Rowena Cook

Rowena Cook’s career might be considered lackluster by most standards, but she proved to be amazingly resilient performer in the long run. Rowena came to Hollywood via a contest, which is not good-by itself. Let’s be real,  most of the people who come to Hollywood by winning a contest (be it a beauty contest or anything similar) stay in the bottom levels of the pecking order, and Rowena was no exception – but unlike the majority of those people, she really wanted to act, not to become rich and famous. When such a person, with such aspirations, doesn’t hit fame in Hollywood, he find other outlets for his passion – and Rowena sure did! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rowena Sturges Cook was born on October 16, 1917, in Staten Island, New York, to Rowena Sturges and her husband, Wilburn Eugene Cook. Her older sister, Cordelia S, was born in 1906 in Mexico. Her father died in 1919 and, as far as I can tell, the family lived on his inheritance. Rowena and the girls moved to Traverse, Michigan in 1920, and moved to Pasadena around the time the recession hit.

After her education in Pasadena (of which I could not find anything), Rowena came to Chicago in the 1930s, working for about a year on a weekly radio show, before moving back to California in pursuit of an acting career.

In order to break into movies, Rowena entered the “Gateway to Hollywood“. It was a showcase for young up and coming actors, sponsored by Jesse Lasky, who conducts’ the search for new film talent via the show. She won, along with Ralph Bowman, Mary Jane Barnes and Lynn McKinley. And then it started!

CAREER

Rowena, as Alice Eden, was signed by RKO and got a decent role in Career, a movie showcasing life in a small Iowa town. And this is one good film – actually, it’s one of the few times that Hollywood realistically portrays the mentioned small town life. This ain’t no Andy Hardy, with his squeaky clean characters, perfect families and pristine streets – this is the real deal – as a reviewer on IMDB wrote:

This is a much grimmer world, where people are forced to face up to real issues, with no easy solutions; where panic and self-interest often take the place of reason and community-consciousness; where young love is often thwarted by ambition (and not just on the part of the career-minded male either); where the town drunk is not just a figure of fun, but contrives to be both boorishly obnoxious yet tragically sympathetic; above all, where venality is uppermost in just about everyone’s mind — except of course in the embittered storekeeper hero (revenge is what he’s after).

No wonder that the great Dalton Trumbo wrote the script – there is a ever present social undercurrent, and a very serious one. Sadly, the movie didn’t do any favors to anyone involved, including Rowena.

This is the story of a young girl who goes to Hollywood and hopes to become the next Sarah Bernhardt. Initially, Rowena was thrilled over winning’ the contest and getting a role and a contract. She’d spent years studying dramatic art, and naturally thought she’d be considered an actress. But she learned that people just thought of her as a contest winner. Her contract expired, and she was on her own. Instead of giving up hope, she decided that this was really her chance to make good. “I literally buried Alice Eden,” she said, the other day. “And started out to be just Rowena Cook.”

Sadly, Rowena Cook amassed only one credit. Kit Carson, an enjoyable but not particularly noteworthy western, with Jon Hall and Lynn Bari in the leads. A special bonus – Dana Andrews is also there!

That was all from Rowena!

PRIVATE LIFE

Rowena always maintained how she prepared for a theatrical career from her earliest days… When she got the Gateway to Hollywood contest, this is what papers wrote about her:

It seems that I will not have to worry about Rowena Cook’s (Alice Eden’s) future during the present year. She has 13 weeks of Alice Eden to do on the radio if she gets out of Des Moines alive. And then a picture and then the business of choosing between two or three contracts which have been slipped in the mail. Marvelously Lucky? You think that this little girl from New York has been marvelously lucky?

The sweet and dumb days have passed from Hollywood forever; a stupid grin and a good pair of gams are not enough at this time. Alice Eden is pretty enough to

Well, if you will start now and work for the next 17 years at plain and fancy dramatics, perhaps you will be lucky, like Miss Cook. She frittered away the precious hours during the first two years of her life and then someone told her that life is real and life ia earnest. “Oh, yes,” she said. “In June, 1939, only 17 years from now, Mr. Wrigley and Mr. Lasky will want me ta do a picture for them. Time’s a wastin’.” So there she Is as you will see her on Saturday.

Rowena’s only surge of publicity came when during that time, right after the win. As Andy Warhol would say, she had her five minutes of fame. Here is atypical article from that brief period:

Miss Eden, 21 and “blue-eyed blonde,” too was happy over her good luck and hoped it might lead to screen fame and fortune. Tuesday afternoon they presented medals at the A. A. U. and Wednesday night they will appear at the Varsity theater for the opening of the first picture In which they played featured – roles “Career.” Thursday morning they leave for Chicago and 13 weeks of radio work, and, in October, back to California.

It seemed like a wonderfully active, almost hectic life filled with interesting activities.. But it just didn’t last. On the other hand, Rowena’s co-star, John Archer (real name Ralph Bowman), enjoyed a long, if not especially successful career in Hollywood, amassed more than 100 credits, and married Marjorie Lord, and was the father of actress Anne Archer.
Rowena had a pretty low-key romantic life. On March 18, 1940, she married John Irving Laird, a fellow actor, in Los Angeles. Laird was born on December 10, 1911, to  Irving E. Laird and Ethel Taylor in Waukegan, Illinois, and came to Los Angeles for movie work as an actor. The marriage lasted eleven months, and they divorced in 1941. Laird remarried at least twice, second time in 1981, and died on August 5, 2003, in Florida.

By 1942, the US had entered WW2, and Rowena asked to be released from her contract so she could move to New York to help the war effort. This is what makes her such an interesting woman – when she saw that Hollywood wasn’t going to make her a top class actress, she opted to develop her skills in other ways and just left. No drama, just begin very efficient! In Nee York, Rowena began working as a trainer for new female Navy recruits at Hunter College in New York, and she did some part-time work as an actress, determined to become a legitimate stage actress.

In the theater circuit (during the run of John Loves Mary) she met director Vaughn Baggerly, whom she married in 1948. Vaughn Herbert Baggerly was born on April 18, 1917 in Davenport, Iowa, to Glenn Baggerly and Martha Crow, the youngest of two boys. The grew up and was educated in Davenport High School and attended the College of Theater Arts, Pasadena and then moved to Coral Gables, Florida, where he worked as a stage director. He was drafted in 1942, serving as a cryptographic officer and in the Special Services Corps. After returning to civilian life, he lived in New York.

The couple settled in Los Angeles, where their daughter Susan Rowena was born on July 31, 1949.  Despite his thriving theater career, Baggerly decided to become a professional Army officer, and was stationed in Tokyo during the Korean War. Rowena and Susan followed him there, and Rowena volunteered with a Red Cross at a local hospital. The couple returned to the US in 1955, and their son Vaughn David was born on July 28, 1955 in San Francisco.

Baggerly retired from the Army in 1964 with the rank of lieutenant colonel, then started to develop a recreation program for the Job Corps, and became head of the Job Corps office in San Francisco in 1965.

In their spare time, Vaughn was a director and Rowena an actress for the Theater of the Fifteen Company in Coral Gables – their love for acting never left them, and it was sure more than a simple fling but a deep passion. Not many actresses profiled on this blog could say that about their craft.

Vaughn retired in 1984 and he and Rowena settled in Laguna Nigel, Orange County.

Vaughn Baggerly died on January 20, 1990 and was buried in Illinois. Rowena moved to Barrington, Illinois, where she lived in a nursing home and was a capable illustrator and children’s stories writer.

Rowena Cook Baggerly died on March 2, 2004, in Barrington, Illinois.

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Joan Thorsen

A very beautiful woman and a successful photo model before she came to Hollywood, Joan Thorsen was given a solid contract not on account to her thespian skills, but rather her looks. Like any other girl in the long line of models turn actresses, she did some minor work and left the industry. let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Joan Marie Hoff was born in 1918 in Auburn, Indiana, to John Hoff and Lottie Wolford. She was their second daughter – her older sister, Mary J., was born in 1911. Her father owned an auto repair shop. The family lived with Lottie’s mother, Clara M. Wolford.

Joan grew up in Auburn, where she was a graduate of the Auburn high school. She then attended Northwestern university at Evanston, Illinois, for three years, where she was a member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.

As an interesting trivia, we can note that the Freshmen class at Northwestern University in 1938 certainly contributed its quota to the entertainment world. Living in the same dormitory were: our Joan, Anne Lee, later a minor Hollywood actress; singer Julie Conway (she was later vocalist with Kay Kyser), and Jennifer Jones. Girls were registered under their real names. All four have adopted different ones for professional use.

She has achieved fame as a model in New York City and her pictures appeared in many popular magazines. This is how she landed in Hollywood in 1942., primarily to make tests for the famous beauty lover, Howard Hughes, and she stayed there, hoping for a career.

CAREER

Joan made her debut in The Heat’s On in a not completely insignificant role – too bad the movie is a really, really insipid and bland Mae West vehicle – unfortunately, what worked in 1932, when Mae was a Hollywood leading light, was not quite what worked in 1943, and the movie did nothing for Joan’s career.

Joan was uncredited in A Guy Named Joe, a touching, high quality, touching WW 2 movie with an interesting duo of actors, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy. 

Despite her obscurity, Joan had the honor of being a (albeit minor) part of the wonderful MGM musicals of the 1940s and 1950s – as far as the genre goes, you couldn’t do much better than that! She was in Two Girls and a Sailor Week-End at the WaldorfThe Harvey Girls and The Hoodlum Saint. I’m not a particularly big fan of musicals and rarely watch them, but these movies make for fine viewing – a great Sunday evening viewing!

In 1945, Joan appeared in the slightly more serious Adventure, the first movie Clark Gable made after his return from war. He was paired with Greer Garson, and actress I absolutely adore, but sadly, it’s a polarizing film, parts lackluster parts pure genius. Much deeper than the plot suggests, it does tackle some quite profound psychological issued, especially for soldiers returning from war, but, like most ambitious movies, it gets lost in too many directions and fails to capture its own brand of charm. Gable and Garson are an interesting couple and an unusual pairing, but they didn’t really click like she did with Walter Pidgeon or he did with Claudette Colbert. All in all, worth a viewing, but nothing to write home about.

Joan’s last movie was Undercurrent, one of the woman in peril movies made popular by Gaslight. It’s a good, edge of your seat film, headed by Katherine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Bob Mitchum. Yep, imagine, Kate and Bob int he same movie!

And that was it from Joan!

PRIVATE LIFE

During her college days at Northwestern University, Joan met and married the boy-next-door, Robert Edward Thorsen, in 1940.

Tragedy struck when Joan gave birth to a daughter on September 13, 1941, but the girl died the same day. Not long after, her husband was drafted. Lonesome and trying to ease the pain, Joan took up acting and due to her beauty, she was noticed by Hollywood. After being tested by Howard Hughes, she was signed to a seven-year Paramount contract in 1942. She was to receive 1350$ a week during the life of the contract (which is quite  a lot and left me quite surprised!).

Despite her new job, Joan tried to keep her marriage in top shape, and often visited her husband, then Ensign Thorsen, who was stationed at Cleveland in 1942 and 1943.

Joan did her part for the war effort, as this article can attest:

Joan Thorsen visited the Army camp near Las Vegas, and while there they showed the picture, “A Guy Named Joe,” in which she has just a bit. When she flashed on the screen, the film stopped, and the soldiers made her get on – the stage for a speech.

in her spare time, Joan took Spanish lessons in a Beverly Hills High school, along with fellow contractees Marc Cramer, Bob Sully and Bonnie Edwards.

However, the strain of being apart got to Joan, and by mid 1943, she started to date eligible Hollywood bachelors, like George Raft and Sherman Fairchild. Raft was even semi serious with her, dating her for a few months. Things didn’t look good for the Thorsen’s marriage, and they tried for a reconciliation in November 1943 while Robert was on a furlough, but it didn’t yell and Joan decided to declare game over.

In late 1943, Joan moved temporarily to the Last frontier in Las Vegas, in order to win a divorce from her husband. It was there that she learned she was pregnant, but hardly changed her mind – the divorce was still on. There she met writer John Gunther, who was also there trying to divorce his spouse, and the two got romantically involved. After her divorce came trough, she had started to show, it was time to go back to the safest place – her family home in Auburn.

Joan arrived in Auburn in May to spend the summer months with her parents, John and Lottie. Her baby was expected in August and she hoped to return to her motion picture work the last part of September. After a tranquil summer, that she spend in part corresponding with Gunther, her daughter, Pamela Christina, weighing seven pounds and twelve ounces was born on August 9, 1944. Joan still expected to return to Hollywood with her daughter in the near future to resume her work in motion pictures. First she went to New York in September 1944, and spent some time with Gunther. She returned to LA afterwards, and Gunther gave  a magnificent farewell party for her.

Joan’s mother followed her to LA to take care of Pamela. She tried to resume her career, and still dated Gunther, just long distance. She was also feted by Fefe Ferry, the famous impresario, who was also her manager. Another swain was famous humorist Robert “Bob” Benchley. Joan used to take her mother as a chaperone on her dates with Benchley, to the delight of gossip columnists 🙂 Allegedly, when Joan, after being invited to dine by Robert, asked if he would mind her mother accompanying them. “Mind?” he said. “I should say not. I am flattered!”

However, Gunther was the number one man in her life. In January 1945, her former husband came to see their daughter for the first time, but no reconciliation happened. She and Gunther dated for the better part of 1945- Then, in November 1945, Joan met a man who swept her of her feet and suddenly, Gunther was out. That man was Vincent Fotre, the former beau of Ann Miller. Things progressed pretty quickly, and the wed in December 1945.

Here is an article about Joan’s second marriage:

The marriage of Mrs. Joan Thorsen, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Hoff of 123 North Indiana avenue, Auburn, and Vincent Fotre of Beverly Hills, Calif., a millionaire shoe manufacturer, is being revealed. The wedding, kept secret, was solemnized on Dec. 21, 1945. The bride is a former well-known Auburn girl.  For the past four years she has been a starlet under contract to the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer movie studios in Hollywood. She has appeared in a number of pictures. Mrs. Thorsen and Mr. Fotre were married near Las Vegas, Nev. The former was in a group of movie starlets who went to Las Vegas to pose in a series of six pictures for Liberty magazine which were used in connection with an article “From Sun to Snow in 60 Minutes.” Mrs. Thorsen was in one individual picture in a ski outfit and appeared with two other actresses in ski clothes, ski jackets and sweaters. Mr. Fotre flew from California for the wedding ceremony. On March 22 of this year she represented the MGM studio in a style show, “East Meets West,” at the Ambassador hotel in Beverly Hills, sponsored by the Theta Sigma Phi sorority. She modeled a Grecian gold green evening gown styled by Irene, the studio’s famous designer. Pictures- were taken of the style show in technicolor and will be shown throughout the country. The former Mrs. Thorsen and her daughter, Pamela, are now residing in the home of her husband in Beverly Hills. Mr. Fotre is the father of two children by a previous marriage. They are planning to erect a new home in Beverly Hills as soon as building restrictions are lifted.

Vincent Valentine Fotre was born on February 14, 1901, in Chicago, Illinois, to Jacob and Catherine Fotre. He was married once before, to Kathryn Guinnee. They had a son, Vincent G, born on May 10, 1924, and a duaghter, Patricia Anne, born on May 11, 1927. They divorced in the 1930s, and Fotre dated a few of the Hollywood starlets prior to the marriage.

Their son Terry Vincent was born on May 17, 1948. Their daughter Janet Christina was born on April 18, 1954. They lived in California and were socially active, but sadly divorced in the late 1950s.
Fotre remarried to starlet M’Liss McClure in 1966, and they divorced in 1970. Fotre died on December 20, 1975. 
Joan married James S. Kemper on December 29, 1960, in the Bel Air Country club. It was a third marriage for both of them.
James Kemper was born on April 14, 1914, in, to James S. Kemper and Mildred Hooper. His father was at one time the US Ambassador to Brazil. Kemper was a studied at Yale and worked as a lawyer all around the States before taking over his father’s company. He joined the Kemper organization in 1960. He was named chairman and chief executive officer in 1969 and remained in that position until his retirement in 1979. During Mr. Kemper’s tenure, the Kemper organization expanded in both the insurance and financial services marketplaces.
Kemper was nationally known for his work in the field of alcoholism. As a former alcoholic who went clean, he had plenty of experience and a lot of good will to help others. President Carter appointed him to the National Commission on Alcoholism and Other Related Problems. President Reagan named him to the Presidential Commission on Drunk Driving, and he was chairman of the board of trustees of its successor committee, the National Commission Against Drunk Driving. He served as a member of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare’s Interagency Committee on Federal Activities for Alcohol and Alcoholism. He was also a director of the National Council on Alcoholism.

Kemper was the father of five children:  James, Linda, Stephen, Judith and Robert. The Kempers lived in Golf, Illinois, and at a vacation home in Pauma Valley, California. They were both passionate about golf and very much active in civic affairs.

Kemper died on July 2, 2002. Joan continued to live in Illinois after his death, but I could not find any information as to what happened to her afterwards.

As always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Rosalee Calvert

Rosalee Calvert was a perfect California mannequin int he 1950s and 1960s, tall, lean and aristocratic looking – like man yo fher peers, she tried for a movie career. She was more successful than most, but still not enough to fully devote herself to acting. She remained a high sought after model for decades and seemed to have lived a happy life in California. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosalie Coughenour was born in December 13, 1926 in Dearborn, Michigan, to Lowell and Rosa Coughenor. She was the youngest of three children – her older siblings were William, born in 1921, and Mary, born in 1925. The family moved to Los Angeles in 1937.

I could not find any information on Rosalee’s education, nor her childhood – what I know is that she was modeling by mid 1940s, and by 1948 she was featured as a new, promising model in the papers. It was only natural that Hollywood snagged her before long, and in 1949, she made her movie debut.

CAREER

Rosalee started her career in Little Women, the all time favorite classic, a decent adaptation of the beloved Louisa May Alcott novel. No Katherine Hepburn here, who needs her when you have June Allyson (insert irony here!)! Anyway, a good enough start for sure.

Next, Rosalee played a model in the so-so drama thriller, East Side, West Side. While the movie has a really good cast (James Mason, Barbara Stanwyck, Ava Gardner) and some , it’s overall a lackluster film – not nearly interesting enough, and too transparent to be truly thrilling. After a brief hiatus of a year, she appeared in The Lemon Drop Kid, a Bob Hope Christmas classic.

Then came an uncredited role in Here Comes the Groom, a typical Bing Crosby vehicle – lots of singing, thin plot and a pretty co-star (this time Jane Wyman). Roselee than appeared in a two more musicals that, while not top-tier classic, have a nostalgic, good sheen today – Two Tickets to Broadway and Lovely to Look At.

The last movie Rosalee made before a several year hiatus was the Mickey Rooney movie Sound Off . Sadly, Rooney was way past his prime here (and only 32 years old), and it shows. His character, a brash entertainer who gets drafted, is an unlikable egomaniac, and the public just never connects to him. For a musical, this is a major, major minus.

When Rosalee returned to moviemaking until 1959, when, as a total anthesis to happy-go-lucky musicals, she appeared in a lurid, even untasteful, shocking drama, the semi trashy The Louisiana Hussy While the story isn’t the worst ever and the production actually had more than 5 bucks for props, the acting is absolutely appealing! The only reason o watch the movie is to enjoy all the “badness”.

Roselee was off the screen until 1962, when she appeared in another wholesome, cute movie – If a Man Answers, a Sandra Dee/Bobby Darrin pairing. While I like Sandra Dee – she was a doll – and her movies often carry a sarcastic bite, it’s too naive most of the time.

In 1966, Rosalee appeared in Made in Paris – I have a true fondness for this movie, despite it being a total guilty pleasure. It has a ridiculous, over the top story and seriously pedestrian direction, but the actors and the character make it an enjoyable experience plus, I love movies with great fashion, and this one is a full clock of stunning gowns! And Ann Margret, with her kitten with a whip sexuality, so outdated today,y is incredibly charming! And Louis Jourdan, swoon, too bad he always played the same character, but he’s parfait in the tole!

Rosalee made her last movie appearance that year, in The Oscar, a camp deluxe 1960s film, in league with Valley of the Dolls. However, I have a soft spot for Stephen Boyd, who played the lead, and thus give it a carte blanche although it’s a worse movie than the mentioned Dolls.

That’s it from Rosalee!

PRIVATE LIFE

Rosalee gave a beauty hint to the readers:

Eyes will look larger and more wide awake with a white or light beige eye shadow.

Little is known about Rosalee’s early Hollywood life. She was an active Hollywood model from 1948 onward, but was low profile in the romantic department. In October 1951 Rosalee married Peter Coe in Ensenada, Mexico.

Peter Coe was born Petar Knego in Dubrovnik, then Austo Hungary (that fell apart literary the day he was born), today Croatia (making him by fellow countryman!). Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in England and came to the US, starting his Hollywood career in 1943. He played ethnic roles in a string of movies.

The couple had three sons: Armand Brian, born on June 9, 1952 in Los Angeles, Vincent L., born on May 7, 1957, and Peter C., born on September 7, 1960. The couple owned a ranch and lived the quiet family life when Peter and Rosalee were not working.

Rosalee’s acting career was finished by 1960s, but her modeling career lasted much longer and was more successful. Rosalee was tight with designed Jimmy Galanos:

West Coast designer Jimmy Galanos, whose small beginnings I remember, brought at least 150 new designs to town for his show at the Ambassador. Prolific Jimmy also fathered 50 hats and produced 40 pairs of special shoes by David Evins for his clothes. Before a packed ballroom, he paraded new versions of the jeweled, Persian-printed evening chiffon so many smart women are wearing this winter. His lates have jeweled. Paisley tops and white organdie skirts as full as a ballet dancers. If the price tags stagger you the winter Paisley cost just under $1000 remember that art comes high. Jimmy’s embroi of hair, who helped model the collection, is Rosalie Calvert, an outdoorsy California girl, who leads a normal, ranch house type existence with a husband and two little boys.

Being a model + having a stable family life – this is a great combo, and a one not that many women can achieve, so kudos to Rosalee!

In the 2010s, the octogenarian Rosalee gave an interview for the Palm Springs (you can see the whole interview on this link) , alongside Barbara Sinatra and a few others, about their lives in old Hollywood:

Rosalee Calvert of Palm Desert remembers a harder life. Breadwinner for her sons, an actor husband, and a housekeeper, she worked nonstop during her double-decade modeling career. A favorite of fashion photographer John Engstead, she says, “He saw me through three pregnancies. He’d call me up and say, ‘What’ve you got left, Rosie? Hands, feet, legs?’”

Though she made her name in Los Angeles in couture by Jean Louis and James Galanos (“She was stunning,” Galanos says), Calvert was an instant hit in New York. One of her first assignments was a Vogue post-deadline reshoot by renowned photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe. It showed a patrician blonde in a leopard coat. Before long, her agent, the formidable Eileen Ford, could be heard fielding phone calls linking the newbie with two of the leading mannequins of the midcentury. “Well, I could give you Dovima, [Jean] Patchett, or Calvert.” Client: “Calvert?” Ford: “Page 52, current Vogue.” And then she’d hang up. “She loved to hang up on people,” Calvert recalls, chuckling.

“The most interesting and fun fashion shows ever were for [studio designer] Edith Head,” Calvert says. She modeled costumes for Carole Lombard, Lucille Ball, and Greta Garbo. “Lombard was sooo small,” she says, breathing inward and then adding, “John Engstead shot me in some of Marlene Dietrich’s costumes.” A close encounter with the icon herself followed.

“Marlene Dietrich was a good friend and client of Jean Louis.” She volunteered to help behind the scenes at a fashion show. Looking at Calvert, she said, “I’ll be your dresser, darling.” Calvert was nervous. She’d heard rumors, and worried that the diva wouldn’t know how to handle the frantic quick changes. But, Calvert notes, “She was excellent. She had everything unzipped and ready for me.” And Calvert walked away with the ultimate compliment: “You are so beautiful,” Dietrich said. “You look just like me.”

Interesting story, but when I dig a little, I noticed that Peter Coe was  a working actor for most of the 1950s and 1960s, so I still hope he did bring some money to the family table. They divorced in the late 1960s.

For most of the 1970s, Rosalee was dating Richard Gully. Now, one has to wonder, who is Richard Gully? When I first started to delve deeper into the world of old Hollywood, there were names that constantly popped up, but nobody could tel me exactly why were they mentioned in the papers (usually for dating starlets). They were not actors, producers, directors of anything remotely connected to technical aspects of movie making. Some of them, like Greg Bauzter, were lawyers, some were rich boys who came to Hollywood to squire pretty girls, some were con artists (Johnny Stompanato) and so on.

Richard Gully was one of those names. The bets I could find is that he was an aristocratic Englishman, born on June 8, 1907, in the UK, and was aide-de-camp for Jack Warner. Gully’s specialty was that he knew everybody there was to know in Tinsel town and had a very active social life. The gossip columnists all loved him, as he put forth a great deal of gossip fodder by dating eligible Hollywood bachelorettes.

Here is a funny little article about Gully and Rosalie:

Richard, first earl of Gully, with Rosalie Calvert and a gorgeous actress from Munich Birgit Bergen. Birgit kept eating grapes but first washing them in champagne. A touch of class.

Their relationship ended sometime prior to 1980. Gully died on October 4, 2000 in Los Angeles.

In the 1980s, Rosalee lived in Westwood, California, and was a grandmother several times over.

As far as I know, Rosalee is still alive today and living in Palm Desert, California. As always; i hope she had a happy life and is enjoying herself right now!

Carmen Clifford

Carmen Clifford was a trained pianist and dancer of some reputee when she entered the Hollywood arena in 1942 – but for unknown reasons, she never made it past the uncredited roster. Later she became a songwriter and had an extensive TV career, so let’s hear more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Carmen Mary Scanzo was born on September 19, 1921, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to Patrick Scanzo and Inez Bascherie, both of Italian descent. Her mother was a hairdresser. She lived with her mother and grandfather for a time, so I wonder just what the exact state of her parents marriage was? Separated or divorced or maybe her dad was away traveling a great deal of time?

Anyway, Carmen was a musical prodigy, and took lessons in pianoforte playing from an early age. She also helped her mother in a beauty salon as a hairdresser and manicurist.

Pretty soon, Carmen took up dancing and excelled in it. She completed a three-year course at the prestigious local Roma Serra Studio. Carmen also studied tap dancing with Ray Hart. Carmen’s first dancing show was held at the home of her aunt. Mrs. Leon William, under the direction of Roma Serra. It was clear to all that Carmen was a girl with loads of talent going places in the near future.

In 1937, when she was just 16 years old, Carmen had been chosen as one of 15 girls to appear in a ballet ensemble at the International Casino, New York, to be staged by Chester Hale. She moved to New York and studied under Hale for some time afterwards. After living in New York for about five years, she moved to Los Angeles in 1942 to try her hand at movies. She managed to get work with a studio and started as a chorus girl.

While in Hollywood, Carmen became Miss Cheescake of 1944, but had little luck in the business arena. Carmen became the protegé of another Massachusetts girl – Eleanor Powell, who hailed from Springfield. Carmen was in the dancing chorus of one of Eleanor’s pictures, and the star became interested in Carmen, who was soon taken u n d e r the Powell wing, and is learning the best In dance tricks. And here we go!

CAREER

Sadly, we are pretty thin here. Carmen obviously danced as anameless chorus girl in movies from 1942 onwards, but imdb mentions The Blue Dahlia as her first movie – qhauza, you could do much worse for a firts movie, that’s for sure! Then we skip to 1949, and Carmen was in Always Leave Them Laughing, a mdiocre Milton berle Virginia Mayo pairing. Moving oN! 

Then came Call Me Mister, one of the lesser Betty Grable movies, with Dan Dailey playing her love interest. The story, a “lets stage a show,” is slim at best, and the only good thing the movie had to it are Betty and Dan – but even they can’t make this a classic! Carmen appeared in a bit better fare with Royal Wedding. While not a massive classical musical, it’s a pleasant, funny and at times funnily romantic fare with Fred Astaire and Jane Powell at their top form, plus Peter Lawford, seductive as always!

By 1951, Carmen was delegated to B class musicals, like The Strip, with Mickey Rooney (past his prime and playing a drummer who gets mixed up in some nasty company) and the light-on-her-feet Sally Forrest. The same year Carmen appeared in a non musical movie, the thriller The Man with a Cloak. This movie is one of many hidden gems that nobody ever heard of, but that have lots to offer. While not a top-tier movie, it’s well written, with great casting (Barbara Stanwyck and Joseph Cotten), good music and solidly directed. There is nothing much that detracts from its good qualities, but it just didn’t make it as a classic and remained buried and forgotten.

Carmen’s last movie appearance was There’s No Business Like Show Business. She went into TV but I could not find any credits. That’s it!

PRIVATE LIFE

While living in New York, prior to 1942, Carmen married a certain Robert C. Clifford, whose name she took as her nom de guerre. Unfortunately, I have no information about the man, except that they divorce prior to 1945.

Carmen’s second husband was Jack Passin, and they married on December 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. It was Jack’s third marriage. Since they married on December 13 and Carmen was superstitious, they did a retake assisted by Judge Griffith in Beverly Hills. Jack Passin was born on April 30, 1912, in Chicago, Illinois, to Morris J. Passin and Saide Hansberg. Little is known about him – he moved to Los Angeles in the 1930s for work in the movie industry, and he was an assistant director. He married Hazel Lee on April 19, 1942, and they divorced in cca 1944.

Their son Steve Michael was born on March 12, 1946. They lived in Los Angeles, both worked in movies, and often hosted Carmen’s mother, Inez. Sadly, the marriage did not work out, and they divorced after 1950. Jack later married Virginia Boyle in 1959. He died on October 29, 1983.

Carmen had a solid musical education, and in addition to her movie career, had a minor career as a lyricist. She collaborated with Nat King Cole in the 1950s, as this article can attest:

A former Pittsfield resident, Mrs. Carmen Scanzo Clifford, has collaborated with Nat (King) Cole to write a new song, “Calypso Blues,” which will be on sale here in a few days. Mrs. Clifford composed the lyrics, and Cole, the music. About a year ago. Mrs. Clifford wrote the lyrics for “Nina Nana.” with Cole.

As Carmen’s movie career hit the skids very early, it was clear she needed an alternative option. In a bid to stay an active actress despite her lack of success, Carmen switched to TV but sadly we have none of her TV credits on IMDB. Could be she used a different name, but no information is given. She explained her choice to work on TV to an interviewer:

CARMEN CLIFFORD … worked on Bob Hope specs screens she reported. During a telecast some shows are cut as much as 15 or 20 minutes. Some telecasts aren’t cut at all before going on the air. It all happens while the viewers are at home watching. In addition to working in TV Miss Clifford has worked in all the studios. However, she points out that studio work Is not booming like TV. “TV is more lucrative at the moment. The studios are feeling the recession. In addition, many of the musical specs are moving from New York to Hollywood where they can get top names. Naturally, this calls for more work,” she says. While discussing the current television topics, Miss Clifford says: … on Pay-TV: “Everyone I’ve talked to in Hollywood is in favor of Pay-TV In the event such an innovation is launched, TV would have real money for the big spectaculars. With Pay-TV viewers would see high grade, top entertainment. I just wonder how much longer the viewing audience will put up with westerns and quiz shows.” … on Videotape: “The swing to video is on in Hollywood. By the end of this month and the early part of Sept., I’m sure TV will be taping more and more shows.” … on new shows: “I’m presently working as assistant director to Nick Castle on a Japanese musical which will be presented at the Frontier Hotel, Las Vegas at Christmas. . . . Frank Sinatra is planning six specs for the coming season. . , . Dean Martin’s six shows will be launched throughout the next year.” Look for her. . You’ll be seeing a lot of her.

Carmen talked about the nature of TV work to the local press in Pittsfield in the 1950s:

Next time you tune in one of the musical spectaculars from Hollywood, Calif., take a closer look at the choreography. If you don’t see Carmen Clifford in one of the dances, it will be pretty safe to assume that she helped with the art of planning them. She may have done the dance-in. This means that she learned a dance, for say Dinah Shore, and taught her the steps. Miss Clifford has worked on such shows as: Bob Hope specs, “The Jerry Lewis Show,” “The Gale Storm Show,” “The Dinah Shore Show,” “Red Skelton,” and “The Frank Sinatra Show.” She danced in the “Playhouse 90” Emmy award winner, “The Helen Morgan Story.” “Ordinarily, (we work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven to ten days to polish dances on larger shows. There are times, however, when we are required to work late at night. Most of the smaller telecasts require three or four days work,” Miss Clifford explains. In preparing for presentation of “The Helen Morgan Story,” the actors rehearsed three weeks and dancers ten days. This “Playhouse 90” production, like most of its dramas, was very well-organized.

Sometime in the mid 1950s, Carmen married her third husband, Alexander Goudovitch. Goudovitch was born on May 30, 1923 in Paris, France of Russian ancestry, the son of Countess Anastasia and Count Basil Goudovitch of Monte Carlo and Nice. He graduated from the Pare Imperial at Monte Carlo. Afterwards he danced at the Ballet Russes, and during WW2 came to the US where he settled in Hollywood and worked as a dancer in movies.

On January 25, 1945 he married, Sharon Randall, glamorous musical comedy singer. The marriage did not last very long – they divorced in 1950, and Sharon singer testified her husband stayed away from home at nights and when she asked him where he had been he struck her. When he married Carmen, he was an assistant director to the director of the George Gobel Show.

Their marriage lasted for a few years in the 1950s, and they divorced as the decade was coming to a close. Alexander married Ida Mercier in 1962. He died on October 17, 1984.

Carmen married her fourth and last husband: Robert Rapport, on February 2, 1963, in San Francisco. Robert was born on February 9, 1901in Patterson, New Jersey, making him a bit older than Carmen. He moved to California in the 1920s, got married to Florence Rapport, who worked in the movie industry as a secretary. Robert later managed a theater.

The Rapports marriage was a happy one. After living in California for some time, they moved to Pennsylvania to enjoy their retirement.

Carmen Rapport died on February 15, 1981, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  

Robert Rapport died on November 22, 1996 in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

PS: Some good news! This blog has been selected by Feedspot as one of the Top 30 Classic Movie Blogs on the web!! Thank you!! Check out all of these great blogs on the list!

Jayne Shadduck

Jayne Shadduck truly is an inspiring woman. Okay, maybe her Hollywood career is as thin as air and she never really tried to be a serious, accomplished actress, but she managed to more than make up for this slight by being a pioneer aviatrix and successful businesswoman (and this long after leaving Tinsel town behind). Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Jayne Dunham Francis Shadduck was born on July 1, 1915, in Walla, Walla, Washington, to Joe F. Shadduck and Francis Shadduck. She was their only child. Her father was a general director of an automobile sales salon, and the family was relatively well of.  

By 1930, the family had moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jayne attended high school. Jayne caught the dancing bug early, and was in the chorus before she graduated from high school. She moved to California and started her Hollywood career in 1932, only 17 years old.

She was one of the few girls who signed a contract with RKO. All the girls were chosen from a chorus recently developed In Hollywood by Busby Berkeley. There were eighty members of the chorus, who, in turn, were chosen from among more than 5,000 applicants. And Jayne was of!

CAREER

Sadly, Jayne appeared in uncredited minor, minor roles in only three movies. Two of those were top of the shelf 1930s musicals – 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Forget the story, enjoy the visuals and the dancing!

Jayne’s third movie was The Little Giant, a delightful, sharp and witty comedy with Edward G. Robinson playing a former bootlegger going straight. And fun ensures! Plus for featuring Mary Astor and Helen Vinson, both very capable, yummy actresses.

And that’s it from Jayne!

PRIVATE LIFE

Jayne gave a beauty hint to the readers in 1933:

Cologne is a boon for a variety of uses, such as scenting the bath, toning up tired pores and perfuming lingerie and handkerchiefs. When I am fatigued, I soak a pad of cotton with the refreshing liquid and press it to my temples, relaxing at the same time for a half hour, or as long as I can spare. It is most refreshing.

Jayne had a slight mishap during her early career, in 1932:

Jayne Shadduck, screen actress of “Forty-second Street” and “Gold Diggers of 1933,” was painfully injured yesterday while working in a tank scene in a new musical picture. “Footlight Parade,” on a Warner Brothers sound stage. She suffered a contusion of the nose when she struck the arm of another girl during rehearsal

In 1933, Jayne dated first Lyle Talbot and then left him for Mike Francovitch, Joe E. Brown’s adopted son and star footballer at the U. C.L. A. That didn’t last either – Mike married Binnie Barnes in 1940.

Next on the line was the much-married director, Eddie Sutherland (one of his wives was Louise Brooks), who just left Grace Bradley to date her. It didn’t last either.

Interesting to note that Jayne and Katherine Hepburn got their contract on the very same day at the same judge! Here is a short article about it:

Pair Choose Day of Jinx to Get Approval of Judge for Picture Work When Adalyn Doyle, “good luck girl” for Katharine Hepburn, and blonde Jayne Shadduck. raised their right hands in .Superior Judge Mc-Comb’s court yesterday and swore to tell the truth concerning their contracts to appear in motion-picture productions of the Twentieth Century Pictures, Inc., they crossed their fingers. “Oh, we told the truth, all right,” they chorused, “but, after all, It Is Friday the 13th and we aren’t taking unnecessary chances.” The contracts cover a period of years with gradual increases in salary until, in the event all the options are exercised, both will receive weekly salaries in four figures and without any decimals strewn therein. Both contracts were approved.

In late 1933, Jayne met playwright Jack Kirkland. Soon, she was telling the papers that the marriage to Jack was more desirable than a career in the movies. Here is a laughable and pretty silly article about Hollywood starlets and matrimony from that time:

Six of the Goldwyn girls who adorned Eddie Cantor’s “Kid From Spain,” “Roman Scandals” and other recent hits have called off their vow against matrimony. Jayne Shadduck, Vivian Bannon Keefer, Dolores Casey, Jane Hamilton, Barbara Pepper and Bonny agreed none would wed until all had progressed to be something more than show girls. Most of them had recent bits in Radio’s “Strictly Dynamite.” Miss Shadduck holds a studio contract and now she’s engaged to marry Jack Kirk-land and the other five girls declare it open season for orange blossoms.

This truly is a bit of make-believe – most starlets with no acting experience and no real wish to become the next Sarah Bernhardt didn’t’ come to Hollywood to establish a career – they wanted to have fun  and get married! Let’s not kid ourselves, most of the starlets I profiled here go squarely into this category. If they really wanted to act, they would have gone to a drama school and did theater before landing into movies. There will always be exceptions, but Jayne wasn’t one of them. She was aiming to wed and that was that.

Jayne was preparing a get-out for Hollywood, and get-in for matrimony. She married Jack on march 23, 1934, and left immediately for a honeymoon in Spain.

Like most hasty marriage,s this one ended in a fiasco. They got into an intense tiff and decided to divorce while on their honeymoon. However, when they returned to Los Angeles, the situation changed from day-to-day – one weekend they went from tavern to tavern , dancing and drinking together, the other they were separated and awaiting a divorce.

After an up and down period of about half a year, they finally did divorce in February 1935. Jayne testified that Kirkland often absented himself from home for days without an explanation, and that he was abusive in his language to her. The final decree was to come in February 1936.

However, even after they divorced, Jack and Jayne couldn’t keep their hands of off each other. They still went out regularly and maintained a very flirty and sexy front. The reporters predicted that their divorce would not last for long and that they would remarry. But, well, life operates in strange ways, and this is an interesting story.

During the throes of their post divorce passion, Jayne left for Honolulu for a short break. Kirkland, like a love-struck youth that he was, drove her to the ship and almost forgot to come off before the gang-plank was lifted. he was expecting Jayne to return in a few weeks so they can continue their liaison and probably get married once again. BUT!

A romance that started under a tropical moon in Hawaii in May 1935, and it wasn’t Jack. Jayne and Henry J. Topping, Jr., New York banker and wealthy heir, fell hard for each other, and announced, literary two weeks later, that they will be married next February. I can only imagine how Jack felt, but he didn’t waste any time in finding new swains – he married three more times (to Julie Laird, Halia Stoddard and Nancy Hoadley), sired several children, among them the famous ballerina Gelsey Kirkland, and died on February 22, 1969.

Jayne went to Reno to speed up the nuptials. The press joked that she had to pay extra fare to Reno because Bob Topping’s diamond ring is so big. In Reno, Jayne won a final divorce from Jack Kirkland, on. charges of cruelty and was boarded a night plane for New York to meet Topping. Like in a fairy tale dream, Topping was right on job to greet Jayne when she arrived by air from Reno. Oh, so sweet!

The happy couple wed in August 6, 1935. Bob and Jayne were the town before sailing on that South American honeymoon. After their return from the honeymoon (no honeymoon divorce this time!), they continued living the high life in New York City, a solid part of the local jet set.

One of the first female pilots in the United States, Jayne flew a six-passenger plane from Detroit to New York in 1937, for which she was featured in Life magazine.

However, in August 1937, Bob and Jayne parted! They went to Hawaii together. He returned from Honolulu solo and flew right on to New York. Jayne followed on the next boat and is flew east to woo him back. For the next few months, there was scant information about the couple, but then in October the bomb fell: Topping said he had told his wife,  to “get a divorce.”, but he refused to confirm or deny rumors of a $500,000 settlement. The soap opera continued, with ups and downs, much like her first marriage. Will they or wont’ they?

First, they were being sued by the Wall St. lawyer who once smoothed out their differences. Okay, so they had outside help in the marriage, but it seems that it didn’t work quite as expected. In May 1938, this happened:

The secretly filed divorce action of Henry J. Topping Jr. of Greenwich, big-game hunter and heir to a tin plate fortune, was revealed today when his pretty actress wife, Jayne Shadduck -Topping, petitioned the Superior Court that the action be thrown out. Miss Shadduck, accuses her husband of bad sportsmanship by violating the hard and fast rules of divorce procedure. Topping’s application to sever his marriage is based on grounds of intolerable cruelty and was written into the record last April 25. Apparently the decision to go ahead with the proceedings was delayed, since the original papers were dated April 16. He Charges Cruelty. Topping claims that a year and four days after their marriage, Aug. 6, 1935, in the elopers’ paradise of Armonk, N. Y., his actress wife started to show signs of cruelty. Her acts of cruelty, he states, continued until April 16 of this year.

In reality, Topping wanted to divorce Jayne so he could marry socialite Gloria Mimi Baker, and finally it cost him a pretty cool $500,000. Jayne put the price tag on the marriage and said: pay and get divorce or no pay no divorce. And she got her money. Such was Toppings passion for Gloria. Topping married  three more times after Gloria (to Lana Turner, Arline Judge and Mona Topping) and died on April 21, 1968.

Anyway, Jayne decided, wisely, to stay away from romance and enter the business arena: She said: “I have no romance whatever in my life now. And I’m not interested in romance. I’m interested now in the ice cream business.” In December 1938, she arrived in Hawaii, accompanied by A. Rost, who will be her partner in a Honolulu ice cream business.

Soon, Jayne was a staple in Hawaii and even started to sponsor various sports teams:

Jayne Shadduck Topping Signs Contract To Sponsor Gridders Jayne Shadduck Topping yesterday definitely decided to sponsor a football team composed of ex-college stars next fall, signing a contract to finance the team which will play in the Hawaii Football association, local senior circuit. The aggregation will be known as the Hawaiian Polar Bears. Bob Patrick will be associated with her as advisor, while Francis Brickner will be the business manager. John Masterson, director of the annual East-West Shrine football game, is the Mainland representative with headquarters in San Francisco. He will assist Mrs. Topping and Brickner in contacting and selecting the players. The team wm be selected by July 15

In January 1940, Jayne married her third and last husband, Richard Durant. She settled into a highly satisfactory family life in Hawaii afterwards. Richard Church Durant was born on April 25, 1906, in Great Barrington, Massachusetts to Mr. and Mrs. Clark Durant. He was a sportsman graduate of Yale and Harvard, and became a surgeon who helped found Kaiser Hospital in Hawaii.

The Durant’s daughter, Louise, was born on March 20, 1941. Their son Clark was born in August 1942. Their last child and son Payson was born on March 19, 1951.

Jayne was later embroidered a scandal concerning the divorce of James Roosevelt from his wife – it was the same scandal that touched fellow actress Andrea Leeds:

Denials that they are among the women named in letters from James Roosevelt to his wife were made yesterday by these two former actresses. Andrea Leeds (left), now the wife of Robert S. Howard, a millionaire resident of Palm Springs, Calif., said she “never had a date with the man.” She agreed with Mrs. Richard Durant (right), the former Jayne Shadduck, that the names listed could have referred .to any women so named. ” Her name was one of nine listed in a letter which Mrs. Roosevelt filed with her suit for separate maintenance. Roosevelt’s attorney is expected to file an answer today

Mrs. Durant said she had cabled Roosevelt demanding an Immediate public retraction of “the false, libelous statement” linking her name and his. Mrs. Durant declared today that it does not “exonerate him from the responsibility of smearing innocent person.” She said in a statement “a lot of damage has been done to a lot of innocent people. I cannot condone Mr, Roosevelt ever signing any document containing such damaging lies … in order to extricate himself from his personal problems … no matter what the circumstance.” Mrs. Howard said she felt compelled to make a public statement.

This one is open for debate, but I somehow believe, in this case, where there is smoke there is fire. Why would anyone put a random society woman living for years in Hawaii (by then) on such a list? While there can be some vindictive bastards who would do such things, I somehow think it’s not the case here. If the affair did happen, it happened around 1945, 5 years after Jayne married Richard.

Anyway, Jayne had a rich and varied life in Hawaii. She was vice president of the Hawaii Hotel Association in the early 1950s. She raced canoes with the Kahana-moku brothers and Doris Duke. She was also an ardent angler and landed many big tuna and marlin during fishing trips off Kona and Oahu. She was a member of the Friends of Iolani Palace. Durant was an avid traveler and had seen much of the world with her husband.

The Durants had lived in the penthouse of the Palms Condominium since it was built more in the early 1960s to replace the Palms Hotel. The Na-hua Avenue hotel, which Durant owned and managed, was often the vacation spot for Hollywood celebrities before and after World War ll. All in all, Jayne made quite a life for herself in Hawaii and it seems she led a truly happy existence there.

Richard Durant died in September 1973. Jayne stayed at the island and continued with her civic and professional work.

Jayne Durant died from cancer on May 29, 1993, in Honolulu.  Her last trip was to Kenya in November 1992, after she learned she had cancer. When she died, her grandchildren told these touching lines in her obituary:

Jayne Shadduck Durant, actress, pilot, hotel owner, deep-sea angler, world traveler, lived a life that was larger than life. After she learned last fall that she was terminally ill, she invited granddaughter Sonja Freebairn on a safari to Kenya, then they stopped in London to see some of the new stage shows. “Her life was more packed than anyone’s,” Freebairn said. “She was so much fun to talk to. In all those years, we never had the same conversation twice.” “She was a glamour girl,” said grandson Robert Freebairn.

The grandchildren were learning new things about her this weete as they found magazine and newspaper clippings about Durant’s full life. “She wasn’t a bragger,” said Sonja Freebairn. “She was so low-key about her accomplishments. ;. “She wouldn’t let us do a videotape of her stories. But she knew very much, she never forgot anything,” Robert Freebairn said. One clipping they found was about her piloting a small aircraft, breaking a flight record between Detroit and New; York in 1937. “

She was cremated and her ashes were scattered at sea.

Myrla Bratton

Girls that came to Hollywood in the 1930s could be neatly boxed into a few categories (trained actresses, chorus girls, models, debutantes and so on…). Myrla came from the “beautiful but not trained” background. Most of these girls never amount to much in terms of a career and sadly this goes for Myrla too. But, here is the catch – instead of marrying and settling into sweet domesticity, she decided to stick out on her own as a theater actress. After her acting days were over, she worked as a secretary. Kudos to Myrla and all the women that did more than well for themselves! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Myrla Cook Bratton was born on February 12, 1910 in Cave Spings, Alabama, to William Bratton and Tennie Bell Bratton. She was the oldest of four children – her siblings were Harvey William Bratton, born on March 2, 1912 , Myra Ethel Bratton, born in 1914 and James Leon Bratton born on August 11, 1920. Her father was a farmer.

Myrla and Harvey were taken to live with their maternal grandparents, James and Nancy Danley in Florence, Alabama, in the late 1910s. Myra Ethel remained with her parents, as did James Leon. I can assume money was scarce so the Danleys took care of the two elder children, but it’s only a guess. Myrla grew up around horses and was an accomplished rider from early childhood.

Sadly, William Bratton died in the mid 1920s, living Tennie a widow. The family bunked together once again, and by 1930, Harvey was the keeper of the family, working as a potter.

After graduating from high school, due to hard time and little money, Myrla went to work too. As a typical starstruck teen who dreamed of acting, she got the perfect job as an usherette at the Tivoli Theater in Montogery, AlabamaFrank Dudley, manager of the Tivoli, would later recall her early ambition to “let a break in the movies.” This was in 1930 – by 1933, Myrla was in Hollywood, making movies (to learn more about her path to “stardom”, go to the Private life section).

CAREER

Myrla made her debut in Roman Scandals, a movie that is a literal golden mine if you are looking for shapely Goldwyn girls. The girls aside, it’s a very funny movie, with a good cast and some great dancing numbers – exactly what a quality 1930s musical should be – definitely one of Eddie Cantor’s best work.

A similar snappy, happy musical was Moulin Rouge, where Myrla was again a chorus girl. Same for Wild Gold, a completely forgotten pot boiler where Mryla plays one of the Golden girls (chorines by any other name).

Myrla then tried her luck in the low-budget western arena. She did one full length movie, The Way of the West, where she played the female lead (in most cases, that equally a decorative pretty girl who get kidnapped and screams a lot) and two shorts The Lone Rider and West of the Law. The Way of the wets is allegedly a truly abysmal movie, with a bad script, horrible acting and laughable action sequences. Myrla made one more western, Timber Terrors, where she was billed below the horse (figures, the horse has more acting time than her). Okay, being billed below the horse in a western is not actually that bad – but here, Myrla was billed below the dog. Yes, the dog! obviously this is a western where the dog is more important than the leading lady, so figures!

In the end, Westerns didn’t pay, so Myrla decided to return to dancing. As she was auburn haired, she found her way to the already legendary Redheads on Parade. If you like lavish, huge 1930s musicals, this is for you. Nothing too nifty, but good enough to watch.

Myrla tried her hand at the then popular college musical – the name of the movie is Collegiate (how imaginative), and it’s actually not that bad – the plot is very much predictable (A Broadway playboy inherits an almost bankrupt girls’ school and tries to save it by a big show) and the leading man, Joe Penner, is rightfully completely forgotten today (very annoying, one wonders how anyone in the 1930s found him funny – but hey, they obviously did). However, the day is saved by the ever funny Ned Sparks and the ethereal Frances Langford. Also watch out for an early role of Betty Grable!

Myrla’s last movie was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the censoritis syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that’s it from Myrla!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1929, 19 years old Myrla married R.J. Renfroe in Montgomery, Alabama. Renfroe was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but I couldn’t find anything else about him (how old he was, what was his profession – all a mystery!). On June 17, 1931, Myrla gave birth to a baby boy – unfortunately, the boy died the next day. The Renfroe’s marriage didn’t’ survive this unhappy occurrence – they divorced the next year, and knowing full well how life is short and fickle, Myrla decided to “just do it” – she quit her usherette job and went to Hollywood. Kudos to her brave decision!

By the 1940s, Myrla was out of movies and on the stage In New York City, studying under John Hutchinson and made appearances in the then nascent television industry (but under a different alias I could not find, so no TV credits are known for her). All considering, Myrla did really well for herself, and managed to pave her way into real acting, something not many actresses managed to do.

Myrla married for the second time to a James V. Moriarty on August 30, 1958 in Reno, Nevada. I couldn’t find any concrete information on this particular James, sorry. Unfortunately they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

After her acting career was over, Myrla lived in San Francisco for a time where she worked as a secretary. She later lived in Dallas, Texas, and several years later moved to Billings, Montana. Since she lived alone and was seemingly not in contact with her family, she was transferred to Valley Health Care Center when she became too feeble to take care of herself.
Myrla Cook Bratton died from natural causes on November 16, 1987, in Billings, Montana.

Bonita Barker

Bonita Barker was firmly cast in a Hollywood stereotype – a pretty girl from a good family who wanted to dance since she was a toddler, and slowly her “talents” morph into a wish to become a movie star. Heard that story before? Oh yes, and most of them ended dismally – with the girls in question out of Hollywood before they did anything of worth. Same can be said of Bonita – after three short years and some dancing roles, she retired, married and led a quiet life of domesticity. Let’s hear her story!

EARLY LIFE

Bonita Beryl Barker was born on July 21, 1916, in Rocky, Oklahoma, to Omar Barker and Mable Morris. She was their only child. Her father worked as an automobile salesman, her mother was a housewife.

The family moved to Hobat, Oklahoma, in about 1918, where Bonita attended elementary school, before moving to Ventura, California in the mid 1920s. Her father ditched his auto business and went into the sand/gravel business, again as a salesman. He became quite successful and was an esteemed member of the Ventura society, making Bonita a type of young, up-and-coming socialite.

Bonita caught the dancing bug as a pre teen girl, and always by 1926, when she was barely 10 years old, she was dancing in various local events where the genteel people of Ventura would gather. She was the best pupil at the Meglin Dance Stadio and perhaps one of the few that went into dancing professionally. She became a dancing fixture in town and was well-known for her skills.

Pretty soon, by the early 1930s, she  was appearing in the famous Hollywood Bowl in ballets and in more than a score of amateur and little theater programs all around the US.

In 1933, barely graduated from high school, she was noted by agents and brought to Hollywood.

CAREER

Bonita made her debut in the semi-idiotic musical, It’s Great to Be Alive. Whoa boy what a way to start your Hollywood career! She fared a bit better in her next show, Arizona to Broadway, a very polarizing movie that gets many things right but ultimately goes wrong. Whats starts as a promising story about con-artists trying to con other con-artists melts into a cheap, no-brainer stupidity. Too bad! But still, things got better, and they got even with Dancing Lady. i know this movie is not top of the class, best musical ever made, but I for one love it. Joan Crawford looking her best, playing an independent, strong-willed dancing lady, Franchot Tone as a wealthy suitor plus Clark Gable as a rough around the edges choreographer – whats not to like? And a special bonus – Fred Astaire in one of his earliest movie role! Whauza!

Like tons of other chorines, Bonita appeared in Stand Up and Cheer!, which is less a movie with a normal narrative and more of a pastiche – depends if you like these sort of things – I prefer my movies with more story and characterizations, sho skip! And then Bonita went the usual downhill route – she started to appear in low-budget westerns. I know I may be too critical towards this, but most actresses that went this way ended up nowhere (there are exceptions of course, but Bonita ain’t one of them). The movie was Outlaw’s Highway and there is nothing substantial to be said about it.

Bonita made her first and only college musical (a genre popular back then) in 1934, called College Rhythm. It’s quiet a good example of the genre, with a solid cast and some decent music. The stories are more or less all the same – young people goofing around in college (and nobody ever studies!), but it’s the energy and the charm that count, and this movie has them enough.

After so many happy-go-lucky musicals, Bonita appeared in a bit more serious fare – Rumba – it’s not a cry your eyes out drama, but it’s more than fluff. Leads are played by George Raft and Carole Lombard (who were involved in real life – love there small trivia trinkets!). Unfortunately, it’s a pale version of the superior Bolero (with the same acting team) and with a somehow similar story (Raft is a dancer who comes from the wrong side of the tracks, Carole is a ritzy society girl). Raft can dance, that much is obvious, and Carole is a very capable actress and stunningly beautiful, but the movie lacks bite. One of the reasons is probably the newly minted production code that forced producers and directors to water down most stuff – and the white-hot chemistry between George and Carole was definitely one of them.

The Big Broadcast of 1936  is another of the pastiche musicals – IMHO, skip. There are tons of talented performers here, but that ain’t enough for a truly good viewing experience. Bonita’s last movie, made in 1936 was Anything Goes, an adaptation of a Cole Porter musical with Bing Crosby and Ethel Merman. Yep, this is one of the few movies La Merman appeared in, and this is perhaps the strongest reason to see it. Of course, that isn’t saying much – the movie suffers from the “censoritis” syndrome. We all know how witty and punny Cole was, and the censors hated such a witty and punny men and tried to put them to size any time they could. Yet, there a some good stuff to be enjoyed int he movie, and it’s from the bottom of the barrel.

And that was it from Bonita!

PRIVATE LIFE

When Bonita came to Hollywood, she expressed a particular lack of enthusiasm as far as men are concerned to the papers. This of course was all tell and no-show – girls sometime did this to gather publicity (“she doesn’t want to get married, gasp!!” effect).

Bonita’s first Hollywood beau was Sammy Finn, who was toting her around the Club Colony for months but it didn’t get to the altar.

Like most young, unestablished starlets, Bonita appeared in the fashion and coiffure columns with some frequency. here is an example:

A coiffure like Bonita Barker’s would be becoming to you. The hair is parted on the right side, combed off the brow with a curl coming down over the left temple to the eyebrow, a wave below this and curled ends over the ears.

Bonita also wrote about her eating habits. Due to being in the chorus, she had to work long hours and did strenuous dance routines, and dieting too much just didn’t cut it out for her. As they said about chorines:

A dainty little sandwich and a soda may be good for the thinning office girl at noon, but not enough for the girls who want to keep their curves to stay in the chorus, these days. These screen dancers must eat, to regain the weight they lose daily in their work, and eat they do, even if it’s a soda between meals.

It seems that Bonita was a serious antiques collector. Her prized possession was pipe with a twenty-six-inch stem which once belonged to Emperor Frederick III, father of Kaiser Wilhelm. Famous director Lewis Stone used to smoke from it when Bonita loaned it to Paramount.

In the late 1930s, Bonita got engaged to Oren William Haglund , and actor and former husband of Warner bros actress Priscilla Lane . Oren and Priscilla were married for one day sharp – imagine what an awkward marriage that was. A wedding date between Oren and Bonita was set, but never reached. Yup, they never married. Who knows what happened between them, although Hollywood is notoriously cheap in this department – engagement were made and broken almost daily, like something extremely mundane.

Bonita traveled extensively after her Hollywood career. She visited Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Europe several times. In fact, she was in Italy when WW2 started – she returned to the US from Genoa just a few days after September 1st. In 1940, she visited Cuba.

Bonita married Bennett Albert Robinson on October 7, 1941 in Los Angeles. Bennett was born on February 12, 1906, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Louis Robinson and Rose Waxler. He studied to become a chiropractor and moved to Los Angeles for work. It was the first marriage for both.
Bennett was drafted into the US army on August 20, 1942, but after serving for a few years came back happily home (sometime before 1945).
Bonita gave up marriage to devote her life to her husband and family. The couple had one child together (couldn’t find the name, sadly). They lived in California where Bennett worked as a chiropractor.
Bennett Robinson died on July 10, 1982, in Los Angeles, California.
Bonita Barker died on May 11, 2006 in California.

Eleanor Prentiss

Eleanor Prentiss is one of those actresses who came to Hollywood owning to her looks, with absolutely no acting experience, and then fell in love not with the glitz and glamour of Tinsel town, but with the gentle art of acting itself. Eleanor thus became an serious theater actress and went into self imposed movie exile, without achieving any Hollywood success and frankly not even caring about it. Let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Eleanor Josephine Johnson was born on October 7, 1911, in Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Edward H. Johnson and Ruth Stockman. She was the oldest of three children – her younger siblings were twins Wallace and Olive, born in 1913. Her father was an attorney.

She attended public schools in Fort Dodge, and then went to Iowa State College. While at university she majored in physical education. After graduation, she went to live and work in Chicago. In 1933, wearing the colors of the Lake Shore Athletic club, won the fifty yard dash in the Central A. A. U. swimming championships for women. Due to her exquisite blonde visage, Eleanor was selected by a group of prominent artists to represent a large soap company at the Chicago Fair.

Upon completing this assignment she decided to try her hand at acting and went to Hollywood. Her first contract was with a company producing Western pictures and she was starred in two of these films. Unfortunately I could not find any information about these movies, as she made them under a different  name.

Her all ’round athletic prowess stood her in good stead. An excellent horsewoman, it was predicted that she would be the greatest female Western star, but fate intervened again and she was chosen in a Los Angeles newspaper contest as the girl with the most beautiful face in California. This led to another motion-picture contract and here we go!

CAREER

Eleanore’s first known movie on IMDB is Thin Ice, the oh-happy -happy-happy Sonja Henie musical. You probably know by now, if you read this blog, that I am not a big Henie fan and find her movies brainless and only mildly entertaining. Thin ice is probably better than most, but still not good enough. Luckily, Eleanore’s next movie is a better type of musical (IMHO) – Something to Sing About, starring none other than the incomparable James Cagney!  Cagney always nails it as a dancer, and the same is true here – his wild kinetic energy just slips of him in doves when he does anything physical, especially dance! The plot is simple enough (a New York hoofer becomes a Hollywood star), and the solid music, good dancing and a decent cast make this a minor hit.

Her next movie, In Old Chicago, wasn’t too shabby either 😛 . A typical old school movie of quality, it boasts a very effective love triangle in the form of Tyrone Power, Alice Faye and Don Ameche, and an intriguing story based of the great San Francisco fire of 1871. Pair that with good production values and sturdy film making, and we have a winner!

Eleanor’s last movie, made in 1943, was Let’s Face It, a funny and breezy Bob Hope/Betty Hutton vehicle. Originally a very risqué comedy with plenty of sexual subtext, (the plot says it all:  if jealous wives pretending to have their own love nest to get revenge on their philandering husbands. Involved in their schemes are soldier Bob Hope and fat farm proprietor Betty Hutton, creating marital discord and getting hope in hot water with the army.). Sadly, it was watered down to a benign and not especially smart comedy, but Bob Hope make sit work.

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Eleanor married her first husband, Earl Cooke, in Champagne, Illinois, in 1934. The marriage broke up by early 1936, and in 1937, so frequently seen with Nat Pendleton that people started to think the two were pretty serious. Pendelton aside, Eleanor filed suit for divorce charging her husband with punching her on the chin without provocation. She won her divorce in May 1937, claiming her husband threw her down the stairs on their first wedding anniversary. It seems that Eleanor managed to escape an abusive man, and good for her!

In 1940, Eleanor married for the second time, to Herschel Bentley. Born James Herschel Mayall on September 25, 1907, he was a noted theater actor from the late 1920s. The couple lived in New York.

After her movie career ended, Eleanor carved a theatrical career for herself in New York. Here is a short excerpt:

Most ordinary people would have been contented with this rather meteoric rise in their affairs, but not Eleanor. She wanted to become an actress and be known for her acting ability rather than her athletic qualities. In respect to this she says, “I put the cart before the horse and now I have to try and reverse it.” Suiting the action to the desire she got a release from her contract to come to New York to study dramatic art and in addition to her modeling she attends classes at the Moscow Art Theater three days a week. She has made a great deal of progress and now has a contract with a summer stock company for this season. At the present time she feels that her great love. is the theater and until she has become a success on Broadway she says she will not return to the movies, no matter how attractive the offer may be.

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

Eleanor came to our office with the same determination to be a success in this business that she has to be a success on the stage. She says that next to the stage she prefers modeling, because she finds that it gives her a real chance to display her dramatic ability. Artists like her particularly because she is a great help to them in improvising interesting poses. She is one of the few girls whom we didn’t have to tell how to make up. She is natural in her appearance and knows the value of it. She has excellent posture and she thinks that these two things are more than half the battle. “Walk with chin up and shoulders back and people will notice you. Be slovenly and you are one of the mob.” That is her advice to all women.

Eleanor settled into the summer stock/theater life and seemed very happy with it. Unfortunately, her marriage with Herschel disintegrated in 1948, and they divorced in 1949. Herschel remarried in 1952 to Isabella Hunnewell Lee Livingston and died on August 15, 1991.

Eleanor acted in her last Broadway play in 1948, and from then on she did some regional theater until her retirement.

Eleanor continued living in New York after her retirement. As far as I can tell, she didn’t remarry and had no children.

Eleanor Johnson Prentiss died on August  14, 1979. She was buried in Fort Dodge, Iowa.

Margo Woode

Margo Woode is great proof that it’s sometimes better not to take Hollywood too seriously, and try to bend its rules to suit your needs rather than the other way around – after some minor success, Margo left Tinsel town, devoted herself to family and other pursuits but still returned to movies when she had a chance. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Margo Ketchum was born on April 11, 1922, in Phoenix, Arizona, to Raymond Ketchum and Alma Odell Bumph. Her older brother Raymond Sr. was born on October 6, 1920 and died four days later. Her father worked as an embalmer and undertaker. Newspapers later claimed that  Margo was of royal Indian descent , the great-granddaughter of a full-blooded Cherokee princess. I didn’t go that far in the family tree to try to verify it, but it’s entirely possible.

Margo grew up like any normal, happy child in  Phoenix and attended North Phoenix High School.  Luckily for Margo, her uncle was prominent dance teacher, Gene Bumph, and she studied at his Gene Bumph School of Dancing. She was discovered when she was 18 by Fred Astaire and began her film career that year under the direction of Hermes Pan. Darryl F. Zanuck signed her to a 20th Century-Fox contract and of she went to Hollywood!

CAREER

Margo had an uncredited role in Springtime in the Rockies, a cheery musical, in 1942, and then took a hiatus until 1945, when her career really took steam (eh, it didn’t blow full steam like with Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, but it’s better than most others). She appeared in The Bullfighters, a lesser Stan Lauren/Oliver Hardy comedy, the classical musical State Fair and had all of her scenes deleted in The Spider, but fortunately for Margo, the movie turned out to be mediocre and is more or less completely forgotten today.

Then, suddenly, Margo made a string of three movies that woodlice remain her only claim to fame in any shape or form. From an uncredited glorified extra, she actually had solid roles in solid pictures.

Somewhere in the Night remains Margo’s masterpiece. The movie itself is a minor classic, and Margo gave the bets role of her career in it. Somewhere in the night is one of those rare few noir that never reached cult status, but remain stunningly good films, with a strong metaphysical undercurrent and almost archetypal storytelling. Joseph Mankiewicz took a solid story, spins it the right way and made a dark, compelling and intense movie. What starts as a story of a traumatized veteran soldier ends up a meditation on identity and consequences of war. Unfortunately, this is still a B production, and what it lacks is a top-level leading man – John Hodiak is good, but he never managed to make a lasting impression, at least to me, in any of the movies I saw. Same for the leading lady, Nancy Guild, as stunning beauty but not a smoldering femme fatale at any rate (although she does play the good girl, but these characters tended to be boring). Yet, the supporting cast is excellent. Here we see the full power of the Hollywood studio system – so many good characters actor sin one place!

Margo appeared in another B effort, It Shouldn’t Happen to a Dog. This one is more of a curiosity than a particularly good movie – made right after the war ended, we have this neither here nor there period when women still stood up for men in various jobs that would, just a few years later, become forbidden fruit. It is interesting to see Carole Landis as a female police inspector. In 1947, Margo appeared in Moss Rose, a serviceable 19th century drama/action movie with the alluring Peggie Cummings in the leading role. Just when Margo gained some momentum, it all stopped. She took an acting hiatus to give birth to two children an never made a movie that topped these three.

She returned to the Hollywood fold in 1950. She had the smallest role in No Sad Songs for Me, a cry-your-eyes out soaped with Margaret Sullavan (the woman was a dynamo, that’s for sure), then in When You’re Smiling,  a cheap and so-so Columbia musical with Frankie Laine. And then Margo disappeared again, to live in Phoneix, Arizona.

She did some minor television work in 1952, and then returned to Phoenix once again. She was Hollywood bound in 1957, and appeared in two movies – Bop Girl Goes Calypsoa kitschy, tasteless, cheap calypso musical, the sole reason to watch is to see Judy Tyler on-screen (she died at the tragically young age of 23 so not a lot of her movies left), and Hell Bound, a much better  film noir – despite it’s very humble C movie roots, it’s actually a powerful mediation on the world after WW2. John Russell is very good as a mobster hell bend on getting a cargo of drugs the military want to get rid of so he can sell them and get major money pretty quick. Margo plays his girlfriend who gets up her neck in trouble. Margo had a knack for playing in film noir, but sadly this proved to be her last foray into the genre. She sis some minor Tv work, and returned to film only in 1961, with The Touchables, a low-budget nudie movie. Margo’s last movie, Iron Angel, was made in 1964.

PRIVATE LIFE

When she came to Los Angeles, Margo began studying with acting legend Maria Ouspenskaya and caught the excitement of true acting. She ducked her dancing contract and made a bid for an acting contract, and this determined the course her career took later.

There was a bit of drama in Margo’s love life. Namely, her first serious Hollywood beau was Les Clark, a former vaudeville actor who rose to become a movie actor and ultimately a dance director. He was born in 1905, making him a bit older than Margo. They kept their relationship under wraps, but the general consensus was that they were going to get hitched sooner rather than later. Here is an article about I.

Reason pretty Margo Woode won’t play ball with studio publicists is because she’s secretly engaged to Les Clark, an actor

And then, all of a sudden… On July 22, 1948, Margo married proficient manager Bill Burton. They got engaged in April 1948. Literary a few months after making the papers with Clark, she was first engaged and them married to another man. Whoa, I would love to have heard what happened behind the scenes here, what made Margo make such a 180 turn. Here is a very revealing article form the period:

Les Clark, the dance director, and Marion Marshall, the Fox Star let, are going steady. He’s the lad his pals thought would marry Margo Woode until Bill Burton moved in

So, Les was probably blinded-sided with the breakup. Poo guy, but then again, who knows what exactly happened in the background. Anyway, little is known about what Les did afterwards, except that he lived for a time in the UK and died in 1959 in London.

Margo and Bill Burton honeymooned in New York. Margo also requested from her lawyers to end her contract to 20th Century-Fox. It seems a movie career took second place to something else. Burton was Margo’s manager – he was formerly manager for Dick Haymes, Maureen O’Hara, Margaret Whiting, Ray Noble, and Piano Students.

On May 3, 1948, Margo gave birth to a son, Niles Bruce. Margo gave birth to a daughter, Karen Nini, at Santa Monica on August 31, 1949. When Karen was about one year old that they decided to give up the hectic Hollywood lifestyle for something more family friendly and laid back. Burton as an agent had an especially gruelling schedule and as he was getting older, it was deemed that for his health, he should take it easy. So they decided to move to her hometown, Phoneix, Arizona.

Margo gave up her career last year so that her children might grow up in the “friendly warmth” of Phoenix. Burton, restless as he was by nature, didn’t last long in retirement he held out six weeks. And took the reins of KPHO as an executive-producer.

Margo commuted to Hollywood when it was needed. Sadly, her husband died n the late 1950s (could not find the exact date, but I’m guessing about 1959 or 1960).

After Bill’s death, Margo continued her acting career, but she was in Hollywood only sporadically. During one visit, she met another former student of her uncle, Ron Beckett. He was dancing in “Damn Yankees,” “Silk Stockings,” and on the Guy Mitchell Show. They hit it of right away, and married not long after. After their marriage, they decided to come back to Phoenix (where it’s fun to raise children), and take over Gene Bumph’s dance school. Thus, Margo and Ron were co-partners in their dance studios. Here is a short article about their school:

Margo Woode, Dancer, Star Of Pictures And Television, Local Housewife with Betty Grable and Harry James in “Springtime in the Rockies.” And for those who’ve lived here not quite that long, she was the wife of our first television station manager, Bill Burton in the midst of all the excitement our first television caused around here. “I’ve retired from show business half a dozen times,” laughs the pretty matron, mother of Gigi, 2, Bruce, 16, and Karen, 14. “I just keep slipping back into it.” man, or any other, or you will find yourself 21 years old with TWO failures. Now she runs a dancing school with her husband, Ron. Margo and Ron believe that dancing is wonderful for children, parents, and grandparents. Their-youngest student is 3, their oldest 83.

Beckett-Bumph School of the Dance was located at the 4741 N. Central Ave. The Beckett were great professional partners, but their private life also blossomed. Their daughter Gigi was born on August 3, 1962. It seems that it was a good life, in sunny Phoneix.

According to IMDB, Margo is still alive today, at 96 years old.

 

Tanis Chandler

Unlike many starlets, Tanis Chandler came from an upper class background, and when she decided to crack Hollywood, she hired a good enough publicist to do a major publicity stunt – namely, try to sell herself as a man! In time or actor-shortage (due to the war), this otherwise pathetic stunt worked, and Tanis found herself playing leading roles in B movies. Sadly, she never broke the mold to become a true success, and retired after marrying.

EARLY LIFE

Anne Scott Goldwhaite was born in Nantes, France, on August 20, 1924, to Henry Chandler Goldwhaite and Leone Lorfray DeRousier. Her father was a noted American pianist, organist, composer and conductor. He used this name for classical concert work but adopted the name of Rex Chandler for popular music work. Tanis’ mother was French. She had a younger sister, Patricia, born in 1929.

Tanis was educated in Paris, with private tutors, and at the Westlake School for Girls in Los Angeles. For a brief time she was educated in Mexico City, where she learned to speak Spanish. From earliest childhood, Tanis had an interesting calendar: Four months of each year she spent in the United States with her father, whose professional work required these visits; three months of each year were spent in England for the same reason. The rest of the year the family resided with Tanis grandmother in Nantes or in the apartment they maintained in Paris.

In 1936 the Chandlers came to New York, planning to reside permanently in the United States. Tanis’ father conducted the Ford and other radio shows, then became seriously ill. Forced to help out on the family finances, Tanis became a model while going to school. She worked for Powers, also free-lanced, appearing in many well-known advertisements extolling nationally known products. She continued this work when she came to Hollywood.

CAREER

Tanis started her career as a woman in uncredited role for RKO. her first appearance was in Higher and Higher, one of the few films where Hollywood tried to capitalize on the alluring Michele Morgan, then a major French movie star. What can I say, Hollywood totally failed to use this incredible actress, and she languished in low quality productions for a few short years int he mid 1940s. This movie is one of those – thus, unless you want to see Michele, not really worth watching.

Then came Janie, one of those idealized, thus completely unrealistic family movies Hollywood made during the War to keep up the moral – all the kids are wonderful, all the parents are wonderful, all the families are perfect. But still, they usually are heart warming, touching movie,s despite their lack of plausibility. Here we have Joyce Reynolds, forgotten by time and everybody else, and Robert Hutton ditto), so the cast isn’t even top-tier. Saving grace is definitely Ann Harding! Love her! She played mother roles by then, and she was superb in it, just like in anything else she appeared in. Similar in theme and feel was Music for Millions, another cutie pie musical, this time with Margaret O’Brien and June Allyson.

Tanis became a man for Wanderer of the Wasteland, a Zane Grey western. No comment needed.

Tanis was one of the tons of girls in George White’s Scandals. Tanis appeared in Cornered, a solid but not outstanding film noir with Dick Powell. Worse for wear was Dick Tracy, first of the low-budget series, but Tanis’ movie got better by a narrow margin.

Then came a role in The Madonna’s Secret. Now, this is an example of a movie that actually outshines its modest origins – concocted as a B movie with a slight story and no big acting names in it, a sturdy director, good cinematographer and capable actors make it work, and warrant it a watching many years after it was made. Next was lackluster Cinderella Jones, followed by the Bronte sisters biopic, Devotion. Not the best biopic ever made, but a good one nonetheless.

Tanis was then in Ding Dong Williams, a piece of silly, nonmemorable movie making. Another not quite memorable movie was The Catman of Paris, where she was even credited, but this sub par copy of Cat people didn’t raise anyone’s profile, Tanis included. She had a leading female role in Shadows Over Chinatown, a Charlie Chan movie, so we can say that at least Charlie Chan enthusiasts know her name.

Unlike many actresses on this site, Tanis appeared in a bona fide classic – The Big Sleep. She had a small role as a waitress, but this is still enough to warrant cinematic greatness (ha ha).

The rest of Tanis career is actually impressive, considering her modest starts – she played leading, or at least credited roles, despite the quality of the movies being dubious (to put it mildly).

For instance, Spook Busters, a Bowery brothers movie, perfect for boys of 13-14, and not much else… And then Affairs of Geraldine, the forgotten Jane-Withers-charms-everybody movie. And Jane always plays overgrown teenagers… it got a bit better with another Charlie Chan, The Trap. And then there was Lured, a very good thriller made by (surprise!) Douglas Sirk. Yes, the same Douglas Sirk who did glossy female melodramas like Michelangelo did statues. And yes, there is more to Sirk than it meets the eye! And an outstanding cast – Lucille Ball, George Sanders, Boris Karloff

After such a good movie, The Spirit of West Point seems like a total letdown, and ditto for 16 Fathoms Deep, an insipid, no very original underwater adventure film with a B cast and C production values. Tanis was playing leads – just not in the best movie, it seemed. from 1949 until 1952 Tanis was busy in TV production, and made her two last movies in 1951 and 1952 respectively.

The first, According to Mrs. Hoyle was a cheap Monogram programmer where Spring Byington, as an elderly schoolteacher, tried to reform some jaded criminals. Sounds wacky? Oh yes, but Spring is a gem and worth watching almost anywhere. Tanis’ last movie, At Sword’s Point, was a fun and breezy swashbuckler with Maureen O’Hara and Cornel Wilde – while it’s not a bad movie by any stretch of imagination, it’s hard to distinguish it from the hundreds of similar swashbuckler movies.

And that was it from Tanis!              

PRIVATE LIFE

Tanis was 5 feet 5 inches tall and weighed 119 pounds. She had deep blue eyes and lovely taffy-colored hair.

During her childhood Tanis wrote fiction and poetry and enjoyed considerable success in selling it. She still wrote during her Hollywood years, but only as a hobby but no longer made a serious effort to sell her work. She was interested in music for the pure enjoyment it affords, and in drawing and painting. Also she also spoke French and Spanish fluently. Due to her knack with languages, she did the French dubbing for about 30 foreign versions of pictures.

While attempting to get a foothold in Hollywood, Tanis supplemented her modeling with more than a year’s work in a Beverly Hills stock brokerage firm. Except this, she also did a teaching stint at the Goldthaite school, a kindergarten with an enrollment of 30 children, which she and her mother operated on the famed Sunset Strip in the 1950s. Also, another part-time job – modeling! Besides appearing inside the stylish magazines regularly and on numerous covers, she commuted between Paris and New York offices of the magazines with all expenses paid.

Tanis hit the papers for the first time in 1944, where she was a subject of a clever PR stunt (I refuse to believe it was anything else). take a look:

Pretty Miss Tanis Chandler did all right in masculine film roles, until she got a part as an un-shirted laborer. Then Miss Chandler had to say “no,” and tell Warner Bros, she was really a girl. She explained that she had tired of her job as a teletype operator and had capitalized on the current shortages of male extras. But before the unmasking, she successfully portrayed the role of a sheik in “The Desert Son”–her curves concealed by a long flowing Arab robe.

While they claims that she is earnest tried to sell herself offas a man, I highly doubt this – okay, if Tanis was a sturdy woman whose built at least went on the stronger side – but she was a slip of a thing, weighting a bit more than 100 pounds – such delicate man and few and far between. So, while it was possible, I do think was a stunt to make her more recognizable for the movie going public. It’s not like Hollywood never did such shenanigans. It was this, plus her voice, that landed her a contract with RKO.  Allegedly, an executive studio heard her voice on one of the first OWI programs to General MacArthur’s invasion troops and Filipino guerillas on Luzon, learned who she was and hired her.

In 1945, wealthy heir Bill Hollingsworth was often seen with Tanis. He even took her mother dining, meaning it was serious. She spent her 21st birthday with Bill, but by next month she was with Paul Brooks at Lyman’s. John Auer came next, but he didn’t last that long. In 1946, Tanis was seen with Al Herd at the Trocadero with some frequency.

In 1948, Tanis made headlines for an unfortunate accident. Here it is:

Blond screen actress Tanis Chandler was resting Monday following a brush with a leopard. She suffered gashes on her arm Sunday when attacked by the big cat at Trader Horn’s wild animal farm. Miss Chandler, who is starring in a film titled “Gee, I Tamed a Lion,” was training for the role when she was attacked

In 1949 Tanis was quite serious about attorney Milton Golden, and was a speaker at several woman’s gatherings, describing her recent trip to France and Belgium.

Tanis Chandler and Milton were quite strong for a time, going to double dates with Barbara’ Lawrence and Turhan Bey. Unfortunately, this also failed in the long run and they broke up in 1950.

In 1952, Tanis married music publisher Paul Mills. Here is an article about her wedding:

The lovely bride is the daughter of Mrs. Chandler Goldthwaite and the late Mr. Goldthwaite and her bridegroom’s parents are Mr. and Mrs. Irving Mills. Newlywed Mrs. Mills, known professionally as Tanis Chandler, was given in marriage by Harold Lloyd. Her wedding gown was fashioned of ivory-pink satin and a band of pale pink rosebuds held her shoulder-length veil of heirloom Brussels lace. She carried a cascade of stephanotis and pink miniature roses. Tanis and Paul left for a honeymoon in Northern California after the wedding

Paul Mills was born in 1922, in Pennsylvania, to Irving and Bessie Mills, one of seven children. He grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he got into the music scene, and ended up in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.

On May 30, 1952, Tanis gave birth to a daughter, Amy Beth. Three years later, on May 14, 1955 a second daughter, Priscilla Leone, was born. Tanis happily slid into family life, far away from Hollywood and newspapers.

Paul Mills died in 1999.

Tanis Chandler Mills died on May 7, 2006, in Sedona, Arizona.