Laurie Shevlin

Laurie Shevlin was an alluring Scottish lass who ended up in Hollywood as a chorus girl and made only one movie. She tried for movies a second time, but that was another kaput, and her road from there was rocky, but ultimately she managed to carve out a happy life for herself. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Catherine Laurie Shevlin was born on March 15, 1914, in Annathill, Scotland, UK, to Frank and Annie Shevlin, the youngest of six children (Laurie had three brothers, one of them named William, and two sisters, one of them named Anna). Her father, an Irish immigrant, was a manual laborer, and allegedly once ran for Parliament on the Labor platform, although I find this very hard to believe. She spent her childhood in Glasgow, Scotland, but her parents decided to move to the land of opportunity, to the US.

Laurie arrived to the US in 1928 with her family. She was barely out of elementary school, but times were hard and all of the family had to go to work. There could be no more school for Laurie. She worked as a waitress and made more than her brothers. She was serving food in the public dining room of the Presbyterian Hospital, New York, when she won a beauty contest at a local theater. She was then 15. The contest caused her to be given a job in Earl Carroll’s “Murder at the Vanities” as the murdered girl. Wanting to improve her skills, she also started to attend Paramount School of Dramatic Art in New York.

Laurie stayed with the Carroll show two years, going to Hollywood to take part in the screen production, in the chorus. And that is how it started!

CAREER

Laurie appeared in only one movie – It’s a fast-moving, fast-talking, sexy movie all the way, the kind you couldn’t make after the Production code was enforced in 1934. The movie’s main highlight are giggly showgirls and a incredible blend of classical and hot jazz. The story is nothing to sneer at: a Murder investigation goes on back stage while The Vanities, on its opening night, plays on to an unknowing audience, but the movie mix and matched crime and musical so it’s an exciting novelty even today, 80 years after it was made. You can also see the infamous “Sweet Marijuana” number in this movie. Gertrude Michael, a underrated actress at any rate, has a meaty role as a bitchy actress and excels in it, making the leading duo of Kitty Carlisle and Carl Brisson somehow boring in comparison. Laurie of course played a chorus girl, just one in the pool of beauties.

And that was it from Laurie!

PRIVATE LIFE

Laurie was 5 feet 5 inches tall, and weighted about 120 lbs when she came to Hollywood.

Here is a beauty hint from Laurie:

To stimulate the growth of the eyelashes, a little castor oil rubbed on each evening before retiring is effective. Doing it regularly will result in thick, long lashes.

Sadly, Laurie’s stay in Hollywood was not a very happy one. Since she had arrived in Tinsel Town, she has had a narrow escape from pneumonia, has had dental trouble which necessitated a lanced jaw, and has fallen down stairs. On a side note, Laurie wasnt’ interested in getting married back then, like some of her fellow chorus girls. They said this to the papers:

Hollywood blonde; Marion Callahan, yellow head from New York; Dorothy Dawes, brunette from the same Big Town, and Laurie Shevlin, of Scotland, with snapping dark eyes, babble that they have always looked forward to careers, that they don’t know what all the fuss is about marriage, that they “prefer to be alive!”

Well said girls! When you are 20 years old, still learning and trying to find yourself, maybe it’s better to wait for the right time ot get married, despite all the societal pressure.

After she appeared in his one and only movie, Laurie was not recognized then as star material and came back to New York for an engagement with a Carroll troupe at a night club. Then she went into George White’s “Scandals” show. She decided she wanted to be a dramatic actress. She wrote and asked Oscar Berlin, chief talent scout for Paramount, and Cecil Clovelly, the director of the Paramount school, to let her enter. They granted her an interview, but turned her down at first, because of her accent. So she worked on it at home, on buses, in subways, at cocktail parties, making everyone correct her when she sounded like something fresh off the moors. Finally, her persistence and her charm overcame them. They let her in, but it took a great deal of work, every day, hour upon hour, delivering lines, learning to walk, learning to hold up her face so the strong lights of the studio would not make shadows. Before it came time to make her test, they put her through a course in how to dress herself, how to emphasize her good points. They tried to sell her as an rising star on this story – to make her a kind of a Scottish Cinderella whose voice had to be modulated before she could enter movies.

Here is a short article about Laurie’s elocution abilities:

, Tilt Gives Laurie Shevlin the Unique Charm Hero Captured by the Cameras In the Course of Her Test for a Film Contract. Compare This Photo of Her with That (Below) . . . By Dorothy Ducas S HE looked small and helpless sitting under the fierce glare of the studio lights. But when she spoke .her voice was as vibrant with youth and life as the mist-blue eyes under her curling, naturally long, black lashes. “You don’t believe thot? Well you con. It’s trrrue!” Delicately, but as arrestingly as a glimpse of purple heather, an accent lay upon her words. It was no simulated accent, it was real. A Scotch lassie! That was why she wore the tartan like one to the heather born. She continued: “I was born of a Russian mother and a Scotch fatherrrr — on a Dutch ship — on the high seas.” She flashed an impish grin. Laurie Shevlin was taking her ACID TEST It Takes Extraordinary Poiso for a Screen Hopeful to’ Bear Up Under the Severe Conditions Surrounding Movie “Tests.” Above Is One of the Few Photos Ever Made During the “Test” of a Future Possible Star, Taken as Laurie Shevlin Was Facing the Cameras for the Picture Which Won Her Her Chance at Stardom, and Made Happy Her Mother (Below), Who Naturally Thinks Laurie Looks Her Best In the Scotch Kilt Costume She Is Wearing at Right.  Another View of the Making of the “Test” Film Which Marked Laurie Shevlin’s Graduation from the Paramount School In New York, Where She Studied for More Than a Year to Win Her Chance at Capturing Film Fame. . . . Showing Laurie Shevlin at the Time She Arrived In This Country with Her Family, an Immigrant Girl from Her Native Scotland. screen, test after months . of. .studying to rid her tremulous voice of the burr of her native land, by playing a scene from Elizabeth Bergener “Escape Me Never.” She was playing it with a Scotch instead of a German accent, for some of the objectionable burr remained; playing it with all the yearning of her young soul in her voice. “Please,” she was saying to herself, “please make them like a Scotch accent as much as a German one!” She . was thinking of the international success of German-born Elizabeth Bergener. Laurie Shevlin’.’, rich “r’s” and narrow “a’s” were all that stood between her and a movie contract when she first came under the eye of a Paramount talent scout. Garbo has’ done rather well with Swedish overtones In her voice; exaggerated British accents are in demand, and the Spanish accent of Lupe Velez and other Latins has never seemingly grated on the ears of photoplay-goers. Yet an executive thought those same movie audiences wouldn’t like a Scotch accent! So Laurie Shevlin, who thought she was done with learning the Three It’s, went to school again. She read whole books aloud to her mother, her brother, her friends, practicing words and watching lip motions in the mirror in her bedroom. She stayed in the Paramount school for “finds” months longer than any of their other “discoveries,” she whose beauty was outstanding, whose ability made it possible for her to cry real tears without coaching. She stayed to “kill” the accent But for all her study she could not eliminate the trace of it. Fortunately, too, for it was that delectable sound which made the West Coast and fame beckon, following her screen test. Overnight that which had been her bug-a-boo became a passport to golden opportunity. “And why not?” asks Laurie, bubbling over with happiness. “Harry Lauder made a pile of money out of his accent.”

This try for a career faltered just as did the first one, and Laurie returned to New York for good, and continued appearing in Earl Carroll’s night clubs. The years went on, and at some point, she gave up her chorus work.

Now, I have no idea how it came to this, but by 1942, Laurie was disillusion with everything in general, and, probably not seeing a viable way out, tried to commit suicide. Yes, she tried to drown herself in Central park. Highly unusual suicide method, that one. Here is an article from that unhappy occurrence:

Laurie Shevlin, 26 years old, a former chorus girl in Earl Carroll’s night club in Hollywood, was In Bellevue after two attempts to take her life. already end her life by jumping into a pool  Central park. Miss Shevlin Jumped heard her scream, leaped in.

Patrolman Robert Pilsen dragged her to shore. When he let her go, however, she jumped back in. Patrolman Louis Schmidt and numerous others pulled her out again and took her to the hospital.

So, she tried to jump two times – something really serious must have happened to her. Perhaps a love affair gone awry, financial problems, something else? But, bottom line, she pulled out of the chasm, survived, and returned stronger. How do we know that? Well, the next we hear, Laurie was in the papers for a happy occasion – a marriage!

She married Warrant Officer Homer Wilfrid Anderson on October 13, 1945, in Tijuana, Mexico. Anderson was born on April, 2 1916, in Orange, New York, the son of Homer Wilfird Anderson Sr. and Lena M. Anderson. He became a certified public accountant In civilian life, was inducted into the Army February 11, 1942. He is stationed in Los Angeles, with the Contract Audit Air Forces. He was just out of the Army when they hitched.

I have no idea what happened to Laurie afterwards – how solid was her marriage, where did she live and so on. I just know that Homer Wilfrid Anderson died on February 7, 2003, in Virginia.
As always, I hope she had a good life!

Nora Gale

 

Nora Gale – a chorus girl who crashed Tinsel town with scant experience but luckily got a contract, danced in various movies, never made it to a credited role, returned to the stage and in the end, married and left showbiz. Heard this story before? Anyway, let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Nora Gwendalyn Gale was born on January 20, 1917 in Bristol, Gloucestershire, United Kingdom, to Herbert Lancelot Gale and his wife Liza Ashman.  Her father worked as a carpenter, her mother was a housewife.

Herbert and Liza actually met and married in Winnipeg, Canada, in 1906. Her mother was married once before, in 1903, to James Wiliam Fear, who tragically died in November 1905. They had a son, Nora’s older half-brother, Wallace James, born in 1904. The Gales lived in Canada until shortly before Nora was born, and then returned to Bristol. It seems that Wallace remained in Canada, living with relatives.

Tragedy struck the Gale family when James, barely 16 years old and working as a rivet heater for a railway company in Winnipeg, drowned in 1920. The family moved to California, and they became naturalized US citizens in 1932. Nora was a outgoing, talented child who was adept at dancing, and wanted to become an actress. She started to work as a chorus girl while she was in high school, and by the age of 16 was an experienced chorine. Somehow she met dance director LeRoy Prinz, and he put her into the good graces with a studio that signed her in 1935.

CAREER

Nora started her career with Murder at the Vanities, a sensual, bawdy and rowdy murder mystery made before the code was reinforced – and boy, could this movie never be made after 1934. Plenty of skimpily clad girls, songs with dubious drug references lyrics , weapons, a sleek killer, murder in the ceiling and dripping blood.. You get the picture! Nora was of course one of the showgirls. Nora’s second movie, Lottery Lover was in a lower tier – a pleasant but not all too interesting musical.  Nora was back in the sexy pool with Rumba, a George Raft/Carole Lombard pairing. Their first pairing was the ultra slinky Bolero which made ton of money for the studio, so they made a repeat, but this movie, made after the code was enforced, had none of the lusty sensuality and energy of the original, not to mention trading the bittersweet ending for  atypical Hollywood happy one, so it’s a mid tier movie at best, perhaps worth watching for the dancing and for Carole/George fans.

Nora undertook a brief hiatus from Tinsel town, got married and divorced in the UK, and returned to Hollywood in 1938. She made only three small movie appearances in this iteration of her career: The Big Broadcast of 1938 and Sing, You Sinners and Artists and Models Abroad.All three movies are musicals with comedic touches, but are quite different in tone – Artists and Models is a more traditional romance, Big broadcast is a pastiche of various performers doing their stuff and even with some animated segments, while Sing you sinners is a charming family movie about three brothers (played with aplomb by Bing Crosby, Fred MacMurray and Donald O’Connor). Then Nora took another hiatus after this.

In 1941, Nora made an appearance in the most well known movie of her filmography – the James Cagney/Rita Hayworth/Olivia de Havilland/Jack Carson classic The Strawberry Blonde, a witty, nostalgic comedy with a great cast and a actually highly realistic story. The plot is simple: Carson as Hugo Barnstead marries Virginia Brush (Hayworth), “stealing” her away from Biff Grimes (Cagney) who later marries Amy Lind (de Havilland), on the rebound. Years later, Biff sees reality of what it would have been if he had married the vapid Virginia (when he’s asked to pull Hugo’s tooth), and hence better appreciates his own wife. This is a golden role for Jimmy Cagney – atypical from his previous gangster movies that made him a household name, here Cagney plays a softer character, albeit still brash and rough around the edges.

Nora’s last movie was The Great American Broadcast, and as one reviewer wrote on IMDB: “actually has a fun if unremarkable plot, pretending to be about the history of radio, but really just an excuse to let its stars do what they do best: Alice Faye to sing in her throaty, comforting contralto, John Payne to look handsome (he also warbles a bit, and not badly), Jack Oakie to clown (less annoyingly than usual). Mack Gordon and Harry Warren wrote many gorgeous ballads;  It moves fast–positively at a gallop, by Fox standards–and though there are anachronisms everywhere, in the costumes and the dialog and the sets, this time you don’t mind. A very entertaining, unpretentious Fox musical.”

That was it from Nora!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nora had a brief one year career in movies before becoming a full time showgirl. She was working in the UK when she and a group of other chorus girls ( Luanna Meredith, Patricia King, Nora Gale, Harriet Haddon and Jeannette Dickson) had toleave England immediately because the Ministry of Labor has refused to extend their labor permits. Nora, who visited her family in Bristol and reconnected to a previous swain, decided to stay and marry him.

So, in 1936, Nora married Alec G. Henstridge back in Bristol. Alas, the marriage was not meant to last, as they were divorced by the time Nora returned to the US in 1938 and started acting in movies again. Here is a article about being a chorine back in those days :

Hollywood had cated, too, because the studios today make dancing a secondary consideration, look first to personality. “Personality and carriage are the two prime attributes we seek,” Prinz explained. “Personality with naturalness, without coyness. A girl may not be pretty, may even be homely, but if she has nice features, can be herself, can walk properly or learn to do it, we can transform her in 30 days so that you won’t recognize her. She might not have been able to get a job in the Five-and-Ten before, but when we get through with her, she’s ready for a place in any smart shop.” To EFFECT these magic changes, the studio teaches the girl: 1 how to walk; 2 how. to talk, and not to talk too much; 3 how to use makeup according to her type; 4 how to dress her hair; 5 how to pick and wear clothes; 6 to study her own personality and how to bring out her best points. Only after the girl has been thus remolded does her ability to dance come into the picture. Even then, dancing is preceded by the teaching of rhythm, which is essential not only to dancing but to proper walking. “In teaching rhythm,” said Prinz, “I have the girl walk to a waltz, then to a fox-trot, finally according to her own idea of how she should do it and pointing towards a natural but graceful interpretation.” As outstanding examples of the new type screen chorine Prinz named Nora Gale and Harriet Haddon. “Nora came to me when she was 16,” he said. “She was just another chorus girl who wore slacks and carried a little grip with a baby doll painted on it. She wanted to break her neck doing acrobatic dancing. Now she is a smart and poised young lady.” Later we met Miss Gale. . She seemed a serious-minded young person with an urge toward getting somewhere in pictures. “I want to be a comedienne,” she confided. “Most of the girls are pretty earnest about their careers, and work hard for advancement.” I fall Mm University. Then she got a summer Job in the studios. One reason Hollywood girls are movie sophisticated than they used to be, she believes, is to be found In the influence upon them exerted . by numbers to Broadway girls who have come to the film studios in the past few years. ‘ “Since I started here I’ve worked both in New York and London,” sha said. “The Broadway girls used to be so much older for their, years than the girls here. At 17 they were like youthful women of 25. You would never catch a New York chorus girl running around in bobby socks, sweaters and slacks and low heels, with a scarf on her head.” Miss Haddon agreed, as did Dorothy Haas, whom we met and immediately listed as our personal selection.

In Hollywood, Nora was mighty serious about Mack Gray, George Raft’s right hand man (also known as Raft’s companion-bodyguard-shadow in the press) and a close friend of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. For unknown reasons the two broke up after about a year together. In 1940, she was beaued by Louis Zamperini, the U.S.C. intercollegiate track star and one-mile champion whose later wartime experiences would later serve as the basis for the Angelina Jolie movie Unbreakable.

Then, there were reports that Nora was secretly married to Ned Stewart. It seems that they were very much close to the altar, but something thwarted them and they gave up. We can assume that Nora was quite bitter over the experience, here is a newspaper snippet written after their crash-and-burn romance:

Not all actresses prefer actors for boy-friends. Nora Gale seems definitely typical. Young and attractive and sufficiently talented to win a part In “Unmarried,” with Buck Jones and Helen Twelvetrees, Miss Gale has this to say about the stated situation: “I’ve been in pictures about a year and a half and I have yet to find a movie actor who didn’t consider himself a pretty competent article indeed. I mean most of them are of the firm opinion they are the real McCoy.” Nora’s preference is for young business men. When she steps out over the holidays, it will be with young business men, the same kind of young men you find in Toledo, O., or South Bend, Ind., just as well as in Hollywood. Nora prefers them to actors. “They know more and talk less.”

Ouch! One wonders what exactly happened to warrant this kind of an outburst. There is usually a very good reason why actresses date more actors, movie people (or in some cases millionaires) than normal business people, but Nora was hurting and perhaps she truly needed a break from Tinsel town? Anyway, next thing we know, Nora gives up Hollywood and becomes a member of the St. Regis ice show.

Unlike many other starlets who said all sorts of stuff to the papers and then did the exact opposite, Nora really did date and in the end marry a businessman. She was wed to George Shannon Baker, a wealthy liquor magnate of Minneapolis, in January 1942 at a 4 p.m. ceremony at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Cedric Adams, with the The Rev. Frederick D. Tyner officiating. The couple lived in Minneapolis after the nuptials, and Nora retired from the movies for good.

Unfortunately, the Bakers were divorced in 1951. I have no idea what exactly did Nora do after the divorce, did she stay in Minneapolis or move back to Los Angeles?

Roughly 20 years after they were almost married in Los Angeles, Nora married Ned G. Stewart on November 2, 1961. The couple moved to Hawaii to enjoy their mature years.

Norah Gale Stewart died on July 21, 1996 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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!

 

Anne Rooney

In the mid 1940s, there was a sudden onslaught of pretty, petite and cute actresses who were often not great beauties, not that great as thespians, but were able singers and charming to booth. Jane Powell, Deanna Durbin, Ann Blyth, just to name a few of the best known… However, a great of such girls didn’t make the grade – Anne Rooney firmly belongs in this category. Nice looking in a girl-next-door kind of way, with a solid voice and colorful vaudeville background, she was seemingly perfect fit for the times, but somehow, she just didn’t work. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Shirley Anne McCully was born on August 15, 1926, in Santa Clara, California, to Ernest McCully and Hazel Rooney, both professional vaudeville dancers. She had an older sister, Mary Virginia, born in July 14, 1920. She grew up in Santa Clara.

Anne adopted her parents’ profession quiet early, as she was groomed to go on stage much liker her sister. At five she was guest star with Al Pearce and his Radio Gang, and at eight she joined her mother and dad, Hazel and Ed McCully and Virginia in a coast-to-coast vaudeville tour. They were known as “Mac’s Merrymakers.” At thirteen she made her film bow in “Flicker Fever.” She gained some movie acting experience thus as a child actress in the old Educational (as they were called) comedies. I won’t profile these comedies as they are no on her IMDB page.

Anne, at 16, was singing with Muzzy Marcellino‘s band at the Glendale, California, Civic Auditorium when she was resigned for the movies and appeared in “Babes On Broadway,” with her “namesake,” Mickey Rooney. A talent scout spotted Anne when she was singing with Muzzy Marcel-lino’s orchestra in Glendale, invited her to the studio, the next day she had a contract.

And that is how is started!

CAREER

Anne made her grown up debut in Babes on Broadway, a Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland happy-go-lucky, “let’s stage a musical” musical. The story isn’t important (like there is one) – just enjoy the colorful sets, the nice music and good dancing sequences, plus Mickey and Judy!

Anne signed with MGM and appeared in a two of their movies: Calling Dr. Gillespie (of the famous Dr. Gillespie movie serie,s with Lionel Barrymore as the eponymous Gillespie), For Me and My Gal , a charming, breezy and air light Judy Garland/George Murphy musical with a special appearance by Gene Kelly!).

Anne was sacked by MGM afterwards and signed by Universal, and she continued her musical trajectory: her first movie for the new studio was Henry Aldrich Gets Glamour, one of the Henry Aldrich series of movies. Not that well-known today, Henry Aldrich was a popular series back in the 1930s and 1940s, and this was the 7th movie in the series, where Harry becomes extra popular overnight to his date with a movie star, and girls start to flock around him. Anne plays one of the adoring girls, but is overshadowed by more popular actresses like Diana Lynn, Frances Gifford and Gail Russell. That same year Anne also made Follow the Band,  a run of the mill light romantic comedy where the actors weren’t even the main attraction, but you have a dance band playing good music and featuring cameo performances of stars as night club acts. So, Eddie Quillian and Mary Beth Hughes fade as the leading couple, and we have Leon Errol and Leo Carrillo among others. Plus a very small, early role by Robert Mitchum!

Anne’s string of musicals continued with Always a Bridesmaid, a complete forgotten Andrews sisters musical. Then came This Is the Life, an overall enjoyable comedy about a love triangle between the sweet soprano Susanna Foster, goofy but endearing tween Donald O’Connor and handsome and suave Patric Knowles (the triangle becomes a square when Peggy Ryan comes in!).

Then finally came Anne’s five minutes of fame and her first leading role. The year was 1944, the movie was Slightly Terrific. However, it ended up a real fiasco for Anne – why? Well, because she was the thinnest part of the movie. The film’s plot is the typical variation of the “Let’s Put on a Show” plot, and the only thing carrying the movie is the veteran comedic actor Leon Errol, delightfully funny as twins of totally opposite personalities. You can’t take his eyes of him – he such a master of his craft and obviously had impeccable timing. Other than him, there is absolutely nothing to recommend this bland mess. Not long after this movie, Anne and Universal went their separate ways.

Anne came back to movies in 1946, with Freddie Steps Out, the second of the “Teen-Agers” musical series at Monogram. Monogram was infamous for being a cheapskate studio, and most of their movies are so low-budget looking that you have to try hard and squint not to see it and try to enjoy the story and the actors. The Teen Agers musical series isn’t the worst thing they churned. Tailor made to showcase young singer Freddie Stewart, who achieved some degree of success on the radio, this particular movie has such afar fetched story (A high school student is mistaken for a famous radio singer who goes missing) that there is too much suspension of disbelief. Ah, at least you can see Frankie Darro and Noel Niell in it.

Anne played the leading lady’s (June Pressier) sister, and repeated the same role in the third movie of the series, High School Hero. This one also has a predictable, half-stupid story (the leading man’s school has a rivalry with another school in town and during a football game, when the chips are down, they know they are gonna lose, but as a joke one of the cheerleaders goes in drag in a football uniform and the girl ends up their secret weapon). All in all, the series went on for five more movies, stopped in 1948, and took down with it the leading man’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

Anne was a scant five feet and weighs less than a hundred pounds. Since she was underage when she got her first contract, she has to obtain court approval of the said contract calling for initial salaries of $75 a week. The other girl who also got the same contract was Donna Reed. Donna ended up more successful than Anne in the acting stakes.

When she came to Hollywood, Anne’s was publicized in large part via her instantly recognizable moniker – namely, Annie Rooney was a famous character played by Mary Pickford back in the 1920s. Here is a typical article of the day:

Anne was born the same year Mary Pickford played the title role in the film production, “Little Annie Rooney.” – Anne’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. E. E. McCully, proved prophetic when they named their daughter Anne Rooney McCully on her birth at San Jose, California. Now 17, Anne has almost precisely the same measurements as Miss Pickford. She’s exactly five feet tall and weighs an even 90 pounds. And she is a likely choice for today’s “America’s Sweetheart” title.

Like many starlets, Ann did her share of war effort, touring camps extensively. Despite being a vaudevillian, Anne hadn’t been out of the state of California until she left on a camp tour through the middle west and deep south. Here is an article:

As we have often said there are very few motion picture actresses, especially the starlets, who can contribute much in the way of entertainment when they make a personal appearance. Anne ‘Rooney, working here and there for Universal and now appearing as headliner on the National Base Tour. ‘

Winsome Anne, a rising young starlet, comes to Camp Livingston Sunday for a five day visit and a series of formal and informal visits about the camp. Although not related to Mickey Rooney, she was signed for a term contract after being seen in a Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland film young singers of popular songs. Miss Rooney is scheduled to arrive at Livingston Sunday morning and following dinner.

As for Anne’s love life, John Hopkins, of a wealthy Cleveland family, once engaged to June Preisser, was her first serious beau and first fiancee. She and her mother had gone to the place where Jack was stationed and all seems very serious and very close to the altar. For unknown reasons, the relationship was terminated not long afterwards and no wedding took place. Anne than dated Captain Paul Penrose, a Western Airlines pilot.

Anne left Hollywood in 1944, and worked as a showgirl in the Copacabana. There she met and married Jerry Brooks, Los Angeles and Miami cafe owner, also called the zipper king by the press. He once owned part of the famous Slapsy Maxie’s night club. They settled in Los Angeles and their son Steven Jerome was born there on July 24, 1948.

Sadly in 1949, before their son was a year old, they were dogged by persistent rift rumors, which were later confirmed by Ann’s mother, Mrs. Hazel McCully. Pretty soon Anne consulted attorney Buron Fitts and sued for divorce. Their marriage was finished by early 1950.

Anne became Donald O’Connor’s personal assistant, or his Girl Friday, and stayed in Hollywood, albeit not as an actress. In the early 1950s she met Vincent Nuccio and started dating him. Nuccio was born in 1914 to Joseph Nuccio and Josephine Garogalo in Ohio. Nuccio married 16 January 1936 Yolanda Palmieri in Ohio, and moved with her to California, where he started an insurance business that boomed over the ages, making him a rich man. Sadly, Yolanda died sometime in the late 1940s, making him a widower.

Vincent and Anne were first married on February 2, 1957, settling and living the high life in Beverly Hills. Since, Nuccio was very wealthy and fond of the social life, they became the golden party-giving couple of the West Coast. However, their domestic life was far from tranquil and stable.

The Nuccios divorced in 1963 and remarried within a year, On may 15, 1963 (that was fast). But there was one, itsy-bitsy problem: a prenuptial agreement Anne signed before tying the knot the second time around. The document allegedly entitled her to zippo. Then, in 1970ys, she decided to divorce Nuccio again. She wanted half the estimated $10 million in community property. And that’s why Annie went to renown lawyer Marvin Mitcheslon, who was famous for his palimony cases.

Here is an article about their messy divorce:

After setting aside part of a prenuptial agreement that said the wife would receive a flat sum of $5,000 in event of divorce, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge Monday awarded former movie singer and dancer Annie Rooney $12,000 a month support from wealthy insurance executive Vincent Nuccio. Under terms of the judgment, the 54-year-old Miss Rooney could receive as much as $3.5 million from Nuccio if she lives out the 28 years of her acturial life expectancy, her lawyer, Marvin Mitchelson, said. According to Mitchelson, Nuccio. 65, also agreed that in event of his death, payments to Miss Rooney from his estate would continue until she died or remarried. The ruling was not viewed as a victory for Miss Rooney by Nuccio’s lawyer, Marshall Zollo, who said her attempt was to “overturn the entire prenuptial agreement and get half the estate.” “The court record showed that . . . for the purpose of this hearing, the husband’s net worth was $5 million,” Zollo said. “She was trying to get half of that and she got zero. She got support but none of the property.” As a matter of law, Judge Frances Rothschild ruled invalid the section of the agreement entered into prior to the couple’s second marriage in 1963 that limited the amount of spousal payment to $5,000. The judge, however, upheld all remaining portions of the prenup.

Anne and Vince divorced, and she lived the rest of her days in California, out of the newspaper radar.

Anne Rooney Nuccio died on August 16, 2006, in Toluca Lake, California.

 

Lucille Barkley

Lucille Barkley was a pretty girl who came to Hollywood with great expectations, and, unlike many starlets, was not without some background – she was a semi-seasoned actress who did some theater and was even educated in the acting arts. Against all odds, she did manage to nab roles in several high-profile movies and was a highly publicized personality in Hollywood for a few months. However, her career ultimately went nowhere and she retired after 30 something odd films and TV appearances. All in all , not a bad record for a place where most girls stay for a year or two (if the are lucky!)

EARLY LIFE

Lucy Oshinski was born on November 3, 1924, in Ranshaw, Pennsylvania to Florian and Verna Oshinski. She was one of nine children – her siblings were out of five sisters and three brothers, namely, from elder to younger: Stella, Anette “Tessie”, Helen, Eleanore, Henry, Thomas, Evelyn and Donald.  Her father worked in the coal mining industry.

Lucy spent her childhood years in Ranshaw, which was a typical Pennsylvania coal town. She attended St. Anthony’s Elementary School, and after completing her freshman year in Coal Township High School, Lucille moved with her parents to Rochester, N. Y., where she graduated from Benjamin Franklin High School.

Lucille got her start in show business with the Rochester Community Players with whom she had roles in “My Sister Eileen” and “Arsenic and Old Lace”. She also was a model far Eastman Kodak Company and took prizes in a number of beauty contests before going to New York. After studying a few semesters at the American Academy of Dramatic Art, with the goal of becoming a Hollywood film star. She also did modeling for the prestigious Conover agency and a little dramatics for a couple of years.

While in New York, An agent had discovered her, and whisked her of to Los Angeles. Lucy expected she’d get a contract with 20th Century possibly a lush role in “Forever Amber.” After several weeks of tests, it didn’t work out that way. Lucy was out of work and going nowhere fast.

The agent planned to have her tested but one afternoon Lucille walked Into the Beverly-Wiltshire hotel and was accosted by a stranger, who said: “You should be in the movies.” Yep, he was a Paramount talent scout, he approached her and asked if the “pretty girl” would be interested in a movie career. The “pretty girl” was definitely interested, the studio executives were impressed, and she signed a contract without ever having made a screen test.

CAREER

Lucille started her career as one of the many, many girls featured in the Variety Girl, and continued her array of uncredited performance with Where There’s Life, a mid-tier Bob Hope movie with Bob playing his usual self (this time, a hapless American son of an Eastern European monarch wounded in an assassination attempt becomes a target for a terrorist organization). Then came another Hope vehicle, Road to Rio (at least this one is a classic). This was just the first of several classic that Lucy was to grace, back to back.

Lucille had the luck to appear in one of the bets thrillers ever made, The Big Clock. Ray Milland plays a charming but caddish man who become s a pawn in a deadly game all cooked up by Charles Loughton’s impeccably-played, deliciously devious newspaper tycoon. Then Lucy had a modest but visible role in another classic A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, this time with Bing Crosby.

Lucille appeared in an unusual MGM film, the hard-boiled noir Scene of the Crime. We have Van Johnson, the perpetually sunny golden boy of the studio, playing a disillusioned, bitter cop who gets smacked left and right but never gives up. While the story is your typical noir staple, the script is witty and the performances are surprisingly good. Of special note is Gloria de Haven, playing  a femme fatale and begin very good at it (unlike her usually happy-go-lucky musical roles).

Lucy than appeared in two mediocre crime movies. The first one was Trapped (not a bad movie overall but made a shoestring budget,and as a plus, you can see Barbara Payton is one of her all to few movie roles! While not a top thespian, she sure had that something and could set the screen aflame!) and The Great Plane Robbery (which is completely forgotten today!)

Lucille then appeared in Diana Lynn cuteness-abound movie aptly called Peggy (they so rarely make movies like that today!), and the exotic escapist fare, The Desert Hawk (with Yvonne De Carlo, who acted in so many such movies I get confused often).  Lucy continued appearing in lightweight movies with The Milkman , where Donald O’Connor and Jimmy Durante star as ambitious milkman and his mentor.  O’Connor is a good physical comedy actor, and his movies work at least on that level. Next stop – Frenchie, a low-calorie western where Shelley Winters plays a saloon queen returning to her hometown of Bottleneck to find the vagrants who killed her father 15 years earlier. It’s loosely based on Destry Rides again, and features a strong female lead, played by the brassy Shelley Winters – more than enough reasons to watch the movie!

In 1951,m Lucille reached the peak of her career with Bedtime for Bonzo, where she actually had a credited, and quite meaty part. Yep, she was the “wrong woman” compared to Diana Lynn’s right woman, but still, it was major progress for her career. The movie itself, which was wildly successful is a thin but amusing comedy, with Ronald Regana playing a scientists who tries to prove that people are a product of their upbringing not genetics, with a help of a very lively chimp named Bonzo. Guess the rest!

She continued in uncredited parts in Up Front, a comedy based on the famed W.W.II cartoons: Lowbrow G.I.s Willie and Joe , and Francis Goes to the Races, one of the Francis series of movies. Lucille finally got a larger role in The Fat Man, a Damon Rumyon movie where the eponymous fat detective tries to solve a dentists’ murder.

Lucille than appeared in a string of low-budget movies – western Arizona Manhunt (where she played one of the leading roles but the leading female role went to a 13-year-old girl!), the adventure The Golden Horde (actually a pretty interesting movie with Ann Blyth and David Farrar fighting against Ghengis Khan – they are a great acting combo!),  Flight to Mars (an early science fiction movies), and the laughable Prisoners of the Casbah,with the always hard-boiled Gloria Grahame playing a demure princess (can’t even imagine this!). The only exception to the low-budget rule was the superb Otto Preminger film noir, Angel Face, with Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons, where Lucille plays a waitress.

Aware that her movie career left much to be desired, Lucille turned to TV, doing quite a bit of TV shows. Her television engagements have given her a role in a Fireside Theater production, a commercial spot on Groucho Marx‘s quiz show, some Boston Blackie bits and an appearance on Walter Winchell‘s TV program, among others.

Lucille made only two tow more movies before retirement: the first was The Other Woman, an above average Hugo Haas movie. Like all of Haas’s work, it’s a low-budget affair and more than  with surprising flashes of genius and some interesting dialogue thrown in. Not for everybody’s taste, but very good nonetheless. The bad, oversexualized gal, a staple in all of Haas’ movies, here was played by Cleo Moore.  

Lucille’s last movie was Women’s Prison, a gritty drama set in a woman’s prison where the head superintendent played by the superb Ida Lupino is the most dangerous person inside the prison walls. Featuring a ton of good actresses (Jan Sterling, Cleo Moore, Phyllis Thaxter…), it’s a rare all-woman-cast movie and it’s a good one. While no A class classic, it’s well made, swift, with good pacing and with great acting performances.

And that’s it from Lucille!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to Hollywood, her press agent tried to boast her PR standing by having Lucille claim that all Hollywood men are wolves. According to the papers, Lucy made a test for Forever Amber, but blushes so intensely that she was impossible to photograph normally – they had to wait for the blushes to subside in time. The reporters teased her about it, but when reporter ran I into her again she said “I may be blushing, But you should  see’ the gown in which I am going to wear!” Positive thinking Lucy! Here is another article from that period:

Luscious Lucille Barkley who once rated all Hollywood man as wolves, doesn’t have time any more to be beset by them. She’s too busy with her dramatic lessons, now that Paramount has signed her to it very nice contract. ’1 hardly have a minute to myself,” Lucille said when your reporter ran into her on the set of •‘Variety Girl.” “Not even tune for those wolves you used to tall: about?” your reporter persisted, “Oh, no”, replied the brunette beauty from Rochester, N. Y “I am too busy now!”

As for her love life, Lucille Barkley and Tony Curtis were an item for some time in the early 1950s. After the broke up, she was seen jitter-bugging like mad with Joan Davis’s ex-fiance, Danny Ellman. This also didn’t last long.

In 1950, she nearly drowned at. Lake Arrowhead while water skiing. A pullmotor saved her just in time.

Lucille first really serious romance in Hollywood was with manufacturer Lester Deutsch. They dated for almost a year, but broke up for  unspecified reasons. She also had a tempestuous, on off relationship with Edmond Herrscher, who was known as the romanfickle Nobhillionaire among the newspaper set. He was the man who ho turned The 20th Century Fox movie studio backlot into the futuristic Century City entertainment and business complex, and who was quite a bit older than Lucille.

Up next was Pete Rugulo, who used to date Betty Hutton, but that too didn’t last too long. Not long after came Brad Dexter, who was later married to Peggy Lee for 10 days (or something like this). At some point, Lucille dated Paul Ellis. There was a really CONFUSING situation observed at Ciro’s when Martha Martin Ellis ringsided with Roger Valmy at the next table ‘ sat her ex, Paul, with Lucille and just adjacent Paul’s recent steady date, Joy Windsor, with Stanley Richardson. Imagine the great table talk!

Around this time, Lucille discovered a thief stole her make-up case and Abbott and Costello TV film wardrobe from her car while she was having a cup of coffee at Schwab’s. What a great booty for the robbers, eh?

Lucy falls of the newspaper radar in the late 1950s, marrying and opting for a quiet family life. She married a Mr. Burgener, moved with him to San Diego, and had a daughter, Lisa C., born on July 30, 1960. Lucy and Burgener divorced at some point, and she moved back to Rochester, where most of her family was still living.

Lucille Oshinski Burgener died on August 11, 1998, in Rochester, New York. (note: her IMDB has a wrong date of death!)

Nancy Brinckman

Nancy Brinckman was pretty, blonde and a starlet – yep, she checks all of the boxes for the run-of-the-mill type you could encounter by the dozens in 1940s Hollywood every day. However, she got her five minutes of fame due to a swanky publicity trick. Let’s learn more about her.

EARLY LIFE

Nancy Lou Muck was born on August 13, 1922, in Hollywood, California, to Harry Muck and Elsie Brinckman. Her older brother Harry Jefford was born on February 23, 1915. Her father was a salesman. Her mother, a native San Franciscan, came to Los Angeles in 1895 as a baby and acted in silent movies as an extra until she got married.

Nancy grew up in Los Angeles, California, and was interested in performing arts since she was a small child – she danced and sang. Nancy’s parents divorced in the 1930s and Nancy and her brother were given their mother’s maiden surname, Brinckman, for “stage names”.

Nancy attended University of Los Angles (UCLA), starting in 1941, but dreams of an acting career dashed her scholarly aspirations and she became a model and then a theater actress. This is how she landed in Tinsel Town.

CAREER

Nancy appeared in some 20-odd movies, and only a few were credited and most of them were completely forgettable. The first one was Fall In, a Sargent Doubleday movie from the eponymous series of movies. Doubleday and his croonie William Ames are dimwitted soldiers have plenty of dumb luck and Tracy has the nifty ability to memorize things at a glance, and gets a prestigious military job he is hardly qualified to do. This being a Hal Roach comedy, of course he manages to bust the bad guys and save the day (or the world in this instance, as the bad guys are Nazis).  She then appeared in another Roach serial movie, Prairie Chickens , the Third and final film in Jimmy Rogers and Noah Beery, Jr. serial. They play cowboys who get mistaken for a guest of honor and chaos follows. Similar comedies with a thin plot but plenty of zany were Gals, Incorporated and Hoosier Holiday. Nothing doing for her career long-term, but it was solid work and perhaps a stepping stone for something bigger and better.

Something “bigger and better” came with Follow the Boys . As IMDB summary notes, “During World War II, all the studios put out “all-star” vehicles which featured virtually every star on the lot–often playing themselves–in musical numbers and comedy skits, and were meant as morale-boosters to both the troops overseas and the civilians at home. This was Universal Pictures’ effort. It features everyone from Donald O’Connor to the Andrews Sisters to Orson Welles to W.C. Fields to George Raft to Marlene Dietrich, and dozens of other Universal players. ” Of course Nancy gets minimal screen time, and is hard to even notice, let alone to achieve any dramatic moments, but still it was progress. Nancy then appeared in a Similar war propaganda movie, totally forgotten today, is She’s a Soldier Too, with Nina Foch and Beulah Bondi.

The first really interesting movie Nancy appeared in was The Missing Juror, a proto-noir with a great, heavy atmosphere but sadly no budget. The story is formulaic (a madman trying to avenge his wrongful sentencing by murdering the jury that condemned him), the camerawork and the acting is plenty good and George MacReady as the deranged but wrongly condemned man takes the acting cake, with the alluring Janis Carter as a juror coming in second. Then came a completely forgotten Ross Hunter vehicle, A Guy, a Gal and a Pal.

You Came Along starts as a romantic comedy set right after the war, with Bob Cummings playing an aviator who gets stuck on a rally bond and Lizabeth Scott playing the treasury agent in charge of the rally. Of course, they get hitched after getting poked by Cupid’s arrow. Nothing unusual, true, but then everything changes and the movie ends up a major tear-jerker. This wierd mish mash either completely alienated the viewers or left them enraptured, so make your pick! The leads are played well enough by Bob and Liz, and there are messages of hope dispersed throughout, so it’s a nice movie overall. Afterwards, Nancy was one of the many girls featured int he exotic A Thousand and One Nights, and then came her big moment!!

Yes, Nancy got a leading part! Yaay, let’s forget it’s a part in the Gorcery boys movie so we can congratulate her! Joking aside, Nancy really did play the love interest of Leo Grocery in Mr. Muggs Rides Again. Gorcery plays a jockey who  gets set up by a well-known gambler and then tries to make amends. Nancy is very cute in the movie, but everything seems to overshadow her – the crazy Gorcery boys, the horses, Minerva Urecal! Better luck next time!

Unfortunately, Nancy’s next movie is a…. You guessed it, a low-budget western!! Saddle Serenade. What a name! Sadly, no serenades for Miss Brinckman here. The less I write about this movie, the better, so nix it. Nancy was back to uncredited roles in higher budget movie yet again. The first movie was That Night with You, a movie with a plot one can hardy believe! Stars are Susanna Foster and Franchot Tone. Listen to this (taken from an imdb review): “Tone is a successful Broadway producer, Susanna a young hopeful. Seems that Tone’s character has been divorced for 20 years, and is quite popular with the women, but very changeable about with whom and when he might remarry. Thus, his female star in his next stage production gets impatient with his dalliance and leaves, providing a possible opening for Susanna’s character, Penny, or alternatively for Tone’s ex-wife, Blossom, who shows up unannounced to claim the role before Susanna has it nailed down. This is complicated by Susanna’s claim that she is Tone’s unknown daughter by Blossom, initially confirmed by Blosson, for her own reasons. Tone ‘knows’ Suzanne is a fraud, but decides to play along with her ruse for a while, then is convinced she is genuine for a while. Meanwhile, Tone and Susanna act flirtatious with each other, both trying to alternately deny and promote their attraction.” While I never expect anything realistic from Hollywood, this is whauza kooky, but it still managed to work as a boiler plate for romance. And Franchot Tone could do anything – he was so suave and good you’ll believe any role he plays, including this.

Nancy was again uncredited in An Angel Comes to Brooklyn, a completely forgotten Kaye Down movie where she plays an angel trying to help a struggling producer stage a play. Nancy had another uncredited role in Lonesome Trail, another low-budget western. Nancy started 1946 by playing an uncredited role in another Gorcery boys movie, Live Wires. This time Leo isn’t a jockey but rather gets hired to serve warrants to citizens. The movie is just like any other Gorcery boys movie – stupid and silly but made with heart.

IUt was time for Nancy to get the leading reins once again, and she did in Detour to Danger, a completely forgotten Britt Wood crime movie. Wood was a singer who . Nancy had a credited role again in Behind the Mask, a Shadow movie. Yep, before A native San Franciscan, played him in 1994, the Shadow was played by Kane Richmond. Here, the Shadow has to clear his name after the murder of blackmailing reporter Jeff Mann is pinned on him. Since the movie was made by Monogram, a cheapie studio, it has a minuscule budget and doesn’t pull it of nicely, making this a flop. The Shadow deserved better. Then came another Bowery boys movie with Bowery Bombshell. Nancy finally crawled out of the low-budget comedy hole with Dangerous Millions. The plot: A shipping magnate hatches a plan for testing the worth of his heirs, none of whom he has ever seen. As one reviewer wrote: “the plot with secret identities, hidden rooms, exotic locations and the threat of hideous tortures administered by fiendish orientals offered all the matinée delights a youthful viewer would look for.” Ah,m the Hollywood old days! he female cats is very good – Dona Drake and Tala Birrel are both very beautiful and extremely underrated actresses that sadly never got their due.

Nancy made three rather good movies in 1947: The Man I Love, a nifty  Ida Lupino drama movie, where she actually punches the bad guy in the face (go Ida!), I’ll Be Yours, a typical charming but paper-thin Deanna Durbin mush (with Tom Drake as her love interest), and Slave Girl, an actually a tongue in cheek, truly hilarious comedy with Yvonne de Carlo and George Brent (the movie doesn’t make much sense, but it’s really fun!).

And that’s it from Nancy!

PRIVATE LIFE

Nancy hit the papers for the first time in early 1943, trailing clouds of Mardi Gras glass, as a sample of what will be seen at the annual Venice, Calif., festival. She continued modeling for various local Los Angeles events, and pretty soon she was seen almost daily in a large number of columns. In December 1943 Nancy and famous actress Frances Dee completed a hop-skip-jump-and-stand cross-country trip to entertain soldiers at Drew Field, Florida.

Nancy did a lot of war bond work and undertook several USO tours. She was elected “Sweetheart of Company M-2” by the cadets at the West Point military academy and was quite popular as a pin-up.

Then, in 1946,  came this interesting blurb:

Actress Nancy Brinkman, 22, announced today her engagement to Lt. Comdr. Paul MacArthur, a nephew of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. The blonde starlet said marriage plans will be made when her fiance returns from Hawaii. She said she first met the 27-year-old Annapolis graduate on a “blind” date when she was a freshman at the University of California in 1941.

Now, here all the rhubarb starts. Nancy got a ton of publicity for dating General Douglas MacArthur’s nephew and was in the papers every day for almost two months. The war was over, the US won, it was a time of general delight and happiness. A handsome couple, her a nascent actress and he a young man from an upstanding family, was just what the papers needed to plump up all the cheeriness. Yes, I tough so too in the beginning, and I tried to find information about when and where they wed. This completely threw me of the track and caused me a bit of a problem before I finally figured it out for what it was. Confused yet?

Now, let’s go from the beginning. What we knew about Paul MacArthur was that we was a kin of general MacArthur, that he was an Annapolis graduate and about 27 years old in 1946. So I tried looking for the family of general MacArthur, and guess what, I couldn’t find anything on my first try. Paul was waaay too young to be MacArthur’s nephew. Okay, perhaps he was a son of his first degree nephew? After some snooping around, I was sure he was the son of MacArthur’s nephew, Douglas MacArthur, a noted diplomat, and his wife, Laura Louise Barkley, a formidable Washington DC socialite.

However, after some additional digging, it became clear to me that Douglas and Louise didn’t’ have a son, only a daughter, Laura, who was a bit younger than Paul. WTF? So, WHO was Paul MacArthur? The papers exaggerate all the time, so perhaps he was a distant cousin. Now, this was too hard to follow thru, since the MacArthur family had an extensive family tree. I nearly gave up, and then it hit me. Those were lies. Petty lies made up by newspaper columnists to make an engagement of a minor starlet and a normal naval soldier more interesting. Yes, people, Paul McArthur had absolutely no familial relationship to Douglas MacArthur. Perhaps a very, very, very distant one, but that’s so far that they can hardly be called family.

Anyway, it turns out that Paul MacArthur was born in 1917 in Norwood, Ohio, to Thomas B. MacArhur and Eveline Paine. He had a brother, Arthur, and two sisters, Jane and Priscilla. His father was not from a powerful military family, but a normal middle class blue-collar worker – he was a ticket agent at Union terminal. I wonder how Thomas felt when papers started to extensively write about Paul’s imaginary, over-bloated family background. Meh! Anyway, Paul was one of the 456 midshipmen who graduated from Naval Academy, Annapolis, class of 1941. This is one of the largest graduating classes in the history of the academy.

The couple wed in late 1946 or early 1947. Nancy announced in the papers that she, plans to retire from films after her wedding, and she did.  She lived a quiet family life with her husband and daughter Paula Louise, born on July 9, 1948. Sadly, her brother died in 1950, leaving behind a widow and two young children, and her mother died just two months after.

Nancy and Paul enjoyed a happy marriage and lived in sunny California.

Nancy Brinckman MacArthur died on May 28, 1985, in Los Angeles, California.

 

Gloria Youngblood

Gloria Youngblood had one of the most interesting lives I have encountered while profiling classic Hollywood actresses. While she wasn’t an actress of any note, she was an active woman who made her own path and never looked back! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Minnie Gloria Youngblood was born on May 12, 1916, in Madison, Illinois, to Adolph Herman Youngblood and Laura Pillsbury. Her older sister Margaret was born in 1914. She was of Native American (Cherokee) descent on her father’s side. Her father worked as a maintenance man for a western cartridge company.

When the United States went to war Adolph husband decided that it was his duty to go into the navy. He sought a release from the Exemption Board, saying his wife was willing for him to go and leave her with their two children. He was told his wife would have to come to the board and make her acquiescence known, and she did. She expressed herself as being perfectly willing to assume the responsibility of taking care of the children. She said she could work, and that she believed, with what he would send her, she would be able to “get by”. Finally the husband and father got the desired release. He joined the Navy and has been in service on a torpedo boat.

On November 12, 1918, Laura died at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. C.W. Pillsbury from influenza. The family tried to get into touch with the husband to inform him that the two little children he left at home are motherless. Adolph returned soon, and married Rose Youngblood, a widower with had two children from her late husband’s previous marriage (whoa, what a family!). They lived with Rose’s parents in Alton. Gloria and Margaret lived with their grandparents, but obviously maintained a tight relationship with their father.

Gloria grew up in Alton, in her grandparents home. She attended Alton High School, and after graduation in 1935, went to New York to become a model. And this is how she got in touch with Tinsel town, and how her career started.

CAREER:

Gloria appeared in only three movies, all made in 1938. The first one was The Goldwyn Follies, The plot is as silly as the movie in general: Movie producer chooses a simple girl to be “Miss Humanity” and to critically evaluate his movies from the point of view of the ordinary person. What? Yes, I was as shocked as you were. These kinds of movie,s where the story is completely irrelevant and where singing and dancing is everything, are rarely good – while everybody can enjoy a good dancing number, movies as a format were not ideally suited for this – I can watch a dancing video if I wanted this. I expect more style, substance and art from movies, not nonsensical dancing. Well, this movie doesn’t have it. While there are truly spectacular dance sequences, overall it just doesn’t hold a candle to truly great musicals.

A much better movie was The Adventures of Marco Polo, and that’s saying something! This movie, known today as the movie where Lana Turner had to shave her eyebrows that never grew back later, is corny, wean and uneven. While the sumptuous set and costume design is breathtaking, everything is too stagy and absurd to be believable at any degree. Even Gary Cooper couldn’t save this dud!

Gloria’s last movie was Trade Winds, a fun traveling romp with Frederic March and Joan Bennett. The plot is bare bones: March is a former SFPD detective, hired to find and bring back Joan Bennett, who’s suspected of murdering Sidney Blackmer. The movie mixes genres from whodunnit, to travelogue, to screwball comedy, to romance, to courtroom drama and does it with its own unique flair. March and Bennett are great, very slinky and sexy, with a great cat and mouse game going on, quite a feat for the Production code ridden late 1930s. Kudos to supporting actor Ann Sothern and Ralph Bellamy who are impeccable in their stereotyped but very effective roles.

That was it from Gloria!

PRIVATE LIFE

When she first came to New York, Gloria was homesick, and treated her malady by buying local Alton newspapers  – she would stroll from her Hotel Edison at Forty-seventh and Broadway to the out-of-town newsstand in back of the Times Building at Broadway and Forty-second street every night to get the newspapers from her home town. Back before the inter,et this is the closest you could get abreast all the new events happening in Illinois, so nifty!

In 1937, Gloria hit the papers by begin her sister’s witness in her divorce from Chris Larkin. By September 1937, we see her as the girlfriend of A.C. Blumenthal, the fabulously wealthy financier. Blumenthal was shorter than Gloria, so they made a cute couple 🙂 They also had a daily routine: They swim every morning at eight, which everybody saw as a pretty strong test of devotion. But, int he long run, it didn’t work.

Why? Well, because Gloria met a new Romeo – Rudy Vallee, the famous bandleader and Lothario. Vallee dated such a large number of girls that the press often lost count – they met in New York, introduced by noted puppeteer Edgar Bergen. He escorted her around town for a few weeks, and then went back to Los Angeles, where he lived. When Gloria was the writing on the wall, and that Rudy was escorting other girls, she packed her bags and simply moved to LA to try her hand at acting. No prior experience needed! They resumes dating in Los Angeles, and all was fine and dandy.

This all happened in a span of literary weeks. And in October 1937, Gloria hit the papers hit. How? Well, the well oiled studio publicity machine saw an opportunity and literary snatched her – Gloria was hopeful that Rudy would marry her, the studio was hopefully that Rudy would stop Casanoving women around, and viola, it was a perfect match! One small detail/problem. Rudy wasn’t in on it. While he certainly liked Gloria, he had no intention whatsoever of getting married again. His last marriage, to Fay Webb, was very tempestuous, and their divorce was highly dramatic. Fay died after their divorce was made final, in November 1936, and this truly crushed Rudy. He played the field almost carelessly, and it was clear to most who knew him that Rudy wouldn’t marry for at least a few more years. The studio turned a blind eye to all of that, and, conspiring with Gloria, first invited her father to California to meet Rudy. After that went swimmingly, the studio took this as a cue to act, and organized a press release.  Feigning that she was shocked by the press being there, Gloria said: “I didn’t intend to say anything at this time, but Mr. Vallee and I are deeply interested In each other and we hope to be married by the end of the year.” Gloria was expecting an engagement ring, but she didn’t’ quite get it.

Rudy was staggering mad, but he knew how the studio operated and decided to take it in his stride. He called the press, and gently and emphatically but firmly denied reports that he is engaged to Gloria. “I have not been engaged to her, am not engaged to her and do not anticipate an engagement with her.” I wish I knew what was going on in the backstage of this minor drama! In the end everything just blew up, with the press speculating about this and that. But no matter what they wrote, Rudy wouldn’t budge. After a tiffy period they made up, but again, no ring.

Gloria and Rudy continued dating afterwards, and dated well into 1938. They were seen everywhere together – at the local hotpots, at horse races, at tennis games. Here is a very short and sweet blurb about their courtship:

Rudy Vallee so absorbed in Gloria Youngblood at the Perry-Vines tennis match that he lost a treasured scarf and had the ushers looking madly for it.

And so it went, but Rudy’s philandering ways remained unchanged, and he dated other girls on the side – socialite Judy Stewart, June Knight, Wendy Barrie, and the list goes on! Gloria was not happy about it, but could do little. So it went back and forth until May 1938, when, after quite a bit of tiffs, Rudy went for New York again. Gloria stayed for a bit in Los Angeles, dated Alexander Korda, the famous British producer, and then went to New York herself, allegedly not because she wanted to follow Rudy but to become a legitimate actress. I don’t think anybody believed her, but hey, anything goes in love and war.

In New York, Gloria was serious about George Johnston, a lawyer working for Walter Wanger, for a few months in the mid 1938. Later she was seen with ice skater Jack Dunn, and Roy Randolph. She started 1939 by dating bandleader Bobby Parks. That year proved to be a monumental year for Gloria in general. In March 1939, Gloria and four other girls went to London with noted showman George Hale to try their luck at dance halls. Here is a bit about the show.

Georgie Hale is readying another cargo of feminine charm for English consumption. Georgie must have been a lucky baby for look what he’s doing now. Must be tough work to stand out there and tell such dolls as Cynthia Cavanaugh, the “Duchess’ (she’s already counting on a stray British title); Gloria Youngblood, Rudy Vallee’s girl friend; Arlene Stone and Myra Stephens what to do. Georgie is a keen faced little guy, temperamental, yet patient with his charges. Watching him put the girls, through their paces, he seems absolutely unconcerned about their actions.

Gloria’s first beau in the UK was Guy Middleton, a fellow thespian. She received girls from fans – for instance, a fancy white cap described as gift from Prince Fefeal of Saudi Arabia. And this is how Gloria met her first husband, Eddie Meade. Now, who is Eddie Meade?

Meade was fight promoter and manager. He became famous for being the manager of heavy weight Henry Armstrong. Eddie was a promoter in Los Angeles long before Armstrong even came to town. Born in, he was a Jolly, fat man with charm aplenty and a gregarious spender. he earned big bucks, but spent them just as quickly. Meade was only mid teir successful before he encountered Armstrong. During one of the weekly Hollywood Legion fights, in front of a star-studded crowd, Armstrong distinguished himself, scoring a sensational knockout. Two of the stars, Ruby Keeler and Al Jolson, took a liking to the human hurricane and underwrote the purchase of his contract for their friend, Eddie Meade.

Henry and Eddie were in the UK at the same time as Gloria. Henry fought Ernie Roderick and won without difficulty (both Gloria and Cynthia were there in the audience, watching). Eddie collected enough pounds sterling to paper the inside of a battleship and set out with Brig. Gen. Critchley. and Sid Hulls, his matchmaker, to fee the town. Their first stop was a night club in Leicester Square. It was the working of destiny. Featured at the club was an act called “The Eight American Glamour Girls,” Most glamorous of the eight was of Gloria. Eddie came, saw her and lost his heart to Gloria. When she Returned to New York They Were Married. But wait, what about the return! Well, there is a whole story about this!!!

Gloria Youngblood Jailed By French as German Spy; Home After Harrowing Trip Liner “w’as Escorted from France by Convoy of Destroyers How she escaped a firing squad or possible imprisonment for the duration of a drawn-out war was related to a Telegraph reporter Thursday night by Gloria Young- Wood, screen and stage actress, who arrived in Alton from France after a narrow escape from French soldiers and a hectic crossing of the Atlantic on the liner “Manhattan.” Miss Youngblood, who happened to be in Switzerland at the,outbreak of hostilities in Europe, started for Bordeaux France, with 10 other actresses and their manager. The trip, which ordinarily requires nine hours, took three days under war conditions. Once In France, however, Miss Youngblood’s troubles were only starting; for in war-torn Europe even an American, whose publicity claims for her an appreciable portion of American Indian blood, is not above suspicion. No sooner did she and her friends arrive In Bordeaux than she was taken Into custody as a “government prisoner.” Grounds for Suspicion She was lodged In a common jail and all her baggage was subjected to an Intensive search. Even the lining of her travelling bags and coats were tipped away in an effort to connect her with the Nazi regime In Germany. Miss Youngblood admits, however, that the French had some grounds for suspicion; for When she left Switzerland she had In her possession a knife, which had a Swastika sign on the blade. In a continent ripped wide open with hatred and a necessity for self- preservation, the most remote precaution is necessary. Someone in Switzerland had Informed the French of her possession of the knife, a gift from a friend, so she had no more than arrived at Bordeaux than she Was taken into custody. Long before she arrived at Bordeaux she had thrown the knife away, but It was too late to avoid the French version of the “third degree.” She was arrested and held In jail until her manager arranged for her release. She then was compelled to disguise herself by using no make-up and tying a bandanna around her head, In order: to get away on the liner “Manhattan,” which sailed early one morning under the cover of darkness, Destroyer Convoy The liner left Europe under a French and English convoy of destroyers,. There were three French and three English. which convoyed the liner for a day. After the liner was considered to be out of danger of violence ‘the warships left But that was only the beginning, She said. From then on Into the coast of America a storm of the highest ‘caliber hove the ship to and fro for six days. Even the hardiest seamen were sea-sick. The ship was Intended to carry 1200 passengers, but actually carried 800 more than that, and under crowded conditions there was nothing for one to do but hold one’s head and ‘like It, Miss Youngblood related. She still sighs when she thinks of the escape from the French military, who seemed to suspect her even after she had more or less established her innocence, which was done largely through a,manager, who pulled wires right and left to effect her release. Once, .she’ said, she was taken from her call and told that she could walk about the jail, If she desired to do so. She said she was allowed certain liberties because she was a “government” prisoner and not,regarded as an ordinary transgressor. This meant that she had a menu from which to order food, Nevertheless, the French seemed to want to either shoot her or hold her until hostilities were over. She Wears a Diamond Once in New York, where she landed on Sept 30, she was met by Eddie Meade. none other than the manager of Welterweight Champion Henry Armstrong. Eddie’s diamond ring adorns the Youngblood finger. Eddie telephones her frequently wherever she may be, from whatever point on earth he may be at the time. A short time before she talked with a representative of the Telegraph, she said, Eddie had phoned her from Minneapolis, where Arm- Strong Is scheduled to fight in a few days. She once was reported engaged to Rudy Vallee. An exclusive side-light to her arrival in America was given to the Telegraph by Miss Youngblood. Prince Yauka Troubetzkoy of the old Russian aristocracy will follow her here. In New York reporters asked her about a rumor that a Russian prince had been somewhat •mitten. She said she refused to give them the Information, but divulged to the Telegraph that Prince Yauka had seen her frequently in Europe and had told her that he would arrive In America as soon as he could obtain passage. Even Wlnchell wanted confirmation of this report, she said. Miss Youngblood told of an incident of the war encountered near a small French town, which was being evacuated, Many .persons were fleeing, one of whom was an ill woman, borne on a stretcher. The woman obviously was soon to become a mother, she-said. The American actress begged the woman to remain where she was, but the woman said it would be at least a month yet and added that she must go on, because she was expecting mail in – the next town- from her officer-husband. Even when Miss Youngblood offered to sacrifice her passage home* to stay with her, the woman—little more than a girl- refused, saying that she must go on. . • ‘ *; • > Miss Youngblood will leave Alton Saturday by. airplane for Hollywood, where t site hail been offered a movie contract by M.G.M. She told a Telegraph reporter that she means to accept the terms of the contract but if they do not meet her approval, she will go back to New York to take part in a show now being rehearsed by Olson and Johnson, stars and producers of “Hell-Za-Poppin’.” She has tried out for the part In the Olson and Johnson opus.

Huh, also, Eddie was married. Desperately in love with Gloria, Mr. Bountiful reluctantly came home a few weeks later and laid his cards on the table for Kitty. The outcome was that she went to Reno for a divorce, unselfishly sacrificing herself for Eddie’s happiness or the reasonable facsimile thereof that he mistook for it. Gloria returned from her triumphant London stay shortly thereafter, hurried by the war clouds which were growing blacker every day in that ominous Summer of 1939. The way thus cleared for him, Eddie planned to marry Gloria.

After Gloria returned to New York, Rudy came like a hurricane, ardently courting her and buying her flowers and whatnot – but Gloria was firm – after so many disappointments, she knew that Rudy was hardly poised to change, and decided to go through with her planned marriage to Meade. The two married in Mexico on October 2, 1939. Gloria was 27, Meade was 20 plus years older.

After they married, Gloria tried to straighten Eddie out. He was a play hard, work hard type who ate and drank way to much for his own good. The couple made their permanent home at the swanky address in East Seventy-seventh street, at Park avenue.

Then, literary a year after their Mexico wedding, Eddie had a heart attack, and had to retiree to Hot Springs, Arkansas, for a cure. Gloria first went to visit her parents in Alton, and stated she was to Join Mead In Hot Springs for the Christmas holidays. Her career In motion picture has been shelved temporarily so she can devote more to John, and was, taking time preparing for a radio debut, after Eddie got better. in other words, a beautiful, young woman just on the cusp of the good life had to give it all up as to be a nursemaid to a man who bought on that to himself by years of excessive living. While there are cases of women who were unselfishly devoted to their husbands and nurse them through thick and thin, it seems that Gloria was not quite that woman.  And Eddie, being himself, didn’t help the suit.

Their marriage started to disintegrate pretty soon, but both Eddie and Gloria were vehemently trying to cover it, even telling whoever will listen about the very first time they met and how perilously close they came to not being introduced at all. But, such mambo jumbo talk did little to help the final situation, and they were separated by October 1941, and talking about divorce by November. In the end, they remained married but living separately. Eddie shackled in Palm Springs to help his health, but he was out of cash and on the brink of bankruptcy, even unable to pay Gloria any alimony. After not seeing each other for two months, they were reunited, by, of all things, a robbery. As Eddie was a gin-rummy expert as well as a world champion at backgammon, and Gloria was good at gin rummy too, they were both up In Palm Beach on the night of the burglary since there was a gin rummy tournament happening. They tried for a reconciliation, but it didn’t yell, and separated yet again.

In April 1942, Gloria went to Florida, and was intent on getting her Miami divorce, but admitted to everybody that she was carrying the torch for Eddie. There was talk of more reconciliation, and things were constantly going back and forth, with no resolution in sight. Then the worst possible resolution happened, the most permanent one.

In May 1942, Eddie died from a heart ailment in front of his hotel. His passing was mourned along Jacobs’ Bach, hangout of Gotham’s boxing fraternity, and in boxing centers all over the country because of his honesty and reputation for being a “square shooter.” Mead managed Henry Armstrong and Joe Lunch to world’s titles and made and spent a fortune. He had been inactive in boxing since Armstrong failed to recapture the welterweight crown from Fritz Zivic. However, Armstrong was effectively left destitute by Eddie’ death – Eddie died completely broke, so there was not any money to inherit for Gloria (but as far as I can tell, she wasn’t in it for the money, at least not solely). Despite the fact that they were separated, Gloria was inconsolable. At the funeral, Gloria, in mourning clothes, wept hysterically. She ordered a shower of red roses, tied with a ribbon labelled “All of My Love.”

However, it didn’t take Gloria long to remarry In fact, I find it quite weird (and trying not to use a more direct word) how she remarried only months after Eddie’s death. Granted, they were separated at the time, but still! Anyway, her new husband was named Francis Buckeley Fields, and was an heir to insurance millions. They wed in August 1942, while we was on a furlough from the Army Air Corps, in Union City, N. J. Eddie had been dead for barely three months, but let us not forget that it was war-time and a great big number of hasty marriages happened because of these extreme circumstances.

Freddie and Gloria spent most of their early marriage apart, due to the war. They were finally reunited in 1944, and after he was shipped to Europe again, he was wounded by a’ bomb in London, and ended up in a British hospital. In the meantime, Gloria found out she was pregnant – she was due in September 1944 and awaited the happy occasion with much joy. Unfortunately, she miscarriaged. Freddie returned to the US in late 1944, but their marriage, shaky to begin with, only sank further and further apart. They separated not long after his return, but were still not intent on divorcing, hoping to see how it went, will they separate for good or merge again.

And it didn’t’ go well for Freddie. Gloria was courted right of the bat by liquor magnate Sam Sokol, but that was only a temporary arrangement. A more permanent beau was on the horizon – Luthero Vargas, son of Brazilian president Vargas. They dated for more than a year, from Late 1944 until late 1945 (some overlapping with Fields, perhaps?). Luthero was often seen around New York hotspots with Gloria, especially after he was discharged from the Royal Air Force in September 1945. I was sure, reading the papers, that Gloria and he would get hitched and move to Brazil. Sadly, it didn’t’ happen, and they busted sometime in 1946. Why? No idea, but Gloria was not yet divorces nor was there any talk of marriage in the papers, which is a bit funny if you ask me, they wed people who went on a few dates, and never mentioned it for Gloria and Luthero who dated for more than a year. Anyway, that was that.

In 1946, Gloria finally divorced Frederic Fields, and started dating Al Capp, famous cartoonist, whom eh dated until 1947. Long retired from Hollywood by now, she dropped of the newspaper radar, but emerged again when she operated a hat shop, and then became an employee of New York public relations firm (Henry Levine agency). Later she worked for a Binghamton Insurance firm, , and did a magnificent job of selling policies to the over-the-hill set. In 1949, she dated Jack Frye, but he was also involved with Nevada Smith, whom he ultimately married.

Later that same year Gloria became engaged to marry wealthy Toronto barrister Joel Okell, whom she met at her pyramid party. The engagement was dropped a few months later due to unknown reasons.

In 1950, Gloria married her third husband, John Prescott Cann. Cann was born on June 4, 1919, in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, to Wentworth Prescott Cann and Glada Cann. His father died young and his mother remarried to a Mr. Brand. John graduated from Chambersburg high school, and went into aviation after serving in the army in WW2. Cann worked as a navigator for TWA Airlines, and lived in Egypt for three years. Later in his career he did the Los Angeles – Hawaii route, and did 39 trips to Vietnam, earning a citation from President Nixon. Cann was married once before and had a daughter, Cindy. After the marriage, Gloria moved from N.Y. to Westlake Village, California. Gloria was an active horse rider and rode often in her later years in California.

The Canns enjoyed a wonderful marriage, and often traveled together all around the world (especially since Cann had discount on all TWA flights 🙂 ). Cann’s daughter Cindy was close to her stepmom, and spoke highly of her in later life.

John Cann died on September 11, 1971, in Los Angeles. Gloria remained in Westlake Village, and enjoyed a happy retirement.

Gloria Youngblood Cann died on October 25, 2003, in Los Angeles, California.

Marla Shelton

Marla Shelton was a multi-talented, unusual woman who started as a beauty pageant winner, had a so-so acting career (but managed to grew out of the starlet phase and even playing meaty roles in decent movies), and later became a songwriter! A interesting road to take indeed! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Alberta Pearl Maria McKellop was born on October 12, 1912, in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, to Arthur McKellop and Pearl Shelton. Her godfather was future secretary of war, Patrick J. Hurley. 

Marla was later lauded as one of the first Native American feminine personalities in Hollywood history. Why? Well, because she was granddaughter of Albert Pike McKellop, famous leader of the Cherokee nation, who at one time was the wealthiest man in Oklahoma. Marla’s Indian name was Waletka, meaning Rippling Water.

Marla grew up at her grandparents home in Muskogee, Oklahoma and attended school there. She became a professional radio operator at the age of 12, the youngest person to receive the license. In 1926, during the Great Miami Hurricane, she and her father tirelessly sent wireless distress signals from Houston. Yet, Marla didn’t see her life going down the wireless route, and wanted to act, sing and dance. Since she was a ravishing beauty with long black hair, she decided to go down the beauty pageant route.

In 1927 Marla, pretending to be a bit older, won the Miss Houston title. In 1929 she entered the Miss Universe contest as Miss Tulsa, under the fake name of Theda Delrey, but was found out and had to quit. In 1930 she competed as Miss California in the “America’s Sweetheart” contest, early forerunner of Miss America, in Miami, Florida and placed second in the competition, but she was disqualified two months later. She continued doing the beauty pageant circuit, hoping for a big break into movies.

In 1931, in a San Diego hotel, after speaking to a group of school children in connection with the opening of ’”Trader Horn”, director Woody Van Dyke received a call from Marla. She wasn’t a child anyone, but at 19 was still young enough to pass for a newcomer (which she was not, after all the pageants and the murky business with them). She wanted to know if there was any chance for her in Hollywood if she trained herself. The director, who has many such visits on his trips, gave her some good advice, he told her to read all the books and plays she could lay her hands on, and to seek out amateur theatricals. With the passing of years, she did just that.

Two years later, Marla came to Hollywood, got married and retired for a bit, but went back to movies after her divorce. She went to Van Dyke, introduced herself as Marla Shelton, entered his office. Woody was dully impressed. She had not only gotten a chance in pictures, and was even later awarded a second lead in “Personal Property,“c o-starring Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor with Van Dyke directing. “If it hadn’t been for Mr. Van Dyke, I would have been, completely discouraged about one day being in pictures, and more than that, I wouldn’t have known how to start to become an actress without the advice he gave me,” she declared later to the papers.

And so we begin…

CAREER

Marla’s career was divided into three stages, depending on her marriage. She came to Hollywood in 1933, and made only one movie, the Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movie, today a minor classic, Flying Down to Rio. Then she got married, and left movies for a time.

After her first divorce, Marla hit the movies again, and this period proved to be her most fruitful. She was in Nobody’s Fool, a solid Eward Everret Horton comedy, then in the low budget western, The Phantom Rider. where she played the leading female role. She played an unnamed stewardess in Postal Inspector, a low budget, low quality Ricardo Cortez mystery where he plays the eponymous inspector. Nothing much doing for her career, but it was work. Same goes for The Girl on the Front Page, where Marla played a secretary – only this movie is about a hair brained socialite, played by Gloria Stuart, who wants to work in the newspaper business (owned by her family). The editor gets an instant headache, if you know what I mean.  Marla was again uncredited in Magnificent Brute, a steamy love triangle movie with Victor McLagen plays the brute.

After some minor, blink and you’ll miss them parts, Marla started to get better and bigger things. She was credited in Flying Hostess, a completely forgotten movie about stewardesses. A better bet was Under Cover of Night, a low budget MGM thriller with Henry Daniell playing  murderous professor who wants to get done with his wife. While the movie is anything but thrilling, the cast is good and this being MGM, the sets and direction was unusually good for such a C class movie.  Similar was Dangerous Number, another MGM B classer, with Robert Young and Ann Southern playing a couple who can’t be together nor can they be apart. It’s a fun, breezy movie, nothing to shout about but well done.

Marla was again uncredited in When’s Your Birthday?, a semi-funny Joe E. Brown comedy. The plot is vintage Joe – he plays a goofball astrologer who has much more luck than brains and manages to foresee stuff like games and races outcome and such. And the fun begins! Marian Marsh is his leading lady.  These comedies are certainly not for everybody, but if you like Joe E. Brown, then watch away, there is nothing not to like about the movie.

Marla had a much meatier role in Personal Property, this time a A class MGM feature with Jean Harlow and Robert Taylor.  The movie was made the year Harlow died, so it’s one of her last ones –  but he looks good nonetheless. The plot is as it follows: Taylor returns to his family after being in the brig, and gets job watching the house and furniture of widowed Jean,  without knowing she is engaged to his brother. The high lite of the movie is the banter between Jean and Bob – and they do have good enough chemistry to make it work. Marla plays a flirt who wants to steal Bob from Jean. Unfortunately, Marla’s next movie was Song of the City, a formulaic, bland drama about a young stock broker who accidentally falls into the sea and gets saves by a fisherman. He meets the fisherman’s family, fall sin love with his daughter, blah blah.. You get the picture.

Marla was uncredited in the absolute classic A Star Is Born, and then went on to make There Goes My Girl, a mid tier screwball comedy about feuding reporters, played by Gene Raymond and Ann Sothern.

More movies came her way. As the name implies, Vogues of 1938 is all style, no substance movie. Yep, we have revolutionary Technicolor, beautiful women and drool worth fashions, and that’s about it. Marla plays one of the models. Marla’s most famous movie today is Stand-In, becouse she was a prominent role in it. It’s a hilarious, witty comedy about the inner workings of a Hollywood studio, with an outstanding cast – Leslie Howard, Joan Blondell, Humphrey Bogart. Marla made one more movie, 52nd Street before taking a short hiatus.

She returned ot the screen in 1939, to appear in Coast Guard, a typical love triangle movie with Randolph Scott, Frances Dee and Ralph Bellamy, the Nelson Eddy/Ilona Massey charming and fluid Balalaika, and Escape to Paradise, a Bobby Breen musical. Bobby was the singing Shirley Temple, and barely 12 when he made the movie. Imagine being 10 years older than him and playing his leading lady – well, that’s how Marla was set up here. Breen’s musicals, are to saccharine, too unrealistic and frankly too boring,t but there is a certain ethereal charm to them. Marla finished this period of her career with her only 1940 movie, The Lone Wolf Meets a Lady. It’s the typical Lone Wolf – always the same plot, but with plenty of sass, and Warren William is superb as the former thief-turned-detective-and-lady-killer. Special plus is Jean Muir, a wonderful actress that never got what she deserved in Hollywood.

After yet another divorce, Marla returned to movie sin 1942, with the low budget western Bells of Capistrano. Since WW2 had begun, Nazi had become favorite movie villains, and Marla fought against them in Secrets of the Underground, a so-so thriller with John Hubbard and Virginia Grey. Marla’s last movie in this all too brief working period was When Johnny Comes Marching Home, a Universal musical with Allan Jones playing a soldier on a furlong who wants to remain anonymous in a small town, but as you know, that fails miserably, in a funny way of course

Marla returned to movies in 1945 in the interesting Saratoga Trunk, one of Ingrid Bergman’s best performances (IMHO). And let’s not forget Gary Cooper! There is a cute story on how she got the coveted role: we have to thank her 20- month-old daughter, Maria Jr. Marla was one of several actresses tested and won the nod from Director Sam Wood. “I’d never met Mr. Wood,” says the actress, “but little Marla did her best to vamp him one day. We were having luncheon in a restaurant near a Hollywood studio when he came in with Gary Cooper. The baby spent the rest of the lunch hour throwing kisses and cooing at them.”

Marla’s last movie appearance was in Do You Love Me, a love triangle musical with a yummy cast –  Maureen O’Hara plays a female musical college dean, she falls in love with a singer man , played by Dick Haymes, and another musician falls for her (Harry James). Maureen undergoes a transformation, and everybody ends up happy!

And that was it from Marla!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marla was a good-looking dark-haired woman with a slight exotic slant. She kept her curvy figure trim by doing her favorite sport, cycling.

Marla came to Hollywood in 1933, and almost immediately hooked herself a big fish – Richard K. Polimer, a successful theatrical agent. They married on June 13, 1934. Polimer was born on April 28, 1904, in Massachusetts, son of Austrian immigrants. He moved to New York City when he was a child, attend high school there, and then moved to Hollywood during the 1920s and became a literary and theatrical agent. His clients were Ann Sheridan, Dean Jagger, Noah Beery, Sr., Theodore Dreiser and Rupert Hughes. In the 1930s Polimer was a famous rancor and was very socially prominent – his Malibu house was often the scene of many fancy parties. He hosted people like Irving Thalberg, William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Cary Grant and Bing Crosby. Obviously, Marla did quite well for herself.

After the wedding, Marla retired from the movies, at least for the time being. Sadly, the marriage did not last long – they separated in June 1935, and by 1936, they were divorced. Marla testified in court that Polimer away from home all night. She said she didn’t mind waiting dinner for him, but thought it was a bit too much when he failed to come home at all after phoning he’d “be a little late.”She also complained that when he was at home he addressed her in harsh language and often was rude to her. She won the divorce.

Following World War II, Polimer closed his agency and began working in film distribution and production. He remarried to Ruth May Rosnie in 1946, and had two daughters with her. Polimer died at the ripe of age of 95 on June 19, 1999.

After the divorce, it was time for the new Marla to shine, and to begin the for phase two of her career. This was a typical article from the period:

She’s Now Exotic Type; Formerly Outdoor Girl ‘By Associated Press I Hollywood, Dec. 26 Seen through different eyes, the same girl in Hollywood can be two different people. Maria Shelton. at one studio where she was under contract for six months, was seen as an ideal outdoor girl the sort who would be just right to support Buck Jones in the western star’s serial. She did a few bits besides, but when option time came the free lance avenue seemed best for her. At another studio Bill Grady, casting director, took a look and saw something else again. Makeup, long eyelashes, an exotic hair-dress and a slightly foreign accent and Maria Shelton, in a slithering evening gown, stepped forth as the first possible successor to once-renowned Theda Bara and her “vampire” roles. She is playing her first such part in “Under Cover of Night”, a mystery thriller. Her real name Is Alberta McKillop. Her age is 22. she as tiny freckles across her nose, and she was born in that exotic town Muskogee, Okla., She Is three-eighth Cherokee Indian, and her grandmother’s name was Rogers. She thinks she is probably some distant relative of the late Will Rogers, but is not sure. Of more immediate concern to her is the fact that the artificial hair the make-up people used for her coiffure cost $175. And to think my own, which I bobbed, was practically Knee-length!” she laments. “And I threw It away!”

For six months she was given a ballyhoo buildup by MGM. Everyone heard about her beauty and acting ability and her certainty of stardom. But option time came and executive failed to renew her contract. Unhappy with that course of events, she signed a five-year agreement with independent producer Walter Wanger. An hour later—and too late—up dashed a breathless Metro messenger, but she had to turn him down.

Marla appeared quite a bit in the papers during this time. Here is a bit about old Hollywood tricks:

In “Stand-In,” you will see Marla Shelton climbing a snow covered slope. Then the camera will pan backward to reveal an illusion. You will see that Miss Shelton is walking on a treadmill. She’s getting nowhere at all, but cotton snow on another endless belt is passing her in the opposite direction. Also passing her is a procession of pine trees on wheels. Overhead is a revolving perforated cylinder from which falls snow in the form of uncooked corn-flakes. Yes, it’s funny. But again it isn’t Hollywood. Movie magicians do those things much better these days. They do ’em so well that even visitors on a set are captured by illusion.

And another funny bit:

Maria Shelton donned a pair of slacks for protection against drafts the other cool morning when she had to go on outdoor location In an 1885 period gown. As the day warmed, Maria stepped behind what seemed a solid wall of shrubbery to remove the ‘ slacks and just at the crucial moment a couple’ of prop men removed the shrubbery.

In her private life, Marla married make up artist Jack Dawn on May 28, 1937, in Los Angeles. John Wesley Dawn was born on February 10, 1892, making him 20 years older than Marla in Fleming; Kentucky, to Henry Walker and Pearl Smoot. As teenager he became a sculptor and later worked as a painter in New York City. He started working at Mack Sennett’s as a make-up man. After doing his bit in WW 1, he moved to Hollywood, working for 20th Century, and moving to MGM in 1935. In 1939 he was promoted to head the studio make-up department. Dawn was married once before to Anna Catherine Cousins in 1926, and divorced her in 1926. They had one child, a son, Robert Dawn, born on October 22, 1921.

The Dawns settled into a family life, with Marla giving up her career. Their son, John Wesley, born on December 18, 1938,.After John was born her weight zoomed to an alarming 180 pounds. While reducing, she began taking dancing lessons and started to act again. She did a few movies before her daughter, Marla Jo, was born on August 1, 1941. Despite an oral agreement that Marla could keep her job, it was expected that she still give up her career for good now.

But, you can’t keep a good woman down, and Marla was ready for more acting jobs. This created a huge rift in her marriage. She tried to leave him several times before, but her church group, the Oxford Movement, dissuaded her from it. Then, Jack went past all limits and it was over. What started as a nice marriage ended up in a very nasty divorce. Here is a newspaper article:

“It was understood when we were married,” she testified, “that I could play in pictures if I so desired. But last July when I told him that I wanted to work in a picture he said that if I did he would burn the house down and would scar me so that my own children wouldn’t recognize me.” ‘ ‘ ,.. Miss Shelton then added, under the questioning of her attorney,- Roland G. Swaffield, that she became so frightened that she took refuge in the room occupied by the children’s nurse, Rita Haggarty.who corroborated the story in court. “Mr. Dawn came to the door and called Mrs. Dawn a coward for hiding in my room,” the nurse informed the Judge. i Property Settlement Dawn had filed an answer denying the charges hut did not appear for the trial, though he was represented by Attorney Martin Gang. The court approved a property settlement agreement under which community property valued at $50,000, including the home, 15426 Valley Vista Blvd., is to be divided. In addition the agreement provides Miss Shelton with $75 a week alimony for three years. She retains the custody of her daughter, Maria Jo, IS months, while Dawn will have the care of their son John Jr., 4. Three months each year, however, the children will be exchanged, it is also specified in the document, which gives Miss Shelton $25 a week for support cf the children. The couple were married in Salt Lake City on May 28, 1937, and the separation occurred last Aug. 8.

In the end, The court awarded each the custody of one of their two children and approved a property settlement. This is a strange set up, but what can I say, whatever works. Dawn had a long and prestigious career as a make up man. he aided disfigured soldiers of World War ll. He worked closely with San Diego Naval Hospital in 1943, creating inlays for hands and faces so that patients could appear normal between multiple plastic surgery operations. He retired in 1956 and remarried at some point to Coleen Dawn. He died on June 20, 1961 in Glendale, California.
Marla started to date like mad after the divorce almost trying to make up for lost time. She was often seen with actor John Waburton dancing cheek-to-cheek. A bit later she was seen with Phil Baker, known as a derby twosome. Then came Harvey Priester and after him actor Barton Yarborough. During this time she was singing at the Clover Club, and all of her boyfriends came to watch her there. Marla was also a popular house guest: After dinner the guests would gather in the living room and Maria would entertain with some amusing little bits of verse set to music. This way she discovered her unique ability with making up song lyrics that will make a big impact on her life later.

In 1945, Marla became Mrs. Louis Alter in a small ceremony in Beverly Hills. Louis Alter was born on June 18, 1902 in Haverhill, Massachusetts. He played piano as accompaniment for vaudeville stars Nora Bayes, and after her became a songwriter. In 1929 he moved to Hollywood, where he wrote songs for films. He also continued his piano accompaniment for other singers, including Beatrice Lillie and Helen Morgan. He did Broadway musicals on the side. In 1941, when WW2 started, he worked with the United States Air Force, performing for troops and  coordinating shows and other entertainment at various West Coast air bases. He also became a piano soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and performed at the Hollywood Bowl.

Marla quit acting to collaborate on songwriting with Lou. She became quite proficient at it – at one point she wrote the lyrics to Cart Fisher’s tune “Black Lace” which was very popular in it’s time. The Alters lived in New York and maintained a summer residence on Fire Island.

Despite this seemingly satisfying artistic  collaboration, the marriage failed in the long run and they divorced in 1948. Alter continued composing and died on November 5, 1980 in Manhattan.

Marla dated Producer Herman Levin for a few months after the divorce. In 1952 she created a minor scandal at the Miss Universe pageant in Los Angeles, when she interrupted a rehearsal and attended, uninvited, a luncheon for contestants. It appears that it was a publicity stunt of some sort and it received some publicity.

Marla married her fourth and last husband, N. Gayle Gitterman, in 1955. Gitterman was born on July 23, 1908, in Illinois, and came to Hollywood in the 1930s. Originally a scriptwriter, he became an assistant producer ta MGM. He earned the rank of sergeant during WW2. After the war he worked for the Bing Crosby Enterprises and later became  a freelance producer. He also held writing workshops in Los Angeles. He was married once before, to Mona LaPage, from 1933 until the mid 1940s.

This proved to be Marla’s most successful marriage. The Gittermans lived in Laguna Nigel after his retirement.

Gitterman died on March 25, 1976. Sadly, Marla’s son Wes died on August 21, 1990.

Marla Shelton Gitterman died on February 14, 2001, in Laguna Nigel, California.

 

Marcella Martin

A pretty large number of budding actress came to Hollywood hoping to win the coveted role of Scarlett O’Hara. As we know today, the role went o Vivien Leigh, and the rest was history. Of all the girls who were in the pecking order for the role, most of them failed to parlay the sojourn into a stable career. On the other hand, a few of them actually developed impressive careers later (Susan Hayward is an excellent example), and some established mid tier, solid careers Sadly, Marcella Martin belongs into the former category. Despite her obvious talent and pleasing looks, she opted to remain a theater actress, and made only two movies of lesser quality. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Elsie Marcella Clifford was born on June 5, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois, to William Clifford and Clara Kessberger. She was the oldest of three children, three sisters – her younger siblings were Catherine C, born in 1918, and Ruth C, born in 1925.  Her father was a State Senator of Champaign, making her a high society debutante.

Marcella grew up in Chicago, attended high school there and discovered an intense love for acting when she was a teen. Determined to become an actress, she got a degree in dramatics from the University of Illinois, where she was active in the debate club. Ready for bigger and better things, she said “goodbye” to her home town and started to look for opportunities around the US. Her first serious acting job was a few months tour with a Midwestern stock company. After a peripatetic life with a touring company, she settled in Shreveport, Louisiana, where her first husband was from. She wasted no time in gaining acting momentum, and immediately joined the local Little Theater. She started her acting tenure by appearing in two sound stage hits, “Stage Door” and “Tovarich”. Marcella studied southern diction on the side and became quite an expert at it. People could rarely detect that she was originally from Illinois due to this handy skill.

Sadly, acting gigs hardy payed the mounting bills, so Marcella started by selling various merchandise, at firsts az Felbleman’s-Sears, Roebuck and company and then at Goldring’s,  but rehearsing diligently at the local theater at night. In 1938, Maxwell “Max” Arnow, scout for David O. Selznlck, saw Marcella in a rehearsal at the local theater. He was touring the South in search of actors to play parts in Gone With ‘ the Wind” (Including for the elusive Scarlett). Thus, Arnow “discovered” Marcella.

Arnow reported his discovery to Selznick in a memo dated Nov. 16, 1938. “The results of the eighteen day trip through the South were quite meager with one exception. In Louisiana, at the Shreveport Little Theater,” he wrote. “Ran across a girl by the name of Marcella Martin. This girl is quite good-looking, has a nice figure, and is a grand actress. Without doubt she is the best of the hundreds of people who I interviewed during my trip.” Very kind words from Mr. Arnow indeed!

A short while later he wired Marcella to go to New York for screen tests. And so she went.  Two weeks in the rush and bustle of New York studios, and she was back in Shreveport. Then she was called again this time to Hollywood for further screen tests. Once in Hollywood, she was originally tested for Scarlett and Melanie. Along with two other Southern girls, Alicia Rhett and Bebe Anderson (in the future known as Mary Anderson), she was given a bit role in the movie, but that was just a part of the prize – she got a long-term contract, a possible crack at bigger things.

And this is how she landed in Hollywood!

CAREER

Marcella was tested for the role of Scarlett, which went to Vivien Leigh (and the rest is history, as they say!) got a memorable consolation prize. She earned the speaking role as Cathleen Calvert, who confides the inside skinny on Rhett Butler to O’Hara during the classic barbecue scene. “Cathleen, who’s that?” Scarlett asks as she locks eyes with Clark Gable’s Rhett Butler for the first time. “Who?” “That man looking at us and smiling,” Scarlett answers. “The nasty, dark one.” “My dear, don’t you know?” Cathleen answers with a grin. “That’s Rhett Butler. He’s from Charleston. He has the most terrible reputation.” Scarlett looks away for a second, then back. “He looks as if… as if he knows what I look like without my shim”. Great moment! On a side note, a columnist wrote that the producers had to compromise when casting Scarlett, for this reason: “The compromise may be forced in the matter of waist-line. The specifications call for a 17-inch girth. Even the most rigorous Hollywood diets haven’t achieved any such miracle as this.” (how true :-P) Also, Marcella was Leigh’s trailer roomie on location and taught her how to speak with a Southern dialect.

Marcella appeared in only two more movies before retiring altogether. The first one was West of Tombstone, a totally obscure low-budget western with Charles Starrett in the lead. The plot concerns Billy the Kid and his alleged demise – is he dead or not? UnfortunatelyWhat is funny about this movie is how Marcella is attired – the story takes place in the early 20th century, 20 years after the reported death of Billy the Kid, but she wears strictly 1942 fashions, with knee-length skirts, high-heeled shoes and bobbed hair. Ah, Hollywood!

The second movie was another low-budget western, The Man Who Returned to Life. This is another better-of-forgotten type of movie, about a man on the run from the law for murder (of course he’s not really guilty). Marcella plays the third female lead, after Lucile Fairbanks and Ruth Ford.

And that was it from Marcella!

PRIVATE LIFE

Marcella married John “Jack” Martin in about 1935, and moved with him to Shreveport, Louisiana. The marriage didn’t last, and they were divorced by 1939, before she landed in Hollywood.

Marcella met her second husband, James Ferguson, in the theater – they acted together in several plays before getting hitched in 1940 at the home of the Marcella’s parents in Champaign, in the presence of relatives and a few close friends.

James Ferguson was born on August 15, 1913  to Mr. and Mrs. William Ferguson in Izmir, Turkey. His parents were British subjects. He attended elementary school in Scotland and later moved with his family to Whittier, California, becoming a naturalized US citizen in 1930. He graduated from high school in 1931 and from Fullerton Junior College, California, in 1934. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps in October 1934 and underwent flying training the following year and completed it in July 1936. He was a flying cadet for one year before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1937. Later, Ferguson He rose to the rank of full general in the Air Force.

Ferguson acted for fun, and this is how he met Marcella. This is a short article about it:

Marcella Martin and James , Ferguson Have Leads; Opens Oct. 10 , Miss ‘ Marcela Martin and Lieut. James Ferguson will have the leading roles In the first production of the Little Theatre season “Tovarlch,” to open at 8:15 pm, Oct. 10, John Wray Toung, director of the theater, announced Tuesday. Miss Martin will play the Grand Duchess Tatiana Petrovna, the exiled White Russian noblewoman in Jaques Deval’s comedy. Lieutenant Ferguson will ‘ play her husband, Prince Mikhail Alexandrovitch Ouratleff.

He he he, the fun doesn’t stop here – there is a whole juicy story of the Ferguson-Martin courtship. Listen to this: In early 1938, Marcella’s first appearance on the Shreverport Little Theater stage had her in a minor role in “Stage Door,” which also featured in its cast a Barksdale Field lieutenant, William E. “Ed” Dyess. Her co-lead in “Tovarich” was another Barksdale Field flier, Lt. Jim Ferguson.

One of Marcella’s best friends from Chicago was Marajen Stevick, a publishing and media heiress. It seems that Marcella hobnobbed with the Chicago high society, and often asked them to visit her in Shereverport. There was a lot of rivalry going on with Dyess and Ferguson, as they were after Marcella, both of them. Marajen was Marcella’s house guest and ended up with Dyess, and Marcella ended up with Ferguson. Dyess was the third of Stevick’s five husbands.

Dyess died a hero in World War II. A survivor of the Bataan Death March, he survived a year’s captivity in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, escaped, was on the run for three months, was rescued by a submarine and returned home to write a gripping account of the Japanese brutality to their prisoners after the fall of the Philippines in 1942. A recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Medal of Honor, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He died heroically in a training accident Dec. 22, 1943. He was flying over heavily populated Burbank, Calif., when his airplane caught fire. Instead of bailing out, he stayed with the airplane to make sure it didn’t crash into a school full of children. Dyess Air Force Base, near Abilene, Texas, is named in his memory.

Stevick became an Italian countess a through one of her later marriages, she died on the anniversary of Dyess’ death, Dec. 22, 2002.

Despite the fact that Marcella got her big break via Shreveport Little Theater, she left the city for good after 1939. She returned in the early 1940s to sign various legal papers relating to end her previous marriage but never lived there again. She was active in the theater for a few years afterwards, appearing in plays by Tennessee Williams among others, before retiring for good in the 1950s.

Years later, Marcella’s younger sister Ruth Brown, remembered meeting Leigh in New York City in 1963 through Marcella. Oddly enough, Leigh was performing in a stage version of “Tovarich,” in the same role Martin had played when she was discovered 25 years earlier. Vivien suffered from a bipolar illness, tuberculosis of the lungs and was divorced from Laurence Olivier, but nonetheless won a Tony Award for her work in “Tovarich. Marcella sent a note back to Vivien, She wasn’t sure she would remember her, though they had been very close in the making of ‘Gone With the Wind.’ It was wonderful. The people making ‘Gone With the Wind’ wanted Vivien to listen to Marcella’s accent. She had lived in Louisiana so long she had picked up pretty much a Southern accent, but it wasn’t too much. The producers didn’t want a real ‘Y’all’ accent, they wanted a ‘soft’ Southern accent, and Marcella had it. They didn’t know she had grown up in Champaign.”

Marcella and James Fergson divorced in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Laterm he remarried to Roberta Wilkes. He served in Korea and from 1955 until 1970 he was based in Washington DC. In 1966 he became a full general, and retired in 1970. Roberta died in 1977. Ferguson died on July 13, 2000, in Sarasota, Florida.

Marcella married her third and last husband, Robert Lee McGratty, in 1953 in Duval, Florida. McGratty was born on October 22, 1908, in New York City, to Charles and Frances McGratty. He grew up in Suffolk, New York, and worked as a hotelier in Florida, running the Floridian hotel.  He was married in 1943 to Frances Stuart but the marriage didn’t’ work out, and  he divorced her a few years later.

The couple did not have any children, but enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage. They moved to Houston, Texas after McGratty’s retirement. McGratty died there on January 21, 1979. Marcella remained in Texas after his death, opting not to remarry.

Marcella Martin McGratty died on October 31, 1986, in Houston, Texas. She is buried with her father, former Illinois State Sen. William E.C. Clifford, and her last husband, Robert McGratty, in Champaig, Illinois.

 

 

Rosemary Colligan

Rosemary Colligan was a beautiful model that came to Hollywood to trade on her looks. She did just three uncredited appearances in movies, but managed to snag quite a prize – the great George Raft himself. However, it was anything but a bed of roses! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Rosemary Colligan was born in 1925 in Dunmore, Pennsylvania, to Joseph Colligan and Helen Roach. She was the youngest of three daughters – her elder siblings were Celestine, born in 1919, and Mildred, born in 1923. Her father worked as areal estate salesman. The Colligans were a typical tight-knit Irish family, and Rosemary remained extremely devoted to them her whole life.

The family lived in Dunmore in the beginning, and then moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania where Rosemary was educated. After graduating from high school, Rosemary decided to become a model, and moved to Philadelphia, where she enjoyed her first professional success.

By 1948, Rosemary moved to New York, and became an even more successful model there. She became a Camel Cigarette girl, was considered Miss America of 1949, and was signed with the prestige John Robert Powers agency. By 1951 Rosemary had decided, like many models of her stature, to try her hand at acting. This is how she was seen by a movie scout who directed her towards Hollywood, and that is how it all started!

CAREER

Very slim pickings here – Rosemary appeared in only three movies, none was a classic and she was not credited even once. The first one is the completely forgotten Run for the Hills, a typical Cold War paranoia movie turned into a hilarious comedy. NOT! While it is a typical Cold War paranoia movie, it’s also a cheap, Z class production, with the always wooden Sonny Tufts playing the lead, an Average Joe insurance man who moves to a cave to avoid the potential nuclear warfare. Yep, you heard it right, he dives right into a cave! The simmering sexpot (but sadly a limited actress) Barbara Payton plays his wife. it’s a completely forgotten movie, but boy, just look at the cast, look at the story and the money involved, and I can make a educated guess about where that was going. Rosemary plays a Cave girl, reminding me of Carole Landis in all her prehistoric glory (with beefy Victor Mature next to her).

That same year, Rosemary appeared in The French Line, a no-plot, plenty of scantly clad girls, singing and dancing type of a movie, and heck, it’s not even directed by Busby Berkeley! As I said, the non existing story is as it goes: When her fiancé leaves her, an oil heiress takes a cruise incognito in order to find a man who will love her for herself and not for her money. Well, if you forget for a moment how silly it is, we still have the luscious Jane Russell in the lead, and the sexy senor Gilbert Roland as her love interest. Not a bad cast, I must say!

Rosemary’s last movie was Son of Sinbad, a movie you can either hate of enjoy for the sheer campiness and so bad it’s good quality. Even the short blurb from IMDB shows us just how good-in-a-bad-way the movie is – Legendary pirate and adventurer Sinbad is in single-minded pursuit of two things: beautiful women and a substance called Greek Fire–an early version of gunpowder. Ha ha ha ha, you got that right! Dale Robertson plays Sinbad, and Sally Forrest is his dream princess, but there are more than 50 other girls to ogle at, and Rosemary is just one of them. A big, big plus for this movie is Lili St. Cyr, in one of her rare film appearances (love that woman!).

And that was it from Rosemary!

PRIVATE LIFE

I have to say that after reading a bit about her, I like Rosemary. In a world where man was king, she used them and just moved on to the better thing when she found it convenient. While this is not model behavior and I certainty don’t condone it in everyday life, when you look at the type of a men Rosemary dated, you’ll see what I mean. These were no ordinary, normal working class men who would get hurt big time if something like that happened – these were world class cads who used girls and women quite a bit (some more, some less). Somehow, getting the Rosemary treatment for them was almost like getting the boomerang right back at their heads. Anyway, read and assess for yourself.

Here are some quotes by Rosemary from the papers:

The stage door Johnny ‘”ain’t what he used to be,” Rosemary Colligan laments. “He used to be the theater alley Romeo with top hats and tails who waited outside,” the TV actress said. “Now he dresses in sport shirts and pounds at the dressing room doors”

About her hair:

For myself I prefer long hair because as a model I find that I am requested to wear my hair many different ways, and without long hair this couldn’t be done.

In 1951, Rosemary dated Matty Fox, a wealthy film and TV tycoon, but while he was crazy about her, she just liked him, and ditched him when a more interesting guy came along. And that guy was… Mike Todd!

What can I say about Todd? Born in 1909, he was a master illusionist, a devil may care, half crazy bon vivant who survived by sheer charm and a good dose of luck. he was married twice before, and his second wife was Joan Blondell, who was left bankrupt after his producing expeditions. He just ditched dames when a more interesting one came along, and he broke plenty of hearts.

Anyway, Rosemary and Todd used to ride about New York in his Cadillac, and it was clear that Mikey was all ga-ga about Rosie. But then, a movie scout saw Rosie, like what he saw and asked her to Hollywood, just left Mikey without a second glance. Mikey was crushed, but refused to admit defeat – he came after Rosie to Hollywood just a few short weeks after she departed. He came bearing gits – and what gifts those were – diamonds and diamonds! Mike was determined to keep Rosie, and it seemed that she truly was enchanted by him – they spend a wonderful few weeks in Los Angeles, and when he had to return to New York, Rosie was quite unhappy at the airport.

But alas, life goes on! In September 1952, just days after Mikey left leaving behind breathless notes and promises to see Rosie again, she met THE man, the man who changed the game for her – that old fox, George Raft.

In a space of few days, Todd was out and Raft was in, big time! And Raft literary fell like a ton of steel for Rosie. Raft was no stranger for beautiful women – he dated them by the loads, but he was rarely in love, and few of the women he loved were Virginia Pine and Betty Grable. Very inspired company, no doubt! He was also a connoisseur of local Los Angeles hookers, and employed their services for decades. He usually had at least two women a day – sometimes even more.

by the end of the year, Rosemary took George Raft home to meet the family, George charmed both ma and pa, and everything was tipped for marriage. Then, Raft had to depart US for Italy for a film assignment. He tried to persuade Rosemary to go with him, but she was unwilling to be separated from her family for such a long time, so she declined. George was so smitten that when he flew from Los Angeles to New York en route to Italy, he still (in vain) begged Rosemary via phone calls and cables to join him. As the papers wryly put it, Dapper Georgie hasn’t had it this bad in years!

While George was in Rome, Rosemary took siege in his palatial Coldwater Canyon home that once belonged to his swain, Virginia Pine), and moved her family there – mom, dad and sister. George gave them his blessings, and often called Rosemary long distance to profess his love and devotion. he planted item sin the local papers in this vein:

GEORGE RAFT is determined to marry showgirl Rosemary Colligan. And, when he returns from Rome, he’ll make his first serious try for divorce

The papers claimed that he wants to marry Rosemary at this point, but after trying at least twice during the twenty or more years he and his wife have been separated, everybody could bet he’d have a small chance of getting his freedom. He offered his estranged mate a fantastic, lifetime “deal” when he wanted Betty Grable for his Mrs. and again when he wanted to marry Virginia Pine, but she refused him both times.

This is what George wanted us to think. The truth is probably somewhere the middle – IMHO he was too cheap and chickened out whenever the deal was about to close. He really burned for the girl – be it Betty Grable or Virginia or Rosemary, but could never quite get himself to do it. He always put himself fin the first place, and that meant his money too. I refuse to believe that in Hollywood, where you can get divorced in a zillion different ways, he couldn’t persuade his wife to divorce him. Even after humiliating her time and time again by bedding literary hundreds of starlets and hookers.

Anyway, even after George returned home from Rom the Colligans showed no willingness to evacuate. George balked, but with Rosemary’s charms and Raft’s wise lawyer (who advised him not to cause any legal rumpus because of the publicity that would result in bad publicity) workings in unison, George shrugged his shoulders and decided to camp out. So, George shelled out $3,000 for his new upkeep, living in an apartment in Joan Crawford’s apartment house. George caught a heavy cold on the plane trip from Italy, and he was looked after by Rosie and her mother, so he spent a chunk of his time in the house anyway.

It was clear as day to all in Hollywood that Raft was head over heels for Rosemary. He even got her a spot at his nightly dancing show, in order to keep her close to him. He was on good terms with her family, and they spent quality time together. Rosie and Georgie were constantly seen everywhere, often dancing at clubs. It is disputable if George really curbed his well known 2-women-a-day routine, but for Rosemary’s sake let’s hope he did.

However, time went by, and no divorce was coming. Like so many women before her, Rosemary got fed up with all the waiting, and trouble began to loom on the horizon.

By October 1953, Mrs. Colligan became seriously ill, and George sent her and Rosemary to Memphis, to see a famed specialist. Rosemary’s father and sister continued to live in his Beverly Hills home. The specialist only confirmed that Rosemary’s mother was very ill and advised a change of climate. So Rosemary and her entire family went to live in Florida. George could finally give up his apartment and move back into his home, but it was a bittersweet pleasure. It was a difficult time in their relationship, as it was unclear if they were saying a permanent goodbye, or was it just temporal. When newspaper people asked Rosemary about it, she said: “It’s hard to tell. I feel that my first duty now is to be with my mother. I can always come back later.”

And indeed, in the beginning, Raft and Rosemary had a semi-successful long distance relationship, he in California, she in Florida. But, literary a few short weeks later, things started to fall apart. As there was a very slim chance that George would ever wed her, Rosie just decided to play the field like a single lady while she was on the other side of the county. Pretty soon, there were reports that she was discovered by wealthy Irving Geist. Raft panicked, but Rosie wouldn’t budge. Their relationship became icier by the second.

George was livid and unhappy with the state of the union, but could hardly do anything. Then, it all escalated with a very last phone call between them, on Christmas Eve 1953, when Rosemary called him from Florida to say that she doesn’t love him any more. And that was just that.

Same as with Betty Grable and Virginia Pine, George prolonged getting a divorce, and when the lady inevitably left him, he was shattered, like really, properly shattered. His friends were literary amazed at the torch George was carrying for Rosemary. Just a few months ago they thought he was trying to get rid of her and her family – obviously George tried to make himself a cool cat who couldn’t wait to nicely ditch the gauche Colligans and Rosemary, when the truth was quite different.

Here are some short articles that show just how devastated George was (and he WAS!):

THE MOST DEPRESSED and blue guy in our town over the holidays was George Raft. Not a wire, not a card, nary a greeting of any kind from Rosemary Colligan, her mother, father or sister who were George’s guests for over a year, living in the luxury of his home while he occupied a small apartment. “Is he carrying a torch for Rosemary?” I asked one of his pals who is frankly worried about Raft. “Maybe not exactly a torch,” his friend explained, “but he’s deeply hurt to think that these people, for whom he did so much even to paying for father Colligan’s major operation, didn’t even have a greeting for him at the holidays. There’s been no word from them since they moved to Miami, after George paid for their departure.

To add insult to injury, George had a minor car crash in January 1954:

George Raft’s auto crash injuries — five torn ligaments in his right arm — are healing a lot faster than his heart injuries-from the breakup of his romance with Rosemary Colligan. The numbness in the arm is disappearing but the hurt of Rosemary’s departure for Florida last November still throbs. In fact, George is carrying a terrific torch. “I had such faith in that girl,” he tells me, “and I thought I had done a lot for her and her family.”

It seems that for George, who only had a proper family unit when he was with Virginia Pine and helped raise her daughter Joanie, perceived Colligans as his family, and it hit him extra hard when they fell apart. So, his relationship with Rosemary wasn’t just a man-loves-woman – for him, it was a chance to, through a beloved female figure, finally have a family that had eluded him, by his own choice, for several long decades. Yes, it hurt extra hard, but since he (more or less) refused to wed a nice girl from a proper Irish family, what could he expect?

George took his time to recuperate, and reacted quite angrily when anybody mentioned Rosemary. When he was leaving for Puerto Rico and that deal Fred MacMurray to run 3 gambling casino, he was asked if he would stop in Florida to see Rosemary. Enraged, he said, “No. When she told me she didn’t love me, that was that!”

Indeed, it seems that George and Rosemary cut all contact after that, and never spoke again. I could be wrong, but Rosemary is not even a footnote in most books on George’s life – worse still, she’s not even mentioned, like she never happened! This is a pretty big omission, as Rosie was truly and earnestly George’s great love. Less glamorous than Virginia Pine, less famous that Betty Grable, she is unjustly never mentioned and this is why there is so little information about her.

Rosemary married wealthy William F. Sullivan in 1954 in Miami, Floria. Unfortunately, I could not find any other information about her afterwards, or is she indeed alive today.
As always I hope she had a happy life.