Valmere Barman

Valmere Barman was a California beach blonde who came to Hollywood because she was a looker. Her career, predictably, failed, but her later life was very interesting and to some degree cosmopolitan – she lived in the far east and was a very active woman! Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Valmere Barman was born on December 14, 1922, in Los Angeles, California to Wademar Jacob Barman and Edith Gay Barman. Her older sister, Edith N., was born on May 5, 1918. Her father was a refrigerator engineer.

Valmere’s childhood was pretty uneventful – she grew up in Los Angeles and developed an interest in the performing arts from her teen years. She was the assistant for the Mystical 13 Magician Association when she was 15 and her nickname was “Dolly”. She attended John Marshall High School and after graduation, opted to continue her education and go to college.

I could not find which college Valmere attended, but she was seen by a talent scout who bought her to the attention to Paramount studios – they signed her in 1942 and there she went!

CAREER

Valmere started her career in the low-budget Gene Autry western, Call of the Canyon.Who boy, can’t thing to anything more to say about these movies. Austry isn’t even half bad, so Valmere can even consider herself semi-lucky to star in his western. Happily, she did a bit better for herself in her next feature – Lady of Burlesque. A murder mystery set in a seedy, underworld burlesque house. Despite mixed reviews, this is a solid, entertaining movie with lots to offer, especially if you like burlesque, of course! Babs Stanwaxck is her usual great acting self, and there are plenty of underrated female talent here – Iris Adrian, Gloria Dickson, Stephanie Batchelor… A unique combination of Miss Marple and Gypsy Rose Lee, it’s a definite recommendation!

Like most of Paramount contract players, Valmere appeared in Duffy’s Tavern, a cavalcade of various dancing, singing and vaudeville segments with some very nifty names to feature (Bign Crosby, Betty Hutton, Paulette Goddard, Alan Ladd and so on). Then, Valmere played a schoolgirl in Our Hearts Were Growing Up, a sequel of the better known Our hearts were young and gay. Continuing the adventures of Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough, it’s a charming but lukewarm romantic comedy, base entirely on the fact that pre 1920s girls were as a naive as smuck in terms of men and sexuality. While people from the 1940s could understand this and actually laugh at it, today it’s a bit sad and even a bit shocking to watch it. But still, Diana Lynn and Gail Russell and are easy on  the eyes and good enough actresses to pull it out. As a bonus we have Brian Donlevy playing a bootlegger who romances the girls. Whauza!

Valmere then appeared in Blue Skies, a well known, classic Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire musical, written by Irving Berlin. Valmere than graces one of Cecil B. DeMille’s epic movie, Unconquered. It’s a story of early America, about the struggle between the colonists and the Indians. Gary Cooper and Paulette Goddard star, and they make a fine couple, looking exquisite together. While the movie is lavish, stupendous and mesmerizing in its sheer scope, it has all the failings of such a production – namely, it’s not accurate historically , the plot is far-fetched and the characterization could be better –  but who cares when it’s so much fun!

In the interim Valmere made a few short movies – Boogie WoogieThe Little Witch, where she played prominent roles. Fittingly, she finished her career with one such a short, Gypsy Holiday.

And that was it from Valmere!

PRIVATE LIFE

One of Valmere Barman’s treasured possessions was a letter from Mrs. Harry Houdini. Since she worked closely with magicians from the time she was a teen, it’s safe to assume Valmere liked the whole hocus pocus industry. Valmere also performed on stage as well on screen, dancing and singing as a member of the Bob Hope Stateside USO tours during World War II.

When Valmere landed in Hollywood, she wasn’t a happy-go-lucky unattached girl looking for swains – she was in a committed relationship with her John Marshall High School sweetheart, Charles Eugene Dickey.

After a long engagement, Valmere and Charles, then a recently discharged marine sergeant, were married by Rev. W. Don Brown on November 6, 1945 at Trinity Episcopal Church. They were attended by seven bridesmaids and seven ushers.

Dickey was born on January 10, 1922 in Illinois, to Charles R. and Marie Heaton Dickey. He had a younger brother, Howard. The family love to Los Angeles, where Charles Sr. worked as a retail paint salesman. Charles grew up in Los Angeles, and after graduating from high school was drafted on February 12, 1942.

I always wonder what happens to couple that date for ages get married and then divorce in a span of one year (or something similar). Relationship fatigue? Anyway, the point of this story is that Valmere and Charles’ marriage didn’t work and they were divorced by 1948. Dickey stayed in California, remarried in the 1950s and died on June 3, 1982.

Valmere was out of the public eye by then, so little was written when she married her second husband, Frank Kasala, on September 1, 1949, in Los Angeles.

Kasala was born on May 5, 1922, to Frank Kasala Sr., whose parents were from Czechoslovakia, and Kathryn Bureker, daughter of German immigrants. His younger sister Barbara Leone was born on August 1, 1924. The elder Frank worked as a clerk. Freshly graduated from high school, Kasala was drafted into the army in 1942 or 1943.

He was a scenario writer before he entered the service and has continued in his profession as much as possible while in the service. Kasala won 3 battle stars for his work in the European theater. During the war, Kasala married Eleanor Canoy (born on July 10, 1923) on June 30, 1944 in her hometown of Marion, Oregon. Eleanor was a Majorette in the American Legion Band. Their daughter Gail Lynne Kasala was born in 1945. Tragically, the girl died just a few months after birth. The Kasala’s marriage never recovered after this, and they divorced in 1946.

Terri remarried twice (second time to to John Yeager) and lived the rest of her life in Oregon – she and her husband die don the same day in 2005.

The Kasalas lived in Los Angeles, Valmere retired from movies and ready for motherhood. Their daughter Valmere Lynn was born on March 4, 1951. Their second daughter, Cathy Gay, was born on May 14, 1953. Their third daughter, Diane L., was born on March 30, 1956. After her daughters grew a bit, Valmere worked as the Dietitian at the Pilgrim School in Los Angeles from 1961 to 1963.

In 1964, the family moved to Japan for work reasons.  The family lived in Japan from 1964 to 1968 and Hong Kong from 1968 to 1975.  In Japan Valmere taught as an elementary teacher at the International School of the Sacred Heart and was a swim team coach for the Yokohama Yacht Club from 1965 to 1968. In Hong Kong she taught as an elementary school teacher and also conducted the school choir at the Hong Kong International School in Repulse Bay. While overseas she loved to race day sailboats and sail for leisure with her family.

They returned to the US in 1975. Now, what exactly happened in the East and then in the US I cannot know, but my own take (so could be purely fiction), based on the information I have found – Frank and Valmere grew apart, their marriage slowly deteriorated, Frank fell in love with a Japanese woman, divorced Valmere and married the lady. The facts: Joe and Valmere divorced in November 1977.

Kasala remarried to Shinako Kasala, they had a son, Craig, and lived in California, where they were both passionate golfers. Shinako sadly died in 2007. Kasala died in 2017.

Valmere returned to California after her divorce. On September 13, 1980, she married Robert C Barnhart.

Robert was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania in 1920 to Robert C. Barnhart Sr. and Edna Adams Barnhart, Bob went to Valley Forge Military Academy on a trombone scholarship prior to attending the US Naval Academy. Immediately after graduation in 1944, Bob reported to the USS Astoria as a gunnery officer and saw action at Iwo Jima and Okinawa.

After WWII, Bob served int he Navy and won a bronze star during the Vietnam war. Bob completed his 30 year career in the Navy as Chief of Staff in Philadelphia. After his retirement from the Navy, Bob settled in Lake Forest, California, where he worked for General Dynamics, Pomona for 10 years before completely retiring.

Bob married Paula Jeen Gay of Long Beach on March 24, 1945, and they had four children, Bobby, Randy, Annette Colver and Gary. Paula died in 1979.

Bob’s passion was fishing, and he and Dolly would often summer at the family fishing cabin in Pennsylvania. They also volunteered at Saddleback Hospital when not traveling.

Valmere Barman Barnhardt died on February 2, 2012 in Lake Forest, California. Her widower Bob died on December 15, 2012.

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Bonita Barker

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

And that was it from Bonita!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amelita Ward

AmelitaBigOne

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

And Amelita was off!

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was it from Amelita!

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eleanor Prentiss

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

And that was it from Eleanor!

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

Eleanor also continued to do modeling assignments:

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

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

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

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

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

Margo Woode

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

EARLY LIFE

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

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

CAREER

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Adele Lacy

A Midwestern girl came to Hollywood armed only with a nice face, good body and some dancing skills, and actually got a chance to play leads in low-budget movies. This could go both ways – either it’s a springboard to something better or it’s a peak of an otherwise abysmal career. Unfortunately, Adele Lacy suffered the former fate, and after an initial short blast spent the rest of her career in the chorus.

EARLY LIFE

Adeline Charlotte Fergestad was born on September 8, 1911, to Morris Fergestad and Mina Johnson, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her paternal grandparents were born in Norway, and Mina’s family were also of Norwegian stock, making Adeline of the Minnesota Scandinavians. Her older brother Marvin was born in 1910. Morris Fergestad was a postal clerk at the local post office.

The family lived in Colfax Avenue, Minneapolis with two lodgers. Adeline was a vivacious red-haired child who had a knack for dancing and performing – she often played leads in local shows. She studied under Ruby Helen McClune of the Junior School of Expression. Beautiful and talented, she was appearing in several Kiddie Revues at the State theater, subsequently taking minor roles at the Schubert theater. When McClune went to Los Angeles to learn more dancing techniques, Adeline accompanied her. She loved the city, and vowed to return one day. But it was back in Minneapolis for now. Adeline’s first claim to fame was appearing in a Gus Edwards revenue in 1926 – she was chosen among hundreds of other Minneapolis dancers.

As for academia, Adeline attended Jefferson Junior high school and West school. In 1928, before Adeline graduated from West high school, she packed her bags and left for Hollywood, hoping to break into movies after getting some slack by appearing in Gus Edwards show.

In Tinsel town Adele attended Hollywood high school, from which she graduated that same year. She did dancing work and some minor uncredited work in movies (could not find any information about what movies). In 1933 her luck changed when she got picked From 1,000 actresses to be a leading lady for a series of western pictures starring Lane Chandler. And thus her career started

CAREER

Adele’s first known role, and one of the few where she was credited, was Vanishing Men, a lost low-budget western. Adele had the dubious honor of playing leading roles in two more low budget westerns The Wyoming Whirlwind and When a Man Rides Alone. While none of these movies have any impact on the world of film, viewers actually seem to like When a Man Rides Alone and it got strong kudos! You could say I was surprised – I never expect anybody to watch these old cheapies. Obviously, people still like Tom Tyler and watch his movies, but the question was, did Adele benefited from acting opposite such a western icon?

Short answer, no. Like most B western heroines, Adele’s career went nowhere fast. While she started pretty good – leading roles after all, it was dissolved from then on, and she remained a chorus staple in some good movies, but she was still just one of the chorus girls, rarely noticed.

She was a Goldwyn girl in The Kid from Spain, the ultimate Goldwyn girls classic. She was also in the legendary 42nd Street, and this is for sure the highlight of her career. It seems that being a Busby Berekely chorus girl was a career path many girls took when they arrive in Tinsel town. Too bad only a small fraction outgrew this fun and quite limited function.

Adele appeared in Busby’s movies with an almost alarming frequency: Gold Diggers of 1933Footlight ParadeRedheads on Parade. They are all the typical Berkeley musical – slim plot but lavish dance numbers and a whole loads of scantily clad girls to go over.

And sadly, that was it from Adele

PRIVATE LIFE  

Adele had natural red hair, hazel eyes, was 5 feet 2 inches tall and weighed 114 pounds in her prime.

Adele married her first husband, Madison S. Lacy, in 1929. Madison was born on August 2, 1898 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He worked in Hollywood as a stills photographer from the late 1910s. He later became a successful cheesecake photographer and took photos of many famous pin-up girls and actresses. His best known work are the stills of Ingrid Bergman from 1944.

Madison undoubtably helped her wife carve her path in Hollywood, but other than that little is known of the marriage. They divorced about the time her career came to an end, cca 1935. Madison remarried to actress Lois Lindsay and died on April 26, 1978.

In 1935, Adele left her movie career to become a special correspondent in Shanghai, China for a U. S. news syndicate. She was there for roughly a year, and then moved to London, England, also as a correspondent. After a year spent in London, she returned to New York, went back to Minnesota for a short time, and decided to take the big plunge and get married again. My guess is that she met her future husband during her two years outside the US, but anything is possible.

Adele married Walter Abel Futter in December 1937. Futter was an interesting, larger than life character.

Futter was born on January 2, 1900, in Omaha, Nebraska. Walter and his brother Fred were known in the early 1930s as the “junk-men of filmdom” because of their successful stock footage library. The two started buying negatives of bankrupt firms and amateur cameramen in 1926, calling their firm “Wafilms.” By 1928 they made profits by buying “short ends” of movie reels and selling them at big prices. Futter also produced short movies for Columbia studios, specializing in travelogues – his biggest ace was Africa Speaks – where a Colorado expedition visited Africa. In a world before internet, where a majority of the population never left the continent, and where Africa was a half mythical country, these movies were a smashing success. He tried to repeat the formula several times after, but never managed to react the success of Africa speaks. He was also one of the first filmmaker to show a zombie on-screen.

Futter was married once before, in 1927, to Patricia Elizabeth Murphy, they divorced a few years later.

In 1938, the Futter moves to London, where he produced British movies. When the war started in Europe, they returned to the US, living in New York. The Futters moved to Market, New Yersey, in 1944.

Reports Wife Missing On Trip to Manbattan New Market Police announced last night that Mrs. Adele Futter, 34, of Poe PI., had been missing since noon Tuesday when she left in her car for New York City. According to Arthur H. Schlun-sen, police chief of Piscataway Township, Mrs. Futter was last seen in Manhattan Tuesday by her doctor whom she visited during the day. Five feet two inches tall and weighing 120 pounds, the missing woman is the wife of Walter A. Futter, producer of motion picture short subjects and travel films. The Futters moved to New Market approximately one month ago.

And here is it how it ended:

Mrs. Walter Futter, 34, of Coe place, former actress, who had been missing for nearly a week, has returned to her home, police revealed today. The woman, who had left home last Tuesday to visit a physician New York City and then mysteriously disappeared, stated last night she had been visiting in Moorestown, Pa., and did not realize her husband had been alarmed about her. Futter notified police late Sun day night he was satisfied where wife was and asked the tele type alarm be recalled. Mrs. Futter stated she had telephoned a woman friend she knew the Orient while in New York City and discovered there had been a death in; the family. She decided to visit the friend in Moorestown and had asked someone to telegraph her husband to that effect Evidently, she said, in the excitement of the invasion, the telegram had not been sent. Mrs. Futter immediately tele phoned her husband when she read in the paper she had bee missing and came home yesterday. Her husband is a producer of motion picture shorts and travel forms.

This look normal to you? I am on the edge, this kind of gaffes can happen all the time, but something I feel something fishy… Maybe Futter was just an overtly dramatic man?

I’m guessing that Futter wasn’t  a picnic to live with (larger than life people seldom are), but the information about the union is scarce so no concrete evidence for that. Aside from that, the Futter lived in a small farm and even started to grow animals. Here is an article:

“Little lawnmowers” is what Mrs. Walter Futter of Burnt Mills Farm, Burnt Mills, calls the flock of sheep and lambs which she and her husband have on their farm. They advertise ‘today, “Choice milk-fed Easter lambs.” Mrs. Futter said that when they decided to get a few lambs some time ago, they were going to buy three “just to keep the grass down.” Instead, they got a flock of 24 and discovered they had to be fenced in properly or they eould eat flowers and shrubs as well as grass. Now the flock has grown to 80 and the Futters sell Easter lambs. Mrs. Futter also told us that the sheep is called “the animal with the golden hoof because Its manure, pounded into the ground with little hoofs does not disturb the sod and prevents weeds from growing. This is the kind of sod sold for landscaping. Mr. and Mrs. Futter also have a riding horse, chickens and French miniature poodles,

In 1953, Adele learned she had cancer – after a traditional treatment in the US, she moved to Mexico City for alternative treatment. Unfortunately, it was too late for Adele.

Adele Lacy Futter died on July 3, 1953 in Mexico City, Mexico, survived by her husband and brother.

Adele’s widower, Walter, married painter Howard Hoyt s ex-wife Betty Bartley in November 1955.

Betty got pregnant a short time later, and the awaited their child in June 1956. Unfortunately, when the baby was born it lived only 8 hours. Their one year marriage perished with it, and they were divorced by late 1956. However, the soap opera hardly stops here! In early 1958, they were in court again:

Walter Futter, 58, who is being sued by his blonde showgirl wife, Betty Futter, 35, for separation and $’.00-a-week temporary alimony, made it known today that from now on he wants her to pick up her own tabs. In a paid newspaper advertisement, Futter said: “My wife Betty, having left my bed and board, I am not responsible for her debts.” Futter was served with a complaint in Betty’a action last Friday. In her papers, Betty charged he was “insanely jealous,” falsely accused her in public and private of infidelity, and frequently beat her up.

The drama came to a halt when Walter Futter died on March 12, 1958.

 

Audrene Brier

Audrene Brier was a dancer who failed to become a proper actress, and mostly appeared in chorus girl roles. What sets her apart from tons of other chorus girls that never broke into acting is the fact that, after her “acting” career was over, she became a choreographer of repute and effectively had a second life in Tinsel town!

EARLY LIFE

Audrene Ethel Brier was born on September 28, 1914, in Los Angeles, California, to Huber Benjamin Brier and Lillian Abraham. Her father was a carpenter, her mother a housewife. Her maternal grandparents were British. She had an older sister, Lucille, born in 1912.

She was a child actress at 3, a protegé and a discovery of Gus Edwards, and worked in bits all during her younger years, but unfortunately I could not find these credits. Audrene was also enamored of dancing from the star – she had studied ballet with Ernest Belcher (father of Marjorie Champion) for ten years and tap dancing with Nick Castle for almost the same length of time. I assume she also attended high school, but could find no information about it.

Audrene was also socially active in various pageants and parades all around Los Angles, even winning awards for her frocks several times (it seems Audrene was a clothes horse!). However, she didn’t make a “proper” movie until she signed with Warner Bros in 1933, and off she was!

CAREER

Audrene’s career can be divided into three very distinct chapters. The first one were her dancing days in the early 1930s. She entered movies in 1933, under contract to Warner Bros. Her first movie was Gold Diggers of 1933, the best of the Gold Diggers string of movies. Warren William plays the lead what can I say, I love William and find him one of the best Pre-code actors. The plot is good enough, music and dancing are superb – exactly what you would expect from a Busby Berkeley production. Unfortunately, the rest of her output didn’t soar as high. It’s Great to Be Alive is an idiotic musical cum SF (yep, you heard that right), Too Much Harmony  is a typical Bing Crosby musical of the early 1930s, nothing to shout about. Audrene made three more musicals for Warner Bros, and all three of them were mediocre fare at their bets, and totally forgettable at their worst (Stand Up and Cheer! , All the King’s Horses and Redheads on Parade). She was literary one of thousands girls that came pouring to Hollywood every year, get their small chunks of movie time in the chorus, and get forgotten in a year or two. However, Audrene decided to stick around and make something more out o her not-to-impressive career.

She sailed to the UK in the mid 1930s, and tried for  a career there. The pickings were slim, but they were there – Darby and Joan , a completely forgotten comedy, Wise GuysThe Reverse Be My Lot , both likewise forgotten, but Audrene was credited in all of the movies and actually appeared on-screen outside the chorus line. While not much, it still was something. The war looming in Europe, Audrene returned to the States, and settled into a dancing life.

She returned to movies in 1941, and this begins the third “chapter” of her movie career – back to the chorus or at least to lightweight comedy. The first movie was Down in San Diego, a solidly done wartime adventure/comedy with all the usual suspects – Nazi spies, military secrets, the navy and so on. Bonita Granville is in it – that’s a slight plus if nothing else. Audrene played a secretary in Born to Sing, a formulaic and not especially good ‘let’s put on a show’ film – it’s decidedly B class material and that’s that.Even more preposterous was Joan of Ozark, a Judy Canova idiotic wartime movie where she singlehandedly foils a German spy ring. As one reviewer wrote, it’s a “propaganda films of very dubious quality”. While Judy can be amusing at times, the story is most certainly not. Like many other starlets, Audrene was in Parachute Nurse, and ended her career in Call of the Canyon, a cheap but able musical western. And that was that!

PRIVATE LIFE

After leaving movies for the first time, Audrene worked as a professional dancer. She appeared in Chicago fairs and doubling at the Congress hotel with Billy Taft for a partner and to Eddie Duchin’s music. She also did some nightclub work in both New York and Chicago, before returning to Los Angeles. Why did she return, you may wonder? Simple – love.

She married Nathan Rosenberg on February 12, 1936, in Los Angeles. Nathan was born on 1904 to Maurice Rosenberg and Sarah Carr. His uncle was renown producer Carl Leamme. Known as Nat Ross, he worked in the film industry as a director under his uncle’s guidance. He was a veteran of over 60 directing gigs by the time he married Audrene, and a well-known staple in Hollywood. Yet, his career was effectively over by 1931, and he dreamed of other, better opportunities for his talents.

Buoyed by a union of two artists who wanted something better than just scraps, Ross and Audrene decided to go to England, where he went inot producing movies and she acted in several of his features. The movies proved to be When she came back to America, she decided that she had enough of being an actress, and she devoted herself solely to being a dancer, thus returning to the chorus once again. Unfortunately, she and Nat separated, and by 140s, she was living with friends in Los Angeles (she is listed as their guest). Then, something quite horrible happened. Nat Ross, Audrene’s husband, was killed in a shooting in February 1941. Here is a brief article about it:

Nat Kerns, 36, identified by Detective-Lieutenant C. A. Gillan as a former movie producer and director, was shot and killed last night in a doorway of a rag factory of which he was foreman. Maurice L. Briggs, 25, a recent employee of the plant, was arrested a few blocks away. He was booked at city jail on suspicion of murder. Among 25 women witnesses to the shooting was Briggs’ wife Betty, 21, an employee of the factory. They were married five months ago. Gillan said Ross, also a part owner of the plant, formerly managed a New York city theater, then became a film salesman, joining the old Universal studio in 1920. He was an assistant to the late Irving Thalberg, produced “The Leather rushers” and “The Collegians” and for years was a director in Hollywood and a producer in London. Ross was married four years ago to Audrene Brier, an actress. Gillan said witnesses told him Rosa discharged Brings a month ago, re-employed him, then discharged him again two weeks ago. Carl Lacmmle, Jr., son of tho late head of Universal Studio, and Robert Hartman of Hollywood, a cousin of Ross, conferred with Gillan at the police station following the shooting. Laemmle identifield himself as a close friend of the dead man.

Unfortunately, there is only a brief mention of Audrene in the article, and it doesn’t mention their marital state, but I guess they were still separated when the tragedy happened. But anyway, it was a terrible blow to Audrene. She recuperated by working in movies again, and slowly moving from the front of the camera to behind the camera – she became a dancing teacher, and in time, a choreographer. he racked up some impressive credits to her name – Jolson Sings Again and Million Dollar Mermaid , just to name the most famous. Here is a short peek at her choreographing days:

 Audrene Brier to Assist Cole – Audrene Brier has been set as choreographic assistant to dance director Jack Cole on Columbia’s Cinemascope Technicolor musical, “Three for the Show,” which stars Betty Grable, Marge and Gower Champion and Jack Lemmon. Jonie Taps produces and H. C. Potter directs. Miss Brier previously served Cole in the same capacity at Columbia, when he designed the dances for Rita Hayworth in “Gilda” and “Down to Earth.”

Audrene married, secondly, to prominent set decorator Norman Rockett, a 06 Oct 1946 in Los Angeles, California. Rockett was born Norman Walter Harrison on August 8, 1911, the son of a laundry route salesman and a lingerie saleswoman who lived in Long Beach. After his parents divorced and his mother remarried, he took the name of his stepfather, Al Rockett, an executive with First National Studios in Burbank. He was drafted into the army during WW2 and served int he Pacific Theater – He had been assigned as a naval photographer’s mate to the Pennsylvania, only to arrive for duty a month after the ship was damaged in the Pearl Harbor bombing of Dec. 7, 1941.Later he used this experience when making sets for his most famous movie, Tora tora tora!

The couple lived quietly in Sherman Oaks (Audrene did mostly choreographing jobs by now, with no acting in sight), and raised a daughter, Susan, born on March 31, 1948. It was a harmonious and happy family life.

Norman Rockett died on April 5, 1996. Audrene Rockett died on January 13, 2002 in Los Angeles.

Joy Windsor

Beautiful chorus girl who did some not-too-bad uncredited work – we heard this story before. Yet, Joy Windsor is a more tragic example than most – she was forced to end her career due to illness. However, she reinvented herself as a nightclub singer and then got married and ended her career o raise a family. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Emily Smith was born on February 4, 1931, in Columbia, Missouri, to William E. Smith and Emily Richards Smith. Her younger brother William E. Jr was born on March 24, 1933.

The family lived on Rolling Acres, a Hereford cattle ranch. Emily learned to ride almost before she learned to walk, ,much like her brother Will (the two remained close their whole lives). After losing everything to the dust bowl, the family moved to California in the late 1930s. Emily attended high school in Los Angeles, and somehow began dancing while in her teens. IMDB lists her first credited in 1931, the year she was born, but that is not correct – there was another Joy Windsor who was born in the late 1900s, who made her debut in 1931. Joy didn’t act as a child, but later, in the early 1950s. Anway, just fresh out of high school, she became a member of the Ken Murray chorus, and got her first newspaper mention when the show Ken mounted in Los Angeles moved East to New York:

Back into town today came the most unloved girls in New York. By the critics. And pop-eyed Union Station, attendants and red caps stared at the long-legged beauties and borrowed Ken Murray’s famous phrase “What’s wrong with that?” The girls were from the cast of “Blackouts,” Murray’s variety show that ran for seven years in Hollywood and flopped after only six weeks, on Broadway, “The critics killed us,” said Pat Williams, 18, one of the attractions of the show. “Audiences were wonderful, just like they were in Hollywood, but the critics panned us. And we closed.” Pat, who is from Tacoma, Wash., was followed off the Santa Fe’s Grand Canyon Limited by the tall, stunning blond twins, Joan and Jean Corbett, also 18. Redheaded Joy Windsor, 19, was a step behind. The three are Burbank lasses and their families were there to meet them. Joan (or Jean, they are exact twins) commented wistfully, “Maybe the critics just don’t like California products.” A train brakeman whistled and murmured, “I’m seeing double but what’s wrong with that?” Murray and his wife stayed behind in New York and will arrive here on the Chief tomorrow.

Joy continued working in Los Angeles, dancing in other shows. Probably in part due to her chorus experience, Joy was signed to a contract with a studio and started her acting career.

CAREER

Joy started her career in Sands of Iwo Jima, a well-made war movie. She then appeared in Women from Headquarters, a movie completely forgotten, but with an interesting plot and with a woman in the lead (played by Virginia Huston, whom I profiled on this blog before). Unfortunately, it’s a B effort that never raised any dust, and such movies with a feisty female lead remained a rarity for years to come (and even today still are).

After a Fun on the Run short, Joy had an uncredited role in His Kind of Woman a pretty good film noir with a fine pairing of Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell. While I always tought of Russell as a not that talented sexpot, she was actually an okay actress who more than did her share in movies such as this. Joy’s next feature, Sunny Side of the Street was an idiotic musical (plot: a singer wants to get famous) with no real reasons to watch it. While it is to some degree happy-go-lucky, it still lags behind much better upbeat musicals. Terry Moore and Audrey Long are perhaps the only lights spots in the production. Joy fared no better in her next movie, The Family Secret – this one is pure low-class soap opera (courtroom style) with not enough quality drama and too much pathetic drama, and no good actors (case in point – John Derek – not that bad-looking but a trunk of wood as far as acting goes). Joy was then in another short, Hula-La-La, before doing two totally typical 1950s movies – Ten Tall Men, a typical adventure with Burt Lancaster as a French Foreign Legion soldier, and The First Time, a Robert Cummings as a first time dad comedy of manners. Both movies are well made, great to look at and amusing to some degree, but on the other hand they offer nothing truly exceptional nor do they soar above the middle of the barrel status. Another similar movie was Sound Off, a Mickey Rooney vehicle – a military musical where he plays a nightclub entertainer who is drafted and so on… It’s nice to watch and not too bad, but nothing to shout about. Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder  was a sweet and light musical with Frankie Laine.

Due to some medical problems, Joy had to give up her career after this movie (read more in the private life section). She returned to the screen one more time in 1956, with Come on Seven, another short comedy, and then retired for good.      

PRIVATE LIFE

Joy’s first Hollywood beau was David May. The press termed him a boy who ‘who plays around with department stores’, and who ‘thinks Joy Windsor is more fun’. Unfortunately nothing came of the liaison, and May married Ann Rutherford later. Hollywood stalwart Dave Siegel and Joy became pretty good friends not long after she entered the chorus world, and despite not being romantically involved, they were often seen around town, enjoying late suppers and dancing. He would remain her reliable and sturdy “go-to” guy for going out when more interesting beaus were nowhere to be seen.

In the early 1950s, Joy did quite a bit of work for the US military effort. She traveled with a plethora of entertainers to Korea and to the Caribbean, and was often seen in the newspapers.

For a time in 1952, Joy dated Buddy Rudolf, who dated and ditched June Horne right virtually to the altar (he went to Japan for business and didn’t return for two years), but the relationship simply withered after a few short months.

In December 1952, Joy started dating avowed bachelor Paul Ellis. They became seriously quite quickly – in January 1953 Paul Ellis told Joy Windsor at the Sportsmen’s Lodge that he’ll fly to Mexico to see her new night club act. However, they had a nasty bust up in April 1954 and both started dating elsewhere. In May Joy was dating Frank Harper at the Sportsmen’s Lodge, but her heart was still with Paul. In June 1954, one night,  Paul Ellis went to a fancy club with new swain Jane Wurster but she went home and he was joined by Joy Windsor who had watched the first show with Dave Siegel (and then conveniently ditched him). They spend a wonderful summer together, but storm cloud were never far from their love sky. THey had some serious issued by September, and in October had a love spat as a result of a tense and, on Joy’s side, tearful confab at Ciro’s in the midst of a concert. They “broke up”, but the same month, a funny things happened: onlookers observed an unusual situation at Ciro’s when Martha Martin Ellis ringside with Roger Valmy; at the next table sat her ex, Paul Ellis, with Lucille Barkley, and just adjacent Paul’s recent steady date, Joy Windsor, with Stanley Richardson. They couldn’t keep from each other – they were back dating the same month. They broke up in early 1954, and made up in April 1954. However, in May 1954 she was seen with famed attorney Bentley Ryan (partner of the legendary Greg Bautzer). In late May Paul gave Joy Windsor a farewell dinner before she went to Europe for three months. They resumed their romance when she returned in August. All went well for the remained of the year, but another termination came in January 1955. They made up, yet again, in March 1955.  Joy wanted to become a nightclub singer and she wasn’t kidding – that month She had flown to the Philippines for an engagement. Then the papers solemnly announced she was supposed to marry Ellis on April 16, just one months away. Ah, but what can happen in a month!

Everything seemingly went well, but then, two days before the marriage, Joy suffered a nervous collapse. The wedding was postponed. Nobody knew the reason, but the columnists rightly deducted that there was a lot more than came out in the story and wondered if the wedding wall ever take place. Then, to nobody’s surprise,  they canceled it quite acrimoniously. Both tried to act as if nothing happened and they would go on as usual. Paul Ellis dated Dorothy Porter at the Gourmet Beverly, but the truth was quite different from the illusion.

In the meantime, Joy was seen with Marshall Ebson. Then, sometime in May 1955, she caught polio and was hospitalized. Luckily, only her leg was affected, but she had to give up her movie career after this, as she had to wear a brace. In August 1955, she was still wearing a leg brace, but went dancing frequently with Bentley Ryan. In September 1955 she dated Bob Moon, a radio producer. In October 1955, things started to shift in relation to Paul – Joy flew to New York and was planning to stay there for a longer time. Paul, who heard that she was to depart to the East coast, tentatively called her, then took her to the Luau for dinner and then to the airport. Joy’s plans for a long-term New York sojourn were quickly squashed – by November she declared that the local weather was too much for her, she changed her mind about living in the east, flew home and then to the desert. She accidental “ran” into Paul there, and he bought her a dinner at the Palm Springs Ranch dub. And just like that, they were together again. The reunion lasted only a few weeks, alas. In early November Joy and Paul had a battle and everything is off again between them. ON a positive note, by late November, there were news that, if she’s careful, doctors told Joy that she can go out evenings without the brace on her leg. Early in 1956, she took off the braces for the first time and did Ciro’s with Paul (obviously they were “on” again). But Joy was still seen with other beaus – Ruth Roman’s estranged husband, Mortimer Hall, was one of the more serious ones.

1956 seemed like a tranquil year for the couple. By May she was again with Paul, and this time for good it seemed. In October Joy spent three days in the hospital fighting anemia. In early 1957 she was seen around with Paul, often with  company like Joyce and Noel Clarke, Grace Pope and her sister Helen Sanders and so on.

Then, in May 1957, literary out of nowhere, Joy married bandleader Charlie Barnet. Trust me, I was shocked to read this. After such a wonderful year with Paul, marrying a guy who…. She was his (wait for it!) 10th wife!!! Imagine this! Ten wives, and you are not yet 50. He said, somewhat ironically, that “I like the girls to match the upholstery of the car.” “We are ideally happy and deeply in love,” Joy said to the papers. She said she met Barnet two weeks ago and started singing with his band. They decided to elope Wednesday after attending a cocktail party. They flew to Yuma for the wedding ceremony and returned the next day. The couple planed a week-long honeymoon in Hollywood (how romantic… NOT) and after it was over, continued living there. Barnet was born on October 26, 1913, into a wealthy New York family, making him almost 20 years Joy’s senior. Instead of becoming a lawyer like his parents expected him to, he became a jazzer.

The marriage was very stormy and they separated in early June. By mid June, Joy was already dating Leonard Ackerman. On June 28, she hits the newspapers by seeking an annulment for he marriage. “I got an ulcer.” she famously said to the judge. She charged him for never intending to consummate the marriage and that he refused to set up a proper household. What a sad and worrisome affair 😦 She won the annulment on August 9, 1957. Barnet married his last wife, Betty, in 1958 and stayed married for the next 30+ years.  He died on Septeber 4, 1991.

Just a few days later she was back with Paul Ellis. What a roller coaster their relationship was. After all the ups and downs, they married on August 12, 1957 in Carson City, Nevada. They honeymooned in Hawaii with Paul’s ex-wife and daughter (weird!). By October Joy was pregnant, and in November ended up in the Cedars of Lebanon hospital suffering from a flu attack.

Ultimately, Joy and Paul had two children: Richard William Ellis, born on May 9, 1958 and Paula Lee Ellis, born on June 18, 1959. Joy settled into a peaceful family life from then on. Her brother William Smith went on to become a popular actor, and always credited his sister with helping him get a foothold in Tinsel Town.

Joy Windsor Ellis died on November 6, 2006 in Santa Monica, California.

PS: Happy Christmas people!!!

 

Caroline Burke

After profiling more than a hundred obscure actresses, I can say that I am not easily impressed. More often than not I see a pattern – young girls who have a zest for life go to Hollywood and thus break with tradition, but in the end, after a short career, they often return “home” to become wives and mothers. Only a few didn’t follow this path, and those women sometimes impress me – Caroline Burke is one of them. After a short and sketchy Hollywood career, she became a very successful female producer and left her mark on both early TV and Broadway. Boy, was I impressed (I like this word, can’t you see?) with her professional achievements! But, let’s more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Caroline Flora Berg was born on July 7, 1913, in Portland, Oregon, to Charles F. Berg and Saidee Berg. Her older brother James Forrest was born on January 5, 1901 in Portland. Her father was a prosperous merchant and the family was well off, employing at least one servant at any time.

Caroline grew up in Portland, and attended high school there, developing a taste for performing at an early age. After graduating from high school, Caroline majored in art at Bryn Mawr College, and afterwards returned home to Portland. Unhappy with being a society wife, with her father’s backing and generous donations from friends, she started the art history department at Reed Col­lege in Portland. She also studied art in Paris and London during this time, but I could not find the exact years.

Caroline moved to New York at some point. As an actress, she appeared on Broadway in “Brooklyn, U.S.A.,” and Gilbert Miller’s “Heart of a City.” She was also an advertising and radio writer on the West Coast.

Then, in about 1942, she decided she wanted to “go Hollywood”. She was almost 30 – at that time, most women who came to Hollywood were 20 at best, perhaps 20 something. Yet, she was a mature woman, not a starstruck girl – and this made all the difference. See how she managed to govern a wilderness like Tinsel Town:

Some weeks ago, a petite New York miss named Caroline Burke came to Hollywood, Object: Screen career. Experience: Two bits in Broadway shows and some radio appearances. Hollywood producers were not sufficiently interested to give her interviews. Agents ·were too unimpressed to represent her. The girl’s few acquaintances. Instead of encouraging her. stressed the difficulties of crashing studio gates. But pint-size Miss Burke is a person of determination, “Others have done it,” said she, “and so can I.” After mulling her problem for days, she wrote a poem–a humorous lament about the inaccessibility of movie producers. In it. she named ~the men she had unsuccessfully tried, to see. She sent her poem After mulling her problem for days, she wrote a poem a humorous lament about the inaccessibility of movie producers. In it she named the men she had unsuccessfully tried to see. She sent her poem to Variety and the editor printed it. Within two days every man she had named tried to sign her!

And that was the story of how Caroline got into Hollywood!

CAREER

Caroline’s big moment came with The Mysterious Rider, a, you guessed it, low-budget western!! Heck yeah, and she ended up like most actresses that got their big chance sin such movies – nowhere!

The rest of Caroline’s brief acting career just serves to emphasis this sentiment: she was never credited again, appearing only in bits. In 1943 she was in Silent Witness , a solid but a tad bit too predictable Republic studios potboiler with some impressive bur very underrated cast – Frank Alberston, Maris Wrixon, Bradley Page… The story, while a bit formulaic, is not half that bad – a ruthless attorney gets dumped by his kind hearted fiancee and then the tables turn on him… Nice to see a not so sympathetic character in the lead, and he does get better as the movie progresses.

Up next came Spy Train, a completely made-to-order low-budget thriller set on a (you guessed it!) a train. If has all the typical elements for a movie of such caliber – a handsome lead who’s a reporter, a charming love interest, antagonists (this time the Nazis), and a mix up (completely identical bags). It’s obvious from a hundred miles how it’s going to end, and the movie is solidly made but that’s it – nothing more, nothing less. In a world where there are so many good movies to watch, this one just doesn’t take the cake. The cast is decidedly second tier too, with Richard Travis, Catherine Craig and Chick Chandler.

By this time, Caroline was well aware that her acting days are over. She appeared in a small role in one more movie – the best known of the lot, Rhapsody in Blue, considered one of the best musicals of the 1940s. But, instead of kicking back into domesticity and obscurity, Caroline chose another path for herself.

PRIVATE LIFE

On her first movie interview, New York actress Caroline Burke said, “I’m a complete nonentity can’t play gin rummy don’t have any wacky lapel gadgets and I’ve never been out with Vic Mature!” The press called her “unique”.

Caroline was a lover of all things beautiful and had an eye for art.  She had an impressive doll collection, which she had arranged a half-dozen small cloth peasant dolls in authentic costumes along a wide bookshelf. Behind each is Caroline’s oil painting of the doll with wood frame painted in the rich color only.

Here is a short article about hos Caroline entertained during the 1940s, when she was in Hollywood:

Caroline Burke couldn’t quite give up the spirit of the old Fourth, so to friends who dropped into her Brentwood Heights home for a patio lunch the’- tabre’ presented a gala appearance. White hollyhocks, red roses and blue cornflowers formed the centerpiece; there was a pinwheel of red and white-striped peppermint candy; bread sticks were capped with white paper, skyrocket fashion and set in pewter holders flanked by flags, while the cheese pretzels were tied with red ribbon in packets like fire-crackers and the wieners, were squared at onetend’ and giant firecracker fuses of white string were attached…

Another example:

Caroline Burke’s Birthday Honored Alton Brody played host in his Beverly Hills home Tuesday for a cocktail party celebrating the birthday of Caroline Burke, recently arrived from New York. Caroline wore, in honor of the occasion, an afternoon frock of turquoise blue shantung fashioned with slim skirt, slightly bloused bodice with drawstring neckline at which she wore a red gold clip set with diamonds, rubies and aquamarines. Guests stayed on after rock-tails for a buffet supper of chili, macaroni, salad and other dainties, and to watch Caroline slice a cake topped with blue and white candles. Later the guest of honor adjourned to The Players with a group which included the John Brights, John being the author of “Brooklyn. U.S.A.” in which Caroline made her Broadway debut last winter. Among those who attended the Brody party bearing gifts for Miss Burke and old recordings which are to be donated to the salvage drive sponsored by the American Legion were Messrs. and limes. Walter Pidgeon, John Wayne, Allen Rivkin, Ira Gershwin, Harpo Marx, Charles Feldman, Walter Kane (LynnBari,) Norman Krasna, Michael Kanin, Howard Lang, Jules Stein, William Goetz, Ben Goetz, Ben Hecht, Conrad Veidt and Budd Chase.

Caroline was obivously a natural-born hostess and no wonder she had a reputation as a sought after party girl. On a more serious note, Carole did her share for the war effort – in the summer 1943, she gave up the idea to an Alaskan cruise for shore duties at a Harbor canteen for service men.

Caroline was also a witty conversationalist. Columnist Edith Gwynn once  said that Caroline couldn’t find an apartment that would take dogs so she decided to look for a veterinary who will take people :-). Another example: Caroline reported that the following note was received by the police department in Portland: The guy who lives next door to the police station is a crook and ought to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I cracked his safe last night and found it full of black market coupons”. She was also friends with author Kathleen Windsor. Caroline was present when Kathleen was asked at a Philadelphia author’s luncheon whether her racy book, “Forever Amber,” is an autobiography, and she replied: “If it had been, I wouldn’t have had time to write it”. Caroline was also quite headstrong: she had the forcefulness to carry out the ideas she conceived. For instance, she wanted a work of Picasso, so she got one from him.

Caroline dated Morton Gould, the composer-conductor, for a time. He visited her when she was in the Doctors’ Hospital with a strep throat that same year, but the relationship fizzled not after.

Caroline Burke married Cyrus Max Adler, a millionaire camera manufacturer, in the late 1940s. Cyrus was born on January 19, 1899, making him 14 years older than Caroline. He was married once before, to Selma Caroline Adler, and they had a daughter, Betty, born on April 17, 1927. As a wealthy socialite,  Caroline became prominent in the art circles in the US. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last and they divorced in the early 1950s. Adler died on June 22, 1959.

After her divorce, Caroline and Norman Krasna became a premier twosome-about-town. Caroline was fresh out from New York (and TV duties) and spent some time in Hollywood with her beau. Unfortunately, the relationship didn’t last.

From 1946 to 1956 she was one of television’s first women producers, producing, writing and directing network television for the National Broadcasting Company, including the awar-d­winning telecast of Pirandello’s “Six Characters in Search of an Author” and the memorable Wanda Landowska [the harp­sichordist] at Home in the Wisdom Series. In 1955 she toured the Far East where she taped interviews with the heads of various governments for N.B.C.

She was also active as a Broadway producer. She wanted to produce a play of Mr. Pinter’s, so she read all his plays and then had him adapt his television play, “The Col­lection,” for the theater. In 1962 she brought Harold Pinter’s “The Dumbwaiter” and the already mentioned “The Collection” to the Cherry Lane Theater, running into 1964 with a total of 578 performances. She was co-producer of the Broadway shows “The Hostages” and “The Tenth Man” and was producer of “The New Pinter Piays”. Except staging Pinters plays, she was associate producer of Paddy Chay­efsky’s The Tenth Man, and co‐producer of Brendan Behan’s The Hostage. To Off Broadway she imported N. F. Simp­son’s London comedy, “One Way Pendulum.”

Caroline married her second husband, Erwin D. Swann, an advertising executive, vice president of Foote, Cone & Belding Ad Agency (Mad Men anyone?) sometime in the 1950s. Swann was born on December 9, 1906 in New York. He was married once before, to noted Broadway actress, Tamara, who perished in the 1943 plane crash in Portugal (songstress Jane Forman was on the same flight and suffered serious injuries). Caroline and her husband lived in Manhattan and had a home in Durham Furnace, Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

Caroline kept busy even outside the theater sphere – was an art editor for Diplomat magazine, an owner of a California radio station, a teacher of television production at Columbia University, a sometime writer and teacher — often simultaneously. She truly did have a very impressive and varied career in the arts.

Caroline and her husband amassed an impressive collection of modern art, consisting of, among others, paintings and draw­ings by Picasso, Gauguin, Klee, Miro, Vuillard and Roualt and sculpture by Rodin, Degas, Braque and Zorach.

Caroline Burke Swann died on December 5, 1964, from a brain tumor in New York. Her widower died in December 1973.

Tut Mace

Tut Mace was a kind of girl that we only sometimes see in Hollywood – girls born to dance, girls who danced become they felt a passion for it, notfor the money and fame. Pretty, talented and a seasoned pro by the time she was 20, Tut was a good match for Tinsel Town, but her career there was brief and not notable, so she took up the dancing circuits and had much success. A stormy marriage and possible alcoholism sadly overshadowed her dancing abilities.

EARLY LIFE

Katharine May Tut Mace was born on January 26, 1913 in Los Angeles, California, to Lloyd Russell Mace and Katherine G. Higgins. She was their only child. Her father was a medical doctor, then a local practitioner – he later became an official physician of the Olympic auditorium (State Athletic Commission to be more precise).

From early childhood, it was obvious that Tut was extremely talented in kinetics, dancing included, so he parents, fully supportive, tried to do everything to help her develop this talent. She was sent to several of the leading dancing schools and she took private lessons with trained of movement with acrobatic ability. She was also a Girl Scout troop leader.

Her first real showbiz experience was appearing in the local annual pastiche of dancers, dancing what was known then as a “different” acrobatic dance. Day by day she honed her skill and blossomed into a highly talented dancer. She made waves before she hit 18 – here is an example article about her early career days:

In the success scored by Lupino Lane’s new Hollywood Music Box revue, which opened to a capacity audience Tuesday night, the star-producer has not overlooked home talent. He points with pride to Tut Mace, the little dancer who registered the opening night. Little Miss Mace, is just 16 years of age, born in Los Angeles, and received all of her dance instruction here. She is the daughter of Dr. Lloyd Mace, official physician of the Olympic auditorium, and local practitioner. Although Miss Mace is so young, she has already been featured in several acts in vaudeville, and has danced in them as far East as Chicago. Her acrobatic talent is described as bringing exclamation of wonder from Music Box audiences.

Tut danced all over the US, including the prestigious Tabor Theater in Denver, where she joined the Fanchon and Marco “Hollywood Collegians” idea. And not long after, she did land in Hollywood. Pretty soon, she became very popular in Hollywood as a dancer, and was developing so rapidly…

CAREER

Sadly, for such a talented dancer, tut appeared in so few movies – only three! Her first two movies were the Three Stooges shorts, Hollywood Lights and The Big Idea. Since I never saw any of the Stooges shorts and known next to nothing about them nor their body of work, let’s just leave it at that.

Sadly, her only full length movie, She Was a Lady, is a completely forgotten one – little is known about it, but a sure plus is that is had Helen Twelvetrees in the lead. The plot is an outright critique of the social class divide, with Helen playing a daughter of an aristocrat and a servant lady. The plot follows her love life and striving to make something out of her mixed heritage. It actually doesn’t sound half as bad, but sadly I have no idea is anybody has watched this movie in ages.

And that was it from Tut!

PRIVATE LIFE

Tut’s private life was quite stormy and being with one very important man – Gary Leon. Leon was born on february 5, 1906, in Illinois. His family moved to Santa Monica, California when he was a boy. He was a dancer who danced with Rita Hayworth. Leon married Marion Mitchell, his dancing partner, in Detroit. The wedding was staged at the theater where they were appearing, a symphony orchestra playing Lohengrin’s Wedding March as the martial knot was tied before a large audience. And then, a year later, Tut comes into the picture. Wonder how? Here is an article about it:

Gary Leon, dancer, and former Santa Monica athlete, divorced his wife, Marion Leon, in Superior Judge Kincaid’s court yesterday because she was overly Jealous of him. “She insisted on being present in all my business dealings,” Leon testified. “She accused me of being in love with my dancing partners. Always she was out front watching me.” Asked by his attorney, Marshall Hickson, about threats of his wife to end her life, Leon replied it was just her “annual gag” to cause him further annoyance. Marcia (Tut) Mace, Leon’s dancing partner, testified that ,. Mrs. Leon’s jealousy caused Leon to be much upset and that it once resulted in their losing an engagement. The Leons were married December 14, 1933, and separated last April 1

This was not the first time Leon got some slack from the papers. He first got some infamy when he was accused by none other than  Rudy Vallee of keeping rendezvous with his then wife, Fay Webb, in New York. Leon claimed he had known Fay since she was “a little girl with pigtails,” but that he said he had not seen her. He refused to take sides in commenting on the Vallee-Webb case, remarking he was just the innocent victim caught in a cross-fire of a domestic quarrel. He didn’t want to take sides, so he gave affidavits to both sides, and was not further concerned in the matter.”

Har har har, while he was trying to paint Marion as a green-eyed monster, Gary truly was cheating on her with Tut – quite a low punch, I have to say. Just a few short weeks after his divorce, Gary and Tut announced they will be married soon at Agua Caliente. Although California law prescribed a year’s wait before either party may remarry, Leon and Tut evaded the ruling by living apart.

In contrast to Leon’s first marriage, his second wedding to Tut was performed at the Foreign club, Tijuana’s largest gambling house. They left for soon on a combination honey moon and professional tour of Europe. Another thing they kept mum was that Tut was pregnant – their daughter Andree Antoinette was born sometimes in 1935, not long after the wedding.

Leon and Tut’s marriage was a tumulus one. They danced all around the US and Europe, mostly in Great Britain. They often had stormy fights just to make up later and everything was lovely dovely. Like most such stories, the ending was not a nice one.

After a difficult marriage, they finally divorced in 1945. Even then it was a major fiasco – the court proceedings got into papers, and they were not nice. It was said Tut listed her monthly expenses at $156.50, and asked a restraining order to prevent her husband molesting her. Soon, Tut found out she was pregnant again, and gave birth to their second daughter, Pamela Mary Leon, on July 5, 1946, during their divorce proceedings. But the divorce went on as usual – it seems there was nothing that could keep the two of them together.

Tut faded from view, gave up dancing and remarried a Santa Monica businessman, Phillip Malouf.

In 1955, Tut and Gary went to the Santa Monica Superior Court to begin a legal battle over the custody of their 11-year-old daughter. The suit was heard by Judge Stanley Mosk. She was seeking custody of her daughter Pamela, who has been living with’ her father and her paternal grandmother since she and Gary were divorced years ago. Leon, then a chief of security at me Kami corp was likewise remarried by that time. Now this is truly sad: Tut’s husband Philip Malouf testified that he recently attempted the role of peacemaker between Leon and his former wife, where upon Leon went into a tirade and said he wished his former wife were dead and that he would have killed her if he thought he could get away with it. Leon had answered his ex- wife’s demand-for custody of the child and charged that she has been an alcoholic for the past seven years. Tutn, in her affidavit, said she has hot had a drink for 18 months. Judge Mosk advised the parties that he will confer with the girl prior to resumption of the hearing this morning. Sadly that was all I could find of the case, and I have no idea what happened in the end with the custody case.

To sum everything up, it seems that Gary and Tut were at odds for a long time even after that, and I can only hope they reached some sort of agreement on the custody of their daughter. One wonders what could have happened to install so much venom into their hearts.

Tut lived a quiet life in Santa Monica with her husband, and danced only for fun. But unfortunately, it seems that she could have been an alcoholic. Because, she just died too young.

Catherine “Tut” Malouf died on July 26, 1966. I have no idea when Philip Malouf died. Gary Leon died on March 30, 1988.