Mary Jo Mathews

Mary Jo Mathews did not go down the usual starlet route. A fine Southern miss, she was a college graduate who first seeked her fame in the theater, and only by chance ended up in Hollywood. Sadly, Hollywood, did not work out for her, but she married a successful agent and led a happy family life. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Josephine Mathews was born on April 11, 1909, in Mannington, West Virginia, to Harry J.  and Blanche Mathews. Her older brother, Marshall, was born in 1904. Her father owned a drug store. The family was well of, lived in Mannington and employed at least one maid. Mary grew up like any other upper middle class Southern girl, and it was clear from her teen years that she was a stunning beauty with a strong penchant for dramatics.

After graduating from Mannington high school, Mary enrolled into the West Virginia university at Morgantown. Mary, a lush brunette with a soft Southern accent, was a hit with the lads, and in 1927, when she was a sophomore, she was voted the most beautiful girl student on the campus.

Next year, she was chosen by the students as “Miss’ “West Virginia University, and not long after, was named by Governor Conley as West Virginia’s representative at the annual rhododendron festival at Asheville, and later  attended the Shenandoah Apple Blossom festival in Winchester in the spring of 1929 as “Queen Shenandoah VI” . It seems that Mary really did do extensive social rounds and was very successful in those stakes. Back then, Mary Jo planned to become a school-teacher and received an AB. degree from the University of West Virginia. Then She won the Winchester Ky.) Apple Blossom Festival prize for beauty in 1929, after which she went to New York, married an actor and decided to become an actress herself, and there was no turning back!

Mary Jo became a member of the cast of “The Band Wagon,” Broadway’s revue success, and starred the head of a road company which was presenting one of the George White’s Musical company. Then she was a member of the cast of “Let ‘Em Eat Cake“. In the interim, Mary worked as an understudy. In a later interview she claimed that to became an understudy one had to be at least three times as talented as the leading lady to get the job.  At one point, Mary was understudying three roles – for Adele Astaire, the dancer; Roberta Robinson, a singer, and Helen Carrington, comedienne. Naturally, Hollywood noticed her, and she was signed to a contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Mary Jo made her debut in Twentieth Century, one of the funniest comedies of the 1930s, with the unbeatable combo of John Barrymore and Carole Lombard. No comment needed, just watch the movie and laugh! Barrymore is such a large ham you can’t help loving him, and Lombard is a pixie charmer to boot!

Mary Jo played a small role in Society Doctor, here is a review from Imdb: Morris plays a hotshot young Dr. Morgan in a metropolitan hospital, and Taylor is Dr. Ellis, his friend, who is a little less ambitious. Instead of being laser-focused, he wants to enjoy life, too. Both of them are interested in the nurse Madge (Virginia Bruce). She’s in love with Morgan but he’s too dedicated to get involved with anything but medicine. Ellis, however, makes a big play for her. When Morgan gets in trouble with the head of the hospital, he contemplates becoming a society doctor, and a patient (Billie Burke) offers to set him up in practice.

The movie is actually interesting as we have on unlikable main character, played by Morris as a hotheaded, stubbornly foolish all-too-focused doctor, and a young and stisl not quite polished Robert Taylor as his friend/rival. Virginia Bruce is as lovely as always, too bad she never became more than a B class star. Mary Jo’s next movie was the completely forgotten One New York Night.

Mary than appeared in tow movies that are well known and regarded today. The first one was Reckless, a William Powell/Jean Harlow drama, based on the infamous Libby Holman/Zachary Reynolds case. The movie starts of as a sparking comedy, a genre which Harlow excelled in – she’s tops, and Powell and May Robson, as her support, are in a high class too. However, the movie turns into a over the top melodrama in it’s second half, and this jarring change of pace somehow kills the overall effect, although it’s watchable and not at all that bad. Franchot Tone is impeccably elegant as a wastrel playboy who lusts after Harlow, and Rosalind Russell has a small role (which is always a plus, when Roz appears in a movie). Mary Jo plays a chorine.

The second movie was Mad Love, based on a book, with an implausible plot (taken from an imdb review): Dr. Gogol (Peter Lorre) is a brilliant surgeon who is obsessed with actress Yvonne Orlac (Francis Drake). She tells him she is leaving the stage to be a full time wife to her husband Stephen Orlac (Colin Clive), a concert pianist. Gogol is crushed. Stephen Orlac loses his hands in a train wreck. At the request of Yvonne, Orlac grafts on a new pair of hands to Stephen. Unfortunately, they happen to be the hands of Rollo, an executed murderer who loved throwing knives. It seems the hands have a life of their own–Stephen can’t play the piano anymore but can throw knives accurately and he has a desire to kill. He slowly starts to go crazy. Gogol again tells Yvonne that he loves her. She rejects him and Gogol cracks. He sets out to drive Stephen mad–and drive Yvonne into his arms.

But, as the reviewer wrote, the plot is completely secondary to the sheer brilliance of Peter Lorre, absolutely killing it as the man doctor. Whenever he’s on the screen it’s impossible to even look at somebody else, such is his magnetism! The movie also gives a good role to Colin Clive, a tragically underrated actor whose career never gave him the chance to truly shine. Frances Drake is nice enough as the doctor’s object of desires. The movie is very good at conjuring a non-bloody horror feeling, and stands very well today. Sadly, Mary Jo was literary just an extra and the role made on impact on her career. She only made one more short movie before retiring.

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was musically inclined and knew how to play the piano and the organ. As a special peculiarity, she also broke mirrors for good luck.

Mary married her first husband, Charles Coleman, in Marion county in 1929. Charles Bradford Coleman was born on August 14, 1905 in Pratt, West Virginia to Charles Bradford Coleman and Margaret Caldwell Frazer, one of three children. Mary and Charles tried their luck together in New York, lived for a time in Chicago (guess for work related reasons) in 1930, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in 1933. Coleman went to Hollywood and acted under the name of John Bradford. He had credited roles in movies like 365 Nights in Hollywood and Life Begins at 40, but gave up movies in 1937. He died on June 29, 1993 in  Charleston, West Virginia.

When she came to Hollywood, Mary Jo had a pet dachshunds and often hung out on the beach at the Del Mar Club, Santa Monica. While in Tinsel town, Mary was tutored by dramatic coach Earl Hinsdell to become a star. Here is a short description of the process:

Mary Jo Matthews is one of the “students” who. in Hinsdell’s opinion, will reach stardom in three sears. of years no difference, as a real star will stano out in any picture. “I regard the preserving of individuality as most important in my work of coaching is to be willing to train potential stars for that length of time longer if necessary. This trio is comprised of Agnes Anderson, Mary Jo Matthew and Margaret Ehrlich. Hinsdell has his own method of training, which may be at variance with the ideas of other coaches but it has proved rather successful so far. Myrna Loy. Jean Parker and Robert Young all are graduates of his school. When Myrna Loy went to him about a year and a half ago she was practically through in pictures. For years she had been cast in exotic siren role. He detected a flair for light comedy, developed that quality and launched her on a new career which already has carried her far beyond any goal she had been able to attain before. First of all. this instructor refuses to put his students through a routine training which stamps them all alike. For the most part he trains them individually. However, he frequently brings them together in groups to give them the fundamentals of timing, shading and the ability to fit their voices to those of their co-workers. He also insists that all of his students take singing lesson, the theory here being that the singing and speaking voice really is the same and the development of one helps the other. “Then there are long periods of reading aloud to develop round tones. “It sounds strange, but I am quite insistent that my students go to art galleries and study the works of the old masters,” declares Hinsdell. “I also advice them to acquire a knowledge of the history that is behind most of these great works. “Such a procedure seems remote to most of the students, just as it does to outsiders. but such a study can have a very definite effect upon acting. To be a good writer. artist, sculptor or actor one must have both a knowledge and understanding of beauty. And there is no place this can be found better than in an art gallery. “I do not think a person can express that which he has not felt, or at least understood. All art is expression. Thus one helps another.” HINSDELL believes in allowing those he trains to think for themselves. He shows them the right and the wrong then lets them work out the rest. He feels that he has failed as a coach if one of his graduates is not ready to go with any director. His students must learn more than just to do things his way. They must learn to act. To further their experience, he stages frequent shows at a local theater. This gives the youngsters an actual stage training that is of infinite value. They learn how to appear at ease before an audience, get a taste of real audience reaction, and gain a confidence which can be acquired in no other manner. Besides, it gives studio executives and directors an opportunity to see the potential talent which is at their disposal. Hence these student are certain to be given a chance to display the results of their training in front of the movie cameras. As for the average movie-struck girl or lad who has visions of being a star of 1940 or some later date, Hinsdell’s advice i “forget all about pictures.” “Most of these hopefuls have no talent.” he explains. “They’re just mesmerized by that state of mind called Hollywood and they’re due for disappointment if they hold on to the idea. “Of course, to those among them who do have talent and something to give, my advice would be no barrier. If that alone would stop them, they wouldn’t be worth anything anyway. “Those who are really serious about acting should become affiliated with a Little Theater group. More and more, producers of both the stage and screen are realizing that their greatest source of talent is the Little Theater. With such a training behind them, young men and women are already thinking and acting more or less like troupers when they enter professional work.”

Interesting, but sadly neither of the girls mentioned achieved any real success, although I do think that his method is very good.

In 1935, Mary eloped from Hollywood to Yuma, Arizona., with Arthur William Rush, studio executive. Arthur was born on April 2, 1907, to, in Graysville, Pennsylvania, to, one of six children. His siblings were brothers Malcolm, Clarence and Charles and his sisters were Elizabeth, and Helen. The family left Greene County when his father was transferred to Ohio by Columbia Gas. William lived for a time in Hanoverton, Ohio, before moving to California in 1931. William was a graduate of Bethany College, and quickly became West Coast manager for RCA Victor.

In the fledgling Los Angeles recording industry in the 1930s, Rush produced radio shows and recordings by Glenn Miller, Dinah Shore, Igor Stravinsky, Arthur Rubenstein and others. In 1937, Rush left RCA and became an agent for Columbia Management of California, a CBS subsidiary, where he managed the careers of Mary Martin, Vladimir Horowitz, Orson Wells and others. He formed his own talent agency in 1939, Art Rush Inc., from which he managed Nelson Eddy for 22 years, in addition to  Jackie Gleason. He also discovered and launched the career of tenor Mario Lanza.

The couple enjoyed a happy, harmonious marriage, lived in Los Angeles and had two children, two sons, William Arthur Rush, born on August 25, 1936, and Robert Nelson Rush, born on January 14, 1943.

The Rushes were especially close to his clients Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. In fact, Arthur and Mary served as best man and matron of honor  when Roy and Dale were married. Rush became Roy ’s agent after they met in a Hollywood restaurant in 1941. Their collaboration was sealed with a handshake and the two men never signed a formal contract. As a sign of devotion, Rogers’ best-selling book, Happy Trails, was dedicated to Rush and contained a glowing message of thanks for helping Rogers become a legendary Hollywood star.

In his later career, Managing  the Sons of the Pioneers, Rogers’ musical group, became the focus of Rush’s work. He was the mastermind behind the marketing of more than 400 products and establish more than 500 Roy Rogers Restaurants, in association with Marriott Corp. Rush called his 48-year collaboration with Rogers and Evans “the richest experience anybody could hope for in the entertainment world.” Roy’s son said of him “He wasn’t just an agent. We called him ‘Mother Rush’ because he took care of dad and the Pioneers.

Mary Josephine Rush died on September 30, 1988, in Los Angeles, California.

Her widower Arthur William Rush died of complications from a Thanksgiving auto accident on December 2, 1989.