Francine Counihan

FrancineCounihan6

Overshadowed by her more popular sister (Anita Colby), Francine Counihan was still a well known model of the 1940s and 1950s, who, with several fellow models, helped usher the golden age of modeling and made an lasting impact on the US advertising world.

EARLY LIFE:

Francine Lynn Counihan was born on November 18, 1915 in Washington, DC, to Daniel Francis Counihan and Margaret Ann McCarthy. Her father, nicknamed Bud, was a cartoonist for the New York Evening World and the artist for the Betty Boop series. Her older sister Anita was born on August 5, 1914.

They family lived in Washington, DC. The girls mother, Margaret, was a very conservative and strict disciplinarian: they were bred to be perfect ladies, always thinking of propriety, with a perfect carriage and maintaining their decorum at all times. It was forbidden to swear or use any “unladylike” language.

Under Anita’s tutelage, Francine started modeling in 1935. As she later reccounted:

Colby started me in ’35. Conover said, ‘Have her come with you on one of the jobs and I’ll talk to her.’ I was eighteen, and Colby was nineteen. Conover said, ‘You’re crazy if you don’t start modeling. There’s so much money in it.’ Well, in those days it was five dollars for an hour and a half. So I went to Powers. He was very interested in people, and he was interested in you being successful. He was a great morale builder. I went into everything. Fashion shows; Sears, Roebuck; Vogue; Harper’s Bazaar; all the catalogs. I went to Canada, and I went to Arizona—any place that there was money.

The girls were social butterflies of New York, frequenting all the places high society cold be seen in: Twenty-one,’ Stork Club, El Morocco, Plaza Hotel. Yet, when they went for dates, it was forbidden to go without a chaperone – if Francine wanted to go out with a man, she had to find a date for Anita so they could chaperone each other. Imagine the many awkward situations that came out of this!

Anita decided to try her luck in Hollywood (she would have better luck as a heartbreaker than an actress), and Francine followed suit.

CAREER:

Again, I quote some of the previous posts about her movie career:

Francine5Her first  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 roles in 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!

Francine was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Eileen McClory, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Cecilia Meagher, Anita Colby, Karen Gaylord and so on.

Francine returned to New York after this and never had another Hollywood role.

PRIVATE LIFE:

On January 5, 1936, at just 20 years old, Francine married Robert J. Riordan in Manhattan, New York. Riordan, born in 1912, was the son of a banker, who finished 2 years of colledge and never graduated. The couple lived in New York, and soon Francine was the main breadwinner in the family.

Their son Robert J. Riordan Jr. was born on October 11, 1936. Their daughter, Francine Lynn, was born in 1940.

FrancineCounihan2Francine continued to model, but only for the money. As she told author Michael Gross for his book, Model, the ugly business of beautiful women:

Colby was more glamorous than I was. I thought glamour was fine, but I wanted the money. She was doing a lot of Vogue and a lot of Harper’s. I was more commercial, and she was more high-fashion. I made a lot of money. See, for me, being a model wasn’t as important as the money. I had a seven-room apartment in New York, I had two children in private school.

Francine and Robert’s marriage was not a stable one and they separated in 1941. They remained separated for six years, until 1947. In the interim, Francine occasionally dated somebody who caught her fancy. In 1946, she was a duet with Richard Carolson, just out of the army.

Francine varied the color of her hair through her long modeling career. She was originally a light brunette, but changed the color to ash blonde in the mid 1940s. She got back to blonde in 1949, just before the end of her career.

Francine married John B. Okie in 1949. Okie was born on August 27, 1914, in Marshall, Virginia. He was an OSS operative during World War II and an international businessman afterwards. They met when Francine and Anita sailed to Europe on a luxury ocean liner (wth many other dignitaries like Rita Hayworth, an Indian maharaja, the Churchills and so on). Churchill was pretty impressed by the sisters, and even gave them a signed copy of his book about painting! There is a funny story concerning the camaraderie between the sisters and the maharajah: he was a free wheeling, great spender type of a fellow, but his government forbade him to spend any more more on women an d gambling as he was deeply in debt. Known for showering ladies with jeweles, he met the two sisters, liked them a great lot, but could not give them the customary rubies or diamonds. The girls, when they came to England, as a consolation, they send him a crystal nipped from a chandelier!

Lets go back to Fancine and John. They lived for a time in Connecticut, before moving to Kent, Rhode Island. Thier mansion in Kent featured a huge swimming pool beyond a set of magnificent floor-to-ceiling glass doors.

FrancineCounihan1Okie was not ecstatic about his wife modeling, and persuaded her to give up that life in 1950. Conover owner her a load of money, but she gave up on ever trying to get it from him. She retired for good after 13 years as a model (a pretty long time for such a fickle job).

Francine Okie died on November 14, 1994, in Kent, Rhode Island. 

Francine’s widower John Okie died on February 6, 1999 in Kent, Rhode Island.

 

Advertisements

Jean Colleran

JeanColleran2

Most female models in the 1940s and 1950s served their due for a few years and happily gave up their jobs for marriage and family. Jean Colleran was one of the few models that lasted more than a decade and became a powerhouse in the industry.

EARLY LIFE:

Jean Pershing Colleran was born on September 7, 1918 to Michael Colleran and his wife, Jeannette Hemmings, in Manhattan, New York City, New York. She was one of four children – her older siblings were Walter M. and Blanche M., her younger sibling was John R.

Jean’s mother was an England native who immigrated to the US and married Michael in the early 1910s.

Jeannette stayed connected to her family in England, and the children went overseas at least twice to visit their grandparents and other relatives. Jeannette’s sister, Maizie, also came to New York at some point, and was living with the family in 1940, along with her son Michael Eby (named after Jeannette’s husband).

Jean attended George Washington high school in her birth city, and later became a talented artist and sculptor studying at the Art Students League in Manhattan. She started modeling while still a schoolgirl, in 1936. Due to her exquisite face, she was quick to become a leading model by the time she was 20 years old. She even purchased her own home and lived in Riverdale, New York, for a time, while her parents lived in Kew Garden Hills, Long Island.

CAREER:

{Since their career were more or less the same, I am repeating this from the post about Betty Jane Hess.}

JeanColleran3Her 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!

Jean was one of 14 cover girls who appeared in it. The others were Betty Jane Hess, Ceceilia Meagher, Dusty Anderson, Jinx Falkenburg, Helen Mueller, Anita Colby, Francine Counihan and so on.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Many of the high fashion models of that time married very well. In fact, I’m sure that more models married millionaires than chorus girls and Hollywood actresses! From the 14 Cover girls, several of them married upwards.

Jean was a refreshing change from his rule. While the other capitalized on their faces and bodies, Jean remained devoted to her high school sweetheart, Robert Foster Fuchs. Foster was born to Herman and Josephine Fuchs in 1916 in New York (I guess he changed his surname to Foster at some point). 

JeanColleranTheir wedding, held on August 1943 in Beverly Hills, turned into a media extravaganza since all of the 14 cover girls attended it.  And they all kissed the groom! On a funny note, of all the eligible bachelorette girls, the 5 year old model, Cheryl Archer, caught the bouquet! The couple honeymooned in Florida before Robert was off to Europe to fight in WW2.

Foster got his moment of fame, being married to one of the foremost models in the country. A touching story about Foster was featured in the papers in November 1944 – after not seeing his wife for more than a year, he dozen off during a movie screening on the French-German battle line. When he was awoken by the whistle of a GI, the first thing he was was Jean’s face, looking down at him (they were watching Cover Girl), and he was sure he was still dreaming! Very sweet!

I have no information about what happened to Foster, but I assume he returned from the war and the couple resumed their apple pie marriage. Jean’s Hollywood career never going off the ground, and she worked in New York from then on.

She was still an active model in 1953, by the time most of her peers were already married and retired from modeling. She was even featured in a newspaper article in 1950 where she reminisced about the old days, saying how everything was much cheaper in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Jean was a very savvy woman, saving money by making her own facials, buying nylon hair extensions (as opposed to those made out of real hair which are much more expensive), and made her own false eye lashes! To quote Jean on how to make them:

“Just knot short pieces of your own hair on one longer strand, trim them, and curl out and mascara the hairs. Then glue them on the lashed just like any other false eyelashes.”

In 1958, Jean decided to take matters into her own hands:

Babs Ferguson, formerly with Hartford Agency, and Jean Colleran Foster, former model, have formed a new firm, Foster-Ferguson Agency, to provide advertising agencies and film firms with models for commercials. The new firm is at 141 East 44th St., New York. The agency will provide both male and female models, providing screening service before sending models to casting directors.

BettyJaneHess2So, Jean ended up being a successful businessman too! What a lady! One of her most famous protegees was Martha Stewart, who modeled when she was just barely out of her teens); Virginia Booker, Frances Huff (who was romanced by the Maharaja of Baroda), and the list goes on. The agency was still working in the 1960s.

Jean married her second husband, Daniel Lynch, sometime in in the 1960s. The marriage was terminated, either by his death or divorce, in cca early 1970s.

Jan married her third husband, Francis Cruthers, in the late 1970s. Crithers was an interesting man, as his obituary notes:

Hero firefighter Francis Cruthers, who rose through the ranks to become chief of the Fire Department of New York, and later saw his son reach the same position, died yesterday at 73 following a long illness.

Cruthers became chief of department, the highest-ranking uniformed position, in 1978 and remained in that post until his retirement in 1981. His son Frank served as chief in 1996 and 1997 and is now an assistant chief with the department.

The two are the only father and son to serve as chiefs, a department spokesman said.

Following a stint in the army, where he parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, Cruthers joined the department in 1949.

He served in all five boroughs and was cited twice for heroism.

Cruthers was named Bronx borough commander in 1973 and was promoted to head of the Bureau of Fires in 1976. He held that position, now called head of Bureau Operations, until his appointment as chief.

Cruthers is survived by his wife, Jean, four children and 10 grandchildren.

From this link

Jean did not remarry after Cruthers’ death, and lived for a long time in Southampton, New York. Later, she went on to live with her nephew and niece  Joe and Leeanne Healey in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Jean Cruthers died on April 14, 2011 in Florida.

 

Barbara Barondess

 

Barbara Barondess

Barbara Barondess is one of those people whose life story can easily serve as a movie script. A versatile, vivacious woman who gave up movies for marriage – as most of the girls did – she nonetheless rose again as a prominent interior decorator and acting coach. Quite a feat for someone who was born in 1907!

EARLY LIFE:

Barbara Barondess was born on July 4, 1907, in New York City, to Benjamin Brandes and his wife, the former Stella Sirkis. She came from a wealthy Russian Jewish family which made it’s fortune in lumber trade. The family moved back to Russia after being persuaded by Barbara’s grandfather. They lived in Shitomir, Ukraine, where her younger sister, Rosalie , was born in 1911. Hard times befell on the family in 1914 when the Russian revolution stated – they were both Jews and capitalists. Her father was shot in the throat the same day Barbara was shot in the shoulder. He survived due to an emergency operation, but was unable to speak normally for the rest of his life.

Her sister Lucienn was born on May 16, 1919. Afterwards, the family fled to Poland where Benjamin and Barbara were arrested and imprisoned. Barbara was eventually released and joined her mother and two sisters (who had crossed the border separately). Her father remained in custody for close to a year and a half while the family struggled to prove that Barbara was an American citizen. Her mother argued to authorities that at the time she and her husband were born, the Ukraine was part of Poland and therefore they were Polish citizens. Eventually, the family was allowed to leave for the United States.

They settled in New York where the girls attended school – Barbara went to Erasmus High School.  She started working in a bank at the age of 16. While working by day, Barbara attended night classes at New York University. At the age of 19, she entered a beauty contest and won the title of “Miss Greater New York” which in turn led to a role in the stage play Gay Paree . Barondess went on to appear on Broadway in a handful of parts, including Crime (1927) and, most notably, the ingénue role in Topaze (1929), . The recognition she received from these plays landed her a chance to try her luck in Hollywood in the mid 1920s.

CAREER:

Barbara Barondess 5Barabra appeared in several silent movies, All AboardSummer BachelorsThe Sorrows of SatanThe Reckless Lady , A Kiss for Cinderella but made no splashes in the sea of Hollywood starlets, warranting her no fame nor fortune.

Her career really started in 1932, when she made her sound movie debut in Rasputin and the Empress. Notable mostly for getting the colorful Barrymore family in one movie, it’s still a stodgy, over the top piece of work with a totally distorted history. Her second feature was Luxury Liner, an interesting if flawed account of a passengers aboard a (yep, you guessed it), a luxury liner!

Sadly Barbara’s next two features, Soldiers of the Storm and When Strangers Marry are very hard to get and moslty considered lost today, so we have no idea what kind of movies they are. Barbara had a credited role in Hold Your Man, a Clark Gable/Jean Harlow movie. This one is an unusual one – what starts as a typical rom com with Gable as a con man and Jean as a gun moll turns into a touching drama about life choices and change. Harlow is superb in the movie, as a woman who undergoes a major transformation, never an easy feast for any actor playing such roles. The Devil’s Mate, her next movie, is considered lost.

Barbara Barondess3Queen Christina is such a tour de force movie that it needs no introduction for anyone at least marginally interested in classic movies. Barbra continued appearing in credited roles, but small ones and in small movies. Eight Girls in a Boat, made just months before the code went into effect, dealt with teenage pregnancy and had a charming female lead in Dorothy Wilson, a WAMPAS Baby Star. Unknown Blonde is a movie about a con man who almost frames his own daughter (unknowingly, of course). The movie is worth watching if nothing than for Edward Arnold, a fine actor, in the lead role. Change of Heart was a level up for Barbara, as a gentle slice of life drama about young people starting their professional lives in New York. It’s interesting see and contrast it with the way New York functions today in movies and series. The movie also features the perennial movie couple, Janet Gaynor and Charles Farrell.  Beggar’s Holiday is a lost movie about a woman falling in love with an embezzler.

The Fountain has an impressive cast (Brian Aherne, Paul Lukas, Ann Harding) but not much else going for it – as an adaptation of a stage piece, it’s stilted, formulaic and often too slow. A must for Ann Harding fans (I love the actress, she was such a kind but strong personality) but hardy recommended for anyone else. The Pursuit of Happiness is a happy-go-lucky, charming movie with Charles Lederer in the lead.

Barbara downgraded to uncredited roles after that. The Merry Widow is a Lubitsch classic, but not worth a notch for her career. Life Begins at Forty is a mild movie, a perfect showcase for the comedic talents of Will Rogers. People Will Talk is another comedy, this time with Charles Ruggles/Mary Boland comedy duo, dealing with martial squabbles in a lighthearted way.  Diamond Jim is a very good biographical film – no wonder, when you have Edward Arnold and Jean Arthur in the leads and Preston Sturges as the director! A Tale of Two Cities, from 1935, still remains the best adaptation of Dicken’s classic novel, in large part thanks to Ronald Colman impeccably playing the dual  main roles.

BarbaraBarondess2Barbara managed to revive her career enough to get credited roles again. Easy Money gave her a meaty roles of a bride trying to set her wayward husband straight. The film is is a crime movie with an unusually intricate plot dealing with insurance fraud, not something Hollywood covers every day. Sadly, it remains one of many well made but obscure movies from the 1930s. Lady Be Careful, her next feature, is another movie completely forgotten today. The Plot Thickens is a delightful detective movie with the Inspector Piper/Hildegarde Withers sleuthing team.  James Gleason plays the Inspector, and is matched every step of the way by the indomitable Zasu Pitts playing Miss Withers. There is plenty of 1930s dry humor and wit in this one!

Make a Wish is a type of a movie Deanna Durbin excelled in – with a juvenile lead whose mischievous nature pushed him/her into various adventures and misadventures, mostly concerning their matchmaking skills. Instead of Deanna we have child star Bobby Breen, and the objects of his matchmaking are his widowed mother, playing by soprano Marion Claire (her only film role) and Basil Rathbone (known today as the ultimate Sherlock Holmes)Fit for a King is a good enough comedy with Joe E. Brown and Paul Kelly as the funny guy/straight guy pair.

Barbara left her pursuit of movie stardom afterwards, and made only one feature, Emergency Squad, a solid, fast paced action film from 1940. Barbara turned to other revues and managed quite a career outside the limelight.

 PRIVATE LIFE:

Barbara was a society butterfly who mingled with the elite of both the East and the West coasts. She knew everybody in Hollywood in the 1920 and 1930s, and afterwards was a doyenne of New York society in the 1940s and 1950s. She later switched to Palm Beach, Florida, in the 1960s and 1970s. Any way you put it, her social life was HIGHLY impressive.

Barbara Barondess6Barbara was featured to some degree in the papers, but generally not to much. She gave a beauty hint in 1933:

Upon finishing work I very carefully remove all screen make up with cold cream, soap and water. Afterwards I run in just a little cold cream because I like the highlights this gives to one’s face. I use only lipstick for street.

Unlike many starry eyed girls who land in Hollywood and expect miracles to happen, Barbara was a hard bitten realist. Years after her experiences as a minor actress, she said:

“In those golden years of Hollywood, women were treated like disposable Kleenex. My experience started at MGM in 1933. I made two dozen pictures in five years and my hair color changed in each one. We had nothing to say about our appearance. I had to lose weight, although I was a size 8. The strain of the working conditions was almost beyond endurance. I don’t know how we survived making Eight Girls in a Boat (1934) for Paramount. We had to jump into a cold lake 20 times for a take.”

Barbara’s first husband was theatrical producer Irving Jacobs whom she wed in 1929 in New York while working as an model/Broadway actress. The marriage fell apart by the time she came to Hollywood in 1932.

Barbara met Douglas MacLean shortly after she came to Hollywood. He was separated from his second wife, actress Lorraine Eddy. Before Eddy he was married to the east coast socialite Faith Cole. Soon they were a constant duet, and in February 1938 eloped to Tijuana, Mexico and got married. They lived in Beverly Hills, in a hotel. Barbara was a good friend of many famous actors, like Gary Cooper, Clark Gable and Douglas Montgomery.

Barbara and Douglas wanted a baby badly, but at first she was unable to conceive, and when she did get pregnant in 1943, she suffered a miscarriage. Sadly, in the end, no children were born out of the marriage.

Barbara enrolled at UCLA, studying art and design. By 1940 she started an secondary career as an interior decorator, designing homes for celebrities like Garbo, Norma Shearer, Gail Patrick, Errol Flynn, Gary Cooper, Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan. She was so successful that she expanded her business to the East Coast, opening a branch in New York in the mid-40s. Barondess later branched out into fashion, designing and manufacturing clothing, and even added cosmetics manufacturing to her growing empire.

Barbara BarondessBarbara’s soaring career as a n interior decorator and fashion designer ruined her marriage to MacLean in cca 1947. They divorced in 1948, after ten years of marriage. Her next beau was Roger Dann, a French singer. He gave her a diamond ring, but it did not last long.

Barbara re-meet Phillip Reed, whim whom she went to school on the East coast, and the two started dating in July 1948.  They broke up in early 1949. That year she also dated a fabolously wealthy Spanish, Alfred De Vega.

Barbara also dabbled in real estate. She was the owner the apartment where Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe spent some of the happiest days of their brief marriage.

In 1952, Barbara married Nathaniel Rouvell. The marriage made front page news and it was not surprising that their separation a few months later spread like forrest fire among the press. They divorced in 1953. At the divorce proceeding she claimed that Nathaniel criticized her constantly but never constructively and was always dissatisfied with everyhing she did.

Barbara married her fourth husband, a wealthy Pal Beach man, ladies’ apparel executive Leonard Knaster, in 1955. He divorced his previous wife in 1952. They divided their time between Palm Beach and New York. As many wealthy dames, Barbara was looted from a chunky part of her jewelry collection in 1957. The marriage did not last – they divorced in 1974. Barbara never married again.

In 1984 she founded a non profit organization to help theatrical professionals move on in their chosen areas. She produced several off Broadways plays. Among the alumni of the school is the notable actor Morgan Freeman.

Barbara Barondess died on May 31, 2000 in New York.

 

Georgette Windsor

Clipboard02

Georgette Windsor will never be remembered for her acting career, or indeed any of her career achievements. Why? In a nut shell, she was a stunningly pretty girl who used her looks to date prominent men and marry well.  And I must say she she very good at this, much more successful than in her professional life.

EARLY LIFE:

Georgia Walters was born in 1924 to Earl Waters and his wife in Attica, Indiana. Her older sister Virginia was born in 1922. The family moved to Michigan not long after Georgia’s birth.

In 1930, Georgia was living in Benton Harbour with her father, sister, paternal grandparents, George and Ella, and two aunts, Josephine and Mildred.

Georgia lived in the two cities until 1942, when she departed for Chicago to attend Seaman’s modeling school. In her spare time, Georgia was a pencil artist and designer, and wanted to work in that field.

After officially “becoming” a model, Georgia moved to New York, changed her name to Georgette Windsor, and started a career as a designer. It did not pay the bills, so on the side, she started a highly successful career as a high fashion mannequin. A movie scout noticed her in the Harry Conover waiting room and took her to Hollywood.

CAREER:

Altought famous as a model in those circles, Georgette was nameless until 1946, when Hollywood beckoned the pretty girl. There were some dubious stories about Georgette that I would brand as pure publicity. She allegedly refused a Hollywood contract in favor of some modeling work, but she was living in Los Angeles in 1946 and dating her way up, meaning more that she could not be bothered with acting. The motion I get about Georgette is someone who tells the papers one thing, and deep inside means something diametrically opposite.

mAJrxQnVakMV6LOpfF4Fw_AGeorgette made only two movies, and this in itself is an achievement as there were tons of very nice looking models who come to Hollywood hoping to crash it and become stars, but in the end never even come in front of the camera.

Fittingly to her East coast allure and marriage into old school money, Georgette was cast in Luxury Liner, a simple but earnest MGM musical made purely for enjoyment, with no illusions of being a great art piece. Jane Powell, as usual, is energetic and charming, and George Brent handsome enough to make you forget how much of an wooden actor  he really is.

Continuing her tres chic , Georgette second and last movie was Reign of Terror, a solid film French revolution film encrusted into a film noir mold. The combination of a historical event with a modern filming style is very intensive and well done by the director, Anthony Mann. And kudos to the fabulous cast headed by Richard Basehart and Robert Cummings.

Having married well and with no need for an external income, Georgette gave up Hollywood after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Welcome to Georgette’s bread and butter. Yes, to her huge merit, she was an independent girl who worked in New York at a time when most women were housewives, and she sis have a minuscule Hollywood career, but I see her more of a publicity magnet than a true working girl.

What irks me personally with her is that she claimed several time in the papers how her career is the most important thing to her, and everything takes a back seat to it. Yet, again and again she refuted this.

in 1946, when she came to Hollywood, she was one of the lucky few dated by Cary Grant for a short period. Johnny Meyer, the right hand of Howard Hughes and a well known womanizer took over from Cary. It was via Johnny that Georgette would meet a man who was to become very important for her life, Harry Cushing IV., the Vanderbilt heir from an ancient WASP family.

The official story goes that Johnny had a dinned date with Georgette, but was unable to keep with it. Knowing better than to cancel to a girl at the last moment, he send his old pal Harry in his place. Harry had already seen Georgette and liked what he saw, so it was a no brainer for him. The two hit it off right then and there, with Georgette breaching the story of how she wanted to have a proper career, marry and have children later in life.

47-original-paris-hollywood-pin-up-girls-susan-haywardThings progressed very quickly from there. By October 1946, they were a staple at the press columns. And then the games started. While it’s hard to say exactly what’s the truth and whats a lie, the official story goes that Georgette pined for a career, and refused Harry’s marriage proposals a few times. There was even a half hearted elopement to Las Vegas that was cancelled at the last minute. Again, I doubt all of this is true, but who knows?

It’s also worth to note that Georgette had a very good relationship with her sister Ruth, by then married to a Robert Ray and living back home in St. Joseph – she visited every so often. The St. Joseph press loved her, of course, as the local girl who made good in the wide world.

It’s no rarity to see a handsome WASP from the highest echelon of society dating a pretty model/actress/singer, but most of them are never serious about these gals and toss them aside when mama and poppa command it to marry somebody from their own class. Not so with Harry and Georgette. Whatever she did, she did it right – the indicator of just how serious Harry was about her is the instance of his obvious distress when she was ailing in June 1947.  Predictably, they eloped just week after that in late June 1947. A bad omen happened before the ceremony – there was a slight problem with Harry’s trust fund and they had to wait for a little bit longer to wed. This would, in the future, cause some problems for the carefree couple.

Many doors opened to Georgette after her marriage to Cushing. Not only was she able to get an entry into the Social Register, but she entered the creme de la creme of East coast society. Georgette could now afford to be stylish. And living in style Georgette did. She wore sable suspenders for Pete’s sake! However, her desire to be an actress tore her husband off the pages of the social register and stopped her own inclusion in it. 

The papers reported them tiffing as early as September 1947, claiming she was career minded and Harry just wanted her to become Mrs. Cushing. Now this is highly dubious. It’s not the first time that Georgette tried the “my career comes first” motto, but why did she than marry a idle millionaire heir? Didn’t she know what he would expect of her? If she truly wanted to be a career gal so much, I doubt she would have married Harry Cushing. I am very impressed by working women of those ages, but you have to be realistic when choosing your spouse and know that person well enough to at least try and understand what he wants from his wife.

Georgette went back to Hollywood briefly, returned to New York, walked out of Harry in public at least on one occasion, made up,  and then they intended to take an ocean liner cruise to Europe. Marital problems stopped that plan – in October she was very vocal about wanting to divorce Harry. Harry tried to persuade her out of it – he gifted her with an extremely valuable family heirloom, an 85 carat emerald ring. It worked, and the two were back together by November 1947. Strange but true, Georgette only met her in-laws for the first time that December.

16919531_31948 started as a really rocky road for the couple. After so many tiffs most of the people lost count of it, Georgette signed divorce papers in April 1948 and asked 1,200$ in alimony per month. She only got 250$ as the judge claimed the marriage was too short to ask for anything more. There were further problems over the fact that Harry had a trust fund he could not touch (due to some restrictions his parents set up) as his main source of income, and Georgette could not get a chunky part of it no matter what. Both dated other people in the interim – she Bob Darrin, and he Lila Leeds.

Then Georgette collapsed from the nervous strain and Harry rushed to her rescue. She was in the hospital for a time, they rekindled their romance, and effectively reconciled in July. Cushing was madly in love with Georgette despite all the drama that always happened when they were together. he gave her a diamond pin for their anniversary and they honeymooned at the Waldorf Hotel. Yet, Georgette played it cool and sometimes dated “other” men, like Charles Feldman, to keep her husband in line.

October bough new problems for the couple. She again sued him for a divorce, he again pleaded poverty in his name, and she put her eyes on Peter Salm, the very wealthy son of Milicent Rogers. Cushing departed for Europe to get far way from Georgette and hopefully divorce her. Georgette followed him, but instead of trying to concentrate on the revival of their marriage, she dated the dashing Parisienne Claude Cartier of the jewelry family. She then moved to Rome, where Harry was, but dated an American cameraman instead of her husband.

As one can imagine, 1949 started badly (again) for the couple. The press was constantly at their throats about a divorce, and Harry took up with Arlene Dahl in February. All this while the two still tried for a permanent reconciliation – the columnists who pushed them for a divorce were keen in noticing how she goes out with Harry often. Despite these repeated tries at a marital bliss, Georgette did not stay idle – she played the field like a pro she was. Her newest swain was Howard Lee, a wealthy Houston oilman. Now, Howard will prove to be quite an interesting man as far as actresses go. Georgette was his first foray into the land of pretty Hollywood gals, and certainly not the last.  They dated from mid 1949 until early 1950, and Georgette constantly tried to trick the press by claiming Howard was her good friend. Of course nobody bough that, and it’s not the first time she tried to twist the facts. Howard flew back and forth from Houston to date her, but no marriage plans were ever mentioned. His family or something else? Anyway, after the affair melted, Howard romanced both Hedy Lamarr and Gene Tierney, two of the most beautiful Hollywood actresses (IMHO, both more beautiful than Georgette). Sometime during 1949, she and Harry were finally divorced after a short, passionate but troubled marriage. 

In true Hollywood fashion, she had escorts “on the side”, like the famous Hollywood director Anatole Litvak and Leon Shamroy, the notable cinematographer. Then, in early 1950, Georgette became interested in Manuel Reachi, a debonair, elegant Mexican gentleman from a good family, a permanent fixture in Hollywood high society circles, and former husband of actress Agnes Ayres. The story about Agnes and Manuel’s marriage is a sad one, as it ended bitterly, and Agnes had her daughter taken from her (before dying relatively young and broke). Georgette should have taken a cue from this, but unfortunately she wore blinkers when she was in love (with the greenery, I should assume.)  They married in cca. may 1950. Cushing was crushed by her marriage, as he hoped they would end up together (again).

Reachi was born in 1900 in Madrid, making his much older than Georgette, but he was doubtless more mature than Cushing was. Their son was born in cca. July 1951. From now on things get complicated.

Mr. and Mrs. Harry Cushing Eating Ice creamIn November 1952, Georgette retained attorney Milton Golden to get her a divorce from Reachi. She wasted no time, and went directly to Rome during the divorce proceedings, in all probability knowing that her former husband Cushing was there vacationing to forget her. It worked – there were rumors the two would wed again. Cushing really seemed to adore her and gave her chance after chance (not that he himself was a saint, but Georgette was the more fickle of the two IMHO). Unfortunately, Reachi was not ready to give up so easily. He demanded full custody of their son, refusing to grant any visitation right to Georgette. She went to Mexico, tried to sort things out, but things did not go smoothly at all. She lost custody and was not to see her son again for almost six years. She and Cushing made the final cut during this time.

To continue living Georgette style, she went back to the US and the dating game. She made headlines by leaving her escort, Paul Ellis, on the curb after driving away with his car. Surprisingly, Ellis continued to date her. She then caused a hot mess by getting in between her former suitor, Howard Lee, and his then girlfriend, Hedy Lamarr. In 1954, there were even rumors she would wed another Mexican millionaire. She met her match by briefly dating Lance Fuller, an actor who also dated them all. She scored another rich suitor by wooing Jack Straus of the famous banking family, in 1955.

In 1956, she was seen with another richman, Daniel Sainte. About that time, she settled in Paris, not that far from her former husband who was living in Rome. She tried to go a legitimate business and opened a boutique for infants. In 1957, she finally saw her son after a long separation, but the boy still continued to live with his late father’s family in Mexico.

In 1958, she and actor Bruce Cabot were looking for backing to open a Paris cafe – by then she was infamous as the part of a colony US girls living it high on the Riviera. In 1960, she finally got back to the US, and got full custody of her son.

Georgette falls off the radar after 1960. I have no idea what happened to her and indeed if she is still alive.

PS:  Happy Christmas to all! 🙂

Renee De Marco

Marco2

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.

tumblr_mvohwsO6YI1qai67ao1_1280

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.