Ann Evers

Ann Evers was beautiful, a trained actress, talented and with a ferocious will to succeed. So what went wrong? Unfortunately, this is the million dollar question nobody can quite answer. Let’s learn more about the lovely Ann!

EARLY LIFE

Ann Evers was born as Ann Marie White to John Belvin White and Mary Etta Thomas in North Carolina in 1916. IMDB lists her birth time and place as September 9, 1915 and Scranton, Ohio, but the place is almost certainly false – I also wonder if the date correct. Her siblings were: William, born in 1913, Lilly, born in 1919, and Rose Helen, born in 1923. Her family made a series of moves in 1920, and Ann and her siblings grew up first in Roanoke, Virginia and later Clarksville, Virginia, where she attended high school.

After graduation, Ann studied at the New Orleans Conservatory of Speech and Dramatic Arts and later graduated from the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Ann started her way to Hollywood one day in late 1935, and only because she always read the newspapers. No matter where she was Ann insisted on having a daily newspaper each day and she read nearly every paragraph in it. That is how she found out through a three-line personal item that Ben Piazza, the famous Paramount talent scout, was to be in New Orleans while she was visiting there. She had just graduated from the Academy in New York City – armed with looks, talent and determination to succeed, she went to call on Ben Piazza at his New Orleans hotel, and when she left his room she left it in style – with a contract and a ticket to Hollywood.

CAREER

Let’s be frank, if Ann is to some degree remembered today because of the lo-budget westerns she made. Since you all know how much I appreciate and love such movies, let’s just get on with it: she was in Wells FargoFrontier Town and Riders of the Black Hills.

Now let’s get it on with the rest of her career. She started her odyssey with Too Many Parents, a juvenile movies with members of Our gang shorts playing military cadets. Then she appeared in the okay but completely forgotten Florida Special. Boy, if Florida was forgotten, her next movie, Heliotrop, is even more so (it doesn’t even have 5 ratings on IMDB, and you know what that means!).

Ann’s next feature was A Son Comes Home, the type of movies they don’t do anymore – small-scale, intimate, warm and exceedingly simple in plot (as the title says, it’s about the homecoming of a long-lost son). Actors are everything here, and they have struck gold with a veteran cast of Mary Boland and Charles Hoffman, and a new, fresh-faced cast of Julie Haydon, Donald Woods and Wallace Ford.

Then came My American Wife, completely forgotten despite the solid cast (Ann Sothern, Francis Lederer). Next we have Hollywood Boulevard, an interesting expose of gossip sheets way back in the 1930s. While it’s not a particularly good movie (very badly edited!), the plot is above average and manages to pull the film above the watching threshold. Also a true treat for silent movie lovers – many stars of yesteryear have small roles!

Ann had her first credited role in Anything for a Thrill, a Frankie Darro vehicle, about paparazzi and their quest to get dirt on an heiress (guess who ends up with the said heiress). What can I say, it’s fast, fun and fascinatingly stupid, but hey, you didnt’ watch it to get Shakespeare calibre theater. Ann’s last movie before the string of westerns I already mentioned was Love Takes Flight,

Afterwards, she returned to mainstream movies with Marie Antoinette, the legendary Norma Shearer/Tyrone Power epic. She continued in the same vein with If I were king, an absolute winner with Ronald Colman as Francois Villon. It’s a perfect adventure classic movie – witty script with some depth, great action all around (Basil Rathbone and Ronald Colman), and capable direction. A must watch. Ann finally got a sizeable role in The Mad Miss Manton, a somehow lackluster mystery-comedy with Babs Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in the leads. Considering who’s acting, it’s not a particularly good movie – so sad! It could have been a classic!

Ann’s next movie, Next Time I Marry, was another thin screwball comedy. Mind you, these movies weren’t drop dead bad, just not as good as they could have been. Here we have Lucille Ball playing an heiress who wants to marry a penniless gigolo but due to her father’s will has to marry a plain American guy. And try to guess who the story goes from here. James Ellison plays the plain American guy and he’s actually pretty good in it. Some laughs but as I said, it could have been better.

Ann changed gears a bit with Hawk of the Wilderness, a typical Republic adventure serial with Bruce Bennet in the lead. Compare this to her next movie – the well-regarded Gunga Din! Jumping high aren’t we? This remains Ann’s best known movie, a staple of all classic adventures movies. Why? As one reviewer noted on Imdb: It has everything – a good script, a good story, epic sweep, fantastic acting, inter-character chemistry, charisma, pacing and coherency. And Cary Grant thrown into the equation. Whozza!

Ann’s last movie for RKO was Beauty for the Asking, a below average comedy elevated by a great female cast – Lucille Ball, Frieda Inescort, Inez Courtney. The plot is a bit idiotic: (taken from a review at IMDB): Lucille is the inventor of a cream she is sure will revolutionize the beauty industry. It all happens after the man she loves (Patric Knowles) marries a member of the upper-crust (Frieda Inescort), breaking her heart. She peddles her product to a manufacturer (Donald Woods) who finds an investor in none other than Inescort. The romantic tensions re-arise between Knowles and Ball as they become re-acquainted, and Lucy, who has come to find Inescort to be a good friend, struggles to do the right thing. Five writers tried to polish up the script, and ultimately it’s not a bad piece of writing but it lacks the bite and the finesse to be a truly succesful comedy script. Happily, Lucille went on to bigger and better things later in her career. Ann, sadly, did not. She acted on the stage for the next couple of years.

Ann returned to moves in 1942 with Monogram Studios and Police Bullets, an unusual B movie about a man with photographic memory and a bunch of hoodlums trying to use his special talents. Alas, the short leashed budget and uneven acting performances ruin an otherwise promising little movie. She they played a bit part in a forgotten short comedy, Two Saplings. Equally forgotten was her next feature, She Has What It Takes, a Jinx Falkenburg vehicle. Her last movie was the touching Someone to Remember, a slow-moving drama about an old lady whose son was lost long ago, and how she bonds with young students. What to say, vintage weepie Hollywood! Ann gave up movies for a time afterwards to act on the stage again.

Ann made only one more movie, Casanova Brown, a Gary Cooper film, before retiring for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Ann was 5 feet, 6 inches tall; weighed 122 pounds and had blond hair and blue eyes. Off the screen her hobby were clothes. She designed many of her own gowns and always appears as though she had just stepped out of a bandbox.

Ann’s first Hollywood beau was William “Bill” Hopper, son of Hedda Hopper – they started dating sometime in April 1936. They went to town often and were seen dancing in various nightclubs. He nursed her when she got intestinal flu and had to stop working on a picture she was making.

In November 1937, William put an engagement ring on Ann’s finger. Both are 22 and seemed to be more in love than ever. To make things ever sweeter, that year Ann and Wilma Francis, two recruits to the Paramount stock school from New Orleans, had their options extended for another term and were to be groomed for roles in forthcoming productions. Both girls received dramatic training under Phyllis Loughton. And then, it all went wrong. Ann and Billy broke up and she lost her contract with Paramount. Such is life in Tinsel Town.

August 1938 – Vic Orsatti and Ann Evers are cooing. Vic dated about a gazillion other girls, so it was pretty obvious this was more for fun and less for commitment. Ann was also pursued by handsome Conrad Nagel later the same year.

There was also this funny bit about Ann in the papers that year:

They Must Improve Their Bridge Game:  Frances Mercer, Ann Evers and Whitney Bourne had to confess recently to Director to Director Glenn j Tryon their inability to play an  important movie scene at a bridge table. Tryon had to summon Charles J. Fordham; professional player and coach, to teach the three starlets!

Ann also gave a beauty hint to her readers: She often wears an oiled silk kerchief to protect her hair on rainy days. Keep one in your pocket for sudden showers, it may save your head. Handy, have to admit.

In early 1939, Ann and Bill Hopper reunited, and by August they were a sure bet for matrimony. Bill was also with her when she had to wear false eyebrows when her own were singed off by a gas stove explosion. One of her hands was also burned.

Unfortunately, something happened and they never reached the altar. Too bad, they looked like a fantastic couple (at least physically). In 1942 Ann and Danny Winkler were the newest twosome. They met at the marriage of Irene Colman and Bob Andrews, but unlike Irene and Bob they didn’t make it anywhere. By mid 1943, she was feted by George Jessel (along with dozen of other girls).

Later, Ann also wrote about her experiences in Hollywood. Here is a short summary of the times Ann had in Hollywood, a pretty good illustration how it was for a young, pretty and talented actress who wanted to make it in Tinsel Town:

She la Ann Even, blonde, blue-eyed and shapely, who came here in January, 1936, seeking a career. When she left New York she had $400. She also had a six months’ contract with Paramount at $50 a week. Ann saved at least half and sometimes all of her pay during that contract, learning that in movieland you may always expect the worst. It came, for she. was dropped at the end of the contract. Then for nine long, months she didn’t get a single stroke of work. The money eased away, She couldn’t buy any clothes. Then she got two weeks work posing for Russell Gleason and a week and a half playing the lead for an independent studio, For all this she received an average of $250 a week, the biggest money she ever had made. Then came another three months of pounding the pavements from casting office to casting office without result. When she was again on the verge of despair she was given the lead in a western picture by another independent studio, getting $200 a week. The only trouble was the picture was a one time only. She then got a different kind of opportunity.

For a month now Ann has been inclined to jump at noises. Her appetite has failed at times. Bad dreams disturb her sleep. She may be climbing mountains, where rocks teeter on the edges, or she may be on a train speeding toward a precipice. She wakes up and shivers and pulls the covers over her head. She is going through the mental inquisition which comes sooner or later to every girl just on the brink of fame and fortune. It comes at the same point in their careers, the moment after ups and downs, with sometimes hunger thrown in, when they are waiting for a decision on their contract options. Working under a specific agreement with RKO for the one picture, Ann finished her best role to date, with Barbara Stanwyck in “The Mad Miss Manton,” a month ago. Whether the option is picked up, which will mean a good contract and a major step up the ladder, depends on how her performance is greeted by a preview audience at the end of this week, The studio has 30 days after th preview to make its decision. And so, for what may amount to a two-month period, Ann, like many ambitious girls before her, waits and hopes and grows more nervous over the outcome.

As you can see, it truly was nerve-wracking and not for the faint of heart. The more I read about it, the more I can understand how such lovely girls like Gail Russell ended up alcoholics before they hit their 30th birthday.

But now, on to something more upbeat! Sometimes in the early 1940s, Ann started dating Paramount producer Seton I Miller. Was it another case of Will Hopper, or did it end up at the altar? Let’s spoil it a little and say that Ann would end up marrying Miller. Something about Miller:

Seton Ingersoll Miller (Chehalis, Washington, May 3, 1902 – March 29, 1974, Los Angeles) was a Hollywood screenwriter and producer. During his career, he worked with many notable American film directors, such as Howard Hawks and Michael Curtiz.

A Yale graduate, Miller began writing stories for silent films in the late 1920s. In the 1930s, he tended toward the crime genre, collaborating with Hawks and others on one of the most groundbreaking of such pictures, Scarface (1932). At the time of the Production Code’s enforcement in 1934, Warner Bros. called in Miller to supply the dialogue and storylines they needed to adapt their pre-Code bad-guys to the new system. His scripts for G-Men (1935) and Bullets or Ballots (1936) successfully transformed big screen gangsters James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, respectively, into crime-fighters. With Norman Reilly Raine, Miller wrote the script for The Adventures of Robin Hood (film). Often he adapted popular plays or novels, as with Graham Greene’s Ministry of Fear for Fritz Lang’s 1944 film. He worked regularly in Hollywood until 1959, when he helped write the thriller The Last Mile, but then left the industry for more than a decade. In his seventies, he made a brief return, providing screenplays for a horror film, A Knife for the Ladies, and for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.

However, there was a catch. Miller was already married, to Bonita Nichols – they wed on 1927, and had two children – a son, Keith Stanford, born on October 31, 1928, and a daughter, Bonita Anne, born on March 6, 1936. I can’t find out if they were divorced by 1944. Before you ask if is it important, I think that it was very important for Miller and Ann back then, because their only child, daughter Catherine, was born on July 14, 1945. And Ann and Miller got married on January 26, 1946. Full five months after their daughter was born. That was back in the 1940s, where people didn’t have children out-of-wedlock often. So, while I can’t be 100% sure, the timeline is as it follows – it seems that Ann and Miller were involved before he was divorced, she got pregnant, they had to wait for his divorce to come through, and that is why Catherine was born prior to their marriage.

The papers first caught something in May 1945, when a heavily pregnant Ann left off to New York, and Seton went to meet her there. No mention of her pregnancy or anything else. Now, something about the marriage. They married in Montecito and had to postpone their honeymoon until Seton completed his picture-of-the-moment at Paramount. Afterwards they went on a six-week trip to Mexico City, Nassau and the Bahamas. During a portion of their honeymoon, they were guests of Ernest K. Gann, pilot and author, on his schooner in the Caribbean.

Ann retired from movies to dedicate herself to family life. Seton died on May 29, 1974. I have no idea what happened to Ann afterwards – IMDB claims she died on June 4, 1987 in Edison, New Jersey. I can’t vouch for that 100%. Whatever happened, as alway,s I hope she had a good life.

 

Barbara Freking

barbarafreking

One of the model-turn-actress crop, Barbara Frekign gave Hollywood a go for a few times, and achieved no bug success. However, she remained a highly succesful model for a long period of years and did more than well for herself!

EARLY LIFE

Barbara Freking was born on January 28, 1920, in Chicago, Illinois,to Henry Louis Freking and Dorothy Edredge.Her father was a newspaper publisher, born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother was a housewife born in South Carolina. She had an older brother, Henry Louis, born on May 4, 1918 (who sadly died on May 7, 1918), and a younger brother, also named Henry Louis, born on July 21, 1922.

Henry, born in 1878, was already married once before Dorothy, to Ida Naomi Long, in 1900. They divorced sometime in the 1910s. Dorothy and Henry married in about 1915, lived in Indiana for a short while, moved to Chicago, where their first son and Barbara were born, and then moved to Michigan where the younger Henry was born. From there, they moved to Spencer, Indiana and later Atlanta, Georgia, where Barbara grew up and attended high school.

Her parents later moved to Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but by this time Barbara had already left their home and was living and working as a model in New York. She landed in Hollywood in 1947, when she was an experienced, mature 27-year-old looking to break into movies.

CAREER

Barbara made her debut in If You Knew Susie, a entertaining,mid tier Eddie Cantor/Joan Davis comedy. While nothing outstanding, it’s a shining example of casual, nice, benevolent 1940s movies, led by some seriously talented people. Her second movie was the poor man’s Body and soul, In This Corner. We haven’t got John Garfield and Lili Palmer, but Scott Brady, a handsome but highly wooden actor, and Anabel Shaw, a nice looking but not overly talented actress. The story however is a good one, with tight noir moments and plenty of sleazy boxing underworld elements. Appointment with Murder was another entry into the Falcon movie series, and it any much better or much worse than the rest of them. The Falcon is played by notable magician John Calvert, who lived to perform at the ripe old age of 100 (interesting man!).

barbarafreking5Barbara moved up a notch with the A movie, East Side, West Side, a grim story of a shallow society man who ruins hi smarriage for a brief dalliance with an old flame. Boasting  a strong and capable cast, the movie is good enough, but not outsanding. Barbara Stanwyck, for one, is too old to play the leading female role, and James Mason, otherwise a wonderful actor, is pretty much wasted in his bland role. The supporting players have it better – Van Helfin is great, and is Ava Gardner. Next, Barbara was one of the Petty girls in The Petty Girl, a handsome but none too deep musical with Joan Caulfield (beautiful for sure, but not a good thespian), and Bob Cummings. Barbara then appeared in a string of prestige movies, not al of the same quality:

The Lemon Drop Kid is one of Bob Hope’s better movies, a brisk, witty piece of amusement, about a likable but flawed con artist who has to repay a debt. His Kind of Woman was a guilty pleasure, the type of movie you can only make when the leading man is Robert Mitchum and the leading lady is Jane Russell. Forget the story, the supporting characters or the direction – there are important but secondary – Bob and Jane are the reason to watch this. Two Tickets to Broadway is another one of those insipid, dull musicals that are ultimately likable enough to watch at least once. The Las Vegas Story is another Jane Russell movie, this time with Victor Mature instead of Bob Mitchum. And Vincent Price on the side. Barbara was then again in a Bob Hope movie – Casanova’s Big Night,. not one of his best effords but far from a total waste. Plus his leading lady is the outstanding Joan Fontaine.

Barbara’s last movie was Jet Pilot, a John Wayne vehicle. After this, Barbara went back to modeling full-time.

PRIVATE LIFE

Barbara was a seasoned New York model by the time she landed in Hollywood, and probably had more amorous experiences than most starlets (of which we sadly know nothing about!)

In early 1949, Barbara went to Costa Rica to participate in the making of a documentary about a fabulous treasure-hunt expedition, led by James Forbes, by filmmaker Paul Parry. About that time, barbara was dating Horace Schmidlapp, former husband (and official widower) of Carole Landis. As Horace was shorter than Barbara, she often had to take of her shoes when the two went dancing. By April she was back from Costa Rica, and dating Franchot Tone (boy, that man really dated almost all of the Hollywood starlets!)

barbarafreking4By May, she was seen with Ralph Dandies. Barbara then moved to Columbia joining two other b.b.s from New York, Vera Lee and Marjorie Slapp In December 1949, she was beaued by Sterling Edwards, and they were often seen at the Mocambo. Edwards was far from the only man in Barbara’s life – she also dated rich Spaniard Ricky De Vega on the side.

In early 1950, Barbara took up with Howard Lee, wealthy Texan oilman and future husband of Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney. That man sure had taste! Then in mid 1951, Barbara started to date that man who would change her life – Oleg Cassini.

What to say about Cassini? Slick as a snake, handsome in a dry, Continental way, a true connoisseur of fashion and beauty, he had his good sides – but plenty of bad sides to match them. He was women as objects that needed to be conquered, put himself first and was the supreme bon vivant egoist. Cassini was still married to Gene Tierney when they hooked up, and by January 1952, it was clear that Gene would divorce Cassini, and that Barbara could seize her chance of becoming the next Mrs. Cassini.

In march, there was this article in the papers: The Hollywood models who know.her best say that Barbara Freking will never wed dress designer Oleg Cassini, who’s been divorced by Gene Tierney. You know what? And they were right. 50 years after the fact, I do know that Barbara would never marry Cassini… But neither Barbara nor Cassini probably knew it back then. And I can only say – all the better for it. As a first danger signal – Cassini was also dating another model, June Myers, at the same time.

barbarafreking3Barbara spat back by dating producer Charles Feldman for a short time in late march/early april. She then dated a string of men – attorney Ralph Fields, Dan Dailey, theatrical producer Herman Levin, and returned to new York. obviously there was some correspondence between Cassini and Barbara, and when she came back to Los Angeles in October 1952, they were again seen together.

Everything was swell and fancy until April 1953, when things turned once again sour. Barbara was despondent, and in a fit of depression, took an overdose of sleeping pills. Only the quick thinking of her mother, who called the ambulance saved her from a grim fate – the doctors came just in time to save her. After this unfortunate incident, Barbara and Cassini reunited, both professionally and privately. A newspaper article followed:

 The Cassini charm was in full force yesterday for the opening duo of fashion shows presented by the Children’s Museum Guild In the William II. Block Company auditorium. Count Oleg was master of ceremonies, pointing out the highlights of his fall and winter collection. AH the guild members who modeled were sent out to buy waist cinehers to do .justice to his shepherdess line around the middle, and often came on the runway in pairs to show the same dress with belt or without. Asked about his stand in the hemline controversy, he said: “For the tight sheath I think a little shorter is all right. It is effective with a straiefit skirt, but full skirts I think should be longer.” Two New York models accompanied him for the show, Miss Carol Walker and Miss Barbara Freking. As Barbara was walking around the elaborate centerpiece the guild had created at the foot of the runway, Cassini asked her to tell whore she came from. Her answer vas “Spencer, Ind.” She still has friends there although her career has taken her to South Carolina and California before New York. The show will be repeated at 12:30 o’clock today.

They shuffled between California and New York and were firmly a couple, until another spat. The spat was named Grace Kelly, and it effectively ended their relationship… For then. Barbara was clearly devastated, and here you can see how Cassini operated – he just changed one beautiful woman for another. Barbara, obviously madly in love, couldn’t see the signs and always went back to him – Grace, on the other hand, was much more frugal and understood just what a cad Cassini was. She enjoyed his company for a time, then sacked him for a more suitable man. I can’t say I’m sorry for Cassini – IMHO, if you operate this way, you shouldn’t be surprised when it hits you right back in the heart.

barbarafreking2Barbara started to date mobster John Sorrenti in March 1954. Then she reunited with Ralph Fields, and casually dated Bill Eaton, famous man about town. In early 1955, Orrin Lehmann took over, and squired her all around New York. Jerry Herzfeld, the race track ace, took over by may 1955 from Orrin.

However, Cassini was never far from Barbara’s mind. They reunited yet again in early 1956. of Barbara, will you never learn! The relationnship lasted for a year-and-somethig this time. They broke up in early 1957. By June, she was dating Jerry Herzfeld again. Then Cassini cut in, AGAIN. They dated until late 1957. In January 1958, she was seen with Hugh O’Brian. By that time, Barbara and six other aspiring actresses lived in a sorority house they called “House of the Seven Garbos”.

It seems that Barbara and Cassini were business partners, and if they did date, it was half-hearted. Barbara kept Jerry Herzfeld on a short leash for a time, but he also settled for another lady in the end.

In his autobiography, actor/comedian Don Harron claims that Barbara had an affair with his second wife, actress Virginia Leith, before the two were married. If this is true, then Barbara was a bisexual, but this of course had to be kept from the tabloids of the time. Yep, it was expected of all women back then to be lilly-white and family oriented.

It seems that Barbara never married, and worked as a model for a long time. She retired to Connecticut at some point.

Barbara Freking died on August 25, 2008, in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Movie Props! Movie Props!

And now for something completely different! Thanks to the immensely nice people at Invaluable.com, I was inspired to write about what movie props I would like to see at an auction. Now, this is such an interesting aspect of movie making – set design (AKA movie props). Most of the time you never even noticed them, but upon repeated viewings of a movie, it becomes clear just how vital they are to the film making process. While they can’t save a bad movie with a thin plot or stereotypical characters, they can elevate a mediocre one or make a very good movie a classic! So, let us never underestimate set design again!

The list of props I want to see is very, veery long, and I could even write an additional post or two about it some day, but I said to myself: Limit! Limit! And here it is, the top five props!

Anyway, Before I start, take a look at the Invaluable web site – any lover of beautiful things will find himself in paradise! I enjoyed browsing the site very much, and hopefully everybody can find something they admire. They even have a part devoted to movie props, of which the most famous was Han Solo’s blaster from the Star Wars original trilogy 🙂

Now, on to my list! The 5 things I want to see in an auction:

1. The throne/lip couch from Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Rocky_Horror_throne_screencap

Let me tell you, I ADORE Tim Curry. I consider him one of the ultimate talents of the 20th and 21st centuries. And well, Rocky is a staple for all Tim Curry fans. It’s a weird but incredibly deep and profound movie (and so much more, but you have to watch it to understand why I like it so much and why I like Curry even more!). Plus, if you like glam rock, welcome to the movie that started it all!!!! Rocky all the way!!! The famous lip couch is of course a derivation of the even more famous Salvador Dali’s Mae West lip couch. In the movie he has a less extravagant throne, but you get the picture!

The lip couch version:

Picture-1-1

Watch the clip here (this is the scene that started it all for me!):

2. The chess set from Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Thomas-Crown-Affair-Chess

Whoa, this is one steaming hot scene, and the chess piece is the KEY! Yep, when you have Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway in a hot clinch, you somehow tend to forget that there is anything else, but it all started with a simple chess piece. Watch the clip here:

What more is there to say? They don’t make them like this any more! I love, love, love this movie (the remake, from 1999, with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, is good but it’s a fun and stylish caper and nothing more, while this version goes much deeper – if you watch it several times, you’ll notice it’s more about human unfulfillment and existential crisis than the bank robbing and the stylish clothes) and it remains one of my all time favorites. The role of Thomas Crown is also one of the best roles McQueen ever gave to the movie world. Also great for fans of unusual love stories (like me).

3. The paintings from Indiscreet (1958)

indiscreet1

I saw a post about the usage of art in Indiscreet on the superb blog, the Art of Film (http://theartofilm.blogspot.com/2013/05/modern-art-masterpieces-in-indiscreet.html), and went to re watch the movie to capture some of the paintings. And, was I impressed! Set designers looked for pieces by Picasso, Roualt, John Piper and Raoul Dufy. For any fan of modern art, this is absolutely drool worthy and I am no exception. Yep, I have to say I am far from being a modern art connoisseur (it’s on my bucket list), but the pieces are stunning even for my crass taste! Of course, it’s hard to see them in the first viewing but repeated viewing of this guilty pleasure movie will open you a whole new dimension to what you thought was a simple rom-com with great stars. And great actors they were: Cary Grant and Ingrid Berman are wonderful matched, and the costume design is divine. Recommended!

4. The mandolin from Dream Wife (1953)

DreamWife

I only recently watched this movie, and was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. The critics buried the movie along with some viewers, but for me, it’s a classical Stanley Donen, an elegant and funny romp more than worth your time.

The prop that caught my attention was the mandolin princess Tarji plays to Cary Grant’s character, her future husband, in order to “enchant” him. And boy, did she enchant me! The poem she is singing is by Omar Khayyam, one of the best poets that ever lived (and author of the famous Rubaiyat), and the singer dubbing for Betta St. John (who plays Tarji) has such an incredibly alluring voice. It was my favorite scene in the movie and it stayed with me for a long time afterwards. A big plus is that the leading lady is my absolute favorite actress, Deborah Kerr.

Watch the trailer:

5. Golden cigarette holder from Come Fly with me (1963)

ComeFlyWithMe_GBQ

One of the “Three girls looking for husbands” genre of movies, this time the leading trio are Pan Am stewardesses. I won’t spoil it but the innocent golden cigarette holder is a major plot point in this fun movie. Yes, it’s also not rated highly by the critics, but Dolores Hart and her performance as the sharp-as-a-razor, cynical air stewardess just blew me of! Pamela Tiffin is the usual boring dull-head as the second stewardess, and Lois Nettleton good enough as the normal third stewardess. But the man are very interesting in the movie. Imagine: Hugh O’Brian (hunky!), Karlheinz Bohm (royal!) and Karl Malden (old school chauvinist!). While it’s not a masterpiece, I consider it a worthwhile early 1960s comedy. Here is the golden cigarette holder:

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Watch the trailer here:

This is it! Until next time!!!

 

Betty Jane Hess

BettyJaneHess

Top New York models/cover girls in the 1940s. They were stunningly beautiful and each had her own unique brand of charm. Yet, just the same, Betty Jane Hess was just one of the many cover girls that tried Hollywood but failed to make grades as actresses.

EARLY LIFE:

Betty Jane Hess was born on February 3, 1921 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to John N. Hess and Jessie W. Stroup. She was the youngest of three children – her older brother was John R. Hess, and her older sister was Mary Louise Hess. Her father worked as a demonstrator and her mother was a housewife. They married just before 1910.

She grew up in Pittsburgh, and attended high school there. She entered modeling quite young, in 1938, when she was barely 17 years old. As most beginners in the field, she competed in man pageants and slowly worked her way from Pittsburgh to New York.

Pretty soon, Betty was one of the highest paid Harry Conover models. She modeled for Chesterfild cigarettes and frequently worked with illustrator. She even scored a Life magazine cover.

Betty hit Broadway and appeared in “Hold on to your hats“, a revue with Al Jolson in the lead. As one of the “ladettes”, she was noticed by a unnamed Hollywood scout and scurried to the West coast to try a career in movies.

CAREER:

BettyJaneHess4Betty’s Hollywood career came out as a very thin one, but hey, at least she has one credit!

Her one and only credit is Cover Girl, a now classic Rita Hayworth/Gene Kelly Technicolor musical. While today remembered primarily a springboard for the two stars (Gene Kelly, loaned out from MGM; finally got the treatment he deserved at his home studio after this movie, and Rita crawled out of the B movies and supporting role sin A movies and got her due with Gilda and other great movies), it’s a fun, sweet movie nonetheless. Rita is simply enchanting, and Gene, while his character is  somewhat of a jerk, redeems himself with his superb, athletic dancing. A great and breezy way to pass an hour and a half!

Betty Jane was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Jean Colleran, Ceceilia Meagher (both whom of I hope to profile in this blog), Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

Betty Jane toured extensively with Cover Girl, passing over many a city. It was noted that she refuses the swanky hotel accommodation when they passed Pittsburgh so she could stay with her family (her parents, brother and sister all lived together in 1940).

Yet, Betty chose family over career and gave up movies for good afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Betty was often seen in the newspapers due to her active social life and stormy love life. On a interesting note, Betty Jane was a passionate lover of ice cream but absolutely hated sea food 😦

BettyJaneHessCoverBetty entered the media worlds in the late 1930s, as a young model in New York. Her first beau was Giuseppe Vittelli, a young Italian actor, who just joined a stage show in September 1940 when they started dating.

By 1941, Betty had moved on to greater plains, and dated Alexis Thompson, a wealthy sportsman famous as a old school, elegeant playboy. It was a very tumultuous relationship that lasted for several months, with lots of ups and downs. They broke up, got gether again, broke up again and so on goes the circle. They broke up for good in August 1941 after several months of pushing if forwards/backwards. She was also seen with Tom Cassara, who was known around town for dating showgirls. In September she was allegedly seen with George Hale, the famous showman.

Betty wasted no time in moving on and married Harry Bleich, a Wall Street sugarbroker, at the Little church Around the Corner in October 1941. Harry was a member of the affluent Illinois Bleich family (his cousin was actress Mary Bovard, profiled on this blog in 2013). Harry was drafted into the Navy in 1942. Betty got massive publicity when she went on to appear in Cover Girl, and was in the papers almost monthly in 1942 and 1943.

Betty gave birth to a son, John North Bleich,  on May 22, 1945. Her second child, daughter Susan Bleich, was born in August 1946.

BettyJaneHess3Sadly, that marriage hit a rough patch and they were separated by the end of the decade. Quite probably this was one of many “wartime marriages” when women married servicemen they would never have married in a normal circumstances. Most of these marriages failed without a hitch after the end of the war, but this one was not over… yet.

During her separation from Bleich, Betty Jane dated Sy Devore, the Tailor to the stars, in 1956. In 1959, she was the best gal of Hollywood producer Dick Krakauer.

By early 1960s, the Bleichs were reconciled and lived together until Harry’s death in 1972. In 1974, Betty remarried to Marshall Duffield. Marshall was an very interesting man, today primarily known as a USC all american quarterback. He was born in Salt Lake City in 1911 and moved to Santa Monica with his family in 1914. He graduated with honors from USC and was nominated for a Rhodes scholarship, but, in his own words:

“The Rhodes examination was scheduled for the same day as the final game of our 1930 season and I couldn’t have deserted the team, even if I’d wanted to,” he said years later of abandoning his plum academic chance to study at Oxford University.

“Maybe it would have been better if I had,” he added candidly. “We got beaten 27-0.”

After USC, Duffield dabbled briefly in politics, announcing his candidacy for Santa Monica mayor and Los Angeles Board of Education, and briefly attended law school. He worked as an assistant movie director and in 1933 married a starlet, Dorothy Lee. They divorced two years later.

Duffield next worked for an import-export business and just before World War II founded his Duffield Distributing Co. of Culver City, which handled beverages.

BettyJaneHess2During World War II, Duffield served as commander of the Navy minesweeper Starling, shipping out four weeks after his marriage to Donna Maguire of Los Angeles.

Returning to his business after the war, he expanded from five employees in 1946 to 150 with a sales volume of $10 million in 1957 when he sold the company.

Duffield then moved to Orange County and became president of the Newport Shoreside Co. boating concern, vice president of the Bayside Village trailer park and owner and general manager of the Duffield Lincoln-Mercury dealership in Long Beach.

Betty and Marshall lived peacefully and happily in Orange County until his death in 1990 at the age of 79. Betty never remarried. In her later years shared fun times and travel with Howard Marvin. She generally lived a glamorous life and was well liked by her friends.

Betty’s older son John North Bleich died on January 18, 2001, aged only 56. Sadly, her parents, brother, sister and nephew all preceeded her in death.

Betty Jane Duffield died on March 14, 2008, in California.

 

 

Diane Cook

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Tall, good looking Diane Cook was a very good dancer and Hollywood utilized that talent – just not the way that warrants anyone fame and fortune, but is a short way into obscurity.

EARLY LIFE:

Maybelle M. Cook was born on January 8, 1913 in Valdez, Alaska, to John Cook and Margaret Hardie. Her father was an Englishman, her mother from Washington. Maybelle was the eldest child and only daughter – her younger siblings were all brothers: John, James and William.

The family lived in Valdez in 1930, where Maybelle attended high school. She started dancing pretty early and decided to make it her career. In 1933, she left Alaska for the West Coast and started her career in Hollywood in 1934.

CAREER:

Some of the best musicals of the 1930s can be found on Diane’s resumee – sadly, she was a uncredited chorus girl in all of them, one of many who never got noticed. it’s no surprise that she stay in Hollywood for about six years before calling it quits (hey, longer than some, but not nearly enough to be called a true working actress).


DianeCook1Dames i
s just the first of several Busby Berkeley musicals – and a very good one at that, with Berekely’s best cast – Dick Powell; Ruby Keeler, Joan Blondell. Kid Millions is one of Eddie Cantor’s best movies, about a simple Brooklyn boys who inherits a large sum of money but must go to Egypt to reclaim it. The superb supporting cast (Ann Sothern, George Murphy, Ethel Merman, Doris Davenport) make this a true delight for any musical fan!

Roberta goes down in history as the first pairing of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire, but even without the eternal musical duo, it’s a finely made, entertaining movie.  Irene Dunne is, as always, a grand dame with a great voiceBroadway Melody of 1936 is one of the Broadway Melody series movies, while not the best, it’s not the worst by far. The plot is, as usual with these type of movies, quite thin, but it’s funny enough, and the musical numbers are seamlessly integrated in it. And who doesn’t like Jack Benny? And of course, the young and stunningly handsome Robert Taylor, while not a great actor by any chance, it very nice to look at.

The Great Ziegfeld is The best Picture Oscar winner, so nothing new to note here. Bill Powell is a tour de force in any movie he appears in, and playing the Great Ziegfeld did him no harm! Myrna Loy as his partner is that comes so naturally that it’s weird when they are not in the same movie!  Sing, Baby, Sing is a decent musical pairing off quite an unlikely duo – the angelic, sweet Alice Faye and the funny, sharp Patsy Kelly. And the pairing works great! I wish we had more of these interesting female pairings in movies!

DianeCook5Then, Diane started appearing in Sonja Henie movies. I never tried to hide the fact that I dislike Sonja Henie movies. Sonja, while very cute with her round face and quite a capable skater, was, IMHO, quite  a talent-less actress and mostly made extremely simplistic movies without  a hint of intelligence. Thus, anything I say about One in a Million won’t sound kind, so I’ll just skip it. Thin Ice  gets the very same treatment.

 Man-Proof was finally a non musical movie! While it’s not a very good one, it still veered Diane a bit off her usual fare and branched her into other genres. While the movie boasts a first class cast (Myrna Loy, Rosalind Russell, Franchot Tone, Walter Pidgeon), it’s quite predictable and some moments comes of as highly contrived ones. How to Watch Football is a hilarious, 9 minute Nathaniel Benchley shortHonolulu is what you would call a musical with an completely idiotic plot but with plenty of soul and sass. Robert Young and Eleanor Powell head off the cast of great supporting players (George Burns, Gracie Allen, Rita Johnson, Clarence Kolb, Ruth Hussey – 1930s was a gold mine of SUPERB supporting players!)

Then it was back again to Sonja Henie movies with Second Fiddle – at leas we have Tyrone Power in this one, and one can enjoy the beautiful visage! Another non musical film came in the form of I Take This Woman, a Hedy Lamarr/Spencer Tracy movie. Hedy is a truly unique actress, incredibly beautiful and immensely talented, but one has to pass several checkpoints to actually understand both her talent and her appeal. It took me literary years to finally see her in a true light – I tough of her as a beauty with a big ego and no talent before this. Tracy, as any classic movies fan knows, is one of the best actors that ever lived. The film did not utilize neither him or her very well and is a type of movie you watch and forget 2 hours after it ends. Still, I enjoyed seeing the soft spoken, ethereal Laraine Day in it!

Like many of her contemporaries, Diane left movies for marriage in 1940.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Diane had had a surprisingly small newspaper coverage. She was never mentioned as a solo starlet, but mostly in the context of a larger group of starlets. Not that much information was given about her as a result and there is not much to write on 😦

DianeCook4

Diane married her first husband, Henry Frederick Shilling, in May 1935. Schilling was born in 1905, making him 8 years older than Diane. The marriage was very brief and ended in 1936.

Diane married her second husband, Fred Fredericks, a well known hair stylist working for Max Factor, in October 1939. Fredericks was born in 1907 in New York. At some point he moved to the West Coast and was very well paid for his work.

They had two children, a son, Jerry Louis Fredericks, born on January 26, 1940, and a daughter, Diane Katherine Fredericks, born on March 22, 1945.  They divorced sometime prior to 1967. Fredericks died in 1984.

Diane married her third husband, Vincent Keating, on February 2, 1967 in Santa Barbara, California. She and Vincent owned a string of  liquor stores in Southern California, living in Los Angeles until their retirement. They moved to San Diego to enjoy their golden years.

Diane Cook Keating died on July 6, 1994 in San Diego, California.

 

Virginia Cruzon

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Another Goldwyn girl that never broke from the uncredited tier. Nothing new here, but Virginia Cruzon was so much more – she was a true and blue working gal who supported not only herself but her mother and seamlessly switched to a career in the oil industry after her Hollywood years were over.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Monroe was born on May 25, 1921, in San Francisco, California to Albert Harold Monroe and Mabel Maude Babb.

She had four older brothers and sisters: a unnamed sister, who was born in 1908 and died a few months later in 1909, Phyllis Morine, born in 1909, Muriel Nadine, born in cca. 1913, Harold Richard Monroe, born in 1916.

Her parents divorced not long after her birth. In 1930, she was living in the house of Garfield Stanley Kirkpatrick, with her mother acting as his housekeeper.

Virginia attended high school in Los Angeles, but completed only the first two grades before dropping out to try her hand at the showbiz career. She worked as a usher at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and graduated to a chorus girl not long after. She worked for five, six years before becoming a Goldwyn Girl (she was also an Earl Carroll girl for a brief time), and then got into movies.

FILMOGRAPHY:

Virginia had two breaks into movies before she finally settled into it (but she never did get any credits). Her first experience was in George White’s 1935 Scandals. For ambitious chorus girls who wanted to taste the movie life, George White’s movies were paradise. A man well known for his taste in women, and, much like Busby Berkeley, George White made lavish musicals featuring a large number of dancers. Also like Berkeley, his movies had a paper thin plot, the lead was normally a Mary Sue and characters were mostly one dimensional. The above mentioned movie is no different, it’s pure escapist fare you watch once and forget soon after. The charismatic lead, Alice Faye, lends the movie a warm flavor but it’s not a top achievement.

VirginiaCruzon2Fast forward to 1941, and to Virginia’s second movie, Ziegfeld Girl. Co directed by Busby, top notch production values and with several huge stars in the cast, what could go wrong? Nothing did go wrong, but it’s most definitely not a legendary movie well known to the masses like Gone with the wind. And then again a hiatus from the industry.  

Virginia made the cusp of her filmography in 1944/45.  Up in Arms was her last Goldwyn girl appearance. As mentioned several times of this site, it’s a fluffy, happy go lucky movie, perfect for a Sunday afternoon viewing, with very charming leads (Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore).

Having Wonderful Crime was one of Carole Landis’s last worthwhile movies. She would die three years after the movie was released, in 1948, but the rest of her filmography is dismal to say at least. While this movie is no big work of art, it’s still a decent screwball comedy. Some gags are repetitive and hardly funny, but Carole Landis is superb in her role, and George O’Brien is as good as usual in his stock role. The story of course, expects a total suspension of belief on the side of the viewer, but that is to be expected from a WW2 comedy.

A Thousand and One Nights is the movie that gave the people what they wanted – exotic escapism. it’s full of colors, fancy costumes and endearing musical numbers. Characters come and go, there is no structure of indeed a decent plot, but who cares? it’s not that kind of a movie to start with. Conrel Wilde and Evelyn Keyes make a handsome couple.

Virginia had more of the same by appearing in George White’s Scandals. Nothing more needs to be added. A typical George White movie with Virginia in the chorus.

Shadowed was a run of the mill Columbia crime quickie. One Sunday Afternoon isd a movie that tries to chew more than it can swallow – why?  Because it’s a remake of “Strawberry blonde“, a superb movie with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Olivia de Havilland. Need I mention that surpassing one of these thespians is hard work, but surpassing all three is down right impossible. Cagney owns the rough but lovable Irishman stereotype and nobody, but nobody could put him in shade. Dennis Morgan, the lead in One Sunday Afternoon, was always a passable actor bu tno big talent (he was a great singer, but actor? Meh). Janis Paige and Dorothy Malone, while very good actresses in their own right, do not peg down the roles sufficiently. The end result is a pale remake, completely overshadowed by it’s older brother.

Emergency Wedding was a bright spot on Virginia’s filmography. It’s a low key, funny, gentle movie about male-female relationships  and the meaning of work in one’s life. The cast is made out of highly reliable actors and actresses that never achieved huge fame – Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, Willard Parker, Una Merkel and so on. Great comedic moments, good romantic tension, a clear message,  it’s a movie that shows what was so right with Hollywood in the 1950s.

Virginia retired from movies after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Virginia came into the media spotlight after Ziegfeld Girl. The movie had some extensive publicity, with the Ziegfeld girls from the movie wearing the newest fashions and doing tours all over the US. A brilliant press agent send Virginia and Myrna Dell to New York for the festivities to promote the movie, and claimed both never set foot outside Los Angeles county. Since Virginia was born in San Francisco, it’s clear what a fad that was.

The press was also inventive in her life story: she was depicted as a poor girl working in a factory who was pushed out of that mundane life by a talent scout who started pulling strings to have her become a chorine. Not quite true – in 1940, her official occupation was being a photo model, not a factory worker!

VirginiaCruzon3Virginia continued to appear in variety and revue shows even after her movie career started, and supported her mother all the while. She appeared as a in Ken Murray’s Blackouts several years in a row, proving her mantle as a comedienne.

Virginia’s first known beau was producer Robert “Bob” Sherwood. Nina Orla was also vying for his attention, but Virginia won hands down.

Virginia married Rex W. Whaley, a movie splicer, on May 29, 1944 . Whaley was born in Oklahoma in 1918 and since the 1930s lived in Los Angeles where he raised his three younger sisters with the help of an aunt.

Virginia gave up movies not long after for started working for the Chevron Oil Company. She and Rex resided in Glendale in 1955. They divorced in 1956.

Virginia married Stephen H. Sanders on April 26, 1957. Their daughter Virginia Jocelyn Sanders was born on June 3, 1958. They divorced in February 1968.

Virginia retired from Chevron Oil Company in 1988, and moved to Lamarie, Wyoming to enjoy her golden years.

Virginia Sanders died on August 21, 2010, in Lamarie, Wyoming.

 

Patti McCarty

Patti4

Patti McCarty was for a short period of time Hollywood’s favorite Cinderella, the girl who rose from very humble beginning to become a potential star. And she remained just that – a potential star that never amounted to much. Despite this, her story is a valuable example of a woman that lived independently her whole life and always took care of herself, never asking nor waiting for a man (or indeed anybody else) to do it for her.

EARLY LIFE:

Patricia “Patti” McCarty was born on February 11, 1921, in Healdsburg, California. I could not find the names of her parents or what they did for a living. Healdsburg is such a diminutive city hat  only a few can locate it on the map, making Patti a small town gal.

In 1930 she was living as an inmate in Healdsburg, (inmates are people who live in either a hospital or a jail, but I have no idea what a 8 year old girl like Patti was doing in such places).

Patti went to high school in Covina, California, and studied typing and shorthand. She enrolled into Los Angeles City Colledge, but had to quit in her sophomore year due to lack of funds and went to work as a typist.

In late 1939, Patti and her boyfriend, both with a crush on the Hollywood lifestyle, went to Ciros despite the high price of drinks (75 cents a drink, quite a sum in those times) in hopes of meeting some prominent actors/actresses. The gamble paid off, and one night they met Dorothy Lamour, a huge star back then. Dorothy liked Patti right away and offered her a job as her personal secretary. It started as a part time job for a few weeks, but grew into a full time job as Patti proved to be more than capable of coping with the demands of the position.

And it was not an easy job by any means. In later years, Patti used to say how more than 100 letters came in monthly with all kinds of nutty demands – numerous men trying to marry Dorothy, asking for a lock of her hair and so on. Patti answered every and each fan mail, always typing something different and always being considerate but firm in her refusal to grant the trivial wishes.

Patti’s good looks plus her efficiency as a secretary quickly put her in the spotlight. She mingled with the Hollywood elite and as Dorothy’s personal friend, went out with her often. Dorothy actively tried to push for her to become an actress. Nothing concreete happened until she met Glenn Ford, a handsome young Columbia star. They started dating, and puff, the press gave her much more coverage than usual. This, of course, led to a movie contract in 1941.

CAREER:

In a great twist of fate, Patti’s first foray into movies was The Star Makerexactly what she got from Paramount. It’s another one of those biopic movies that shows nothing about the true character of the person it portrays – but it’s fun, nice and breezy and features Bing Crosby. Also, she was credited, not something that many girls who broke into movies based solely on their looks can say.

Patti1Under Age an early Edward Dmytryk movie, was clearly made more to shock and less to achieve artistic value, and t’s a pity a movie dealing with issues of juvenile delinquency and its aftermath (something Hollywood does not touch too much upon and prefers to avoid), melts into a sub-par movie. She Knew All the Answers and Adventure in Washington are totally forgotten movies today, in which she was uncredited. She again had no credit in Blondie in Society but at least the movie is one of the best entries of the Blondie series and worth watching today

Prairie Stranger was the third part of a western serial about Dr. Steven Monroe, and gave Patti a chance to act in a leading lady role. As per usual, low budget westerns need pretty and bland leading ladies – this one is no different. You’ll Never Get Rich is perhaps Patti’s best known film, and appearing opposite Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire (together!) is not something a large number of people can pride upon.  While not the best movie for either star, it’s a well made, solid musical with a few all time classics.

The rest of 1942 went by in a flurry of uncredited roles. The Officer and the LadyBeyond the Blue HorizonWake IslandHere We Go Again and Let’s Face It were almost like stepping stones she had to do to get to a higher level, an obligatory education to graduate. Neither movie is well remembered today, but on a positive note, she acted with her former employer, Dorothy Lamour, at last once.

Many girl never make it out of the extras bulk, but Patti had both the luck and at least talent enough to get to the next level. Starting in 1943 and all the way up to 1946, she was active as a leading lady or at least a strong support.

Patti2Two westerns of dubious quality again had her as a lead – Death Rides the Plains and Fighting Valley. While I am pretty critical to serial B westerns (I’m definitely not a fan, but that’s just me), it’s impossible to deny that they have a solid group of fans today and these roles may be the reason at least somebody knows of Patti in the 21st century. Pretty soon, Patti profiled herself as a western heroine, and made several movies, parts of highly “prestigious” serialsDevil Riders (Billy the Kid), Fuzzy Settles DownGunsmoke MesaGangsters of the FrontierRustlers’ HideoutTerrors on HorsebackOverland Riders and Outlaws of the Plains. If nothing else, Patti was quite busy and undoubtedly achieved some recognition, a much better alternative to being an extra in A class productions.

In between her bread and butter western roles, she appeared in various other B class movies usual for the period – mostly horrors. Isle of Forgotten Sins is an older the top Edgar J. Ulmer mosh, but still quite watchable, if only for the great female cast (Gale Sondergaard and Veda Ann Borg).  Bluebeard is a proper horror thriller, not a master piece by a long shot but not the worst movie you could find either.

Patti cut her career in 1946, right after the war – I am quite unsure why, as she was still appearing as a lead in B westerns and could have pushed for at least a few more years in that line of work. I guess she had her reasons.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Patti was quite popular in the early 1940s, first due to her position as secretary to a mega star, and then as an actress. When she went on her very first public relations tour, she came with with 5 marriage proposals and one adoption offer! Her Cinderella story was endlessly repeated in the papers and a great future was predicted for her in 1941. She failed to reach that potential, but she did enjoy a period of “fame” as we can call it.

In 1940, she dated Preston Foster, who used to date Dorothy (what a weird love triangle: boss, ex-boyfriend, secretary).

Patti’s only premier beau during this time was Glenn Ford. They dated, on off, from 1940 until early 1943. In the meantime, there was no shortage of willing escorts: the all American boy, Tom Harmon, took her out several time sin the summer of 1941, and so did the publisher Walter Hutshut. During her peak years in Hollywood, Patti stayed surprisingly grounded and never forgot her rough childhood and where she came from – she and Blake Carter  pooled funds in August 1941 and hired a drama coach for a Los Angeles charity school where pupils were trying to stage a play.

Patti5Patti lasted as an actress until 1946, but then saw the writing on the wall and decided to change careers. She moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and started a new life far away from the spotlight. Going back to her roots, Patti found work as a receptionist and juggled between 27 doctors.

In 1957, Patti came back for a brief visit to the States, and her presence in Los Angeles was even noted in the papers! This was the last time we find any information about her. In the 1960s and 1970s,  her days of fame long gone, she lived a quiet life on the beautiful island.

Despite her short burst of popularity and good looks that made her highly sought after, Patti never married (or I could not find any proof otherwise – but I know for sure she died unmarried).

Patricia McCarty died on July 7, 1985 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Andrea Leeds

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One of the few obscure actresses that got nominated for an Oscar, Andrea was very talented, pretty and did justice to all of the roles she played. Unfortunately, her career went into freefall not long after, and she retired at at the young age of 26, perhaps the wisest move she could have done.

EARLY LIFE:

Antoinette Lees was born on August 14, 1912/13/14 to Charles  E. and Lina Lees in Butte, Montana. Her father was a British born mining engineer who frequently moved around – this was the reason she was born in Montana, since nobody from her family had any connection to that state (her mother was from Iowa). Andrea was an endearing, good natured child, and was called “Little Jupe” by the ranchers working outside Butte. The family moved to Arizona in 1918, and after that to Long Island some time in the 1920s. She started to attend high school there.

It was during her high school years that she discovered an emerging talent in music, and took off to Chicago to study at the conservatory there and attend high school in parallel. Her parents were very supportive, and Andrea was determined and hard working, but at tome point she realized she will never become a top notch musician, and, mature beyond her years, gave up piano playing to find something else she would excel in. The answer to the question “What?” eluded her at the moment, but would make itself clear in the near future.

Not long after she gave up music as a professional career, her father was the sent to work in Durango, Mexico, and Andrea tagged along. The country was ravaged by the recent revolution and extremely dangerous to live in for foreigners. When they threatened her parents she would be kidnapped, Charles and Lina drew the line and sent Andrea alone to the US, to continue her education in Los Angeles. This proved to be a great choice, and Andrea would finally find out what talents she wanted to develop in that very city.

She enrolled into University of California at Los Angeles and study philosophy and literature, with plans to to become a writer someday. Her first writing output was for the student newspapers, when she described her memories from Mexico in vivid detail. It was obvious she could have become a good writer, but it took only one to make her change lanes – at her senior year, she was given a 16mm camera and told to make a UCLA promotional movie. Enter the well known acting bug, and there was no looking back.

The 20 year old beauty signed with 20th Century Fox in August 1934, and her career started.

CAREER:

It took Andrea some time and a change of studios to really make it in Hollywood – thus, almost half of her filmography consists of uncredited performances, but once she took off, she REALLY took off, and even got an Academy Award nomination!

Her first taste of movies was a an extra without a contract in the MGM’s Meet the Baron, a nutty comedy about the legendary baron . Her next feature was under contract with 20th Century Fox, Elinor Norton, a movie impossible to see today. The same fate is shared by her next two features, Bachelor of Arts, and the Hollywood Spanish language movie, Asegure a su mujer.

Andrea2After being in totally obscure movies that did not make a splash even when they came out, the not-too-shabby drama Dante’s Inferno (very aptly named, if one watched the movie closely many references this seminal work of the Italian renaissance can be found), with a on his way to stardom Spencer Tracy and Claire Trevor, was a welcome step up. Anna Karenina was her next movie, giving Andrea the chance to enter the “I’ve been in the same movie as Greta Garbo” club. Nothing needs to be said about the movie except that is probably remains the best Hollywood adaptation of the Tolstoy’s classic.

By this time Andrea lost her 20th Century Fox contract, and freelancer working several times for Hal Roach. In the meantime, to earn some money, she worked sporadically in radio and gave appearances in nightclubs. Roach put her in one of his best Charley Chase comedies, Life Hesitates at 40 and The Count Takes the Count, and Laurel/Hardy movie, The Bohemian Girl. When you look at it, Andrea appeared in movies with some of the best known comedic stars of the day!

In between doing work for Roach, she had uncredited roles in several Universal Pictures movies – Magnificent Obsession, the grandfather of all weepies, and contrary to the popular belief about this genre, a well made, solid movie with a great performance by Irene Dunne, and low budget westerns Sutter’s Gold and Song of the Trail

Her next feature was an effortlessly charming, gentle romantic drama, The Moon’s Our Home, and after that came an another lost movie, Forgotten Faces  

Altough nobody knew it at that time, Andrea had just four years left to become a star, and become a star she did. She never reached the top echelons of stardom and rubbed shoulders with Errol Flynn or Marilyn Monroe, but she managed to juggle, very successfully, a solid career with her own personal ambitions outside movies, something only a few women who attained stardom did (most of them gave their everything, including their family and love life, to become big kahunas in Hollywood. This happened to Joan Crawford, Bette Davis and Claudette Colbert. The very headstrong Kate Hepburn managed to maintain her own personality through it all, but it was not an easy road for her either).

Andrea signed a contract with Samuel Goldwyn, who changed her name. So, the newly christened Andrea Leeds, still fresh from the mint, was cast in the prestigious Come and Get It. Edward ArnoldJoel McCrea and Frances Farmer were he co-stars. Andrea plays Arnold’s daughter, and while it’s Frances Farmer who stays in everybody’s mind after watching, she still made a favorable impression that pushed her into bigger and better things. Her next movie, It Could Happen to You! is today a forgotten one, with no information about it to be found easily. However, her next one got her the cinematic immortality everyone seeks in Hollywood. But the story how this happened is very interesting…

Andrea3As we noted, Andrea scored a contract with Samuel Goldwyn. With a almost frightening stubborness, she refused to be put in several movies Goldwyn offered. A columnist noted how ill advised she was to act this way – she, a nobody trying to boss Goldwyn around. While he was right to some degree and such behaviour was a kiss of death for many starlets, Andrea had immense luck. To spite her back, Goldwyn loaned her to RKO for a seemingly minor production – Stage Door.

Stage Door is a strange movie, at the same time both funny and tragic, but made with such a decilate touch and perfectly balanced btween the two extremes that it’s a true joy to watch. The cast is very good, from Kate Hepburn (who plays the same character as in most of her movies) to Ginger Rogers. Andrea is an almost counterpoint to all of the other girls , a much graver, more serious personality, the actress who almost reached the stars, but failed, and now cannot live without the light that shone on her if only for the briefest of moments, suffering prodigiously for her art but sorely misunderstood and underrated by others. Andrea was very good in this tricky role. Director Gregory La Cava enjoyed working with her and later raved about it to the press.

The Goldwyn Follies separated Andrea from drama and put her for once in a musical, but nothing especially good came out of it, as she was not true musical material. Letter of Introduction, on the other hand, is a charming, light comedy. it proved how adept Andrea was at these kinds of roles, and how this latent talent was never again used to any capacity. Andrea and Adolphe Menjou have an interesting, sparkling chemistry as a father/daughter duo, too bad they never appeared in such a combo again.

Youth Takes a Fling is another forgotten movie, pairing Andrea with the drop dead handsome Joel McCrea. They Shall Have Music is a touching, warm musical. Andrea is again paired with Joel McCrea, and they sure make a handsome couple. All these films are decent, but Andrea never truly had  a chance to shine? Why? her next movie illustrates this problem perfectly.

The Real Glory is a man’s flick, and Gary Cooper owns it expertly every minute her’s on screen. This leaves little place for Andrea to maneuver beyond the arm candy territory.  Too bad, as I don’t see her as the usual hero’s girl type of an actress. Those actresses were superb at playing background beauties, and not everybody could do such a role (imagine Joan Crawford in those roles – as grumpy cat would say – No. Just No. Same goes for Bette Davis. But, for instance Frances Dee and Gail Russell, both fine actresses, were much better at it). Andrea is not as forceful as Bette Davis or as angry as Joan Crawford or as stubborn as Kate Hepburn, but she is too far removed from the paradigm of a woman there just to support her man. There is always a hidden mischievousness in her, a sense of independence. She comes of as a gentle, kind, but very active woman who is never the one to sit back and wait for anything to happen. She is the one who makes things happen for herself. She is much like Florence Rice in this regard, velvet hiding steel. These traits severely narrow the movie range an actress can excel in – as most movies are still moves with male leads and most female leads are still supports for the male leads. A few actresses had the chance to have movies tailor made for their strong woman persona – and Andrea, despite her Oscar nomination and popularity, never got to that stage.

Andrea4Sadly, Andrea’s career went down a path not at all suited for her talents, and it disintegrated quickly. While she gives a genuinely moving performance in her next movie, Swanee River, again she is a second fiddle for the hero, played by Don Ameche. The movie is a rare melancholy musical, superbly made in terms of cinematography, defintly worth seeing, but Andre does not reveal her full potential.

Earthbound, Andrea’s last movie, was better suited for her talents than the previous three were. She plays a proactive woman out to find her husband’s murdered (and the husband helps her from the other side). Too bad the movie itself is not good enough to jump out of the mediocrity pool of 1940s Hollywood movies. It was the golden age of Hollywood after all, and the goals were set very high…

Andrea left Hollywood and movies to devote herself to family. True to form, she was never idle, but ran a variety of different businesses in the remaining years of her life.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Andrea hit the Hollywood star machine in 1936, and right off the bat started dating a great catch, Arnold Kunody. The wealthy insurance man had a long history with Hollywood actresses, but Andrea was one of the few that really managed to catch his interest. In December 1936 the press called for a Christmas elopement to Yuma, Arizona, and it seems Arnold was up for it, but Andrea, contrary to her gentle exterior, was a young woman who wanted to fully taste life before getting married. Very forward thinking for the time and age she lived in, she refused to be tied down unless in was  on her own conditions, and marrying Arnold at at the age of 23 did not appeal to her. When Kunody became too pushy, she took up with handsome John Howard, and dated him casually for a few months in late 1936/early 1937.

In late 1936, she was ordered by her boss, Samuel Goldwyn, to put ten pound son her 114 frame for her ext role. Another she restriction she had: she had to retire every night at 10 pm, so her beaus had to do their courting early.  Talk about a fast metabolism and a lust for life! Andrea generally was a thin woman and had problems maintaining her weight above a certain level.

Andrea5Kunody remained a persistent suitor for our girl, but when he was convalescing in his Palm Spring abode from an unknown illness, Pat DiCicco, the well known playboy, jumped right in hoping to woo Andrea. She did not budge., but the damage had been done – she and Kunody broke up in late February. She then turned to John Howard, and was the one doing the pursuit, but this time Howard did not budge – she gave up on him in April. Time for new romances obviously!

Andrea was a good friend of french actress Simone Simon, and she managed to snag Simone’s would-be suitor, young actor Jon Hall. The romance reach a forrest fire stage in Late July, but fizzled out by September. Hall went on to date many pretty actresses, and marry two of them – Frances Langford and Raquel Torres.

Arnold Kuody, seemingly unable to get over her, again tried to win her over in early September, but failed. Andrea’s next was Jack Dunn, a renown ice skater who enjoyed a brief Hollywood sojourn. Small, lithe and with an adorable baby face,  Jack was the frequent partner of ice skating legend Sonja Henie. He and Andrea became the young it couple of Tinsel Town for a short time in Setpember/October 1937. By December Andrea was dating Ken Murray (and had casual dates with Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy pupeteer master and future father of Candice Bergen), so it’s a fair guess the affair had gone bust by that time.

Andrea entered 1938 as a girlfriend of Ken Murray, comedican/impressionario extraordinaire. Then, in February, Jack Dunn entered the love arena again, and Andrea successfuly juggled the two of them to various public functions. This created some bitterness in Murray, as evident in this bit from a newspaper:

Among the set watchers on the “Letter of Introduction” set was Ken Murray. Of course, Ken was only watching one person – Andrea Leeds. But he was doing that job very very well. “Say, Ken” I brashly remarked “when are you going to get married?” An odd expression crossed his face. “Never” he replied in a bantering tone. “Comedians are always falling in love with swell girls, but they never quite make the grade – they don’t have the final punch” Yes, Murray was kidding – but he was kidding on the square.”

Seems to be that Murray wanted to marry Andrea, but she was blowing hot and cold to him. But he clearly saw the writing on the wall and knew he was not true marriage material for her. As a side note, Andrea also had an award winning cocker spaniel, her pride and joy, but unfortunately somebody poisoned the pooch and a columnist was so angry at this act of violence he declared the person should be hanged.

Andrea more or less dated Ken Murray exclusively for several more months (but still having casual dates on the side, like with a lawyer surnamed Brenann and others). Sadly, by July they were all but over, she taking up with Reeves Espy. Then, Jack Dunn died on July 16, 1938. Andrea was devastated by his death, and this probably contributed to the final demise of her relationship with Murray. The press noted:

 She took Jack Dunn’s death much harder than anyone realized. Their romance was definitely on the rocks months before Jack died, but Andrea, had cared for him deeply at one time.

In November 1938, Andrea had a bad spill and broke a bone in her foot. To quote the papers:

If Andrea Leeds broken foot holds up “The Last Frontier”, her boss, Samuel  Goldwyn, ironically, will have only himself to blame. Andrea was supposed to fly to Palm Springs, to spend an afternoon at the home of Jerry Cowan. Her pilot was to be E. L. Benway, who was good enough to be int he Lafayette Escadrille. Hearing of the trip, however, Goldwyn forbade Andrea to fly. So she stayed home home and went to a party at the home of a Goldwyn official. It was there she got into a game of badminton and broke her foot.

Andrea6Despite her temporary impediment, Andrea did not let anything deter her from an active social life she was enjoying. Four days after she broke the leg, she was with an admirer at the Trocadero, using the crutches. Enter Ken Murray, who used her weakened state to try and win her affections again. He started the construction of a house next door to Andrea’s, and took her frequently out to nightclubs. She was so active hobbling on crutches everywhere in Hollywood that Goldwyn was fuming and the insurance company did not believe she was really hurt.

In the meantime, Murray desperately wanted Andrea to commit herself to him fully, but she refused. Irritated beyond any measure, he flew to New York, very much dissatisfied with the current situation. Those tricks did not work on her, instead of joinign him in New York as he hopes she would, she was seen with stock broker Bernard B. Robinson.

Andrea’s crazy ways caught up with her – what was supposed to be a two week period on the crutches turned to almost two months period. Gary Cooper rushed home from Europe to start making a new movie opposite her, but she was unable to start at the designated time and place. The papers noted in Late December 1938

Andrea Leeds, watching the polo at the Riviera Country Club, wearing a mink. She is still using crutches for her foot injury. She goes to Palm Springs to rest up, and it is safe to assume she will be much better when she returns home in January.

James McKinley Bryant courted her during her Palm Springs outing. She was finally crutch-free when she sprung into action in January 1939, going to New York for business reasons. Goldwyn ordered her to become more glamorous and date important men, but she brushed him off, saying she will date important men only if they are interesting men. No messing around with this one, that’s for sure!

Andrea got involved with Bob Howard sometime in early 1939. The romance progressed nicely, and by July it was clear to anyone the two lovebirds were very close to getting married. Andrea motored with Bob every weekend around California and the pair enjoyed a candid, sedate romance.

Andrea had very progressive opinions about love and marriage for a woman of that time and place. Two quotes struck my fancy:

Paul Harrison writes: “I’ll never forget the first time I shook hands with Andrea Leeds. After some sort of a conventional greeting she geld on for several second and looked off into space with a questioning trance like expression. She said she sis that with every man, hoping that some day she’s encounter a certain sympathetic vibration which would identify the right one. She must have found it in the handclasp of socialite Bob Howard: so far, I haven’t had a chance to ask.”

“I may marry some day, but not until I have enough money put away to make me completely independent of any man”

One wonder just how serious she was about this, is was it merely publicity? Since, just few months after she said it…

Andrea wed Robert Howard, often described as “wealthy young sportsman”, at St. John Chapel, Del Monte, California on October 25, 1939.Reverend Theodore Bell, Episcopal clergyman, officiated the marriage. Howard was the son of Charles S. Howard, owner of the horse Seabiscut and a wealthy businessman. His mother was Mrs. Edmond F. Merrscher. She was 26, he 23. Matron of honor was Mrs. Reeves Espy, and best man was Robert’s brother, Lindsay. The couple honeymooned in Hawaii until late December 1939. Andrea barely escaped a centipede bite while there, but they had a splendid time and would return to the island several more times.

Andrea7Andre and Bob moved to Beverly Hills. She was still under contract, but adopted the lifestyle of the wealthy and rich very soon, attending Santa Anita racetrack almost daily with her hubby. Bob also for a “normal” job, owned and ran a business based on  selling cars in California.

Andrea developed a love for midget racing cars and tennis games. She had to stop with her new found hobbies when she found out she was pregnant. Her son Robert Howard Jr. was born on December 10, 1940. An interesting anecdote was that the baby was born 10 minutes after they came to the hospital on a flat tire!

Motherhood did little to slowdown the couple. They undertook an extensive trip to southerm Americna lasting for several months before their son turned one, and entertained many Hollywood notables in their palatial home. Andrea and Bob’s second child, daughter Leeann May, was born on March 10, 1942. Her husband joined the army not long after. There was some talk of Andrea oing back to movies, but nothing happened then. The “Andrea returns to movies” soap opera was far from over by that time, however.

The marriage started to get wobbly in 1943, and this continued until 1944. They almost separated, but by some stroke of fate, it did not happen. This was their first and final big tiff. That same year, she signed a contract with Paramount, but made no movies before the contract expired.

For the rest of the 1940s, the Howards were a prominent Beverly Hills couple, and were very active in the horse racing and breeding word. They owned several stables (50-50, like true partners), and some of their horses were very successful. They mixed with the high fliers of Hollywood. Some of her best friends were Ann Sothern and Kay Williams Gable. She was also a doting mother, and frequently gushed over her children, especially her son (she liked to note that at 11 he was already taller than her!).

In August 1951, her husband sold his auto agency in Beverly Hills, and buyed an manor that will be known in the future as “Howard Manor”. It had been a private hotel built in 1935 by Al Wertheimer. They were to retain the home for three decades, and host may Hollywood notables, like Jack Dempsey and David Janssen.

In July 1953, Andrea lost 71.450 $ worth of jewelry in the Bel Air Hotel. After taking them out of the safe, her husband put them into a portable radio for protection, but later they were stolen from the radio. Luckily, they were returned to her a day later after a department store clerk found them in a coin purse at the hotel.

In 1954, a list of women James Roosevelt allegedly splet with was made public, and Andrea was among the names mentioned. She vehemently denies the accusations, claiming she was not even a democrat. Who knows the full extent of this story, or if there is any truth to it…

tumblr_m8pkw5X38K1qg8r34o1_1280Andrea’s gallery in Palm Spring became a to-go place when it town. She had several very interesting exhibitions during the late 1950s there – for instance, exhibiting more than 25 000 pearls, ancient Japanese art, and unusual diamonds. She and Bob went to business-cum-pleasure trips often, visiting Hawaii, Europe and other places. In 1957, she added a dress shop to her business ventures.

Her life so far was a charm, but some dark clouds awaited on the horizon. In 1960 her son was bitten by a snake and barely survived the ordeal. On September 8, 1962, her husband died after an unsuccessful kidney operations.

A wealthy widow now, Andrea continued her business pursuits and was still active in the horse racing world. Sadly, another tragedy struck when her daughter, Leeann, died from cancer in 1971. She was only 29 years old. Andrea retired in the late 1970s, and sold the Howard manor to Sheila and Don Cuff, well known fitness pioneers. She continued to live in Palm Springs, just in a smaller house.

Andrea Howard was admitted to a Palm Spring hospital on April 8, 1984, in the last stages of cancer. She died on May 21, 1984.

Renee De Marco

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One half of the husband/wife dancing team very popular in the 1930s, Renee de Marco was the role model for grace and agility in the US, well known and beloved by thousands of people. Yet, behind the glamorous facade was a woman with a complex private life and a very talented artist who never made it in Hollywood.

EARLY LIFE:

Margaret Evelyn Nerney was born on may 25, 1913, in Burlington, Chittenden, Vermont, to Robert Emmett Nerney, of English ancestry, and Rachel Laduke, who was French Canadian and only 16 at the time.

The family moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania when she was a baby. Renee was educated in a convent, and started dancing as a child. Her precocious, active nature pushed her into a dancing a career very early – she was merely 16 years old when she met Tony DeMarco, a vaudeville dancer. Yet, her parents insisted she graduate from high school, which she did in 1931. By this time, she and Tony were already dancing professionally.

CAREER:

The gist of Renee’s career are not movies nor stage shows, but nightclub and hotel appearances. It would be a very daunting task to make a chronology of all of these, so I’ll just touch upon those I have found on the internet . I already mentioned she met Tony in 1929, and that they started dancing soon afterwards. At first they were vaudeville dancers, and, as their fame grew, so did their reputability and the places they danced became more and more esteemed.

In 1930, the couple made their first headlines, featured in the show “Girl Crazy” off Broadway. In 1932, they got to Broadway in Hot-Cha!. In 1934, they were dancing in the Persian room in New York. In 1935, they made a Vanity Fair editorial

In 1936, they danced in London, England at the prestigious Grosvenor House. An interesting thing happened to Renee while she was there:

 “Imagine how I felt, being invited to dance before the king and queen. It was the happiest day of my life. When we got there I made my mind to i’m have a good look at them before going out to the floor and I sneaked up to a group of men near a doorway and tried to make my way past them. They locked the way and all were looking into the room, and I was sort of trying to make headway without pushing. Then one man, trim, erect, standing there, suddenly seemed to feel that I was persistently near and anxious to get by. He turned around. You can guess it – it was the king himself. He smiled, and I blushed and all kinds of colors, and he said “Are you trying to get through” and before I knew it he had split those manly ranks and I was through. Later I was presented formally and the qeen talked to me for quite a while. Both their majesties are very interested in dancing.”

In early 1938, the couple separated but continued to work together and Renee was later adamant in claiming she was coerced into signing a contract to dance eight more years with Tony (this happened in late 1938). Tony denied Renee’s story, but, no matter how things had really happened, they solved it peacefully and with little fuss by 1941. Both continued their careers efforthlessly afterwards. Renee was a regular at night clubs and occasionally went on stage.

Renee made only one Hollywood movie, in 1953, and a bad one at that – Sword of Venus. It is a listless, boring account of the adventures of Dantes, son of Monte Cristo. It has no good acting names, a paper thin plot and average production values. Could have been worse, for sure, but could have been much better. Renee’s role is quite small. Obviously, Hollywood was not in the cards for her, and no matter how many times she came and tried to have an acting career, it was a “no go”.

By this time, Renee was already semi retired and dedicated to raising her family – she disappeared from the show biz circuit in cca.- 1954.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Renee was a svelte, lean woman, 5 foot 3 inches tall, weighting 103 pounds, with the measurements of 34-23-34, much renown for her agility and grace in the 1930s.

Renee married her first husband, Tony, in 1931, after knowing him for about two years. It’s hard to put a straight line between what’s fact and fiction, business or the real things in Renee and Tony’s relationship. While I understand that their feelings were deeply intervened with their dancing, and, in a way, dancing was a form of making love (as Suzanne Farrell, famous ballerina, notes in her autobiography, to dancers the feeling on the dance floor is sometimes more passionate and intense than anything out of it). I get the feeling that, after she music was over, it was obviously a rocky road. Having a relationship that’s based on dancing is a double edged sword, and Renee and Tony did not quite get the good part in full.

eds1350343828phlvxb1Tony was not the best of husbands either. Born on February 1, 1898, in Buffalo, New York, he was a dancer from his late teens, and was already married once to his dance partner, Nina DeMarco. While he was a stunning presence with a magnetic pull, he lived mostly through his work and had a very strange habit – his famous maxim was that he could not dance with another man’s wife, so naturally, whoever chose to be his partner was either to become wife or never to marry. As a result, he married almost all of the women he danced with – that is obviously not a very good marital record, very similar to George Balanchine who only married his ballet dancers.  

They separated in 1938, but due to their working arrangements things constantly oscillated between on/off. I can imagine just how confusing it all was for them, knowing it will never work out, but still enjoying the closeness and desire of dancing together… in the end it was Renee who insisted that they break it. Tony did not help by being signed first as Joan Crawford’s dancing partner, and then by dating Dorothy Lamour.

In late 1938 she dated George Stone, and was seen with Joe Schneck in early 1939. For a time she was in a serious relationship with Desi Arnaz, then a nightclub owner in New York, but Lucille Ball snatched him under her nose.

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In 1940, it was clear that there was no chance of ever saving the marriage – not only were the papers explicitly clear in the notion that their arrangement was strictly business, but Renee lived as a lodger in a elegant hotel in New York and not with Tony. Renee was at the height of the popularity and social life in 1940s – she was a free woman for the first time in 10 years (after a suffocating marriage), was named one of the best dressed in several publications, her career was on the rise both with and without her former husband, and she was a sough after guest at many high society soirees and cocktail parties.

In June 1941 Renee went to Reno, Nevada for a quicky divorce from Tony. On August 30, 1941, the marriage was officially terminated. Nobody wasted any time after this. Tony, as per his usual modus operandi, took up with his new dance partner, former ballerina Sally Craven, and Renee went on with her career in high gear. Columnist Bob Musel talked to Tony in January 1942, and he admitted that he carried a torch for Renee for a very, very long time, but that now he is at peace with her decision, and only wants the best for her.

Life went on. In March 1943, Renee married dancer Jody Henderson/Hutchingson. Much like Tony, she married her dancing partner, a tricky proposition. Their daughter was born in May 1943.

steichen_dancersRenee for a time worked in Hollywood, and there met and tutored Judy Garland. Renee was Judy’s favorite dancer. A trick of the dance director was to tell Judy, who was notoriously insecure about her singing and dancing, to try and pretend she was Renee and she would immediately dance with more vigor and passion.

Renee was quite active in the Hollywood nightlife. In 1945, she and a string of actresses famously played a strip poker game for charity, where she lost her skirt along with Ann Miller and Nina Foch. Sadly, her marriage to Hutchingson/Henderson fell apart in 1945.

Renee met and fell in love with the influential and famous Hollywood publicity agent, Paul V. Coates. She divorced her husband on August 21, 1947, and married Coates just hours after in Reno, Nevada.

Coates was born on March 10, 1921, in New York, and was to become a columnist for Daily Mirror and several other publications.

Her elder son, Kevin Marley Coates, was born in January 1947. Her younger son Paul Timothy Coates was born on April 3, 1948. She gave up her career to in the mid 1950s to become a high powered wife of a publicity agent, had her nose bobbed, and enjoyed a wide social life.

Her husband died of a heart attack, probably bought over by a unhealthy and stress filled lifestyle, on November 16, 1968. He was just 47 years old.

Renee lived the quiet life afterwards. She moved to Thousand Oaks, California, in the late 1970s. In the mid 1990s, she moved to Bend, Oregon.

Renee Nerney Coates died on November 24, 2000, in Bend, Oregon.

As a special treat, a rare clip of DeMarcos dancing, not Renee and Tony but Tony and Sally, but this type of dance he also danced with Renee.

Renee Whitney

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Renee’s career started in silents, but was truly ignited with the talkies of the Pre Code era. Hers is not a big career, with no meaty and mostly uncredited roles, but she appeared in tons of good films with some very fine actors. Just as it all began with the Pre Code era, It was extinguished not long after the code kicked in July 1934, and she left Hollywood at a young age of 24. 

EARLY LIFE:

Bertha Renee Whitney was born on February 9, 1912, in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles Whitney and Bertha Lehmann, their only child. Her mother was the daughter of German immigrants, born in Nebraska. The family made a series of movies through California during her early childhood, going from Santa Monica, to Venice, and ending up in Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Her father worked as a manager there, and her mother was a housewife. Renee finished just the first year of high school in Los Angeles before she opted to become an thespian.

In 1930, the family lived with her maternal grandparents and two lodgers in Los Angeles, and Renee was already an established actress by then. That same year, she moved to a rented apartment on the crossing West 1st and Broadway Street in east Los Angeles. Her career had already started, but the best was yet to come.

CAREER:

As I already noted, Renee did not have an exemplary career by a long shot, but managed to appear in a large number of movies in a very short time period, faring much better than some starlets of her rank.

8ac9y2rwxpzr2ywaBelieve it or not, Renee started her career as a teenager in silents (The Chicken Love at First FlightRun, Girl, RunThe Girl from Everywhere). 

Her first sound movie was the Clara Bow classic, The Wild Party. It seems that the “women empowerment” movies became her forte. Those were the movies where women lived freely, were strong and knew what they wanted. Under 18Play-Girl, Week Ends OnlyBaby Face and Winner Take All had female characters in the central roles and tackled issues directly connected to being a woman in the early 1930s. While neither of them is a classic today, they still hold up and have a strikingly contemporary feel about them.

 

Renee than switched her modus operandi to a totally different field, musicals. Her shapely gams sure helped there, and she was cast in a variety of movies as a nameless chorine: The Kid from Spain42nd StreetGold Diggers of 1933Fashions of 1934, and Wonder Bar.

 

In the meantime, she appeared in movies with top stars, like Picture Snatcher (a James Cagney movie), Ex-Lady (and many more with Bette Davis), Journal of a Crime (Ruth Chatterton) and so on. Not to say she was spared from less prestigious productions: Merry Wives of RenoThe Merry Frinks and The Circus Clown were low budget films with second tier actors.

 

Renee1Despite being uncredited most of the time, in about 1934, Renee started to get meatier parts, and her character actually had names! The first was a Busby Berkeley extravaganza, Footlight Parade, and one of the best movies on her list. The Big Shakedown was a soapy melodrama featuring a young Bette Davis, with a predictable plot but it’s far from total ruin. Bedside was a similar movie that uses all the standard melodramatic tropes.  I’ve Got Your Number is one of those vivacious, a bit wicked comedies with Joan Blondell, the type of movies she excelled in. Jimmy the Gent is a wonderfully delightful satire/comedy with Bette Davis and James Cagney, a true classic that lost none of it’s magic. Registered Nurse, Renee’s return to the “strong woman” arena was a ambiguous film that oscillated between serious drama and a zany comedy, and gave Bebe Daniels one of her better roles in her later career.

 

l0tcu2qx7w880lcwReturn of the Terror gave her a try at horror, unfortunately just not a very good one. Side Streets is one of those mature, placid movies Hollywood never made for the money. Not only are the leads, Aline MacMahon and Paul Kelly not typical “Hollywood handsome” actors, the bottom line of the story is that stunning looks can conceal a shallow, vapid personality.
Kansas City Princess is another Joan Blondell witty comedy, and she was paired with Renee’s good friend, Glenda Farrell. Western Courage was her one venture into the low budget western zone. As with most actresses, it did nothing for her career.

 

Near the end of her career, Renee appeared in several shorts – finally, she got the converted female lead role in Counsel on De Fence, a well received 20 minute feature, the first thing Harry Langdon did for Columbia. She did not fare was well in the other two (Stage Frights and Tuned Out), as she was very low on the credits list in both.

 

After averaging more than 10 movies a year, Renee had a severely diminished output after 1934. She was in only four movies in 1935 and three in 1936. The first two made in 1936, Hell-Ship Morgan and Let’s Sing Again, were both B class. It seemed her days of fame were long gone by then, and stardom would elude her.
Her last movie was the classic musical, Show Boat, featuring the highly accomplished Irene Dunne. She retired from the movies afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Renee hit the press in 1929, and some pretty flattering things were written about her. Originally featured in a pack with 7 other starlets on their way to stardom, at just 17, she did not reach the peak of her beauty – that happened two years later, in 1931, when she was singled out by the prestigious illustrator Henry Clive as the “perfect model”. When a guy who painted hundreds of stunning models says that, one stands up and listens.

3ao7jgce5i3n3icThe press mostly dealt with Renee’s professional life, never mentioning her dating habits, so little is known about that. It was noted she and Glenda Farrell, her frequent co-star, were great friends off screen, nursing each other when they were sick and so on. In 1935, Renee hit the papers again after losing 15 pounds as a result of an appendectomy, and it was noted she was the sweetheart of a mid western steel millionaire.

Renee married a Mr. Klein in about 1936. There is a good chance that Klein was the midwestern steel millionaire mentioned in the previous newspaper clips. If that is so, I assume she moved to his home state and ended her career for good.

They divorced prior to 1940, and she went on to live with her widowed mother, Bertha Lord, in Santa Monica. She was listed as unemployed, and not looking for a job, indicating that she was probably living off her alimony payments.

Renee married for the second time to a Mr. George. Unfortunately, I have no further information about this marriage.

Renee L. George died on September 16, 1972 in Los Angeles, California.