and One Nights, and then came her big moment!!

Yes, Nancy got a leading part! Yaay, let’s forget it’s a part in the Gorcery boys movie so we can congratulate her! Joking aside, Nancy really did play the love interest of Leo Grocery in Mr. Muggs Rides Again. Gorcery plays a jockey who  gets set up by a well-known gambler and then tries to make amends. Nancy is very cute in the movie, but everything seems to overshadow her – the crazy Gorcery boys, the horses, Minerva Urecal! Better luck next time!

Unfortunately, Nancy’s next movie is a…. You guessed it, a low-budget western!! Saddle Serenade. What a name! Sadly, no serenades for Miss Brinckman here. The less I write about this movie, the better, so nix it. Nancy was back to uncredited roles in higher budget movie yet again. The first movie was That Night with You, a movie with a plot one can hardy believe! Stars are Susanna Foster and Franchot Tone. Listen to this (taken from an imdb review): “Tone is a successful Broadway producer, Susanna a young hopeful. Seems that Tone’s character has been divorced for 20 years, and is quite popular with the women, but very changeable about with whom and when he might remarry. Thus, his female star in his next stage production gets impatient with his dalliance and leaves, providing a possible opening for Susanna’s character, Penny, or alternatively for Tone’s ex-wife, Blossom, who shows up unannounced to claim the role before Susanna has it nailed down. This is complicated by Susanna’s claim that she is Tone’s unknown daughter by Blossom, initially confirmed by Blosson, for her own reasons. Tone ‘knows’ Suzanne is a fraud, but decides to play along with her ruse for a while, then is convinced she is genuine for a while. Meanwhile, Tone and Susanna act flirtatious with each other, both trying to alternately deny and promote their attraction.” While I never expect anything realistic from Hollywood, this is whauza kooky, but it still managed to work as a boiler plate for romance. And Franchot Tone could do anything – he was so suave and good you’ll believe any role he plays, including this.

Nancy was again uncredited in An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, a completely forgotten Kaye Down movie where she plays an angel trying to help a struggling producer stage a play. Nancy had another uncredited role in Lonesome Trail, another low-budget western. Nancy started 1946 by playing an uncredited role in another Gorcery boys movie, Live Wires. This time Leo isn’t a jockey but rather gets hired to serve warrants to citizens. The movie is just like any other Gorcery boys movie – stupid and silly but made with heart.

IUt was time for Nancy to get the leading reins once again, and she did in Detour to Danger, a completely forgotten Britt Wood crime movie. Wood was a singer who . Nancy had a credited role again in Behind the Mask, a Shadow movie. Yep, before A native San Franciscan, played him in 1994, the Shadow was played by Kane Richmond. Here, the Shadow has to clear his name after the murder of blackmailing reporter Jeff Mann is pinned on him. Since the movie was made by Monogram, a cheapie studio, it has a minuscule budget and doesn’t pull it of nicely, making this a flop. The Shadow deserved better. Then came another Bowery boys movie with Bowery Bombshell. Nancy finally crawled out of the low-budget comedy hole with Dangerous Millions. The plot: A shipping magnate hatches a plan for testing the worth of his heirs, none of whom he has ever seen. As one reviewer wrote: “the plot with secret identities, hidden rooms, exotic locations and the threat of hideous tortures administered by fiendish orientals offered all the matinée delights a youthful viewer would look for.” Ah,m the Hollywood old days! he female cats is very good – Dona Drake and Tala Birrel are both very beautiful and extremely underrated actresses that sadly never got their due.

Nancy made three rather good movies in 1947: The Man I Love, a nifty  Ida Lupino drama movie, where she actually punches the bad guy in the face (go Ida!), I’ll Be Yours, a typical charming but paper-thin Deanna Durbin mush (with Tom Drake as her love interest), and Slave Girl, an actually a tongue in cheek, truly hilarious comedy with Yvonne de Carlo and George Brent (the movie doesn’t make much sense, but it’s really fun!).

And that’s it from Nancy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nancy hit the papers for the first time in early 1943, trailing clouds of Mardi Gras glass, as a sample of what will be seen at the annual Venice, Calif., festival. She continued modeling for various local Los Angeles events, and pretty soon she was seen almost daily in a large number of columns. In December 1943 Nancy and famous actress Frances Dee completed a hop-skip-jump-and-stand cross-country trip to entertain soldiers at Drew Field, Florida.

Nancy did a lot of war bond work and undertook several USO tours. She was elected “Sweetheart of Company M-2” by the cadets at the West Point military academy and was quite popular as a pin-up.

Then, in 1946,  came this interesting blurb:

Actress Nancy Brinkman, 22, announced today her engagement to Lt. Comdr. Paul MacArthur, a nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The blonde starlet said marriage plans will be made when her fiance returns from Hawaii. She said she first met the 27-year-old Annapolis graduate on a “blind” date when she was a freshman at the University of California in 1941.

Now, here all the rhubarb starts. Nancy got a ton of publicity for dating General Douglas MacArthur’s nephew and was in the papers every day for almost two months. The war was over, the US won, it was a time of general delight and happiness. A handsome couple, her a nascent actress and he a young man from an upstanding family, was just what the papers needed to plump up all the cheeriness. Yes, I tough so too in the beginning, and I tried to find information about when and where they wed. This completely threw me of the track and caused me a bit of a problem before I finally figured it out for what it was. Confused yet?

Now, let’s go from the beginning. What we knew about Paul MacArthur was that we was a kin of general MacArthur, that he was an Annapolis graduate and about 27 years old in 1946. So I tried looking for the family of general MacArthur, and guess what, I couldn’t find anything on my first try. Paul was waaay too young to be MacArthur’s nephew. Okay, perhaps he was a son of his first degree nephew? After some snooping around, I was sure he was the son of MacArthur’s nephew, Douglas MacArthur, a noted diplomat, and his wife, Laura Louise Barkley, a formidable Washington DC socialite.

However, after some additional digging, it became clear to me that Douglas and Louise didn’t’ have a son, only a daughter, Laura, who was a bit younger than Paul. WTF? So, WHO was Paul MacArthur? The papers exaggerate all the time, so perhaps he was a distant cousin. Now, this was too hard to follow thru, since the MacArthur family had an extensive family tree. I nearly gave up, and then it hit me. Those were lies. Petty lies made up by newspaper columnists to make an engagement of a minor starlet and a normal naval soldier more interesting. Yes, people, Paul McArthur had absolutely no familial relationship to Douglas MacArthur. Perhaps a very, very, very distant one, but that’s so far that they can hardly be called family.

Anyway, it turns out that Paul MacArthur was born in 1917 in Norwood, Ohio, to Thomas B. MacArhur and Eveline Paine. He had a brother, Arthur, and two sisters, Jane and Priscilla. His father was not from a powerful military family, but a normal middle class blue-collar worker – he was a ticket agent at Union terminal. I wonder how Thomas felt when papers started to extensively write about Paul’s imaginary, over-bloated family background. Meh! Anyway, Paul was one of the 456 midshipmen who graduated from Naval Academy, Annapolis, class of 1941. This is one of the largest graduating classes in the history of the academy.

The couple wed in late 1946 or early 1947. Nancy announced in the papers that she, plans to retire from films after her wedding, and she did.  She lived a quiet family life with her husband and daughter Paula Louise, born on July 9, 1948. Sadly, her brother died in 1950, leaving behind a widow and two young children, and her mother died just two months after.

Nancy and Paul enjoyed a happy marriage and lived in sunny California.

Nancy Brinckman MacArthur died on May 28, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.

 

Mozelle Britton

The story of Mozelle Britton is a strange one, as she truly was a polarizing personality. A dedicated actress and later a successful business woman, she was inspiring in some facets of her life. However, she was also a difficult personality who caused herself much heartbreak. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mozelle Britton was born on May 12, 1912, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, to Adolph Valentine Britton and Ida Bell Walker. Her father was a real estate salesman. She was the fifth daughter and youngest child – her older sisters were Vivian, born on January 22, 1896,  Alice, born in November 14, 1897, Maude, born on December 12, 1901, and Ruth, born in July 1907. Little is known about Mozelle’s early life – the family lived in Oklahoma city until 1922,  when they moved to small town of Fletcher, Oklahoma. Mozelle attended elementary school there. The family moved back to Oklahoma city by 1930. Sadly, her sister Ruth died on October 11, 1918.

After graduating from high school in 1930, Mozelle decided to become an actress and moved to California. In Los Angeles, Mozelle worked as a secretary at the Columbia studio casting office, before nabbing a movie contract, and there she went!

CAREER

Mozelle appeared in only 4 movies, and was a casting director for a few more. She made her debut in 1930’s Paramount on Parade, which is basically a musical revue with tons of stars and music. Interested? Eh, no. No story, no character development, no real art – just singing and dancing. While it’s a somehow funny movie, I’ll say it: just no.

Her next movie was made in 1934, and named The Fighting Ranger. Guess what it is? Yep, you’re right, it’s a low-budget western! Is there anything more tacky when a low-budget westerns i named like a low-budget western? Didn’t think so too! Anyway, Mozelle isn’t even the leading lady (that dubious honor went to Dorothy Revier), gasp!), but she was billed and does play a credited role, so  this is a big uppity for Mozelle. Unfortunately, that was it from Mozelle in 1934, and she only had her next role in 1936, in Rainbow on the River. This is actually an adorable Bobby Breen movie, and if you like Shirley Temple, you’ll like this. Cuteness galore!

Mozelle’s last movie was Night Waitress, a mediocre drama with Margot Grahame as a girl on probation who is trying to get her life together working in a waterfront dive run. Supports are played by Gordon Jones and Vinton Hayworth. And that was it from Mozelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mozelle was married just before graduation from high school. The groom was Edgar Farrington, the date was March 24, 1930, the place was Guilford, North Carolina. I have no idea how did she get there, but there it is. Edgar was born on September 28, 1909, in North Carolina to William and Mary Farrington.

The couple separated soon after the wedding, and by 1932 Mozelle was a free woman, ready to pursue her Hollywood dreams. Farrington remarried and died in 1974.

Mozelle married her second husband, Alan Dinehart, on June 28, 1933. They met during a making of a movie. As both were practical jokers, they played a joke on their friends – while they were waiting in the living room of the house, the couple got married in another room. Funny “har har”, especially since you came to a wedding, not a circus, but there goes!

Dinehart was already established in Hollywood by 1933 and the marriage raised Mozelle’s status in the film colony immensely. Now something about the new groom. Dinehart was born on October 3, 1889, in St. Paul, Minnesota. He grew up in Minnesota and aspired to be a priest. However, the call of the theater was too strong and he became an actor instead. He started acting at his alma mater, Missoula University in Montana. He left university to appear on stage with a repertory company. All in all he appeared in more than twenty Broadway plays. Wanting to branch out into other forms of entertainment, Alan went into the vaudeville circuit before signing a contract with Fox in May 1931. He became a solid character actor and worked non stop from the moment he was signed. Married once before, to Louise Dyer, whom he divorced in 1932, he was a father of a son, Frederick. Sadly, Louise died in 1934, just two years after their divorce was made final.

The Britton-Dinehart wedding was not without some drama, however. Right after he wed Mozelle, there was some legal trouble brewing for Alan:

A settlement out of court has ended the $250,000 “heart balm” suit filed against Alan Dinehart, Hollywood screen actor, by Betty Kaege, former Follies dancer. A dismissal of the suit was on file in Superior Court today. Henry Haves, attorney for Miss Kaege, said the settlement was reached In Chicago between Miss Kaege’s attorneys there nnd Los Angeles attorneys for Dinehart. Haves said details of the settlement were not revealed to him In his Instructions from Chicago counsel to file the dismissal. Miss Kaege filed the suit August 31, after Dinehart had married Mozelle Britton, screen actress, June 28. She charged Dinehart had promised to marry her after a divorce from his former wife was obtained.

While Alan acted like an inconsiderate creep in this particular case, suing somebody for marrying somebody else seems like a stretch – it’s not like you can make them marry you regardless of what he wants. However, this just goes to prove how hard it was for women back then, as it was a serious social injury to their overall character when somebody courted then and then, gasp!, married somebody else. Guess some women really had little choice in he matter. Anyway, the suit was settled in the end.

It seems that Alan and Mozelle were truly two well matched individuals who enjoyed each other’s company immensely. She put her career on holds to be able to help him with his career, and they wanted to appear together in more theater plays and less movies. There is a funny story about their salad days:

Moving into their new Beverly Hills home, Alan Dinehart and his wife, Mozelle Britton, numbered among their first callers a small monkey. Efforts to find the owner failing, they bought an elaborate cage and installed the Simian, only have the ape’s boss show up a couple of days later and walk off with the pet. Now they either are the market for another monkey

On April 30, 1936, Mozelle gave birth to the couple’s only child, a son named Mason Alan. Both parents enjoyed their new role with much gusto. Everything was fine and dandy until April 1939 auto crash in which Mozelle went head and shoulders through a windshield and also broke her ankle. Her husband, who was driving, fared better. Alan probably owed his life to the fact that he was wearing a heavy overcoat at the time of the crash. The steering wheel broke off but the coat protected Dinehart from being impaled.

Mozelle was being treated by a premier plastic surgeon who believed that she would recover without permanent scars. Doctors took 127 stitches on her face and predicted six weeks more recovering from her crash injuries.

Mozelle and Alan filed suit for $150,000 damages against George B. Higgs of Burbank, driver of the other machine. Mozelle was soon discharged from the hospital, with a tendency to return if there was any impediments in her recovery. After a brief period of convalescence, it was decided that she didn’t have to return to the hospital after all, with the prognosis that she would be all right and on crutches for another month and a half. As soon as she got the green light to do so, Mozelle left for Oklahoma City with their 3-year-old son, Mason Alan. In Oklahoma she was taken care by her mother, which she obviously needed after a particularly stressful period of her life.

Mozelle continued to recuperate, but had to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary on crutches with Alan playing new records for the party touch. As time went by, it was clear that Mozelle would have no scars from her auto accident and her ankle healed satisfactory. Time to go back home!

After Mozelle returned to Los Angeles, she wanted to make up for all the lost time, and pushed herself too much. She ended up in the hospital again, and doctors had ordered her to cancel all social engagements and have a complete rest for three months. This was fine by her – she had other venues on her mind. Namely, her husband had  acquired the right for a stage play called “Thanks for my Wife”, later called Separate rooms. As soon as Mozelle was well enough, they went on tour with the play. Here is a short article about the play:

A Film Players to Appear in New Play Here Alan Dinehart, Glenda Farrell, Lyle Talbot and Mozelle Britton, who have been shadow boxing in the movies for years, return to the stage in a new comedy, “Thanks for My Wife,” to play Jan. 25, 26 and 27, with matinée Jan. 27, at the Lyceum theater here. The play is on tour from the west coast, where it received unanimous enthusiasm from dramatic critics, to New York, and is one of the few ever to be presented here before the New York opening. ‘ It was written by Joseph Carole and Dinehart, formerly a player in St. Paul. . . It tells the story of a young playwright annexed by a show-worn siren. Dinehart, a misogynist columnist, completes the penthouse triangle, while Talbot is the playwright and Miss Farrell the daffy stage and screen star. Mozelle Britton plays Dinehart’s “Girl Friday.” Both Dinehart and Miss Farrell play the type of comedy roles in which they were successful before the movies snatched them from the stage. A cast of well-known stage and screen character names upholds the support.

Mozelle toured with the play for a good chunk of 1940, but then her old maladies returned and she had to leave the play and enter a sanitarium Loomis, N. Y.. Well, what was exactly wrong with Mozelle? Actually, I have no idea. She only had physical injuries that had healed in time, so I really don’t understand why she had to enter the sanatorium. It’s not like she suffered from tuberculosis or suffered a broken back, something that warrants a really long convalescence period. I have a theory, which can be wrong or can be right – either there was a more serious injury they kept under wraps to the public OR it seems that Mozelle was emotionally unhinged after the accident and needed psychological help. Since this was a taboo subject back then, in order to hide it, she tried to paint it as a physical malady in the press.

Mozelle would spend more than a year in the sanitarium. In trying to keep active, she organized the Loomis Players there and tried  some new plays with them. She also kept busy inventing “theater hats” for women. She also slimmed down a great deal – she shed 43 pounds since her entered the facility. At one point during her stay, she came into a handsome legacy and planned to become a Broadway producer, but it all seemed a faraway dream.

Mozelle was let out for a week during the Christmas holidays, and here is a truly sad bit about her short New York sojourn:

Mozelle Britton, the wife of Alan Dinehart, is back in New York, alter a year s siege at a sanitarium. The doctors have given her a holiday of ten days before recalling her to the hospital for final adjustments. … I asked her how it felt to be back in town. . . . “It s an amazing thing,” she said. “You develop a completely new philosophy when you are laid up for a year. Once I was blase and bored with life. Now it’s a deep thrill to step on a sidewalk, a thrill to look at shop windows decorated for Christmas, a thrill to have these few days to myself”

In 1942, underwent another operation (her third) in New York, and she was on the road to getting better. She was moved to Liberty, N. Y., to recuperate. In the meantime her son Mason had been living with his grandmother. Her husband was very optimistic. “I think Mozelle will be able to join me in Hollywood in a couple of months,” he told the papers, and returned to the film capital after more than  year of theater work.

A few short months later, there were reports that Mozelle had made a complete recovery after a two-year illness and that she would be back acting before the next season gets too far under way. However, right about that time, when Mason was celebrating his birthday with Mozelle’s mother, he fell and cut his hand. His grandmother rushed him to a hospital, and en route, the car hit a bad bump. . . . Shielding the child, Mrs. Britton suffered a fractured spine!

In the meantime, Mozelle was still recuperating despite the all too optimistic reports elsewhere. Here is another article:

Mozelle Britton, wife of Alan Dinehart, a letter in which she pays tribute to the late John Barrymore. Toward the end of her note, Miss Britton, who still is bedridden due’ to her injuries from an automobile accident, reveals that plans for reviving “Separate Rooms” for a summer tour have been abandoned because Dinehart will continue with picture work in Hollywood. As soon as the physicians give permission, she will join him at their ranch in Riverside, California, and return in the fall with a new pay for Broadway.

Ultimately, Mozelle returned to the Riverside Ranch, and decided to give up movies/any acting work to be a full-time wife and mother. The Dineharts lived a normal family life, with Alan commuting to Los Angeles for film work and spending the rest of the time in Riverside. Always an active woman with relentless energy, Mozelle soon started to grow chickens the rabbits and became quite good at it. Since he was over the age limit, Alan was not drafted into the Army during WW2, and their home life was stable. Here is a short, sweet snippet of their shared life:

A letter from Mozelle Britton tells how she and Alan Dinehart let their five-year-old son see his daddy for the first time on the screen. They picked “Girl Trouble,” because Alan had a light comedy role instead of playing the villain. “But the idea was a mistake,” writes Mozelle. “In the first place, Sonny couldn’t see why his father was running around loose with Joan Bennett. He kept wanting to know when mommy was going to show up. Besides this, if Alan left the screen for a few minutes, he was furious. It was a hectic night, and one that we won’t care to repeat for some time to come.”

Everything was going well until in mid 1944 Alan caught pneumonia while touring with a theater play. He returned home immediately, but there was little to be done – he died on July 18, 1944. Mozelle was crushed and emotionally totally drained. Another array of problems arose with the will – Alan’s will was written more than 10 years before his death, that is before the birth of his second son and marriage to Mozelle. After stressing it over with her stepson, Mozelle was appointed administrator of the estate. Their son, as a natural heir, received one-fourth of the $50,000 estate. Income from literary works of Dinehart were divided among his widow and two sons. Mrs. Dinehart will receive one-half and the elder son, Frederick, one-fourth and Mason the remaining fourth.

Mozelle was under such stress that had lost a great deal of weight, and went on dating right away. She was seen with executive Vic Oliver, Jr. everywhere just months after Alan’s death. I know this isn’t unusual by Hollywood standards, but it seemed to me that Mozelle was desperately trying to regain her mental health by dating, and as always, this isn’t quite the way to do it.

Her romantic overtures continued. In 1945, she dated Lyle Talbot, and even at some point was slated to waltz down the aisle with Juan Duval. Duval was the nephew of Maria (Tipi-tipi-tm”) Greiver, Spain’s outstanding songwriter. However, Mozelle ditched him just before the ceremony. Wonder what exactly happened?

For a brief time, Mozelle worked as a fight promoter, and then gave it up to become a Hollywood columnist. She wrote a popular gossip column and earned solid money by doing it. With her wit and insider knowledge of Tinsel town, she was a perfect person for the job, thus becaming a successful business woman in her own right, not really needing the money from Alan’s inheritance nor royalties from his work. Kudos to Mozelle!

After dating Bud Fayne in early 1947, Mozelle entered into a substantial relationship with Sergio de Karlo, the popular Cuban “King of Bolero”. A bandleader by trade, he had  dazzling smile and charm by ogles. He came to Hollywood to be tested for the role of Rudolph Valentino. Although he ultimately lost it to Anthony Dexter, he decided to stay and Mozelle became his unofficial manager.

Theirs was a tempestuous, crazy twosome. It seems that Mozelle, always a bit stung up and often too emotionally unbalanced, only slipped further into drama with this relationship. For instance, they had a big fight one night. She rushed away to Palm Springs and didn’t even answer his frantic phone calls until a few days later. While this could be unrelated, but in 1948, during the height of their relationship, Mozelle seriously gashed her arm when she accidentally put it through a window. She had nine stitches taken at the hospital and then, trooper that she was, went on to make a scheduled appearance at a television show. But, let’s be real, most of these accident are caused by something more than mere clumsiness, and maybe Sergio was involved?

In the end, Mozelle and Sergio got engaged. When they were practically at the altar, she called off their engagement. She said to the press their careers clash, but it’s a safe bet to assume she snapped “out of it” and saw the relationship for what is was – one juicy, delicious but overtly excessive mess. They obviously enjoyed the theatrics between them, but that hardly made for a stable liaison.

After such a volcanic experience, Mozelle met a low-key, normal guy, and married him! The guy in question was aeronautical engineer Thomas Gasser. Gasser was born on January 7, 1905, in Chicago, Illinois. He was married once before to Jean Gasser, but they were divorced in the mid 1940s.

The couple wed in 1949 and spent their honeymoon at El Conquistador hotel. It seems that Mozelle was finally happy. And she truly was, for a time. Her son was growing up with a new stepdad, she had her own successful job and a good marriage.

Time flew by, until 1953. Mason, who just turned 17, fell in love with a pretty model named Evelyn. Mozelle, perhaps a bit of an overbearing and overachieving mother, pushed Mason to become a “top student” – he was an ROTC adjutant, a prize-winning debater and a member of the football and track teams. With an Ivy league university in sight for her son’s future, of course Mozelle was against Mason’s union with Evelyn and frowned upon it as a distraction. Mason, madly in love, a teenager to boot and perhaps a bit fed up with his demanding mother, persuaded Evelyn that they should elope. The two youngsters went to Porterville, California, to find a minister, without telling their parents.

Mozelle had a nervous breakdown. After a furious search mission, which started in California and extended to North Carolina, Arizona, Nevada and Mexico, the sweethearts were found the and returned home. Alas, their attempts to get married failed. They tried several places to get a marriage license, but were unsuccessful because of their ages.

In the meantime, doctors were worried about Mozelle’s condition – she has been on the verge of a nervous collapse and started acting irrationally. In addition to the drama of the apparent elopement, Mozelle separated from her building contractor husband, Thomas. There was no divorce in mind but she asked for separate maintenance. My theory is that Thomas took the boy’s side in the argument, and didn’t back down. Mozelle, unable or unwilling to concede that both she and Mason went over the line, decided to end the marriage then and there. Perhaps there is a deeper and more complex story behind all of this, but one thing was clear: Mozelle never managed to recuperate fully from the car accident, and became so fragile that common stressors one has to deal with when raising a precocious teenager pushed her over the limit. Instead of seeking help, she was only sliding further and further downwards.

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser died on May 18, 1961. She was only 43 years old. Her cause of death was not noted, so we can only assume it was connected to her frail health after the accident.

Unfortunately, the real drama had just started after her death. On the reading of her will, some unusual things had been revealed:

Mozelle Britton Dinehart Gasser, Hollywood columnist and former actress,” left virtually, her entire $60,000 estate to her mother, Mrs. Ida Belle Britton, was admitted to probate yesterday by Superior Judge Victor R. Hansen. The document, written only eight days before Mrs. Gasser, 41, died last May 18, left her son; Mason Dinehart, 17, and her estranged second husband, Thomas W. Gasser, 48, building contractor, $1 each. But in the case of her son, Mrs. Gasser wrote that she acted “knowing that, my mother will take care of his needs.”

What a sad end to this story! Its obvious now why I consider Mozelle to have been too strung up for her own good – even when she was dying, she didn’t let go. She undoubtedly loved her son dearly, but couldn’t accept him making his own choices at such a crucial moment in his life. Luckily, Mason grew up to become first an actor and later a successful businessman, so today we can say Mozelle did an impressive job of raising him. Kudos!

Check the great Bizarre Los Angeles site for more info on Mozelle!

Gloria Youngblood

Gloria Youngblood had one of the most interesting lives I have encountered while profiling classic Hollywood actresses. While she wasn’t an actress of any note, she was an active woman who made her own path and never looked back! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Minnie Gloria Youngblood was born on May 12, 1916, in Madison, Illinois, to Adolph Herman Youngblood and Laura Pillsbury. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1914. She was of Native American (Cherokee) descent on her father’s side. Her father worked as a maintenance man for a western cartridge company.

When the United States went to war Adolph husband decided that it was his duty to go into the navy. He sought a release from the Exemption Board, saying his wife was willing for him to go and leave her with their two children. He was told his wife would have to come to the board and make her acquiescence known, and she did. She expressed herself as being perfectly willing to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children. She said she could work, and that she believed, with what he would send her, she would be able to “get by”. Finally the husband and father got the desired release. He joined the Navy and has been in service on a torpedo boat.

On November 12, 1918, Laura died at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Pillsbury from influenza. The family tried to get into touch with the husband to inform him that the two little children he left at home are motherless. Adolph returned soon, and married Rose Youngblood, a widower with had two children from her late husband’s previous marriage (whoa, what a family!). They lived with Rose’s parents in Alton. Gloria and Margaret lived with their grandparents, but obviously maintained a tight relationship with their father.

Gloria grew up in Alton, in her grandparents home. She attended Alton High School, and after graduation in 1935, went to New York to become a model. And this is how she got in touch with Tinsel town, and how her career started.

CAREER:

Gloria appeared in only three movies, all made in 1938. The first one was The Goldwyn Follies, The plot is as silly as the movie in general: Movie producer chooses a simple girl to be “Miss Humanity” and to critically evaluate his movies from the point of view of the ordinary person. What? Yes, I was as shocked as you were. These kinds of movie,s where the story is completely irrelevant and where singing and dancing is everything, are rarely good – while everybody can enjoy a good dancing number, movies as a format were not ideally suited for this – I can watch a dancing video if I wanted this. I expect more style, substance and art from movies, not nonsensical dancing. Well, this movie doesn’t have it. While there are truly spectacular dance sequences, overall it just doesn’t hold a candle to truly great musicals.

A much better movie was The Adventures of Marco Polo, and that’s saying something! This movie, known today as the movie where Lana Turner had to shave her eyebrows that never grew back later, is corny, wean and uneven. While the sumptuous set and costume design is breathtaking, everything is too stagy and absurd to be believable at any degree. Even Gary Cooper couldn’t save this dud!

Gloria’s last movie was Trade Winds, a fun traveling romp with Frederic March and Joan Bennett. The plot is bare bones: March is a former SFPD detective, hired to find and bring back Joan Bennett, who’s suspected of murdering Sidney Blackmer. The movie mixes genres from whodunnit, to travelogue, to screwball comedy, to romance, to courtroom drama and does it with its own unique flair. March and Bennett are great, very slinky and sexy, with a great cat and mouse game going on, quite a feat for the Production code ridden late 1930s. Kudos to supporting actor Ann Sothern and Ralph Bellamy who are impeccable in their stereotyped but very effective roles.

That was it from Gloria!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to New York, Gloria was homesick, and treated her malady by buying local Alton newspapers  – she would stroll from her Hotel Edison at Forty-seventh and Broadway to the out-of-town newsstand in back of the Times Building at Broadway and Forty-second street every night to get the newspapers from her home town. Back before the inter,et this is the closest you could get abreast all the new events happening in Illinois, so nifty!

In 1937, Gloria hit the papers by begin her sister’s witness in her divorce from Chris Larkin. By September 1937, we see her as the girlfriend of A.C. Blumenthal, the fabulously wealthy financier. Blumenthal was shorter than Gloria, so they made a cute couple 🙂 They also had a daily routine: They swim every morning at eight, which everybody saw as a pretty strong test of devotion. But, int he long run, it didn’t work.

Why? Well, because Gloria met a new Romeo – Rudy Vallee, the famous bandleader and Lothario. Vallee dated such a large number of girls that the press often lost count – they met in New York, introduced by noted puppeteer Edgar Bergen. He escorted her around town for a few weeks, and then went back to Los Angeles, where he lived. When Gloria was the writing on the wall, and that Rudy was escorting other girls, she packed her bags and simply moved to LA to try her hand at acting. No prior experience needed! They resumes dating in Los Angeles, and all was fine and dandy.

This all happened in a span of literary weeks. And in October 1937, Gloria hit the papers hit. How? Well, the well oiled studio publicity machine saw an opportunity and literary snatched her – Gloria was hopeful that Rudy would marry her, the studio was hopefully that Rudy would stop Casanoving women around, and viola, it was a perfect match! One small detail/problem. Rudy wasn’t in on it. While he certainly liked Gloria, he had no intention whatsoever of getting married again. His last marriage, to Fay Webb, was very tempestuous, and their divorce was highly dramatic. Fay died after their divorce was made final, in November 1936, and this truly crushed Rudy. He played the field almost carelessly, and it was clear to most who knew him that Rudy wouldn’t marry for at least a few more years. The studio turned a blind eye to all of that, and, conspiring with Gloria, first invited her father to California to meet Rudy. After that went swimmingly, the studio took this as a cue to act, and organized a press release.  Feigning that she was shocked by the press being there, Gloria said: “I didn’t intend to say anything at this time, but Mr. Vallee and I are deeply interested In each other and we hope to be married by the end of the year.” Gloria was expecting an engagement ring, but she didn’t’ quite get it.

Rudy was staggering mad, but he knew how the studio operated and decided to take it in his stride. He called the press, and gently and emphatically but firmly denied reports that he is engaged to Gloria. “I have not been engaged to her, am not engaged to her and do not anticipate an engagement with her.” I wish I knew what was going on in the backstage of this minor drama! In the end everything just blew up, with the press speculating about this and that. But no matter what they wrote, Rudy wouldn’t budge. After a tiffy period they made up, but again, no ring.

Gloria and Rudy continued dating afterwards, and dated well into 1938. They were seen everywhere together – at the local hotpots, at horse races, at tennis games. Here is a very short and sweet blurb about their courtship:

Rudy Vallee so absorbed in Gloria Youngblood at the Perry-Vines tennis match that he lost a treasured scarf and had the ushers looking madly for it.

And so it went, but Rudy’s philandering ways remained unchanged, and he dated other girls on the side – socialite Judy Stewart, June Knight, Wendy Barrie, and the list goes on! Gloria was not happy about it, but could do little. So it went back and forth until May 1938, when, after quite a bit of tiffs, Rudy went for New York again. Gloria stayed for a bit in Los Angeles, dated Alexander Korda, the famous British producer, and then went to New York herself, allegedly not because she wanted to follow Rudy but to become a legitimate actress. I don’t think anybody believed her, but hey, anything goes in love and war.

In New York, Gloria was serious about George Johnston, a lawyer working for Walter Wanger, for a few months in the mid 1938. Later she was seen with ice skater Jack Dunn, and Roy Randolph. She started 1939 by dating bandleader Bobby Parks. That year proved to be a monumental year for Gloria in general. In March 1939, Gloria and four other girls went to London with noted showman George Hale to try their luck at dance halls. Here is a bit about the show.

Georgie Hale is readying another cargo of feminine charm for English consumption. Georgie must have been a lucky baby for look what he’s doing now. Must be tough work to stand out there and tell such dolls as Cynthia Cavanaugh, the “Duchess’ (she’s already counting on a stray British title); Gloria Youngblood, Rudy Vallee’s girl friend; Arlene Stone and Myra Stephens what to do. Georgie is a keen faced little guy, temperamental, yet patient with his charges. Watching him put the girls, through their paces, he seems absolutely unconcerned about their actions.

Gloria’s first beau in the UK was Guy Middleton, a fellow thespian. She received girls from fans – for instance, a fancy white cap described as gift from Prince Fefeal of Saudi Arabia. And this is how Gloria met her first husband, Eddie Meade. Now, who is Eddie Meade?

Meade was fight promoter and manager. He became famous for being the manager of heavy weight Henry Armstrong. Eddie was a promoter in Los Angeles long before Armstrong even came to town. Born in, he was a Jolly, fat man with charm aplenty and a gregarious spender. he earned big bucks, but spent them just as quickly. Meade was only mid teir successful before he encountered Armstrong. During one of the weekly Hollywood Legion fights, in front of a star-studded crowd, Armstrong distinguished himself, scoring a sensational knockout. Two of the stars, Ruby Keeler and Al Jolson, took a liking to the human hurricane and underwrote the purchase of his contract for their friend, Eddie Meade.

Henry and Eddie were in the UK at the same time as Gloria. Henry fought Ernie Roderick and won without difficulty (both Gloria and Cynthia were there in the audience, watching). Eddie collected enough pounds sterling to paper the inside of a battleship and set out with Brig. Gen. Critchley. and Sid Hulls, his matchmaker, to fee the town. Their first stop was a night club in Leicester Square. It was the working of destiny. Featured at the club was an act called “The Eight American Glamour Girls,” Most glamorous of the eight was of Gloria. Eddie came, saw her and lost his heart to Gloria. When she Returned to New York They Were Married. But wait, what about the return! Well, there is a whole story about this!!!

Gloria Youngblood Jailed By French as German Spy; Home After Harrowing Trip Liner “w’as Escorted from France by Convoy of Destroyers How she escaped a firing squad or possible imprisonment for the duration of a drawn-out war was related to a Telegraph reporter Thursday night by Gloria Young- Wood, screen and stage actress, who arrived in Alton from France after a narrow escape from French soldiers and a hectic crossing of the Atlantic on the liner “Manhattan.” Miss Youngblood, who happened to be in Switzerland at the,outbreak of hostilities in Europe, started for Bordeaux France, with 10 other actresses and their manager. The trip, which ordinarily requires nine hours, took three days under war conditions. Once In France, however, Miss Youngblood’s troubles were only starting; for in war-torn Europe even an American, whose publicity claims for her an appreciable portion of American Indian blood, is not above suspicion. No sooner did she and her friends arrive In Bordeaux than she was taken Into custody as a “government prisoner.” Grounds for Suspicion She was lodged In a common jail and all her baggage was subjected to an Intensive search. Even the lining of her travelling bags and coats were tipped away in an effort to connect her with the Nazi regime In Germany. Miss Youngblood admits, however, that the French had some grounds for suspicion; for When she left Switzerland she had In her possession a knife, which had a Swastika sign on the blade. In a continent ripped wide open with hatred and a necessity for self- preservation, the most remote precaution is necessary. Someone in Switzerland had Informed the French of her possession of the knife, a gift from a friend, so she had no more than arrived at Bordeaux than she Was taken into custody. Long before she arrived at Bordeaux she had thrown the knife away, but It was too late to avoid the French version of the “third degree.” She was arrested and held In jail until her manager arranged for her release. She then was compelled to disguise herself by using no make-up and tying a bandanna around her head, In order: to get away on the liner “Manhattan,” which sailed early one morning under the cover of darkness, Destroyer Convoy The liner left Europe under a French and English convoy of destroyers,. There were three French and three English. which convoyed the liner for a day. After the liner was considered to be out of danger of violence ‘the warships left But that was only the beginning, She said. From then on Into the coast of America a storm of the highest ‘caliber hove the ship to and fro for six days. Even the hardiest seamen were sea-sick. The ship was Intended to carry 1200 passengers, but actually carried 800 more than that, and under crowded conditions there was nothing for one to do but hold one’s head and ‘like It, Miss Youngblood related. She still sighs when she thinks of the escape from the French military, who seemed to suspect her even after she had more or less established her innocence, which was done largely through a,manager, who pulled wires right and left to effect her release. Once, .she’ said, she was taken from her call and told that she could walk about the jail, If she desired to do so. She said she was allowed certain liberties because she was a “government” prisoner and not,regarded as an ordinary transgressor. This meant that she had a menu from which to order food, Nevertheless, the French seemed to want to either shoot her or hold her until hostilities were over. She Wears a Diamond Once in New York, where she landed on Sept 30, she was met by Eddie Meade. none other than the manager of Welterweight Champion Henry Armstrong. Eddie’s diamond ring adorns the Youngblood finger. Eddie telephones her frequently wherever she may be, from whatever point on earth he may be at the time. A short time before she talked with a representative of the Telegraph, she said, Eddie had phoned her from Minneapolis, where Arm- Strong Is scheduled to fight in a few days. She once was reported engaged to Rudy Vallee. An exclusive side-light to her arrival in America was given to the Telegraph by Miss Youngblood. Prince Yauka Troubetzkoy of the old Russian aristocracy will follow her here. In New York reporters asked her about a rumor that a Russian prince had been somewhat •mitten. She said she refused to give them the Information, but divulged to the Telegraph that Prince Yauka had seen her frequently in Europe and had told her that he would arrive In America as soon as he could obtain passage. Even Wlnchell wanted confirmation of this report, she said. Miss Youngblood told of an incident of the war encountered near a small French town, which was being evacuated, Many .persons were fleeing, one of whom was an ill woman, borne on a stretcher. The woman obviously was soon to become a mother, she-said. The American actress begged the woman to remain where she was, but the woman said it would be at least a month yet and added that she must go on, because she was expecting mail in – the next town- from her officer-husband. Even when Miss Youngblood offered to sacrifice her passage home* to stay with her, the woman—little more than a girl- refused, saying that she must go on. . • ‘ *; • > Miss Youngblood will leave Alton Saturday by. airplane for Hollywood, where t site hail been offered a movie contract by M.G.M. She told a Telegraph reporter that she means to accept the terms of the contract but if they do not meet her approval, she will go back to New York to take part in a show now being rehearsed by Olson and Johnson, stars and producers of “Hell-Za-Poppin’.” She has tried out for the part In the Olson and Johnson opus.

Huh, also, Eddie was married. Desperately in love with Gloria, Mr. Bountiful reluctantly came home a few weeks later and laid his cards on the table for Kitty. The outcome was that she went to Reno for a divorce, unselfishly sacrificing herself for Eddie’s happiness or the reasonable facsimile thereof that he mistook for it. Gloria returned from her triumphant London stay shortly thereafter, hurried by the war clouds which were growing blacker every day in that ominous Summer of 1939. The way thus cleared for him, Eddie planned to marry Gloria.

After Gloria returned to New York, Rudy came like a hurricane, ardently courting her and buying her flowers and whatnot – but Gloria was firm – after so many disappointments, she knew that Rudy was hardly poised to change, and decided to go through with her planned marriage to Meade. The two married in Mexico on October 2, 1939. Gloria was 27, Meade was 20 plus years older.

After they married, Gloria tried to straighten Eddie out. He was a play hard, work hard type who ate and drank way to much for his own good. The couple made their permanent home at the swanky address in East Seventy-seventh street, at Park avenue.

Then, literary a year after their Mexico wedding, Eddie had a heart attack, and had to retiree to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a cure. Gloria first went to visit her parents in Alton, and stated she was to Join Mead In Hot Springs for the Christmas holidays. Her career In motion picture has been shelved temporarily so she can devote more to John, and was, taking time preparing for a radio debut, after Eddie got better. in other words, a beautiful, young woman just on the cusp of the good life had to give it all up as to be a nursemaid to a man who bought on that to himself by years of excessive living. While there are cases of women who were unselfishly devoted to their husbands and nurse them through thick and thin, it seems that Gloria was not quite that woman.  And Eddie, being himself, didn’t help the suit.

Their marriage started to disintegrate pretty soon, but both Eddie and Gloria were vehemently trying to cover it, even telling whoever will listen about the very first time they met and how perilously close they came to not being introduced at all. But, such mambo jumbo talk did little to help the final situation, and they were separated by October 1941, and talking about divorce by November. In the end, they remained married but living separately. Eddie shackled in Palm Springs to help his health, but he was out of cash and on the brink of bankruptcy, even unable to pay Gloria any alimony. After not seeing each other for two months, they were reunited, by, of all things, a robbery. As Eddie was a gin-rummy expert as well as a world champion at backgammon, and Gloria was good at gin rummy too, they were both up In Palm Beach on the night of the burglary since there was a gin rummy tournament happening. They tried for a reconciliation, but it didn’t yell, and separated yet again.

In April 1942, Gloria went to Florida, and was intent on getting her Miami divorce, but admitted to everybody that she was carrying the torch for Eddie. There was talk of more reconciliation, and things were constantly going back and forth, with no resolution in sight. Then the worst possible resolution happened, the most permanent one.

In May 1942, Eddie died from a heart ailment in front of his hotel. His passing was mourned along Jacobs’ Bach, hangout of Gotham’s boxing fraternity, and in boxing centers all over the country because of his honesty and reputation for being a “square shooter.” Mead managed Henry Armstrong and Joe Lunch to world’s titles and made and spent a fortune. He had been inactive in boxing since Armstrong failed to recapture the welterweight crown from Fritz Zivic. However, Armstrong was effectively left destitute by Eddie’ death – Eddie died completely broke, so there was not any money to inherit for Gloria (but as far as I can tell, she wasn’t in it for the money, at least not solely). Despite the fact that they were separated, Gloria was inconsolable. At the funeral, Gloria, in mourning clothes, wept hysterically. She ordered a shower of red roses, tied with a ribbon labelled “All of My Love.”

However, it didn’t take Gloria long to remarry In fact, I find it quite weird (and trying not to use a more direct word) how she remarried only months after Eddie’s death. Granted, they were separated at the time, but still! Anyway, her new husband was named Francis Buckeley Fields, and was an heir to insurance millions. They wed in August 1942, while we was on a furlough from the Army Air Corps, in Union City, N. J. Eddie had been dead for barely three months, but let us not forget that it was war-time and a great big number of hasty marriages happened because of these extreme circumstances.

Freddie and Gloria spent most of their early marriage apart, due to the war. They were finally reunited in 1944, and after he was shipped to Europe again, he was wounded by a’ bomb in London, and ended up in a British hospital. In the meantime, Gloria found out she was pregnant – she was due in September 1944 and awaited the happy occasion with much joy. Unfortunately, she miscarriaged. Freddie returned to the US in late 1944, but their marriage, shaky to begin with, only sank further and further apart. They separated not long after his return, but were still not intent on divorcing, hoping to see how it went, will they separate for good or merge again.

And it didn’t’ go well for Freddie. Gloria was courted right of the bat by liquor magnate Sam Sokol, but that was only a temporary arrangement. A more permanent beau was on the horizon – Luthero Vargas, son of Brazilian president Vargas. They dated for more than a year, from Late 1944 until late 1945 (some overlapping with Fields, perhaps?). Luthero was often seen around New York hotspots with Gloria, especially after he was discharged from the Royal Air Force in September 1945. I was sure, reading the papers, that Gloria and he would get hitched and move to Brazil. Sadly, it didn’t’ happen, and they busted sometime in 1946. Why? No idea, but Gloria was not yet divorces nor was there any talk of marriage in the papers, which is a bit funny if you ask me, they wed people who went on a few dates, and never mentioned it for Gloria and Luthero who dated for more than a year. Anyway, that was that.

In 1946, Gloria finally divorced Frederic Fields, and started dating Al Capp, famous cartoonist, whom eh dated until 1947. Long retired from Hollywood by now, she dropped of the newspaper radar, but emerged again when she operated a hat shop, and then became an employee of New York public relations firm (Henry Levine agency). Later she worked for a Binghamton Insurance firm, , and did a magnificent job of selling policies to the over-the-hill set. In 1949, she dated Jack Frye, but he was also involved with Nevada Smith, whom he ultimately married.

Later that same year Gloria became engaged to marry wealthy Toronto barrister Joel Okell, whom she met at her pyramid party. The engagement was dropped a few months later due to unknown reasons.

In 1950, Gloria married her third husband, John Prescott Cann. Cann was born on June 4, 1919, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to Wentworth Prescott Cann and Glada Cann. His father died young and his mother remarried to a Mr. Brand. John graduated from Chambersburg high school, and went into aviation after serving in the army in WW2. Cann worked as a navigator for TWA Airlines, and lived in Egypt for three years. Later in his career he did the Los Angeles – Hawaii route, and did 39 trips to Vietnam, earning a citation from President Nixon. Cann was married once before and had a daughter, Cindy. After the marriage, Gloria moved from N.Y. to Westlake Village, California. Gloria was an active horse rider and rode often in her later years in California.

The Canns enjoyed a wonderful marriage, and often traveled together all around the world (especially since Cann had discount on all TWA flights 🙂 ). Cann’s daughter Cindy was close to her stepmom, and spoke highly of her in later life.

John Cann died on September 11, 1971, in Los Angeles. Gloria remained in Westlake Village, and enjoyed a happy retirement.

Gloria Youngblood Cann died on October 25, 2003, in Los Angeles, California.

Marla Shelton

Marla Shelton was a multi-talented, unusual woman who started as a beauty pageant winner, had a so-so acting career (but managed to grew out of the starlet phase and even playing meaty roles in decent movies), and later became a songwriter! A interesting road to take indeed! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alberta Pearl Maria McKellop was born on October 12, 1912, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to Arthur McKellop and Pearl Shelton. Her godfather was future secretary of war, Patrick J. Hurley. 

Marla was later lauded as one of the first Native American feminine personalities in Hollywood history. Why? Well, because she was granddaughter of Albert Pike McKellop, famous leader of the Cherokee nation, who at one time was the wealthiest man in Oklahoma. Marla’s Indian name was Waletka, meaning Rippling Water.

Marla grew up at her grandparents home in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended school there. She became a professional radio operator at the age of 12, the youngest person to receive the license. In 1926, during the Great Miami Hurricane, she and her father tirelessly sent wireless distress signals from Houston. Yet, Marla didn’t see her life going down the wireless route, and wanted to act, sing and dance. Since she was a ravishing beauty with long black hair, she decided to go down the beauty pageant route.

In 1927 Marla, pretending to be a bit older, won the Miss Houston title. In 1929 she entered the Miss Universe contest as Miss Tulsa, under the fake name of Theda Delrey, but was found out and had to quit. In 1930 she competed as Miss California in the “America’s Sweetheart” contest, early forerunner of Miss America, in Miami, Florida and placed second in the competition, but she was disqualified two months later. She continued doing the beauty pageant circuit, hoping for a big break into movies.

In 1931, in a San Diego hotel, after speaking to a group of school children in connection with the opening of ’”Trader Horn”, director Woody Van Dyke received a call from Marla. She wasn’t a child anyone, but at 19 was still young enough to pass for a newcomer (which she was not, after all the pageants and the murky business with them). She wanted to know if there was any chance for her in Hollywood if she trained herself. The director, who has many such visits on his trips, gave her some good advice, he told her to read all the books and plays she could lay her hands on, and to seek out amateur theatricals. With the passing of years, she did just that.

Two years later, Marla came to Hollywood, got married and retired for a bit, but went back to movies after her divorce. She went to Van Dyke, introduced herself as Marla Shelton, entered his office. Woody was dully impressed. She had not only gotten a chance in pictures, and was even later awarded a second lead in “Personal Property,“c o-starring Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor with Van Dyke directing. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Van Dyke, I would have been, completely discouraged about one day being in pictures, and more than that, I wouldn’t have known how to start to become an actress without the advice he gave me,” she declared later to the papers.

And so we begin…

CAREER

Marla’s career was divided into three stages, depending on her marriage. She came to Hollywood in 1933, and made only one movie, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, today a minor classic, Flying Down to Rio. Then she got married, and left movies for a time.

After her first divorce, Marla hit the movies again, and this period proved to be her most fruitful. She was in Nobody’s Fool, a solid Eward Everret Horton comedy, then in the low budget western, The Phantom Rider. where she played the leading female role. She played an unnamed stewardess in Postal Inspector, a low budget, low quality Ricardo Cortez mystery where he plays the eponymous inspector. Nothing much doing for her career, but it was work. Same goes for The Girl on the Front Page, where Marla played a secretary – only this movie is about a hair brained socialite, played by Gloria Stuart, who wants to work in the newspaper business (owned by her family). The editor gets an instant headache, if you know what I mean.  Marla was again uncredited in Magnificent Brute, a steamy love triangle movie with Victor McLagen plays the brute.

After some minor, blink and you’ll miss them parts, Marla started to get better and bigger things. She was credited in Flying Hostess, a completely forgotten movie about stewardesses. A better bet was Under Cover of Night, a low budget MGM thriller with Henry Daniell playing  murderous professor who wants to get done with his wife. While the movie is anything but thrilling, the cast is good and this being MGM, the sets and direction was unusually good for such a C class movie.  Similar was Dangerous Number, another MGM B classer, with Robert Young and Ann Southern playing a couple who can’t be together nor can they be apart. It’s a fun, breezy movie, nothing to shout about but well done.

Marla was again uncredited in When’s Your Birthday?, a semi-funny Joe E. Brown comedy. The plot is vintage Joe – he plays a goofball astrologer who has much more luck than brains and manages to foresee stuff like games and races outcome and such. And the fun begins! Marian Marsh is his leading lady.  These comedies are certainly not for everybody, but if you like Joe E. Brown, then watch away, there is nothing not to like about the movie.

Marla had a much meatier role in Personal Property, this time a A class MGM feature with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor.  The movie was made the year Harlow died, so it’s one of her last ones –  but he looks good nonetheless. The plot is as it follows: Taylor returns to his family after being in the brig, and gets job watching the house and furniture of widowed Jean,  without knowing she is engaged to his brother. The high lite of the movie is the banter between Jean and Bob – and they do have good enough chemistry to make it work. Marla plays a flirt who wants to steal Bob from Jean. Unfortunately, Marla’s next movie was Song of the City, a formulaic, bland drama about a young stock broker who accidentally falls into the sea and gets saves by a fisherman. He meets the fisherman’s family, fall sin love with his daughter, blah blah.. You get the picture.

Marla was uncredited in the absolute classic A Star Is Born, and then went on to make There Goes My Girl, a mid tier screwball comedy about feuding reporters, played by Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern.

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 is all style, no substance movie. Yep, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool worth fashions, and that’s about it. Marla plays one of the models. Marla’s most famous movie today is Stand-In, becouse she was a prominent role in it. It’s a hilarious, witty comedy about the inner workings of a Hollywood studio, with an outstanding cast – Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Marla made one more movie, 52nd Street before taking a short hiatus.

She returned ot the screen in 1939, to appear in Coast Guard, a typical love triangle movie with Randolph Scott, Frances Dee and Ralph Bellamy, the Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey charming and fluid Balalaika, and Escape to Paradise, a Bobby Breen musical. Bobby was the singing Shirley Temple, and barely 12 when he made the movie. Imagine being 10 years older than him and playing his leading lady – well, that’s how Marla was set up here. Breen’s musicals, are to saccharine, too unrealistic and frankly too boring,t but there is a certain ethereal charm to them. Marla finished this period of her career with her only 1940 movie, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady. It’s the typical Lone Wolf – always the same plot, but with plenty of sass, and Warren William is superb as the former thief-turned-detective-and-lady-killer. Special plus is Jean Muir, a wonderful actress that never got what she deserved in Hollywood.

After yet another divorce, Marla returned to movie sin 1942, with the low budget western Bells of Capistrano. Since WW2 had begun, Nazi had become favorite movie villains, and Marla fought against them in Secrets of the Underground, a so-so thriller with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey. Marla’s last movie in this all too brief working period was When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a Universal musical with Allan Jones playing a soldier on a furlong who wants to remain anonymous in a small town, but as you know, that fails miserably, in a funny way of course

Marla returned to movies in 1945 in the interesting Saratoga Trunk, one of Ingrid Bergman’s best performances (IMHO). And let’s not forget Gary Cooper! There is a cute story on how she got the coveted role: we have to thank her 20- month-old daughter, Maria Jr. Marla was one of several actresses tested and won the nod from Director Sam Wood. “I’d never met Mr. Wood,” says the actress, “but little Marla did her best to vamp him one day. We were having luncheon in a restaurant near a Hollywood studio when he came in with Gary Cooper. The baby spent the rest of the lunch hour throwing kisses and cooing at them.”

Marla’s last movie appearance was in Do You Love Me, a love triangle musical with a yummy cast –  Maureen O’Hara plays a female musical college dean, she falls in love with a singer man , played by Dick Haymes, and another musician falls for her (Harry James). Maureen undergoes a transformation, and everybody ends up happy!

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marla was a good-looking dark-haired woman with a slight exotic slant. She kept her curvy figure trim by doing her favorite sport, cycling.

Marla came to Hollywood in 1933, and almost immediately hooked herself a big fish – Richard K. Polimer, a successful theatrical agent. They married on June 13, 1934. Polimer was born on April 28, 1904, in Massachusetts, son of Austrian immigrants. He moved to New York City when he was a child, attend high school there, and then moved to Hollywood during the 1920s and became a literary and theatrical agent. His clients were Ann Sheridan, Dean Jagger, Noah Beery, Sr., Theodore Dreiser and Rupert Hughes. In the 1930s Polimer was a famous rancor and was very socially prominent – his Malibu house was often the scene of many fancy parties. He hosted people like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. Obviously, Marla did quite well for herself.

After the wedding, Marla retired from the movies, at least for the time being. Sadly, the marriage did not last long – they separated in June 1935, and by 1936, they were divorced. Marla testified in court that Polimer away from home all night. She said she didn’t mind waiting dinner for him, but thought it was a bit too much when he failed to come home at all after phoning he’d “be a little late.”She also complained that when he was at home he addressed her in harsh language and often was rude to her. She won the divorce.

Following World War II, Polimer closed his agency and began working in film distribution and production. He remarried to Ruth May Rosnie in 1946, and had two daughters with her. Polimer died at the ripe of age of 95 on June 19, 1999.

After the divorce, it was time for the new Marla to shine, and to begin the for phase two of her career. This was a typical article from the period:

She’s Now Exotic Type; Formerly Outdoor Girl ‘By Associated Press I Hollywood, Dec. 26 Seen through different eyes, the same girl in Hollywood can be two different people. Maria Shelton. at one studio where she was under contract for six months, was seen as an ideal outdoor girl the sort who would be just right to support Buck Jones in the western star’s serial. She did a few bits besides, but when option time came the free lance avenue seemed best for her. At another studio Bill Grady, casting director, took a look and saw something else again. Makeup, long eyelashes, an exotic hair-dress and a slightly foreign accent and Maria Shelton, in a slithering evening gown, stepped forth as the first possible successor to once-renowned Theda Bara and her “vampire” roles. She is playing her first such part in “Under Cover of Night”, a mystery thriller. Her real name Is Alberta McKillop. Her age is 22. she as tiny freckles across her nose, and she was born in that exotic town Muskogee, Okla., She Is three-eighth Cherokee Indian, and her grandmother’s name was Rogers. She thinks she is probably some distant relative of the late Will Rogers, but is not sure. Of more immediate concern to her is the fact that the artificial hair the make-up people used for her coiffure cost $175. And to think my own, which I bobbed, was practically Knee-length!” she laments. “And I threw It away!”

For six months she was given a ballyhoo buildup by MGM. Everyone heard about her beauty and acting ability and her certainty of stardom. But option time came and executive failed to renew her contract. Unhappy with that course of events, she signed a five-year agreement with independent producer Walter Wanger. An hour later—and too late—up dashed a breathless Metro messenger, but she had to turn him down.

Marla appeared quite a bit in the papers during this time. Here is a bit about old Hollywood tricks:

In “Stand-In,” you will see Marla Shelton climbing a snow covered slope. Then the camera will pan backward to reveal an illusion. You will see that Miss Shelton is walking on a treadmill. She’s getting nowhere at all, but cotton snow on another endless belt is passing her in the opposite direction. Also passing her is a procession of pine trees on wheels. Overhead is a revolving perforated cylinder from which falls snow in the form of uncooked corn-flakes. Yes, it’s funny. But again it isn’t Hollywood. Movie magicians do those things much better these days. They do ’em so well that even visitors on a set are captured by illusion.

And another funny bit:

Maria Shelton donned a pair of slacks for protection against drafts the other cool morning when she had to go on outdoor location In an 1885 period gown. As the day warmed, Maria stepped behind what seemed a solid wall of shrubbery to remove the ‘ slacks and just at the crucial moment a couple’ of prop men removed the shrubbery.

In her private life, Marla married make up artist Jack Dawn on May 28, 1937, in Los Angeles. John Wesley Dawn was born on February 10, 1892, making him 20 years older than Marla in Fleming; Kentucky, to Henry Walker and Pearl Smoot. As teenager he became a sculptor and later worked as a painter in New York City. He started working at Mack Sennett’s as a make-up man. After doing his bit in WW 1, he moved to Hollywood, working for 20th Century, and moving to MGM in 1935. In 1939 he was promoted to head the studio make-up department. Dawn was married once before to Anna Catherine Cousins in 1926, and divorced her in 1926. They had one child, a son, Robert Dawn, born on October 22, 1921.

The Dawns settled into a family life, with Marla giving up her career. Their son, John Wesley, born on December 18, 1938,.After John was born her weight zoomed to an alarming 180 pounds. While reducing, she began taking dancing lessons and started to act again. She did a few movies before her daughter, Marla Jo, was born on August 1, 1941. Despite an oral agreement that Marla could keep her job, it was expected that she still give up her career for good now.

But, you can’t keep a good woman down, and Marla was ready for more acting jobs. This created a huge rift in her marriage. She tried to leave him several times before, but her church group, the Oxford Movement, dissuaded her from it. Then, Jack went past all limits and it was over. What started as a nice marriage ended up in a very nasty divorce. Here is a newspaper article:

“It was understood when we were married,” she testified, “that I could play in pictures if I so desired. But last July when I told him that I wanted to work in a picture he said that if I did he would burn the house down and would scar me so that my own children wouldn’t recognize me.” ‘ ‘ ,.. Miss Shelton then added, under the questioning of her attorney,- Roland G. Swaffield, that she became so frightened that she took refuge in the room occupied by the children’s nurse, Rita Haggarty.who corroborated the story in court. “Mr. Dawn came to the door and called Mrs. Dawn a coward for hiding in my room,” the nurse informed the Judge. i Property Settlement Dawn had filed an answer denying the charges hut did not appear for the trial, though he was represented by Attorney Martin Gang. The court approved a property settlement agreement under which community property valued at $50,000, including the home, 15426 Valley Vista Blvd., is to be divided. In addition the agreement provides Miss Shelton with $75 a week alimony for three years. She retains the custody of her daughter, Maria Jo, IS months, while Dawn will have the care of their son John Jr., 4. Three months each year, however, the children will be exchanged, it is also specified in the document, which gives Miss Shelton $25 a week for support cf the children. The couple were married in Salt Lake City on May 28, 1937, and the separation occurred last Aug. 8.

In the end, The court awarded each the custody of one of their two children and approved a property settlement. This is a strange set up, but what can I say, whatever works. Dawn had a long and prestigious career as a make up man. he aided disfigured soldiers of World War ll. He worked closely with San Diego Naval Hospital in 1943, creating inlays for hands and faces so that patients could appear normal between multiple plastic surgery operations. He retired in 1956 and remarried at some point to Coleen Dawn. He died on June 20, 1961 in Glendale, California.
Marla started to date like mad after the divorce almost trying to make up for lost time. She was often seen with actor John Waburton dancing cheek-to-cheek. A bit later she was seen with Phil Baker, known as a derby twosome. Then came Harvey Priester and after him actor Barton Yarborough. During this time she was singing at the Clover Club, and all of her boyfriends came to watch her there. Marla was also a popular house guest: After dinner the guests would gather in the living room and Maria would entertain with some amusing little bits of verse set to music. This way she discovered her unique ability with making up song lyrics that will make a big impact on her life later.

In 1945, Marla became Mrs. Louis Alter in a small ceremony in Beverly Hills. Louis Alter was born on June 18, 1902 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He played piano as accompaniment for vaudeville stars Nora Bayes, and after her became a songwriter. In 1929 he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote songs for films. He also continued his piano accompaniment for other singers, including Beatrice Lillie and Helen Morgan. He did Broadway musicals on the side. In 1941, when WW2 started, he worked with the United States Air Force, performing for troops and  coordinating shows and other entertainment at various West Coast air bases. He also became a piano soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Marla quit acting to collaborate on songwriting with Lou. She became quite proficient at it – at one point she wrote the lyrics to Cart Fisher’s tune “Black Lace” which was very popular in it’s time. The Alters lived in New York and maintained a summer residence on Fire Island.

Despite this seemingly satisfying artistic  collaboration, the marriage failed in the long run and they divorced in 1948. Alter continued composing and died on November 5, 1980 in Manhattan.

Marla dated Producer Herman Levin for a few months after the divorce. In 1952 she created a minor scandal at the Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles, when she interrupted a rehearsal and attended, uninvited, a luncheon for contestants. It appears that it was a publicity stunt of some sort and it received some publicity.

Marla married her fourth and last husband, N. Gayle Gitterman, in 1955. Gitterman was born on July 23, 1908, in Illinois, and came to Hollywood in the 1930s. Originally a scriptwriter, he became an assistant producer ta MGM. He earned the rank of sergeant during WW2. After the war he worked for the Bing Crosby Enterprises and later became  a freelance producer. He also held writing workshops in Los Angeles. He was married once before, to Mona LaPage, from 1933 until the mid 1940s.

This proved to be Marla’s most successful marriage. The Gittermans lived in Laguna Nigel after his retirement.

Gitterman died on March 25, 1976. Sadly, Marla’s son Wes died on August 21, 1990.

Marla Shelton Gitterman died on February 14, 2001, in Laguna Nigel, California.

 

Marcella Martin

A pretty large number of budding actress came to Hollywood hoping to win the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara. As we know today, the role went o Vivien Leigh, and the rest was history. Of all the girls who were in the pecking order for the role, most of them failed to parlay the sojourn into a stable career. On the other hand, a few of them actually developed impressive careers later (Susan Hayward is an excellent example), and some established mid tier, solid careers Sadly, Marcella Martin belongs into the former category. Despite her obvious talent and pleasing looks, she opted to remain a theater actress, and made only two movies of lesser quality. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Elsie Marcella Clifford was born on June 5, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, to William Clifford and Clara Kessberger. She was the oldest of three children, three sisters – her younger siblings were Catherine C, born in 1918, and Ruth C, born in 1925.  Her father was a State Senator of Champaign, making her a high society debutante.

Marcella grew up in Chicago, attended high school there and discovered an intense love for acting when she was a teen. Determined to become an actress, she got a degree in dramatics from the University of Illinois, where she was active in the debate club. Ready for bigger and better things, she said “goodbye” to her home town and started to look for opportunities around the US. Her first serious acting job was a few months tour with a Midwestern stock company. After a peripatetic life with a touring company, she settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, where her first husband was from. She wasted no time in gaining acting momentum, and immediately joined the local Little Theater. She started her acting tenure by appearing in two sound stage hits, “Stage Door” and “Tovarich”. Marcella studied southern diction on the side and became quite an expert at it. People could rarely detect that she was originally from Illinois due to this handy skill.

Sadly, acting gigs hardy payed the mounting bills, so Marcella started by selling various merchandise, at firsts az Felbleman’s-Sears, Roebuck and company and then at Goldring’s,  but rehearsing diligently at the local theater at night. In 1938, Maxwell “Max” Arnow, scout for David O. Selznlck, saw Marcella in a rehearsal at the local theater. He was touring the South in search of actors to play parts in Gone With ‘ the Wind” (Including for the elusive Scarlett). Thus, Arnow “discovered” Marcella.

Arnow reported his discovery to Selznick in a memo dated Nov. 16, 1938. “The results of the eighteen day trip through the South were quite meager with one exception. In Louisiana, at the Shreveport Little Theater,” he wrote. “Ran across a girl by the name of Marcella Martin. This girl is quite good-looking, has a nice figure, and is a grand actress. Without doubt she is the best of the hundreds of people who I interviewed during my trip.” Very kind words from Mr. Arnow indeed!

A short while later he wired Marcella to go to New York for screen tests. And so she went.  Two weeks in the rush and bustle of New York studios, and she was back in Shreveport. Then she was called again this time to Hollywood for further screen tests. Once in Hollywood, she was originally tested for Scarlett and Melanie. Along with two other Southern girls, Alicia Rhett and Bebe Anderson (in the future known as Mary Anderson), she was given a bit role in the movie, but that was just a part of the prize – she got a long-term contract, a possible crack at bigger things.

And this is how she landed in Hollywood!

CAREER

Marcella was tested for the role of Scarlett, which went to Vivien Leigh (and the rest is history, as they say!) got a memorable consolation prize. She earned the speaking role as Cathleen Calvert, who confides the inside skinny on Rhett Butler to O’Hara during the classic barbecue scene. “Cathleen, who’s that?” Scarlett asks as she locks eyes with Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler for the first time. “Who?” “That man looking at us and smiling,” Scarlett answers. “The nasty, dark one.” “My dear, don’t you know?” Cathleen answers with a grin. “That’s Rhett Butler. He’s from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.” Scarlett looks away for a second, then back. “He looks as if… as if he knows what I look like without my shim”. Great moment! On a side note, a columnist wrote that the producers had to compromise when casting Scarlett, for this reason: “The compromise may be forced in the matter of waist-line. The specifications call for a 17-inch girth. Even the most rigorous Hollywood diets haven’t achieved any such miracle as this.” (how true :-P) Also, Marcella was Leigh’s trailer roomie on location and taught her how to speak with a Southern dialect.

Marcella appeared in only two more movies before retiring altogether. The first one was West of Tombstone, a totally obscure low-budget western with Charles Starrett in the lead. The plot concerns Billy the Kid and his alleged demise – is he dead or not? UnfortunatelyWhat is funny about this movie is how Marcella is attired – the story takes place in the early 20th century, 20 years after the reported death of Billy the Kid, but she wears strictly 1942 fashions, with knee-length skirts, high-heeled shoes and bobbed hair. Ah, Hollywood!

The second movie was another low-budget western, The Man Who Returned to Life. This is another better-of-forgotten type of movie, about a man on the run from the law for murder (of course he’s not really guilty). Marcella plays the third female lead, after Lucile Fairbanks and Ruth Ford.

And that was it from Marcella!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marcella married John “Jack” Martin in about 1935, and moved with him to Shreveport, Louisiana. The marriage didn’t last, and they were divorced by 1939, before she landed in Hollywood.

Marcella met her second husband, James Ferguson, in the theater – they acted together in several plays before getting hitched in 1940 at the home of the Marcella’s parents in Champaign, in the presence of relatives and a few close friends.

James Ferguson was born on August 15, 1913  to Mr. and Mrs. William Ferguson in Izmir, Turkey. His parents were British subjects. He attended elementary school in Scotland and later moved with his family to Whittier, California, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1930. He graduated from high school in 1931 and from Fullerton Junior College, California, in 1934. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1934 and underwent flying training the following year and completed it in July 1936. He was a flying cadet for one year before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1937. Later, Ferguson He rose to the rank of full general in the Air Force.

Ferguson acted for fun, and this is how he met Marcella. This is a short article about it:

Marcella Martin and James , Ferguson Have Leads; Opens Oct. 10 , Miss ‘ Marcela Martin and Lieut. James Ferguson will have the leading roles In the first production of the Little Theatre season “Tovarlch,” to open at 8:15 pm, Oct. 10, John Wray Toung, director of the theater, announced Tuesday. Miss Martin will play the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, the exiled White Russian noblewoman in Jaques Deval’s comedy. Lieutenant Ferguson will ‘ play her husband, Prince Mikhail Alexandrovitch Ouratleff.

He he he, the fun doesn’t stop here – there is a whole juicy story of the Ferguson-Martin courtship. Listen to this: In early 1938, Marcella’s first appearance on the Shreverport Little Theater stage had her in a minor role in “Stage Door,” which also featured in its cast a Barksdale Field lieutenant, William E. “Ed” Dyess. Her co-lead in “Tovarich” was another Barksdale Field flier, Lt. Jim Ferguson.

One of Marcella’s best friends from Chicago was Marajen Stevick, a publishing and media heiress. It seems that Marcella hobnobbed with the Chicago high society, and often asked them to visit her in Shereverport. There was a lot of rivalry going on with Dyess and Ferguson, as they were after Marcella, both of them. Marajen was Marcella’s house guest and ended up with Dyess, and Marcella ended up with Ferguson. Dyess was the third of Stevick’s five husbands.

Dyess died a hero in World War II. A survivor of the Bataan Death March, he survived a year’s captivity in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, escaped, was on the run for three months, was rescued by a submarine and returned home to write a gripping account of the Japanese brutality to their prisoners after the fall of the Philippines in 1942. A recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He died heroically in a training accident Dec. 22, 1943. He was flying over heavily populated Burbank, Calif., when his airplane caught fire. Instead of bailing out, he stayed with the airplane to make sure it didn’t crash into a school full of children. Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene, Texas, is named in his memory.

Stevick became an Italian countess a through one of her later marriages, she died on the anniversary of Dyess’ death, Dec. 22, 2002.

Despite the fact that Marcella got her big break via Shreveport Little Theater, she left the city for good after 1939. She returned in the early 1940s to sign various legal papers relating to end her previous marriage but never lived there again. She was active in the theater for a few years afterwards, appearing in plays by Tennessee Williams among others, before retiring for good in the 1950s.

Years later, Marcella’s younger sister Ruth Brown, remembered meeting Leigh in New York City in 1963 through Marcella. Oddly enough, Leigh was performing in a stage version of “Tovarich,” in the same role Martin had played when she was discovered 25 years earlier. Vivien suffered from a bipolar illness, tuberculosis of the lungs and was divorced from Laurence Olivier, but nonetheless won a Tony Award for her work in “Tovarich. Marcella sent a note back to Vivien, She wasn’t sure she would remember her, though they had been very close in the making of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ It was wonderful. The people making ‘Gone With the Wind’ wanted Vivien to listen to Marcella’s accent. She had lived in Louisiana so long she had picked up pretty much a Southern accent, but it wasn’t too much. The producers didn’t want a real ‘Y’all’ accent, they wanted a ‘soft’ Southern accent, and Marcella had it. They didn’t know she had grown up in Champaign.”

Marcella and James Fergson divorced in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Laterm he remarried to Roberta Wilkes. He served in Korea and from 1955 until 1970 he was based in Washington DC. In 1966 he became a full general, and retired in 1970. Roberta died in 1977. Ferguson died on July 13, 2000, in Sarasota, Florida.

Marcella married her third and last husband, Robert Lee McGratty, in 1953 in Duval, Florida. McGratty was born on October 22, 1908, in New York City, to Charles and Frances McGratty. He grew up in Suffolk, New York, and worked as a hotelier in Florida, running the Floridian hotel.  He was married in 1943 to Frances Stuart but the marriage didn’t’ work out, and  he divorced her a few years later.

The couple did not have any children, but enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage. They moved to Houston, Texas after McGratty’s retirement. McGratty died there on January 21, 1979. Marcella remained in Texas after his death, opting not to remarry.

Marcella Martin McGratty died on October 31, 1986, in Houston, Texas. She is buried with her father, former Illinois State Sen. William E.C. Clifford, and her last husband, Robert McGratty, in Champaig, Illinois.

 

 

Theo Coffman

Theo Coffman was a beautiful girl who rose from her modest working class origin to become a singer and dancer of some repute. After achieving minor success in Chicago, Hollywood beckoned and she tried to become an actress. Unlike many others, she really tried, even taking dramatic lessons, but, unfortunately, it did not work. She quite Hollywood after only one movie. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Theo L. Coffman was born in 1915, in Indianapolis, Indiana, to Oscar Coffman and Josephine Snyder. Her father worked as a carpenter in a railroad company. Theo’s masculine name was due to her unusual familial circumstance – she was the only girl among five children, and her parents expected her to be a boy (pretty optimistic, don’t you think?). Her older brothers were Paul, born in 1910, and Alva, born on June 12, 1912, and her younger brothers were Oscar Jr., born in 1918 and Orville, born on January 1, 1921.

Theo was reared in Indianapolis, and attended Public Schools 28 and 8. She started singing and dancing when she was a child and pretty soon it was clear she had a good voice and some presence. In July 1931 her father died and her mother took over the reins of the family. Theo attended and later graduated from Manual Training High School. Her first job was as a cashier and secretary in a local Indianapolis shoe store. Feeling that she could give more to the world as a singer, she decided to try her luck in show biz. She danced for a while in the old Chez Paree, and sang with Paul Collins’s Orchestra. During this time she learned to dance like a pro on a roof of a Indianapolis hotel. Wanting more out of her career, she went to Chicago in 1938. by day she worked as a cashier, living with Ethel M Vandeveer, who was listed as her business partner. Yet, she hoped for a more stable career in dancing, so she teamed with Raoul Gomez in an exhibition dance act that was featured in Chicago in the Colony Club.

On a visit to New York in 1940, a film executive told her she should be in the movies, so she went to Hollywood, and obtained a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer contract and a role in “DuBarry Was a Lady.” And there she went!

CAREER

Theo’s sole credited remained Du Barry Was a Lady, the movie she was brought to Hollywood for. Du Barry has a plot that was used a hundred times in a hundreds of types of movies (summary from IMDB) – A night club’s coatroom attendant whose in-love with the club’s singer accidentally sips a drugged drink that makes him dream he’s French King Louis XV courting the infamous Madame Du Barry. While not a top musical, it’s one of the most beautiful, shot in stunning Technicolor, almost like being in a pastel wonderland, just two shades short of Heaven. All the craftsmanship is first class – the set design, the costumes, the lightning, the editing. And the fabulous music by the premier big bands of the era. The supporting actors are a great bunch too (Zero Mostel, Douglas Dumbrille, Louise Beavers…) . Red Skelton, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly in the leads are good too – but it seems they are overshadowed by everything else, and the musical doesn’t quite work as it did on Broadway. Still, it’s a sweet little piece of escapism, worth watching for sure.

And that was it from our Theo!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was often noted in the papers how Theo comes from a large family with several brothers. One of her four brothers, Oscar, got employed at MGM. Her other brothers, Paul, Alva and Orville, remained in Indianapolis. Growing up with a bunch of unruly bros, Theo developed a unique way to fend of all the hungry wolves, a handy skill to have in Hollywood. Here is a short bit from 1942, just after the war started, about that:

The other day at I ha Beverly Hills swimming pool, a “wolf” was trying to impress Theo. Coffman with his importance. “Just a year ego,” he said, “I had a suite at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel In Honolulu.” “You can have it again,” said Miss Coffman, “if you join the Marines.

Theo an ardent deep-sea fisher, her best catch being a 150-pound marlin which she landed off Florida after a fifty-five-minute tussle. Eager to play light comedy roles, Theo was reported taking dramatic lessons from Maria Ouspensknya, the noted actress. Her Hollywood home was a cottage formerly occupied by Victor Mature. Theo was also a pretty good seamstress who designed her own clothes. Here is a short article about one of her creations:

It all began when Theo Coffman, a shapely showgirl, strolled onto the set of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s frothy Technicolor musical, “Du Barry Was a Lady.” Theo’s avocation is dress designing and she was wearing one of her own creations, a tight-bodiced pink pique number with a wide flaring skirt. This skirt was the match that touched off the argument. Appliqued around its hemline were bold bars of music, clef, notes, and all. Admiring onlookers fell into Immediate dissension. “I say the notes make a melody!” “I say they don’t!” Theo’s dress was about to cause more trouble than Mrs. O’Leary’s cow when Tommy Dorsey happened by. Whipping out his trusty trombone, the sentimental gentleman of swing started in on Theo’s appliqued music. Listeners cocked anxious ears. Smiles cooled their faces. The notes did spell a melody: “Deep Purple,” Theo’s favorite song.

As Theo came to Hollywood via Du Barry, she was immediately associated to others girls hired to the movie. She got a years worth of publicity, the crowning moment being of course when noted illustrator Alberto Vargas made an illustration of the perfect girl, who was a composite of all the best parts the Du Barry girls – the hands of Inez Cooper, the hair of Mary Jane French, the feet of Theo, the hips of Ruth Ownbey, the waist of Eva Whitney, the bust of Aileen Haley, the legs of Hazel Brooks, the arms of Kay Williams, the profile of Kay Aldridge, the lips of Natalie Draper, the ankles of Marilyn Maxwell and the eyes of Georgia Carroll.

The press tried to report on a rapport between girls with snippets like this:

 Hoofing is traditionally cruel to the discovers between takes on a dancing sequence. Inez Cooper lends a sympathetic ear to Theo’s woes. Her own tootsies are killing her! Right Time out for repairs is taken by piquant Ruth Ownbey while Theo Coffman offers moral support.

And now for her romantic ventures, and there sure. Theo’s first Hollywood beau was Phillips Holmes, the gentle, feminine looking actor who worked so well with Nancy Carroll in several good 1930s movies. They dated for a few months before he join the Royal Canadian Air Force. He died in a mid-air collision in 1942.

In started May 1942 dating set designer Merrill Pye. This proved to be her longest liaison, and certainly the most tempestuous. They dated for almost six months in 1942, but it was a sketchy, spotty, passionate affair with lots of ups and downs. Merrill was freshly of his long relationship with hoofer Eleanor Powell, and dated almost half of the Du Barry girls team, including Ruth Ownbey. Yet, Theo proved to be the most resilient of the lot, lasting the longest (except one, you’ll see which one). Theo downplayed the relationship in the papers, saying there is nothing serious between her and Merrill. At least, not yet. . . . Nevertheless, she got Pye’s permission to go to the fights with Tommy Dorsey. So you judge how serious it was 🙂

Somewhere in September 1942, she took up with the playboy Jimmy Ritz, who dated a whole of other girls that way, so obviously it was nothing serious. The Ritz affair helped chill Theo and Merrill for good. Theo then switched to international producer Raymond Hakim.

She lingered for a bit more with Merrill, but it was truly over when he started to date his future wife, another DuBarry girl, Natalie Draper. Like most couples in Hollywood, they had a post scriptum, but that was that. Theo started to date her old beau, Eddie Braugnau, of Chicago. Then, in a strange twist of fate, Theo was seen with both Robbie Robinson and Merrill Pye, and even the press called it an odd threesome. Guess it truly was.

In early 1943, Theor was seeing Bill Hawks, brother of Howard and Kenneth, had a few dates with Pye (this time truly not serious), and was showing the town to Richard Jacobson of Chicago. Jacobson was a newspaper publisher, and the man who Theo ultimately chose.

In March 1943, Theo married Richard Jacobson. Jacobson was a wealthy publisher, who bought he Evanston News-Index, (which had been in bankruptcy for a few months by then), and was already publishing Standard Opinion in Chicago. Jacobson owned a palatial 51-foot yacht powered by 140 horsepower engines.

After the marriage ceremony, she went home to Indiana to sort out her affairs, and Richard went back to Chicago, looking after business, but they had plans to return and live in Hollywood, and were looking forward to their purchase of Joe Penner’s Beverly Hills home.

Theo used to joke that whenever she went to Indianapolis to visit her mother, she was invariably pressed to work at housecleaning. “It doesn’t seem to matter much what time of year I get here,” Theo said, laughing, “house-cleaning is just about to start and I get in on it.”

This is where I lost all track of Theo – did she remained married to Jacobson, did she have children, is she alive today – all remains  a mystery to me. We can only say for sure that she didn’t make any more movies under the birth name. As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

 

 

Mimi Berry

The dame with the quirky name, Mimi Berry reached the pinnacle of her success on Broadway, way before she departed for Hollywood to try her luck in movies – from this sentence alone, you can summarize that her Hollywood sojourn was not a success. Luckily, she married, retired and found other venues for her talents. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mildred Emma “Mimi” Berry was born on February 2, 1924, in Ridgefield Park, New Yersey, to William Berry and Lillian Allinson. Her older brother William Jr. was born in 1915. Her father worked in the chocolate business as a salesman.

A dancer since she was 2 years old, Mimi branched out into the modeling field at 8. Until she reached the sixth grade she attended Lincoln School in Ridgefield Park. Berrys were a generous family, and they could always be count on for help, and Mimi often danced at local benefit parties. She also saved a certain man named Blind John from drowning and was known locally for it.

While working as a model and dancer, Mimi was also very passionate about swimming. She had her first lessons in the pool at Roosevelt School, Ridgefield Park. She was interested also in golf and riding, skating and roller skating. Henry I. Marshall, composer of “The Five Fifteen” and other songs, taught Mimi to sing and she had her first dancing lessons at the Morton School in Ridgefield Park at 2 years old.

Mimi started on her professional career as a dancer by accident. Her parents were spending their summer vacation at Cornwell, Ontario, when someone saw the then 5-year-old tow head practicing acrobatics on the lawn. She must have been pretty good even then because the passerby went in and saw Mrs. Berry (Lillian) and prevailed on her to let Mimi take part in the Cornwell, Ontario Legion, meet. The Legionnaires were delighted but there really was no class in which she could compete for a prize. “She wouldn’t be doing it for a prize anyway,” Mrs. Berry said. Mimi wasn’t half through before the judges chose the biggest shiniest trophy at their disposal for the little girl. For the six following summers Mimi and her mother returned to Cornwell for the show.

When Mimi was in the sixth grade, she and her parents moved to 3240 Henry’ Hudson Parkway, New York. Mimi’s crowded routine made the change necessary.  She became a pupil at the Professional Children’s School in New York. Someone told Harry Conover, head of the Conover model agency on Vanderbilt Avenue in New York about her. He went to the show December 28, agreed, signed her on the same day. Her first job through the Conover firm followed in short order, December 31. During her last year of high school, she became a Life cover girl.

Then her acting career took off. She tried out for “Keep Off the Grass” and was accepted. There was nothing much doing so she tried out for the Aquacade. Billy Rose selected her among hundreds of other girls. But that was not all. The producers of “Louisiana Purchase” saw her and signed her for the show. Ditto for the American Jubilee.

After all this ballyhoo, she was signed to Keep Off the Grass, and then was cast in Panama Hattie, with Ethel Merman in the lead. Mimi joined the production when it opened in New Haven, and later the show moved on to Broadway, where it enjoyed a long run. After it was finished, Mimi continued in Michael Todd’s Star and Garter. But this was all dancing work, with Mimi as a chorine – she wanted something bigger and better.

While still appearing in Star and Garter, she joined the cast of A Connecticut Yankee because she had a chance to speak a few lines and was assigned the job of general understudy. At one time during Monday night’s performance, one of the male leads blew a line and Mimi tossed it back to him coolly and the audience was none the wiser. It seemed that big things were in store for Miss Berry.

Mimi planned, after Star and Garter show ended its run, to try Hollywood. However, before the show ended it’s run, scouts took notice of her, and she was presented with a few potential studio contracts. At first she turned them all down to stay in New York until she show ended, and she had a special other reason – namely, her boyfriend. Then she had a quarrel with the boyfriend, they broke up, and she went to Hollywood and that was it!

CAREER

Now this a one paper-thin filmography. Mimi appeared in only three movies, and none of them made any real impact, so overall, she’s truly a minor footnote in Hollywood history.

Her first movie was Here Comes Troubleone of the “Sgt. Doubleday” series that was popular during and just after WW2. Little known comedian William Tracy played Doubleday, and is his dim witted sidekick, Ames. The point is that Doubleday is just as, if not more, dimwitted as Doubleday. And we have the famous “two morons working together to set things right” comedy sub genre. here, Doubleday and Ames are out of the army and in civilian life, with Ames becoming a cop and Doubleday a reporter. Of course the unwittingly save the city from gangsters. While it’s not the top of the pops, it’s a okay low-budgeter, with enough spunk and charm to make it an enjoyable, if forgettable experience. A plus is that Hal Roach, the indisputable king of comedy in the 1920s and 1930s, did the movie – it’ some of his later efforts.

Mimi’s next movie came only 3 years later, in 1951, was made in a similar vein, fun but shallow – Here Comes the Groom. Interestingly, it has nothing to do with Sargent Doubleday, but rather with Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman – he plays a foreign correspondent who has 5 days to win back his former fiancée, or he’ll lose the orphans he adopted. Heartwarming 🙂 The movie was directed by Frank Capra, better known for his more serious fare, but he’s a good director no matter the movie type and it’s more than evident here – the film is breezy, light, with great timing and charming performances. While it never did win any Oscars, it’s a true classic Hollywood fare, worth watching more than once.

Mimi also did her last movie in 1951 – My Favorite Spy, one of Bob Hope‘s lesser 1950s movies. While it’s far from being a horrible piece of dumpster fire trash not worth anyone’s time, it’s a barely so so comedy, with the only really comic element being Bob – everybody else seems to play a straight drama role, including his leading lady, Hedy Lamarr. I like Hedy, but will always admit she was very hard to cast – too beautiful for her own good and not talented enough, she only and truly worked in a certain setting in a certain type of a role, and this is just not it. The story is a one Bob’s movie used to death – a sap, namely Bob, has a look-alike who is a master spy, and of course Bob, instead of running for the hills, has to get mixed head-first into the whole mess.

And that was it from Mimi!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mimi was 5 feet 7 inches and 116 pounds in weight, and was called a girl “symbolic of personable American girlhood” by a noted Life magazine photographer. She attended Children’s Professional High School and had plans to attend University of Southern California from which her big brother graduated (she did not, sadly). In New York, Mimi lived with her mother up on Henry Hudson Parkway, about 20 minutes from the center of New York. Here is a short quote about Mimi’s education and preferences:

 The Victorian novelists, particularly Charles Dickens (believe it or not), are the favorite authors of Mimi Berry, who sings and dances in the chorus of “Panama Hattie,” which boasts Ethel Merman as its star.  As for her favorite study at the Professional Children’s school (high school and college prep), where she has been a student for the past six years. Mimi calmly announces that it is mathematics. Her reason for this, she says, is that if she ever should find herself  looking for a new kind of job a ‘knowledge of mathematics would offer the best general qualification.

As most girls her age, Mimi was absolutely love struck, and she said she prefer the boys of the neighborhood to the more sophisticated Broadway crowd. Don’t know if this is true, but it sure seems that Mimi dated her Broadway acquaintances more than her next door neighbors.

Since Mimi was under age when she hit Broadway, when the wolves started to call, there were some rules that had to be reinforced: Beaux who take out have to call for her at Dinty Moore’s, where her mama gives the okay and they had to return her to mom at Moore’s after the date. During her days as “Panama Hattie” chorine, she was involved with one of the featured males in the cast. After they broke up, she was seen with Jay Conley, the Shubert theater stage manager. That also didn’t last long.

A bit later, Mimi was pretty serious for a time about Thaddeus Brown, son of the late Ohio Senator. Perhaps class differences or perhaps meddling mothers separated the young lovers, and they broke up. In 1943, she was again serious about a guy – Ensign Bill Taylor, who was serving in the US Army during WW2 when they dated. He was sent overseas, and Mimi often send him lovely letters of encouragement.

The relationship did not last, alas, and Mimi found  a new swain – Jimmy Ritz. She graduated from high school while she was dating him, and the first serious reports about her hitting the altar were written about this time. Sadly, Jimmie was married and separated from his wife, and this coupled with some personal difference led to their demise.

She rebounded by dating Capt. Paul Kirich, but then fell in love with Corporal Tony Martin. Their favorite pastime was to to to the  ball park and enjoy themselves there. However, she left to Hollywood by this time, and thus effectively broke up with Tony. He would marry Cyd Charisse later.

Mimi hit the papers in Hollywood, but not for the reason you might think – her career – but for her romantic exploits. Namely, in October 1944, this happened:

Col. Alex Guerry, much- decorated air hero – now flying bombers in the South Pacific, is generally in a hurry. Not for him the regular mail, or even air mail, when he decided to propose to blond and beautiful. Mimi Berry. He used V-mail. So did Miss Berry for her acceptance. They met In New York a year ago and began a correspondence with the above development. Miss Berry, on the 20th Century-Fox studio lot, said yesterday the wedding would take place when Col. Guerry gets his next leave.

A bit theatrical, overtly dramatic and over-the-top, but still, that’s young, lovely and during war time, so we have to try and understand it. By February 1045, all was finalized – Mimi would marry Alex in a few months. And then, ZAP! For unknown reasons, Guerry and Mimi broke up. Trust me, I really would like to know what happened to part them, but no information is given. I was surprised to see that Alex married a Louise Pemberton in October 1945. Louise looked quite a bit like Mimi! Talk about finding girls who want to marry you in a hurry! Mimi kept low for a time in the romantic arena, and later dated Nate Pearlstein, the advertising executive.

On February 1, 1946, Mimi married Errol Karl Silvera in Los Angeles. It was the first marriage for both. Karl was born on October 16, 1919, in Los Angeles, California, to Ivan E. Silvera and Elfriede Etta Balogh. He grew up in Los Angeles, and became a studio make-up man. He began his career at RKO in 1943 and moved to Paramount in 1946.

The couple had three sons: Darrell Karl, born on September 19, 1951, John Steven, born on June 8, 1954, and William, born on September 26, 1956. The couple lived in Los Angeles, with Mimi devoting her time to friends and family, and never returning to the stage. Mimi’s husband Karl achieved his greatest claim to fame in the 1960s, when he worked as a make up artist on the TV show The Munsters –  he was the creator of the iconic Herman Munster make-up.
Sadly, their son Darrell died on January 10, 1970. I could not find a cause of death.
Mildred Berry Silvera died on August 6, 1984. Her widower Karl remarried to Judith Silvera, and died in August 2013.

 

Wanda Barbour

Wanda Barbour was a blonde and pretty go-getter who left her hometown at age 13 to make it in Hollywood. Make it she did not, but she found her own life in California and she was a professional dancer for almost a decade, which, all considering, is a small achievement in itself. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Wanda Louise “Lou” Barbour was born in 1930 in Cincinnati, Ohio, to John V. Barbour and Catherine Newland. Her father was a well-of sales executive. Her older brother, John Jr, was born in 1925. Her maternal uncle, Indiana-born Newland Ellsworth, lived with the family when Wanda was born.

Sadly, Wanda’s father John died on February 16, 1934. He was suffering from a typhoid fever that brought on pneumonia that ultimately killed him. I don’t know what happened to Wanda’s mom,  Catherine, but, by 1940, Wanda was living with her paternal grandmother, Orpha Barbour, and her aunt, Marguerite (her dad’s sister), in Cincinnati. Also a good question was what happened to her brother, but sadly, no information is forthcoming.

Wanda was a pretty child that displayed signs of an intense dancing talent from her early years. By the time she was in elementary school, it was pretty clear that she would one day depart for Hollywood or New York to achieve the dream of becoming a professional dancer. In 1943, only 13 years old, she was sent to Hollywood to work on her dancing skills, and attended the Schicl School there. Pretty soon, she was named “Miss Hollywood of 1944” by the Screen Children’s Guild. Wanda continued learning and dancing and pretty soon was supporting herself, without any help from her grandma or aunt.

By 1946, Wanda became an Earl Carroll girl, and this exalting position catapulted her to movies.

CAREER

Wanda appeared in only three movies and a few TV series. Her first movie was The Bounty Hunter, a low-budget western. Randolph Scott, an actor sadly too early typecast in westerns, plays the rare breed that can easily combine charm and affability with a steely resolve and a frightening ability to kill. He’s the best thing in the film, although it’s a solid affair out and throughout. The director, Andre de Toth, does an okay job, and everything else is well-enough made for a low-budget movie (cinematography, music, sets…).

That same year, Wanda appeared in Young at Heart, a movie about the lives and romances of three sisters in a musical family, played by Doris Day, Elisabeth Fraser and Dorothy Malone. if you like fluffy, cute and easy on the eyes and easy for the brain, now this is your cup of tea! The gorgeous Technicolor is brimming with strong, saturated colors, Doris Day is her usual charming self, and the male lead is Mr. Frank Sinatra himself. With a cast that strong, you can’t go wrong unless you really go wrong, and they didn’t. The problem is that it’s a thin movie overall, with no great depth, but for some fun and games, it is a perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Wanda’s last movie, made in 1955, was Women’s Prison. Unlike many of the lurid, over the top, convoluted campy 1950s movies, this one is a serious endeavor that mostly get to achieve what it wants – to show the everyday life in women’s prisons in a somewhat realistic manner. No, it’s not quite as realistic as it should be, but this is Hollywood in the decade it was least realistic and most illusionary (just look at all the Technicolor musicals). The cast is wonderful – Ida Lupino, Audrey Totter, Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Howard Duff – great!

That was it from Wanda!

PRIVATE LIFE

Wanda continued to dance during her whole brief Hollywood career. She was featured in what were mostly a decorative, thankless jobs, but they paid the bills, and here is a shining example of that kind of life.:

Showmen Joseph and Frank Zucca, sued by Ken Murray in effort to keep them from calling their Culver City show “Blackouts of 1950′ went to court yesterday and took along these girls from left, Bebe Allan, Marybeth Haughton, Lou Ann Louis, top row; Lorri Collins, Ruth Rowland, top, and Wanda Barbour.

And this:

These California beauties have been selected by the LA. Press Club as hostesses for visiting Florida girls due here Wednesday. Shown at Ambassador pool they are, from bottom level: Billie Nelson, Beverly Jones, Shirley Cotterill, Totty Ames, Gloria Maxwell, Marilyn Lamb, Lillian Farmer and Wanda Barbour.

No high art in this, but I guess it could be fun sometimes. Wanda, only 18 years old, married her first husband, Thomas McDougall, on August 21, 1948, in Los Angeles. Thomas Edward McDougall was born on March 20, 1927, in Lansing, Michigan, to William McDougall and Rose Lake. His older sister Billie was born in 1923. The family first moved to Long Beach, and then back to Lansing, Michigan by 1940. After graduating from high school, Thomas returned to California. When he married Wanda, he was working as a gas-and-oil salesman.

The marriage hits the skids pretty soon, and they were divorced in the early 1950s. Wanda got into movies afterwards using her maiden name, so let’s assume she didn’t brag about her early marriage and rarely mentioned it to anyone.

Literary nothing was written about Wanda’s love life. What we know is that, by the mid 1950s, Wanda was dating a real catch by Hollywood standards – handsome Southern gent, Hoyt Bowers, the head of the casting department for Warner Bros. The couple married in the New Frontier Chapel at Las Vegas, Nevada in April 1957.

Hoyt Stephen Bowers was born on September 7, 1911, in Georgia, to Peck and Verbenia Bowers. His father was a bookkeeper. Hoyt had a younger brother, Bates, born in 1914. The family moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Hoyt started to work as an insurance clerk after high school, and married Patricia Nunn in 1930. Their daughter Sherry Ann was born on February 7, 1932. Their daughter Nancy Jean was born on December 1, 1937. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, both husband and wife drifted towards the lucrative movie industry. Hoyt became a casting agent, and Patricia a movie extra.

Here is a short blurb about Patricia:

Hollywood’s youngest grandmother, Patricia Bower, sits beside Actress Piper Laurie. Sirs. Bowers, currently acting as stand-in for Miss Piper, is married to Hoyt Bowers, casting executive. She is 37 years old and has two daughters, one of whom is mother of a two-year-old girl.

Whoa, I had to do the math and it’s not particularly impressive – I Patricia gave birth when she was 18, the same for Sherry. I just hope the granddaughter didn’t follow the family line and took a bit more time to get married and have children (if indeed she ever decided on such a course). Sadly, the couple divorced before 1954.

Wanda and Hoyt had a son, John Hoyt Bowers, born in 1960. Wanda gave up her career and immersed herself into motherhood and domestic affairs. The Bowers often visited Abilene, where some of Hoyt’s extended family lived.

After more than a decade of marriage, Hoyt and Wanda divorced in the early 1970s. Wanda married her third husband, Victor Bennett, on April 10, 1975 in San Bernardino, California. Victor Bennett was born in 1916 in Nebraska, and moved to Los Angeles when he was a youth. There he married Ruth Schwerdtfeger, had two sons, Charles Nicholas, born on October 4, 1938, and Vance Chadwick, born on March 9, 1942, and worked as a meat cutter. He and Ruth divorced at some point.

Wanda and Victor settled in San Bernardino, and started to trade in antique furniture. They were a well-adjusted, happy couple, and it seems that Wanda had finally found a husband worth keeping. However, this story does not have a happy ending.

Tragically, Wanda and her husband were murdered on November 14, 19179, in their home in San Bernardino, during a robbery attempt. She was only 49 years old – her husband 63. To add to this horror, her son John was arrested almost immediately after the bodies were found, as an obvious prime suspect. Of course he was innocent, but the stress and the pain had been inflicted. Here is an article about the slayings:

San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies today are questioning an 18-year-old Twentynine Palms man in connection with the slaying of his mother and stepfather. John Hoyt Bowers was arrested Wednesday night, just hours after the body of his mother, Wanda Bennett, 49, was found underneath trash at the Landers dump. Her husband, Victor, 63, was found shot to death at his home here, deputies said. Both were shot in the head. So far, deputies do not have a motive or a weapon in the slaying.

Two men wanted in California to face double murder charges were arrested early Friday, state police said. Officers said Richard W. Garrison, 38, of Hulberton, Orleans County, .was picked up in the Town of Murray, Orleans County, and Gary M. Roelle, 30, of Rochester, was taken into custody in the Town of Sweden, Monroe County . The pair, according to state police, are wanted by the San Bernardino County, Calif., sheriffs office in the robbery slayings of Victor and Wanda Bennett with a shotgun in Yucca Valley Nov. 14. “Numerous items of stolen jewelry and firearms were brought to New York state by the subjects and were seized at the time of the arrest,” according to a state police statement. “It’s believed they had been in the upstate New York area since Nov. 27.” State police said the two were being held as fugitives from justice. Garrison was being held in the Orleans County Jail and Roelle in the Monroe County Jail.

The police are looking for the motive for the killings. The Bennetts’ car was also taken, but was later recovered near Old Woman Springs Road, investigators said. The Bennetts bought and sold antiques and may have been contacted by one of the suspects who wanted to sell an old desk, Knadler said. It may have been through that contact that the suspects learned about jewelry and other items the Bennetts owned, he said. ” Documents filed in a Barstow ‘ court in support of murder warrants issued for the two men stated that after the murder Garrison was seen in possession of jewelry with Wanda Bennett’s name engraved on it. Several persons told investigators they had seen Garrison with a bag containing many items ,mostly jewelry, including a silver and turquoise squash-blossom necklace, other pieces of turquoise jewelry, an ID bracelet, a charm bracelet and numerous rings, the documents said. The bag also contained numerous American and foreign coins, investigators were told.

What a sad, sad end to a woman who had so much vitality and zest for life.

But, as always, let’s hope she had a happy life!