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.

 

 

Adele Longmire

It’s rare that I profile a true, dyed-in-the-wool actress on this blog – most of the girls I profiled before were starlets that didn’t have that much acting chutzpah. Adele Longmire is different. She is as obscure as they come today, but decidedly not a starlet – she was an unique talented, intensive girl whose rep reached Hollywood long before anyone even saw her in person (something not seen everyday, for sure!). She wanted top be a theater actress, and this is probably the main reason she never made it as a movie actress, but there are still several performances of her that we can enjoy today.

EARLY LIFE

Adele “Billie” Longmire was born on June 27, 1918, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to John and Germaine Longmire. She was the oldest of four children, and the only daughter. He younger brothers were John, Charles and Robert. Her father was a clerk in the financial sector. The family lived with their maternal grandparents, Albert and Corinne Rocquet. Albert was a physician, and came from a prestigious, old money family, thus Adele was considered something akin to Southern royalty.

Adele grew up in New Orleans, and was inspired to become a serious actress from her teenage days. She attended the local St. Joseph Academy Convent, and later recounted about the moment she decided to become an actress:

 “It was so strong It worried me.I really thought I must be headed straight for hell. I simply had to a peak to somebody about It. So finally I screwed up my courage and told one of the sisters. I expected to be scolded for having such wicked ambitions. But instead the was sweet about it. You can’t Imagine how surprised I was. She actually encouraged the idea and helped me In all sorts of ways. I wish I could tell you her name, but I’m afraid she might not like it.”

In 1936, after graduating from the Convent, she started to work as a stenographer and joined the local Little Theater, and started to do amateur theatrics. Her plan was to save enough money to go to New York and become a Broadway alumna.

In early 1937, while George Cukor was scouting all around the US and looking for a girl to play Scarlett O’Hara, and he heard about Adele. As a member of the esteemed New Orleans Little Theater (Petit Theater de Vieux Carre), she was known for her ferocity and prodigious talent, and was nicknamed Creole Girl. She refused to come to Hollywood, no really interested in a movie career, but opting to become a stage star. Cukor went to New Orleans and met Adele, and by all accounts was completely enchanted with her. He didn’t think she was made of the right material to play Scarlett, but that she was an unusual intensity and that Selznick should sign her. He tried – Adele refused. Warner Bros and MGM both chimed in, trying to find out who the girl with the hype was, but she turned them down smoothly. She did not want to be tangled up in a long term contract, still enamored of the stage and wishing to achieve artistic brilliance in that regard.

Adele  first attracted the notice of insiders on Broadway when the American Theater Council, formed In 1937 precisely to help talented young people in the theater, gave her a chance to show what she could do in a single brief scene from “Bury the Dead,” and she passed with flying colors. As a result of this showing, two producers interviewed her for parts in two projected productions. Neither production reached Broadway, but indirectly the interest she had aroused gained her a small role in “Ruy Bias” at Central City, Col., under the direction of Robert Edmond Jones. This is where she was noticed by famed playwright Elmer Rice.  He engaged her for the role of Anne Rutledge in Robert E. Sherwood’sAbe Lincoln in Illinois.” Thus Adele joined the Playwrights Company and was on her way to theatrical success. In 1940,. she was on the stage with Old Acquaintance. In 1941, she was nabbed by Hollywood to appear in the movie version – this failed but she stayed in Hollywood at least for some time.

CAREER

Adele had a solid if too short career on Broadway and more extensive one in summer stock, but a slim career in movies. She only appeared in six movies, and the leading role in one, was uncredited in two and was a supporting player in three. While not the worst track record around here (most starlets I profile never made a credited appearance), this seems like such a letdown for an obviously unique, very talented actress. Ah, that’s life!

Adele’s sole leading role was in Bullet Scars. Imagine Adele, a  prodigiously talented,known far and wide, theater reared and Broadway-made actress, who was a contender for the Scarlett O’Hara role and revered by such prestigious directors as George Cukor, finally comes to Hollywood and they put her in a small budget, B class film noir. WHAT? Anyway, it’s a solid but uninspired, seen it hundred times before gangster film. Regis Toomey plays a doctor who is conned into helping treat a bank robber – Adele plays his nurse. The performances are good and overall it’s a decent effort, but nothing to shout about. Adele was quickly forgotten, as was the movie.

Adele returned to Hollywood only in 1952, with People Will Talk, a truly intelligent well made Cray Grant movie. Most of Cary’s movies were screwball or sophisticated comedies with little to recommend them on a higher level – but this one is an exception, as a socially conscious, highly cerebral movie hiding more than it meets the eye. Adele only played an uncredited role, alas, and was not remembered for it. She had small parts in two additional movies in 1952: With a Song in My Heart , a quality biopic about Jane Forman, played by the indomitable Susan Hayward, and Something for the Birds, a movie that combines elegant comedy with a strong ecological flavor – can you believe that Hollywood sometimes did these movies? Patricia Neal, an absolute favorite of mine, plays a conservationist who will do anything to preserve the natural habitat of an endangered California condor, including crash the gates of Washington DC, and Vic Mature is the oily lobbyist fighting against her. Add Edmund Gwenn to the mix, and you have a winner!

Adele had a more meaty role in the gritty, serious The Turning Point, film noir about a government committee investigating mob activity and corruption in a fictional city. Great cast – William Holden, Edmond O’Brien, Alexis smith and Ed Begley makes this an above average fare, despite the formulaic story, and the director, William Dieterle, is more than capable of making a fine movie and it shows, he knows what he’s doing.

Adele’s Hollywood sojourn ended in 1953 with Battle Circus. It’s a June Allyson/Humphrey Bogart pairing, and what a strange pairing it is! I didn’t particularly like the movie, and I dislike June in general, so I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s degrading to women in general, since all that Allyson does in the movie (which is not a straight comedy, but rather a drama with comedic elements) is run after Bogart, and Bogart himself is absolutely sleepwalking through the role.

Adele did some TV work on the side from 1948 until 1954, and then left the industry that year.

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first hit the papers in 1940, Adele gave advice for your girls in a form of an essay:

There is no better time in her life for a young girl to practice good sportsmanship, that Invaluable attribute to charm, than during high school and college years. Even if her character when she was very little is something her best irritants would rather forget, she can take herself in hand, while in her ‘teens, and really learn to be a good sport which simply means being unselfish. Once that is accomplished her chances of growing up to be a kindly understanding person with fine manners are very good indeed. Get into the habit of seeing others’ viewpoints, of really listening when they speak, of forgetting their shortcomings and magnifying their good points. Make it your business to know all types of people. If you try to forget yourself and whether you feel superior or inferior, you will make friends wherever you go. Among young girls there is a tendency to carry the idea of self-expression much too far. Less concentration on one’s self and less frequent use of the personal pronoun make for kindness, the very fundamental of charm. And, speaking of carrying self-expression too far, I think it’s a mistake to talk too much about yourself the first few weeks you are in a new community, in a girls’ club or a dormitory. Listen to others for a while, saving something of yourself for later on. Don’t tell your entire history and go into detail about every emotion you ever have experienced until you have had time to look around and find your own level among people whose friendship you will want to keep. There’s nothing more unpleasant than realizing that a person whom you have grown to dislike knows too many of your innermost secrets and all because you told them yourself. It is better to be shy and retiring, letting yourself go quite unnoticed for weeks, even at the risk of being homesick and lonely, than to be a flash-in-the-pan person-liked, noticed and talked about for a short time, then pushed back into oblivion all too quickly.

Adele had even written a comedy, “Fun to Be Fooled.”, but it was never staged. After trying Hollywood in 1941 and 1942, In 1943, Adele returned to New York and Broadway, and got the leading role in Nine Girls, which ran for literary 5 performances.

Adele married Robert Harris in Alameda County in 1941, and divorced him before 1945. I could find no additional information about Harris nor their marriage. While appearing in “Old Acquaintance” Adele dated actor Bill Hawkins, then actor/director Howard de Silva, and then Carol Bruce’s manager. During WW2, she was “a heartillery barrage” with Edmund O’Brien, then a Private fresh off his success with Winged Victory.

WW2 was raging by 1944, and Adele decided to do something about it. Her last Broadway appearance before embarking on War relief work was “Outrageous For tune.”. And then she joined the Foxhole Circuit. She did a six months’ tour of North Africa and Italy, playing an important role in the Camp Shows version of Ruth Gordon’s hit play, “Over 21.” Here is a funny anecdote from that time:

A YOUNG sailor was asleep in the hold of a sub-chaser at Salerno. His sailor dreams were interrupted by a loud thud. He opened his eyes, turned on his flashlight and found a beautiful young girl. “May I use your bunk?” she asked. . . . “Of course,” said the sailor, trying to believe that he was awake. … He wasn’t dreaming. The girl was Adele Longmire, the Broadway actress touring in the U.S.O. company of “Over 21.” She had been invited to inspect the blacked-out sub-chaser’s chart room, tripped and fell 12 feet into the hold. She needed the bunk to recuperate from the shock and concussion.

After she returned to the US in early 1945, Adele continued her relief work by giving lectures.

All over the US, from her first-hand experiences at the front, Adele used to recount how USO-Camp Shows operate on every battlefront of this global warp and how it felt to give American servicemen entertainment at the front; how a USO Camp Shows troupe bridges the gap between home and foreign lands. Here is a short example of her stories:

-Actress Adele Longmire’s advice regarding ways of helping returning service men is to “just leave them alone.” Miss Longmire, who gave up the stage temporarily to go with the USO camp shows, told the Rotary club that soldiers “don’t want a lot of well-meaning sympathy and suggestions when they return.” “They’ll have a difficult enough time to readjust themselves,” she said, “and all they want is to make the transition on their own.” Four British paratroopers who are touring Utah industrial centers were’in the audience.

After returning to acting, Adele married actor Arthur Franz in 1946.

A leap year baby, Arthur Franz was born on February 29, 1920, in Perth, New Yersey. Wikipedia stated that, during World War II, Franz served as a B-24 Liberator navigator in the United States Army Air Forces. He was shot down over Romania and incarcerated in a POW camp, from which he later escaped.

Before he became an actor on Broadway, and had minor TV roles, and worked in a “one-arm” lunch room to make a living during his first years in Hollywood. He worked there whenever parts were scarce, and later remembered it with real affection. After several successful stage roles in the United States and Australia, Franz was awarded a long-term contract by Columbia Pictures.

Adele and Arthur had two daughters: Melissa Merrill, born on June 22, 1949 and Gina, born on May 30, 1953. It seems that Adele, at least for publicity purposed, had a pretty harmonic home life. Her husband was happy to call himself a handy man around the house, and was a great help with the care of their daughters. he also did some minor cooking – he could whip up pretty passable spaghetti, hamburgers and strawberry shortcake. It is funny how we should applaud a man if he decided to take care of his child. WTF! it’s your child, of course you have to take care of it and not ask anyone to pat your back for doing it. This is still the prevalent mindset in society even today – that if a man tales care of a child, it’s just an added bonus. Argh!

The Franzes divorced in about 1962. Adele didn’t remarry. Arthur remarried in 1964 to Doreen Lang. Doreen died in 1999, and Arthur remarried to Sharon Keyser in February 2006, and died the same year on June 16, in Oxnard, California.

For many years Adele was a writers’ agent in Beverly Hills with AshleySteiner and later in New York with IFA and ICM, as well as an Administrator of the Television Academy for three terms. She was also a Story Executive for Universal Pictures in New York and Daytime Editor for producer Tony Converse.

Adele falls from the radar after the early 1960s. She moved to New Mexico, and probably lived there in quiet retirement.

Adele Longmire Franz died on January 15, 2008, in Taos, New Mexico.