Marvelle Andre

Marvelle Andre was blonde, pert and cute, with great riding skills and enough charm to make a make a name for herself in Tinsel town, at least as a rider and stand-in. Unfortunately this did not propel her into more substantial acting roles, but she was a very active participant in Hollywood life for a time. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alta Marvelle Anderson was born on May 12, 1919 in Kansas City, Kansas, to Harry Anderson and Hazel Hiatt. She was their only child. Her father was an auto mechanic who managed his own workshop.

The family moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma when Marvelle was just a baby (in late 1919), then to Long Beach, California by 1930. Marvelle attended high school there and developed a strong interest in the performing arts. Being around horses and sharp shooting were her favorite hobbies – as a result she was a champion horse rider that took parts in rodeos and other horse shows. She was also a crack shot with a rifle.

By 1940 the family settled in Los Angeles. Marvelle started to act pretty early, int he early 1930s, which means she acted before she graduated from high school.

CAREER

Marvelle broke into movies when she was barely out of her years. Her first movie was Wine, Women and Song, a completely forgotten Lillyan Tashman musical, followed by Maniac. Now this is a movie worth mentioning. Probably a great deal many people enjoy in what we call quality trash cinema – movies that are so bad they are actually good. The Room is perhaps the most well known example, but there are ample such movies, if one just tries to find then. Maniac falls squarely into this category. Corny lines, stupid story, horrible overacting… You get the picture. But, it seen as an excursion into the absurd and ridiculous., it could actually give some pleasure to he viewer! Good to know that those movies were made with gusto even in the 1930s! This was followed by by the no-plot extravaganza, George White’s 1935 Scandals.

And here comes another ridiculous movie, Marihuana. Guess the theme of he movie! I guess Hollywood made much of these kinds of movies, Most people just don’t stumble upon them today (maybe that is for the best). Luckily, Marvelle’s next movie was a quality comedy, and  a Laurel and Hardy comedy at that – Our Relations.

Only two movies were listed for Marvelle in the 1940s – Gambling Daughters and She’s in the Army. Both are low budget comedies with a decidedly B class cast, although that doesn’t necessarily mean that the actors were not good! When you have Sig Arno, Lyle Talbot and the likes, at least you know you can watch the movie solely for them.

1950s were a bit more prosperous for Marvelle (although not by that much, I grant you). She appeared in The Jackie Robinson Story, a unique movie as it was about baseball great Jackie Robinson and it is truly an important film. If you strip away the fact that it was a B class move that was not widely seen and doesn’t have that much of an production value, you till get a powerful, strong movie about all the injustices and prejudices Jackie Robinson had to fight on his way to baseball stardom. And Jackie, playing himself, despite not being an professional actor, is so charismatic and likable that he does his job admirably! And he legendary Ruby Dee plays his wife, wonderful!

The Admiral Was a Lady is actually a very weird movie, about four ex-GIs who work diligently at finding ways to avoid work. Yep, not something you see in every movie! Obviously a portion of viewers will be repelled by this dilettante attitude, but my interest was tickled! Even if you are not for it, The cast makes up for any “morally ambiguous” elements – Edmund O’Brien and Wanda Hendrix! Edmund always had that sharp, dark edge in his roles, and even here you can see it beneath the breeze veneer. And I love Wanda, perhaps not solely for her acting talent. And Rudy Vallee in a supporting role. Marvelle’s next movie, Kentucky Jubilee, was a dismal comedy with a thin story with Jerry Collona and his vaudeville skits as the center piece. Luckily, next movie in line, aptly called Hold That Line, is a dolis Bowery boys comedy.

Marvelle’s last movie was We’re Not Married!, a collage comedy about five couples who learn they were not legally wed and now must make a honest appraise of their current state of affairs (literary in some cases). While the story and the script is nothing to sneeze at, we have a wonderful cast full of Hollywood luminaries – Marilyn Monroe, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Louis Calhern, Ginger Rogers, Paul Douglas, Eve Arden, among others), and superb costume and set design! This is one huge, puffy delicacy with no nutritional value, but oh so charming and lovable!

That is all from Marvelle!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marvelle got some publicity in Hollywood due to her status as a stand-in and her unique talents on horseback. This is a typical article to showcase her skills:

Marvelle Andre, a petite, 18-year-old miss whose main screen experience to date has been as a dancer. At the moment, she is stand-in for Evelyn Daw, who is playing the feminine lead opposite James Cagney in the Grand National musical, “Something to sing About,” being directed by Victor Schertzincer. Young Miss Andre has also served as stand-in for Constance Bennett, but her ambitions do not run along the line of the dramatic, singing or dancing ac tresses She wants to be a star of a type that has not been seen in years. She wants to play in westerns in which the leading character is a girl. With that end in view, she has become an accomplished trick roper an equestrienne and an expert snot with both pistol and rifle.

Here is another small quirk about being a stand-in, and it concerns hands!

The superstition of Barbara Stanwyck, Alexis Smith and other happily married young women on the Warner Brothers star roster has brought Marvelle Andre a more or less continuous job in pictures. Miss Andre, an extra and bit player subject to studio call, has appeared, in part, in more pictures than has either of the better-known stars mentioned. “In part,” in fact, because only her parts are photographed. Miss Stanwyck, Miss Smith and a number of other feminine stars do not like to remove their wed-‘ding rings, even for picture purposes. So, when they are supposed to write letters, or wring their hands or wash dishes, as Miss Stanwyck does in “Christmas in Connecticut,” it is Miss Andre’s hands which are photographed for closeup

Superstitious for sure, but did it work in the end? While Babs’ Sanwyck marriage to Bob Taylor crashed and burned in the end, Alexis Smith’s marriage to Craig Stevens was for keeps so we can conclude that Marvelle did a mighty fine thing, at least in that regard (although there are persistent rumors about the true state of that marriage too, but who knows?). Anyway, beside being an actress, Marvelle danced the hula at the Century club by night, and practiced rope-twirling whenever she cold by day. She seemed like a really energetic woman who knew what she wanted and worked hard for it.

Marvell was very active during WW2, doing more than her bi for the war effort, and even traveled to Alaska with Ingrid Bergman and others to entertain the troops. During these war bond travels, Marvelle often did her hula skit and she was known country wide for being a hula master. Except this, due to her horsewoman skills, she often took parts in parades and tournaments. For instance, one year she was a part of the Rose Tournament where she was riding Snowball, the thoroughbred Arabian steed trained by Mark Smith especially for her use in the parade.

As for her love life, nothing was written in the papers but I fond this – by 1944, Marvelle was married to Elmer H. Adams, Burbank police chief. I don’ know the exact timeline, but hey married after 1940 since Elmer was still married to Estelle McGuire that year. So Elmer divorced and married Marvelle sometime in the interim. So who is exactly this Elmer fellow? There is much written about him, but lets streamline it a bit.

Elmer was born on July 24, 1902 in  Broken Bow, Nebraska, to John Adams and Cora Williams, the third of four children. He was a very capable man, as he finished only eight grades of elementary school before going to work in Delight, Nebraska as a laborer. Later he moved to California and found work as a police officer there. On May 20, 1927, he married  Estelle L. McGuire. Their daughter Beverly was born in 1935. In 1932 he became the youngest ever police chief of Burbank. It seems that, like Marvelle, he was a crack shot and owned a number of rifles. Taken from Burbank PD web site:

The first true appointment of a Chief of Police occurred on August 15, 1927, when Malcolm G. Lowry took office.  Some would credit George Cole as the first Chief of Police, retroactive to his days as a Marshal and being in office when the department changed its name to the Burbank Police Department.   Two additional chiefs followed Lowry, until April 15, 1932, when Chief Elmer Adams was selected to head the department.  Chief Adams remained in office for nearly twenty years.  During his tenure, allegations of organized crime and connections to gangster Mickey Cohen made the newspapers.  There were additional stories of a mob hideout on Orange Grove Terrace, and illegal gambling halls that were hidden along the rancho area. In 1951, the California Crime Commission began an investigation into Chief Adams and others within the city.  Three days after the commission publicly announced the Chief’s refusal to answer questions about his income and relationship with underworld characters, Adams resigned, followed shortly thereafter by the city manager and a councilman.  Without a succession plan in place, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department loaned Hugh C. McDonald to oversee operations.  During McDonald’s term in 1952, the Animal Shelter was opened.

This is the kind version, on other places on the internet you can find information how Adams was a classical corrupt cop who paid two yachts and an expensive home with his “loot”, was well connected with mobsters and very well greased. Learn more about the whole story on Wes Clark’s web page (it is a truly incredible story about how people, when hey band together and have a common goal for the greater good, can do wonders). When I think 1940s police, I think film noir, and of course of both good and bad cops – it seems that Adams was perhaps one of the bad cops (maybe a greedy cop is an apt description).

Marvelle quit Hollywood for the time being, but was very active in local amateur theater groups. (she acted in My sister Eileen, for instance). As she was the wife of the local police commissioner (who possibly had his fingers in more than one dough), she had a good social standing and was a valued member of the community. In 1950, after five plus years of marriage and with a will to act in more serious fare than community theater, Marvelle returned to movies, and did a few uncredited minor roles. This lasted until 1952.

After Elmer’s dismissal from the police force, the couple moved to Cosa Mesa, where Elmer started to work for the Mesa Verde Country Club.The couple continued residing in Cosa Mesa and became parents of a daughter, Donna, was born on either on November 12, 1953 or November 19, 1955.

Elmer died from a heart attack On May 4, 1966. Marvelle continued living in California, and did not remarry.
Marvelle Anderson Adams died on June 1, 1990, in Los Angeles.

 

Gale Ronn

There is not much information about Gale Ronn on the internet, and not much will be said about her. So why did I choose to profile her? Because learning about Gale and her career will brings us closer to understanding what it meant to be a Hollywood extra during the golden years and it can perhaps answer the question how did he whole extra system function and could you actually live by working as an extra? Let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Lillie Gale Randel was born on December 5, 1907, in Iola, Kansas, to Robert Elmer Randel and Nellie Clyde Capsey. Her older sister Violet was born on September 16, 1903, and her younger brother James was born on December 9, 1917. Her was father was a builder by trade. He was born at Corning, Kansas, moving to Manhattan; Kansas as a young man. Then he came to Allen, Kansas and worked in construction in the area.

The Randels were solid middle class, and Gale and her siblings grew up in the typical small-town America of yesteryear. Gale attended high school in Iola Kansas, and was often featured in the society section of the local newspaper. After graduation in 1924 she moved to Kansas City to become a fashion model.

Gale was successful enough as a Kansas city mannequin for a few years, but sound movies ushered a new era in movie making, and ton of young girls poured into Hollywood to make it and earn better wages. The lure of film also brought Gale out to Tinsel town in about 1932. Despite he fact hat she had no previous acting experience, she was successful at nabbing a contract right away. So started her career.

CAREER

Gale was a movie extra and based on the stuff I read about her, it seems she appeared in a whole lot more movies than the ones mentioned on her IMDB page. Sadly, this can actually be the case with most of the girls I profile here. But, let’s see what IMDB has to offer.

Gale’s first movie, in 1932, was Sinners in the Sun. It’s a mid of the road melodrama, with a tried and baked story, as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “standard story of a couple poor people who think money is the answer and they have to learn that it isn’t more important than love”. However, there is an ample number of very good performers in it – Carole Lombard, Chester Morris, Cary Grant in an early and small role, Alison Skipworth, Adrienne Ames (such a beauty!).

Her second movie was Stand Up and Cheer!. Since this movie has a ton of extras, I think I reviewed it at least 3 times, so I’m not gonna write anything much more about it. Gale moved to the A class productions, and appeared in The Gilded Lily This is a typical 1930s romance movie with Claudette Colbert caught in a love triangle with Fred MacMurray and Ray MIlland (poor girl, she could do worse). It’s a nice and sweet movie, nothing deep but entertaining enough and the leads are charming as always.

Sadly, IMDB next lists Gale working on a movie that was not A class anymore – A Girl with Ideas. It’s another of the madcap heiress comedies made popular by It happened one night. The heiress in the movie is Wendy Barrie, and the newspaperman is Walter Pidgeon, not exactly Claudette and Clark but not too shabby. Anyway, the film is very funny, a “terrific rush of nonsense” as the reviewer wrote on IMDB, not a classic but immensely watchable and endearing. Gale was once again in the A class with You Can’t Take It with You, perhaps the best known movie of the lot. He plot is simple enough: A man from a family of rich snobs becomes engaged to a woman from a good-natured but decidedly eccentric family. This is one of those ultimate feel-good movies that make your week! And so many good actors – Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Ann Miller! Enjoy it!

Gale made three movies movies in he 1940s. The first was Beyond the Blue Horizon, one of the many Dottie Lamour in the jungle exotic films. What can I say, people loved Dottie in a sarong, somewhere on an tropical island, with a young, handsome and muscular man as a mate – that was pure and wonderful escapism. The movies roll, The stories changes ever so slightly, put the point stayed the same. The story here is that Dottie’s parents were killed in the jungle when she was a child, and she was raised, like Mowgli, by animals. Then comes a greedy capitalist who wants to abuse the jungle, and a handsome knight, scantly dressed, and ready to help our heroine and save the jungle (Richard Denning, not that well remembered today but what a hunk). There is a nice scenes with elephants and some good music, and it seems  a lot of folks remember watching this when it came out or just afterwards, with much nostalgia. That’s really nice!

Experiment Perilous is a lower quality version of Gaslight. It doesn’t have the solid performances of Charles Boyer and Ingrid Bergman, but George Brent and Hedy Lamarr were adequate and the movie is agreeable enough. Gale’s last movie listed on IMDB is Repeat Performance, an uniquely insular movie. A beautiful actress kills her cheating, alcoholic husband on New Year’s Eve, but soon finds she’s getting the chance to relive the past year of her life all over again. The twist at the end is great, and the movie definitely goes outside the typical Hollywood cannon. Too bad it’s not an A class production, but good actors make up for it – Joan Leslie sheds her nice girl persona and is actually pretty good at it – Louis Hayward is his (wonderful) cynical self, and Richard Baseheart made his movie debut here! What’s not to like!

That’s i from Gale!

PRIVATE LIFE

Gale was a beautiful blonde with blue eyes who weighted 100 lbs in her Hollywood prime. The press wrote this about her beauty secrets;

Gale Ronn, a statuesque blond, who admits that one secret of beauty lies in her dressing room mirror. It is there that she spends many hours perfecting her coiffure, make-up and all details of her attire.

So, Gale emphasized taking your time to properly set yourself up – not a bad hint, and definitely one most people don’t comply, myself first!

Gale married her first husband, Phillip E. Flanagan (or Phillip Harlan) in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in September 1924, just after she graduated. Harlan was born in 1901 – that is literary all I know about him. I cam assume that they lived together in Kansas City, but hey divorced prior to 1930.

No other information is available about Gale’s private life. However, the reason why Gale tickled my fancy is an article that was published in 1935 that very well illustrates how a successful movie extra lived and worked, both male and female. Gale was featured as the female extra, and actor Oliver Cross as the male extra. Here is the article:

 GALE RONN, who Is blonde, 29, and Kansas City bred, has been revealed as the woman extra who earned the most money during 1934. She averaged ?50 weekly. But talk about it? Not Gale, who fears the jealous taunts of her fellow extras. Oliver Cross is the male extra whose – – . earnings last year were more man any other extra’s, man or woman. He averaged $54 weekly, but he considers the disclosure no compliment to his ability. In fact, he took just the opposite view. Although he was financially the most successful extra, he considers himself a failure. “Why advertise failure?” he asks. TWO IN ONE DAY To meet a person in Hollywood who does not want to discuss his accomplishments is rare, but to find two in one day is extraordinary. But hear the stories of the woman and the man who are tops in the extra army: “Unless one is an extra, It is dim cult to understand why I will not talk about being, as you call it, the “Number one girl,” explained Gale Ronn when I discovered her on the “Paris in Spring” set. “Many of the people with whom I work daily already have shown their resentment toward me by ‘ribbing me, and I know that others have said unkind things behind my back.” Miss Ronn implied in her guarded remarks that only an extra could realize- how jealous other players can be of one of their number’s success. That she might “get into trouble” if it became too widely known that she had had more days’ work than any other woman extra, was clearly inferred. She said “people would write letters and everything” and these letters might influence the casting bureau to give her less work. CAN’T ACT, SHE SAYS “No, I don’t. want publicity and I don’t think it would do me any good to have my picture taken,” Gale went on. “I don’t want to be an actress because I’m pretty sure I can’t act. “I make a good living and I have lots of clothes. I make more money than a stenographer, whose ambition is to live well and wear nice clothes. Why should I want to try being an actress? No, I’m satisfied being an extra.” Miss Ronn has been an extra four and a half years. She came to Hollywood from the East several years ago and first earned her living as a clothing model. A FAILURE, HE SAYS Oliver Cross came here from Buffalo, N. Y. how long ago he wouldn’t say with the hope of becoming a star. “I’m not a star,” he told me when I found him working in “In Caliente.” “I’m nothing but a clothes horse a failure. Yes, I know I’m supposed to have made more than any other extra last year, but what of it? How do you suppose I got 195 days’ work last year? Because I know a director? Nothing like it. Because I’ve invested hundreds of dollars in my wardrobe.” Cross’ inference was that studios call him to work because they know he has the clothes to wear in any atmosphere. He is tall, dark-haired and handsome.

Viola! We know a bit more about movie extras now, and Gale seems a very realistic, grounded person who knew her limits well and had a plan on how to make a living. This is totally in sync with her meticulous approach to appearances. Anyway, it seems that Gale did not remarry, and continued living in California long after her career was over.

Gale Ronn died in ? (sorry, I could not find a date, but she is listed in the obituary section in Ancestry.com). As always, I hope she had a good life!

Florine McKinney

A truly beautiful woman who could sing very well, Florine McKinney had a minor movie career before retiring to get married. Like some other actresses, she returned to movies after her divorce, but often the impulse they had a few years prior just vanishes and they are stuck in a thankless position – barely 30 years old, with a once promising career gone to ashes now, struggling to get even small roles. Florine retired from movies to do theater work. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Florine McKinney was born on December 13, 1913, in Mart, Texas, to and Grace Humphries their only child. Her father was a professional druggist who had his own drug store.

Florine grew up in Fort Worth, and since she was a child it was clear that Florine possessed a knack for showbiz. She had a good soprano voice and was interested in amateur theatricals. Her dramatic efforts made her well known on the local Fort Worth scene. At some point, Florine decided to make ti her live hood, and opted to become an full pledged actress. That road, however, was not that easy.

She enrolled into the Central High School she appeared in school and Little Theater plays and gave concerts throughout Texas, singing In English, Italian, French, German and Spanish. She also did some radio singing.

A month before her scheduled graduation from Central High, Florine went to Hollywood with her vocal teacher in an ancient flivver which gradually fell apart on the way. They eventually arrived (safely) and Florine, armed with letters of introduction from her vocal teacher, went to visit all the local casting directors. She succeeded in procuring interviews, but, when no work was offered, she returned to Fort Worth after five weeks.

Entering high school again for her diploma this fall, she was at her studies when Paramount wired he an offer of a test, her voice and beauty being remembered when musical productions returned to favor Arriving in Hollywood, she made two tests and signed a contract. At the same time, she won a scholarship to the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and was preparing to enter that institution when her film offer came. She also won the Fort Worth trials of the National Atwater Kent contest, but relinquished her chance in the State finals when she went to Hollywood. And so her career started!

CAREER

Since Florine actually appeared in a more than 30 movies, I’ll just take a rough outline of her career. Florine entered movie in 1932, and stayed until 1937, when she got married and retired (seemingly for good, but not quite!). She appeared in a strin gof women’s movie headed by large starts of the day – Norma Shearer in Riptide and Joan Crawford in Dancing Lady, and even appeared twice with Jeannette MacDonald (The Merry Widow and One Hour with You). These are all good A class movies, but sadly Florine was not to be seen for more than a moment or two, perhaps managing a slightly bigger role in at least a few movies (like in Cynara).

Florine’s biggest role from this period was is David Copperfield, where she played Little Em’ly, the Woman. it’s a beloved movie today, a well received adaptation of the Dickensian classic. Afterwards, she made a string of credited performances, and by 1937, she was heading somewhere. She had the leads in solid B efforts like A Star Fell from Heaven and Blazing Barriers. But marriage took a front seat to her career, and she gave up Hollywood for the time being.

The second part of Florine’s career is from 1940-1942, after her divorce. She appeared in a few famous classic in that period: Waterloo Bridge (still not as good as the 1930s version, but Vivien Leigh is always very watchable!), The Philadelphia Story (one of Katherine Hepburn’s bets role,s no questions asked), and Blossoms in the Dust, a very nice Greer Garson tearjerker (Greer was SO good in these roles! Rarely did an actress consistently give such sincere, warm yet ladylike performances like Greer did).

Florine’ last movie was he only credited performance from that period. It was Little Joe, the Wrangler, a low budget western. The story is only so so (taken from the IMDB page): Mining executive Neal Wallace arrives to investigate the losses at a gold mine and is immediately framed for murder. The murderers then incite a lynch mob but the Sheriff lets him go. Wallace eventually convinces the Sheriff of his innocence and the two then work together to get the gang that is looting the gold ore. We have Johnny Mack Brown and Tex Ritter, but guess what, neither of them is the Little Joe – believe it or not, Little Joe is Fuzzy Knight, who was 40 years old when the movie was made (I expected a child actor playing Little Joe, how wrong I was!). Florine is overshadowed by those three, PLUS Jennifer Holt, who has the leading feminine role. Guess she saw the writing on the wall and gave up movies after this one.

And that’s it from Florine!

PRIVATE LIFE

Florine was under legal age when she received court approval to a movie contract – $125 a week. She started promising, but it didn’t end up quite the way it seemed.

Florine was an ardent milk consumer. She insisted on her daily quota – Four quarters of a liter. When interviewed abotu the 1920s flapper social norms, Florine said this:  “Women always set the tone of behavior for men, and If women want dignity to come back Into social life, they’ll arrange It and men will follow their lead. Youth demands variety that’s the answer.”

In 1934, it began to look serious between Florine and fellow actor Ralph Malone. Since they started rehearsals together for the initial play to be staged at the Holly town Theater by Lela Rogers, mother of Ginger Rogers, they had been have been constantly together and a relationship developed. Sadly, with the closing of the play they went bust too.

Florine’s next big thing was director W. S. Van Dyke, and they were seen dancing at the Beverly-Wilshire weekly. Florine also dated Nat Goldstone made a foursome with him, George Raft and Irene Ware.

Florine had a a leading role in “Night Life of the Gods. and fell into a romance with screenwriter Barry Trivers, who adapted the play to the screen. They got engaged in 1936. The engagement ring was a unique band of yellow gold with the diamond set in carved leaves, designed by Florine and Trivers in a tandem. They wed in May 1936 in London. Trivers was born on February 12, 1907 in Cairo, Egypt to a British family.

Here is a short description of Triver’s career, taken from Rovi’s All-Movie Guide’s Hal Erickson (text found at the Fandango web site) and Memory Alpha:

American screenwriter Barry Trivers first began receiving screen credit in 1932. Trivers spent the rest of the decade at 20th Century Fox (where he worked on a few of the studio’s Jane Withers vehicles) and Warner Bros. His wartime film contributions included Republic’s Flying Tigers (1942) and RKO’s Army Surgeon (1944). Barry Trivers closed out his movie career with 1958’s Blood Tide.

He wrote for a number of films, including The Big Broadcast of 1937 (1936)Dreaming Out Loud (1940), The Wagons Roll at Night (1941), and Flying Tigers (1942). His other TV works include Perry MasonRawhideThe UntouchablesMannix, and Kojak. Trivers won the Writers Guild award in 1962 for his Naked City screenplay “The Fault In Our Stars”, which like his Star Trek episode utilized a William Shakespeare quote in its title.

Trivers also had some minor Broadway credit, but was allegedly well paid and well off. Barry was a golf enthusiast and even served as a Rancho Park Golf Course president in the 1950s. The couple moved to UK, and lived and worked there for a few years. Florine acted under the name of Lori Trivers and appeared extensively on the US theater circuit in 1938, playing in light opera like Rosalie.

In mid 1939, the marriage started to fall apart, and they separated by the end of the year. In January 1940, Florine and Trivers were seemingly talking reconciliation, going out together and acting as if nothing had happened. Whoosh, next thing we know, it’s April 1940 and Florine won a divorce from Barry – she told the Superior Judge that her husband broke her phonograph records, tore up her sheet music and told her their marriage was a mistake.

From that day until November 1941, Florine and Barry went left and right with their reconciliation/make-up acts. By December 1940 they were solidly on the way to reconciliation – they saw each other once a week and were trying to make up their minds about the state of their marriage. And so it went on for most of 1941, veering up and down, until something happened in November 1941 and they went bust, but this time for good. It seems they rarely if ever saw each other after that. Trivers died in 1981 in Los Angeles.

Florine left Hollywood not long after, and dedicated herself to theater. She also went with the Billy Gilberts on their USO trip to Africa, and almost married Lew Alter, but that romance failed in the long run. IMDB claims that Florine had a drinking problem and that is why she gave up movies – this could be, but there is no way I could substantiate this.

Florine married for the second time to a certain Mr. William Guest in the 1950s. The marriage did not last long, and she retired to Van Nuys at some point.

Florine McKinney died on July 28, 1975, in Van Nuys, California.

Prudence Sutton

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

That was it from Prudence!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

Geraldine Farnum

Daughter of a silent film pioneer and a movie extra, Geraldine Farnum was predestined to become an actress herself. Sadly, except being a dancer in a long string of movies, she never came remotely close to being a true thespian before retiring to raise a family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Geraldine Ann Smith Farnum was born on November 13, 1924, in Los Angeles, California, to Franklyn (Smith) Farnum and Edith Walker. She was their only child.

Geraldine’s dad Franklyn was a colorful character. Born in Boston, he was on the vaudeville stage at the age of 12 and was featured in a number of theater and musical productions by the time he entered silent films near the age of 40. His very long career consisted mostly of western movies. One of his three wives was actress Alma Rubens, to whom he was briefly married in 1918 (the couple divorced in 1919). Franklyn had one daughter, Geraldine’s older half-sister, Martha Lillian Smith, born in 1898.

Geraldine’s mom was a movie extra who married her dad in 1921. In the late 1930s, Edith still worked as an movie extra (very impressive, to work as an extra for so long!) and earned good money for it. Franklyn, after giving up on movies for a time, was an assistant manager in a cigar plant. From early childhood it was clear that Gerry would also end up in showbiz like her parents – she was a talented dancer and wanted to become a actress when she grew up. her parents were naturally supportive and that it seemed there was nothing standing between Gerry and stardom, if she caught the right breaks that it.

After graduating from Fairfax High School, she had been signed to an acting contract by Warner Bros studio, and thus started her career.

CAREER

Geraldine’s career can be roughly divided into two parts: from 1944 until 1947, and from 1950 until 1952. Both periods were pretty lackluster to Geraldine as an actress, but at least she racked up 22 credits!

During the first part of her carer, Geraldine mostly appeared as a dancer in musicals, and, surprise, surprise! like her dad, she appeared in her fair share of lower-budget westerns (my favorites, NOT!). Since I never review westerns, here are all of the western movies where she played a dancer: The Yellow Rose of Texa, Utah, Bells of RosaritaMan from Oklahoma, Trail of Kit CarsonSunset in El Dorado, Dakota, Don’t Fence Me In, andAngel and the Badman. That was a mouthful, right?

Aside for the westerns, there was a smaller number of more  or less interesting movies – Casanova in Burlesque a mid tier, sometimes funny comedy about a professor who is also a burlesque comic (played by Joe E. Brown), Brazil, a generally entertaining musical with nice dance numbers and Tito Guizar is one of his rare Hollywood appearances, It’s a Pleasure, a Sonja Henie brain dead musical (I know I don’t like Henie, one has to wonder how a great ice skater but dismal actress like her succeeded in Hollywood in 1930s, when there was tons of talent there! How? Oh, you can never guess!), Earl Carroll Vanities, typical Earl Carroll fare, with a great number of scantly clothes beauties and no plot (of course Gerry was one of the beauties), Hitchhike to Happiness a surprisingly watchable early Dale Evans musical, when she displaying sexiness and slinkiness she would never late recreate in her Dale Evans, cowgirl persona, Behind City Lights a completely forgotten crime movie, based on a Vicki Baum novel, Love, Honor and Goodbye, another totally forgotten movie with no reviews on imdb, not even a summary, The Tiger Woman, a nifty crime movie, where the leading man is a private detective who gets mixed up with the luscious Adele Mara (The Tiger woman of the title) who needs some help getting her husband out of trouble, as he is 100 grand in debt to a bookie, and finally, the last one, Murder in the Music Hall. Now, this movie is worth writing about some more. A film noir at heart, it’s swanky and posh as heck and this dichotomy between a gritty genre and luxurious setting makes it a true standout. While the story starts as a typical whodunnit thriller against the setting of Radio City Music Hall, it has enough twists and turns and the acting is generally good (Vera Hruba Ralston, although much maligned, could pull out decent acting chops under some circumstances). Plus, there are Helen Walker, Ann Rutherford and Nancy Kelly to lend plenty of support.

Gerry got married after this, took a break, and returned to movies in 1950 with Copper Canyon, a unusual western – first the leads are played by European urbanites Ray Milland and Hedy Lamarr, it’s an attractive looking film, with color by Technicolor and colorful costumes by Edith Head. Unfortunately, that’s the highlight of the movie, although all in all it isn’t a bad effort, just not a particularly good one. Gerry appeared in three more movies: Call Me Mister, a so-so Betty Grable musical, Son of Paleface, a hilarious Bob Hope romp, and Destry, a sub par remake of the more about Destry Rides Again.

And that was it from Geraldine!

PRIVATE LIFE

Geraldine married John Weidmer in the Church Around the Corner, in a ceremony headed by Reverend Neal Dodd, in 1943. It was first marriage for both. John Robert Weidmer, born on March 5, 1922 in Iowa to John Weidmer and Jean Lewis, who would later live in Chicago. He lived in Iowa for a time, then moved to California, and was drafted into the US Navy during WW2. When they married, Weidmer was stationed at San Pedro. The marriage, like most wartime marriages, was of very short duration, and they divorced by 1945. John died on January 15, 2002, in Nevada.

After her divorce Gerry started to date actor George Shepard Houghton, commonly known as Shep Houghton. They married in 1946. Here is an imdb profile on Shep:

Born George Shephard Houghton on June 4, 1914, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Shep is the youngest of two sons born to George Henry Houghton and Mabell Viola Shephard. Far from being born into show business, his father was an insurance company representative who moved his family to Hollywood for business reasons in 1927. As luck would have it, they rented a house on Bronson Avenue just two blocks from Paramount Studio’s iron front gate, and not far from the Edwin Carreau studio. Picked off the street by an assistant producer, Shep’s first work in the movie industry was in 1927 as a Mexican youngster in Carreau’s production of Ramona, released in 1928. As a thirteen-year old he also worked in Emil Janning’s The Last Command, and continued to work for director Josef von Sternberg in several subsequent pictures. He found movie work to his liking, and out of high school he worked through Central Casting for Mascot Productions, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, Fox Film Corporation, and Warner Brother’s, where he became a favorite in the Busby Berkeley musicals as a dancer and chorus singer. In 1935 he married Jane Rosily Kellog, his high school sweetheart. Together they had one child, Terrie Lynn, born on September 22, 1939. They were divorced in October, 1945.

Gerry and Shep’s son Peter William Houghton was born on August 19, 1947, in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, this marriage was quite spotty and the couple divorced in 1949. Here is a short article about the proceedings:

George Houghton has divorced actress Geraldine Farnum on charges of desertion. They separated on July 10, 1948, lie said, after she went to the beach for a vacation and then refused to come home, saying she wanted to have her, own life. Miss Farnum, daughter of the Franklyn Farnum of the pioneer film family, did not contest the divorce, but Houghton’s attorney said that the couple had agreed to the actress being granted custody of their young son.

After their divorce, Shep continued to work in both movies and television until his retirement in 1976. He married Mel Carter Houghton in 1975. Shep died at the ripe old age of 102 on December 15, 2016 in Hoodsport, Washington.

Geraldine also kept busy after the divorce. Here is an early 1950s article about Gerry:

Geraldine Farnum is as pretty as, for example, Anne Baxter and as graceful as Betty Grable. But you don’t read much about Gerry. She’s one of the movies’ unsung actresses— extra, bit player, dancer, showgirl. Working in so many categories, she admits bewilderedly, when you ask how to classify her: “I don’t exactly what I am.” Gerry is 25. a bleached blonde, a divorcee, and the mother of a two-year-old son Peter. The fact that she is the daughter of a silent-screen western star, Franklin Farnum, has helped her get movie work. Her father still plays bits. He is often confused with two other prominent early- movie Farnums—William and his late brother Dustin. The two families are not related. Gerry started movie-acting when she was 19. She was under contract for a time to two studios, then retired to have her baby. Recently she resumed her career again. What are her chances of being picked for stardom? She says: “Probably as good as everybody else’s. I’d appreciate it—can’t honestly say I wouldn’t be thrilled. But I won’t be disappointed if it doesn’t happen. I have my child, and that’s responsibility enough.” I found Gerry arrayed in a feathery headdress and scanty costume for a number with Grable in “My Blue Heaven.” In “Down to Earth” she doubled for Rita Hayworth—back view— walking down a cloudy ramp on a day Rita wasn’t at the studio. More recently she was a bar-girl in one sequence and a square dancer in another of “Copper Canyon.” As a dancer she earns $111 weekly unless lifted off the ground, even a teeny bit, by another performer. Being lifted pays more—$137.50 a week. It’s a standing beef of dancers that showgirls receive still more when, Gerry says, “all they have to do Js stand there and look pretty.” As a showgirl she has been paid $175 a week. She grossed about $4,000 last year. Her dues in the actors’ and extras’ guilds total $8.50 per quarter. “Right today,” Gerry would advise other girls, “if you want to make a living you shouldn’t get into pictures. They’re not making the lavish musicals they did. But,” she concedes, “it’s fun to work in pictures.” Wolves are no problem for a smart working girl, Gerry reports, especially if it’s known she has a boy friend. Hers is a stunt man. Her best friends are members of the crew. A cameraman once had two stars sit farther apart in a close-up—so Gerry, in a row of extras behind them, could be seen.

While Geraldine was working with her dad, Franklyn, in “With a Song in My Heart,” he revealed to the press that Gerry was engaged to stuntman James van Horn. She married Van Horn in 1951. Van Horn was born on September 24, 1917, in South Dakota, to Frank Avery Van Horn and Edna Racette. He came with his family to California and started her acting career in 1927, and ended it in 1929. He mostly worked as a stuntman since 1939, but returned to acting in 1950. His crowning glory was that he appeared with Barbara Stanwyck in the 1955 adventure film “Escape to Burma.”

Their son Casey Lee was born on December 12, 1952, in Los Angeles. Since he came from a showbiz family, it was no wonder that the two-months-old Casey played the part of Natalie Cantor, one of Eddies five daughters, in the Warner Brothers musical, The Eddie Cantor Story” in 1953. Geraldine retired from movies to take care of her family, and never acted again.

James and Geraldine divorced at some point in the mid 1950s. van Horn continued working in the movie industry, and died on April 20, 1966. Geraldine married, in the late 1950s, to a Mr. Rose.

I have no idea if Geraldine is alive today, and as always, I hope she had a good life!

 

Marjorie Deanne

Beautiful Marjorie Deanne was a beauty contest winner that came to Hollywood, hoping for a big break. Like with the majority of girls who took down that route, her break never came. However, she became a proficient businesswoman, and in the end, retired to raise a family.

EARLY LIFE

Clara Pauline Boughton was born on January 28, 1917, in Brownsville, Texas, to Walter M. Boughton and Catherine Lieb. Her father was a fire chief. The family lived in Meridian, Mississippi for a time after Clara’s birth, and her brother Edwin was born there in 1922. The family moved to Memphis, Tennessee, in the mid 1920s. Clara attended school there but was very much involved with her Texan side of the family and often visited them in Corpus Christi.

Clara was a natural-born beauty, and from the time she was a high school student, she attended beauty pageants and won titles like “Miss Southwest Texas” and so on. After graduating from high school, she decided to make a career out of it and entered showbiz.

After winning a trip to Hollywood through Corpus Christi’s Splash Day beauty contest in 1935, Clara’s acting career started. Joking! When she came to Hollywood for the first time in 1935, Clara at least she hoped something would happen. She would get an acting gig, she would dance, she would do something. But, alas, it was not meant to be. She spent 12 months knocking vainly at the studio gates and then, with her bank account drained and her courage a bit shattered, finally give up and took a job selling tickets for a Hollywood theater.  She had the usual luck of beauty contest winners and eventually got a job as usherette at the Grauman’s Egyptian theater. At some point, pursuing her regular duties, Marjorie ushered a man to a seat. It was director John Farrow. He decided Marjorie was a screen type and had plans to make her a proper actress. Unfortunately, as with many such cases, nothing happened, and Marjorie was back to square one.

Deciding to try other options a working girl had in that time and age (very, very limited!), she became a traveling saleslady. After noticing that the hosiery business was blooming, she started selling men’s shirts and socks. Soon, she started a profitable business in Hollywood as representative for an Eastern shirt and hosiery mill. Business was good and she hired a salesman. It kept on being good and she hired some more. Now she has 40 salesmen and they support her in luxury while she haunts the casting offices. She did some bit work in movies.

Marjorie, by then wealthy enough to work for and not for money, got a job in the Earl Carroll Theater as one of his beauties. She did some touring with the Theater going to New York in 1939, and then returned to Hollywood and finally started her tenure as a working actress.

CAREER:

Marjorie is most famous today for appearing in a string of Three stooges shorts – Violent Is the Word for CurlyDutiful But Dumb Matri-Phony Three Smart Saps . She also appeared in a string of other comedy shorts – The Nightshirt BanditMutiny on the BodyThe Sap Takes a Wrap and so on.For more information about this, visit Lord heath’s link about Marjorie Deanne.

As far as full length movies go, Marjorie made her debut in 1938 in The Goldwyn Follies, followed closely by Freshman Year and Girls’ School. All three movies are alike as they are the typical fluffy 1930s movie with no real depth but some degree of fun – While the Follies are a plot-less but entertaining musical,  Freshman Year a Dixie Dunbar college musical, and Girls’ School a juvenile story about high school girls and their love squabbles, with the radiant Anne Shirley in the leading role. Marjorie’s only 1939 role in a full length movie was A Chump at Oxford, the witty Laurel/Hardy movie. Marjorie then took a great from movie acting to tour with the Earl Carroll Theater.

She returned to movies in 1941, and that ended up as Marjorie’s most productive year – she appeared in no more, no less than 10 movies! let’s see her full length ones. I’ll Wait for You is a formulaic movie about a bad guy reforms after meeting hard-working, decent folks, only slightly elevated by the endearing performances by Marsha Hunt and Virginia Wiedler (this cannot be said of the leading man, Robert Sterling, performance – he doesn’t have enough gravitas to truly play a hard-core gangster). Then came West Point Widow, another forgotten Anne Shirley comedy, and then Kiss the Boys Goodbye, an interesting musical  based on a play by Clare Boothe Luce which was inspired by the search for an actress to play Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. The original play had to be watered down to the extreme, and it works well as a musical/showcase for Mary Martin. Buy Me That Town was also based on superior material – a Damon Runyon story about a crook who wants to bankrupt a small town to suit his own nefarious deeds. The movie is sadly completely forgotten today, but except a solid plot it boasts a good cast (Loyd Nolan and Albert Dekker). Next was Niagara Falls, a completely silly comedy with the Jean Harlow wannabe Marjorie Woodward. The movie is watchable only if you try really hard not to take it seriously in any capacity. Equally dismaying was New York Town Design for Scandal, another Mary Martin semi musical, semi comedy.  

In 1942, Marjorie appeared in only two full length movies: Tarzan’s New York Adventure and the patriotic Star Spangled Rhythm. I don’t think anything needs to be written about the famous Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies – it’s something that you find either charming and educational and slightly idiotic. I guess Maureen O’Sullavan saves the day for both camps, as her warmth endears her to virtually anyone who ever watched the movies.

In 1943 Marjorie actually appeared in some solid movies, although not all of them were on the same level of quality by  along shot. The first was The Crystal Ball, a lightweight but funny Paulette Goddard/Ray Milland comedy. They were a pretty good combo, and have superb chemistry together, so it’s worth watching just for them. Next was Salute for Three a completely forgotten musical, and a Jimmy Rogers western comedy, Prairie Chickens, which isn’t half as bad as you would think it was. The bets movie of the year was For Whom the Bell Tolls, no more information necessary! So watch it! Marjorie was then in Let’s Face It, a watered and dumbed-down version of a saucy stage play, worth watching if only for Bob Hope and Betty Hutton. Equally sub par was Riding High, a Bob Hope cast off that went to Dick Powell – and he just isn’t the type to make it work. the plot is silly enough: A train arrives in the west and deposits a showgirl (Dorothy Lamour), an eligible bachelor (Dick Powell), and a swindler (Victor Moore), and the fun starts there. Dick and his leading lady, Dorothy Lamour, are completely overshadowed by a funny supporting cast (Victor Moore, Cass Daley and so on).  Luckily, Marjorie then appeared in True to Life, an above average comedy. The plot, while nothing special (A writer for a radio program needs some fresh ideas to juice up his show. For inspiration, he rents a room with a typical American family and begins to secretly write about their true life) lends itself nicely to the crazy family cliché that works because of a hilarious supporting cast. Dick Powell, Franchot Tone and Mary Martin are also top form, and do this kind of comedy with their eyes closed.

And that was it from Marjorie!

PRIVATE LIFE:

Marjorie dated actor Alexander D’Arcy at one point, and was on friendly terms with Frank Feltrop, tennis pro, and actress Movita, who later married Marlon Brando. Not much else was written about her private life.

Then, on March 19, 1944, Marjorie flew to New Orleans, Louisiana, to get married to Capt. Abraham Albert Manuck, attached to the Lifegarde General hospital dental staff there. It was noted that she expected to “settle down to a career of marriage with the captain.”

Abraham Albert Manuck was born on October 4, 1900, in Ehaterinslov, Russian Empire, to Benjamin Manuck and Rachael Sperans. he immigrated to the US, where he finished dentistry school and started to work as a dentist. He moved to San Francisco, and easily merged with the local high society. Manuck was married twice before – to Alba Baglione, whom he divorced in 1936 in Reno, Nevada, and Alla Manuck, whom he divorced in 1941 in Reno, Nevada. (guess Reno was his go-to destination for divorces).

Even before the marriage, Marjorie said to the papers she would not return to Hollywood and indeed cut her ties with the dream factory most thoroughly. She had obtained her release from the Actors guild and from Paramount studio, buying out her contract. Indeed, she would never return to Tinsel town and never made a movie again, opting for family life.

After the war ended, the family moved to Santa Clara, California. The couple had three children: Richard Albert, born on October 8, 1945, Stephen Bennett, born on December 3, 1948, and Denise Cheryl, born on June 19, 1951. All of the children were born in San Francisco. The Manucks enjoyed a happy family life in Santa Clara, and were active members of the local society, doing charity work and being quite civic-minded.

Clara Manuck died on May 21, 1994, in Redwood City, California.

Her widower Abraham Manuck died in 2000, aged almost 100.

 

Marjorie Zier

Marjorie Zier’s life can truly be a cautionary tale for other women – she drank too much and married too many times to wrong men. However, painting her as a mere weak female is a gross oversimplification. Like most things in life, her story is told in shades of gray with no clear resolution. Marjorie is extremely ambivalent – as much as she was responsible for her actions and often behaved foolishly, she was also as much a victim of a ruthless, chauvinistic society that had no interest in helping her. Let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Marjorie June (or May Marjorie) Zier was born in Hennepin, Minnesota, on February 3, 1909, to Harrison Zier and June Jeremy. She was their only child. Her father was a successful car salesman. Little is known of Marjorie’s childhood – she grew up in Minnesota, and the family moved to Los Angeles by 1920. Marjorie took dancing and acting lessons and decided to become a show biz professional – by 1923 she was dancing in various revenues, and then became a Mack Sennett Bathing Beauty. This propelled her into movies in 1927 when she was just 18 years old.

CAREER

Won’t write too much here, I usually don’t cover silent pictures since I’m far from being knowledgeable on the topic, and most of Marjorie’s filmography are the silents. Truth to be told, I really didn’t chose to profile Marjorie for her career, so I’ll focus on the private life more.

Marjorie’s biggest silent role was in Phantom of the Range, a Tom Tyler western. In 1930, she made a few sound Mack Sennett comedy shorts, – Average HusbandDon’t Bite Your DentistRacket Cheers and Rough Idea of Love. And then she gave up Hollywood!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marjorie married Danny Dowling in about 1925, when she was just 16 years old. She sure started young! Danny was born on November 16, 1906 in O’Neill, Nebraska. He was living in Los Angeles by the early 1920s, working as a singer and dance,r mostly for the cafe circuit. It was a firts marriage for both.

This hasty marriage was a semi disaster, as you can see from this article.

When Danny Dowling. cafe ‘entertainer, was separated from his wife. Miss Marjorie Zier, by an annulment action, he refused to take the decree as final. He pursued the girl to whom he had been married, trying to persuade her of his affectior- He didn’t get his wife back, and although he did make an Impression on her, it was not a good one. Tn the words of a late popular eon? “The only impression he made upon her was a dark blue Impression round her eye.” ‘ The most recent meeting between Danny and hie former wife occurred outside the Montmarte Cafe. Danny asked it he might take Miss Zier to her home. She refused tc ride

according to Miss Zier”a story, a struggle followed and de lady’s eye was punched. She called officers, who arrested Danny on a charge of battery. Municipal Judge Richardson gave htm a suspended sentence on that charge. But officer state they found a bottle of gin m Danny’s car, and now Danny must stand trial on a charge of possession of liquor. , The case was set before Municipal Judge Edmonds, but will be transferred today to Judge Stafford’s court for trial

They separated and divorced in 1926. Danny was an interesting fellow, but this wasn’t the first not the last time he did such a dramatic scene – in 1934, he made headlines for months because he kidnapped his former girlfriend, Marjorie Crawford, former wife of director William Wellman (whats with Danny and the Marjories?). Marjorie sued him, they were in court and he was almost sentenced, but then, wait for it, THEY MARRIED! After beign at each other throats for a month and even gettign to court, the wed! As you can imagine, that marriage didnt’ last long! Danny opened a nightclub in Los Angeles and remarried to Harriet Kelley in 1943. He died on July 23, 1993 in Monterey, California.

It seems Marjorie was not a woman who could be alone, or indeed not married. She was already on the prowl, and Marjorie married her second husband, Hugh Parker Pickering, on August 17, 1929. Little is known about him, except that he was a Chicago socialite, and was born on April 22, 1905, in Louisiana, to W J Pickering and Grace Parker Williams. The marriage did not last long – They divorced in 1931. Pickering later was married to madcap heriness Mary Elizabeth Fahrney from 1932 until 1933. Pickering died in 1979.

Marjorie married J. Richard Van Conover in Dallas, Texas, Dec. 17, 1934. Conover was born on 1905, to William B Conover, a prosperous rice mill manager, and his wife Cora Conover, the middle child after older brother William and before younger sister Elizabeth. Conover was a aviator and oil man with business interests in Lake Charles, Louisiana, where his family lived.

The Conovers were surprisingly married for five full years, but it seems those years were anything but milk and honey. In 1939, Marjorie sued Conover for divorce, claiming he was a drunk who regularly beat her. Conover didn’t spare any nasty details about his ex-wife-to.be – he said on one occasion she split his scalp with “an iron object,” and that the only lapse in her drinking was a three-month period in Los Angeles in 1936 when she “took the cure.” Trouble started immediately after their marriage in December, 1934, when she struck up an acquaintance with another pilot shortly after their honeymoon. He said she developed a habit of going out with him, getting drunk and behaving in public in such a riotous manner as to cause him serious embarrassment.

Now this is sad. This is just simply sad. Marjorie was a alcoholic as early as 1934 (and quite probably even earlier!) and by 1939, five years later, the situation had not changed one iota. She was still a raging alcoholic who behaved inappropriately when she s drunk. While there is no doubt that she was first and foremost responsible for her actions, it’s clear that she was out of her depth and that she needed help badly. Were there any real tries to help Marjorie? Did Conover truly try to dry his wife and just gave up when she didn’t take it, or was Conover a perhaps a slightly lesser drunkard who didn’t give a whiff about Marjorie? Who knows. The point is, Marjorie was not getting any help, and her husband was such that he rather aired her dirty laundry to the public than helped her. It was realistic to expect a steep decline after these unhappy occurrences, and in a way, it was more than clear this would be a crash-and-burn type of a situation.

It’s easy to judge Marjorie here – while it is without a doubt that by her own free will she drank too much and got involved with the wrong men, it takes a boarder look at the context to understand just that a woman, born in 1909, who slipped into this unseemly world, had no platform that would help her. Nothing. Almost nothing. It was shameful, ostracized and frowned upon, being a female drunk, but did anybody help women in these situation? Did anybody do anything? And Marjorie was even part of the higher class for a time, and at least she had money and wasn’t hungry nor lacking in resources. Imagine how the women from the lower classed had it? On another note, I may be wrong and there were several interventions for Marjorie, but I would venture to say no before I say yes.

Anyway, Marjorie asked $250 a week plus $5,500 in counsel fees. In the end, they got to an agreement and were divorced after much acrimony. Conover remarried not long after, but sadly died on March 25, 1945.

Marjorie had a chance to make her life different – she had some money in the bank, she had shed an annoying mate, and perhaps had the fighting chance to go to a sanatorium and get herself dry . But what did she do? She continued marrying rich men who had major alcohol problems, thus exacerbating her own problem. Talk about damaging yourself on all spheres – from the physical one (alcoholism) to the emotional one (marrying highly unsuitable men).

Marjorie married Michael Cudahy in January 7, 1941, in Mexico. Cudahy was a scion of a prosperous Chicago meat packing family – he was born on November 24, 1908, in Missouri to Jack Cudahy and Edna Cowin, the youngest child and only son after thee daughters. His father killed himself in 1921, suffering from en extremely nervous condition and insomnia. Michael grew up to be a typical 1920s and 1930s playboy who went to Hollywood frequently to rip through new assortments of young actresses. He married actress Muriel Evans in 1928 when she was just 18 years old. They divorced in 1930. He enjoyed a lengthy affair with Joan Crawford, but she was her own woman and ditched him the moment she figured out she can’t cure a raging alcoholic with mommy issues. Like many of the playboy set, Cudahy drank too much and was a victim of a overbearing mother who kept him on a short leash. In 1927, he tried to marry Marie Astaire, an actress he met literary 24 hours ago, and his mother had him arrested in order to stop the nuptials (better be in jail for a day than marry the wrong girl, I guess). Cudahy and his second wife, Jacklyn Roth, dancer, were divorced in 1937.

The marriage was a disaster literary lasted for six months. Mike went into the army on May 20, 1941 Marjorie got a divorce on grounds of cruelty, saying “He was very cruel. I was very ill and he struck me and called me vile names”. So very precise and exact! While there isn’t much more information, it seems that Cudahy was happy to get rid of her. He called the marriage “a gin marriage” and quite probably too easily agreed to a hefty settlement. Cudahy didn’t remarry, and died from a liver related disease (read: effects of alcoholism) in 1947.

Marjorie married a Mr. Page sometime in 1942, and that marriage also didn’t stick – they divorced by 1945. Professionally, Marjorie was dried up financially and had to work again, so she became an early in flight hostess for TWA. There was nothing I could find about the mysterious fifth husband. Then, Marjorie started to date Stanley Wassil, a man who would change her life forever.

Wassil was born on April 13, 1919 in Harwood, Pennsylvania, to Polish born Catherine Wassil – his father died before he was born. Wassil lived in his hometown, prior to WW2, during which he served in the Army. Upon discharge he relocated to New York City and from there moved to Los Angeles, California, where he met Marjorie. They hooked up in about 1946, and were soon living together. Wassil worked as a semi successful real estate broker. Here is a short newspaper article about what happened betwene them in the end:

A jilted suitor was in Hollywood jail on suspicion of murder today for the beating death of Marjorie Page, a former Mack Sennett bathing beauty. Mrs. Page, 41. once married briefly to the late Michael Cuadhy of the meat packing family, died in the General Hospital yesterday, 15 hours after police found her on the floor of her apartment with a gaping wound in the back of her head. Stanley Wassil, 32 year-old real estate man who said he broke up v.ith her a month ago after living with her for six years, was hooked following the death. Detectives said he confessed: “1 pushed her in the face and her head slammed against the wall,” Wassil 1 broke down when told of Mrs. Page’s death. He sobbed: “Oh. God. my God! ! didn’t intend to kill her. If I had known this would happen i never would have tried to get her to come back to me.” Later he explained that the fatal quarrel followed a discussion . “about a reconciliation, about G money, her drinking and other men.” Wassil said that since their separation Mrs. Page had refused to give him an accounting of their joint funds.

Here is some more information about what exactly happened that fatal night:

Yells Described in Killing of Ex-Actress Neighbor of Former Mack Sennett Beauty Heard Her Testifies She Say ‘Don’t Hit Me’ Thuds and muffled screams preceded the fatal beating of Mrs. Marjorie Zears Page, 43, one-time Mack Sennett bathing beauty, last March 9, a blonde nightclub entertainer tes 1 V tified yesterday at a preliminary hearing into the former movie actress death. The witness was Mrs. Jo Ann of Director Puffy Michaels, 24, occupant of an upstairs apartment at 1912 N Canyon Drive. She quoted Stanley Wassil, 32, real estate man with whom Mrs. Page had resided for some time, as yelling: “Aw, you’re not hurt; get up!” “Don’t Hit Me Again” She said she heard Mrs. Page plead at one time during the fatal row, “Don’t hit me again!” Sgt. James Barrack testified he had answered a disturbance call to the house on Saturday night and had heard “a sort of snorting kind of panting” and had been told by Wassil that Mrs. Page was an alcoholic and had “passed out.” The woman died the following day.

On with the story – Wassil was arrested and tried for involuntary killing of Marjorie. In the end, he got six year probation and one year of jail. WHAT???

Okay, fact number one: Marjorie was a full blown alcoholic by this time, no doubt about it. fact number two: Wassil literary killed her. Yet, he got only 1 years in prison. Why?? Is it because she was an alcoholic and a woman? Before we start making our own judgement, let’s look at the facts once again, with more depth.

Fact Number one: Wassil was abusive towards Marjorie – it’s hardly realistic to expect this was the first time he struck her. She was a victim of an abusive relationship, like many women today. It’s easy to blame her for not walking away – but isn’t is more logical to blame the perpetrator for inflicting abuse on the victim in the first place? At any length, this is a complex question that will barely be answered on this blog, so on with the facts. The point is, this probably was not an isolated incident – Wassil harmed Marjorie before, and never once did he stop to think that maybe this wasn’t normal behavior for a man, that he should stop. From this angle, Wassil is guilty as heck.

Fact number two: Marjorie was an spendthrift alcoholic who probably tired to seduce other men when she was intoxicated, and this drove Wassil crazy. While this is far from fine behavior on Marjorie’s part, THIS IS NOT, in any way or form, a reason to strike her or inflict any other kind of physical punishment upon her. There is no reason to strike somebody, ever, unless it’s a life or death situation (and here, let’s be frank, it was not – I can hardly imagine Marjorie going after Wassil’s jugular to terminate him or something similar). If you don’t like the way the other person treats you, then just quit. Say goodbye and never turn back. I know it’s easier said than done and not all situations are a clear black and white, but still, wouldn’t it have been better it Wassil left Marjorie and never contacted her again? Who knows how her life would have looked afterwards, and for that fact, his? Maybe Marjorie would have died not long after from effects of prolonged alcohol abuse but then again, maybe not. We’ll never know. And Wassil did not have to the executor’s blade, the one straw that broke the camel’s back. Too bad Wassil didn’t have the strength to simply leave her be. If you do’t like it, just leave! Wassil looks guilty here as well.

Fact number three: Wassil obviously struck Marjorie in the heat of the moment, with no intent to kill. Real bad and unacceptable, but still no murder. But the real deal breaker here is that he LEFT after he literary shoved her into the wall. HE LEFT!!!! The coward left!!! Now this is where the line was crossed into oblivion, on the point of no return. Yes, he stuck her, he deserves to be punished for this criminal act, but it’s much less damaging to strike somebody than to kill him/her. But if he only stayed and helped her, Marjorie would have probably survived (or maybe not, impossible to say now, but let’s go with the assumption that she would have been treated earlier and her changes of not dying would be dramatically increased). It’s almost too easy to imagine how Wassil did this to Marjorie countless of times before – and left her on the floor crying, probably quite a bit drunk. This method worked, until it didn’t. Strike number three against Wassil. So tragic.

Verdict: Any way you look at it, Wassil is guilty. He was not only abusive towards Marjorie in general, and instead of trying to help her, he only deepened their shared problem and in the end, crossed the line big time. Wassil is no victim of a imagined nymphomaniac-drunk Marjorie who drove him to the brink of madness with her lascivious behavior – quite the opposite, he was a weakling who instead of ditching a woman who, despite her obvious allure, was a cauldron of problems, he stayed and only aggravated everything by being a highly counter-productive bully (as bullies always are).

After leaving jail, Wassil continued living his life normally after these dramatic experiences. He remarried to Jessie Gedid, and ran a launderette in his hometown.

Stanley Wassil died on February 21, 2002 in Youngstown, Ohio.

Amelita Ward

AmelitaBigOne

Amelita Ward is a vintage classic. A girl too beautiful for her own good, possessing a healthy dose of silliness and probably no small ego, she crashed Hollywood as a unique combination of good looks and a mean Texan accent. For a time it seemed that a bright future was in front of the lady. True, she did her share of slacking, appearing in a string of B movies and  was working steadily for a few years, not a small feat in cut-throat town like Tinsel town, where they can crush you down easily as an egg. However, it was Amelita’s fiery, passionate personality that was her professional undoing – after marrying a man who was ultimately totally unsuitable for her, she retired and never made another movie again. Let’s learn more about this flaming vixen.

EARLY LIFE

Amelita Culli Ward was born on July 17, 1923, in Magnolia, West Virginia, to Claudius Hatifled Ward and Pauline Pownall. Her parents were both college educated and worked as radio entertainers and singers.

Later studio claimed that Amelita was half Indian, half Irish, from Washington, was born in Texas. I don’t know about the half Indian/half Irish part, but Amelita was not born in Texas for sure. Ah, publicity stunts!

The family moved to Forth Worth, Texas, before 1930, for work reasons (her father was a production manager for NBC). They were well off, and employed a maid, Leona Phillips. Amelita grew up in Forth Worth and learned how to ride horses – anyway, she became a proficient horsewoman while still in her teens. The family returned to Fairfax, West Virginia, in the late 1930s, but Amelita returned to Texas frequently and kept up with all of her Forth Worth friends.

Sometime sin the early 1940s, Amelita went to Los Angeles and did a screen test for MGM. She didn’t pass and left her acting dreams flounder for a while. However, fate had other plans for her. She moved to Seattle, Washington, and did some radio work as a singer. In 1942, something happened, and here is a short excerpt from a newspaper article:

Producers Pine and Thomas had been questing for a new feminine star for their production which is being made on location in Texas, When Pine learned about the young lady. He heard she had made a test once for M.G.M. and wired Thomas in Hollywood to take a look. Result wan that Thomas was impressed and communicated enthusiastically with his partner. And so the new career was born. The sponsors of Miss Ward assert she’ll be going places. Paramount, the organization through which they release, is Interested.

And Amelita was off!

CAREER

Amelita started her career on a high note, with a female leading role in Aerial Gunner. Unfortunately, the movie is a mid tier war film, nothing really special. there are fighting scenes, there is a love triangle, you get the picture. This was followed by Clancy Street Boys, an East Side Kids movie. This is the first time Amelita worked with her future husband, Leo Gorcey. The movie is typical of the series – light, funny, with a decent cast.

Amelita Ward in The Falcon in Danger (1943)Amelita finally made a more worthwhile movie – The Sky’s the Limit. While not one of Fred Astaire’s best, like most of his vehicles it’s worth watching and overall it’s an okay movie. Fred plays a Flying Tiger pilot and Joan Leslie, a very likeable actress, playing his leading lady. Amelita then made an appearance in another movie series, this time The Falcon, with The Falcon in Danger. She has a meatier role here than in her previous movies – she is Falcon’s fiancee! As a genius reviewer wrote on imdb, her role in the movie is as it goes:

Plenty of colour is added to the film by the Falcon’s current ‘fiancee’, played by Amelita Ward with an authentic (rather than phoney) Texas accent as a loud and blundering Southern belle who constantly wants to ride her horse but rides the Falcon instead, relentlessly, until at the end he gets rid of her by sending her a false telegram in which her old boy friend asks her to marry him instead

So funny! And notice how he mentions the authentic Texas accent – seems this was Alemita’s selling point in Hollywood. One wonders how much good it did for her.

Then we have 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 makes it work.

AmelitaWard4Amelita appeared in a thin plotted war propaganda movie, Gangway for Tomorrow. Unfortunately, most of these movies ages badly, and outside of WW2 context, have no real artistic merit. Amelita played her second role in the Falcon series in The Falcon and the Co-eds.  She plays one of the 40 girls at an all girls school, but not a mere stand in but rather a girl who actually does something with the plot! This is vintage Falcon – Tom Conway was as charming as his brother, George Sanders, and played Falcon with an astounding ease and fluidity – if nothing else, he should be the reason to watch the movies.

Then came Seven Days Ashore, one hot mess of a movie – the movie officially stars Art Carney and and Wally Brown is supposed to be a straight comedy with the duo in the leads, but in the end more screen time is given to Elaine Sheperd and Gordon Oliver, who play a straight romance movie. Then we have Marcy McGuire, the songstress, who plays like it’s a straight musical. Too much of everything but not in a good way. Forgettable movie in the end…

Amelita continued appearing in B class movies – Gildersleeve’s Ghost was a nice comedy, with the veteran radio entertainer playing the legendary Gildersleeve character. Rough, Tough and Ready is a completely forgotten Victor MacLagen drama. The Jungle Captive is an interesting movie! While it’s campy trash out-and-out, it does hold some rather ubiquitous qualities. The basic plot revolves around Mr. Stendall, played by Otto Kruger, a mad scientist who is trying to revive the dead ape woman, Paula Dupree, from the previous two Universal movies Captive Wild Woman and Jungle Woman. Paula is played by Vicky Lane, more famous for marrying Tom Neal and Pete Cnadoli than for any of her acting achievements.

More low-budget movies – Swingin’ on a Rainbow, a C class musical about a perky Midwestern girl trying to make it big in The Big Apple – seen the plot a thousands of times, but the movie is surprisingly funny and not a bottom of the barrel effort at all. Come Out Fighting is another Mugs McGinnis movies with Leo Grocey in the lead, but no other info is given. Who’s Guilty? is an interesting experiment in movies – it is a murder mystery, and beginning with the second chapter each suspect is trotted out after the credits while the narrator points out incriminating things about him/her. As the reviewer shrewdly notes in the review, it really does look like a movie version of the famous Clue board game, more so than the actually Clue movie that was made in the 1990s. Amelita plays the heroines, and it’s funny that despite all the perilous situations she finds herself in (she almost gets rn over by a car, etc. etc.), she plays looks picture perfect and her hair is weather resistant! Sweet! 

In 1946, Amelita appeared in The Best Years of Our Lives, for sure the best movie on her filmography, just in a small role. Amelita next played a model When a Girl’s Beautiful, a zany but sadly forgotten comedy. Amelita than appeared in the Bowery boys movie Smugglers’ Cove. And then Amelita hit the low-budget westerns rim with Rim of the Canyon. You all know what I think about those movies, but hey, they were bread and butter for many, so what is there to complain? Amelita’s last movie is one of her best – Slattery’s Hurricane, an underrated, minor gem. The main problem – censors. The original draft, written by Herman Wouk, was quite racy for the time, dealing with themes like adultery and drug addiction, but squeaky white Hollywood couldn’t touch that stuff, so most of it was cut out – leading to a lukewarm script at best. Richard Windmark gives a towering performance and sadly both Veronica Lake and Linda Darnell and underused.

That was it from Amelita!

PRIVATE LIFE

It was said for Amelita that she “looked like Hedy Lamarr and talked like Gene Autry”, which is a pretty cool combo as far as pairing Hollywood personalities go.

For a time in 1942, Amelita was in a pretty serious relationship with  Bert Gordon. Gordon appeared throughout the early 40’s in films and on radio as his character “The Mad Russian.” They broke up cca 1943. Here is an excerpt of an article about Amelita during this period:

William Clemens thought to spare Amelita Ward by having her howl offstage just as if being spanked. But Amelita said no. She’s one of 40 lovelies (count ’em, 40) in RKO Radio’s thriller about murder in a girls’ school, “The Falcon and the Coeds.” She said if the Falcon spanked her the moment he caught her rifling a desk in the principal’s office, it would be much more convincing. Do it right out in public, she urged, and she could yowl more convincingly. It would be humiliating, but one must make sacrifices for Art. So that’s the way the scene was played with Tom (The Falcon) Conway laying it on, and Amelita yelling. Director Clemens praised her devotion to Art. But he has things to learn about women. The other 39 lovelies among whom rivalry for the limelight is intense, looked on, biting their nails. Afterwards, Amelita smiled sweetly but the 39 groaned: , “Scene-stealer.” “Ah,” said Amelita. “Try to top that.”

AmelitaWard3Sometime after starring in a Bowery boys movie, Amelita got involved with Leo Gorcey, one of the Bowery boys. Leo was born on June 3, 1917, in New York, to Bernard Gorcey and Josephine Condon, both vaudevillian actors. Bernard started working in theater and film. he pushed and Leo and his brother, David to try out for a small part in the play Dead End. Having just lost his job as a plumber’s apprentice, Leo agreed and thus his acting career started. In 1937, Samuel Goldwyn made the popular play into a movie of the same name and Leo went to Hollywood. Soon he became a household name.

Leo, when he met Amelita, was married to his second wife, Evalene Bankston. He was divorced from Kay Maris, with whom he had a son.

Amelita and Leo’s illicit affair seems to have gone for some time before got a whiff of it. There was a major scandal when Leo fired three shots at detectives that barged into his house without his consent while he was with Amelita (she allegedly jumped out of the window just in time) – his wife hired them to find any proof of infidelity. The whole thing ended up in court and Leo won against the detective agency, getting 35000 $ in the process (the money went straight to his by then ex-wife as a part of the divorce settlement).

The same day that the divorce came through, Leo married Amelita  in Ensenada, Mexico. They remarried in the US a year later. They moved to a 8 acre ranch 30 miles outside Hollywood. Their son Leo Jr. was born on September 1, 1949. Their daughter Jan Lee was born on June 30, 1951.

Unfortunately, the Gorceys marriage was highly dysfunctional and not particularly happy. They fought constantly, and at some point Amelita started to “wander around”. In a cruel stroke of fate, Leo’s dad died in 1955, causing his son to sink into a deep depression and start drinking and popping too many pills. It definitely didn’t help with the already shattered marriage.

AmelitaWard2By late 1955, Leo has had enough. In February, 1956, when he asked for his third divorce, he told the judge Amelita was “rather fickle” and with tears streaming down his cheeks he accused her of misconduct with “her doctor, her dentist, a couple of other gents and a handsome cowboy.” Leo won custody of their two children, Leo, 6, and Jan, 4, but it was reported that he gave Amelita a hefty settlement with a lump sum of $50,000, 750$ a month for child support (although she didn’t have custody), and the farm.

Leo remarried twice, to Brandy Gorcey and Mary Gannon. After years of hard-drinking, he died on  June 2, 1969, just a day before his 52nd birthday.

After their divorce, Amelita moved to Reno, Nevada and there married Sid McClosy on August 10, 1965. The details were sketchy and it seems nobody was sure were they married for real or not.

Sid is an interesting character himself. Sid was born on September 20, 1927 in Greeley, Colorado, to Sidney Allen McSloy Sr. and Bessie Crawford. He grew up in Missoula, Montana. While I have no way to know 100% if this is correct, but a guy with the same name, Sidney Allen Jr., and the same residence in Missoula, Montana (so I guess it is him), was sentenced for 50 years of hard labor in a Montana state penitentiary, for, I quote, “an infamous crime against nature”. I was like, what is that? Is this some period short-code they used for less than pleasant crimes? It seems this was a “code” for, I quote Wikipedia:  identifying forms of sexual behavior not considered natural or decent and are legally punishable offenses. Whoa, who knows what really happened there. He appealed and got out of jail early, and married a girl named Mable. They divorced in 1957. He moves around and worked, like Amelita’s parents, as a radio entertainer.

Sometime in the mid 1980s, they separated and she moved back to West Virginia, seemingly to take care of her widowed mother. Her mother was quite wealthy, and Amelita had power of attorney over her estate and finances. Amelita started spending her mother’s money lavishly, even buying a Pink Cadillac for their mailman. There were several concerned friends who tired to talk some sense into Amelita. Unfortunately, Amelita contracted breast cancer and lost the power of attorney. Her son took over the care of Amelita’s mother.

Amelita Ward McSlosly died on April 26, 1987, in Durante, California or Alexandria, Virginia.

Her widower Sidney Allen McSloy moved to Newport, Virginia and lived with his companion, Thelma Bernice Jackson. He died there on September 15, 2002.

 

Ellen Hall

EllenHall

Ellen Hall, unlike most of the girls featured here, has her own Wikipedia site! This is highly indicative of the fact that she had some minor success in the film industry despite being completely obscure today.

EARLY LIFE:

Ellen Jeane Johnson was born on April 18, 1923, in Los Angeles, California, to Ella Hall and Emory Johnson. Her older brother Richard was born on January 27, 1919. her younger sister, Diana Marie, was born in October 27, 1929.

She came from an acting family – both her parents and maternal grandmother, May Hall, were thespians. Yet, the only one who ever made true waves was her mother, Ella, a well known actress in the 1920s. Born in New York, she came to Hollywood in the early days of silent films. Her father was originally from San Francisco but left the city for Los Angeles pretty early, in 1913, to have his luck in the burgeoning film industry.

Her mother retired from movies in 1933, and her parents divorced sometime in the 1930s. With her pedigree, it was not wonder that she started acting at a very tender age of seven. She made her movie debut in 1930, and started doing theater work very early, in about 1935. She migrated to New York in 1937 and had several theater roles on and off Broadway.

In 1940, Ellen was living with her mother, brother sister and grandmother in Los Angeles and attending high school. Ella worked as a saleswoman to support the family. Her film career started in full that year, and some success awaited her.

CAREER:

Ellen made her debut in an absolute classic, All Quiet on the Western Front, when she was just a 7 year old child. This is nothing unusual for offspring of thespians families, but what is unusual is that her mother decided upon a path of education for her instead of a child actress career.

Ellen was already a seasoned theater player when she hit movies again, this time in 1941 at the age of 18. The movie was The Chocolate Soldier, a charming Nelson Eddy/Rise Stevens operetta.

In 1943 Ellen finally came into her own. She was never to become a star, not an A class actress, but worked steadily in B class movies for more than 6 years from than on and achieved enough success to play leads.

Her first lead was in Outlaws of Stampede Pass, a more than decent Johnny Mack Brown western. She continued the trend by appearing in the very next Mack western. Both times the played the female lead and the romantic interest, but they were not the same characters. Seems like Mack Brown was a James Bond before the first Bond movie was even made!

Ellen Hall2Ellen made a foray into A class movies in Up in Arms, playing the Goldwyn girl, but it was back to B-s right after with Voodoo Man, a decent enough Monogram horror with a superb horror cast (Bela Lugosi, George Zucco, Lionel Barrymore). Ellen play the role of Lugosi’s wife, a woman dead for 22 years who he is trying to revive with the help of  a voodoo priest. In a nutshell, she’s the reason everything happens in the movie, a pivotal point. Quite flattering, considering that other cuties like Louise Currie and Wanda McKay.

It was back to westerns after that. LumberjackRange Law Call of the Rockies and Brand of the Devil are the four movies that constitute the pinnacle of Ellen’s career. Always playing female leads in solid B class western series, and acting opposite some western heavyweights (Johnny Mack Brown again, William Boyd as Hopalong Cassidy, a character rarely surpassed in terms of popularity in the genre, and Smiley Burnette). While this was never the way to the A class, Ellen seemed content to being a working actress.

After such a nice strike, Ellen was set aback to the uncredited tier in more prestigious movies, often a scanerio that happened to western heroines and B movie stars (kings in their tier, and paupers in the tier up). Here Come the Waves is a mediocre Bing Crosby/Betty Hutton musical. Definitely not  a movie for those with any artistic or intellectual aspirations, it’s a piece of fluff that works due to the leads and their unique brand of charisma. Having Wonderful Crime, a Thin Man wannabe movie trying to mix sophisticated comedy with crime, falls short on several accounts, but is raised from total mediocrity by the ever charming Carole Landis. 

Ellen’s last big movie was Wonder Man, with Danny Kaye, where she was one of the Goldwyn Girls. Cinderella Jones, a below average romantic comedy did nothing for nobody, including the leads, Joan Leslie and Robert Alda.

EllenHall3It was back to westerns and credited parts again. Thunder Town, one of the Bob Steele western movies, is unfortunately not among his best. While a very capable actor with an unique hard stare, Steele looks a bit worn out in the film and even the cameraman tried to “skip” any close ups. The next was Lawless Code, a western so deeply forgotten today it’s not even rated on IMDB, and the plot looks like one hot mess.

Ellen evaded westerns for a short time with Bowery Battalion, a Bowery boys movie, and one of their more valiant efforts. While the low budget constrains have to leave their mark, the gags are good enough to make it a enjoyable experience. Ellen then had a few appearances in the well kn own western series The Cisco Kid, with Duncan Renaldo and Leo Carrillo.

Her very last movie effort came in 1952 with The Congregation, a completely lost movie.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Ellen mostly made the paper due to her acting skill and not really any publicity stunts. Her large acting family was always mentioned whenever she made the news, her mother being the most prominent star of the yesteryear.

Ellen married Lee Langer on December 3, 1944, in Los Angeles, California, just as WW2 was ending (Lee attained the rank of captain). Langer was born on Ferbuary 3, 1919 in Illinois to Alex Langer and his wife, Sophia Rice.

The couple lived first in Los Angeles, and them moved to San Diego. As  far as I can tell, they had no children and Ellen enjoyed a quiet retirement.

Langer died on February 24, 1995. Ellen moved to Washington state after his death.

Ellen Jeane Langer died on March 24, 1999, in Bellevue, Washington.   

 

Virginia Cruzon

VirginiaCruzon

Another Goldwyn girl that never broke from the uncredited tier. Nothing new here, but Virginia Cruzon was so much more – she was a true and blue working gal who supported not only herself but her mother and seamlessly switched to a career in the oil industry after her Hollywood years were over.

EARLY LIFE:

Virginia Monroe was born on May 25, 1921, in San Francisco, California to Albert Harold Monroe and Mabel Maude Babb.

She had four older brothers and sisters: a unnamed sister, who was born in 1908 and died a few months later in 1909, Phyllis Morine, born in 1909, Muriel Nadine, born in cca. 1913, Harold Richard Monroe, born in 1916.

Her parents divorced not long after her birth. In 1930, she was living in the house of Garfield Stanley Kirkpatrick, with her mother acting as his housekeeper.

Virginia attended high school in Los Angeles, but completed only the first two grades before dropping out to try her hand at the showbiz career. She worked as a usher at the Grauman’s Chinese Theater and graduated to a chorus girl not long after. She worked for five, six years before becoming a Goldwyn Girl (she was also an Earl Carroll girl for a brief time), and then got into movies.

FILMOGRAPHY:

Virginia had two breaks into movies before she finally settled into it (but she never did get any credits). Her first experience was in George White’s 1935 Scandals. For ambitious chorus girls who wanted to taste the movie life, George White’s movies were paradise. A man well known for his taste in women, and, much like Busby Berkeley, George White made lavish musicals featuring a large number of dancers. Also like Berkeley, his movies had a paper thin plot, the lead was normally a Mary Sue and characters were mostly one dimensional. The above mentioned movie is no different, it’s pure escapist fare you watch once and forget soon after. The charismatic lead, Alice Faye, lends the movie a warm flavor but it’s not a top achievement.

VirginiaCruzon2Fast forward to 1941, and to Virginia’s second movie, Ziegfeld Girl. Co directed by Busby, top notch production values and with several huge stars in the cast, what could go wrong? Nothing did go wrong, but it’s most definitely not a legendary movie well known to the masses like Gone with the wind. And then again a hiatus from the industry.  

Virginia made the cusp of her filmography in 1944/45.  Up in Arms was her last Goldwyn girl appearance. As mentioned several times of this site, it’s a fluffy, happy go lucky movie, perfect for a Sunday afternoon viewing, with very charming leads (Danny Kaye and Dinah Shore).

Having Wonderful Crime was one of Carole Landis’s last worthwhile movies. She would die three years after the movie was released, in 1948, but the rest of her filmography is dismal to say at least. While this movie is no big work of art, it’s still a decent screwball comedy. Some gags are repetitive and hardly funny, but Carole Landis is superb in her role, and George O’Brien is as good as usual in his stock role. The story of course, expects a total suspension of belief on the side of the viewer, but that is to be expected from a WW2 comedy.

A Thousand and One Nights is the movie that gave the people what they wanted – exotic escapism. it’s full of colors, fancy costumes and endearing musical numbers. Characters come and go, there is no structure of indeed a decent plot, but who cares? it’s not that kind of a movie to start with. Conrel Wilde and Evelyn Keyes make a handsome couple.

Virginia had more of the same by appearing in George White’s Scandals. Nothing more needs to be added. A typical George White movie with Virginia in the chorus.

Shadowed was a run of the mill Columbia crime quickie. One Sunday Afternoon isd a movie that tries to chew more than it can swallow – why?  Because it’s a remake of “Strawberry blonde“, a superb movie with James Cagney, Rita Hayworth and Olivia de Havilland. Need I mention that surpassing one of these thespians is hard work, but surpassing all three is down right impossible. Cagney owns the rough but lovable Irishman stereotype and nobody, but nobody could put him in shade. Dennis Morgan, the lead in One Sunday Afternoon, was always a passable actor bu tno big talent (he was a great singer, but actor? Meh). Janis Paige and Dorothy Malone, while very good actresses in their own right, do not peg down the roles sufficiently. The end result is a pale remake, completely overshadowed by it’s older brother.

Emergency Wedding was a bright spot on Virginia’s filmography. It’s a low key, funny, gentle movie about male-female relationships  and the meaning of work in one’s life. The cast is made out of highly reliable actors and actresses that never achieved huge fame – Larry Parks, Barbara Hale, Willard Parker, Una Merkel and so on. Great comedic moments, good romantic tension, a clear message,  it’s a movie that shows what was so right with Hollywood in the 1950s.

Virginia retired from movies after this.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Virginia came into the media spotlight after Ziegfeld Girl. The movie had some extensive publicity, with the Ziegfeld girls from the movie wearing the newest fashions and doing tours all over the US. A brilliant press agent send Virginia and Myrna Dell to New York for the festivities to promote the movie, and claimed both never set foot outside Los Angeles county. Since Virginia was born in San Francisco, it’s clear what a fad that was.

The press was also inventive in her life story: she was depicted as a poor girl working in a factory who was pushed out of that mundane life by a talent scout who started pulling strings to have her become a chorine. Not quite true – in 1940, her official occupation was being a photo model, not a factory worker!

VirginiaCruzon3Virginia continued to appear in variety and revue shows even after her movie career started, and supported her mother all the while. She appeared as a in Ken Murray’s Blackouts several years in a row, proving her mantle as a comedienne.

Virginia’s first known beau was producer Robert “Bob” Sherwood. Nina Orla was also vying for his attention, but Virginia won hands down.

Virginia married Rex W. Whaley, a movie splicer, on May 29, 1944 . Whaley was born in Oklahoma in 1918 and since the 1930s lived in Los Angeles where he raised his three younger sisters with the help of an aunt.

Virginia gave up movies not long after for started working for the Chevron Oil Company. She and Rex resided in Glendale in 1955. They divorced in 1956.

Virginia married Stephen H. Sanders on April 26, 1957. Their daughter Virginia Jocelyn Sanders was born on June 3, 1958. They divorced in February 1968.

Virginia retired from Chevron Oil Company in 1988, and moved to Lamarie, Wyoming to enjoy her golden years.

Virginia Sanders died on August 21, 2010, in Lamarie, Wyoming.