And we continue with the charming Yank Pin Up girls…
There is almost nothing about May Moniz on the web. Yet, she was the only Yank Cover girl to come out of Hawaii, where WW2 started for the US.
This is almost the only article I could find about May:
There are some outstanding reasons why May Moniz, who is only 17 years old, has already become one of the most photographed lovelies on Oahu – as any fool can plainly see. Her talents include dancing in various USO shows which have toured the island, as well as sitting around swimming pools occupying black silk bathing suits like this. BRIEF hereby endorses any world planner who will include May – or a reasonable facsimile – as one plank in a Postwar Plan for the Returning Soldier. The photo is by our incredible Cpl Harold Klee, who spent two long years out here photographing Oahu beauties as a hobby. He is now Down Under, where his opportunities are slightly more curtailed.
Who was May? It’s just a uneasy coincidence that there were 2 May Monizes in Hawaii, both born in 1928 in Honolulu. Which one is our May I have no idea. One lived with her widowed mother, younger sister and lodgers, the other with her aunt and uncle and younger sister.
What I do know is that May was supposed to graduate from Roosevelt High School in Honolulu and then relocate to New York to become a model. During the war, she danced along with her fellow Hawaiian girls in The Flanderettes, a USO troupe directed by Josephine Flanders. Unfortunately, all mentions of May afterwards are nonexistent.
May L. Moniz died in 1984 in Hawaii, and it’s very much open to discussion if this is our May.
Sylvia Opert was born in 1924, in Johannesburg, South African Republic, daughter of Maurice and Fannie Opert, Lithuanian immigrants. The family moved to California several years after her birth (and lived there at least from 1929). Maurice and Fannie divorced in the mid 1930s, and Sylvia stayed with her mother. The two lived in Beverly Hills, with Sylvia working as a dancer since high school. She danced ballet originally, and by 1940 was a part of the Ada Broadbent Ballet troupe.
Various newspaper articles claimed she studied music and composition in France and Switzerland. While this could be true, it means that she lived in the US and commuted to France and Switzerland during the 1930s. Sylvia spoke flawless French, and this later helped her land movie roles. She also specializes in exotic and native dances, as he filmography can readily show.
She made her movie debut in 1942, in Road to Morocco. Her next movie was Happy Go Lucky, a breezy, simple and very endearing Dick Powell musical. His co-star is Mary martin, who worked better in theater than she ever did on film, but she was truly no slouch! The plot is typical for the genre – Martin plays a gold digger who wants to nag a rich husband. Powell plays a beach boy who sees right through her, but decided to help her to spite his long time enemy (rich yacht boy, played by Rudy Vallee). but true highlight of the movie is the pairing of Eddie Bracken and Betty Hutton. Boy, those were some dynamos! Then came Background to Danger, tightly plotted, well made spy thriller. Yep, it’s a Casablanca rip off, but like most rip offs, it never hits the high ground. Perhaps part of the reason lies in George Raft, a menacing man who could do wonders on the screen but not a particularly good actor (imagine him in Shakespearean plays! Exactly!). The supporting cast is top notch and worth of better leads like Humphrey Bogart – Sydney Greenstreet, Peter Lorre, Brenda Marshall. It never was and never will be a top-tier movie, but it’s a decent example of the genre and keeps you on the edge of the seat.
And of course, like many others in Hollywood, Sylvia appeared in Thank Your Lucky Stars. She then had a small but memorable role in The Desert Song. She took some time of to get married, but as soon as she divorced, she was back in the saddle with two short features – Princess Papaya and Dance Comique. Sylvia’s last movie was Devotion, about the lives of the Bronte sisters. It’s a typical over the top drama, Hollywood style, but nobody can say that Olivia de Havilland and Ida Lupino are not good actresses – their warm and engaging performances give the movie a shining quality it otherwise wouldn’t deserve. The supporting cast is pretty good also – Sydney Greenstreet, Nancy Coleman, Arthur Kennedy, Dame May Whitty.
In 1944, there were stories that LeRoy Prinz discovered her while eating lunch in the studio commissary. Again, I assume this is just a publicity plot, as Sylvia was a seasoned dancer who did her bit, not a wide eyed starlet who just came to Hollywood hoping for a lucky break. That beak sadly never came, and her movie career ended in 1946. She continued dancing in revenues and nightclubs, but most probably gave up her career upon her second marriage in 1946.
Now something about her private life. Sylvia married Newell O. Roberts on April 30, 1943. Roberts was born on August 7, 1916, in Texas. A medical doctor, he enlisted into the army in 1940, and later became a Captain, serving in the 94th Fighter Squadron with 5 victories. I guess this was a typical wartime marriage between two people who hardy knew each other. Accordingly, the marriage lasted only a short time and they divorced in 1945. Roberts returned to his native Texas after the war, and went on to marry Carolyn Ann Roberts in 1956, divorce her and then marry Patricia A. Winkler in 1969, and later divorce her in 1979. He died on June 6, 2010, in Comal, Texas.
Sylvia moved fast onto her next husband. On January 15, 1946 she married Jack H. Spiro. Spiro was born on November 24, 1906 (making him almost 20 years older than Sylvia) in Pennsylvania, to Louis and Sadie Spiro. They moved to New York, where he worked as a jewelry salesman. The couple settled in Los Angeles. They had two sons, Lee Mark, born on December 14, 1949, and Richard Martin, born on August 20, 1954. They divorced sometime after 1954. Spiro died on January 3, 1976.
In December 1967, Sylvia married Harvey Bernstein. They divorced in April 1969. On May 1, 1974, she married a Mr. Strauss or a Nathan Boxer in Dade, Florida.
Unfortunately, I could not find any additional information about Sylvia, so I have no idea if she is alive or dead. As always, I hope she had a good life.
Helen Darling was born on April 7, 1924, in Concordia, Kansas, to Edward and Arby Darling. She had an older sister, Dorothy, born in 1909, and an older brother, Daniel. Her parents were already in middle age when she was born – her mother was 45, her father 54. She grew up in Concord. Both of her parents died by 1937, and she was adopted by the Smith family. She lived with them until 1941, when she relocated to Los Angeles to live with her brother Dan and his wife. She graduated from high school in Los Angeles and started to work as a model by 1942.
Helen was allegedly discovered by fashion designer Don Loper in 1943, and this catapulted her to Hollywood. She then worked with Don Red Barry on his show, and started a movie career not long after. Her filmography is full of low-budget westerns (Canyon City, Pistol Packin’ Mama, California Joe, Outlaws of Santa Fe, Song of Nevada, San Fernando Valley, Corpus Christi Bandits, Lone Texas Ranger, Bells of Rosarita, Trail of Kit Carson, Song of Mexico, Don’t Fence Me In ) which I will not even try to review as everybody who reads the blog knowns of my dislike for the subgenre.
Her other movies were a mixed bag at best. She appeared in Up in Arms (after all this time, this movie pops up again and again) and Rosie the Riveter, both light fare but fun movies. And then came a horror, The Lady and the Monster, bases on Curt Siomdak’s novel, Donovan’s Brain. The plot: In a rural castle two medical men and a woman assistant are experimenting with brain chemistry and energy. After an airplane crash, they take a human brain of one of the victims to continue their work. The brain is of a criminal mind that gradually takes over the medical assistant’s mind periodically to do more evil. The movie is polarizing in so many ways – it has decent direction and very good set design. Cinematography is also on the level. However, the actors are a mixed bag here. Erich Von Stronheim is as menacing as always, but Richard Arlen is a tad stiff and Vera Ralston is, as always, absolutely terrible. It’s not a particularly god movie, but a watchable one. The 1953 remake with Lew Ayres is superior in every way.
Helen appeared in two Jane Withers vehicles, first Faces in the Fog, a long forgotten but actually not-the-worst movie about two youngsters who fall in love and everybody and everything stands in the way of their happiness, and then in Affairs of Geraldine, a similar convoluted love story. Swingin’ on a Rainbow was another Jane Frazee musical, low-budget but pleasing enough.
She also did appear in two serials, which are her only claim to fame today: . The info is taken from the superb Files of Jerry Blake site:
Sooner or later, most of Republic’s contract players found themselves cast in a serial, and Helen was no exception. The first of her two chapter plays was 1945’s Federal Operator 99, which starred Marten Lamont as Jerry Blake, a FBI agent out to capture the suave master criminal Jim Belmont (George J. Lewis), and co-starred Talbot as Joyce Kingston, Blake’s trusty secretary and assistant. The serial’s plot consisted of a series of duels between Belmont–who concocted various impressive heists only to be thwarted by the federal agent–and Blake–who kept checkmating Belmont but failing to capture him. This cat-and-mouse game was augmented by a clever script, some excellent action scenes and some innovative cliffhanger sequences, several of which centered around Helen’s character. The indefatigable Joyce was almost perpetually endangered throughout the serial, but managed to survive a cremation chamber, avoid being shredded by an airplane propeller, and escape rolling off a cliff in a laundry basket. While Talbot’s youthful and ingenuous appearance kept her from seeming entirely convincing as an FBI operative, it also made her character instantly appealing; the audience found it easy to be concerned about this sweet-looking girl’s perils.
Her second serial was King of the Forest Rangers. Another quote:
Talbot’s second and final serial was King of the Forest Rangers (Republic, 1946). One of the last Republic serials filmed largely on location (in the picturesque pine woods of California’s Big Bear Lake), this cliffhanger dealt with the attempts of the villainous Professor Carver (Stuart Hamblen) to get his hands on valuable minerals concealed in some ancient Indian towers. Forest ranger Steve King (Larry Thompson) investigated the crimes spawned by Carver’s schemes, with the help of local trading post proprietor Marion Brennan (Helen Talbot). A good serial that could have been better, King of the Forest Rangers featured two rather lackluster leading performances; hero Thompson was low-key to the point of dullness, while villain Hamblen was too unthreatening in voice and appearance to make his character suitably sinister. However, both actors received an assist from their energetic aides–Hamblen from nasty henchman Anthony Warde and Thompson from the chipper Helen, whose wholesome, “All-American” good looks suited the serial’s rustic, outdoorsy milieu nicely.
And now for some private life information. In early 1944, Helen was deeply involved with Don “Red” Barry, and they were engaged in August 1944. They dated for a few months more, and were often seen around town in various posh restaurants. Barry was known as a charismatic man, but with a nasty temper and an over inflated ego.
Thus, it came as so surprise to me that, in the end, Helen married her high school chum, Richard M. Hearn, in the mid 1945. Hearn was a navy flyer during the war. They moved to South Bend, Iowa where he attended Notre Dame University and earned his degree in Corporate Law before returning to West Los Angeles.
Her daughter Kathleen Mary Hearn was born on November 15, 1950 in Los Angeles. Hearn died in about 1962. In 1969 Helen married Larry Bailey, owner of a bakery in Northridge, California. Larry died about 1980 and Helen moved to La Jolla, California.
Helen Darling Bailey died on January 29, 2010, in La Jolla, California.