Esther Brodelet

Many pretty girls have completely wrong assumptions when they come to Hollywood. They think that good looks can get them to the top – since this hardy ever happened, after a couple of months or years they would leave Hollywood mostly unhappy, with bitter feelings towards the studio system that never gave them a chance to shine.  While the system was inherently flawed for sure, it was much better to simply accept the fact that only 3% of all screen players make a name out of themselves – other just scrap by from movie to movie but can still lead a happy and fulfilling life. Esther Brodelet knew this and wisely shunned any try to become a star, wholly realistic and truly satisfied to remain a chorus girl. Also as a special bonus, she had her own side job which poured in some decent money – kudos to Esther! Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Esther Brodelet was born on December 7, 1906, in Chicago, Illinois, to Francois and Anna Brodelet. Her father was Dutch (his mother was born in India, interesting lineage!), working as a cook at a restaurant where her mother (herself a daughter of Danish immigrants) was the waitress. In future years Esther would shave almost 10 years off her birth date – even her tombstone claims she was born in 1916. However, 1906 is the correct date, as her father immigrated to the US in 1902 and married her mother in about 1904.

The family lived as lodgers in a hotel when she was born. Her parents divorced in the mid 1910, and Esther and her mom lived in Los Angeles, where her mom ran a club house and put up accommodation for lodgers. Esther grew up in Los Angeles and started dancing at an early age, working as a dancer and chorine from the mid 1920s.

In 1932, she won a Fox film contract in a test that included more than 1,100 applicants, signed a contract and of she went!

CAREER

Esther began her career as a chorus girl, and appeared in a string of musicals – the weird, offbeat SF musical It’s Great to Be Alive, the light fluff Arizona to Broadway (not a musical, I admit, but heck!), one of my favorite Joan Crawford movies, Dancing Lady (boy, when Franchot Tone bought a whole theater just to see Joan dance, I melted! What a movie! Not high art or anything, but a girl can dream can she?), and the no-plot-no-brain-lots-of-fun George White’s 1935 Scandals.

Next Esther appeared in the completely forgotten Redheads on Parade. Likewise was Piernas de seda, a Spanish movie made in Hollywood. Esther get got a step up by appearing in movies at least sometimes mentioned today – Girls’ Dormitory is only famous for being an early Tyrone Power movie, but hey, at least somebody heard of it! Plus Herbert Marshall, oh man! He was the epitome of class and charm back then!

Esther was again a dancer in Charlie Chan on Broadway, one of the long running Charlie Chan movies. Ditto for her next picture, The Baroness and the Butler. The movie actually has a good story (taken from IMDB): This is a charming film set in Hungary, about a butler, Johann Porok (William Powell) who works for the Prime Minister (Henry Stephenson). The prime minister and his family, particularly his daughter Katrina (Annabella) are shocked when Johann is elected to Parliament – by the opposition party. What’s more, he wants to stay on as butler. Meanwhile, Katrina’s philandering husband (Josef Schildkraut) has a few political ambitions of his own. What to say? Powell could play roles like that in his sleep – and Anabella is absolutely gorgeous. While not a top actress not a great beauty, she has plenty of charm and knows how to work the camera. And I adore Joseph Schildkraut. Truly a wonderful actor, at best playing elegant schemers.

Esther became a model for her next movie, Thanks for Everything. a lackluster social farce about a sap who has the special talent of predicting stuff – and then the corporations are after him. Notable only for the role of Adolphe Menjou – otherwise avoid (the sap is played by Jack Haley and just meh!). Then came The Story of Alexander Graham Bell, a well-known classic that needs no introduction. Esther finally caught a credited role in Young as You Feel, a Jones family movie (and completely forgotten one!). Then came Lillian Russell, a solid biopic of (you guessed it) singer Lillian Russell, played by Alice Faye. Henry Fonda gives handsome support 🙂 Unfortunately, her next movie, Girl from Avenue A, is completely forgotten. But then came Brigham Young, a movie well-regarded today – while not a beloved classic like some other epics, it’s a very nicely done film – good production values, good cast (Tyrone Power, Linda Darnell,), everything done as it should. However, it is historically inaccurate, but that’s 1940s Hollywood for you!

Esther was then one of many chorus girls in Tall, Dark and Handsome, a pretty good gangster parody with Cesar Romero as a gangster with a heart of gold. Good stuff! Esther than appeared in the Fritz Lang classic western, Western Union. She came back to musicals with That Night in Rio – this one has a cliché plot (an actor impersonates a wealthy count and in the process seduces his wife), but the actors are all earnest and funny – Don Ameche, Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda and so on. Footlight Serenade is the same old musical – thin plot but plenty of good music and pizzazz. Ditto for Around the World. Esther then had a minor role in the Carole Landis penned Four Jills in a Jeep, about the tours four actresses made with USO overseas at the beginning of American participation in World War II. The actresses were Carole, Kay Francis, Martha Raye and Mitzi Mayfair. It’s actually a pretty good movie – just not a great one, but it does have that “based on a true story” extra value. Phil Silvers appears too much as a Sargent chaperoning the girls – and we get cameos by Betty Grable and Alice Faye!

Esther’s last four movies were all musicals: the remake of State Fair, the completely forgettable Mexican themed movie, Mexicana, Do You Love Me  a charming Cinderella themed movie where a matronly college dean, played by Maureen O’Hara, transforms into a glamorous singer and romances DIck Haymes in the interim, and for Esther’s last movie we have Mother Wore Tights, a so-so Betty Grable movie.

And that was it from Esther!

PRIVATE LIFE

Esther gave her beauty hint to the readers in 1934:

To keep my hands fresh and lovely I avoid putting them in water that is too hot or too cold. To keep them from getting dry, I apply a good hand lotion after washing, and massage them with a good tissue cream at night.

Esther worked on the side, as a hoofer at “The Jane Jones Club.” a Los Angeles whoopee asylum. In 1934, she dated William Harrison (Jack to you!) Dempsey for a few months.

Her next beau was William Boyd and Esther Brodelet. They were on and off for quite some time, then they got into a fight, then he left for Europe, then they reconcile, because of his numerous trans – Atlantic talks, finally to break up for good after he got back.

Esther then found an oil king you should be pursued her by buying diamond bracelets and Rolls Royces, but it didn’t lead to the altar.

Esther at one point left for England to appear in movie features made in their production studio at Elstree. She said to the papers:

“Prosperity is going to be reflected in more motion picture musicals, in other words, it will be out of the beanerics and into the best cafes for the decorative members of the tune films.”

Unfortunately, she got no credits from that time so it’s nearly impossible to know what exactly happened.

Durign her long career, Esther always professed a penchant for living a quiet and healthy life, as opposed to the hectic and party living Hollywood life most starlets were leading.

“On the Avenue” strolls Esther Brodelet, attractive tock girl, with the observation that popularity the chorine is to be shunned rather than sought. “Parties cut into your sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity necessary to show your, best every day before the camera,” she affirms. “Girls who don’t sleep simply don’t stay in the movie. The movie chorine 1 a 10 o’clock girl If she’s smart and want to win a career. “And going out almost every night makes It impossible to keep, the same weight and figure. Irregular hours will do surprising things to you over a period of time.” And that, says Esther, Is the answer to the recurrent question about movie chorus girls and “dates.”

And this quote:

“While most chorus girls make a good salary,” says Esther, who draws her pay on the 20th-Century-Fox lot, “it is almost impossible for us to keep stocked with the gowns and jewelry necessary for party girls. “Entirely aside from the money, parties cut into sleep so heavily that you lack the vivacity you need before the cameras. Sleep and Stay “Girls who don’t sleep don’t stay in the movies.” When she’s making a picture, Esther goes to bed at 10 p. m. So if you’re planning a career as a movie dancer, don’t plan on having your fling in Hollywood. Esther says that’s a good way to be flung out. “

In 1937, Esther dated Douglas Fowley.

Here is a funny anecdote from the time Esther was filming Lillian Russell:

Discomfort and bother even torture such as shown above by Esther Brodelet and Bonnie Bannon, caused four of Hollywood’s film beauties to go on “strike” against the 1890 whale-boned corsets, which the studio insisted they wear all day during the shooting: of scenes for the movie, “Lillian Russell.” The girls, paid $16.50 each day. failed to report to the studio the second day, explaining they were laced so tightly they “couldn’t have swallowed an olive.”

At some point, Esther’s figure that was described as Hollywood’s loveliest. Not content with roles in movies, she decided to branch out in other industries. So, she became a farmer. Wait, what?!!

Oh yes, Esther used her earnings to start a chicken ranch in San Fernando Valley, where she conducts a lucrative off-screen business. Most of the stars at her studio bought the Brodelet brand of eggs at fair but nifty, prices. Here is a short article about with the colorful details:

Chorine Esther Brodelet’s chicken ranch is ‘no publicity gag, although though she owns only one acre, near Van Nuys, it has paid for itself in two years. No simple country lass, she learned about poultry In Chicago and says that, the chicken came before the egg, at least in her case. Seems that when she was a kid, somebody gave her an Faster chick, which in time surprised her by laying an egg. Using a sort of pa rid v system, Miss Brodelet ran it up into seven hens, made them earn her pocket-money. Thriftily, she now keeps two goats on her walnut-planted acre and fattens her chickens for market on milk and nut-meats. She puts personality into her business, ton loads her car with cartons of eggs every morning when she leaves for the studio and delivers them to the customers herself.

Talk about coincidences! Don Ameche and Esther Brodelet, both under contract to Twentieth Century-Fox, and both on their way to the studio to work in “Road to Rio,” tangled automobile on Sepulveda boulevard mile away from the lot. Neither was hurt and Don drove Esther the rest of the way to work.

After a long time of dating in Hollywood (of which we actually have little to no information), Esther married John Martin Amato in 1946. They met during the war when she was entertaining servicemen – he was a mechanic. Now, something about John. He was born on September 28, 1917 or 1920. Here are bits of his life (taken from his Find a grave site):

John was a graduate of Medford High School and Chauncey Hall. Mr. Amato furthered his education and obtained a Mechanical Engineering degree from Tufts University during WWII. Following his graduation, he attended Columbia University Midshipmen’s School and Harvard Communication School. In 1943, the US Navy sent the new officer, Ensign John Amato, to the Port Director Organization, Port Hueneme, California. There he was introduced by his late brother, Andrew J. Amato, to the love of his life, 20th Century Fox contract player and dancer, Esther Brodelet.

Their daughter Valerie Ann was born on July 26, 1948. Their son David John was born on December 19, 1949.  The family lived in Van Nuys then settled in Winchester because of John’s employment. John spent the next 30 years in the service of the developing High Tech defense and space industry where he contributed his intelligence and strong work ethic until his retirement in the early 1980s. After his retirement they moved to Acton, Maine and enjoyed living in such close proximity to the stunning natural sites like hills and lakes.

Esther Brodelet Amato died on December 21, 1989, in Portland, Maine.
Her husband John died on September 5, 2009, in Maine.

Mary Blackford

I noted several times in by previous blog posts that most of the actresses I have profiled actually had pretty normal lives – they went to Hollywood, failed and often slid into middle class family life. Most of them had happy lives, in retrospect. However, there are a few very unhappy exceptions, and Mary Blackford was one of them. Let’s find out more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Mary B. Blackford was born on July 22, 1914 in Bristol, Pennsylvania, to Charles Blackford and Ethel Maud Ludwig. Her older brother Albert was born on June 20, 1907. Her father worked as a car tire salesman.

The family moved to Kansas City, Missouri in 1918. They lived there with her paternal grandmother and aunt Anna. Her father died in 1923 – after his death her mother moved the family to Beverly Hills (probably that same year). Mary attended elementary and high school there. While a pupil at the school, in 1933, movie scouts found her. Here is a short article about her discovery:

The first contract of the new year to be awarded by Warner Brothers-First National has gone to Mary Blackford, 16-year-old high school pupil of Beverly Hills. With only two years’ experience in high school  dramatics to her credit, Miss Blackford, who will not receive her diploma until June, has been transported from obscurity and given this opportunity of becoming a motion picture star. Mary began her work immediately, dividing her time between the studio and her classes until she graduates in June.

Her name was changed to Janet Ford, but it was quickly reverted back to Mary.

Mary was the first student enrolled for the motion picture course under Ivan Simpson, veteran English actor. And thus her career started.

CAREER

Unfortunately, Mary appeared in only three movies and a most promising career was thus cut short. The first movie was Merrily Yours, a Shirley Temple short. The only reason anyone has to see this movie is, of course, Shirley Temple. It’s not a particularly good short – it’s not horrible mind you, but far from something you would recommend to anyone. The main character is a bratty teenager at odds with his sister (played by Shirley) who falls in love with Mary when she moved next door. How, original, go figure! But, it was a start…

The second one was The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, a cute preppy movie about college love affairs. Mary Carlisle plays a flirty lady who has all the lads crazy for her – then she fall sin love with a non nonsense athlete played by Buster Crabbe. As you can see, not big brainer, but immensely fun and light weight – perfect for Depression era audiences and Sunday afternoon viewings. Many of the players later catapulted to stardom – Mary, Buster, Charles Starrett, Ted Fio Rito and so on. Mary plays of the sorority girls.

Mary’s last movie before the forcible termination of her career was Love Time, a completely lost and forgotten movie today. It’s a biopic of composer Franz Schubert, and with a cats that is absolutely stunning to look at: Nils Asther, Pat Paterson and so on. Unfortunately I could find nothing on the movie, so let’s just skip it.

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary gave a beauty hint to her readers:

For a quick facial treatment take a rake of yeast and mix the paste consistently with peroxide. Apply this paste to the face after It has been cleansed with cream. Wash off with cold water when it has dried.

Here is a short story on how Mary got her role in:

Mary Blackford got a Job In pictures Indirectly by hiding her blonde hair tinder a dark wig. She applied for the stage role of the young girl In “Ah, Wilderness;” with Will Rogers, and learned that one reason she was not accepted was her blonde tresses. She applied again, In’ the disguise, and got the job. After dyeing her hair for the run of the play, she slipped into pictures and is playing Pat Paterson’s sister In “Serenade.”

It seemed Mary was on her way up. However, something catastrophic happened in October 1934 . Mary became paralyzed from the neck down from an injury suffered in an automobile accident (the automobile she was a passenger in hit a light pole at Santa Monica and Hoover). It was never revealed with whom she was in the car – this is very strange and one has to wonder why is it like this? Our hyperactive imagination probably can come up with a few explanations in just two seconds…

Doctors said a broken vertebra is causing pressure against certain nerves. They say she may live weeks or a few months, but paralysis will never leave her. It was just one month after she finished her first important picture role.

Here is a short article about how her friends helped her:

The golden-haired youngster suffered a fracture of her neck vertebrae and surgeons decreed that she must spend the rest of her life immobile, with the broken neck preventing use of any of her members. ‘Puppets’ came to Rescue But Mary’s friends, most of them like herself members of the Puppet Club of younger screen folk, rallied around, and a parade of trips to important surgeons began. Will Rogers volunteered to pay some of the heavy expenses, this being one of that beloved actor’s secret kindnesses no one learned during his lifetime. Joan Crawford had Miss Blackford cared for for a time in a hospital room Joan endows at Hollywood Hospital. The “Puppets,” with Helen Mack, Paula and Dorothy Stone, Lois Wilson, Anita Louise and Tom Brown in the forefront, then took over the case of their chum. With Gertrude and Grace Durkin, Sue Carol, Patricia Ellis, Anne Shirley, Billy Ganney, Eddie Rubin, Henry Willson, Jimmy Bush, Jimmy Ellison, Don Barry, Hugh Daniel, Stanley Davis and Marshall Duffield helping; they staged a big benefit at Coconut Grove some months ago. With Benny Rubin, Orchestra Leader Ted Fiorito and Dick Powell contributing talent, they managed to raise $5,000.  This paid for more trips to specialists for Miss Blackford, but when the fund recently dwindled to $600 Bruce Barton, the author, stepped into the breach. Barton recently had been elated when his eighteen -year -old daughter Betsy was restored to health by Milton H. Berry, a former Chicagoan, who.operates the Berry Institution for the muscular retraining’ of paralyzed persons near Hollywood. Barton tendered $2,500 to the man whom nearly all Hollywood calls affectionately as “Doc” Berry and stipulated the money should be used for the most deserving case Berry knew. Berry chose Mary Blackford, who was recommended to him by Paula Stone. The girl, who has not been able to move one of her members in more than a year, already has shown improvement under the treatment which Berry calls “muscular re-education”.

Mary, far from being idle, still smiling hopefully, took vocal lessons, ambitious for a radio career. Some time later her friends arranged to have her appear on one of Bing Crosby’s programs (she will be taken to the studio in an ambulance), for which she was paid. She also boasted to the papers how she was able to attend a theater. In her wheel chair she attended a performance in downtown Los Angeles and took a photo with Donald Barry, a member of the cast.

Months went by and Mary was still paralyzed and in about the same condition she was after the accident. Her contact with the outside world was furnished in the people who come to see her. The whole crowd who rallied to her aid when she was stricken still remember, and most of them visit her regularly. her best friend was Paula Stone, actress of director Fred Stone. Unfortunately, a member of the group, Junior Durkin, died in a tragic automobile accident in 1935 (Jackie Cooper was in the car and his father was driving, but only Jackie survived).

For a time there  a false impression going the rounds that Mary Blackford was undergoing a miraculous recovery. The papers even reported that the doctors gave her a green light that she could walk again some day. Milton H. Berry refuted these claims and reported that she shows amazing improvement but that it is a slow process.

However, this story does not have a happy ending. The date was September 25, 1937. Mary had gone to the beach for a complete rest. She had suffered several fainting spells in recent months, but had no premonition of the end. In fact, she wrote her mother: “I have never been so happy in my life.”

Then she went into another fainting spell and died. Many of the Hollywood folks who helped her attended her funeral. Sadly, her brother died in 1953 and her mother outlived them all, dying in 1963.

PS: Betsey Barton, the daughter of the mentioned author Bruce Barton, was also injured in a car accident and lost the use of her legs, but learned to reinvent herself and became a top author and painter. Learn more about her truly inspiring life by Googling her name and reading this article: http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1944/11/19/page/104/article/miss-barton-offers-hope-to-disabled 

Mary Blackwood


Blonde Mary Blackwood was another debutante who wanted to make good in Hollywood. It wasn’t’ the money obviously – perhaps it was the glamour, the fame, the notoriety that drew such girls to Hollywood. And like most of them, Mary Blackwood came, tried and left. Let’s find out more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Tom Blackwood was born on October 4, 1912, in Colfax, Louisiana, to Dr. E.H. Blackwood and Laura Blackwood. Her older brother Hershel was born in 1909 – her younger sister Lurline was born in 1914. They employed a maid and were obviously well of. Mary spent her earliest years in Colfax.

Her father died in the early 1920s, and her mother remarried to Marcus Dunham, who owned an automobile dealership. Laura, Hershel Mary and Lurline lived with Marcus and his three children from a previous marriage (Martin, Harper and Mildred) in Alexandria, Louisiana.

Mary grew up as a typical debutante of the 1920s – constant garden parties, visits to extended family, and going out with eligible young men whom her parents would approve of.  Imagine Scarlett O’Hara in the early 20th century. She graduated from Bolton High school and attended Stephens College in Missouri and the University of Texas, Austin. Mary’s beauty was so widely known that she was” chosen “sweetheart” of the University of Texas by popular student vote.

Like several other debutantes, Mary decided to go into movies on a lark. She wanted some fun and Hollywood seemed like the bets bet for a girl to experience life outside her own social caste and perhaps meet new guys. So when a casting director wanted society girls to play real society girls in a movie, she jumped at the chance and Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Mary made her debut in David Harum, a not particularly good but nonetheless very interesting movie. Why? Well because it features Will Rogers in one of his mos unusual roles – a banker! Imagine that – Rogers, the champion of the every man who always played normal people, here plays a less than admirable banker (taken from imdb) “who is a pillar of his late Victorian era community who engages in a rivalry over horses with Charles Middleton, they keep trying to sucker the other in horse trading”. It’s a two-man show, and Rogers in mesmerizing to watch in a role with tad bit more edge than usual. Mind you, it’s not a particularly good movie – like many movies of the early 1930s, it has some racist content (the character played by actor Stephin Fetchit is… dismal at best) and it drags to long, the story is thin, but perhaps worth watching to see Rogers in a different role. And he was good, make no mistake.  

Next came the movie that actually catapulted Mary into Hollywood, Coming-Out Party.  Now this is a worse-case-scenario for the good-actors-bad-plot movie – while the leads are passable (Frances Dee wasn’t Katherine Hepburn, but she was fresh-faced and did what she had to do) the story is downright stupid and too dramatic, there is not enough humor and witty repartees. Mind you, it’s not the bottom of the barrel category but with so many good movies to watch, who can watch such mediocre movies anymore? Unfortunately, such movies became Mary’s bread and butter. Come On, Marines! , Mary’s next feature, could have been a great movie about marines fighting a dirty, dirty war but ended up a totally mid tier war-in-the-jungle effort with no big merit to it.

Mary then appeared int he idiotic Stand Up and Cheer!, a no-brain and no-plot musical without any really good music. Minus. her next movie, Black Sheep, was much better –  it’s a fun movie about gamblers on cruise ships – Lady Eve before Lady Eve! Solid story, great actors (Claire Trevor and Edmund Lowe) and snappy dialogue – and we have a winner! Unfortunately, Mary’s next movie, Song and Dance Man, is a completely forgotten one. Afterwards came Girls’ Dormitory, a movie notable today only as one of Tyrone Power’s earliest forays into the seventh art. Otherwise it’s a good-enough but not outstanding movie about a girls dormitory (duh) and the romances both inside and out. Then came Pick a Star one of those movies where the main story is less important and interesting than the side shenanigans. And when Laurel and Hardy appear as comedy relief, you know what I mean. In other words, a typical Cinderella makes it good in Hollywood movie with no special reasons to watch it (except for Laurel and Hardy, but if you want them, go watch their movies!). Mary’s next movie fared no better – The Devil Is Driving is a preachy, boring cautionary tale about the dangers of drunk driving. While you have to respect the cause, it doesn’t cut it out either as art nor as entertainment. Worth watching only to see Elisha Cook Jr. as the drunk driver, a wealthy daddy’s jelly brained son prone to solving everything with money. Mary’s last movie was Start Cheering, a completely over-the-top, outrages screwball comedy but funny to boot. Jimmy Durante and The Three Stooges make this movie, and you can forget about the leading man and his story (Charles Starrett).

And that was it from Mary!

PRIVATE LIFE

Mary was beautiful, well bred debate from a good family – seemingly a perfect bride-to-be material. In the early 1930s, she dated Social Register’s David Doss, and he even met her parents, but that did not end in marriage (shocking!!).

Mary came to Hollywood in 1933, and started her tabloid career by giving a beauty hint to the readers:

To keep my hair healthy, lustrous and free from dandruff, “launder” it with a good hot-oil shampoo of pure olive oil

In late 1933, Mary was seen with young actor Gordon Westcott around Hollywood, but the relationship ended the same year.

Then, she hit it big in the papers, but sadly not due to her own merit – quite the opposite! Here is the chain of events:

In early April, 1934 Mary Blackwood nearly died on the set of Come On Marines. While filming a swimming sequence, Toby Wing was swinging across a lake and accidentally struck Blackwell in the face as she surfaced from her earlier dive. Seeing her floating unconscious, Toby broke ranks and dived in the water rescuing the uncredited extra from drowning.

That same year, there was an article about a new fad in Hollywood – debutantes becoming actresses! This was a first real batch of such girls to enter Tinsel Town.

An producer had an idea that he will capitalize on the beauty, culture and poise of the society girl. An instance in point was “Coming Out Party,”, in , which a. number of beautiful debutantes were used. It was a charming enough picture, but failed, by a long way, to set the world afire, and I don’t believe that a single one of the girls who played in it has been leard of since in the Alms. The trouble with the rich girl is that she is likely to take up acting as a mere fad. Thelma Morgan Converse at one time came to Hollywood to go into pictures. She had great charm, beauty, and some acting ability. Yet she did not remain. Possibly the new group will be different. Virginia Pine and Mary Blackwood seem to be glowing exceptions tight now.

Unfortunately, neither Mary nor Virginia made a lasting impression on the movie world. While Virginia is more famous today for being a long time paramour to famous actor George Raft, Mary never dated an A class actor (as far as I know) and has no known claim to fame. Her career ended in 1937, and she stayed out fo the newspaper columns for some time after, so I have no idea what her life looked like after the glory days of Hollywood (ha ha ha, a bit of an ironic exaggeration here…). 

Anyway, next time we hear from her, Mary married her first and only husband, Billy Miesegaes on 24 Mar 1942. Billy Miesegaes, Dutch heir to an Indies rubber fortune and president of New York’s TransfUms, was born as William Lodewyk Primavesi Miesegaes on June 10, 1906, in London, England to Auguste Miesegaes and Adrienne Homans. His family was German-Dutch and both of his parents were born in Indonesia. He lived for a time in Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1940.   

They had a daughter, Mary Jane, born in the 1940s, and enjoyed a successful marriage. Mary and her husband lived the high life in New York, and were active in social activities and civic duties. For instance, in the 1950s they gave a supper party to premiere the movie version of “The Medium.” an opera bv Italy’s latest musical prodigy Gian-Carlo Menotti.

Mary Blackwood Miesegaes died on May 1, 1969 and was buried in Louisiana. Her husband died on 21 March 1978.

Dawn Oney

Pretty Dawn Oney was a local Minnesota beauty that tried to make a career in Hollywood based solely on her looks. Predictably, this failed. Let’s learn more about her…

EARLY LIFE

Donna Mae Frank was born on July 4, 1930 in Mankato, Minnesota. I could not find the names of her parents. When still a baby, she was adopted by her second cousins, Arthur C. Frank and Beatrice Oney. Arthur was a candy salesman and Beatrice was an insurance agent. Beatrice’s younger brother Ivan Oney lived with the family until the early 1940s.

Donna grew up in Mankato and was a precocious child, her principal talent was standing on her head. It was clear from early childhood that Dawn was a stunner – aiming for a better life, she left Mankato for Minneapolis as soon as she graduated high school. She took the name Dawn Oney, became a model and became a sounding success in a very short time-span – for instance, eminent local Minneapolis photographer Anthony Lane frequently used Dawn in commercial work. The earliest photography work by Dawn I could find was in 1949, when she appeared in a short article:

Dawn Oney (right), 3301 Four-teenth avenue S., shows Helen Augustson, 894 Twenty-first avenue S.E., her dress made from the new cotton print sacks being used by the King Midas Flour Mills, Minneapolis. Printed in gay, lively sun-fast, tubfast colors in a wide variety of patterns, these flour sacks are being used for making aprons, playsuits, bathing suits, pillow cases and a variety of other household items.

In 1951, she applied and won a beauty contest conducted by RKO Radio Pictures. The prize was access to Hollywood itself – and she won! She left for Tinsel town that same year, and became one of the tons of movie aspirants picking for stardom.

CAREER

Dawn appeared in only two movies – the first one was The French Line . This movie can either be a total winner or a total loser, depends on what are you looking for. It you want some mindless fun with interesting costumes and passable musical numbers, go for it! If you want a coherent story, great characters and some depth, avoid like the plague. It’s fun, it’s breezy, it’s easy on the eyes and that’s it. Cm-on, the story itself is hardcore “paper thin plots” we can see in so many 1950s musicals – when her fiance leaves her, an oil heiress (played by Jane Russell) takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Anyone with half a brain can see that this has no semblance of reality – but who cares, if it’s an excuse to see Russell in a variety of racy costumes (along with a huge chorus line, where Dawn was one of the chorus girls). Russell also sings in her own (very torchy) voice.

Dawn’s second movie was Son of Sinbad. Now, if The French Line was bad, then Sinbad is even worse. If French Line was good, Sinbad can be even better. Truly, for a camp lover who revels in the idiosyncrasies of such a genre, this is pure gold. I mean, just look at the summary: Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. So, sex, gunpowder and turbans all the way 🙂 As always, the cast is second rate with Dale Roberts and Sally Forest (although Sally had some talent – just sadly she rarely acted in anything worthwhile) – but you can also see the most enchanting of all burlesque girls, Lili St. Cyr, in a more substantial role than usual – she’s wonderful! All in all, typical low quality but majorly fun 1950s Hollywood product, perfect to transport you to another world!

And that was it from Dawn!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Dawn moved from Mankato to Minneapolis, she did not just leave behind her birth town, she also left behind her sweetheart, Carl Harvey Carlson. Carlson was born on March 30, 1929, in Minnesota. Dawn and Carl meet in high school and dated for a few years before she left for Minneapolis and later Los Angeles. Not wanting to be apart any more, they married in about 1949 and Carl followed his wife to Los Angeles.

Their son Daniel “Danny” Bruce Carlson was born on August 12, 1951. However, her marriage did not work out and she divorced Harvey in 1953, citing incompatibility. He went on to work as a mining engineer in Japan, later returned to Minnesota, remarried to Joan Nelson and had two daughters. he died on May 14, 1999 in Minnesota.

After her first batch of movies failed, Dawn tried to revive her career in several ways – she continued to audition and went on modeling. Unfortunately, nothing came of it. So, in 1954, she became Miss Montana. Yes, you heard that right – a woman born and reared in Minnesota became Miss Montana. Before you ask anything, the judges knew that Dawn had a son and was divorced. Dawn was a great crown favorite an it seems she knew how to please them – she was vivacious, gracious and funny. Here is some tidbits about her private life in 1954, taken from an article:

 She now lives in Hollywood with her son. ‘That little boy is the joy of my .lifer” she smiled. “I want four more just like him.” She said she has a boy friend .whom she likes very much but declined to name him. Dawn entered the Miss Universe contest because she wants a screen career, and it is -likely she will get a crack at it, win or lose.

Being Miss Montana did nothing for Dawn’s movie career. I hope she acted elsewhere. However, if Dawn had a claim to fame in the papers, it was about her her unique skills – carpentry! Here is an article from the 1950s about her hobby, written when she was named a Television Venus:

Dawn Oney. the pretty NBC T-Venus is one of the best adjusted and happiest persons I have ever known. She’s a good actress, but that isn’t all, she’s a superb lady carpenter. I asked her if we might take a picture of her with her latest project, which was a group of little animal pull toys she had just completed. It seems she had made these for some little tykes in her neighborhood. “This is the kind of project I like best.” Dawn said. “Each little animal is real easy to build and when they’re finished, they each have a different personality. You’d be surprised at the number of compliments I get when my friends stop in and see my menagerie. Of course the kids are always happy when they get them for Christmas.” Anyone can make little pull toys like the ones pictured which Dawn has just completed. All you need are a few scraps of wood and the full size patterns. Simply trace the pattern on wood, then saw it out and finally put it together.

Unfortunately, Dawn faded bit by bit from the Hollywood scene – she was last seen in the papers in 1971, still a “working actress” (what, where?).

More than 20 years after her divorce from Carlson, Dawn married Gordon A. Frantz on January 9, 1976, in Orange, California. Frantz was born on December 1, 1925, in New York. He was married once before to Dahlia E Guarino. As far as I can tell, the couple lived with two girls, Beatrice and Cynthia Louise “Cindee” (who was born in 1959). I am guessing that Cynthia was born from Gordon’s first marriage, and perhaps they adopted Beatrice. They family lived in Santa Clara and enjoyed a happy family life.

Donna Mae Frantz died on September 12, 2012 in Santa Clara, California.

Suzanne Ames

Suzanne Ames truly is an example of a woman who had a lackluster career in Hollywood but an incredibly rich and rewarding private and professional life outside of Tinsel Town. She really is an inspiration, as you will see int he story of her life…

EARLY LIFE

Suzanne Marguerite Ainbinder was born on December 31, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Myron “Marcus “Ainbinder and Florence Grosse Ainbinder. Her father, a salesman by trade, was born in Illinois to immigrants parents from Poland.

Both Myron and Florence were lovers of the fine arts, and were more than happy when their only child got into singing from a young age – Suzanne her professional debut at age 4 by singing on radio station WGN in Chicago. She was also passionate about dance from the time she could walk, taking ballet lessons. The Ainbinders moved to Akron, Ohio for Myron’s work in 1937. They lived as lodgers with a building contractor and his wife.

Suzanne grew up in Akron and considered it her hometown. She attended Our Lady of the Elms, an independent Catholic college preparatory school immersed in the Dominican tradition for girls grades one through 12 and co-ed preschool through kindergarten. She was a member of the Elms chapter of the National Honor Society at the Elms school since her sophomore year and had the highest grades in her class several years in a row. She had a record of straight A’s and graduated with honors in 1949.

After graduating, she studied ballet and music in Cleveland, being chosen as a protege of ballerina Rosella Hightower. Then she moved to New York.

For a year, Suzanne was understudying four people in the Agnes DeMille musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds,” and was offered the dancing lead in the road company of “Call Me Madam.” The Ballet Theater was also after her for its European company. But she turned them all away in favor of her favorite – after auditioning she became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She became a leading ballerina, performing not only in operas but at the Met during the regime of Rudolf Bing.

Suzanne’s first real success was a role in The Fledermaus. Here is a brief description of it:

The Metropolitan Opera thinks Akron’s ballet dancer, Suzanne Ames, who’s only 17, is old enough to play a woman of the world. Suzanne, the pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Ames, who used to live at 3 Cyril ter., Akron, but moved to New York, has been as-signed the role of “Ida” In the Met’s April 5 production of “Fledermatis” here. “Ida” is a famous Vienese ballerina who is much favored by the gentlemen, and who educates her younger sister in the ways of the wicked world of the 1800s. . CURIOUSLY, Patrice Mun-sel, a veteran of the Met, will , play the younger sister to Suzanne’s “Ida.” “I thought I’d be playing the part in the road production of ‘Fledermaus’ in Chicago and Rochester,” Suzanne said, “but then I saw my name on the casting sheet for the New York showing.” “Patrice Munsel, who’ll play my younger sister, is about 10 years oMer than I am,” Suzanne, a graduate of Our Lady Of The Elms, in Akron, said.

It was via MET that she got a chance to appear in Hollywood movies, and off she was to Los Angeles.

CAREER

Suzanne’s first movie was the legendary musical that half the dancers appeared in Two Tickets to Broadway. Sorry to say, despite the stellar cast it’s a purely mid tier musical – no big trash nor no big thrill. In view of all the other good musicals to watch, I guess this one is a skip.

Slightly better was The Las Vegas Story, a sultry, heavy film noir with a typical love triangle and interesting actors – Jane Russell, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. No,it’s not a staple of the genre nor a particularly good movie, but it has a strange charm of its own and the actor really work somehow (despite the fact that Mature was an abysmal thespian). Then came a small role in The French Line, the infamous Jane Russell extravaganza with tons of beautiful girls and thin plot. Yep, you can’t say that Suzanne was ta all visible in it, flaked by 100 of other wanna-be starlets.

Suzanne took a short breather from Hollywood, and returned two years later in Son of Sinbad, a typical colorful, happy-go-lucky 1950s costume pastiche. Just mix handsome actors and actresses, lavish sets and sumptuous costume with a hokus exotic story and you have a box office bonanza. Far from any semblance of art, but hey, they made it for the money not the artistical achievement. Her next feature, Kismet, was made in the same vein (Exotic location, tons of pretty girls), but overall it’s a better movie, with a slightly better story and some pretty good musical numbers (and Ann Blyth! Gotta love Ann Blyth!!).

Unfortunately, as time went by, Suzanne’s career didn’t seem to soar, and the quality of her movies never reached a satisfying level. She was in I Married a Woman, a lesser effort for both of it’s stars, Diana Dors and George Gobel. It’s about a cranky middle aged man married to a gorgeous model. Yawn.

It’s sad that Suzanne’s last movie was by far the best one she even appeared in – Bells Are Ringing. The man highlight of th emovie is of course, it’s star, Judy Holiday – she was simply wonderful, so buoyant, bubbly, irresistible, truly one of the most talented comediennes ever to grace the silver screen. She is aptly supported by Dean Martin – and the movie is all about them, their relationship, their singing and dancing. Everything else is just a bonus – but a nice and lofty bonus, with a strong supporting cast, great music and solid (if a bit stagy) direction. A recommendation for sure!

That was it for Suzanne’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

When Suzanne lived in New York as a MET dancer, she said of her life:

SUZANNE finds the life here rigid. She can’t have dates during the week because she must be fresh for the rehearsals at the Met. “I’ve had a few dates with Cesare Siepi. He’s quite young and very nice.”

Siepi and Suzanne dated for some time, but were over by the time she left for Hollywood. When she came to Hollywood and was a Goldwyn Girl, she was five feet seven and one-half inches tall. Weight: 121 lbs, Hips 36 Waist 2o. Unfortunately, her career as a Goldwyn girl and actress never left the ground, and she returned to New York for good in 1960.

Suzanne traveled a great deal with MET, and appeared in a great number of plays. Of her experiences in American cities, Suzanne said:

“Minneapolis is one of my two favorite cities. The other is Atlanta, Ga. People here are so literate. They understand opera and don’t ask silly questions about it; they meet and talk to you as friends.”

Suzanne said countless that she liked dancing in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and was proud of the fact that occasionally the Met gives her an opportunity to sing as well as dance. Her dedication to the arts was boundless, but her private life was very scantly covered in the press. Finally, Suzanne married Albert Landry in 1975. Here is a short bio of Landry:

Born on Oct. 9, 1915 in New York City, he was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, having participated in the D-Day invasion in the European theater. He received his master’s degree in art history from Columbia University in New York in 1948 and advanced studies in painting from Atelier Fernand Leger in Paris, France. An art dealer, historian and consultant, he had served as assistant director for Galerie Villand-Galanis until 1954. He was director of special projects for Associated American Artists from 1954-59 and president of Albert Landry Galleries from 1959 to 1963. He was executive director with the J. L. Hudson Co. and an advisor to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mr. Landry was also vice-president of Marlborough Galleries in New York until 1968 when he became adviser and curator for the London Arts Group. He served as publisher and distributor of original graphics and multiples for the Nabis Fine Arts of New York until 1974. An associate for the Gruenebaum Gallery of New York from 1977 thru 1980, he continued working as a private dealer and art consultant for major corporate clients, including Aldon Industries, Atlantic-Richfield, Avon, Ford Motor Co., Smith Barney, International Paper and US Steel. He was also a consultant and associate for Landry-Settles Inc. and the David Settles Gallery Ltd., both of Houston, Texas and was affiliated with Stephen P. Edlich & Co. until 1986.

Suzanne danced until the mid 1970s. Here is a short description of what Suzanne did after her retirement from an active dance career – she stayed in the industry as an knowledgeable insider with much to offer:

After retiring as a dancer, she became an executive of Atlanta’s Performing Arts Center and then head of a U.S. State Department cultural exchange program that established a ballet company in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Why? Well, because in 1968, she was sent to Brazil along with Arthur Mitchell and Gloria Contreras by the U.S. State Department at the behest of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to assist in the establishment of the first National Ballet of Brazil and maintained close ties to the company.

Landry went on to serve as director of General Copyright Administration for Frank Music Corporation, CBS/SK Songs and EMI Music Publishing.

Eventually, she went into music publishing and became a copyright specialist. She managed the administration of Frank Music Corp., Paul McCartney’s publishing companies, and then became a vice president for EMI Music Publishing in New York.

 

A crowning achievement of Suzanne’s life happened when the she established the new Suzanne Ames Landry Performing Arts Studio at the Our Lady of the Elms School in Akron, Ohio, her alma mater, through a bequest of half of her total estate. Truly, Suzanne lived a fulfilling and very active life!

 

Following many years in New York City, she and her husband moved to Saratoga Springs, where they had vacationed for many years. Never the one to sit idly, she continued working in Saratoga Springs:  Suzanne provided volunteer work at the National Museum of Dance and gave many pre-performance lectures at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Here is a short description of her volunteer work:

 Suzanne Ames Landry considers the National Museum of Dance and Saratoga Performing Arts Center as Spa City treasures.

She is no less valuable to them as a volunteer, drawing upon her own unparalleled career as principal ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

Whether giving tours or organizing files, she pursues each task with heartfelt enthusiasm stemming from a lifelong love of the arts.

“Anything they want me to do, as long as it’s not fattening, I’ll be happy to do,” Landry said with a laugh. “This is the only National Museum of Dance in the United States. It is a jewel. What it does is tell the history of dance, which is important.”

There’s no need for Landry to read from a text when giving museum tours. She simply relates much of her own personal experience and especially likes sharing stories with children.

“You have to give back the feeling of it,” she said.

She also organizes archives at the SPAC and the Dance Museum.

“Everything has to be filed,” she said. “Not everybody like files. I find it extremely relaxing to get these things in order. Once it’s in order, anybody can find it easily.”

SPAC opened in 1966, and Landry has organized clippings, reviews and programs of virtually every classical and popular artist who’s ever performed there.

“You have to have a library and it has to be a logical one,” she said. “It’s your background and helps you keep going forward. It’s something I find very interesting.”

Landry also instructs dance history classes at the museum. One program, called “Dancing Through Time,” is designed specifically for people ages 55 and older.

She also does historical research for exhibits such as one now showing at the museum called “Classical Black,” a look at black dancers who danced classical ballet.

On June 20, Landry will present a special lecture on “The Evolution of the Firebird Ballet,” including a history of the Diaghilev Ballet Company and notes on choreographers Mikhail Fokine and George Balanchine. The talk is set for 7 p.m. at Saratoga County Arts Council’s building on Broadway.

“That’s what I saw growing up,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to give something back to this lovely city.”

But at the same time, Landry admits to having a slightly selfish motivation, because her volunteerism keeps events and activities alive that she thoroughly enjoys.

“You’re paying yourself by having these venues,” she said. “If the volunteers don’t help, where are they going to get a cast of thousands?”

Landry is also involved with Lake George Opera Company, which performs at the Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park. This summer, she’ll be doing brief talks prior to the production of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Suzanne’s husband Albert died on May 13, 2001. Suzanne continued to live in Saratoga Springs and was very active in the local civic life.

Suzanne Ames Landry died on June 6, 2008 in Saratoga Springs, Florida.

Irene Bennett


Most of the actresses I profile on this side had a dismal career but led normal, happy lives – they had other careers, got married, had children and so on. One has to wonder if such a “happy ending” is applicable to actresses like Irene Bennett, or can we call them tragic? Let’s learn more about Irene…

EARLY LIFE

Irene Opal Horsley was born on December 17, 1913, in Marshall, Logan, Oklahoma, to Calvin Horsley and Margaret Frances Bennett. Irene came from a very big, tight knit family. She was their fourth child – her older sisters were Velva Verona, born on September 4, 1905, Velora Mildred, born on April 22, 1908 and Doris Pauline, born on June 18, 1910. Five more children would follow after Irene – twins, a son, Ray, and a daughter, Elaine Margaret, born on October 25, 1915, Elizabeth “Bette”, born on January 11, 1918, Virginia “Bobbie” Kate born in 1919, and the baby of the family, Quinton Roosevelt, born on June/January 6, 1920. Later in life, Irene would claim that her mother was the first white child born in the Cherokee strip of Oklahoma.

The family moved from Marshall to Enid, Oklahoma, in about 1917. Irene and her siblings grew up , attended and graduated from high school there.

Irene came to Hollywood twice. The first time was in 1935, as a beauty-contest winner in the Tri-State cotton festival at Memphis, Tenn. Approached a local merchant who was so struck by her beauty that he invited her to ride his float in the Cotton Carnival parade. She accepted, unaware that the parade was also a beauty contest. She won the contest and then followed the inevitable trip to Hollywood with a try at the movies. The customary rounds; the usual publicity; the unavoidable result nobody paid much heed to Irene. “But nothing happened,” she said of the experience later “so I went back to selling magazines.”

The second time was much more fruitful. As a professional saleslady, she came to a movie studio to sell magazines. She said she was known from coast to coast as “The Magazine Girl,” having conducted her subscription campaigns in thirty -three states. She listed among her clients Gov. Albert Ritchie of Maryland, and Gov. Frank Merriam of California. “I always go right to the front office,” Irene explained. But Irene couldn’t get to the front office at Paramount studio. A cordon of alert secretaries stopped her. So the only executive she was able to contact was John Votion, head of the studio talent department. He told her he did not want any magazines. But he did offer her a contract and she accepted. She become a member of the studio “stock” company to gain experience and changed her name to Irene Bennett.

And Irene was off!

CAREER

Irene’s first movie was Too Many Parents, a not-bad-at-all drama about the boys who are sent to military school in order to get them out of the way of their too-busy-to-bother parents or guardians. Special plus is seeing Frances Farmer in an early role. Her next movie was the completely forgotten Sky Parade, an aviation move with Katherine DeMille and William Gargan. Then Irene appeared in Florida Special, a run of the mill crime movie with Jackie Oakie as a worldly journalist trying to stop a train robbery. Yawn! Been there, seen that at least a hundred times…

She next appeared in Poppy, a W.C. Fields movie and only Fields makes it worth watching (at all). While I understand that he’s the main character, a movie can’t be that good if it’s absolutely boring when the lead is not on-camera. Beats me why they always paired Fields with 3 Bs (blond, bland and boring) supporting actors with according story-lines. After this comedy came another comedy, My American Wife,  another almost lost movie. After that we have Lady Be Careful , which goes into the same bracket of lost movies.

Irene had another uncredited role in Easy to Take, another completely forgotten movie with Marsha Hunt and John Howard. Irene’s next movie is perhaps the bets known on her filmography – The Plainsman , one of the few A budget westerns from the 1930s. Before one wonders why somebody decided to make such a western – the answer is simple – Cecil B. DeMille wanted a epic movie and got one set in the Wild West. Like most DeMille’s movies, it’s meticulously and elegantly done, very much stamped by the old master’s unique and easily recognizable style. Yes, the story is historically inaccurate and over-the-top, but the acting is great (Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur are always a good combo), and the stunts are amazing! One should watch it more for its grandiose and epic feeling, western style, than for any true substance.

The Accusing Finger is perhaps the perfect low budget classic movie from the 1930s – it’s socially conscious, with a solid story, dramatic but not overly theatrical moments and a good cast. The story concerns a attorney who sent quite a lot of people on the death row just to end up there himself. And a true transformation occurs. I see this movie as proof of how little it takes to make a very good movie if you have all the technical and logistical things in order – a heartfelt story and a message you want to convey. For a low budget quickie, this is a true winner! Kudos to Paul Kelly and Marsha Hunt in the leading roles.

Then came another completely forgotten movie, Hideaway Girl. Irene’s last movie, Champagne Waltz , was a mid tier musical with the boring old music vs. new music plot. The plus side is hearing Gladys Swarthout sing opera and see Fred MacMurray playing a band leader, something he was before he became an actor (I never knew that!!!).

Unfortunately, Irene’s career ended after this.

PRIVATE LIFE

Irene married Carlton L. Burnham on July 9, 1929, when she was just 15 years old. Carlton was born in 1912 in Mississippi. They divorced in February 28, 1935.

While she was in Hollywood, she enjoyed the well known pastime of rowing but only on a rowing machine. She also frequented the gym of her home studio.

In March 1936, not long after she came to Hollywood, there was this notice in the papers:

Irene Bennett, Actress, Sues Doctor f or $500,000 Hollywood, Cal., March 31. (Special.- Irene Bennett, movie actress, today filed a suit against Dr. H. J. Strathcarn, studio physician at Paramount studio, for $500,000 damages. She alleged improper medical treatment. She asserts that when she came in need of medical treatment the studio referred her to Dr. Strathcarn, that he failed to diagnose her ailment until it was loo late. She said she contracted tuberculosis. Her real name Is Irene Bennett Horsley of Enid, Okla.. who came lo Hollywood after winning a Memphis, Tenn,, beauty contest.

The article was son forgotten in a small flurry of other articles about Irene:

  • March 1936: Irene Bennett dancing with Viscount Roger Halgouet. son of the wealthy French diplomat at Cocoanut Grove
  • April 1936: Joan Bennett and Gene Markey, Irene Bennett and the Charles Buttorworths week -ending at Palm Springs.
  • May 1936: Styled in Hollywood Irene Bennett, Paramount starlet, appearing with George Raft , and Dolores Cotello Barrymore in “Yours for the Asking.” sent her younger sister a dress for the latter’s graduation from the Enid (Okla.) High School.
  • August 1936:  Irene Bennett is going places with Tom Monroe, Paramount scribbler
  • September 1936: Jackson, Mississippi –  Among them were Miss Irene Bennett, formerly of this city. Mr. Champion” reports that Miss Bennett is well on her way to stardom, having played several leading roles in recent pictures. Miss Bennett has many friends in Jackson who will be pleased to know of her splendid success in pictures.
  • Luckiest player of the week in Irene Bennett, who had her option taken up the other day by Paramount and who climaxed the day by this shivery experience. She left her chair on the “Chinese Gold” set to go to the photograph gallery for a few minutes. While she was gone, a heavy sun-arc toppled over, crashing down on tho chair where Irene would have been sitting but for her lucky break. w1 noon off.”

For six months, she was trained in the Paramount dramatic school, meanwhile playing brief “bits” in a number of pictures, “The Milky Way,” “Poppy,” “Yours for the Asking,” and last of all, “Easy to Take.” At the end of the period, her contract was not renewed. During that time, she supported her mother, Mrs. Calvin Horsley, and her sister, Elaine.

Why? In November 1936:was reported to be in a Hollywood sanitarium dangerously ill of tuberculosis. A purse of $1000 was collected for her when it was learned she was without funds. Here is a brief article about it:

Irene Bennett, the pretty Oklahoma girl who was Hollywood’s biggest success story six months ago, is in a sanitarium today, dangerously ill. Her physician, Dr. H. A. Putnam, says she is facing a long .and uncertain fight for her life. What was worse, her dreams of a movie career ended abruptly several weeks before she became ill. Friends said they understood she is without funds. Having been in the movie studios less than a year, she is ineligible for aid from organized Hollywood charities. A purse of 1OOO$ has been collected at Paramount Studios, where she was under contract, to pay her expenses for a time at the sanitarium. Irene Bennett’s true name is Irene Horsley.

Irene went on to live in. Unfortunately, she slowly wasted away, living in a care assisted facility, with was no cure for her malady.

Irene Bennett Horsley died on August 25, 1941, in Los Angeles, California, from tuberculosis. She was buried in the family plot in Oklahoma.

Ann Evers

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gail Goodson

Gail Goodson was a society girl (a dentists’ daughter) who tried movies for fun and dropped her career not long after she got married. Heard that story a hundred times before, and just serves to prove that without real dedication and love for the art, it’s hard to keep your head above the water in Hollywood (and sometimes even that is harldy enough!). And now let’s see some more of Gail (sorry, I could only find two small photos of her 😦 ) …

EARLY LIFE

Gail Elizabeth Goodson was born on August 10, 1916, in Denver, Colorado, to Galen Roscoe Goodson and Ethel Ulmer, their only child.  Her father was born in Hopkins, Missouri, and was a graduate of the University of Denver, working as a dentist. For the first ten years of Gail’s life they lived in Denver where she attended elementary school and was active in winter sports.

The family moved to Los Angeles in 1927, and Galen quickly found his niche in the local dentist trade – he became a favorite among movie people. Gail grew up in affluence in Beverly Hills (she was part of the Los Angeles genteel society and often attended soirees and tea parties), and attended Los Angeles High School.

So, how did Gail, who had no show biz aspirations, end up an actress? Well, her father was Eddie Cantor’s dentist and her smile won her the Eddie’s notice when he visited the office one time. He had seen her the year before, and she seemed just a little girl, wearing some of her dad’s teeth straightening gold bands. He then left Hollywood and some time, and when the comedian returned, he saw Gail on the day she graduated from high school in 1934, and was so Impressed by her radiance and grown up appearance that he got her a screen test with his producer, Sam Goldwyn. She passed with flying colors and became an instant Goldwyn girl!

CAREER

Gail made her movie debut in the legendary Kid Millions, where so many starlets acted as Goldwyn girls. The plot goes like this: Eddie plays a New York barge boy, who inherits an Egyptian treasure from his archaeologist father. Once in Egypt he is surrounded by a bevy of con artists both male and female, who try to get their hands on his money. And the story is perfect backdrop for Eddie’s unique brand of talent, and for some major musical stars to show off their prowess (watch out for Ethel Merman, Ann Sothern, Nicholas Brothers, Doris Davenport and so on). Pure enjoyment without much brain work, it’s a great Depression era musical.

Gail’s second movie was Folies Bergère de Paris, a delightful Maurice Chavalier comedy. It has an outstanding cast – Maurice, Merle Oberon, Ann Sothern, a funny and simple story (you heard it a hundred times before – An entertainer impersonates a look-alike banker, causing comic confusion for wife and girlfriend.), and good dancing and music. What more do you need? Next Gail appeared in an Our gang short, The Pinch Singer. It a minor and forgotten effort, more or less.

As she was Cantor’s progetee, she appeared in the last movie Eddie and Sam Goldwyn made together – Strike Me Pink. It’s an uneven effort, to say at least – much of the movie is ponderous and repetitive, and then the last 20 minutes turn into a top class farce, the best of what Cantor had to offer. The plot is pretty simple: meek Eddie Pink (played by Cantor of course) becomes manager of an amusement park beset by mobsters. Throw in some stalwart performers like and Ethel Merman as his leading lady, and you have a good cast if nothing else, and some great dance numbers with the Goldwyn girls (of which Gail was a member). And then Gail left the screen to marry.

Unlike many actresses that try to give up, Gail had her biggest claim to fame /(which isn’t saying much), in 1948, when she appeared in Joan of Arc – as Ingrid Berman’s armor double who did all the stunts! Incredible! I never tought that Gail had it in her to become a stuntman. Anyway, this is the movie people will remember from Gail’s filmography, and while it’s far from being the best movie made about Joan of Arc (you should watch the stunning silent movie, The Passion of Joan of Arc), it’s actually a solid historical epic. It was directed by Victor Fleming, who also helmed Gone with the wind, and of course it’s a lesser movie (but it’s not fair to compare any movie with GWTW), but Ingrid Bergman is simply outstanding and gives one of her best performances – and she had so many of them! Also the supporting cast is pretty impressive too (J. Carroll Naish, Ward Bond, Gene Lockhart…).

That was it from Gail!

PRIVATE LIFE

Gail gave a beauty hint to devoted readers in 1934:

Laughter is one of the brightest things in life. It may make wrinkles in time, bu they’re pleasant wrinkles and won’t detract from the charm of the wearer.

How true! Unknown to the papers, when she landed in Hollywood, Gail was already deeply involved with a man she would marry. Here is a short article about her upcoming nuptials in 1934, not long after she became a Goldwyn girl:

GLASSFORD SON WEDS ACTRESS: Gail Goodson, screen actress and daughter of Los Angeles dentist, taken as bride by Guy Glassford, son of Washington Police Chief who came to national attention in connection with bonus march.  Gail Goodson becomes sis Bride at Agua Calienle. Gail Goodson, 18-year-old motion-picture actress, and Guy Glassford, 23, son of Brig.-Gen. Pelham D. Glassford, were married yesterday at the Hotel Agua Caliente, Baja California, according to advice received here last night. The couple flew to the Lower California resort early yesterday. The bride is the daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Galen R. Goodson, of 100 North Sycamore avenue, and was graduated last year from Los Angeles High School.

Guy Carleton Glassford was born on November 8, 1912, in New York City, to Pelham and Cora Glassford. As noted, his father was a police chief. They moved to Texas and then to Los Angeles. He worked as a credit manager for a living.

The Glassfords lived the high life in Beverly Hills, but the marriage did not work out and they divorced in about 1938. Glassford remarried to Utah native Marjorie Robinson, had a son, and died in February 1974 in Denver, Colorado.

Gail started to date her future second husband, Wilfred Donald Burgess, in late 1939. They were often seen in hip nightspots and he gifted her with a magnificent mink coat. They married on March 13, 1941, in Los Angeles. Here is a short description of the ceremony:

Mr and Mrs. Goodson announced the marriage of their daughter Gail to W. Donald Burgess last evening. Dean Ernest Holmes officiated in the presence of about 60 guests. The bride was gowned in ice blue meline with bouffant skirt and satin bodice. Her veil of royal purple meline was held in place by a headdress of fresh violas and violets. She carried a muff of violets and purple orchids. Mrs. J. Francis Gaas, as matron of honor, was in gray chiffon with a headdress of gray tulle with pink roses and delphinium. She carried a muff of the same flowers. Frederick Kessler served as best man.

Burgess was born in Canada in 1912 but moved to the US with his parents in 1922.  He worked as a planter Tendant Supervisor. The marriage did not last long and they divorced in about 1945. Burgess became a naturalized citizen of the US in 1948 and died in March 26, 1978.

Gail’s career was long time over by then, and she slipped from view until 1947, when this announcement was seen in the papers:

Gail Goodson Will Be Bride of New Yorker Dr. and Mrs. Galen Roscoe Goodson of Beverly Hills announce the engagement of their daughter Gail to Alfred Hance Savage of New York, son of Mrs. Harlow Dow Savage of Scars-dale, N.Y., and the late Mr. Savage. The wedding Is planned for May at the Savage estate in Scarsdale. The newlyweds will make their home in New York but plan a honeymoon trip to Los Angeles. At that time Dr. and Mrs. Goodson will entertain at a reception in their new home, 1122 Calle Vista, Beverly Hills.

Alfred Savage was born in 1911 in Kentucky, to Harlow and Edna Savage. He graduated from Phillip Exeter Academy and moved to New York. He worked as a manager of personnel relations for The New York Daily News.

The couple lived in New York and had two daughters, Galen (born in 1949) and Clinton (born on December 15, 1950). Gail became a founder and first president of the Bronx­ville Committee of the National Mental Health Association, and was very active in the Youth Consultation Service and Reach‐to‐Recovery, an organization for women who have undergone breast surgery.

Gail Goodson Savage died from cancer on June 28, 1964 in New York City. Gail’s widower Alfred Savage died on January 19, 1982 in Florida.

 

Constance Weiler

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of information about the lovely Constance Weilver, and this is going to be one slim post, so bear with me. While I dislike writing short posts, I fell in love with the above photo of Constance, and I just had to profile her. So let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Constance Ellen Uttenweiler was born on September 17, 1918,in Toronto, Canada to Lebret Joseph Uttenweiler and Mable Wilson. Her older sister Bernice was born on May 11, 1917. Her younger brother Robert would be born in 1921. Her father was American, born in Michigan, her mother was a Canadian. The family lived in Toronto, where Constance spent her early years.

On April 30, 1927 at the age of 8 she immigrated to the US with her parents, arriving in Detroit by boat. They went to live with their paternal grandfather, Robert Wilson, in Detroit, Michigan.

In April 1929, her parents divorced, and a few days later her mother married Joseph Kirzinger. Two more children were born of this union (son Lawrence and daughter Iris). Only young Robert went to live with the Kirzinger newlyweds – the sisters remained with their dad and lived in Detroit (I wonder how the story went – why didn’t Bernice and Constance go on to live with the Kirzingers and Robert did? Smells like an unusual story!)

At some point, Constance landed in New York and found work there as a theater receptionist (have no idea which theater). Constance was signed to a term contract with MGM after talent scouts spotted her in a New York night spot in 1943.

CAREER

Connie signed with MGM, the most prestigious studio at the time, and made her debut in 1943 in The Man from Down Under, a Charles Laughton movie. In many ways, it’s a typical wartime propaganda movie – on the other hand, in many ways it’s not a typical propaganda movie. What makes it stand out, if only so slightly, is the fact that it deals directly with Australians and their bit in WW2. Tell me named of three movies about Australia from the golden age of hollywood. You see, hardly any springs to mind. Constance’s second movie was the more prominent I Dood It, a Red Skelton comedy classic.

Constance then made a string of well-regarded musicals – Broadway Rhythm and Bathing Beauty. No story, little character development, lots of singing and dancing. Constance returned to propaganda movies with This Man’s Navy, about  U.S. Naval Airships (Blimps) and featuring Tom Drake, who for a time seemed like the hot new thing then faded quickly into obscurity.

During this time, Constance was featured in several movies by the great but troubled actor, Robert Walker – The Clock (a superb, intimate drama with Walker and Judy Garland), Her Highness and the Bellboy (a so-so musical about a princess, played by Hedy Lamarr, and the unrequited crush the hotel bellhop, played by Walker, harbours towards her).

In 1946, the war was over and Constance’s career entered a new phase. Her first post war movie was Up Goes Maisie, a continuation of the adventures of brassy showgirl Maisie (played by Ann Sothern). Constance continued appearing in high quality movies that never hit top-tier. Meaning, she never acted in a movie that ended up a classic, but she did work in solid movies with a solid if sometimes phenomenal cast.

Such two movies were The Hoodlum Saint, a morality tale about a WW1 vet (played by William Powell) who will do anything to get rich (and the consequences of his actions) and Two Smart People, an unusual noir romance film, directed by Jules Dassin and headed by John Hodiak and Lucille Ball as two con artists in love.

The Arnelo Affair is actually a mediocre effort somehow undermined by the wooden acting of the female lead, Frances Gifford. The story is the same old cautionary tale for wives – don’t cheat on your husbands, and if you do… Well, you get the picture. John Hodiak is solid as the “bad guy”/affair of the title, and Eve Arden and Dean Stockwell are wasted in sub par roles. MGM could definitely do better than this! Sadly, It Happened in Brooklyn, her next movie, wasn’t quite the high quality movie to follow-up on a dismal one. It’s a nice enough musical, but the story and characters, being paper-thin, weight it down tremendously. Good musicals should have a simple but effective story, not some pastiche

Constance had a minor role (literary) in The Beginning or the End, a docudrama about the atomic bomb (and again shared the screen with Robert Walker).

Constance’s last movie made under the MGM helm was The Romance of Rosy Ridge, perhaps the most superior film of the post-war lot. Why? Well, for one thing, it deals with subjects that Hollywood often tended to avoid – the post-war animosity and hatred that still burns deep in the people. While it was made post-WW2, the plot is set after the American civil war, and illustrates nicely how people lived in Missouri in the mid 19th century. it’s surprisingly authentic for a Hollywood production of the 1940s, and despite a few song and dance numbers, never falls into the sappy/sweet routine. The leads are played by the young, fresh-faced Janet Leigh and Van Johnson – a good combo!

I guess Constance went freelancing, but appeared in only two more movies – a great one and a sadly lukewarm one. The great one was The Asphalt Jungle, a top-notch heist film, dark, gritty, intense, one of the best movies John Huston made. The lukewarm one was Three Guys Named Mike, a fluffy and brain-dead rom com with Jane Wyman as a stewardess who has to choose between three guys named Mike. It’s much better than most rom-coms today, mind you, still not enough to warrant a second look.

And that was it from Constance!

PRIVATE LIFE

This here is pretty thin. There were no articles about her love life, so I can’t say whom she dated while in Hollywood in the early 1940s… However, there was a short article about her in 1946:

Constance Weiler, on the set of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” telling John Garfield and Leon Ames the thrill of flying one’s own plane. After six weeks, she’s just made her first solo hop. The payoff is she can fly a plane but doesn’t yet know how to drive an automobile.

Funny, she never appeared in the movie, at least it’s not among her credits. Constance’s career effectively ended in 1947, although she did bits and pieces afterwards, from 1946 onwards, there were no mentions of her in the papers.

Next thing we know, Constance married Douglas la Franco on June 7, 1957, in Los Angeles. Her career had been over for almost a decade by then, and she was consistently out of the limelight. Anyway, La Franco was born on September 25, 1929 to Ceferino la Franco and Edna Pullion. His father was from the Phillipines, his mother from Oregon (what a combo!). He grew up in California and was never married before he wed Constance.

Unfortunately, the marriage lasted a very short time, and they divorced in 1959. They did not have any children. In 1960, Douglas married his second wife, Pearl Colberg. Constance did not remarry and lived for the rest of her life in San Francisco.

Constance Weiler died on December 10, 1965 in San Francisco, California. Constance’s former husband, Douglas la Franco, died in 2006.

Carol Yorke

Carol Yorke started as a beautiful, feline model who tried Hollywood and failed. Nothing new here – tons of models went to Hollywood and never made anything worthwhile. However, Carol was not the one to take no for an answer – she completely reinvented her life and became one of the premier fashion connoisseurs and columnists of her time. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Carol Yorke was born Carolyn Bjorkman on April 25, 1926, in Swissdale, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Elmer and Ruth Bjorkman. Her paternal grandparents were Swedish immigrants – her mother was a native Californian. Her younger brothers were John, born in 1928, and Richard, born in 1934.

Carol’s parents died when in the late 1930s, and she and her two bothers were raised by their paternal aunt, Gertrude. In 1940, the Bjorkmann children lived in Swissdale with their grandparents, uncle, his wife, another uncle and Gertrude.

Carolyn was a talented child who, after graduating from high school in her hometown (Pittsburgh), attended Carnegie Institute of Technology Drama school. Due to her good looks, she soon landed into the modeling scene – she first modeled for the local manufacturer Joseph Home Co, and soon she was on the rise.

Buoyed by her successful modeling experience, she moved to New York in the mid 1940s and did work for John Robert Powers. She was a seasoned model when she tried Hollywood in 1947.

CAREER

Carol made only one movie, Letter from an Unknown Woman, directed by Max Ophuls. But, what a movie it is! Note this: Carol shaved three years of her actual age, and tried to pass of as a fresh-faced 18 years old in 1947.

Here is a brief summary: In Vienna, about 1900, a dashing man arrives at his flat, instructing his manservant that he will leave before morning: the man is Stefan Brand, formerly a concert pianist, planning to leave Vienna to avoid a duel. His servant gives him a letter from an unknown woman, which he reads. In flashbacks we see the lifelong passion of Lisa Berndle for him. Carol plays Lisa’s sister Marie in the movie, and you can consider her character a teenager.

What can I say, I love this movie. It’s like a finely crafted painting, made with impressionist sensibilities. Simple but extremely powerful. Acting is great, and this is one of the better roles for our favorite cad, Louis Jourdan (talented, but always played the same stereotype). Joan Fontaine (one of my favorites) shows us just how gentle and subtle an actress she was (a rarity in Hollywood, where they often value dramatics over something more elegant.) Overall, it’s an incredible work of art, one of the most emotional and earnest movies I have ever seen. So sublime it’s almost misty and unreal. Forget the story and just feel it all!

Not a hit when it was made, it’s considered a classic today, but sadly, did no favors to Carol nor her career. I have no idea why she didn’t make at least one more movie, but there it is, this was her first and last effort. It wa back to the East coast afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE

Carol dated Artur Ramos Jr in mid 1948. Then she was seen romancing with Murray Sulzberg (who had oodles of millions) in late 1948. Early 1949 saw her with cheese heir Ed Brown.

Carol returned to New York after her unsuccessful Hollywood sojourn, and found work modeling and doing PR for famed designer Valentina. Valentina was a progressive, avant-garde woman and Carol met many a intellectuals and prominent people while in her employ. Her new-found social connections landed her a job at Saks Fifth Avenue as a buyer for a new salon called the Evening Room, specializing in evening wear.

Hungry for more of everything – fashion, love, hapiness – Carol departed for Europe and settled for a time in Paris. With a sharp eye for fashion, Carol was one of he first fashion people who took notice of the young, up-and-coming designer Yves Saint Laurent . In 1958, Carol contacted the young designer and secured his a phleora of rich American grand dames who wanted to become his clients. It was a lucrative deal for both Carol and Yves, and they remained lifelong friends. Another designer Carol discovered before everybody else was Halston – originally an innovative milliner, it was Carol and her fashion world connections that helped him catapult into full pledged sartorial stardom.

In October 1962 she was in Monte Carlo and wrote a letter to John Fairchild the editor of the influential fashion magazine, Women’s Wear Daily. He gave her a chance to write her very own column – she result was a column titled ”Carol Says”, which dealt with fashion, society and spot news and was syndicated in several papers. Carol knew everybody, was witty and light on her feet and easy on her worlds – endlessly charming, she gathered a wide fan base and became one of the most popular female columnists of the time.

During her tenure as a columnist, Carol interviewed celebrities, both notables from the fashion world and notables outside the fashion world, including politics, movies and so on. Carol always wished to be an actress, and there was a deeply intrinsic part of her that went unfulfilled and frustrated – she vented out her firstration by attracting attention wherever she went – most notably fashion shows. Often the reporters would completely forget the models and focus solely on her. She would enter in grand style, with her poodle Sheba under her arm, always highly dramatic, she would fling her coat so that everybody could see that is was a genuine Balenciaga.

As for her love life, little is known. She never married,  but it seems she had a special friend in the millionaire garment manufacture Seymour Fox and would regularly arrive at the office with her poodle Sheba in one of his collection of stretched limousines.

On 28 November 1966, Truman Capote threw his legendary masked Black & White Ball at the New York Plaza Hotel. It was the social event of the year. Carol was among the 500 prominent guests (some of the other guests were Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, Andy Warhol, Lee Razdiwill, Marella Agnelli, Joan Fontaine, Katherine Graham, Babe Paley and so on).

Unfortunately, time was running out for Carol. She contracted leukemia – in early 1967, she took a limousine to the Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. She had a bar installed in her private room and entertained until the end.

Carol Yorke died on July 5, 1967, in the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York.