Beryl McCutcheon

Cute looking, round-raced Beryl McCutcheon got into acting by mistake, and – like most girls who never had a theatrical background and thought that their looks were enough to pull them trough – never left the uncredited roster. To her credit (haha, pun intended!), she was persistent and made two come backs – too bad it didn’t work out well enough to warrant a solid career. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Beryl McCutcheon was born in 1925, in Little Rock, Arkansas, to James McCutcheon and Robbie Day. Her father, who worked as a building painter, was originally from Wisconsin. In the late 1900s, He moved to Louisiana where he met Beryl’s mother, married her, and started a family. For business purposes, the couple moved to Canada – their daughter Ione was born there in 1915. By 1920, they were back in the States. Two children were born in Louisiana: a son, David, in 1923, and a daughter, Lois, in 1924. They then moved to Little Rock where Beryl was born.

Her family moved to Los Angeles, California, just a few short months after Beryl’s birth. Her younger sister, Joanne Patricia, was born there on August 5, 1931. Beryl grew up in Los Angeles and attended high school there. She had no big dreams of becoming an actress – but fate had other plans for her.

The year was 1943 and war was raging all over the world. Beryl had just graduated from high school. Her older brother David worked as a messenger boy at MGM. Unfortunately, messenger boy jobs were soon vacated by war – david, like many others, was called to fight. When messenger boys became scarce, MGM producers naturally replaced them with girls. Thus, Beryl took the David’s place when he joined the U. S. Coast Guard.

She wasn’t on the job long before famous hoofer Gene Kelly noticed her and recognized major potential in her – MGM tested her, she passed the screen test and ultimately won a contract. So, Beryl’s adventure started.

CAREER

Beryl made her debut in a variety musical, Broadway Rhythm. No story, no depth, no acting, just singing and dancing. IMHO, meh. Beryl marched on. Due to her slight age, she was then cast as a Co-ed in Bathing Beauty, a insanely popular Esther Williams picture with a thin plot but plenty of swimming, eye candy and comedy. They don’t make them like this anymore!

For the rest of her MGM tenure, Beryl mixed drama with musical movies, perfectly illustrating what MGM was all about in the 1940s and 1950s. She was in Marriage Is a Private Affair, a lukewarm Lana Turner vehicle – the movie made sense during the war, when women married servicemen on a whim and were hard to accommodate to a completely new, austere way of life, but seen today, it’s a feeble drama. Lana is not dramatic talent to be sure, but she had the sass and the elegance ot make her a star – and she was very pretty when she was young (unfortunately, she didn’t age too well).

Much better was Beryl’s next movie, Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, a superb example of what a war movie should look like. It has everything – good actors, a sturdy plot, and a positive message to boost your moral. Beryl’s next movie, The Clock, was equally as good – just on a different level. It was a more intimate war movie – about two people who meet just before one is to be shipped overseas to fight- with a powerful emotional momentum and two unlikely but perfectly cast stars – Robert Walker (whom I always remember as the psycho from Stranger in  Train – I know, not fair to this talented actor, but he was tops in the role) and Judy Garland, in one of her rare non-musical roles.

Beryl was back to fluffier, easier fare with Thrill of a Romance, another Escther Williams musical. If you like water extravaganzas, this is for you! Next came The Hoodlum Saint, an unusual try to make another Thin Man – the plot is about a newspaper reporter who tires to go back to normal life after WW1.  However, it doesn’t quite click. The male lead is the same William Powell, but it’s 20+ years later and his Nora is not Myrna Loy but rather Esther Williams, who was 30 years younger than William. Not a good pairing at any rate. However, the movie has some saving graces – the supporting cast is wonderful (Angela Lansbury, Lewis Stone, Rags Ragland, Slim Summerville) and the overall feeling of the movie is solid.

Beryl was back in the musical saddle with the classic, Till the Clouds Roll By. Afterwards, she left movies to get married, but that was not the end.

Beryl returned to movies after a 7 year hiatus in 1953. She then appeared in Glory Alley, a muddled mess of a movie about a crooked boxer and his trials and retribution. it’s the kind of movie that tries to be everything at the same time – a serious drama, a breezy comedy and a simple sports film. Like most tries at mix and matching genres, it fails miserably. We actually have great actors in it –  Ralph Meeker, the best Mike Hammer IMHO, and the alluringly gamine Leslie Caron, and a top director – Raoul Walsh – but it just doesn’t work. It seems like everybody is lost and has no idea what there doing – only the flimsy script keeps that on track.

Then came Dream Wife – I love this movie despite the pretty abysmal reviews. I watched it twice and it was nice, easy and funny – exactly what a movie of that caliber should be. It ain’t a masterpiece but who’s asking for it anyway? Cary Grant plays himself and Deborah Kerr plays herself – and they are pretty good at it. And Betta St. John is gorgeous beyond words! Just simply watch it! Beryl had the fortunate opportunity to appear in How to Marry a Millionaire, a beloved classic that needs no introduction. Ah, those candy-sweet, Technicolor movies, gotta love them!

Betty took another breather, and made only one more movie 3 years later – Ransom!, a superb thrilled where Glenn Ford and Donna Reed play parents of a boy who has been kidnapped and held for ransom. It’s a tight, well plotted movie without  a minute to lose – and very emotionally intense. Both leads are great in their roles. Watch!

After some minor TV work Beryl retired from acting for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Beryl married her first husband, Robert Joseph Kindelon, on October 24, 1946.

Robert Joseph Kindelon was born on July 26, 1919, to Joseph Kindelon and Mary Ellis. His father was an oil well supply salesman. He was the oldest of three boys (other two were Ellis and Richard). Robert was movie struck from early childhood, working as a movie usher and attending college ta the same time. After graduating, he found work on the MGM lot as a casting clerk. There he met Beryl, and the rest is history!

The couple had two sons: Patrick Joseph, born on August 26, 1947, and James Ellis, born on December 23, 1949. The family lived in Los Angeles, where Robert was in the casting business – he left MGM at some point and opened his own casting agency, Independent Casting of Hollywood. He merged with several other smaller casting agencies,  like Artist Casting over the years. Robert’s brother Richard also became a succesful casting director and moved to Hawaii where he worked on Hawaii 5-0.

The Kindelons divorced in the mid 1950s. Robert remarried in 1960 and died on February 22, 1981 in California.

I could not trace Beryl’s fate afterwards with a 100% accuracy, but it seems she didn’t remarry, that she lived in Culver City at some point and died in Ventura County, California, in 2014.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Inez Cooper

Inez3

 

Inez Cooper was an actress whose career was at first propelled by her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr – and crashed not long after for the very same reason. While she does enjoy a glimmer of recognition by having appeared in several low budget westerns, the “Hedy seal” plagued her for the whole duration of her career and made Inez unable to achieve much in terms of artistic validation or commercial success.

EARLY LIFE:

Elizabeth Inez Cooper was born on March 23, 1921, in Atlanta, Georgia to Mary Beatres “Molly” McEver and Thomas Scott Cooper. She had an older sister, Juana Althea, born in 1917. She grew up in Georgia, but moved to New York at some point to become a model. She blended nicely with the metropolitan city in the late 1930s.

Inez was living it high in Miami, Florida and New York before she went to Hollywood purely for fun (to make the nightclub rounds). Someone noticed her in a nightclub and directed her to visit Bill Grady’s office. Bill was the MGM talent scout. On her way to the office, in the MGM building, she was seen by the famous director Melvyn LeRoy, who did a screen test on the spot. She was signed to MGM even before she reached Grady’s door. It was suggested her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr got her very easily something many girls would draw blood for.

CAREER:

First, let’s look at the reason Inez had the crazy luck to get signed by a movie studio at  at the first glance: her resemblance to Hedy Lamarr. if you make careful comparisons of both women, ti’s clear that Inez bore only a superficial similarity to Hedy (Vivien Leigh looked much more like Hedy than Inez ever did, and yet nobody connects the two actresses).  What made her the spitting image of Hedy was the styling – the hair, the make up, everything the studio did to make the two more alike.

Yet, if Inez was smart, she could have known that look alike of major stars never fare well in Hollywood. Not a single look alike had a substantial career. They do manage to get some publicity on the account of their uncanny resemblance to the said star, but ti usually ends there. Examples: Mary Castle (lookalike for Rita Hayworth), and Marjorie Woodworth (lookalike for Jean Harlow).

Inez1Her career is a testament to this rule. While she’s not in the league of girls who were never credited and are invisible in most movies they appeared in, she’s never gained any real popularity nor artistic validation via her roles.

Inez did her beginner’s due in a bunch of uncredited roles – but the movie son that list are quite impressive! Among the better knowns are Shadow of the Thin Man, an entry in the charming Thin man series, Du Barry Was a Lady and Girl Crazy, both very good musicals. There were also undistinguished, not really interesting movies many newcomers just have to do. Married Bachelor is  a run of the mill comedy romance, Whistling in the Dark, actually a decent mystery movie with Red Skelton, Rio Rita, a Abbott and Costello anti Nazi movie, and Tarzan’s New York Adventure with the legendary Johnny Weissmuller playing Tarzan. it seems that the MGM top brass wanted a Hedy Lamarr carbon copy in many of their movies, and since the real thing was not available, they went for the second best, Inez!

Inez5Slowly but securely, Inez climbed her way out of the pit and into the hill of credited roles.

Her MGM contract expired, and she did not appear on the screen for three years, ending her exile in 1946. While taking a hiatus from Hollywood usually backfires to all expect the very popular, Inez later day career is arguably even better than her 1943 output. No longed signed my the MG,m, the studio that liked to show saccharine, cute movies with little to no doses of reality, she freelanced and definetly had more variety in movie genres and types.

Flight to Nowhere  is a very low budget, very bad potboiler which nothing much to recommend it. Luckily, Inez came to what is the absolute peek of her career – leading roles in a two series of western shorts, ‘Neath Canadian Skies and North of the Border. While both movies are forgotten today, they still remain the reason Inez is listed in books and other media related to various B class westerns of the 1930s and 1940s. Her perhaps most famous western outlet came a little while later, in Riding the California Trail, as a foil for the famous Cisco Kid.

Inez4Lady Chaser gave her another female lead role, but it’s an uninspired short (little over 50 mins) that did no services to anyone involved. Inez again took a hiatus, returning two years later, in 1949, with The Barkleys of Broadway, the last Ginger Rogers/Fred Astaire movie. More mature and grimmer that their usual charming, fluffy and light fare, it’s a good “grown up” musical.

Border Treasure is another one of those B lever westerns, this time with Tim Holt. Inez’s last movie came in 1951, in Flying Leathernecks, a typical macho man John Wayne vehicle.

PRIVATE LIFE:

When one is a Hedy Lamarr look alike, publicity is plenty and so are the suitors. it’s incredible how many man flocked to her side almost the moment she put her feet down in Los Angeles.

Howard Bruno was the first one. He did not last long, and was replaced by Mark Newman, brother of the eminent director Alfred Newman . They were even engaged for a short while in July 1941. Steve Cornell came next, but mainly as a fun diversion.

Yet, by the end of the year, Inez was deeply in love with Bill Marshall, a well known charmer in the Hollywood circles who once dated the enchanting Helen Gilbert. They were a duet for a couple of months, ending the affair in early 1942. Marshall went on to marry several top actresses, Michele Morgan, Micheline Presle and Ginger Rogers.

Inez2In 1942, Inez became one of the long list of conquests of wealthy Huntington Hartford. Like many of his swains, the relationship did not lead to marriage. Not the one to be miffed, Inez started to date John Carroll, a handsome young actor. Inez was also friends with Mickey Rooney and his wife, then unknown Ava Gardner.

By 1943, it was clear to everybody that Inez was nothing more than a glamourised stock actress for MGM, her biggest merit not her acting ability but her looks. Inez became bitter towards the way MGM handled her career, and broke off with the studio not long after. Her interviews during this period show just how disenchanted she was with the whole industry. She was very much elated when Monogram gave her a chance to act in the low budget westerns – while they could not compare in terms of production values with MGM’s extravaganzas, at least she had proper roles that did not involve looking like Hedy Lamarr.

She dated Pete Rugulo in 1950. Inez ended her career in 1951, and married not long after to Fred H. Davison, Los Angeles manager of National Concert & Artists Corp. While I’m not sure this is a valid claim, I believe Inez and Fred had three children born in the 1950s – James Lloyd, born January 1, 1955, Jack W, born on June 1, 1956, and Kathleen D, born on February 17, 1959. They divorced at some point after 1960.

Elizabeth Inez Cooper died on December 1, 1993, in Montgomery, Alabama.

 

Florence Rice

1

Florence Rice is not well known today – but IMHO, she definitely joins the rank of debutantes that made solid (to great) careers for themselves in Hollywood. They were few and far between, but the illustrious party includes Katherine Hepburn, Dina Merrill, Gene Tierney and Jean Muir. A solid B movie presence, Florence had an unique acting style that combined a gentle, soft femininity and an almost masculine strength underneath it, a true iron fist in a  velvet glove.

EARLY LIFE:

Florence Davenport Rice was born on February 14, 1907, in Cleveland, Ohio, only child and daughter of prominent sports reporter, Henry Gartland Rice, and his wife, Katherine Hollis.  Her parents married in 1906 in . Some dubious information about an existence of a brother, Grantland Rice, born in 1904, can be found on the net, but no other article ever mentions the boy, thus we can assume it’s a lark.

Florence came from a well to do background. Not only was her father famous and wealthy by his own merit, he also hailed from a fine southern family. He was one of three sons of Bowling and Bula Rice, landed gentry living in Tennesse (but both hailed from Alabama). His grandfather was a Confederate general during the Civil war. Florence’s mother, Katherine, was born in Americus, Georgia, to Benjamin Pulliam Hollis and Florence Davenport, both members of socially prominent families.

Florence was a beautiful child with flaxen hair, a favorite of her parents. She was tutored in private schools in Englewood, New Yersey and in Masschusets. The family moved to New York in the late 1910s, and in 1920 they lived in Manhattan, New York with a maid, Julia Goldman.

She traveled with her parents to Europe almost yearly from the early 1920s, and started making splashes in the social columns from 1925, when she made her debut at the age of 18. The Rices were very active in the high social circuits, and attended many soirees and parties. Florence herself was an accomplished tennis player, and for a time played the game daily on the Flamingo Tennis courts.

Yet, in the end of the day, Florence wanted to act, something not deemed worthy for a woman of her stature. Luckily, she had wonderful, warm parents who supported her wishes, and she was quick to make a Broadway debt in 1930. Doubtlessly her father and his wide net of acquaintances helped her land the gig. She appeared on Broadway in a few solid musical comedies: Criss CrossThree CheersJune Moon and Ripples. She then got married, took a brief hiatus, and returned again to the stage in 1933’s She Loves Me Not. That proved to be her last Broadway credit for a long time, and she departed to Hollywood for a fresh start as a motion picture actress.

CAREER:

Florence has a very interesting, varied and unusual filmography. While completely unknown today, she was mostly cast in leads in low budget productions that tackled questions high budget farces could not – small, intimate stories with real people in real situations. Of course, she also made crime movies, adventure movies, war movies, you name it!  This were thankless roles as far as fame and fortune went, but good enough for somebody more into art and acting. Florence was by all accounts an intuitive actress, using both her stunning beauty and inbred vulnerability to her advantage.

Florence1Her first movie, Fugitive Lady, is a lost one today so there is no information to be said about it. Florence got to star in a string of decent, low budget crime/drama movies with well executed plots and good casts. The Best Man Wins  puts her in a middle of a love triangle, made to choose between Victor McLaghen and Edmund Lowe. A frequent trap of the roles of innocent love interests who charm men not because they are femme fatales out to hunt some suckers, but because they are simply enchanting women, is that the actress playing it really has to have that inner shine, a charisma that explains why she is such a magnet. Florence does this perfectly. Her tender, kind personality is tingled with touches of elegance and regality (one can see she was a debutante, just the way she moves and talks is enough too attest to her high breeding and education), and all that is enveloped into a passionate but subtle strength, indicating that, beneath it all, this is a woman who knows how to take care of herself and no one will ever have her fully. She was in possession of the feminine mode of strength, a strength that could match any man’s, but whose very nature was gentler, not so physical, more mental and emotional. In a nutshell, she proves that you could get things done just as well as a man with an approach distinctive to a woman. In this regard, she much reminds me of Eleanor Parker and Olivia De Havilland, who both ended up bigger stars than Florence ever was.

She used this unique mix and match of traits greatly in her next few movies: Under Pressure, a surprisingly relevant movie about sand fogs where she is again the object of desire of two men,  Carnival, an interesting piece about a single father trying to raise his son while on the run (sadly, Florence is not the lead here but Sally Eilers, but she gets her moments of fame). Death Flies East, by all accounts a very good movie, is also very hard to find, and gives Florence a chance to play the lead. Florence excels in the parts where she is required to carry the movie. The Awakening of Jim Burke is a intimate movie Hollywood so seldom makes today, a all too real story about a boy whose artistic tendencies clash with his father’s more gruff approach to life. This is truly where Florence shines in her role of a woman who helps the father see the other side of the medal and try and evaluate his own perceptions of power and weakness. With her deep, honey laced voice, she is a calming balm, a friend in need everyone should have.  Guard That Girl is sadly totally forgotten today. Escape from Devil’s Island is a bit more adventure than substance, but a fun movie nonetheless. 

$(KGrHqZ,!rIE-pYlnQB6BP-FN(8BKg~~60_12Pride of the Marines is, as a reviewer wrote on the imdb page,fast moving film with some surprises and plenty of heart, just the kind Florence always brightened up with her serene presence. Panic on the Air  and Blackmailer were crime potboilers with some good actors (Lew Ayres). Women Are Trouble is a crime movie with a strong female lead, played vy Florence. Sworn Enemy was her first pairing with frequent costar, Robert Young. Known today as the perfect TV dad, Young had a long and varied career in movie prior to his TV experiences, but his basic persona, that of a fair and square every man, comes across most of his roles. Never the dashing romantic interest or the high wired heavy, Young was nonetheless a solid presence in most of his movies. This brand of “charm” worked wonders with Florence’s “tender but strong” style, and they are a very underrated, highly functional, Hollywood duo. Their first movie starts out as a typical mob sotry, but homosexual undertones and a well developed villain (played by Joseph Calleia) elevate it above the typical fare. The Longest Night is a more lightweight mystery movie, pairing Florence and Robert for the second time. Under Cover of Night could perhaps be called one of those proto noir movies, a dark and intensive tale about greed and corruption with a top notch cast of unsung Hollywood greats (Edmund LoweNat PendletonHenry Daniell). Man of the People is a movie made way before it’s time, dealing with the problems of political corruption and how it reflects on the men caught in it’s web. A genre later made popular by Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it was never a popular thematic in Hollywood and kudos to the director and screenwriter for tackling with it. Florence is very good as the female lead. Riding on Air is a very far fetched mystery movie, not particularly good, pairing Florence with one of her lesser costars, Joe E. Brown.

There is a special kind of movie I like to call “brainless fun”. If you try and look at it from a artistic or indeed any logical perspective, you might a swell give up right from the start. On the other hand, if you want something to just have pure, undiluted fun and not think too much about it, this is your movie! Married Before Breakfast thrives on the strength of it’s totally silly plot and charming actors. Double Wedding is a lesser Powell/Loy movie, with Florence playing Loy’s meek sister totally under her spell until she gets involved with Powell. It’s predictable and without the usual Loy/Powell panache, but ultimately entertaining. Navy Blue and Gold  is an early James Stewart movie, a theme that would be used countless times in the future (crime in the Marines).Florence than had the honor of appearing in two great but little known comedies, Beg, Borrow or Steal and Paradise for Three . Fast Company was a Thin Man copy with a mind of it’s own, and Vacation from Love was the first pairing of Florence with Dennis O’Keefe, another frequent costar.

$(KGrHqNHJBkE9spKJ85QBPiywBnwVg~~60_57Sweethearts was finally a A class production for Florence. Supporting Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy (she is adequate with a lovely voice, he is wooden with a booming voice), it’s a sharp, witty musical comedy. While not the usual sentimental fare that strike you right int he heart, it has other merits and holds up well today. Stand Up and Fight gave her  chance to act opposite some of MGM’s big names – Robert Taylor and Wallace Beery) although not in a particularly good movie. Taylor had no chance, with his shallow acting style, to outmaneuver the scene chewer Beery, and the results is an uneven farce with a promising story but mediocre execution

Four Girls in White, while a B movie, made Florence sink her teeth into an above average role. She ages from a bratty teenager to a full bodied woman in only 70 minutes, and did it with flair and dignity. Miracles for Sale and The Kid from Texas were low calorie, funny comedies, but her own personal comedy peek was At the Circus, a hilarious Marx brothers movie. Of course Florence plays the love interest (her beau is Kenny Baker), and of course her segment is the boring one (usually, people want to see what is happening with the brothers or Margaret Dumont, and not some sugary, wishy washy love story), but it got her some coverage. The absence of Zeppo caused some critical “damage”, and it’s not their best known work, but overall it’s a great film for Florence. After this was back again to lesser quality movies. Little Accident is so deeply on the low budget stack nothing is known about it today. Broadway Melody of 1940, while a big budget movie, was not a particularly good musical, and Florence was cast as a third wheel nobody cares about (not when you have Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell as leads). 

Yet, things looked up from there, and Florence had a string of good low budgeters: Girl in 313, brittle, sleek romp about jewel thiefs (Florence being one of them), crime movie Phantom Raiders, masterfully made by Jacques Tourneur where Florence get her very own face-heel-turn from a bad girl to a good one, another crime drama The Secret Seven, and above-average-B-movie-western, Cherokee Strip

 florence_rice_204365834.640x01940s were already under way, and Florence continued in the same stride as before, in solid B class movies. Mr. District Attorney is an interesting mix of a screwball comedy and early noir, Father Takes a Wife a touching, all-too-real romantic comedy about an aging diva (Gloria Swanson) marrying a totally juvenile, silly company president (Florence plays the wife of his serious son). Unfortunately, Doctors Don’t Tell, a soapy melodrama putting Florence in the middle of a love triangle yet again, was a slow intro into the last part of her career. While Florence was as good as always, the movies deceased in quality, and she was never to make a notable film again. The Blonde from Singapore was a over-the-top potboiler, Borrowed Hero a stilted, half baked crime movie. Interestingly, while not good movies, Florence continually won kudos for her warm, tender performances. The obvious verdict is that she was way above the material given at this junction in her career. 

By this time, WW2 was raging, and Hollywood was quick to make propaganda movies. Lacking in quality but not in spirit, most of them do not hold well today. Tramp, Tramp, Tramp is one such propaganda comedy with Jackie Gleason, but Florence was nothing more than decoration. The Boss of Big TownStand By All NetworksLet’s Get Tough! all share the same fate, as movies that time has not been kind towards

Florence ended her career in an upbeat note, with the comedy The Ghost and the GuestAnother spooky mansion movie, it doesn’t have any artistical value, but is a good choice for some light viewing. Aware that her career will never get out of the slums, Florence quite Hollywood after this in 1943. She was in her middle 30s and had never been a star, and there was little chance she would ever become one. 

Florence returned to her roots on Broadway, giving her last performance in Proof Thro’ the Night. She did some off Broadway work next, in “The voice of the Turtle” and some summer stock.

She married for the fourth time in 1946, and retired to become a housewife.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Florence was a sough after debutante, being stunningly pretty, from a good family and possessing a honey laced, pleasant voice. Florence married David W. Dade, who worked in commerce, in about 1926. The marriage ended soon enough, and the couple divorced in Mexico in 1928. Little else is known about either Dade of exactly how they met, and he is often skipped on the web sites offering biographical information about Florence today (he is not mentioned on her IMDB nor Wikipedia page).

Florence started a high society romance with the wealthy broker, Sydney Andrew Smith, in 1929. Things were quick to progress, and in April 1930 they were officially engaged. Smith was on good terms with his future in laws, and frequently attended luncheons at their New York home.  In turn, Florence went along fine with her future father-in- law, Sydney J. Smith, and Talia Carpenter, her future mother-in-law (by that time already wed to another man). Sydney and Florence married on June 12, 1930. They honeymooned in Europe, and took residence in a Park Avenue duplex.

florencerice20Sadly, things were not meant to last, and by October 1930, they were living apart. The official announcement of separation was printed in the papers on October 17, 1930.  Despite this, the social Register still mentioned them as husband and wife. For the next month or so, they were constantly oscillating between divorce and reconciliation, but the charade was cut short when Peter Vanderbilt, her cousin by marriage, introduced her to Peter Arno, the famous cartoonist.  Member of the New York jet set, Arno was a hedonist and womanizer who frequently caused scandals. The papers loved him, and so did the ladies. Arno was by no means marriage material, but was fun to have around and he and Florence enjoyed, as it seems, a steamy, satisfying affair. They even went to Reno together to get their respective divorced, her from Lois Long and she from Smith. She and Smith were officially divorced in July 1931. She and Arno then took a train to Milwaukee together. She constantly denied having any romantic inclination towards the man, and even her mother soundly told the press there is no engagement between the two, but who knows how the thing really wrapped. Anyway, it seems that Florence and Peter broke up somewhere in August 1931 after nine months together.

Her former husband made headlines by almost marrying the French siren Lili Damita, future  wife of Errol Flynn, during an European junket. Florence wasted no time and took up with Phillips Holmes, scion of a well known acting family, in late 1931. Holmes was an unusual looking man, with a delicate, almost ethereal face, baby blue eyes and dark blonde hair. Born the same year as Florence, 1907, he was a Hollywood staple by that time, often co starring with Nancy Carroll. They enjoyed a fine relationship, but it was marred by the fact that he lived in Hollywood and she was in New York. They got engaged in December 1932, and it was for the betterment of their romance that Florence went to Hollywood and started her movie career.  The time was June 1934, and they were together for almost two years.

The romance boomed like a rose in spring after this. They were often seen on the town and went fishing together (Florence even caught a huge barracuda once and made headlines). Despite being wealthy, Florence did much of her own housework. Once in July 1934, she was a victim of an odd accident. Getting dizzy from a cleaning fluid she was using, she toppled backward into bathtub and injured herself so she could not work for a few days. Her maid saved her from the water. When she landed int he hospital a month later nor an unknown malady, Phillips was there for her every step of the way. Marriage seemed like the next step in the natural course of things.

young-rice-navy-blue_optEverything started to fall apart when Phillips departed for England in September 1934 for a filming assignment. Instead of staying for a month and then getting back, Phillips opted to stay more purely for pleasure’s sake (boys love their fun and games), while Florence worked like a horse on the Paramount lot, claiming the only man in her life was her dad. She ended the year by dating her frequent costar, Edmund Lowe, who was also openly gay. Florence started 1935 a single woman, not too concerned about her dating prospects. As a true daughter of a sports journalist, she developed a love for horse and motorboat racing while in California. While there, she lived in a beach home between Venice and Del Rey.

Florence had a crush on Jimmy Stewart while making Navy Blue and Gold , and told an interviewer, after the filming was over, that Jimmy was a wonderful guy. She also noted that he was very tall, a thing she deemed important in a man. She also considered him the most handsome of the actors she worked with. Considering she worked with some real hunks, one has to wonder, did Jimmy Stewart look better off camera than on?

Late in 1936, she took up with Joe Mankiewiczfamous director, but he also dated his estranged wife at the same time. As expected, the affair did not last. Next in line was another director, Eddie Sutherland, formerly wed to Louise Brooks. In 1937, she befriended Leslie Howard, and the two planned to star in a Broadway show. It never happened, sadly. Howard died in 1942 in a wartime airplane crash. Florence dated Pat DiCicco for a time in 1938. All this time, she was constantly seen with her father, Grantland. They gave joint interviews, went to sporting events and played badminton. By all means, Florence had a wonderful relationship with Grantland, and they spend much time together, even tough he lived on the East and she on the West coast.

3d0d2174b9c6ba5c2ea3021a2ac4ca86Florence started 1939 by dating Tom Neal, but just two months after this, she married another guy! Surprised? Well, so was I. Anyway, Florence married actor Robert Wilcox on March 29, 1939 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The next day, she tried to make him a special wedding breakfast, but she burnt the toast by mistake so the whole thing failed and the two had to go to a restaurant. So much for a romantic gesture! They spend almost a month on the island, returning in late April to Hollywood.

That Christmas, Florence was photographed showing some of the members of Tennessee’s Rose Bowl grid squad how to score at pool (so, she was good at that too! What a girl!). Sadly, the new year did not start nicely for the newlyweds. Rumors of divorce followed them everywhere, but when Florence had to remove her wedding ring for a movie assignment, she refused to do so, getting collective “awww, shucks” reactions from the papers. No matter how endearing it was, it didn’t last, and on June 28, 1940, little more than a year after the wedding, she filed for a divorce.  An uncontested divorce was granted on August 3, 1940. 

Noted concert pianist Dalies Frantz squired her later that year, and in 1941 she took up with the handsome actor, Edward Norris. Norris sure know how to pick them – some of his wives were Lona AndreAnn Sheridan and Sheila Ryan. Norris was in the process of obtaining his piloting licence, and after he officially became a pilot he took Florence for air spins. In September 1941, she caught a small cold but the papers blew it out of proportion and she was reported being on the verge of death. She was nursed to health by John Howard, her handsome co star.

Florence quit Hollywood in 1943, and in 1945 she was on Broadway yet again, barely mentioned in the papers. What we do know is that she married Fred Thomas Butler in 1946. Butler was born in 1915, making him 8 years her junior. The two moved to Venice Beach, California.

79221Florence’s beloved father died in 1954 at the age of 74. In 1958, she and Fred moved to Honolulu, Hawaii. As Mrs. Butler, she was active in the civic and social life of the island, well loved by her neighbors and friends, and she and Fred were proclaimed one of the most charming couples of the island. She never mentioned her past as a Hollywood star and enjoyed living in anonymity. While she was in Hawaii, her mother died in 1966 in the US.

Florence Davenport Butler died from lung cancer on February 23, 1974 at the Straub Clinic in Honolulu, Hawaii. She was survived by he husband, Fred Butler. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered over Waikiki Beach.

Fred Thomas Butler died in 1994.

Pat Dane

00q4txv5kfkufkux
Patricia Dane was s statuesque stunner with a fiery, passionate personality to match, and an edgy, dark quality that was never easy to cast in typical Hollywood movies where the heroines are nice and pure girls-next-door. Not surprisingly, her career was short and never achieved the heights her talent warranted.

EARLY LIFE:

Thelma Patricia Ann Pippins was born on August 4, 1918/19, in Jacksonville, Florida, to Flossy Montford Pippins and a father whose name I could not find. Her father died  almost immediately after her birth and in 1920 she was living with her grandparents, Sam and Rose Monfort, and her mother’s two brothers and two sisters.

Her mother married Mr. Byrnes (or Burns, depending where you find it), who adopted Patricia. She grew up in Florida.

Thelma went to Hollywood for the first time when she was 18, after Howard Hughes noticed her in Jacksonville. He got her a contract and new moniker – Patricia Dane. However, the newly christened Patricia couldn’t find the strength to wake up early enough to get on time for the make up cue, and was promptly sacked. She returned to the East coast, attended the University of Alabama for almost three years, but did not graduate. Then she again moved to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career. She had no prior acting experience, but with her chestnut hair and flashing licorice eyes, she was sure she could make it…

CAREER:

Thelma was a tremendous talent wasted in (mostly) minor roles in (mostly) minor movies. It seems she herself wasn’t on her best behavior while in Hollywood, so the blame cannot be put solely on the doorstep of studio brass – from her earliest days in the movie industry there were signs of her being prone to alcohol and having an “attitude”.

candiddanebd9-1Pat had a curiously short “grooming” period for a girl who had no real acting experience before and only made it to Tinsel Town thanks to her looks. Her only uncredited parts were I’ll Wait for You  and Ziegfeld Girl, the latter a full blow extravaganza movie and the the other a small, intimate, touching drama. 

Pat was extremely lucky that she caught the chance to be in Life Begins for Andy Hardy . She brought a much needed edgy quality, something all the other saccharine, nice and dandy Andy Hardy actresses lacked. She is very easy to notice and remember in the sea of typical “good girls”.

Johnny Eager was a great movie for Patricia, and a good movie in general. Her tough style perfectly lent itself for the role of Johnny Eager’s gun moll, and even mediocre actors play it above their usual talents in the movie (Lana Turner, never a huge talent, was very good here, and Robert Taylor, handsome but never a top actor, gives one of his best performances).

Rio Rita was an Abbott and Costello vehicle with Kathryn Grayson in the femme lead. As it’s wartime movie, you can guess who the bad guys are. White not totally silly in scope, Abott and Costello bring their usual amount of humor and it makes for a decent movie.

Grand Central Murder finally got Pat the eagerly expected leading role. A gritty, dark and hardcore noir, there is no place for the usual fluff MGM liked to insert in most of it’s pictures. It’s clear that Patricia was perfectly cast as buxom, hard as nails dames that thrived on drama. For this reason, MGM was a wrong studio for her – Pat could have made it much better is she had signed with Warner’s. Van Helfin is a great partner for Pat, with his unusual facial features rubbing of her amazonian beauty.

Somewhere I’ll Find You again pitted Pat against Lana Turner for the romantic interest, this time it wasn’t Robert Taylor but Clark Gable. The film, his last before he went to serve in the US army, marks the decline of his career, something not unexpected after the extremely prolific decade he had in the 1930s. While it’s unfair to call it a bad movie, it’s simply too melodramatic and too big in scope.  

johnny-roi-des-gangsters-06-gIt seems that the studio brass did not take notice of Pat as a A class leading lady material, and her career suffered. She was cast as  a lead in B class, undistinguished movies. While being a B class movie wasn’t necessarily a handicap, many great movies were B class, MGM invested so little in them that often they had zero plot and barely any scenery!

Northwest Rangers was such a movie, with a plot seen zillion of times before, a western about the rift only a woman can cause between two men. While Patricia was adequate as the alluring songstress that easily turns heads, the movie was generally a flop. Her first leading effort tanked, and in an extremely competitive industry like Hollywood, it’s often enough to slip once to never get back on in the game. This happened to Patricia – she never played the female lead again, but was given some decent supporting roles. I Dood It was a bit better as one of Skelton’s worthwhile comedies. Joe Palooka in Fighting Mad was just one of the tons of Joe Palooka movies, relevant today only to the rabid fans of the character of the actor Joe Kirkwood Jr. Are You with It? was her last Hollywood movie for a while, a pleasant low budget musical with a carnival background.

There is an interesting piece of trivia on her IMDB page:

Signed to MGM in 1941. Admired by fellow actors after she brusquely told off an MGM studio executive. Changed name to Pat after this incident but only starred in minor roles and bit parts after 1945.

Could this have been the reason for her career decline? If it’s true, how sad… And what a waste!

Pat acted only sporadically after this. She made her TV debut in Fireside Theatre, but did not try to get into the thriving TV industry. Next year she appeared in an uncredited role in Road to Bali. Her last movie was also the last of it’s leading star, Humphrey BogartThe Harder They Fall

PRIVATE LIFE:

Patrica was a looker that that you could not help but notice. She even told somebody that every time she meets new men, they always try to seduce her on the spot. A bit over the top for sure, but the fact is she was a stunner is impossible to deny. However via that statement we find out a bit what kind of a personality she was… 

Anyway, she was well dated even by Hollywood standards, often by men who were idols of millions of teenage girls.

Patricia_Dane_in_Yank,_the_Army_WeeklyShe was courted, as most other starlets were, by Rudee Vallee as soon as she landed on California soil, hotly followed by a brief dalliance with Mickey Rooney, her costar in Andy Hardy. Mickey did not last, but Rudee seemed to favor her, and, while dating a storm with tons of other girls, still found time to go on an occasional rendezvous with her (all the way until October 1940). They had a tense moment not long after the final break up when, both with new dates, were seated table-to-table in a nightclub. Harry Ritz filled the void Rudee left, and in late 1940 she briefly dated Robert Stack, a dashing, socialite young actor.

Pat’s first steady, real beau came late in 1940 – Cedric Gibbons. Now, all of the man Pat dated up to then were young, carefree, not ready for commitment and doing it for fun with no serious intentions. Gibbons was the antithesis to all that fickleness – 20 years older than Pat, with a failed marriage under his belt (to the stunning Mexican beauty, Dolores Del Rio), professionally a well respected set designer and ultimately a hugely influential name in Hollywood, one could not just imagine him with a new starlet under his arm every weekend.  High born, he was a man of taste and sophistication, and the fact that Pat, not the most subtle and genteel of ladies, managed to snag him speaks of her own brand of unique charm. Already by June 1941 rumors were leaking the two would wed at soon as he and Dolores officially divorced.

Now, it’s hard to say what exactly happened between them that led to the final demise of the relationship some one year later. The chronology is also sketchy: They were firmly together until early 1942, broke up, got together again and then finally broke up in late summer 1942. There were some long standing rumor in Hollywood that Gibbons was a homosexual, and Pat herself was not the easiest woman to get along with.

Gibbons may have been the one who got away, but when one is young, pretty and in Hollywood, there is no shortage of eligible men. Anatole Litvak, a famous director playboy, courted her. But he was just an entree for the main dish – Tommy Dorsey, one of the best known band leaders of the 1940s. As Peter J. Levinson writes in his book about Dorsey, the two were seemingly made for each other :

Dane had an exhibitionist’s streak that appealed to Tommy’s own in-your-face personality. Neither of them cared what other people tough of them. They reveled in being  a part of the glamour that big band stardom represented and in addition what being signed to MGM represented to the world. At least Dorsey had a showpiece he had always wanted in a wife.

rr08All of this was a very shallow illusion, but back then, they were madly in love. Pat married Tommy Dorsey on April 9, 1943. It was a start of an intense, passionate marriage that was doomed to fail from the very beginning. Dorsey was a complex man – a genius musician, but somebody who lived on the edge and had no self control. He drank, ate and spent money like there was no tomorrow.

Pat wasted no time in truly becoming a big band leader’s wife. Singer Peter Marshall remembered her flashing her breasts from the wing of Hollywood Paladium while Tommy was performing. He was thrilled she was so free in flaunting them. She even flashed her glorious breasts at a young Mel Torme at Tommy’s urging. He was also very much impressed by her skills in the boudoir and not ashamed to talk about it in the public.

Dorsey made the headlines when he struck Jon Hall, accusing him of making advances towards his wife. Again, I have no proof and this is just my own personal opinion, but it seemed that Pat actually liked the attention of other guys and if not downright flirting with Hall, she at least behaved coquettish. Pair such a woman with a jealous, anger prone man and you have a very explosive combo. It is also worth noting that Tommy’s brother Jimmy knew Pat from before and disliked her immensely, even once showing a cake into her face.

The marriage failed for good in 1946. There were some short term reconciliations and much slap slap kiss kiss, but nothing could salvage an union between two fundamentally mismatched people. In 1947 Pat was already dating other man, like Arnold Kunody, the insurance charmer. The gossip mill linked her to screenwriter Casey Robinson, and caused him a serious rift with his wife, stunning ballerina Tamara Toumanova.

Pat and Tommy divorced in 1947 in Reno, Nevada. Typical for people who did not have a civil, peaceful break up but rather  a dramatic, volcanic termination, they could not stay away from each other even after all the legal necessities were ironed out. Press interpreted it as a possible reconciliation and re-marriage, but both were mature enough to see that would lead them nowhere.

It is without a doubt that Pat had a few extremely tempestuous years as Dorsey’s wife. It was a glamorous life, with famous musicians as their friends, loving fans and all that jazz, but ultimately it was destructive for both. Pat’s drinking got out of control, and Dorsey deteriorated physically.

danePat dated Winthrop Rockefeller, who was then involved with his future wife, Bobo. Carl Larson, a wealthy Canadian manufacturer, could have been the very thing Pat needed to slow down a bit. A serious businessman, he liked her so much that they were engaged after just several months of dating in September 1948. 

Instead of sticking with the normal guy who would give her some much needed stability, Pat hooked up with Robert Walker, the brilliant but notoriously problematic actor, former husband of Jennifer Jones.  On October 22, 1948,  they were arrested for drunk driving in Hollywood after giving the cops a chase. They fled on foot when officers halted Walker’s car which had been weaving down a street. The negative publicity cost her the engagement ring she got from Larson.  This caused Pat to reconsider her and Robert’s relationship, and end it abruptly.

Pat continued her search for the right guy in 1949. Horace Schmidlapp, former husband of Carole Landis, was the first on her list, followed closely by Bob Lowry, former husband of Jean Parker.

In 1950, Pat started a rewarding and successful relationship with Bill Morrow, comedy writer for Bing Crosby. It seems that Bill helped her regain some foothold, give up drink and try to resume her career. It was great while it lasted, but they broke up amicably in late 1954.

In 1955 Pat dated Andy McIntrye, ex of Marilyn Maxwell. Next came John Hodiak. In 1957 she was seen with Marshall Shellhardt, producer Dave Siegel and band leader Pete Rugulo. Pat returned to her old flame, Bob Lowery, in 1958. There were very close to the altar for several months, but it never came that far.

444cuq1i59li44ulIn the meantime, she suffered a boating accident in 1956 that stopped her from working, and she lived off the insurance policy she inherited from Dorsey.

No longer a working actress by then, not married to anyone of any fame, Pat was quickly forgotten by the papers in the 1960s. After her mother died, Pat returned to Florida. She got a job in the local library and later the courthouse. Witnesses often saw her at the local store, drinking MD 20/20 out of a coffee cup and chain smoking filter less Pall Malls. Hollywood was a distant memory by then.

Patricia Dane died on June 5, 1995 in Blountstown, Florida, USA. Her ashes were scattered at Jacksonville Beach, Florida.

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.