Mary Casiday

Mary Casiday came to Hollywood as a pretty model, managed to nab a studio contract and stayed. She never did any serious dramatic work, but like most girls who had such careers, her whole life was shaped by Los Angeles, a town she would have probably never visited if not for Hollywood. Let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Alice Irene Casiday was born in 1917 to Samuel Carlyle Casiday and Daisy Elizabeth Harrower in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father was a plumber. Her older brother was Carlyle Leure, born in 1916, and her younger sister was Daisy Elizabeth, born in 1919. The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska at some point and Mary grew up there. After she graduated from high school (St. Mary’s Convent), she found work as a model in Omaha.

Mary was a model for a short time when she decided to try the movies. Her story is actually a very inspiring one – in a town where many girls pine for months (and sometimes for years) for their chance to appear in movies , May had it very easy – she applied for a job on a Friday and got her first call the following Monday. As a complete newcomer, she knew so little about Hollywood that she went to the wrong studio on the first day of work. Luckily, she managed to find the correct studio and her career was of!

CAREER

This is pretty slim, as Mary appeared in only two movies – Dames and Westward the Women

What to say about Dames? A typical Busby Berkeley musical, that is the same as most of his other work – no plot, lots of dancing, singing and scantly clothed chorus girls. And guess who Mary was? A chorus girl, of course! While I myself am not a fan of such movie,s it’s still very, very impressive to see the perfectly choreographed scenes and one can’t help but admire Busby’s impeccable sense for elegant but abundant (is there a word that can truly nail it down?) motion. While not his best, this one stand the test of time and it’s more than watchable today.

Westward the Women is a different story. While this is no work of art comparable to the bets movie ever made, it’s still a great movie from William Wellman, one of the undisputed masters of the 20th century. The movie is about a trail guide escorts a group of women from Chicago to California to marry men that have recently began settling there. And boy, is it one of the very few movies realistically depicting pioneer life! Like it usually does Hollywood glamorized the hard knock, very difficult pioneer life, but not so much here, as she movie tackled it head on and hides nothing. As a result, it’s not easy to watch it, but it’s incredibly interesting and even inspiring to see people who beat terrible odds to keep living on a normal life in such surroundings. The cast is also pretty good – from Robert Taylor, already past his pretty boy stage, to a whole arena of female actresses (Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, Marilyn Erskine, Hope Emerson and so on), Wellman makes it work as smoothly as clockwork, and it’s a testament to his prowess as a director.

Unfortunately, that was it from Mary as far as IMDB claims. Her obituary tells a different story – allegedly she worked for Warner Bros and later William Randolph Hearst Production Co.  all the way until the mid 1950s. That means she could have been in other movies or TV shows under different names, or IMDB just doesn’t have all the information, but now I guess we’ll never know unless somebody goes some through information digging. The obituary also states that she appeared in several Busby Berkeley movies with their lavish production numbers, and was selected Miss Golden Girl in the Berkeley troupe. But let’s leave it at that!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1939, Mary started dating Clifford Welch (whoever he was!). In typical Hollywood style, whenever Welch was not in town, she had other swains. Once they were Anthony Averill and Dick Purcell who were her “gay caballeros” (as the columnists called them) while Cliff was back in the East. They squirmed her at Grace Hayes’ Lodge.

However, Cliff was Mary’s one true hearty toddy. That same year, Clifford Welch flew in from New York just to help Mary celebrate her birthday. It seemed that they were a serious couple for a time, but it seems they broke up the next year.

Mary made a personal appearance at the San Francisco Fair last week-end for Princess Do Ling, former lady in waiting to the late Empress Dowager of China. A barbecued chicken dinner following a long horseback trek was enjoyed by the clever hostess (Mary).

In 1940, after she and Cliff called it quits, she nabbed Dick Purcell, her old swain, from her love rival Vicki Lester. Hollywood sure was a small place back then, and people dated extensively.

Here is a short, fun story about Mary’s chorus days in Hollywood:

Chorines just now are rehearsing from noon until 6 p. m.. and performing; from 8:30 until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday evening, about 8 o’clock, Carroll’s chief aide-de-camp, Herman Hover was descending a flight of backstage stairs. Suddenly a bell began to jangle under his feet and with a horror-stricken shout of “TIME BOMB LOOK OUT:” Mr. Hover took the rest of the steps at a single bound. And from under the stairs where they had made a bed of blankets and pillows emerged Mary Casiday and Patti Sacks. Too tired to go home, they had set an alarm to insure waking up in time for the show

In 1940, there were news that Mary would undergo an appendectomy as soon as her strength is built sufficiently for the ordeal. It seems Mary was generally a fragile little thing and was not in the best of health for periods of time. The operation didn’t go as planned and Mary was allegedly hovering between life and death for some time afterwards. Time went by and she was no better and her friends were greatly worried. Luckily, after a dark time, she recuperated and resumes her Hollywood career.

It seems Mary was involved with handsome actor Lyle Talbot for a time – she gave him a big farewell party when he was scheduled to leave for Philadelphia to play in “Thanks for My Wife”. Unfortunately, the relationship ended soon afterwards. However, Mar’y love life continued unhindered. In 1941, she was getting a terrific rush from Edmund McDonald, in the construction business in San Francisco. Soon, there were stories all around how Edmund asked her to marry him and wedding bells would sound soon for the duo. And then nothing happened. I mean literary, no information about why they broke up or anything.

In May 1942, Mary was back in the hospital for another operation, but this time it all went well, and she got ready for the big event of the year – her wedding. In December 1942, Mary married Cecil Joseph Bye. Here is a newspaper clip about the marriage:

BYE-CASIDAY The wedding date of Dec. 30 for Miss Mary Casiday and Cecil Joseph Bye was announced at the surprise bridal shower given for the bride-elect by Mrs. Frederick Maxwell Karger in her Hollywood home. The marriage will be solemnized at the Sacred Heart of Mary. Miss Casiday is a graduate of St. Mary’s Convent, Omaha, and vice-president of the Army Camps Kmergency Service. Mr. Bye Is attending officers’ candidate school, Camp Davis, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.

Cecil Joseph Bye was born on December 10, 1907, the son of William Harry Bye and Adiliade Peiling. He was a successful Los Angeles businessman when he married Mary. Little is known about the Bye’s married life, except that they were California-based and Mary retired after the marriage.
Bye died on May 3, 1986 in Los Angeles. Mary never remarried and continued living in the city.

Mary Casiday Bye died on November 3, 1998 in Los Angeles.

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Betty McIvor

Betty McIvor was a beautiful debutante who wanted to act and was given the chance to do so – but unfortunately she left no impression on the world of films. As most of her peers, she retired after a few roles, got married and slipped into the upper class lifestyle.

EARLY LIFE

Betty Jane McIvor was born on June 8, 1919, in Sweet Grass, Montana to Allan Vivian McIvor and Mabel Pudget. Her father was a vice president of a local bank. Both of her parents were members of the upper class, and Betty grew up in a wealthy household that had several servants.

In 1930, they family moved to  Cheyenne, Laramie, Wyoming for Allan’s work, and Betty spent most of her teen years in Wyoming, adapting to the local Midwestern lifestyle. After graduating from high school (a private one, no doubt), she left to study at Stanford University.

Yet, her ties with Wyoming remained. In 1940, she was selected as Miss Cheyenne Frontier Days to rule over the famous outdoor rodeo at Cheyenne. She was described as “a typical girl of the west, 21, a daughter of a prominent western family and a student at Stanford university”. On Stanford university, she was noticed by a scout and given a chance to join the movie world.

CAREER

Betty made her debut in Dames, a typical Busby Berkeley musical with a very, very thin plot but plenty of music, dancing and pretty girls. As per usual, we have Joan Blondell, Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler in various capacities. She continued in the same vein with Gold Diggers of 1935, perhaps the best Berkeley musical made in the 1930s. Much as Dames, it has no plot but it well stuffed in other areas – namely, as we mentioned, dance music and girls, girls girls! Even the cast is half the same, but just everything is better (it’s hard to explain what exactly makes this the best Berkeley movie, but it is one of the best, hands down! Just watch it and enjoy).

We get more of the same in In Caliente, another Berkeley musical. This time, we have a slightly different cast – instead of old stalwarts like Powell and Keeler, we have Pat O’Brien and Dolores del Rio. Without any doubt, del Rio was one of the most stunning women that ever came to Hollywood, and O’Brien was a character actor that could carry leading roles with ease, so a plus to the casting department IMHO! As always, the story makes little sense, but you ain’t watching it for this, right?

Betty changed tracks with The Case of the Lucky Legs, not a Berkeley musical but a Perry Mason mystery – and boy, was Warren William a different Mason that Raymond Burr, whom we all know as the idealistic attorney. William is a more human and less “perfect” Perry – he is more than a bit cheeky and unusually flippant, but I have to say I like this incarnation a great deal. The story is vintage Mason, and Della Street is played by the highly fashionable Genevive Tobin. What can we say, it’s a solid movie, too bad the popular 1960s series overshadows all the previous versions.

Betty was again a gold digger in Gold Diggers of 1937, a pale semi remake of the 1935 movie. What can I say, like most remakes it simply fails. Hollywood, stop making remakes – obviously this doesn’t work. Interestingly, the formula is the same (no plot, plenty of fun), but the movies vary in quality and it’s hard to exactly pinpoint what is the edge that makes a movie great or mediocre.

Betty finished her career with Thin Ice, a Sonja Henie movie. What can I say, I don’t like Henie and never rated her movies highly. She knew how to skate for sure, but was neither a warm, endearing star (more important for musicals than the ability to do Shakespeare) nor was she a good thespian (in fact, . And her movies are dismal in terms of plot and character development (huh, what did I expect from a glorified skating musical after all?).

This was it from Betty!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1940, when Betty was already 20 years old and getting ready to get married, her parents, already about 50 years old each, adopted a baby girl, Patricia Lou Brown.

Betty married her first husband, Franklin Judd Downing on December 27, 1940. Here is a short article about the marriage:

BETTY McIVOR TO BE BRIDE Miss Betty Mclvor, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Allan V. Mclvor of Hollywood, and Judd Downing, son of Mrs. Maude Downing, arc to be married tomorrow in the Chapman Park Pueblo Oratorio. A reception will be held in the Green Room of the Chapman Park. The couple plan to spend their honeymoon in Arizona. The bride-elect attended the University of Colorado and Stanford and is a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma. Mr. Downing is a graduate of the University of Miami

Judd was born on August 1, 1912 in Lima, Ohio, to Frank and Maud Dowling. After studying in Dade, Florida (where he lived with his mother) he became a successful practicing attorney in California and was featured in the social columns in the papers from time to time. He was married and divorced prior to 1935, but I could not find a name of his spouse.

Their daughter Judith Allan was born on January 26, 1945. Unfortunately, by this time the Dowling’s marriage was disintegrating and they divorced in 1946.

Betty married for the second time, to Lorrin Tarlton, on December 6, 1947. Lorrin Cooke Tarlton was born on July 10, 1911, in Watertown, Massachusetts, to Edna Stone Cooke and Frank Dale Calrton both members of prominent families. His mother was the daughter of formerConnecticut governor, Lorrin Cooke. Tarlton was married once before, on July 7, 1934, to Olive Wheelock. They had a son together, Lorrin Cooke Tarlton, born on February 16, 1936. Lorrin and Olive divorced in the early 1940s (I can assume).

Lorrin and Betty lived an active life in California, and were regulars at the social columns in the area. Lorrin adopted Betty’s daughter Judith but it seems they did not have any more children. Like her mother, Judith attended Stanford University.

Lorrin’s son Lorrin Jr. became a successful businessman and in
the 1980s developed Menlo Business Park, taking advantage of the then novel Dumbarton Bridge.

Betty’s former husband Judd Dowling died in January 1973.

Betty’s husband, Lorrin Cooke Tarlton, died on March 18, 1981, in Los Angeles.

Betty McIvor Tarlton died at the ripe of age of 95 in 2014 in California.

Charlene Hardey

Charlene was a stunningly beautiful Home coming queen who wanted to crash Hollywood, and she did crash it. For a few days during her glorious year. And that was that. She was soon burned out and left acting for other ventures, getting married in the end and raising a family. Let’s hear her story…

EARLY LIFE

Charlene Mae Hardey was born on May 29, 1927, in Imperial, California, to Gordon S. Hardey and Mae Williams. Her father, a native of Oklahoma, was a owned and operated a car repair station in Imperial, her Texas-born mother was a housewife. Her younger brother Gordon Williams was born on November 14, 1930. The family lived with Gordon’s dad, Henry Hardey (have no idea where grandma was, as Henry isn’t listed as a widow, but married).

By all accounts, Charlene had a normal middle class upbringing, and was a movie fan who wanted to become an actress. After high school enrolled into the University of Southern California, majoring in drama. And then, her time of fame came… Here is a short article about it:

Queen to Reign in Home-coming Selected at SC Helen of Troy . . . She was selected at the University of Southern California yesterday and she launched a thousand sighs. As the prettiest Trojane of them all, she will reisn over the many events’ in the current Home’ coming Week on the Trojan cam pus. She Is Charlene Hardey. Dark-haired and petite 5 feet, 2 inches, 110 pounds Charlene is a senior majoring in drama. She belongs to Pi Phi Sorority. Her home is in Brawley. Charlene was chosen from among 21 finalists in the annual Helen of Troy contest before a full and appreciative audience in Bovard Auditorium on the SC campus. Picked to reign with her over home-coming week activities were four attendants: Harriet Steele, 20, a junior, of 368 Gladys St., Long Beach; Nevin Haugh, 21, a senior, of 135 S Van Ness Ave.: Patricia Judson, 20, a junior, of 9002 Norma Place, Beverly Hills, and Sally Harris, 21, a senior, of . 3378 -Huntington Drive, San Marino. All of the attendants belong to Delta Delta Delta except Miss Haugh who is a Delta Gamma. Judges who selected Helen of Troy and her four attendants were Film Actors Donald O’Connor and Lee Bowman and Band leader Les Brown, whose orchestra played before the final selection.

The papers listed all the actives she was to undertake as a homecoming queen, and there were quite a lot, actually. They were:
… As queen of the campus, Miss Hardey will be feted at a sorority reception today
. . . preside over the freshman-sophomore -push ball, sack race and tug-of-war and women’s contests on Bovard Field that afternoon
. . . ride in the Hollywood Blvd. Christmas parade tonight
. . . participate in the’ traditional Taxi Day parade that Friday when some 20 vehicles of all descriptions will proceed from the SC campus to the City Man where Mayor Bowron is scheduled to present the keys to the city to Helen of Troy
… be honored at a pre-football luncheon which will be given by President Fred Dl Fagg Jr. of SC before the SC-Notre Dame football game Saturday
. . . ride on a special float In the home-coming parade in the Coliseum before the game and reign over the home-coming dance Saturday night at Casino Gardens.

Phew, I hope it was worth it. Anyway, all eyes were on Charlene those few days, including the eyes of Hollywood. A talent scout, always hungry for pretty young ladies, saw her and she was signed to a contract.

CAREER

Charlene appeared in only two movies. The first is A Life of Her Own. The plot is as follows: an aspiring, played by Lana Turner, model who leaves her small town in the Midwest to seek fame and fortune in New York City and gets mixed up with a married man (played by Ray Milland) and has to survive in the ruthless world of modeling. It’s a typical 1940s weepie, a overtly dramatic romance movie, not much more, but made well enough not to be a waste of time. But, I still think it’s worth watching. Plenty of well acted (and less well acted) angst works both for and against the movie. The ending surprised me nicely and Ann Dvorak role’s a plus. The original script was much more morally ambiguous, but sadly the censors cut it down into (same story of old Hollywood, it seems). Charlene played one of the models.

Charlene than appeared in another woman’s movie – Take Care of My Little Girl, a subject close to her very own heart – university life. The plot: A young woman enters college and learns some hard truths about sorority lifethe negative things.The movie looks like a fluffy piece of sugar, but it actually packs a punch if one watches it more closely. The movie carries a strong message about snobbery, shallowness, and hazing, something that is more relevant today than ever before. None of the thespians was first class – Jeanne Crain, while beautiful, was never a particularly talented actress, and Jean Peters, while always adequate, was no Bette Davis – same goes for Dale Robertson – but they are perfect for a movie of this kind, and hit the right notes. Definitely recommended!

After her movie career was over, Charlene did some TV work, a modus operandi for many actor and actresses of her generation.

PRIVATE LIFE

After her acting career watered down to nil, Charlene for a time did TV films for Bing Crosby Enterprises, and then served as Red Sanders‘ secretary for seven years. Well, how did she become a secretary all of a sudden? Namely, Red lured away from the cameras to become his real-life secretary after she had played that role on his weekly TV show, “Pigskin Clinic.” After she left Red’s employ, she spend some time serving in the same capacity for Billy Barnes.

In his private life, Charlene was cool, calm and collected and never made any newspaper headlines. She met her future husband, handsome Stephen Steere, during the 1948 USC vs. Notre Dame football game, where he first saw her – she was on the field and he was in the audience, so perhaps the didn’t meet “for real”, as she didn’t even notice him. However, in a strange twist of fate, they “met” for real on a a blind date a year later and dated for six more years. They were married on December 14, 1956, in Los Angeles. Charlene retired after her marriage. Now, something about Steere.

Stephen Douglas Steere was a Southern California native, born in Santa Monica on June 20, 1925 to Fred and Gertrude (Gigi) Steere. He was the third of five children – his older sisters were Jeanne and Barbara (who were born in Canada, as the family was originally Canadian), and his younger siblings were Neila Margaret, born on January 7, 1928, and Donald Mack, born on June 22, 1929His father managed Wilson’s Sporting Goods on 3rd Street and Wilshire in Santa Monica. His education was delayed by the War – he was drafted and returned to civilian life in 1945. After taking art classes at SMC, he rekindled his natural artistic talents and went on to attend Art Center College of Design, with a degree in illustration.

As his obituary (read it here, much information about the couple was taken from it) notes:

Following his focus on fine art, he went on to explore more commercial art avenues, working at Western Publishing in Beverly Hills, alongside artist Ellis ‘Papa Duke’ Eringer. This led to establishing himself as a successful free-lance artist, working primarily for Walt Disney Studios, as well as Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal, MGM, Hanna Barbera, Dell Comics, Mattel, and Hallmark among others. His talents evolved into a 50-year career drawing every popular character created by these houses of tangible imagination. Steve’s work appeared in books, comic books, coloring books, comic strips, and on clothing, videos, posters, etc. — hundreds of products enjoyed by children and adults around the world for decades. He also did early developmental work for Disneyland in advertising and merchandising. In later years, he returned to his fine-art roots, painting impressionistic and three-dimensional land and seascapes.

Charlene and Stephen had two children, a daughter, Shannon, born on February 18, 1960, in Los Angeles, and a son, Stephen, born on August 4, 1961, in Los Angeles.

When they first married, Charlene and Steve lived in Santa Monica, then Pacific Palisades, then moved to Malibu in 1960, first in La Costa Beach, then in Malibu West, becoming one of the original owners in the new neighborhood. When their house was destroyed by a fire, they rebuilt the home. They enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage for more than 50 years.

Charlene Steere died on October 23, 2008, in Malibu, California. Her widower Stephen Steere died on October 20, 2014.

Ariel Heath

 

 

Ariel Heath was another debutante who wanted to make it big in movies and failed. However, her life story is less orthodox than most, and she definitely did do better than most of her fellow socialites, having credited roles and actually staying in Hollywood for three years. Unfortunately, stupid publicity fastened her demise. Let’s hear it!

EARLY LIFE

Anne Harrison was born in Cinncinatti, Ohio, on January 2, 1917, to socialites Learner Blackman Harrison and Frances Kohlsaat, their first child. Her father was the great local banker who came from a prominent family. Her mother was also a debutante, niece of Herman H. Kohlsaat, an eminent Chicago editor and author. Anne had a younger sister, Frances, born in 1922, and a brother.

The Harrisons employed two servants, Margaret Dechant and Lester Wright, and lived the lavish life. Unfortunately, her parents divorced in 1924, her mother remarried as soon as the ink on the divorce papers was dry (to a younger Montecito guy, Samuel Russel Dabney) and her father remarried to Hilda Jones in 1926 (coincidentally, Hilda was born on the same day as Anne, January 2). Anne stayed with her father while her younger siblings went to live with their mother (a bit weird but okay, whatever works).

Ariel thus lived with her dad,  hard and proud Cincinnati businessman who commuted between that city and Lexington, where his mother lived, with Ariel tagging along.

In time Ariel caught the acting bug and starting from the age of eleven, she played child parts in Stuart Walker‘s repertory company while visiting her grandmother one summer. This became came a regular summer-stock routine until Mr Walker was called to Hollywood to direct pictures for Paramount studios. Then things began happening. Stuart Walker wired Ariel and her grandmother an invitation to come to Hollywood. Ariel’s father immediately put his foot down and Ariel was whisked off to Meath County, Ireland for further schooling, then to Switzerland and Paris, where she attended finishing schools. Naturally, Ariel ended up majoring in dramatics, sculpting and painting. The rumblings of war brought her back to Kentucky, her horses and her American Kennel champion dogs. She wanted to be a veterinarian but lacked the proper credits to enter a veterinary school (I guess she was too lazy to seriously study).

Then, in the early 1930s, Ariel’s grandmother moved to Hollywood, and this served as a catalyst for the young girl to make her plans. Her friend and former coach, Stuart Walker, was now firmly established as a motion picture director. She wired him, he wired back, and Ariel was in Los Angeles in a flash.

However, the day Ariel arrived in Hollywood, tragedy struck. Stuart Walker was suddenly stricken and died a week later. His death was a great shock to her, but she decided to stay and enjoy her newfound freedom. Since money was no problem, she didn’t even look for a job right away – she just idled at the sunny shores of California.

However, as stories sometimes go, when a you won’t come to the mountain the mountain will come to you, and movies found another way to claim Ariel. Ariel had a Shepherd dog, Michael. Ariel entered her prize dog in a Kennel Club Show in Beverly Hills. At the same show was Elizabeth Risdon, RKO actress, who was also showing her dog. Miss Risdon became interested in Ariel’s Shepherd then she took a second look at Ariel. The next day, Miss Risdon mentioned her discovery to one of her bosses at RKO. Ariel was called to the studio, given screen test and signed to a contract. From then on, she became best friend with Miss Risdon,  who also sent her to Helena Sorell, head of the RKO Radio Drama School troupe. And then she was pushed into movies!

CAREER

Ariel started her career in Here We Go Again, a Molly and Fiber Mcgee comedy. It’s one of those “if you like them, watch it, if you don’t, don’t” comedic series – not for everybody, but some people enjoy it. Next came the very unrealistic, strangely cast musical Seven Days’ Leave. oh yes, if you want to see Victor Mature as a soldier-crooner, do watch this! Weird. On the plus side, it’s not a bad effort and is definitely a feel-happy movie (and it’s got Lucille Ball in it!). Then came the grim and serious Hitler’s Children, a very direct criticism at Hitler Youth movement. It’s one of those movies you see but don’t enjoy, due to its brutal and nightmarish theme, but still, it packs a pretty strong punch, as it was intended. Another anti-Nazi movie, in a slightly different coating, was Flight for Freedom, hailed as the life story of Amelia Earhart – but actually a war propaganda movie. Thus, it’s not a good movie at any rate, although Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray give their best shots. Ladies’ Day was finally an easier fare – a baseball comedy with little game and plenty of zany comediennes (Patsy Kelly, Iris Adrian and Lupe Velez). It’s a B movie and it shows, but it’s got a peculiar charm of its own.

Ariel than appeared in a Falcon movie, The Falcon Strikes Back. What to say, more of the same. And then, Ariel appeared in a string of prestigious, very good movies. The first was This Land Is Mine, one of the best movie about ordinary people in war ever made. Charles Laughton shines as a mild mannered teacher turned resistance fighter, and Maureen O’Hara gives a passionate performance too. The Leopard Man is a stunning horror movie by the master of the genre, Jacques Tourneur. Sadly not as famous as the director’s other work, it’s a compelling, tightly plotted and superbly made movie. Ariel finished her golden string with Mr. Lucky, an interesting Cary Grant film where he plays a gambler turned charity donor (after he falls in love with a girl, of course). Since I like Laraine Day, it’s a definite plus that she’s in the movie, IMHO.

And then Airel got her five minutes of fame, and a credited role in a low-budget western. Yipee!! Or maybe not. The movie in question was Black Hills Express and it’s completely forgotten today. Zzzz, let’s not waste any more time on it. Ariel continued with her credited career in A Lady Takes a Chance, a fluffy Jean Arthur/John Wayne comedy. She was also prominently featured in Career Girl, a pale remake of Stage Door. Here, we have no Ginger Rogers or Katherine Hepburn – we just have Frances Langford and Lorraine Miller. While they were to some degree talented ladies, they can’t save a movie nor make it a true classic. She had another not-invisible role in Machine Gun Mama, a simple, low-key Z class comedy. Her last movie, The Big Show-Off, was of a similar vein, a little known low-budget comedy with Arthur Lake and Dale Evans (sans hubby Roy Rogers). That was it from Ariel!                

PRIVATE LIFE

Ariel was import to Hollywood as a Jean Harlow wannabe. And while she was being groomed for stardom (and many starlets don’t have this luxury), of course it didn’t work. Like many other “copies”, she crashed and burned. her studio tried to downplay on their plan, even claiming that it was NO HINDRANCE to her career that she closely resembled Jean Harlow, but this proved to be a futile attempt. This is a typical article illustrating this:

Ariel Heath — the name has the airy, ethereal fluff of a Summer cloud. But it’s a Lexington, Kentucky, girl who resembles Jean Harlow, and who was being built up by RKO on that
basis. Blessed with an Irish wit and humor, she laughs when she tells you she stopped kidding herself about becoming famous that way.
She feels she is an actress, has experience and training to back that feeling, and so, she took the part of a meanie in PRC’s present production, “Manhattan Rhythm.” At least she will get a chance to show that she can act.

They tried to sell Ariel as a Jean Harlow look-alike who cared nothing about it and wanted to be a serious actress. If only! If they really wanted to make her a serious actress, they would neither have bleached her hair nor even mentioned Jean’s name in the same sentence as Ariel’s. All in all, a general fiasco.

Ariel seemed to be a very well-bred, nice and enthusiastic young lady. When she was interviewed for the first time, the writer wrote this about her:

When I was asked to Interview Ariel Heath, whose option was recently picked Up by R.K.O. Radio Pictures, I expected to meet a very complex young lady — and I did. The lovely twenty-one-year-old blonde beauty from the blue-grass state of Kentucky was quite reticent about her own past and preferred heaping her praises upon her fellow contract players, climaxing her “press – agent- ing” with, “We all owe our good fortune, directly or indirectly, to the coaching and understanding of Miss Helena Sorrel, our dialogue director.” “That’s great! Now what about you?” I said sternly. “You’re the one I’m supposed to be interviewing.” My last words died away into a whisper. You see, I had caught her eyes. They’re a fathomless grey and when this curvaceous creature smiles, well, shades of the late Jean Harlow appear before your eyes . . and you do naught but stare. Fortunately, her grandmother, with whom Ariel shares an apartment in Hollywood, appeared on the scene and upon her insistence Ariel talked.

Another interesting tidbit: Ariel’s father and family were not aware that she was in pictures, only her grandmother knew the secret. Ariel commented on this: “You see Father is not a movie fan and would hit the ceiling if he knew. We want to break it to him gently, at the proper time.” Since her career was over soon enough, one wonders did she even mention this West Coast sojourn to her dad.

As for romance, we are a bit thin here. Lee Bowman, a noted actor, introduced Ariel Heath to his brother, Hunter Bowman, American Airlines official visiting in Hollywood from Washington, D. C., and they dated for sometime after.

Ariel was allegedly quite intelligent. When she was painted by noted artist Peter Fairchild, he called her “Hollywood’s intelligent blonde with classic features. Then they all aren’t beautiful and dumb, you see.”

Her hair color during her stay in Hollywood was known as a “whistle-blonde” shade (not platinum blonde, mind you!). Unfortunately, it was hard to upkeep it so she gave up halfway and darkened it. Also, Ariel missed Lexington quite a bit during her stay in Tinsel town. Her closest friends in Lexington were the Ed Maddens – Mr. Madden sent her a valuable thoroughbred mare shipped to Hollywood in a box stall but Ariel had to give her up since she couldn’t afford to feed it!

Ariel left Hollywood after a few roles, and was rarely featured in the papers. However, the next thing we know, she was to get married, to another socialite, Shipley Bayless.

Here is a newspaper announcement on their wedding:

THE MARRIAGE OF Mrs. Anne Harrison and Mr. Shipley Armstrong Bayless will be solemnized at 6:30 o’clock this afternoon at the residence of the late Mr. and Mm. John E. C. Kohlsaat at Santa Barbara, Calif. Only the immediate family will be present at the ceremony. Mrs. Harrison is the daughter of Mrs. Samuel R. Dabney (Frances Kohlsaat) of White Gate Ranch, Los Olivos, Calif., and Mr. Learner B. Harrison of Cincinnati. Mr. Bay-less is the son of Mr. Herman A. Bayless and the late Mrs. Alfreda Shipley Bayless. After their wedding journey Mr. Bayless and his bride will return to Cincinnati where they will be established in Mr. Bayless’s residence on Vista Avenue.

Anne and her husband were very active socially and strong members of the horse-breeding set – they owned several farms and prize-winning horses. Unfortunately, as I know next to nothing about that culture, I can’t write about it in any detail.

Bayless and Anne divorced in the 1960s, and he remarried in 1964 to Mary O’Connell. He died in 2005.

Anne Bayless died on July 21, 1973 in Santa Barbara, California.

Florine Dickson

Another debutante who decided to become a serious actress, Florine Dickson fared as most of her peers did – she tried, didn’t achieve any tangible success and gave up. But still, each story is unique in their own way, to let’s hear it!

EARLY LIFE

Florine L. Dickson was born in February 1, 1914 in San Bernardino, California, to Hugh I. Dickson and Ola McConnic. Her father was an eminent attorney. Her mother was married once before and had a son, Sam Matthews (born in 1894), from that marriage. Both of her parents were Mississippi natives. Her older sisters were Margaret, born on January 4, 1906, and Dorothy, born on February 7, 1908 (both of them were born in San Bernardino). Florine was the baby of the family, much-loved and cuddled.

Florine grew up as most debutantes did back in the 1910s and 1920s – attended private school and being socially very active. Since her older sister Margaret (who was a one time teacher after graduating from college) was married in Hawaii, she often went there and was very active in the Hawaiian social scene. During the months spent in Honolulu with Margaret (then Mrs. Irving Blum) Florine made a study of the dance of the natives and Oriental dances, which would help her in her future career.

Florine’s mom had some familial connection in Colorado, and in part because of this, Florine went on to study at the University of Colorado in Denver. She later switched to University of Southern California, where she graduated (and much more, later about this).

My guess is that she broke into movies thanks to her socialite status and dancing background.

CAREER

Florine appeared in only three movies during her all too brief career. The first one was George White’s 1935 Scandals, and whoa, what can I say about this movie? It has a paper-thin plot – small town stars going to Broadway – but viewer back then, as now, didn’t watch it for the deep story and complex characterizations – they watched it for the music, for the glamour and for the dancing. And this one, while not an ever lasting classic, doesn’t disappoint. We have Alice Faye and her wonderful singing, Eleanor Powell doing great tap dancing, and decent comic relief provided by Ned Sparks – this is more than enough for a decent movie, don’t you think?

Florine’s next movie was Redheads on Parade, another musical with an idiotic story, but with loads of pretty redheads in a chorus line. Of course, Florine was one of the redheads. Needless to say, the movie is completely forgotten today and obviously for good reason.

Florine made her last movie full five years later, in 1940. She appeared in You Nazty Spy!, a very good Three Stooges comic short. And guess what it’s about? Fighting Nazis, of course, with our three favorite comedians as protagonists. Unfortunately, this did not lead to a career revival for Florine.

That was all from Florine!    

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1935, the papers warned the readers not to be surprised if they read shortly the formal notice of an engagement between her and Homer Griffith, Chicago Cardinals football half back. How did they meet? Well, this is one sweet story!

The two met on the S. C campus when both were students and lived next door to each other on “Greek Row.” He, Homer Griffith, was a star back of University of Southern California college team (future Chicago Cardinal pro). Florine, the beauty that she was, was an Alpha Chi Omega sorority girl at IT. S. Griffith’s fraternity house, the Phi Kappa Psi, was standing next door to the Alpha Chi Omega’s. In other words, Florine was at the Alpha Chi house while Homer was at the Phi Psi Tong temple, and it was inevitable that they meet.

This was all fine and dandy, but these sentences put he on guard mode:

“We have no plans for an immediate marriage,” Griffith said. “In fact, I wouldn’t say we arc formally engaged. But when the time comes I hope to marry Miss Dickson,” he added

Then why the heck marry? Guess those were different times than today. Since Florine was mighty popular with the boys, many of them were saddened with the news that she was getting married to Homer. However, they needn’t not worries. Despite all the hullabaloo and big words in the papers, Florine ditched her student fiancée and within the year, had a new . Now, how did this happen? I have no idea, but my own wild guess is that Florine dated Homer for ages and it was taken for granted that they would wed. However, enter Hollywood and handsome actors. Florine fell in love with another man – and broke of her engagement. Here is a short article about her marriage:

Forsaking a career in motion pictures, Florine Dickson left tonight for New York to marry John McGuire next Monday and go on a honeymoon trip. They met on a film stage here. She was regarded here as a coming star, having been selected as one of the “baby” stars for two consecutive years. McGuire, who also has won a place in pictures, is now playing in a Broadway production. Miss Dickson is the daughter of Hugh I. Dickson, federal referee i n bankruptcy here. She is a . McGuire was graduated from the University of Santa Clara in 1933.

The couple went to honeymoon in. Later, John would rave about his wife’s perfume, Evening in Paris, and just how important a part it played in their courtship.

“The scent of Evening in Paris Perfume is one of my earliest memories of the girl I fell in love with and married. Perhaps it’s understandable that one of the things I like best to give Florine
is Evening in Paris Perfume. I hope she wears it always.”

Now, something about John. He was born on October 22, 1910, making him 7 years older than Florine. He graduated from University of Santa Clara and entered movies in 1932. Following the marriage they settled in New York, where Florine and John were both engaged as artists’ models, filling important engagements continuously. Florine was very successful and had been recognized as the model for numerous magazine covers and extensive advertising and other publicity.

In 1940 Florine and Jack were living in Hollywood where Florine worked as a successful photographer’s model and Jack was an actor.

At some point, her father also moved to Los Angeles (along with her mother) and became a U. S. referee in bankruptcy.

Florine and her husband remained happily married. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about possible offsprings. John died on September 30, 1980, in Dublin, Ireland. Florine never remarried after his death.

Florine Dickson McGuire died in 2006.

Esther Brodelet

Many pretty girls have completely wrong assumptions when they come to Hollywood. They think that good looks can get them to the top – since this hardy ever happened, after a couple of months or years they would leave Hollywood mostly unhappy, with bitter feelings towards the studio system that never gave them a chance to shine.  While the system was inherently flawed for sure, it was much better to simply accept the fact that only 3% of all screen players make a name out of themselves – other just scrap by from movie to movie but can still lead a happy and fulfilling life. Esther Brodelet knew this and wisely shunned any try to become a star, wholly realistic and truly satisfied to remain a chorus girl. Also as a special bonus, she had her own side job which poured in some decent money – kudos to Esther! Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Esther Brodelet was born on December 7, 1906, in Chicago, Illinois, to Francois and Anna Brodelet. Her father was Dutch (his mother was born in India, interesting lineage!), working as a cook at a restaurant where her mother (herself a daughter of Danish immigrants) was the waitress. In future years Esther would shave almost 10 years off her birth date – even her tombstone claims she was born in 1916. However, 1906 is the correct date, as her father immigrated to the US in 1902 and married her mother in about 1904.

The family lived as lodgers in a hotel when she was born. Her parents divorced in the mid 1910, and Esther and her mom lived in Los Angeles, where her mom ran a club house and put up accommodation for lodgers. Esther grew up in Los Angeles and started dancing at an early age, working as a dancer and chorine from the mid 1920s.

In 1932, she won a Fox film contract in a test that included more than 1,100 applicants, signed a contract and of she went!

CAREER

Esther began her career as a chorus girl, and appeared in a string of musicals – the weird, offbeat SF musical It’s Great to Be Alive, the light fluff Arizona to Broadway (not a musical, I admit, but heck!), one of my favorite Joan Crawford movies, Dancing Lady (boy, when Franchot Tone bought a whole theater just to see Joan dance, I melted! What a movie! Not high art or anything, but a girl can dream can she?), and the no-plot-no-brain-lots-of-fun George White’s 1935 Scandals.

Next Esther appeared in the completely forgotten Redheads on Parade. Likewise was Piernas de seda, a Spanish movie made in Hollywood. Esther get got a step up by appearing in movies at least sometimes mentioned today – Girls’ Dormitory is only famous for being an early Tyrone Power movie, but hey, at least somebody heard of it! Plus Herbert Marshall, oh man! He was the epitome of class and charm back then!

Esther was again a dancer in Charlie Chan on Broadway, one of the long running Charlie Chan movies. Ditto for her next picture, The Baroness and the Butler. The movie actually has a good story (taken from IMDB): This is a charming film set in Hungary, about a butler, Johann Porok (William Powell) who works for the Prime Minister (Henry Stephenson). The prime minister and his family, particularly his daughter Katrina (Annabella) are shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament – by the opposition party. What’s more, he wants to stay on as butler. Meanwhile, Katrina’s philandering husband (Josef Schildkraut) has a few political ambitions of his own. What to say? Powell could play roles like that in his sleep – and Anabella is absolutely gorgeous. While not a top actress not a great beauty, she has plenty of charm and knows how to work the camera. And I adore Joseph Schildkraut. Truly a wonderful actor, at best playing elegant schemers.

Esther became a model for her next movie, Thanks for Everything. a lackluster social farce about a sap who has the special talent of predicting stuff – and then the corporations are after him. Notable only for the role of Adolphe Menjou – otherwise avoid (the sap is played by Jack Haley and just meh!). Then came The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, a well-known classic that needs no introduction. Esther finally caught a credited role in Young as You Feel, a Jones family movie (and completely forgotten one!). Then came Lillian Russell, a solid biopic of (you guessed it) singer Lillian Russell, played by Alice Faye. Henry Fonda gives handsome support 🙂 Unfortunately, her next movie, Girl from Avenue A, is completely forgotten. But then came Brigham Young, a movie well-regarded today – while not a beloved classic like some other epics, it’s a very nicely done film – good production values, good cast (Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell,), everything done as it should. However, it is historically inaccurate, but that’s 1940s Hollywood for you!

Esther was then one of many chorus girls in Tall, Dark and Handsome, a pretty good gangster parody with Cesar Romero as a gangster with a heart of gold. Good stuff! Esther than appeared in the Fritz Lang classic western, Western Union. She came back to musicals with That Night in Rio – this one has a cliché plot (an actor impersonates a wealthy count and in the process seduces his wife), but the actors are all earnest and funny – Don Ameche, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and so on. Footlight Serenade is the same old musical – thin plot but plenty of good music and pizzazz. Ditto for Around the World. Esther then had a minor role in the Carole Landis penned Four Jills in a Jeep, about the tours four actresses made with USO overseas at the beginning of American participation in World War II. The actresses were Carole, Kay Francis, Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair. It’s actually a pretty good movie – just not a great one, but it does have that “based on a true story” extra value. Phil Silvers appears too much as a Sargent chaperoning the girls – and we get cameos by Betty Grable and Alice Faye!

Esther’s last four movies were all musicals: the remake of State Fair, the completely forgettable Mexican themed movie, Mexicana, Do You Love Me  a charming Cinderella themed movie where a matronly college dean, played by Maureen O’Hara, transforms into a glamorous singer and romances DIck Haymes in the interim, and for Esther’s last movie we have Mother Wore Tights, a so-so Betty Grable movie.

And that was it from Esther!

PRIVATE LIFE

Esther gave her beauty hint to the readers in 1934:

To keep my hands fresh and lovely I avoid putting them in water that is too hot or too cold. To keep them from getting dry, I apply a good hand lotion after washing, and massage them with a good tissue cream at night.

Esther worked on the side, as a hoofer at “The Jane Jones Club.” a Los Angeles whoopee asylum. In 1934, she dated William Harrison (Jack to you!) Dempsey for a few months.

Her next beau was William Boyd and Esther Brodelet. They were on and off for quite some time, then they got into a fight, then he left for Europe, then they reconcile, because of his numerous trans – Atlantic talks, finally to break up for good after he got back.

Esther then found an oil king you should be pursued her by buying diamond bracelets and Rolls Royces, but it didn’t lead to the altar.

Esther at one point left for England to appear in movie features made in their production studio at Elstree. She said to the papers:

“Prosperity is going to be reflected in more motion picture musicals, in other words, it will be out of the beanerics and into the best cafes for the decorative members of the tune films.”

Unfortunately, she got no credits from that time so it’s nearly impossible to know what exactly happened.

Durign her long career, Esther always professed a penchant for living a quiet and healthy life, as opposed to the hectic and party living Hollywood life most starlets were leading.

“On the Avenue” strolls Esther Brodelet, attractive tock girl, with the observation that popularity the chorine is to be shunned rather than sought. “Parties cut into your sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity necessary to show your, best every day before the camera,” she affirms. “Girls who don’t sleep simply don’t stay in the movie. The movie chorine 1 a 10 o’clock girl If she’s smart and want to win a career. “And going out almost every night makes It impossible to keep, the same weight and figure. Irregular hours will do surprising things to you over a period of time.” And that, says Esther, Is the answer to the recurrent question about movie chorus girls and “dates.”

And this quote:

“While most chorus girls make a good salary,” says Esther, who draws her pay on the 20th-Century-Fox lot, “it is almost impossible for us to keep stocked with the gowns and jewelry necessary for party girls. “Entirely aside from the money, parties cut into sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity you need before the cameras. Sleep and Stay “Girls who don’t sleep don’t stay in the movies.” When she’s making a picture, Esther goes to bed at 10 p. m. So if you’re planning a career as a movie dancer, don’t plan on having your fling in Hollywood. Esther says that’s a good way to be flung out. “

In 1937, Esther dated Douglas Fowley.

Here is a funny anecdote from the time Esther was filming Lillian Russell:

Discomfort and bother even torture such as shown above by Esther Brodelet and Bonnie Bannon, caused four of Hollywood’s film beauties to go on “strike” against the 1890 whale-boned corsets, which the studio insisted they wear all day during the shooting: of scenes for the movie, “Lillian Russell.” The girls, paid $16.50 each day. failed to report to the studio the second day, explaining they were laced so tightly they “couldn’t have swallowed an olive.”

At some point, Esther’s figure that was described as Hollywood’s loveliest. Not content with roles in movies, she decided to branch out in other industries. So, she became a farmer. Wait, what?!!

Oh yes, Esther used her earnings to start a chicken ranch in San Fernando Valley, where she conducts a lucrative off-screen business. Most of the stars at her studio bought the Brodelet brand of eggs at fair but nifty, prices. Here is a short article about with the colorful details:

Chorine Esther Brodelet’s chicken ranch is ‘no publicity gag, although though she owns only one acre, near Van Nuys, it has paid for itself in two years. No simple country lass, she learned about poultry In Chicago and says that, the chicken came before the egg, at least in her case. Seems that when she was a kid, somebody gave her an Faster chick, which in time surprised her by laying an egg. Using a sort of pa rid v system, Miss Brodelet ran it up into seven hens, made them earn her pocket-money. Thriftily, she now keeps two goats on her walnut-planted acre and fattens her chickens for market on milk and nut-meats. She puts personality into her business, ton loads her car with cartons of eggs every morning when she leaves for the studio and delivers them to the customers herself.

Talk about coincidences! Don Ameche and Esther Brodelet, both under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, and both on their way to the studio to work in “Road to Rio,” tangled automobile on Sepulveda boulevard mile away from the lot. Neither was hurt and Don drove Esther the rest of the way to work.

After a long time of dating in Hollywood (of which we actually have little to no information), Esther married John Martin Amato in 1946. They met during the war when she was entertaining servicemen – he was a mechanic. Now, something about John. He was born on September 28, 1917 or 1920. Here are bits of his life (taken from his Find a grave site):

John was a graduate of Medford High School and Chauncey Hall. Mr. Amato furthered his education and obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree from Tufts University during WWII. Following his graduation, he attended Columbia University Midshipmen’s School and Harvard Communication School. In 1943, the US Navy sent the new officer, Ensign John Amato, to the Port Director Organization, Port Hueneme, California. There he was introduced by his late brother, Andrew J. Amato, to the love of his life, 20th Century Fox contract player and dancer, Esther Brodelet.

Their daughter Valerie Ann was born on July 26, 1948. Their son David John was born on December 19, 1949.  The family lived in Van Nuys then settled in Winchester because of John’s employment. John spent the next 30 years in the service of the developing High Tech defense and space industry where he contributed his intelligence and strong work ethic until his retirement in the early 1980s. After his retirement they moved to Acton, Maine and enjoyed living in such close proximity to the stunning natural sites like hills and lakes.

Esther Brodelet Amato died on December 21, 1989, in Portland, Maine.
Her husband John died on September 5, 2009, in Maine.

Mary Blackford

I noted several times in by previous blog posts that most of the actresses I have profiled actually had pretty normal lives – they went to Hollywood, failed and often slid into middle class family life. Most of them had happy lives, in retrospect. However, there are a few very unhappy exceptions, and Mary Blackford was one of them. Let’s find out more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Mary B. Blackford was born on July 22, 1914 in Bristol, Pennsylvania, to Charles Blackford and Ethel Maud Ludwig. Her older brother Albert was born on June 20, 1907. Her father worked as a car tire salesman.

The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1918. They lived there with her paternal grandmother and aunt Anna. Her father died in 1923 – after his death her mother moved the family to Beverly Hills (probably that same year). Mary attended elementary and high school there. While a pupil at the school, in 1933, movie scouts found her. Here is a short article about her discovery:

The first contract of the new year to be awarded by Warner Brothers-First National has gone to Mary Blackford, 16-year-old high school pupil of Beverly Hills. With only two years’ experience in high school  dramatics to her credit, Miss Blackford, who will not receive her diploma until June, has been transported from obscurity and given this opportunity of becoming a motion picture star. Mary began her work immediately, dividing her time between the studio and her classes until she graduates in June.

Her name was changed to Janet Ford, but it was quickly reverted back to Mary.

Mary was the first student enrolled for the motion picture course under Ivan Simpson, veteran English actor. And thus her career started.

CAREER

Unfortunately, Mary appeared in only three movies and a most promising career was thus cut short. The first movie was Merrily Yours, a Shirley Temple short. The only reason anyone has to see this movie is, of course, Shirley Temple. It’s not a particularly good short – it’s not horrible mind you, but far from something you would recommend to anyone. The main character is a bratty teenager at odds with his sister (played by Shirley) who falls in love with Mary when she moved next door. How, original, go figure! But, it was a start…

The second one was The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, a cute preppy movie about college love affairs. Mary Carlisle plays a flirty lady who has all the lads crazy for her – then she fall sin love with a non nonsense athlete played by Buster Crabbe. As you can see, not big brainer, but immensely fun and light weight – perfect for Depression era audiences and Sunday afternoon viewings. Many of the players later catapulted to stardom – Mary, Buster, Charles Starrett, Ted Fio Rito and so on. Mary plays of the sorority girls.

Mary’s last movie before the forcible termination of her career was Love Time, a completely lost and forgotten movie today. It’s a biopic of composer Franz Schubert, and with a cats that is absolutely stunning to look at: Nils Asther, Pat Paterson and so on. Unfortunately I could find nothing on the movie, so let’s just skip it.

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary gave a beauty hint to her readers:

For a quick facial treatment take a rake of yeast and mix the paste consistently with peroxide. Apply this paste to the face after It has been cleansed with cream. Wash off with cold water when it has dried.

Here is a short story on how Mary got her role in:

Mary Blackford got a Job In pictures Indirectly by hiding her blonde hair tinder a dark wig. She applied for the stage role of the young girl In “Ah, Wilderness;” with Will Rogers, and learned that one reason she was not accepted was her blonde tresses. She applied again, In’ the disguise, and got the job. After dyeing her hair for the run of the play, she slipped into pictures and is playing Pat Paterson’s sister In “Serenade.”

It seemed Mary was on her way up. However, something catastrophic happened in October 1934 . Mary became paralyzed from the neck down from an injury suffered in an automobile accident (the automobile she was a passenger in hit a light pole at Santa Monica and Hoover). It was never revealed with whom she was in the car – this is very strange and one has to wonder why is it like this? Our hyperactive imagination probably can come up with a few explanations in just two seconds…

Doctors said a broken vertebra is causing pressure against certain nerves. They say she may live weeks or a few months, but paralysis will never leave her. It was just one month after she finished her first important picture role.

Here is a short article about how her friends helped her:

The golden-haired youngster suffered a fracture of her neck vertebrae and surgeons decreed that she must spend the rest of her life immobile, with the broken neck preventing use of any of her members. ‘Puppets’ came to Rescue But Mary’s friends, most of them like herself members of the Puppet Club of younger screen folk, rallied around, and a parade of trips to important surgeons began. Will Rogers volunteered to pay some of the heavy expenses, this being one of that beloved actor’s secret kindnesses no one learned during his lifetime. Joan Crawford had Miss Blackford cared for for a time in a hospital room Joan endows at Hollywood Hospital. The “Puppets,” with Helen Mack, Paula and Dorothy Stone, Lois Wilson, Anita Louise and Tom Brown in the forefront, then took over the case of their chum. With Gertrude and Grace Durkin, Sue Carol, Patricia Ellis, Anne Shirley, Billy Ganney, Eddie Rubin, Henry Willson, Jimmy Bush, Jimmy Ellison, Don Barry, Hugh Daniel, Stanley Davis and Marshall Duffield helping; they staged a big benefit at Coconut Grove some months ago. With Benny Rubin, Orchestra Leader Ted Fiorito and Dick Powell contributing talent, they managed to raise $5,000.  This paid for more trips to specialists for Miss Blackford, but when the fund recently dwindled to $600 Bruce Barton, the author, stepped into the breach. Barton recently had been elated when his eighteen -year -old daughter Betsy was restored to health by Milton H. Berry, a former Chicagoan, who.operates the Berry Institution for the muscular retraining’ of paralyzed persons near Hollywood. Barton tendered $2,500 to the man whom nearly all Hollywood calls affectionately as “Doc” Berry and stipulated the money should be used for the most deserving case Berry knew. Berry chose Mary Blackford, who was recommended to him by Paula Stone. The girl, who has not been able to move one of her members in more than a year, already has shown improvement under the treatment which Berry calls “muscular re-education”.

Mary, far from being idle, still smiling hopefully, took vocal lessons, ambitious for a radio career. Some time later her friends arranged to have her appear on one of Bing Crosby’s programs (she will be taken to the studio in an ambulance), for which she was paid. She also boasted to the papers how she was able to attend a theater. In her wheel chair she attended a performance in downtown Los Angeles and took a photo with Donald Barry, a member of the cast.

Months went by and Mary was still paralyzed and in about the same condition she was after the accident. Her contact with the outside world was furnished in the people who come to see her. The whole crowd who rallied to her aid when she was stricken still remember, and most of them visit her regularly. her best friend was Paula Stone, actress of director Fred Stone. Unfortunately, a member of the group, Junior Durkin, died in a tragic automobile accident in 1935 (Jackie Cooper was in the car and his father was driving, but only Jackie survived).

For a time there  a false impression going the rounds that Mary Blackford was undergoing a miraculous recovery. The papers even reported that the doctors gave her a green light that she could walk again some day. Milton H. Berry refuted these claims and reported that she shows amazing improvement but that it is a slow process.

However, this story does not have a happy ending. The date was September 25, 1937. Mary had gone to the beach for a complete rest. She had suffered several fainting spells in recent months, but had no premonition of the end. In fact, she wrote her mother: “I have never been so happy in my life.”

Then she went into another fainting spell and died. Many of the Hollywood folks who helped her attended her funeral. Sadly, her brother died in 1953 and her mother outlived them all, dying in 1963.

PS: Betsey Barton, the daughter of the mentioned author Bruce Barton, was also injured in a car accident and lost the use of her legs, but learned to reinvent herself and became a top author and painter. Learn more about her truly inspiring life by Googling her name and reading this article: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1944/11/19/page/104/article/miss-barton-offers-hope-to-disabled 

Mary Blackwood


Blonde Mary Blackwood was another debutante who wanted to make good in Hollywood. It wasn’t’ the money obviously – perhaps it was the glamour, the fame, the notoriety that drew such girls to Hollywood. And like most of them, Mary Blackwood came, tried and left. Let’s find out more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Tom Blackwood was born on October 4, 1912, in Colfax, Louisiana, to Dr. E.H. Blackwood and Laura Blackwood. Her older brother Hershel was born in 1909 – her younger sister Lurline was born in 1914. They employed a maid and were obviously well of. Mary spent her earliest years in Colfax.

Her father died in the early 1920s, and her mother remarried to Marcus Dunham, who owned an automobile dealership. Laura, Hershel Mary and Lurline lived with Marcus and his three children from a previous marriage (Martin, Harper and Mildred) in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Mary grew up as a typical debutante of the 1920s – constant garden parties, visits to extended family, and going out with eligible young men whom her parents would approve of.  Imagine Scarlett O’Hara in the early 20th century. She graduated from Bolton High school and attended Stephens College in Missouri and the University of Texas, Austin. Mary’s beauty was so widely known that she was” chosen “sweetheart” of the University of Texas by popular student vote.

Like several other debutantes, Mary decided to go into movies on a lark. She wanted some fun and Hollywood seemed like the bets bet for a girl to experience life outside her own social caste and perhaps meet new guys. So when a casting director wanted society girls to play real society girls in a movie, she jumped at the chance and Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Mary made her debut in David Harum, a not particularly good but nonetheless very interesting movie. Why? Well because it features Will Rogers in one of his mos unusual roles – a banker! Imagine that – Rogers, the champion of the every man who always played normal people, here plays a less than admirable banker (taken from imdb) “who is a pillar of his late Victorian era community who engages in a rivalry over horses with Charles Middleton, they keep trying to sucker the other in horse trading”. It’s a two-man show, and Rogers in mesmerizing to watch in a role with tad bit more edge than usual. Mind you, it’s not a particularly good movie – like many movies of the early 1930s, it has some racist content (the character played by actor Stephin Fetchit is… dismal at best) and it drags to long, the story is thin, but perhaps worth watching to see Rogers in a different role. And he was good, make no mistake.  

Next came the movie that actually catapulted Mary into Hollywood, Coming-Out Party.  Now this is a worse-case-scenario for the good-actors-bad-plot movie – while the leads are passable (Frances Dee wasn’t Katherine Hepburn, but she was fresh-faced and did what she had to do) the story is downright stupid and too dramatic, there is not enough humor and witty repartees. Mind you, it’s not the bottom of the barrel category but with so many good movies to watch, who can watch such mediocre movies anymore? Unfortunately, such movies became Mary’s bread and butter. Come On, Marines! , Mary’s next feature, could have been a great movie about marines fighting a dirty, dirty war but ended up a totally mid tier war-in-the-jungle effort with no big merit to it.

Mary then appeared int he idiotic Stand Up and Cheer!, a no-brain and no-plot musical without any really good music. Minus. her next movie, Black Sheep, was much better –  it’s a fun movie about gamblers on cruise ships – Lady Eve before Lady Eve! Solid story, great actors (Claire Trevor and Edmund Lowe) and snappy dialogue – and we have a winner! Unfortunately, Mary’s next movie, Song and Dance Man, is a completely forgotten one. Afterwards came Girls’ Dormitory, a movie notable today only as one of Tyrone Power’s earliest forays into the seventh art. Otherwise it’s a good-enough but not outstanding movie about a girls dormitory (duh) and the romances both inside and out. Then came Pick a Star one of those movies where the main story is less important and interesting than the side shenanigans. And when Laurel and Hardy appear as comedy relief, you know what I mean. In other words, a typical Cinderella makes it good in Hollywood movie with no special reasons to watch it (except for Laurel and Hardy, but if you want them, go watch their movies!). Mary’s next movie fared no better – The Devil Is Driving is a preachy, boring cautionary tale about the dangers of drunk driving. While you have to respect the cause, it doesn’t cut it out either as art nor as entertainment. Worth watching only to see Elisha Cook Jr. as the drunk driver, a wealthy daddy’s jelly brained son prone to solving everything with money. Mary’s last movie was Start Cheering, a completely over-the-top, outrages screwball comedy but funny to boot. Jimmy Durante and The Three Stooges make this movie, and you can forget about the leading man and his story (Charles Starrett).

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was beautiful, well bred debate from a good family – seemingly a perfect bride-to-be material. In the early 1930s, she dated Social Register’s David Doss, and he even met her parents, but that did not end in marriage (shocking!!).

Mary came to Hollywood in 1933, and started her tabloid career by giving a beauty hint to the readers:

To keep my hair healthy, lustrous and free from dandruff, “launder” it with a good hot-oil shampoo of pure olive oil

In late 1933, Mary was seen with young actor Gordon Westcott around Hollywood, but the relationship ended the same year.

Then, she hit it big in the papers, but sadly not due to her own merit – quite the opposite! Here is the chain of events:

In early April, 1934 Mary Blackwood nearly died on the set of Come On Marines. While filming a swimming sequence, Toby Wing was swinging across a lake and accidentally struck Blackwell in the face as she surfaced from her earlier dive. Seeing her floating unconscious, Toby broke ranks and dived in the water rescuing the uncredited extra from drowning.

That same year, there was an article about a new fad in Hollywood – debutantes becoming actresses! This was a first real batch of such girls to enter Tinsel Town.

An producer had an idea that he will capitalize on the beauty, culture and poise of the society girl. An instance in point was “Coming Out Party,”, in , which a. number of beautiful debutantes were used. It was a charming enough picture, but failed, by a long way, to set the world afire, and I don’t believe that a single one of the girls who played in it has been leard of since in the Alms. The trouble with the rich girl is that she is likely to take up acting as a mere fad. Thelma Morgan Converse at one time came to Hollywood to go into pictures. She had great charm, beauty, and some acting ability. Yet she did not remain. Possibly the new group will be different. Virginia Pine and Mary Blackwood seem to be glowing exceptions tight now.

Unfortunately, neither Mary nor Virginia made a lasting impression on the movie world. While Virginia is more famous today for being a long time paramour to famous actor George Raft, Mary never dated an A class actor (as far as I know) and has no known claim to fame. Her career ended in 1937, and she stayed out fo the newspaper columns for some time after, so I have no idea what her life looked like after the glory days of Hollywood (ha ha ha, a bit of an ironic exaggeration here…). 

Anyway, next time we hear from her, Mary married her first and only husband, Billy Miesegaes on 24 Mar 1942. Billy Miesegaes, Dutch heir to an Indies rubber fortune and president of New York’s TransfUms, was born as William Lodewyk Primavesi Miesegaes on June 10, 1906, in London, England to Auguste Miesegaes and Adrienne Homans. His family was German-Dutch and both of his parents were born in Indonesia. He lived for a time in Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1940.   

They had a daughter, Mary Jane, born in the 1940s, and enjoyed a successful marriage. Mary and her husband lived the high life in New York, and were active in social activities and civic duties. For instance, in the 1950s they gave a supper party to premiere the movie version of “The Medium.” an opera bv Italy’s latest musical prodigy Gian-Carlo Menotti.

Mary Blackwood Miesegaes died on May 1, 1969 and was buried in Louisiana. Her husband died on 21 March 1978.

Dawn Oney

Pretty Dawn Oney was a local Minnesota beauty that tried to make a career in Hollywood based solely on her looks. Predictably, this failed. Let’s learn more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Donna Mae Frank was born on July 4, 1930 in Mankato, Minnesota. I could not find the names of her parents. When still a baby, she was adopted by her second cousins, Arthur C. Frank and Beatrice Oney. Arthur was a candy salesman and Beatrice was an insurance agent. Beatrice’s younger brother Ivan Oney lived with the family until the early 1940s.

Donna grew up in Mankato and was a precocious child, her principal talent was standing on her head. It was clear from early childhood that Dawn was a stunner – aiming for a better life, she left Mankato for Minneapolis as soon as she graduated high school. She took the name Dawn Oney, became a model and became a sounding success in a very short time-span – for instance, eminent local Minneapolis photographer Anthony Lane frequently used Dawn in commercial work. The earliest photography work by Dawn I could find was in 1949, when she appeared in a short article:

Dawn Oney (right), 3301 Four-teenth avenue S., shows Helen Augustson, 894 Twenty-first avenue S.E., her dress made from the new cotton print sacks being used by the King Midas Flour Mills, Minneapolis. Printed in gay, lively sun-fast, tubfast colors in a wide variety of patterns, these flour sacks are being used for making aprons, playsuits, bathing suits, pillow cases and a variety of other household items.

In 1951, she applied and won a beauty contest conducted by RKO Radio Pictures. The prize was access to Hollywood itself – and she won! She left for Tinsel town that same year, and became one of the tons of movie aspirants picking for stardom.

CAREER

Dawn appeared in only two movies – the first one was The French Line . This movie can either be a total winner or a total loser, depends on what are you looking for. It you want some mindless fun with interesting costumes and passable musical numbers, go for it! If you want a coherent story, great characters and some depth, avoid like the plague. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it’s easy on the eyes and that’s it. Cm-on, the story itself is hardcore “paper thin plots” we can see in so many 1950s musicals – when her fiance leaves her, an oil heiress (played by Jane Russell) takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Anyone with half a brain can see that this has no semblance of reality – but who cares, if it’s an excuse to see Russell in a variety of racy costumes (along with a huge chorus line, where Dawn was one of the chorus girls). Russell also sings in her own (very torchy) voice.

Dawn’s second movie was Son of Sinbad. Now, if The French Line was bad, then Sinbad is even worse. If French Line was good, Sinbad can be even better. Truly, for a camp lover who revels in the idiosyncrasies of such a genre, this is pure gold. I mean, just look at the summary: Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. So, sex, gunpowder and turbans all the way 🙂 As always, the cast is second rate with Dale Roberts and Sally Forest (although Sally had some talent – just sadly she rarely acted in anything worthwhile) – but you can also see the most enchanting of all burlesque girls, Lili St. Cyr, in a more substantial role than usual – she’s wonderful! All in all, typical low quality but majorly fun 1950s Hollywood product, perfect to transport you to another world!

And that was it from Dawn!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Dawn moved from Mankato to Minneapolis, she did not just leave behind her birth town, she also left behind her sweetheart, Carl Harvey Carlson. Carlson was born on March 30, 1929, in Minnesota. Dawn and Carl meet in high school and dated for a few years before she left for Minneapolis and later Los Angeles. Not wanting to be apart any more, they married in about 1949 and Carl followed his wife to Los Angeles.

Their son Daniel “Danny” Bruce Carlson was born on August 12, 1951. However, her marriage did not work out and she divorced Harvey in 1953, citing incompatibility. He went on to work as a mining engineer in Japan, later returned to Minnesota, remarried to Joan Nelson and had two daughters. he died on May 14, 1999 in Minnesota.

After her first batch of movies failed, Dawn tried to revive her career in several ways – she continued to audition and went on modeling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it. So, in 1954, she became Miss Montana. Yes, you heard that right – a woman born and reared in Minnesota became Miss Montana. Before you ask anything, the judges knew that Dawn had a son and was divorced. Dawn was a great crown favorite an it seems she knew how to please them – she was vivacious, gracious and funny. Here is some tidbits about her private life in 1954, taken from an article:

 She now lives in Hollywood with her son. ‘That little boy is the joy of my .lifer” she smiled. “I want four more just like him.” She said she has a boy friend .whom she likes very much but declined to name him. Dawn entered the Miss Universe contest because she wants a screen career, and it is -likely she will get a crack at it, win or lose.

Being Miss Montana did nothing for Dawn’s movie career. I hope she acted elsewhere. However, if Dawn had a claim to fame in the papers, it was about her her unique skills – carpentry! Here is an article from the 1950s about her hobby, written when she was named a Television Venus:

Dawn Oney. the pretty NBC T-Venus is one of the best adjusted and happiest persons I have ever known. She’s a good actress, but that isn’t all, she’s a superb lady carpenter. I asked her if we might take a picture of her with her latest project, which was a group of little animal pull toys she had just completed. It seems she had made these for some little tykes in her neighborhood. “This is the kind of project I like best.” Dawn said. “Each little animal is real easy to build and when they’re finished, they each have a different personality. You’d be surprised at the number of compliments I get when my friends stop in and see my menagerie. Of course the kids are always happy when they get them for Christmas.” Anyone can make little pull toys like the ones pictured which Dawn has just completed. All you need are a few scraps of wood and the full size patterns. Simply trace the pattern on wood, then saw it out and finally put it together.

Unfortunately, Dawn faded bit by bit from the Hollywood scene – she was last seen in the papers in 1971, still a “working actress” (what, where?).

More than 20 years after her divorce from Carlson, Dawn married Gordon A. Frantz on January 9, 1976, in Orange, California. Frantz was born on December 1, 1925, in New York. He was married once before to Dahlia E Guarino. As far as I can tell, the couple lived with two girls, Beatrice and Cynthia Louise “Cindee” (who was born in 1959). I am guessing that Cynthia was born from Gordon’s first marriage, and perhaps they adopted Beatrice. They family lived in Santa Clara and enjoyed a happy family life.

Donna Mae Frantz died on September 12, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.

Suzanne Ames

Suzanne Ames truly is an example of a woman who had a lackluster career in Hollywood but an incredibly rich and rewarding private and professional life outside of Tinsel Town. She really is an inspiration, as you will see int he story of her life…

EARLY LIFE

Suzanne Marguerite Ainbinder was born on December 31, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Myron “Marcus “Ainbinder and Florence Grosse Ainbinder. Her father, a salesman by trade, was born in Illinois to immigrants parents from Poland.

Both Myron and Florence were lovers of the fine arts, and were more than happy when their only child got into singing from a young age – Suzanne her professional debut at age 4 by singing on radio station WGN in Chicago. She was also passionate about dance from the time she could walk, taking ballet lessons. The Ainbinders moved to Akron, Ohio for Myron’s work in 1937. They lived as lodgers with a building contractor and his wife.

Suzanne grew up in Akron and considered it her hometown. She attended Our Lady of the Elms, an independent Catholic college preparatory school immersed in the Dominican tradition for girls grades one through 12 and co-ed preschool through kindergarten. She was a member of the Elms chapter of the National Honor Society at the Elms school since her sophomore year and had the highest grades in her class several years in a row. She had a record of straight A’s and graduated with honors in 1949.

After graduating, she studied ballet and music in Cleveland, being chosen as a protege of ballerina Rosella Hightower. Then she moved to New York.

For a year, Suzanne was understudying four people in the Agnes DeMille musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds,” and was offered the dancing lead in the road company of “Call Me Madam.” The Ballet Theater was also after her for its European company. But she turned them all away in favor of her favorite – after auditioning she became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She became a leading ballerina, performing not only in operas but at the Met during the regime of Rudolf Bing.

Suzanne’s first real success was a role in The Fledermaus. Here is a brief description of it:

The Metropolitan Opera thinks Akron’s ballet dancer, Suzanne Ames, who’s only 17, is old enough to play a woman of the world. Suzanne, the pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Ames, who used to live at 3 Cyril ter., Akron, but moved to New York, has been as-signed the role of “Ida” In the Met’s April 5 production of “Fledermatis” here. “Ida” is a famous Vienese ballerina who is much favored by the gentlemen, and who educates her younger sister in the ways of the wicked world of the 1800s. . CURIOUSLY, Patrice Mun-sel, a veteran of the Met, will , play the younger sister to Suzanne’s “Ida.” “I thought I’d be playing the part in the road production of ‘Fledermaus’ in Chicago and Rochester,” Suzanne said, “but then I saw my name on the casting sheet for the New York showing.” “Patrice Munsel, who’ll play my younger sister, is about 10 years oMer than I am,” Suzanne, a graduate of Our Lady Of The Elms, in Akron, said.

It was via MET that she got a chance to appear in Hollywood movies, and off she was to Los Angeles.

CAREER

Suzanne’s first movie was the legendary musical that half the dancers appeared in Two Tickets to Broadway. Sorry to say, despite the stellar cast it’s a purely mid tier musical – no big trash nor no big thrill. In view of all the other good musicals to watch, I guess this one is a skip.

Slightly better was The Las Vegas Story, a sultry, heavy film noir with a typical love triangle and interesting actors – Jane Russell, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. No,it’s not a staple of the genre nor a particularly good movie, but it has a strange charm of its own and the actor really work somehow (despite the fact that Mature was an abysmal thespian). Then came a small role in The French Line, the infamous Jane Russell extravaganza with tons of beautiful girls and thin plot. Yep, you can’t say that Suzanne was ta all visible in it, flaked by 100 of other wanna-be starlets.

Suzanne took a short breather from Hollywood, and returned two years later in Son of Sinbad, a typical colorful, happy-go-lucky 1950s costume pastiche. Just mix handsome actors and actresses, lavish sets and sumptuous costume with a hokus exotic story and you have a box office bonanza. Far from any semblance of art, but hey, they made it for the money not the artistical achievement. Her next feature, Kismet, was made in the same vein (Exotic location, tons of pretty girls), but overall it’s a better movie, with a slightly better story and some pretty good musical numbers (and Ann Blyth! Gotta love Ann Blyth!!).

Unfortunately, as time went by, Suzanne’s career didn’t seem to soar, and the quality of her movies never reached a satisfying level. She was in I Married a Woman, a lesser effort for both of it’s stars, Diana Dors and George Gobel. It’s about a cranky middle aged man married to a gorgeous model. Yawn.

It’s sad that Suzanne’s last movie was by far the best one she even appeared in – Bells Are Ringing. The man highlight of th emovie is of course, it’s star, Judy Holiday – she was simply wonderful, so buoyant, bubbly, irresistible, truly one of the most talented comediennes ever to grace the silver screen. She is aptly supported by Dean Martin – and the movie is all about them, their relationship, their singing and dancing. Everything else is just a bonus – but a nice and lofty bonus, with a strong supporting cast, great music and solid (if a bit stagy) direction. A recommendation for sure!

That was it for Suzanne’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

When Suzanne lived in New York as a MET dancer, she said of her life:

SUZANNE finds the life here rigid. She can’t have dates during the week because she must be fresh for the rehearsals at the Met. “I’ve had a few dates with Cesare Siepi. He’s quite young and very nice.”

Siepi and Suzanne dated for some time, but were over by the time she left for Hollywood. When she came to Hollywood and was a Goldwyn Girl, she was five feet seven and one-half inches tall. Weight: 121 lbs, Hips 36 Waist 2o. Unfortunately, her career as a Goldwyn girl and actress never left the ground, and she returned to New York for good in 1960.

Suzanne traveled a great deal with MET, and appeared in a great number of plays. Of her experiences in American cities, Suzanne said:

“Minneapolis is one of my two favorite cities. The other is Atlanta, Ga. People here are so literate. They understand opera and don’t ask silly questions about it; they meet and talk to you as friends.”

Suzanne said countless that she liked dancing in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and was proud of the fact that occasionally the Met gives her an opportunity to sing as well as dance. Her dedication to the arts was boundless, but her private life was very scantly covered in the press. Finally, Suzanne married Albert Landry in 1975. Here is a short bio of Landry:

Born on Oct. 9, 1915 in New York City, he was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, having participated in the D-Day invasion in the European theater. He received his master’s degree in art history from Columbia University in New York in 1948 and advanced studies in painting from Atelier Fernand Leger in Paris, France. An art dealer, historian and consultant, he had served as assistant director for Galerie Villand-Galanis until 1954. He was director of special projects for Associated American Artists from 1954-59 and president of Albert Landry Galleries from 1959 to 1963. He was executive director with the J. L. Hudson Co. and an advisor to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mr. Landry was also vice-president of Marlborough Galleries in New York until 1968 when he became adviser and curator for the London Arts Group. He served as publisher and distributor of original graphics and multiples for the Nabis Fine Arts of New York until 1974. An associate for the Gruenebaum Gallery of New York from 1977 thru 1980, he continued working as a private dealer and art consultant for major corporate clients, including Aldon Industries, Atlantic-Richfield, Avon, Ford Motor Co., Smith Barney, International Paper and US Steel. He was also a consultant and associate for Landry-Settles Inc. and the David Settles Gallery Ltd., both of Houston, Texas and was affiliated with Stephen P. Edlich & Co. until 1986.

Suzanne danced until the mid 1970s. Here is a short description of what Suzanne did after her retirement from an active dance career – she stayed in the industry as an knowledgeable insider with much to offer:

After retiring as a dancer, she became an executive of Atlanta’s Performing Arts Center and then head of a U.S. State Department cultural exchange program that established a ballet company in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Why? Well, because in 1968, she was sent to Brazil along with Arthur Mitchell and Gloria Contreras by the U.S. State Department at the behest of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to assist in the establishment of the first National Ballet of Brazil and maintained close ties to the company.

Landry went on to serve as director of General Copyright Administration for Frank Music Corporation, CBS/SK Songs and EMI Music Publishing.

Eventually, she went into music publishing and became a copyright specialist. She managed the administration of Frank Music Corp., Paul McCartney’s publishing companies, and then became a vice president for EMI Music Publishing in New York.

 

A crowning achievement of Suzanne’s life happened when the she established the new Suzanne Ames Landry Performing Arts Studio at the Our Lady of the Elms School in Akron, Ohio, her alma mater, through a bequest of half of her total estate. Truly, Suzanne lived a fulfilling and very active life!

 

Following many years in New York City, she and her husband moved to Saratoga Springs, where they had vacationed for many years. Never the one to sit idly, she continued working in Saratoga Springs:  Suzanne provided volunteer work at the National Museum of Dance and gave many pre-performance lectures at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Here is a short description of her volunteer work:

 Suzanne Ames Landry considers the National Museum of Dance and Saratoga Performing Arts Center as Spa City treasures.

She is no less valuable to them as a volunteer, drawing upon her own unparalleled career as principal ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

Whether giving tours or organizing files, she pursues each task with heartfelt enthusiasm stemming from a lifelong love of the arts.

“Anything they want me to do, as long as it’s not fattening, I’ll be happy to do,” Landry said with a laugh. “This is the only National Museum of Dance in the United States. It is a jewel. What it does is tell the history of dance, which is important.”

There’s no need for Landry to read from a text when giving museum tours. She simply relates much of her own personal experience and especially likes sharing stories with children.

“You have to give back the feeling of it,” she said.

She also organizes archives at the SPAC and the Dance Museum.

“Everything has to be filed,” she said. “Not everybody like files. I find it extremely relaxing to get these things in order. Once it’s in order, anybody can find it easily.”

SPAC opened in 1966, and Landry has organized clippings, reviews and programs of virtually every classical and popular artist who’s ever performed there.

“You have to have a library and it has to be a logical one,” she said. “It’s your background and helps you keep going forward. It’s something I find very interesting.”

Landry also instructs dance history classes at the museum. One program, called “Dancing Through Time,” is designed specifically for people ages 55 and older.

She also does historical research for exhibits such as one now showing at the museum called “Classical Black,” a look at black dancers who danced classical ballet.

On June 20, Landry will present a special lecture on “The Evolution of the Firebird Ballet,” including a history of the Diaghilev Ballet Company and notes on choreographers Mikhail Fokine and George Balanchine. The talk is set for 7 p.m. at Saratoga County Arts Council’s building on Broadway.

“That’s what I saw growing up,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to give something back to this lovely city.”

But at the same time, Landry admits to having a slightly selfish motivation, because her volunteerism keeps events and activities alive that she thoroughly enjoys.

“You’re paying yourself by having these venues,” she said. “If the volunteers don’t help, where are they going to get a cast of thousands?”

Landry is also involved with Lake George Opera Company, which performs at the Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park. This summer, she’ll be doing brief talks prior to the production of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Suzanne’s husband Albert died on May 13, 2001. Suzanne continued to live in Saratoga Springs and was very active in the local civic life.

Suzanne Ames Landry died on June 6, 2008 in Saratoga Springs, Florida.