Carmen Clifford

Carmen Clifford was a trained pianist and dancer of some reputee when she entered the Hollywood arena in 1942 – but for unknown reasons, she never made it past the uncredited roster. Later she became a songwriter and had an extensive TV career, so let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Carmen Mary Scanzo was born on September 19, 1921, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Patrick Scanzo and Inez Bascherie, both of Italian descent. Her mother was a hairdresser. She lived with her mother and grandfather for a time, so I wonder just what the exact state of her parents marriage was? Separated or divorced or maybe her dad was away traveling a great deal of time?

Anyway, Carmen was a musical prodigy, and took lessons in pianoforte playing from an early age. She also helped her mother in a beauty salon as a hairdresser and manicurist.

Pretty soon, Carmen took up dancing and excelled in it. She completed a three-year course at the prestigious local Roma Serra Studio. Carmen also studied tap dancing with Ray Hart. Carmen’s first dancing show was held at the home of her aunt. Mrs. Leon William, under the direction of Roma Serra. It was clear to all that Carmen was a girl with loads of talent going places in the near future.

In 1937, when she was just 16 years old, Carmen had been chosen as one of 15 girls to appear in a ballet ensemble at the International Casino, New York, to be staged by Chester Hale. She moved to New York and studied under Hale for some time afterwards. After living in New York for about five years, she moved to Los Angeles in 1942 to try her hand at movies. She managed to get work with a studio and started as a chorus girl.

While in Hollywood, Carmen became Miss Cheescake of 1944, but had little luck in the business arena. Carmen became the protegé of another Massachusetts girl – Eleanor Powell, who hailed from Springfield. Carmen was in the dancing chorus of one of Eleanor’s pictures, and the star became interested in Carmen, who was soon taken u n d e r the Powell wing, and is learning the best In dance tricks. And here we go!

CAREER

Sadly, we are pretty thin here. Carmen obviously danced as anameless chorus girl in movies from 1942 onwards, but imdb mentions The Blue Dahlia as her first movie – qhauza, you could do much worse for a firts movie, that’s for sure! Then we skip to 1949, and Carmen was in Always Leave Them Laughing, a mdiocre Milton berle Virginia Mayo pairing. Moving oN! 

Then came Call Me Mister, one of the lesser Betty Grable movies, with Dan Dailey playing her love interest. The story, a “lets stage a show,” is slim at best, and the only good thing the movie had to it are Betty and Dan – but even they can’t make this a classic! Carmen appeared in a bit better fare with Royal Wedding. While not a massive classical musical, it’s a pleasant, funny and at times funnily romantic fare with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell at their top form, plus Peter Lawford, seductive as always!

By 1951, Carmen was delegated to B class musicals, like The Strip, with Mickey Rooney (past his prime and playing a drummer who gets mixed up in some nasty company) and the light-on-her-feet Sally Forrest. The same year Carmen appeared in a non musical movie, the thriller The Man with a Cloak. This movie is one of many hidden gems that nobody ever heard of, but that have lots to offer. While not a top-tier movie, it’s well written, with great casting (Barbara Stanwyck and Joseph Cotten), good music and solidly directed. There is nothing much that detracts from its good qualities, but it just didn’t make it as a classic and remained buried and forgotten.

Carmen’s last movie appearance was There’s No Business Like Show Business. She went into TV but I could not find any credits. That’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

While living in New York, prior to 1942, Carmen married a certain Robert C. Clifford, whose name she took as her nom de guerre. Unfortunately, I have no information about the man, except that they divorce prior to 1945.

Carmen’s second husband was Jack Passin, and they married on December 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. It was Jack’s third marriage. Since they married on December 13 and Carmen was superstitious, they did a retake assisted by Judge Griffith in Beverly Hills. Jack Passin was born on April 30, 1912, in Chicago, Illinois, to Morris J. Passin and Saide Hansberg. Little is known about him – he moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s for work in the movie industry, and he was an assistant director. He married Hazel Lee on April 19, 1942, and they divorced in cca 1944.

Their son Steve Michael was born on March 12, 1946. They lived in Los Angeles, both worked in movies, and often hosted Carmen’s mother, Inez. Sadly, the marriage did not work out, and they divorced after 1950. Jack later married Virginia Boyle in 1959. He died on October 29, 1983.

Carmen had a solid musical education, and in addition to her movie career, had a minor career as a lyricist. She collaborated with Nat King Cole in the 1950s, as this article can attest:

A former Pittsfield resident, Mrs. Carmen Scanzo Clifford, has collaborated with Nat (King) Cole to write a new song, “Calypso Blues,” which will be on sale here in a few days. Mrs. Clifford composed the lyrics, and Cole, the music. About a year ago. Mrs. Clifford wrote the lyrics for “Nina Nana.” with Cole.

As Carmen’s movie career hit the skids very early, it was clear she needed an alternative option. In a bid to stay an active actress despite her lack of success, Carmen switched to TV but sadly we have none of her TV credits on IMDB. Could be she used a different name, but no information is given. She explained her choice to work on TV to an interviewer:

CARMEN CLIFFORD … worked on Bob Hope specs screens she reported. During a telecast some shows are cut as much as 15 or 20 minutes. Some telecasts aren’t cut at all before going on the air. It all happens while the viewers are at home watching. In addition to working in TV Miss Clifford has worked in all the studios. However, she points out that studio work Is not booming like TV. “TV is more lucrative at the moment. The studios are feeling the recession. In addition, many of the musical specs are moving from New York to Hollywood where they can get top names. Naturally, this calls for more work,” she says. While discussing the current television topics, Miss Clifford says: … on Pay-TV: “Everyone I’ve talked to in Hollywood is in favor of Pay-TV In the event such an innovation is launched, TV would have real money for the big spectaculars. With Pay-TV viewers would see high grade, top entertainment. I just wonder how much longer the viewing audience will put up with westerns and quiz shows.” … on Videotape: “The swing to video is on in Hollywood. By the end of this month and the early part of Sept., I’m sure TV will be taping more and more shows.” … on new shows: “I’m presently working as assistant director to Nick Castle on a Japanese musical which will be presented at the Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas at Christmas. . . . Frank Sinatra is planning six specs for the coming season. . , . Dean Martin’s six shows will be launched throughout the next year.” Look for her. . You’ll be seeing a lot of her.

Carmen talked about the nature of TV work to the local press in Pittsfield in the 1950s:

Next time you tune in one of the musical spectaculars from Hollywood, Calif., take a closer look at the choreography. If you don’t see Carmen Clifford in one of the dances, it will be pretty safe to assume that she helped with the art of planning them. She may have done the dance-in. This means that she learned a dance, for say Dinah Shore, and taught her the steps. Miss Clifford has worked on such shows as: Bob Hope specs, “The Jerry Lewis Show,” “The Gale Storm Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “Red Skelton,” and “The Frank Sinatra Show.” She danced in the “Playhouse 90” Emmy award winner, “The Helen Morgan Story.” “Ordinarily, (we work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven to ten days to polish dances on larger shows. There are times, however, when we are required to work late at night. Most of the smaller telecasts require three or four days work,” Miss Clifford explains. In preparing for presentation of “The Helen Morgan Story,” the actors rehearsed three weeks and dancers ten days. This “Playhouse 90” production, like most of its dramas, was very well-organized.

Sometime in the mid 1950s, Carmen married her third husband, Alexander Goudovitch. Goudovitch was born on May 30, 1923 in Paris, France of Russian ancestry, the son of Countess Anastasia and Count Basil Goudovitch of Monte Carlo and Nice. He graduated from the Pare Imperial at Monte Carlo. Afterwards he danced at the Ballet Russes, and during WW2 came to the US where he settled in Hollywood and worked as a dancer in movies.

On January 25, 1945 he married, Sharon Randall, glamorous musical comedy singer. The marriage did not last very long – they divorced in 1950, and Sharon singer testified her husband stayed away from home at nights and when she asked him where he had been he struck her. When he married Carmen, he was an assistant director to the director of the George Gobel Show.

Their marriage lasted for a few years in the 1950s, and they divorced as the decade was coming to a close. Alexander married Ida Mercier in 1962. He died on October 17, 1984.

Carmen married her fourth and last husband: Robert Rapport, on February 2, 1963, in San Francisco. Robert was born on February 9, 1901in Patterson, New Jersey, making him a bit older than Carmen. He moved to California in the 1920s, got married to Florence Rapport, who worked in the movie industry as a secretary. Robert later managed a theater.

The Rapports marriage was a happy one. After living in California for some time, they moved to Pennsylvania to enjoy their retirement.

Carmen Rapport died on February 15, 1981, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

Robert Rapport died on November 22, 1996 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

PS: Some good news! This blog has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 30 Classic Movie Blogs on the web!! Thank you!! Check out all of these great blogs on the list!

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Florence Lundeen

Florence Lundeen

The stunning blonde amazon was a short lived Hollywood extra, following suit of many other Goldwyn girls.

EARLY LIFE:

May Florence Lundin was born on February 9, 1922, in Los Angeles, California, to Carl Ludin and his wife, Selma Lenden. Both of her parents were born in Sweden. Her older sister, Gerda, was born in California in 1918.

Florence grew up in Los Angeles. Her parents separated sometime during the the 1930s. In 1940, Florence lived with her mother, sister and brother-in-law (Keith Garrick) and nephew in Los Angeles and worked as a model.

She trained as a stenographer at J C Fremont high school and was dancing as a junior hostess at Hollywood Canteen when discovered by MGM’s Ida Koverman (Koverman was Louis B. Meyer’s secretary and a very influential woman). She signed a contract with M G M and the following day was loaned out for Up in Arms.

CAREER:

Florence had a very, very minor career. She appeared in only four movies, all uncredited.

She made her movie debut long before she was noticed by Ida Koverman, in 1941, by appearing in Hitchhike to Hell, an exploitation movie. Needless to say, it’s a low quality work of dubious reputee, and it is even possible that Florence appeared in more of these movies to cash in some loot.

Her first proper movie was Broadway Rhythm, where she played a autograph seeker. A imdb reviewer wrote nicely of the movie

A pleasing enough entertainment, working primarily as a pageant of various MGM specialty acts – impressionists, contortionists, nightclub acts, tap-dancers, as well as the standard musical theatrical numbers. The film isn’t a musical in the traditional sense, as all the musical numbers are in the contest of an actual performance (some done toward the camera). It’s much more in the tradition of a 1960s-70s variety TV show.

FlorenceLundeen2In other words, it’s a typical bread and butter musical with the “it was always there but you never saw it” theme. For a newcomer like Florence this was not the worst way to start a career.

Being a tall and shapely Teutonic maiden, Florence was cast a one of the Goldwyn girls in Up in Arms. Again, I am not writing any more about this movie. Obviously a huge number of nice looking girls appeared in it, and Florence was just one of the masses.

Florence’s last appearance was in Meet the People.A modest film with no big production values, it’s far from a very good movie but it fits the bill of a mid tier musical. Lucille Ball and Dick Powell aretypically good in the leads, plus is features some other MGM musical stock actors and actresses like Virginia O’Brien, Bert Lahr and June Allyson.

After this, Florence got divorced and probably left Hollywood.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Florence hit the papers before she even made a proper movie debut. Due to her “Scandinavian blond” good looks, she was a sought after girl about town as early as 1940. She dated noted songwriter Garwood Van, but hit the jackpot when she was noticed by Franchot Tone. She happily let the two men vie for her affections. Franchot won out, but he was a all around charmer, dating Peggy Moran at the same time. Franchot, ever the perfect gentleman, used to wine and dine Florence at the Beachcomber’s, a famous sea food restaurant in Los Angeles. Predictably, it did not last long.

Florence married actor Robert Conway in 1941. He was born on June 12, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois as Robert Anderson.

Florence gave birth to twin daughters, Jeannette Kathryn Andersen and Judith Anne Andersen on April 27, 1942. Sadly, her marriage to Andersen was a very troubled one, and they separated in September 1943. She went back home to her mother Selma, and never returned. They divorced in 1944.

I have no idea what happened to Florence afterwards. IMDB lists her death on January 23, 1961, but I could not find any Florence, born on February 9, 1922, who died on that day. There is a whole list of women named Florence born on February 9, 1922 who died at  a later date, ranging from 1980s until 2000s, and our Florence could be any of these women.

What I do know is that Florence’s sister, Gerda Garrick, died on 2000. Her former husband, Robert Conway, died in 1969.

 

 

 

 

Dee Turnell

Dee Turnell

Looking at Dee Turnell’s filmography, it’s almost like seeing a list of the best musicals made in the 1940s and 1950s. As a trained ballet dancer with an extensive background in chorus work, she worked exclusively in the musical genre, dancing endless hours and giving it her best years. This devotion also constitutes the main tragedy of her career –  today, she remains totally obscure to all except the most devoted of musical fans. 

EARLY LIFE:

Edythe Helen Turnell was born on November 27, 1925, in Westmont, DuPage, Illinois to Charles Allen Turnell and his 20 years younger wife, Edith H. Turnell. She had an older brother, Warren, and two half siblings from her mother’s prior marriage, Junior Hilling and Geneoave Hilling.

It was clear from her earliest childhood that Edythe was a natural at dancing, and her mother enrolled her into ballet classes. By the age of 10, she was appearing on the stage, by the age of 16 making her living as a dancer, and by the age of 18 was a veteran of the stage,  a part time model to make ends meet (her sister Geneoave was the first to start that fad in the family), and a triple winner of titles in the Chicago’s Artists and Models Contest (for glamour, smile and figure). Dee gave up her high school education to dance in cities like Pittsburgh and Detroit during the war (in 1942 and 1943). 

In 1944, she went to New York for better job opportunities, became a Conover Model and danced on the side. She struck gold when she got the role in Dream with Music as an understudy of Vera Zorina. The play was a miss and closed after just two weeks, but the famous impresario Monte Prosser noticed Dee and got her a spot at the world famous Copacabana chorus line. She also scored a Collier magazine cover November 20, 1944. It was this that caught the attention of a talent scout from Hollywood, who persuaded Dee to try her luck on the West Coast.

CAREER:

Dee was a part of the golden age of MGM musical, one of the times in movie history that pure magic and escapism actually made good viewing. This is a great achievement for anyone in the showbiz industry, and it’s clear that she worked hard at her craft and was an elegant, accomplished dancer.

Dee started her acting career in Copacabana, a movie that desperately tries to revive the magic and allure of it’s stars, Groucho Marx and Carmen Miranda, both waaay past their prime by the late 1940s. As in real life, she played one of the Copa girls. Needless to say,  as all movies that try too hard, it fails. Not a starry start,but it gets better. Cass Timberlane, originally a sharp and biting book by  Sinclair Lewis, became a drama that was sugarcoated to meet the typical demands of Hollywood. It was one of the very few non musicals Dee made, and today is still worth watching, if for nothing but to see Spencer Tracy and the ever sexy Lana Turner together.

Now, Dee took a leap upwards, and had a names character role in The Pirate, a charming, fluffy and totally lightweight Gene Kelly vehicle. Her next appearance was an absolute hit and one of the best 1940s musicals, Easter Parade, one of the few movies that gave Judy Garland a true chance to shine and show her diverse talents. Words and Music followed, less in quality than Easter Parade, but still a decent example of the genre. The Barkleys of Broadway, the last movie Astaire/Rogers movie, made with both of them in middle age and not the young and vivacious couple they were for their 1930s RKO output, is accordingly a more mature musical than most Dee made. Not to say that the plot is a shining example of complex storytelling, but the sole act of moving away from the idealized stage of falling in love and tackling the issues of long standing couples that have slipped into a routine (like the desire for change after years of repetition) touched a slightly different cord, and proved to be the very thing Astaire and Rogers needed.

5wk5ktrmy4ktk4rDee was pushed into a new type of musical: aquatic extravaganza, with who else but the queen of the genre, Esther WilliamsNeptune’s Daughter is one of the better showcases for the athletic star, bringing nothing new nor especially exciting, but Red Skelton and Ricardo Montalban are charming leading men, and Esther always stuns with her swimming numbers. Tea for Two was a No, no Nanette remake with Doris Day and her best singing partner, Gordon MacRae. With this, Dee entered the golden part of her career, having small roles in a classic musical after classical musical.

It started with Royal Wedding, a Astaire/Jane Powell gem, moved to Show Boat, a very good version of the Edna Ferber classic, with Kathryn GraysonAva Gardner and Howard Keel, got little off track with the average Mickey Rooney potboiler, The Strip, and then hit high notes again with An American in Paris  and Singin’ in the Rain.

Her musical output slowed down after this, and Dee found herself cast in a minor role in a great dramatic movie, The Bad and the Beautiful.The Girl Who Had Everything was an early showcase for Elizabeth Taylor, not a particularly good movie, but the gorgeous fashion and beautiful actors (Liz at her physical best and the dashing Fernando Lamas) make for a pleasant viewing. It was back to musicals once again with the dapper, elegant The Band WagonBrigadoon gave Dee her one credited role – in one of the most nonsensical musicals (in terms of plot) ever made, and that’s saying a lot. Yet, seeing Gene Kelly dance somehow melts all the other doubts away. Deep in My Heart was a direct, verbatim translation of a Broadway hit to the screen, but once again, Dee was uncredited. It seemed by now that her chances of getting somewhere high in the strata of Hollywood were zero.

deeturnell

The string continued with Kismet – a musical that suffers from a serious illness of having an uninteresting story, but possess a lively high quality score, never managed to become a top tier movie. Dee’s last role was an small one The Opposite Sex, a promising remake of The Women that never reached it’s full potential and ends up as a forgettable female romp. And there were actually tons of men in the movie, in total contract to the original where there was not a single man present on screen.

Already a married woman by this time, she gave up Hollywood in late 1955.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Dee was a strong, independent woman who was very loyal to her friends and family. To illustrate the point, when Dee first came to Hollywood, during the wartime shortage of housing when anybody was lucky to get any kind of accommodation, she insisted that her Collie, Cleopatra who was with her from his puppyhood, lived wherever she lived. In the 1940s, it was usually frowned upon when a lodger had a dog, and most people who rented flats did not have any pets for this reason. Combine this with the housing shortage, and you have a woman who risked her job prospects for her canine friend. Luckily, RKO did find her a suitable apartment where she could live with Cleopatra.

Dee was often featured in newspaper columns in the late 1940s, pictured with a very young Elizabeth Taylor on several occasions- Dee was painted as a passionate swimmer who spent a chunk of her free time on the beach. Dee’s legs, toned from years of dancing, were also frequently on display, and won her several prizes. 

As an interesting tidbit, Dee had an highly unusual role in a movie, playing none other than Dean Stockwell’s deceased mother! How, you ask? Simple, her photograph poses for Dean’s late mother’s photograph.  She was slightly airbrushed, so that the artist gave her a vague resemblance to the young Stockwell, by lowering her eyebrows, raising her lower eyelids a trifle, and making her mouth a bit wider.

Information about her love life are slim at best. She dated Curley Harris, one of the Three Stooges, for more than a year, staring in 1945 and ending early in 1947. They were even engaged at some point of the relationship, but it obviously did not yell.

Dee married, very low key, Richard Jerome Thorpe on March 4, 1951. Thorpe was born on August 29, 1926, making him several months younger than Dee. His father was the actor and director Richard Thorpe, whose filmography lists such prestigious pictures like Jailhouse RockFun in Acapulco The Prisoner of ZendaIvanhoe and so on.

Her son, Tracy Thorpe, was born on August 27, 1957. Her first daughter, Tricia A. Thorpe, was born on August 21, 1959. Her second daughter, Tiana H. Thorpe, was born on August 1, 1964.

Dee divorced her husband in 1971. dee moved to West Palm Beach, Floria and became an active participant in the local social life under the name of Dee  Turnell Thorpe. Among others, she was a chairman at a charity gala for a local hospital in 1991.

Dee Turnell died in 2007 from cancer.