Prudence Sutton

Prudence Sutton was one of many nice looking small town girls that crashed Hollywood hoping for at least a glimpse of fame. Unlike man others, she was noticed and given a starring role in a not inconsiderable feature. When the movie failed, she lasted for a few more years in Tinsel Town with no great success, and in the end traded it all for a stable family life. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Prudence Lovicia Sutton was born on April 24, 1907, in Sayre, Oklahoma, to Walter and Hattie Sutton. She had an older sister, Allie, born in 1904, and tow younger brothers, William Walter, born in 1909 and Tyson, born in 1911. Her father was a minister, her mother a housewife. The family lived in Beckham, Oklahoma in the 1910s.

Prudence attended Sayre high school and had a normal upbringing in a loving, tightly knit family. However, Prudence’s carefree teen years were abruptly cut short when her father was shot and slain by a cattle rustler not long after she graduated from high school in 1925. Her mother, a very resourceful woman, took the children and moved to Southern California. There Prudence got into movies in 1927. How exactly? Well, a bathing suit contest!

Prudence entered a Bathing’ Beauties most beautiful contestant. While she did not win, she and six other girls, Margaret Andrews, Evelyn Hunt, Caroline Burt, Josephine Hoffman, Harriet Mathews and Lorena Rhodes won cash, prizes, and, ultimately, a studio contract, and of she went!

CAREER

Prudence made only two movies in her short career: Pitfalls of Passion, a silent movie from 1927, and Paramount on Parade, a sound feature from 1930. I usually don’t write much about silent movies since I am not well versed in them, but since Pru made only two, let’s concentrate a bit on them. Her first movie, Pitfalls of Passion, was supposed to be her jump of to fame, as it was her very first role and a leading role at that! Pru plays a demure and slightly bewildered country girl who runs off to the city with her lover. Then as the unfortunate victim of circumstances who is sold into moral bondage, and finally as the woman of the streets—beaten and forlorn.  The papers heralded Pru as a natural talent, noting that Miss Sutton gives a sterling performance that is startling because of its realism. It was quite an expensive movie to make – at one point, there were 800 people appearing in mob scenes. The movie is completely forgotten today, sadly.

Prudence’s second feature was Paramount on Parade, a pastiche of various stars singing and dancing. Forget about the story, about characters or anythign remotely deep – this is fun, pure and simple! As one reviewer from IMDB nicely sums it up:

When “Paramount on Parade” was filmed – Paramount had more musical stars than any other studio. The other studio revues (MGM’s “Hollywood Revue of 1929” and Warner’s “Show of Shows”) may have been more flashy but most of the stars were not singers or dancers and people went for the novelty of seeing their favourites trying to sing or dance.

There is little reason to see the movie today, unless one is a old musical buff, but there are worse movies one can watch!

That was it from Prudence!

PRIVATE LIFE

Prudence had a very stable and peaceful love life – she married young businessman Joseph Bonadiman on April 11, 1931, in Los Angeles. Joseph E. Bonadiman was born on March 21, 1903, in California, to Carlo Bonadiman and Domenica Passarini, one of four children (he had a brother, Charles and two sisters, one of them Mary). His parents were both immigrants from northern Italy (which was under Austria-Hungary at that time). Prudence gave up her career in 1931 to marry and devote herself to family life.

The Bonadimans had a solid middle class family life. Their first son was born on Joseph Carlosutton was born on August 24, 1932 in Los Angeles, and their second son, William Walter, on June 21, 1935, also in Los Angeles. Joseph became a director of the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District and head of the civil engineering firm of Joseph E. Bonadiman & Associates, which was founded in 1942. His obituary nicely sums up his life’s work:

Engineer Joseph E. Bonadiman, who pioneered hillside developments from Hollywood Hills to San Bernardino, died of heart Tailure Monday at Redlands Community Hospital, his relatives said Tuesday. He was 86. “He was the first engineer to do hillside developments of any size in Los Angeles County,” recalled his elder son, Joseph C. Bonadiman. Chavez Ravine now home to the Los Angeles Dodgers was among the early projects. In San Bernardino’s steep foothills, he engineered developments near David Way and later throughout the Verdemont area. Although he had become less active during the last five years, he never fully retired. His last  day at work was Friday. The son of immigrant Austrians, Bonadiman came to California as a boy. He lived briefly on a 160-acre apple ranch in Apple Valley, where he arrived by wagon through Cajon Pass. He earned his engineering degree at UCLA where he once sold a used tuxedo to classmate John Wayne. “My dad needed some money and Duke Morrison John Wayne needed a tuxedo, so they traded,” his son said. Working as an engineer in a largely undeveloped state, Bonadiman found himself helping to build bridges, dams, subdivisions and a few airfields. “He designed Ontario International . . . Hawthorne . . . and a couple I don’t remember,” said his son.

In 1960 the family moved from Los Angeles to San Bernardino where the engineering firm had already developed extensive
business connections. The Bonadimans nicely blended with the locals, and soon became a well known town staple couple, and Prudence was very active in the local catholic church and various charities.

In early 1966, Prudence had been taken ill. She had been hospitalized for more than a week and was apparently holding her own when an embolism, or blood clot, in the lung resulted in death on January 10, 1966. She was buried in San Bernardino.

Joseph Bonadiman died on January 29, 1990, in San Bernardino, California.

Diane Cassidy

Pretty tennis player and part time model, Diane Cassidy was noticed by Mervyn Leroy and hoped to become like his other protegees, Lana Turner and Clark Gable. Sadly, this didn’t’ happen, as Diane only made a few movies (in minor roles). Always socially active and beaued by more than a few millionaires, it wasn’t a surprise when Diane retired to become a socialite.

EARLY LIFE

Diane Mary Cassidy was born on March 8, 1932, in Southampton, Long Island, New York, to Joseph and Mae Cassidy. Her younger sisters were Clare, born in 1935 and Jean, born in 1939. Her father worked as a manager for a private practice.

Diane grew up in Southampton, and started playing tennis when she was a bit more than a toddler – by her teen years, she was known as a local tennis champion. After graduating from high school, she commuted to New York City for work – she began as a Powers model in the city, modeling undies. Her coincident display of gams and curves nailed down her movie contract. How exactly? Well, while she was in Hollywood on vacation, Mervyn LeRoy tapped her on the shoulder at a Hollywood restaurant, and it was the beginning of a new life for Diane. She was literary caught eating hamburger and onions.

LeRoy was famous in Hollywood for having an sharp eye always on the lookout for future stars – his eagle eye spotted Lana Turner in a sweater outfit and Clark Gable acting a small part in a stage play Accordingly, everybody was hoping that Diane was going to be next star to achieve such caliber of fame. Diane sailed through a screen test, was signed to a $200 per week contract as a start and will draw $1700 eventually every week. And so it started!

CAREER

Diane had a credited, but not really meaty role in Invitation, a high quality weepie with Dorothy McGuire playing a sickly rich girl and Van Johnson plays her “bought” husband (of course she doesn’t know this). The plot is pretty obvious from here, with a third women barging in (this time it’s my favorite, Ruth Roman), and overprotective father, played by Louis Calhoun, trying to hush things up. While no masterpiece, it’s a solid, good movie, with  a great performance by Dottie, so a recommendation by all means. I never particularly liked Van, but when he gets serious, he’s much better than playing the nice boys next door he usually did during his MGG years.

Diane than did a string of MGM musical movies (six of them to be precise). Whoa, sound nice doesn’t it? Well, here we go:

The first musical was Skirts Ahoy!, a Esther Williams musical. Unlike many of other movies Esther made for MGM; this one isn’t a blown out spectacle with impressive aquatic sequences, but s more low key, character driven drama sprinkled with singing/dancing numbers. The viewer is left to decide if he likes it or not – but if you want your typical golden age musicals, this movie is not for you. If you want an endearing, low calorie drama with an upbeat message, this might just do the trick. The plot is very bare bones: Three young ladies sign up for some kind of training at a naval base. They fall in love with three different men and try to woo them. While a bit outdated, overall it’s a fine movie. A plus is seeing a whole array of talented performers doing musical numbers – Bilyl Eckstine, DeMarco Sisters, Debbie Reynolds

The second musical was Lovely to Look At. The movie has quite a basic premise: Howard Keel plays an aspiring Broadway producer, trying to get a new musical off the ground. When his fellow impresario, comic Red Skelton, inherits Parisian dress shop they and pal Gower Champion decide they’ll sell up and splash the cash on their stage show – until they catch a look of the tasty co-owners (Kathryn Grayson and Marge Champion). They fall in love and the rest is history. While it’s just a big fat piece of fluff, it’s gorgeous fluff with great dancing, good singing and some stunning fashions (designed by the all time great Adrian). Diane+’s role is small, and it seemed she wasn’t particularly going forward in her career.

Diane’s third musical was Because You’re Mine, a problematic Mario Lanza movie. Problematic! How and why? Well, there is a story how Lanza didn’t want to make the movie and to sabotage it, he gained a massive amount of weight. He also didn’t like his co-star, Broadway alumna Doretta Morrow, and found the story unappealing. You can guess why – they used the same old Lanza character and put him in the army. Extremely unimaginative. Anyway, the final product isn’t as bad as it reputation warrants, but it’s far from Lanza’s best work.

Diane’s fourth movie was Everything I Have Is Yours, a Marge and Gower Chamption movie. Since the Champions were very limited as thespians, their movies have to hide this sad fact and boast their dancing ability to compensate. This movie services it well enough. The story is pretty simple – a professional husband/wife dancing team sound familiar) are having marital problems and so on and so on. Of course, there is a happy end and tons of dancing, so maybe it’s a good movie to watch on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Diane’s last movie was Million Dollar Mermaid, this being of Esther William’s most famous movies. It’s actually a biopic of Annette Kellerman, the trailblazing female swimmer, but the whole phrase became synonymous with Esther (especially after her biography was called like the movie).  Like any typical Hollywood biopic, most of the plot of Million Dollar Mermaid is fictitious and made more theatrical than it was in reality, but one didn’t watch these movies for the story but for the aqua ballet and the dramatics. Victor Mature plays the husband with an “I can sell anything” charm and it’s interesting seeing him in such a role (and yes, this is pure imagination too, Kellerman’s husband wasn’t a Hollywood promoter).

And that was it from Diane!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Diane came to Hollywood, she was legally under age, so her contract had to be court approved. Sadly, it seems that Diane had some previous debts she had to cover first –  at least so she told Judge Frank S. Swain, and claimed that these debts shrink her $200-a-week salary to $70. The judge ordered the young actress to put 10% of her salary into U.S. Savings Bonds, and gave her a discourse on being thrifty. Very handy advice!

Here is an article about Diane from this period:

For a 19-year-old girl Diane combines the freshness of “sweet sixteen” and the smoldering oomph of the more mature film lovelies. Take the word of such an old hand as producer Mervyn LeRoy that Miss Cassidy is “The Whistle Bait Queen of .Hollywood.” LeRoy discovered the pulsating beauty at a race track, and followed her until she signed on the dotted line. Diane, only recently removed from Southampton, N.Y., told International News Service demurely that “Some cheesecake is awfully sexy and not too nice—but I don’t mind the refined type.”

That statement by the M-6-M beauty should bring on more refined cheesecake, or just more cheesecake by any other name. Miss Cassidy is willowy, and while not threatening the throne of Jane Russell, can do a lot of things to a bathing suit. Diane lifted her two arms expressively to the skies, like a gal in a filmy evening gown looking at the moon: “I think the kind of cheesecake is all right where they take your picture in a filmy, evening gown looking at the moon.” Lest students of the more charming gender of anatomy be discouraged, Miss Cassidy added: “It’s all right to take pictures on the beach, too—if you’re wearing a suit that a girl actually would don to go to the beach.” The light auburn-haired charmer added coyly: “Anyway, why should I object to  cheesecake? Every girl has to do it in Hollywood, unless she is Jane Wyman, a Greer’ Garson or somebody like that.”

“I’m not in love, but I was several times back in Southampton,” says Miss Cassidy. “Right now Hollywood has been such a thrill that I haven’t given romance a thought But, maybe sometime, huh?” Her biggest thrill, she said breathlessly: “The other day Clark Gable said ‘Hello, Baby’.”

In 1949, when she was 17 years old, Diane was pretty serious about wealthy Peter Salm, who she dated for almost a year. Salm was the son of Millicent Rogers and her first husband, Austrian aristocrat and tennis player, Ludwig “Ludi” von Salm-Hoogstraeten. Salm owned a huge property in Diane’ hometown, Southampton, and this is probably how they met.

Anyway, in early 1950, the relationship broke apart and Peter started dating Charlene Wrightmsan. Not the one to be idle, Diane made  Peter a repartee by going out with the young and wealthy Bob Neal. It was a no go, since Peter and Diane didnt’ reconcile, and rarely saw each other from then on. In October 1950, she was seen with Joe Perrin, but they busted before the year was out.

In 1951, Diane was dated by both Huntington Hartford and by Pat Di Cicco. Both liked pretty ladies and both dated them by the shovel load. Pat was involved with the temperamental tennis star Gussie Moran at the same time, and the press was expecting fireworks, but in the end nothing really dramatic happened. She also dated Ted Briskin – Ted planed in from Chicago and spent a few days at his ex, Betty Hutton’s home with the kids, to whom he gave a pair of Shetland ponies. Afterwards he took Diane Cassidy to the Beverly Gourmet and to Ciro’s and from having another date with Gwen Caldwell.

In late 1951, Diane got hooked up with wealthy Chicago paper mill heir, Michael Butler, son of Paul Butler. This proved to be her most endearing, serious relationship – she went to Hollywood, but he kept in touch, and the two youngsters agreed to meet in Acapulco, Mexico, when she caught some free time. They did meet there in February 1952, had a grand time there, and upon their return, were feted as almost engaged and just a step away from matrimony.

In Mid 1952, Diane decided to take a European vacation and sailed to France. While there, she met the love of her life. Thus, In October 1952, married wealthy Venezuelan oil king, Bartholmay Sanchez. Fully named Bartholme Sanchez Pernia, he was born on October 12, 1913, in Venezuela.

The couple settled jointly in New York (with a Park Avenue address) and Venezuela, and had two children, a son, Bartholome Ricardo, born in 1953, and a daughter, Diana, born in about 1955. They traveled around quite a bit and lived the jet set life.

There was not a whole lot I could find about the Sanchez family, and it seems the most famous person in the family was his nephew, Bartus Bartolomes, who became a noted artist. Here is a bit about him:

The family of Bartus owned the “Sanchez Pernia Estate”, one of the largest coffee plantations in the country covering more than 90,000 hectares from 1898 up to 1960’s. However, the newly emerging governments from the sixties, riding the waves and riches of a new oil boom, began to expropriate the land and reduced the agricultural production of coffee and other crops to a minimum.

In the expropriated lands, the government promoted and built the Uribante Caparo Hydroelectric Dam, a project that became detrimental to the Eco-systems of three Venezuelan states: Táchira, Mérida and Barinas, decreasing the productivity of the traditionally cultivated areas, affecting the rivers, local plants and bird migrations because among other things, this area was a pathway or transit corridor used by birds who migrated from Canada to Argentina and vice verse.

These expropriations and the negative effect they had on the environment he grew up in, affected the sensitivity of Bartus. He increasingly devoted his creativity to establishing links between art and water, and he promoted some cultural events that highlight the consequences of human intervention on the environment such as environmental pollution and global warming. Bartus considers the natural environment a legacy that must be protected, and water is the link that keeps all natural environments healthy one way or another.

The Sanchez settled in West Palm Beach in the end. Bartholome died at some point (couldn’t find the exact date of death).

Diane Cassidy Sanchez is still alive today and lives in West Palm, Beach, Florida.

 

Harriette Haddon

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Pretty chorus girl who made countless uncredited appearances in many 1930s movies in Hollywood, Harriette Haddon was a true working gal for a time, before marrying into Hollywood royalty and leaving the industry for a family life.

EARLY LIFE:

Harriette Jane Northfoss was born on October 13, 1915, in Los Angeles, California, to Victor Northfoss and Jessie Blanpied. Her father, born in Minnesota, worked as a interior decorator. Her mother, born in Kansas, was a librarian.

Harriette was the couple’s only child, and grew up in Los Angeles, the city that would soon become the hub of most of the US film industry. She began dancing as a youngster, and was a sure bet to become a dancer. After graduating from high school, she entered movies in 1932.

CAREER:

Harriette’s career lasted for 15 years, and can be divided into roughly three chapters.

She started as a fresh faced, naive girl barely 17 years old, when she signed with Fox Film Corporation. Make no mistake, her career would always remain a marginal one for Hollywood, but quality of the films wildly varied. Between 1932 and 1936, Harriette worked only part time in movies an dit showed. The Trial of Vivienne Ware was a hectic, well plotted 1932 quickie, less than an hour long, with some very good actors (Joan Bennet in an early appearance, Zasu Pitts and Skeets Gallagher). She did not fare so well with her second movie, a truly weird one, It’s Great to Be Alive. The story is center on the last fertile man in the world! Guess no more needs to be said… Arizona to Broadway was one of those comedies that have al the right ingredients but fall flat in the final run. Joan Bennett again (he girl sure made some strange movies early on…)Stand Up and Cheer! is a Shirley Temple movie with only 5 minutes of Shirley Temple. The rest is taken up by Warner Baxter as a theatrical producer whom Franklin Roosevelt appoints as the new Secretary of Amusement in order to cheer up an American public still suffering through the Depression. it’s a basically a pastiche of musical acts not worth your money.

Harriette Haddon1Kentucky Kernels is an average input into the Wheeler and Woosley comedy series. if you like them, you’ll like this, if not, don’t even come close. Similarly, College Rhythm is another one of the endless college campus movies of the early 1930s. Nothing to yell about, but not the worst either. Interesting if nothing than for seeing the Bing Crosby wannabe, Lanny Ross, who had a brief career and never managed to live up to his potential. The Lottery Lover is a lightweight romance movie, with a lukewarm script and mostly decent actors (Lew Ayres, Peggy Fears, Pat Paterson). Star for a Night was by far the most serious movie of this part of Harriette’s career. When the blind mother comes to visit her children in America, hoping to find them all well off, quite a different scenario occurs. Great actors like Jane Darwell and Claire Trevor light up this realistic movie. The next one, Rose Bowl  is, again, a college campus movie,with a convenient love triangle. Yawn. And more of the same in College Holiday, but at least it’s a very fun, feel good movie with several wacky performances (the crazy professor is here, and the crazy old rich lady played by Mary Boland). And Gracie Allen, George Burns and Jack Benny together are always a good combo.

Thus begins the second phase of Harriette’s career. She started to focus on her Hollywood career more, and do less nightclub work. With what results? Not so good, I’m afraid, but she had had several good credits to her name.

In 1937 only, Harriette made 8 movie! Turn Off the Moon is a Paramount 1930s musical, and as we already noted, Paramount was not the best place for musicals back then. While tolerable, they are barely able to hold a candle to the superior studios like Warner Bros and MGM. The stars (like Charles Ruggles and Ben Blue) do try but it’s never quite enough. Mountain Music  is one of the hillbilly musicals that could be absolutely hilarious when made by the right people. And here we have big mouthed by infinitely charming Martha Raye and the rugged Arkansas bum Bob Burns in a funny romp worth watching. Thrill of a Lifetime is the typical musical where the back story is absurdity itself but the musical numbers are well made and make the movie. And, typical for this type of movie, the lead often ends up the least interesting part of the exudation. Who would even look at Lief Ericson (handsome but never a good actor) when you have luminaries like Eleanore Whitney, Yacht Boys and Ben Blue on the screen?

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, a input into the Bulldog Drummond series, is again centered over the bad guys attempt to thwart Bulldog’s marital plans (the explosives they are carrying are secondary to this, the most malicious of all deeds). Poor Phyllis Clavering, always waiting for Bulldog and always the bad guys appearing just before she is about to catch her prize. Joking aside, it’s a solid entry, with John Barrymore, generally a superb actor, giving a good performance as one of the good guys. Bulldog is finely played by the handsome John HowardDaughter of Shanghai is a movie very important or minorities and women in Hollywood – it features an Asian leading lady! Anna May Wong, the alluring siren seen in more than 60 Hollywood movies, gets a rare opportunity to play the lead. One can forgive the movie even if it’s not a master piece (due to the story and the characters), but it ends up a surprisingly well made film. Good plotting and very good acting roster make it an unique experience for not only B movies but female lead movies.

Harriette Haddon2True Confession is a interesting blend of black and screwball comedy, with Carole Lombard playing the first prototype of a scatterbrained wife. Wells Fargo  is an unusual western about the early riders of the  US Post Office. Featuring the off screen life couple, Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, it’s quite realistic for the time and worth your money.

In Old Chicago, one of Harriette’s better known movies, is certainly a mixed bag. With a big budget, big stars it should have been a sparkling cinema hit, and it does have some fine parts, but it collapses under its weight before the credits are out. Everything seems to just be the interlude for the great Chicago fire playing for the last 20 minutes of the film. Tyrone Power, Don Ameche, Alice Faye – all secondary. Sad.

The Buccaneer is a typical Cecil DeMille film – historically inaccurate, with lavish production values, large cast and technically well made. Frederic March, while not the best choice of actor to portray what is basically a swashbuckler character, still does a decent job. The Big Broadcast of 1938 is one of the Broadcast series of movies, a flimsy excuse to showcase the studio talents like Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour and so on. Scandal Street is a forgotten movie.

Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a superb Ernest Lubitsch movie. While the verdict about the movie is well divided, I for one loved it and it figured much better than some of his other movies, like Design for Living. Cocoanut Grove is a nice little musical with Fred MacMurray showing he can do comedy easilyYou and Me is a scramble of opposing movie genres – crime, musical, melodrama, propaganda… And so on. Made by the great Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, the bottom line was that crime does not pay, but the results are mixed. Worth watching, if nothing to see how an experimental mainstream movie looks like. Give Me a Sailor is a funny little musical about a love quadriple (Bob Hope, Jack Whiting, Martha Raye, Betty Grable). The Arkansas Traveler is a one man movie, a showcase for the many talents of Bob Burns.

Illegal Traffic is a formulaic, uninteresting crime movie with Robert Preston.  Say It in French is a breezy, elegant comedy farce, sadly forgotten today. Zaza is a little known George Cukor movie. While not his best by a long shot, it’s not his worst either – despite the story being a typical Camille rip off (married aristocrat loving a dance hall girl) he has very capable leads (Claudette Colbert and George Marshall) and even better supporting cast (Constance Collier, Bert Lahr, Helen Westley). Paris Honeymoon is a watchable but unmemorable Bing Crosby musical. Similarly, St. Louis Blues is another lightweight but amusing musical. Cafe Society is a typical social disparity movie, pitting the high class Madeleine Carroll (always a welcome sight for sore eyes) against the working class Fred MacMurrayKing of Chinatown is one of the Anna May Wong movies of the time, usually with the same cast and similar characters (mostly Caucasians portraying Asian characters). 

Harriette Haddon3Never Say Die is another Bob Hope/Martha Raye comedy. The two worked well togetehr and could salvage even pretty bad script writing. Undercover Doctor is a thriller made after a book by the man himself, Edgar J. Hoover. It’s nothing to rave about, but it does make a nice afternoon viewing. Man About Town is a typical Jack Benny musical comedy, where he always plays the same old,same old character (as one reviewer nicely wrote: “Different aspects of his cheap tightwad and his narcissistic would-be great lover popped up in many of his films, even his best ones”). A Yank in the R.A.F. was one of the better propaganda piece movies to come out of Hollywood, with real life lover Tyrone Power and Betty Grable playing the leads. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break  is the last W.C. Fields leading vehicle, and one of his best known and most enduring movies, well known today.

What to say about Thank Your Lucky Stars ? As the summary goes: “Two producers are putting together a wartime charity show with an all-star cast but the egotism of radio personality Eddie Cantor disrupts their plans.” Plenty of talent, a flimsy story, but nicely done. Casanova in Burlesque is a Joe E. Brown comedy, totally obscure today. The lively music, colorful locations and all around cheerful atmosphere is the saving grace of Harriette’s next movie, Brazil. The bland leads (Virginia Bruce and Tito Guizar) are overshadowed by the mentioned elements, and Edward Everrett Horton cannot take a wrong step in my book.

 Earl Carroll Vanities is a sad excuse to showcase the lucious Vanities, with a sorry plot and no good actors. It was time for some B westerns for Harriette. Bells of RosaritaMan from OklahomaSunset in El DoradoDon’t Fence Me InRough Riders of Cheyenne and Dakota are all B westerns, with varying degrees of success. Most of them are Will Rogers/Dale Evans, pairings, but we also have an early John Wayne/Vera Ralston movie (Dakota).

Harriette made several more movies in 1945 before she retired for good. The Cheaters is a touching and delightful film, perfect for Christmas family viewingHitchhike to Happiness is an uninteresting Dale Evans musical (yeah, you heard that right, before she became Mrs. Rogers, Dale was a promising musical movie alumna)Behind City Lights is a completely obscure but possibly interesting crime/drama.

HarrietteHaddon4Love, Honor and Goodbye is similarly forgotten. The fluid, well plotted The Tiger Woman (with the seductive Adele Mara as the nominal character) is a lost treasure of the 1940s B movies. Like one reviewer wrote, “Republic features were almost always entertaining, economical, professionally made, well-cast, and tightly paced”.

An Angel Comes to Brooklyn is an absurd, so bad it’s almost funny category of a movie. Just to taste it, here is what one reviewer wrote:

High up in Actors’ Heaven—where those actors who have taken their final curtain on earth still maintain a lively interest in theatrical activity—there is a bell which has been named Minnie. When a struggling young actor on Broadway has sufficient faith in himself—if he believes strongly enough in his ability and talent—then Minnie rings out clearly, signaling that the time is right for an angel to leave Actors’ Heaven and go down to earth to help a worthy, but-as-yet-successful actor or actress.

Ha ha ha. The joke’s on them at any rate. Obviously not worth watching.

That was all from Harriette.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Harriette started her Hollywood career in 1932, but also went on to seek more luck in other venues – one of them was night club performing. She was so good she ended up in London in early 1935, and was popular with the night club going public, but visa problems forced her to return to the US (and consequently Hollywood) before the year was over. There were signs, here and there, that Harriette could become more than a uncredited chorus girl, her name mentioned in the papers a few time, but it all ended up zero.

Harriette Haddon5In 1939, Harriette was involved with Jackie Coogan, a former child actor. The misfortune of such a match was that Jackie was just getting divorced from Betty Grable, and he carried quite a large torch for her some time after the divorce took place. Not even Harriette could alleviate it, and the two broke up in 1940.

Harriette married Hilliard Herbert Marks on November 23, 1942 in Jack Benny’s Beverly Hills home, just before he joined the US army to fight in WW2. Harriette was photographed for the papers in February 1943, still a newlywed, knitting garments for her corporal hubby.

Marks was born on June 29, 1913, in Seattle, Washington, to David Henry Marks and Esther Wagner. His older sister, named Sadie Marks, was to become Mary Livingston, a famous comedian and wife of Jack Benny. Benny proved to be one of the most important men in Marks’, and in effect, Harriette’s life.

Marks returned dot he civilian life in 1945. Harriette gave up her career in 1945 to take care of her family. Their first child, son Phillip Haddon Marks, was born on October 19, 1948. Their second child, a daughter, Victoria Jessica Marks, was born on February 23, 1952.

THarrietteHaddon7he Marks enjoyed a hefty Hollywood social life, mingling with Benny and his innee circle. Mary Livingston, Harriette’s sister in law, was an interesting woman herself. Mary’s adopted daughter, Joan Benny, wrote about her after her death:

She had so many good qualities — her sense of humor, her generosity, her loyalty to her friends. She had a famous, successful, and adoring husband; she had famous, interesting, and amusing friends; she lived in luxury; she was a celebrity in her own right. In short, she had everything a woman could possibly want. When I think of her it’s with sadness because I wish she could have enjoyed it all more

The Marsks divorced in January 1967 after more than 20 years of marriage. Marks remarried in 1971 to Virginia Amber Morrison. He died on August 19, 1982, in California.

Harriett did not remarry, and lived the rest of her days in California.

Harriette Marks died on March 1, 1999, in Los Angeles, California.

Maxine Cantway

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The beautiful blonde, trained in dance, crashes Hollywood. She gets some publicity, dances in several good musicals, and hopes to achieve stardom. A familiar story by now? Oh yes, and most of them did not move from the uncredited tier. Meet Maxine Cantway, a beautiful blonde with that very fate.

EARLY LIFE:

Florence Maxine Kantz was born on 1912 in Missouri, to John Kantz and Florence Conklin. The family moved to Los Angeles  not long after her birth. They settled in Pomona, and lived with Florence’s parents, Francis and Maria Conklin.

Maxine was a beautiful, vivacious child, and her mother enrolled her into dance classes at the age of 4. One of her earliest dance teachers was Lina Basquette, then yet to become a famous actress/dancer (and one of the most wedded women in Hollywood with seven husbands and about nine marriages all in all).

With a passion for the dancing, Maxine was a youngster barely out of her early teens when she started to perform on the stage. She attended both dancing and dramatic school to help her in her endeavor, in addition to graduating from high school.

In 1929, she got her due and got into the spotlight. In 1930, she and 11 other hopefuls were signed to a movie contract.

CAREER:

Maxine started her career in comedy short that were made by the dozen in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Jimmy’s New YachtIn Conference (Short) 1The Dog DoctorThe Bride’s MistakeA Poor Fish gave Maxine at least a chance to get in front of the camera (but sadly little else). Due to the rapid decline in ppopularityof short comedy reels, neither of these movies are known today and none has a IMDB review (and you know how obscure that makes it).

600full-maxine-cantway (1)Yet, Maxine started as did many dancers in those days – comedy reels were bread and butter to them.

Maxine then had a large boost in the quality of her movies. She remained uncredited, but all else went up! She had a string os superb 1930s gems – The Kid from Spain, one of the best Eddie Cantor musicals, 42nd Street perhaps oen fot he best Busby Berkeley musical ever made, with an unbeatable Warren Baxter in the lead, 

The Little Giant is a not well known but still a very good Edward G. Robinson movie that gave him a chance to truly shine as a racketeer trying to turn gentleman in one his rare comedic roles. Mary Astor and Helen Vinson are first class support for Eddie.

The last movie in Maxine’s golden line is Gold Diggers of 1933. Along with the already mentioned 42nd Street and Footlight Parade, this is the best 1930s have to offer in terms of musicals. Long before MGM made their lavish, vivid but squeaky clean musicals in the 1950s, the genre was dominated by these movies – they were sharp, unforgiving, funny, laden with innuendo, featuring massive dance numbers, top notch actors and music. Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler are the tyapical handsome leading pair, but the supporting actors are what makes this such a winner – the superb Precode cad, Warren William, Joan Blondell (need I say more about this fabulous actress?),  Aline McMahon, Guy Kibee, Ginger Rogers!

600full-maxine-cantway (2)It’s easy to fall after achieving great heights, and the rest of Maxine’s filmography is dismal at best. While neither was truly a bad movie, it was way below her usual fare. Redheads on Parade, for instance, is a sub par musical. Yet, it would be unfair to label Pride of the Marines as a worthless film. While not well known today (or indeed when it came out), it’s still a touching movie about rearing children in a unusual enviroment. Charles Bickford proves himself to be one of the best character actors in Hollywood, playing the tough-but-tender hero who “inherits” a small boy and has to raise him in a military camp. Thurston Hall as the major of the camp also gives a very good role.

Maxine’s last movie, Two in a Crowd, a not-above-average comedy. While far from being a bad movie and featuring some fine actors, it still does not manage to outgrow the uninspired direction by Alfred E. Green.

Maxine disappeared from Hollywood and the paper after 1936.

PRIVATE LIFE:

First, I have to say that IMDB lists the DOB and DOD for Georgia Maxine Cantwell, who they claim is Maxine Cantway. While I’m not 100% sure, I am more than 80% sure that that is not our Maxine. Maxine had been living in Los Angeles for quite some time by 1929, was about 19 years old – this does not match the information about Georgia Maxine Cantwell, who was still living in Cairo, West Virginia in 1930.

600full-maxine-cantway (3)Maxine came into the spotlight in 1929, when she was named the ultimate model for all chorus girls of that time. She was a perfect 109 pounds in weight, 5 foot 3 inches in height, with brown hair and blue eyes. She claimed that she had never dieted but that her slender body is the result of strenuous exercise and making several movies at the same time.

Maxine declared herself to be a shoe lover, was passionate when buying them, and owned more than 35 pairs. She lived with hr parents and did not own a car.

When one is the most beautiful chorine in the world, one if qualified to give beauty advice! Thus Maxine said for a syndicated newspaper column:

Any artificial means of adding sparkle to the eyes is bound to last only a short time, and may be actually injurious. Furthermore, no woman under 75 should require it.
Enthusiasm, health, physical and mental, are he real beautifiers that brings sparkle to the eyes. Cultivate these and you will not need to spend money on special eye treatment.

I have to say I completely agree with her, not just for the sparkly eyes but in general for all things related to beauty. The only true way to look good on the exterior is to feel good in the interior.

600full-maxine-cantway (4)As for her love life, the information is pretty slim. She dated Lou Friedberg, and broke his heart when she became serious with Charles Grayson, a young writer. The affair lasted for several months before they called it quits. Charles went on to date several famous women including Irene Hervey,  CaroleStoneGreta NissenJune Knight, Nancy Carroll, Audrey Totter and Joan Crawford.

The last we hear anything of Maxine, she was back to minor theater productions after her film career ended.

If Maxine is indeed Florence Maxine Kantz, then she died in 1996 in Riverside, and was never married.

 

Dee Turnell

Dee Turnell

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

EARLY LIFE:

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

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

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

CAREER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

deeturnell

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dee Turnell died in 2007 from cancer.