Mary Casiday

Mary Casiday came to Hollywood as a pretty model, managed to nab a studio contract and stayed. She never did any serious dramatic work, but like most girls who had such careers, her whole life was shaped by Los Angeles, a town she would have probably never visited if not for Hollywood. Let’s hear more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Mary Alice Irene Casiday was born in 1917 to Samuel Carlyle Casiday and Daisy Elizabeth Harrower in Des Moines, Iowa. Her father was a plumber. Her older brother was Carlyle Leure, born in 1916, and her younger sister was Daisy Elizabeth, born in 1919. The family moved to Omaha, Nebraska at some point and Mary grew up there. After she graduated from high school (St. Mary’s Convent), she found work as a model in Omaha.

Mary was a model for a short time when she decided to try the movies. Her story is actually a very inspiring one – in a town where many girls pine for months (and sometimes for years) for their chance to appear in movies , May had it very easy – she applied for a job on a Friday and got her first call the following Monday. As a complete newcomer, she knew so little about Hollywood that she went to the wrong studio on the first day of work. Luckily, she managed to find the correct studio and her career was of!

CAREER

This is pretty slim, as Mary appeared in only two movies – Dames and Westward the Women

What to say about Dames? A typical Busby Berkeley musical, that is the same as most of his other work – no plot, lots of dancing, singing and scantly clothed chorus girls. And guess who Mary was? A chorus girl, of course! While I myself am not a fan of such movie,s it’s still very, very impressive to see the perfectly choreographed scenes and one can’t help but admire Busby’s impeccable sense for elegant but abundant (is there a word that can truly nail it down?) motion. While not his best, this one stand the test of time and it’s more than watchable today.

Westward the Women is a different story. While this is no work of art comparable to the bets movie ever made, it’s still a great movie from William Wellman, one of the undisputed masters of the 20th century. The movie is about a trail guide escorts a group of women from Chicago to California to marry men that have recently began settling there. And boy, is it one of the very few movies realistically depicting pioneer life! Like it usually does Hollywood glamorized the hard knock, very difficult pioneer life, but not so much here, as she movie tackled it head on and hides nothing. As a result, it’s not easy to watch it, but it’s incredibly interesting and even inspiring to see people who beat terrible odds to keep living on a normal life in such surroundings. The cast is also pretty good – from Robert Taylor, already past his pretty boy stage, to a whole arena of female actresses (Denise Darcel, Julie Bishop, Marilyn Erskine, Hope Emerson and so on), Wellman makes it work as smoothly as clockwork, and it’s a testament to his prowess as a director.

Unfortunately, that was it from Mary as far as IMDB claims. Her obituary tells a different story – allegedly she worked for Warner Bros and later William Randolph Hearst Production Co.  all the way until the mid 1950s. That means she could have been in other movies or TV shows under different names, or IMDB just doesn’t have all the information, but now I guess we’ll never know unless somebody goes some through information digging. The obituary also states that she appeared in several Busby Berkeley movies with their lavish production numbers, and was selected Miss Golden Girl in the Berkeley troupe. But let’s leave it at that!

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1939, Mary started dating Clifford Welch (whoever he was!). In typical Hollywood style, whenever Welch was not in town, she had other swains. Once they were Anthony Averill and Dick Purcell who were her “gay caballeros” (as the columnists called them) while Cliff was back in the East. They squirmed her at Grace Hayes’ Lodge.

However, Cliff was Mary’s one true hearty toddy. That same year, Clifford Welch flew in from New York just to help Mary celebrate her birthday. It seemed that they were a serious couple for a time, but it seems they broke up the next year.

Mary made a personal appearance at the San Francisco Fair last week-end for Princess Do Ling, former lady in waiting to the late Empress Dowager of China. A barbecued chicken dinner following a long horseback trek was enjoyed by the clever hostess (Mary).

In 1940, after she and Cliff called it quits, she nabbed Dick Purcell, her old swain, from her love rival Vicki Lester. Hollywood sure was a small place back then, and people dated extensively.

Here is a short, fun story about Mary’s chorus days in Hollywood:

Chorines just now are rehearsing from noon until 6 p. m.. and performing; from 8:30 until 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning. Yesterday evening, about 8 o’clock, Carroll’s chief aide-de-camp, Herman Hover was descending a flight of backstage stairs. Suddenly a bell began to jangle under his feet and with a horror-stricken shout of “TIME BOMB LOOK OUT:” Mr. Hover took the rest of the steps at a single bound. And from under the stairs where they had made a bed of blankets and pillows emerged Mary Casiday and Patti Sacks. Too tired to go home, they had set an alarm to insure waking up in time for the show

In 1940, there were news that Mary would undergo an appendectomy as soon as her strength is built sufficiently for the ordeal. It seems Mary was generally a fragile little thing and was not in the best of health for periods of time. The operation didn’t go as planned and Mary was allegedly hovering between life and death for some time afterwards. Time went by and she was no better and her friends were greatly worried. Luckily, after a dark time, she recuperated and resumes her Hollywood career.

It seems Mary was involved with handsome actor Lyle Talbot for a time – she gave him a big farewell party when he was scheduled to leave for Philadelphia to play in “Thanks for My Wife”. Unfortunately, the relationship ended soon afterwards. However, Mar’y love life continued unhindered. In 1941, she was getting a terrific rush from Edmund McDonald, in the construction business in San Francisco. Soon, there were stories all around how Edmund asked her to marry him and wedding bells would sound soon for the duo. And then nothing happened. I mean literary, no information about why they broke up or anything.

In May 1942, Mary was back in the hospital for another operation, but this time it all went well, and she got ready for the big event of the year – her wedding. In December 1942, Mary married Cecil Joseph Bye. Here is a newspaper clip about the marriage:

BYE-CASIDAY The wedding date of Dec. 30 for Miss Mary Casiday and Cecil Joseph Bye was announced at the surprise bridal shower given for the bride-elect by Mrs. Frederick Maxwell Karger in her Hollywood home. The marriage will be solemnized at the Sacred Heart of Mary. Miss Casiday is a graduate of St. Mary’s Convent, Omaha, and vice-president of the Army Camps Kmergency Service. Mr. Bye Is attending officers’ candidate school, Camp Davis, North Carolina, and is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati.

Cecil Joseph Bye was born on December 10, 1907, the son of William Harry Bye and Adiliade Peiling. He was a successful Los Angeles businessman when he married Mary. Little is known about the Bye’s married life, except that they were California-based and Mary retired after the marriage.
Bye died on May 3, 1986 in Los Angeles. Mary never remarried and continued living in the city.

Mary Casiday Bye died on November 3, 1998 in Los Angeles.

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Charlene Hardey

Charlene was a stunningly beautiful Home coming queen who wanted to crash Hollywood, and she did crash it. For a few days during her glorious year. And that was that. She was soon burned out and left acting for other ventures, getting married in the end and raising a family. Let’s hear her story…

EARLY LIFE

Charlene Mae Hardey was born on May 29, 1927, in Imperial, California, to Gordon S. Hardey and Mae Williams. Her father, a native of Oklahoma, was a owned and operated a car repair station in Imperial, her Texas-born mother was a housewife. Her younger brother Gordon Williams was born on November 14, 1930. The family lived with Gordon’s dad, Henry Hardey (have no idea where grandma was, as Henry isn’t listed as a widow, but married).

By all accounts, Charlene had a normal middle class upbringing, and was a movie fan who wanted to become an actress. After high school enrolled into the University of Southern California, majoring in drama. And then, her time of fame came… Here is a short article about it:

Queen to Reign in Home-coming Selected at SC Helen of Troy . . . She was selected at the University of Southern California yesterday and she launched a thousand sighs. As the prettiest Trojane of them all, she will reisn over the many events’ in the current Home’ coming Week on the Trojan cam pus. She Is Charlene Hardey. Dark-haired and petite 5 feet, 2 inches, 110 pounds Charlene is a senior majoring in drama. She belongs to Pi Phi Sorority. Her home is in Brawley. Charlene was chosen from among 21 finalists in the annual Helen of Troy contest before a full and appreciative audience in Bovard Auditorium on the SC campus. Picked to reign with her over home-coming week activities were four attendants: Harriet Steele, 20, a junior, of 368 Gladys St., Long Beach; Nevin Haugh, 21, a senior, of 135 S Van Ness Ave.: Patricia Judson, 20, a junior, of 9002 Norma Place, Beverly Hills, and Sally Harris, 21, a senior, of . 3378 -Huntington Drive, San Marino. All of the attendants belong to Delta Delta Delta except Miss Haugh who is a Delta Gamma. Judges who selected Helen of Troy and her four attendants were Film Actors Donald O’Connor and Lee Bowman and Band leader Les Brown, whose orchestra played before the final selection.

The papers listed all the actives she was to undertake as a homecoming queen, and there were quite a lot, actually. They were:
… As queen of the campus, Miss Hardey will be feted at a sorority reception today
. . . preside over the freshman-sophomore -push ball, sack race and tug-of-war and women’s contests on Bovard Field that afternoon
. . . ride in the Hollywood Blvd. Christmas parade tonight
. . . participate in the’ traditional Taxi Day parade that Friday when some 20 vehicles of all descriptions will proceed from the SC campus to the City Man where Mayor Bowron is scheduled to present the keys to the city to Helen of Troy
… be honored at a pre-football luncheon which will be given by President Fred Dl Fagg Jr. of SC before the SC-Notre Dame football game Saturday
. . . ride on a special float In the home-coming parade in the Coliseum before the game and reign over the home-coming dance Saturday night at Casino Gardens.

Phew, I hope it was worth it. Anyway, all eyes were on Charlene those few days, including the eyes of Hollywood. A talent scout, always hungry for pretty young ladies, saw her and she was signed to a contract.

CAREER

Charlene appeared in only two movies. The first is A Life of Her Own. The plot is as follows: an aspiring, played by Lana Turner, model who leaves her small town in the Midwest to seek fame and fortune in New York City and gets mixed up with a married man (played by Ray Milland) and has to survive in the ruthless world of modeling. It’s a typical 1940s weepie, a overtly dramatic romance movie, not much more, but made well enough not to be a waste of time. But, I still think it’s worth watching. Plenty of well acted (and less well acted) angst works both for and against the movie. The ending surprised me nicely and Ann Dvorak role’s a plus. The original script was much more morally ambiguous, but sadly the censors cut it down into (same story of old Hollywood, it seems). Charlene played one of the models.

Charlene than appeared in another woman’s movie – Take Care of My Little Girl, a subject close to her very own heart – university life. The plot: A young woman enters college and learns some hard truths about sorority lifethe negative things.The movie looks like a fluffy piece of sugar, but it actually packs a punch if one watches it more closely. The movie carries a strong message about snobbery, shallowness, and hazing, something that is more relevant today than ever before. None of the thespians was first class – Jeanne Crain, while beautiful, was never a particularly talented actress, and Jean Peters, while always adequate, was no Bette Davis – same goes for Dale Robertson – but they are perfect for a movie of this kind, and hit the right notes. Definitely recommended!

After her movie career was over, Charlene did some TV work, a modus operandi for many actor and actresses of her generation.

PRIVATE LIFE

After her acting career watered down to nil, Charlene for a time did TV films for Bing Crosby Enterprises, and then served as Red Sanders‘ secretary for seven years. Well, how did she become a secretary all of a sudden? Namely, Red lured away from the cameras to become his real-life secretary after she had played that role on his weekly TV show, “Pigskin Clinic.” After she left Red’s employ, she spend some time serving in the same capacity for Billy Barnes.

In his private life, Charlene was cool, calm and collected and never made any newspaper headlines. She met her future husband, handsome Stephen Steere, during the 1948 USC vs. Notre Dame football game, where he first saw her – she was on the field and he was in the audience, so perhaps the didn’t meet “for real”, as she didn’t even notice him. However, in a strange twist of fate, they “met” for real on a a blind date a year later and dated for six more years. They were married on December 14, 1956, in Los Angeles. Charlene retired after her marriage. Now, something about Steere.

Stephen Douglas Steere was a Southern California native, born in Santa Monica on June 20, 1925 to Fred and Gertrude (Gigi) Steere. He was the third of five children – his older sisters were Jeanne and Barbara (who were born in Canada, as the family was originally Canadian), and his younger siblings were Neila Margaret, born on January 7, 1928, and Donald Mack, born on June 22, 1929His father managed Wilson’s Sporting Goods on 3rd Street and Wilshire in Santa Monica. His education was delayed by the War – he was drafted and returned to civilian life in 1945. After taking art classes at SMC, he rekindled his natural artistic talents and went on to attend Art Center College of Design, with a degree in illustration.

As his obituary (read it here, much information about the couple was taken from it) notes:

Following his focus on fine art, he went on to explore more commercial art avenues, working at Western Publishing in Beverly Hills, alongside artist Ellis ‘Papa Duke’ Eringer. This led to establishing himself as a successful free-lance artist, working primarily for Walt Disney Studios, as well as Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Universal, MGM, Hanna Barbera, Dell Comics, Mattel, and Hallmark among others. His talents evolved into a 50-year career drawing every popular character created by these houses of tangible imagination. Steve’s work appeared in books, comic books, coloring books, comic strips, and on clothing, videos, posters, etc. — hundreds of products enjoyed by children and adults around the world for decades. He also did early developmental work for Disneyland in advertising and merchandising. In later years, he returned to his fine-art roots, painting impressionistic and three-dimensional land and seascapes.

Charlene and Stephen had two children, a daughter, Shannon, born on February 18, 1960, in Los Angeles, and a son, Stephen, born on August 4, 1961, in Los Angeles.

When they first married, Charlene and Steve lived in Santa Monica, then Pacific Palisades, then moved to Malibu in 1960, first in La Costa Beach, then in Malibu West, becoming one of the original owners in the new neighborhood. When their house was destroyed by a fire, they rebuilt the home. They enjoyed a happy and harmonious marriage for more than 50 years.

Charlene Steere died on October 23, 2008, in Malibu, California. Her widower Stephen Steere died on October 20, 2014.

Ariel Heath

 

 

Ariel Heath was another debutante who wanted to make it big in movies and failed. However, her life story is less orthodox than most, and she definitely did do better than most of her fellow socialites, having credited roles and actually staying in Hollywood for three years. Unfortunately, stupid publicity fastened her demise. Let’s hear it!

EARLY LIFE

Anne Harrison was born in Cinncinatti, Ohio, on January 2, 1917, to socialites Learner Blackman Harrison and Frances Kohlsaat, their first child. Her father was the great local banker who came from a prominent family. Her mother was also a debutante, niece of Herman H. Kohlsaat, an eminent Chicago editor and author. Anne had a younger sister, Frances, born in 1922, and a brother.

The Harrisons employed two servants, Margaret Dechant and Lester Wright, and lived the lavish life. Unfortunately, her parents divorced in 1924, her mother remarried as soon as the ink on the divorce papers was dry (to a younger Montecito guy, Samuel Russel Dabney) and her father remarried to Hilda Jones in 1926 (coincidentally, Hilda was born on the same day as Anne, January 2). Anne stayed with her father while her younger siblings went to live with their mother (a bit weird but okay, whatever works).

Ariel thus lived with her dad,  hard and proud Cincinnati businessman who commuted between that city and Lexington, where his mother lived, with Ariel tagging along.

In time Ariel caught the acting bug and starting from the age of eleven, she played child parts in Stuart Walker‘s repertory company while visiting her grandmother one summer. This became came a regular summer-stock routine until Mr Walker was called to Hollywood to direct pictures for Paramount studios. Then things began happening. Stuart Walker wired Ariel and her grandmother an invitation to come to Hollywood. Ariel’s father immediately put his foot down and Ariel was whisked off to Meath County, Ireland for further schooling, then to Switzerland and Paris, where she attended finishing schools. Naturally, Ariel ended up majoring in dramatics, sculpting and painting. The rumblings of war brought her back to Kentucky, her horses and her American Kennel champion dogs. She wanted to be a veterinarian but lacked the proper credits to enter a veterinary school (I guess she was too lazy to seriously study).

Then, in the early 1930s, Ariel’s grandmother moved to Hollywood, and this served as a catalyst for the young girl to make her plans. Her friend and former coach, Stuart Walker, was now firmly established as a motion picture director. She wired him, he wired back, and Ariel was in Los Angeles in a flash.

However, the day Ariel arrived in Hollywood, tragedy struck. Stuart Walker was suddenly stricken and died a week later. His death was a great shock to her, but she decided to stay and enjoy her newfound freedom. Since money was no problem, she didn’t even look for a job right away – she just idled at the sunny shores of California.

However, as stories sometimes go, when a you won’t come to the mountain the mountain will come to you, and movies found another way to claim Ariel. Ariel had a Shepherd dog, Michael. Ariel entered her prize dog in a Kennel Club Show in Beverly Hills. At the same show was Elizabeth Risdon, RKO actress, who was also showing her dog. Miss Risdon became interested in Ariel’s Shepherd then she took a second look at Ariel. The next day, Miss Risdon mentioned her discovery to one of her bosses at RKO. Ariel was called to the studio, given screen test and signed to a contract. From then on, she became best friend with Miss Risdon,  who also sent her to Helena Sorell, head of the RKO Radio Drama School troupe. And then she was pushed into movies!

CAREER

Ariel started her career in Here We Go Again, a Molly and Fiber Mcgee comedy. It’s one of those “if you like them, watch it, if you don’t, don’t” comedic series – not for everybody, but some people enjoy it. Next came the very unrealistic, strangely cast musical Seven Days’ Leave. oh yes, if you want to see Victor Mature as a soldier-crooner, do watch this! Weird. On the plus side, it’s not a bad effort and is definitely a feel-happy movie (and it’s got Lucille Ball in it!). Then came the grim and serious Hitler’s Children, a very direct criticism at Hitler Youth movement. It’s one of those movies you see but don’t enjoy, due to its brutal and nightmarish theme, but still, it packs a pretty strong punch, as it was intended. Another anti-Nazi movie, in a slightly different coating, was Flight for Freedom, hailed as the life story of Amelia Earhart – but actually a war propaganda movie. Thus, it’s not a good movie at any rate, although Rosalind Russell and Fred MacMurray give their best shots. Ladies’ Day was finally an easier fare – a baseball comedy with little game and plenty of zany comediennes (Patsy Kelly, Iris Adrian and Lupe Velez). It’s a B movie and it shows, but it’s got a peculiar charm of its own.

Ariel than appeared in a Falcon movie, The Falcon Strikes Back. What to say, more of the same. And then, Ariel appeared in a string of prestigious, very good movies. The first was This Land Is Mine, one of the best movie about ordinary people in war ever made. Charles Laughton shines as a mild mannered teacher turned resistance fighter, and Maureen O’Hara gives a passionate performance too. The Leopard Man is a stunning horror movie by the master of the genre, Jacques Tourneur. Sadly not as famous as the director’s other work, it’s a compelling, tightly plotted and superbly made movie. Ariel finished her golden string with Mr. Lucky, an interesting Cary Grant film where he plays a gambler turned charity donor (after he falls in love with a girl, of course). Since I like Laraine Day, it’s a definite plus that she’s in the movie, IMHO.

And then Airel got her five minutes of fame, and a credited role in a low-budget western. Yipee!! Or maybe not. The movie in question was Black Hills Express and it’s completely forgotten today. Zzzz, let’s not waste any more time on it. Ariel continued with her credited career in A Lady Takes a Chance, a fluffy Jean Arthur/John Wayne comedy. She was also prominently featured in Career Girl, a pale remake of Stage Door. Here, we have no Ginger Rogers or Katherine Hepburn – we just have Frances Langford and Lorraine Miller. While they were to some degree talented ladies, they can’t save a movie nor make it a true classic. She had another not-invisible role in Machine Gun Mama, a simple, low-key Z class comedy. Her last movie, The Big Show-Off, was of a similar vein, a little known low-budget comedy with Arthur Lake and Dale Evans (sans hubby Roy Rogers). That was it from Ariel!                

PRIVATE LIFE

Ariel was import to Hollywood as a Jean Harlow wannabe. And while she was being groomed for stardom (and many starlets don’t have this luxury), of course it didn’t work. Like many other “copies”, she crashed and burned. her studio tried to downplay on their plan, even claiming that it was NO HINDRANCE to her career that she closely resembled Jean Harlow, but this proved to be a futile attempt. This is a typical article illustrating this:

Ariel Heath — the name has the airy, ethereal fluff of a Summer cloud. But it’s a Lexington, Kentucky, girl who resembles Jean Harlow, and who was being built up by RKO on that
basis. Blessed with an Irish wit and humor, she laughs when she tells you she stopped kidding herself about becoming famous that way.
She feels she is an actress, has experience and training to back that feeling, and so, she took the part of a meanie in PRC’s present production, “Manhattan Rhythm.” At least she will get a chance to show that she can act.

They tried to sell Ariel as a Jean Harlow look-alike who cared nothing about it and wanted to be a serious actress. If only! If they really wanted to make her a serious actress, they would neither have bleached her hair nor even mentioned Jean’s name in the same sentence as Ariel’s. All in all, a general fiasco.

Ariel seemed to be a very well-bred, nice and enthusiastic young lady. When she was interviewed for the first time, the writer wrote this about her:

When I was asked to Interview Ariel Heath, whose option was recently picked Up by R.K.O. Radio Pictures, I expected to meet a very complex young lady — and I did. The lovely twenty-one-year-old blonde beauty from the blue-grass state of Kentucky was quite reticent about her own past and preferred heaping her praises upon her fellow contract players, climaxing her “press – agent- ing” with, “We all owe our good fortune, directly or indirectly, to the coaching and understanding of Miss Helena Sorrel, our dialogue director.” “That’s great! Now what about you?” I said sternly. “You’re the one I’m supposed to be interviewing.” My last words died away into a whisper. You see, I had caught her eyes. They’re a fathomless grey and when this curvaceous creature smiles, well, shades of the late Jean Harlow appear before your eyes . . and you do naught but stare. Fortunately, her grandmother, with whom Ariel shares an apartment in Hollywood, appeared on the scene and upon her insistence Ariel talked.

Another interesting tidbit: Ariel’s father and family were not aware that she was in pictures, only her grandmother knew the secret. Ariel commented on this: “You see Father is not a movie fan and would hit the ceiling if he knew. We want to break it to him gently, at the proper time.” Since her career was over soon enough, one wonders did she even mention this West Coast sojourn to her dad.

As for romance, we are a bit thin here. Lee Bowman, a noted actor, introduced Ariel Heath to his brother, Hunter Bowman, American Airlines official visiting in Hollywood from Washington, D. C., and they dated for sometime after.

Ariel was allegedly quite intelligent. When she was painted by noted artist Peter Fairchild, he called her “Hollywood’s intelligent blonde with classic features. Then they all aren’t beautiful and dumb, you see.”

Her hair color during her stay in Hollywood was known as a “whistle-blonde” shade (not platinum blonde, mind you!). Unfortunately, it was hard to upkeep it so she gave up halfway and darkened it. Also, Ariel missed Lexington quite a bit during her stay in Tinsel town. Her closest friends in Lexington were the Ed Maddens – Mr. Madden sent her a valuable thoroughbred mare shipped to Hollywood in a box stall but Ariel had to give her up since she couldn’t afford to feed it!

Ariel left Hollywood after a few roles, and was rarely featured in the papers. However, the next thing we know, she was to get married, to another socialite, Shipley Bayless.

Here is a newspaper announcement on their wedding:

THE MARRIAGE OF Mrs. Anne Harrison and Mr. Shipley Armstrong Bayless will be solemnized at 6:30 o’clock this afternoon at the residence of the late Mr. and Mm. John E. C. Kohlsaat at Santa Barbara, Calif. Only the immediate family will be present at the ceremony. Mrs. Harrison is the daughter of Mrs. Samuel R. Dabney (Frances Kohlsaat) of White Gate Ranch, Los Olivos, Calif., and Mr. Learner B. Harrison of Cincinnati. Mr. Bay-less is the son of Mr. Herman A. Bayless and the late Mrs. Alfreda Shipley Bayless. After their wedding journey Mr. Bayless and his bride will return to Cincinnati where they will be established in Mr. Bayless’s residence on Vista Avenue.

Anne and her husband were very active socially and strong members of the horse-breeding set – they owned several farms and prize-winning horses. Unfortunately, as I know next to nothing about that culture, I can’t write about it in any detail.

Bayless and Anne divorced in the 1960s, and he remarried in 1964 to Mary O’Connell. He died in 2005.

Anne Bayless died on July 21, 1973 in Santa Barbara, California.

Florine Dickson

Another debutante who decided to become a serious actress, Florine Dickson fared as most of her peers did – she tried, didn’t achieve any tangible success and gave up. But still, each story is unique in their own way, to let’s hear it!

EARLY LIFE

Florine L. Dickson was born in February 1, 1914 in San Bernardino, California, to Hugh I. Dickson and Ola McConnic. Her father was an eminent attorney. Her mother was married once before and had a son, Sam Matthews (born in 1894), from that marriage. Both of her parents were Mississippi natives. Her older sisters were Margaret, born on January 4, 1906, and Dorothy, born on February 7, 1908 (both of them were born in San Bernardino). Florine was the baby of the family, much-loved and cuddled.

Florine grew up as most debutantes did back in the 1910s and 1920s – attended private school and being socially very active. Since her older sister Margaret (who was a one time teacher after graduating from college) was married in Hawaii, she often went there and was very active in the Hawaiian social scene. During the months spent in Honolulu with Margaret (then Mrs. Irving Blum) Florine made a study of the dance of the natives and Oriental dances, which would help her in her future career.

Florine’s mom had some familial connection in Colorado, and in part because of this, Florine went on to study at the University of Colorado in Denver. She later switched to University of Southern California, where she graduated (and much more, later about this).

My guess is that she broke into movies thanks to her socialite status and dancing background.

CAREER

Florine appeared in only three movies during her all too brief career. The first one was George White’s 1935 Scandals, and whoa, what can I say about this movie? It has a paper-thin plot – small town stars going to Broadway – but viewer back then, as now, didn’t watch it for the deep story and complex characterizations – they watched it for the music, for the glamour and for the dancing. And this one, while not an ever lasting classic, doesn’t disappoint. We have Alice Faye and her wonderful singing, Eleanor Powell doing great tap dancing, and decent comic relief provided by Ned Sparks – this is more than enough for a decent movie, don’t you think?

Florine’s next movie was Redheads on Parade, another musical with an idiotic story, but with loads of pretty redheads in a chorus line. Of course, Florine was one of the redheads. Needless to say, the movie is completely forgotten today and obviously for good reason.

Florine made her last movie full five years later, in 1940. She appeared in You Nazty Spy!, a very good Three Stooges comic short. And guess what it’s about? Fighting Nazis, of course, with our three favorite comedians as protagonists. Unfortunately, this did not lead to a career revival for Florine.

That was all from Florine!    

PRIVATE LIFE

In 1935, the papers warned the readers not to be surprised if they read shortly the formal notice of an engagement between her and Homer Griffith, Chicago Cardinals football half back. How did they meet? Well, this is one sweet story!

The two met on the S. C campus when both were students and lived next door to each other on “Greek Row.” He, Homer Griffith, was a star back of University of Southern California college team (future Chicago Cardinal pro). Florine, the beauty that she was, was an Alpha Chi Omega sorority girl at IT. S. Griffith’s fraternity house, the Phi Kappa Psi, was standing next door to the Alpha Chi Omega’s. In other words, Florine was at the Alpha Chi house while Homer was at the Phi Psi Tong temple, and it was inevitable that they meet.

This was all fine and dandy, but these sentences put he on guard mode:

“We have no plans for an immediate marriage,” Griffith said. “In fact, I wouldn’t say we arc formally engaged. But when the time comes I hope to marry Miss Dickson,” he added

Then why the heck marry? Guess those were different times than today. Since Florine was mighty popular with the boys, many of them were saddened with the news that she was getting married to Homer. However, they needn’t not worries. Despite all the hullabaloo and big words in the papers, Florine ditched her student fiancée and within the year, had a new . Now, how did this happen? I have no idea, but my own wild guess is that Florine dated Homer for ages and it was taken for granted that they would wed. However, enter Hollywood and handsome actors. Florine fell in love with another man – and broke of her engagement. Here is a short article about her marriage:

Forsaking a career in motion pictures, Florine Dickson left tonight for New York to marry John McGuire next Monday and go on a honeymoon trip. They met on a film stage here. She was regarded here as a coming star, having been selected as one of the “baby” stars for two consecutive years. McGuire, who also has won a place in pictures, is now playing in a Broadway production. Miss Dickson is the daughter of Hugh I. Dickson, federal referee i n bankruptcy here. She is a . McGuire was graduated from the University of Santa Clara in 1933.

The couple went to honeymoon in. Later, John would rave about his wife’s perfume, Evening in Paris, and just how important a part it played in their courtship.

“The scent of Evening in Paris Perfume is one of my earliest memories of the girl I fell in love with and married. Perhaps it’s understandable that one of the things I like best to give Florine
is Evening in Paris Perfume. I hope she wears it always.”

Now, something about John. He was born on October 22, 1910, making him 7 years older than Florine. He graduated from University of Santa Clara and entered movies in 1932. Following the marriage they settled in New York, where Florine and John were both engaged as artists’ models, filling important engagements continuously. Florine was very successful and had been recognized as the model for numerous magazine covers and extensive advertising and other publicity.

In 1940 Florine and Jack were living in Hollywood where Florine worked as a successful photographer’s model and Jack was an actor.

At some point, her father also moved to Los Angeles (along with her mother) and became a U. S. referee in bankruptcy.

Florine and her husband remained happily married. Unfortunately, I could not find any information about possible offsprings. John died on September 30, 1980, in Dublin, Ireland. Florine never remarried after his death.

Florine Dickson McGuire died in 2006.

Suzanne Ames

Suzanne Ames truly is an example of a woman who had a lackluster career in Hollywood but an incredibly rich and rewarding private and professional life outside of Tinsel Town. She really is an inspiration, as you will see int he story of her life…

EARLY LIFE

Suzanne Marguerite Ainbinder was born on December 31, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, to Myron “Marcus “Ainbinder and Florence Grosse Ainbinder. Her father, a salesman by trade, was born in Illinois to immigrants parents from Poland.

Both Myron and Florence were lovers of the fine arts, and were more than happy when their only child got into singing from a young age – Suzanne her professional debut at age 4 by singing on radio station WGN in Chicago. She was also passionate about dance from the time she could walk, taking ballet lessons. The Ainbinders moved to Akron, Ohio for Myron’s work in 1937. They lived as lodgers with a building contractor and his wife.

Suzanne grew up in Akron and considered it her hometown. She attended Our Lady of the Elms, an independent Catholic college preparatory school immersed in the Dominican tradition for girls grades one through 12 and co-ed preschool through kindergarten. She was a member of the Elms chapter of the National Honor Society at the Elms school since her sophomore year and had the highest grades in her class several years in a row. She had a record of straight A’s and graduated with honors in 1949.

After graduating, she studied ballet and music in Cleveland, being chosen as a protege of ballerina Rosella Hightower. Then she moved to New York.

For a year, Suzanne was understudying four people in the Agnes DeMille musical “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds,” and was offered the dancing lead in the road company of “Call Me Madam.” The Ballet Theater was also after her for its European company. But she turned them all away in favor of her favorite – after auditioning she became a member of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. She became a leading ballerina, performing not only in operas but at the Met during the regime of Rudolf Bing.

Suzanne’s first real success was a role in The Fledermaus. Here is a brief description of it:

The Metropolitan Opera thinks Akron’s ballet dancer, Suzanne Ames, who’s only 17, is old enough to play a woman of the world. Suzanne, the pretty daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Myron Ames, who used to live at 3 Cyril ter., Akron, but moved to New York, has been as-signed the role of “Ida” In the Met’s April 5 production of “Fledermatis” here. “Ida” is a famous Vienese ballerina who is much favored by the gentlemen, and who educates her younger sister in the ways of the wicked world of the 1800s. . CURIOUSLY, Patrice Mun-sel, a veteran of the Met, will , play the younger sister to Suzanne’s “Ida.” “I thought I’d be playing the part in the road production of ‘Fledermaus’ in Chicago and Rochester,” Suzanne said, “but then I saw my name on the casting sheet for the New York showing.” “Patrice Munsel, who’ll play my younger sister, is about 10 years oMer than I am,” Suzanne, a graduate of Our Lady Of The Elms, in Akron, said.

It was via MET that she got a chance to appear in Hollywood movies, and off she was to Los Angeles.

CAREER

Suzanne’s first movie was the legendary musical that half the dancers appeared in Two Tickets to Broadway. Sorry to say, despite the stellar cast it’s a purely mid tier musical – no big trash nor no big thrill. In view of all the other good musicals to watch, I guess this one is a skip.

Slightly better was The Las Vegas Story, a sultry, heavy film noir with a typical love triangle and interesting actors – Jane Russell, Vincent Price and Victor Mature. No,it’s not a staple of the genre nor a particularly good movie, but it has a strange charm of its own and the actor really work somehow (despite the fact that Mature was an abysmal thespian). Then came a small role in The French Line, the infamous Jane Russell extravaganza with tons of beautiful girls and thin plot. Yep, you can’t say that Suzanne was ta all visible in it, flaked by 100 of other wanna-be starlets.

Suzanne took a short breather from Hollywood, and returned two years later in Son of Sinbad, a typical colorful, happy-go-lucky 1950s costume pastiche. Just mix handsome actors and actresses, lavish sets and sumptuous costume with a hokus exotic story and you have a box office bonanza. Far from any semblance of art, but hey, they made it for the money not the artistical achievement. Her next feature, Kismet, was made in the same vein (Exotic location, tons of pretty girls), but overall it’s a better movie, with a slightly better story and some pretty good musical numbers (and Ann Blyth! Gotta love Ann Blyth!!).

Unfortunately, as time went by, Suzanne’s career didn’t seem to soar, and the quality of her movies never reached a satisfying level. She was in I Married a Woman, a lesser effort for both of it’s stars, Diana Dors and George Gobel. It’s about a cranky middle aged man married to a gorgeous model. Yawn.

It’s sad that Suzanne’s last movie was by far the best one she even appeared in – Bells Are Ringing. The man highlight of th emovie is of course, it’s star, Judy Holiday – she was simply wonderful, so buoyant, bubbly, irresistible, truly one of the most talented comediennes ever to grace the silver screen. She is aptly supported by Dean Martin – and the movie is all about them, their relationship, their singing and dancing. Everything else is just a bonus – but a nice and lofty bonus, with a strong supporting cast, great music and solid (if a bit stagy) direction. A recommendation for sure!

That was it for Suzanne’s movie career.

PRIVATE LIFE

When Suzanne lived in New York as a MET dancer, she said of her life:

SUZANNE finds the life here rigid. She can’t have dates during the week because she must be fresh for the rehearsals at the Met. “I’ve had a few dates with Cesare Siepi. He’s quite young and very nice.”

Siepi and Suzanne dated for some time, but were over by the time she left for Hollywood. When she came to Hollywood and was a Goldwyn Girl, she was five feet seven and one-half inches tall. Weight: 121 lbs, Hips 36 Waist 2o. Unfortunately, her career as a Goldwyn girl and actress never left the ground, and she returned to New York for good in 1960.

Suzanne traveled a great deal with MET, and appeared in a great number of plays. Of her experiences in American cities, Suzanne said:

“Minneapolis is one of my two favorite cities. The other is Atlanta, Ga. People here are so literate. They understand opera and don’t ask silly questions about it; they meet and talk to you as friends.”

Suzanne said countless that she liked dancing in the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, and was proud of the fact that occasionally the Met gives her an opportunity to sing as well as dance. Her dedication to the arts was boundless, but her private life was very scantly covered in the press. Finally, Suzanne married Albert Landry in 1975. Here is a short bio of Landry:

Born on Oct. 9, 1915 in New York City, he was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, having participated in the D-Day invasion in the European theater. He received his master’s degree in art history from Columbia University in New York in 1948 and advanced studies in painting from Atelier Fernand Leger in Paris, France. An art dealer, historian and consultant, he had served as assistant director for Galerie Villand-Galanis until 1954. He was director of special projects for Associated American Artists from 1954-59 and president of Albert Landry Galleries from 1959 to 1963. He was executive director with the J. L. Hudson Co. and an advisor to the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Mr. Landry was also vice-president of Marlborough Galleries in New York until 1968 when he became adviser and curator for the London Arts Group. He served as publisher and distributor of original graphics and multiples for the Nabis Fine Arts of New York until 1974. An associate for the Gruenebaum Gallery of New York from 1977 thru 1980, he continued working as a private dealer and art consultant for major corporate clients, including Aldon Industries, Atlantic-Richfield, Avon, Ford Motor Co., Smith Barney, International Paper and US Steel. He was also a consultant and associate for Landry-Settles Inc. and the David Settles Gallery Ltd., both of Houston, Texas and was affiliated with Stephen P. Edlich & Co. until 1986.

Suzanne danced until the mid 1970s. Here is a short description of what Suzanne did after her retirement from an active dance career – she stayed in the industry as an knowledgeable insider with much to offer:

After retiring as a dancer, she became an executive of Atlanta’s Performing Arts Center and then head of a U.S. State Department cultural exchange program that established a ballet company in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. Why? Well, because in 1968, she was sent to Brazil along with Arthur Mitchell and Gloria Contreras by the U.S. State Department at the behest of the Brazilian Ministry of Culture to assist in the establishment of the first National Ballet of Brazil and maintained close ties to the company.

Landry went on to serve as director of General Copyright Administration for Frank Music Corporation, CBS/SK Songs and EMI Music Publishing.

Eventually, she went into music publishing and became a copyright specialist. She managed the administration of Frank Music Corp., Paul McCartney’s publishing companies, and then became a vice president for EMI Music Publishing in New York.

 

A crowning achievement of Suzanne’s life happened when the she established the new Suzanne Ames Landry Performing Arts Studio at the Our Lady of the Elms School in Akron, Ohio, her alma mater, through a bequest of half of her total estate. Truly, Suzanne lived a fulfilling and very active life!

 

Following many years in New York City, she and her husband moved to Saratoga Springs, where they had vacationed for many years. Never the one to sit idly, she continued working in Saratoga Springs:  Suzanne provided volunteer work at the National Museum of Dance and gave many pre-performance lectures at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Here is a short description of her volunteer work:

 Suzanne Ames Landry considers the National Museum of Dance and Saratoga Performing Arts Center as Spa City treasures.

She is no less valuable to them as a volunteer, drawing upon her own unparalleled career as principal ballerina with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet.

Whether giving tours or organizing files, she pursues each task with heartfelt enthusiasm stemming from a lifelong love of the arts.

“Anything they want me to do, as long as it’s not fattening, I’ll be happy to do,” Landry said with a laugh. “This is the only National Museum of Dance in the United States. It is a jewel. What it does is tell the history of dance, which is important.”

There’s no need for Landry to read from a text when giving museum tours. She simply relates much of her own personal experience and especially likes sharing stories with children.

“You have to give back the feeling of it,” she said.

She also organizes archives at the SPAC and the Dance Museum.

“Everything has to be filed,” she said. “Not everybody like files. I find it extremely relaxing to get these things in order. Once it’s in order, anybody can find it easily.”

SPAC opened in 1966, and Landry has organized clippings, reviews and programs of virtually every classical and popular artist who’s ever performed there.

“You have to have a library and it has to be a logical one,” she said. “It’s your background and helps you keep going forward. It’s something I find very interesting.”

Landry also instructs dance history classes at the museum. One program, called “Dancing Through Time,” is designed specifically for people ages 55 and older.

She also does historical research for exhibits such as one now showing at the museum called “Classical Black,” a look at black dancers who danced classical ballet.

On June 20, Landry will present a special lecture on “The Evolution of the Firebird Ballet,” including a history of the Diaghilev Ballet Company and notes on choreographers Mikhail Fokine and George Balanchine. The talk is set for 7 p.m. at Saratoga County Arts Council’s building on Broadway.

“That’s what I saw growing up,” she said. “I’ll do anything I can to give something back to this lovely city.”

But at the same time, Landry admits to having a slightly selfish motivation, because her volunteerism keeps events and activities alive that she thoroughly enjoys.

“You’re paying yourself by having these venues,” she said. “If the volunteers don’t help, where are they going to get a cast of thousands?”

Landry is also involved with Lake George Opera Company, which performs at the Little Theater in Saratoga Spa State Park. This summer, she’ll be doing brief talks prior to the production of Mozart’s “Abduction from the Seraglio.”

Suzanne’s husband Albert died on May 13, 2001. Suzanne continued to live in Saratoga Springs and was very active in the local civic life.

Suzanne Ames Landry died on June 6, 2008 in Saratoga Springs, Florida.

Ann Evers

Ann Evers was beautiful, a trained actress, talented and with a ferocious will to succeed. So what went wrong? Unfortunately, this is the million dollar question nobody can quite answer. Let’s learn more about the lovely Ann!

EARLY LIFE

Ann Evers was born as Ann Marie White to John Belvin White and Mary Etta Thomas in North Carolina in 1916. IMDB lists her birth time and place as September 9, 1915 and Scranton, Ohio, but the place is almost certainly false – I also wonder if the date correct. Her siblings were: William, born in 1913, Lilly, born in 1919, and Rose Helen, born in 1923. Her family made a series of moves in 1920, and Ann and her siblings grew up first in Roanoke, Virginia and later Clarksville, Virginia, where she attended high school.

After graduation, Ann studied at the New Orleans Conservatory of Speech and Dramatic Arts and later graduated from the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts.

Ann started her way to Hollywood one day in late 1935, and only because she always read the newspapers. No matter where she was Ann insisted on having a daily newspaper each day and she read nearly every paragraph in it. That is how she found out through a three-line personal item that Ben Piazza, the famous Paramount talent scout, was to be in New Orleans while she was visiting there. She had just graduated from the Academy in New York City – armed with looks, talent and determination to succeed, she went to call on Ben Piazza at his New Orleans hotel, and when she left his room she left it in style – with a contract and a ticket to Hollywood.

CAREER

Let’s be frank, if Ann is to some degree remembered today because of the lo-budget westerns she made. Since you all know how much I appreciate and love such movies, let’s just get on with it: she was in Wells FargoFrontier Town and Riders of the Black Hills.

Now let’s get it on with the rest of her career. She started her odyssey with Too Many Parents, a juvenile movies with members of Our gang shorts playing military cadets. Then she appeared in the okay but completely forgotten Florida Special. Boy, if Florida was forgotten, her next movie, Heliotrop, is even more so (it doesn’t even have 5 ratings on IMDB, and you know what that means!).

Ann’s next feature was A Son Comes Home, the type of movies they don’t do anymore – small-scale, intimate, warm and exceedingly simple in plot (as the title says, it’s about the homecoming of a long-lost son). Actors are everything here, and they have struck gold with a veteran cast of Mary Boland and Charles Hoffman, and a new, fresh-faced cast of Julie Haydon, Donald Woods and Wallace Ford.

Then came My American Wife, completely forgotten despite the solid cast (Ann Sothern, Francis Lederer). Next we have Hollywood Boulevard, an interesting expose of gossip sheets way back in the 1930s. While it’s not a particularly good movie (very badly edited!), the plot is above average and manages to pull the film above the watching threshold. Also a true treat for silent movie lovers – many stars of yesteryear have small roles!

Ann had her first credited role in Anything for a Thrill, a Frankie Darro vehicle, about paparazzi and their quest to get dirt on an heiress (guess who ends up with the said heiress). What can I say, it’s fast, fun and fascinatingly stupid, but hey, you didnt’ watch it to get Shakespeare calibre theater. Ann’s last movie before the string of westerns I already mentioned was Love Takes Flight,

Afterwards, she returned to mainstream movies with Marie Antoinette, the legendary Norma Shearer/Tyrone Power epic. She continued in the same vein with If I were king, an absolute winner with Ronald Colman as Francois Villon. It’s a perfect adventure classic movie – witty script with some depth, great action all around (Basil Rathbone and Ronald Colman), and capable direction. A must watch. Ann finally got a sizeable role in The Mad Miss Manton, a somehow lackluster mystery-comedy with Babs Stanwyck and Henry Fonda in the leads. Considering who’s acting, it’s not a particularly good movie – so sad! It could have been a classic!

Ann’s next movie, Next Time I Marry, was another thin screwball comedy. Mind you, these movies weren’t drop dead bad, just not as good as they could have been. Here we have Lucille Ball playing an heiress who wants to marry a penniless gigolo but due to her father’s will has to marry a plain American guy. And try to guess who the story goes from here. James Ellison plays the plain American guy and he’s actually pretty good in it. Some laughs but as I said, it could have been better.

Ann changed gears a bit with Hawk of the Wilderness, a typical Republic adventure serial with Bruce Bennet in the lead. Compare this to her next movie – the well-regarded Gunga Din! Jumping high aren’t we? This remains Ann’s best known movie, a staple of all classic adventures movies. Why? As one reviewer noted on Imdb: It has everything – a good script, a good story, epic sweep, fantastic acting, inter-character chemistry, charisma, pacing and coherency. And Cary Grant thrown into the equation. Whozza!

Ann’s last movie for RKO was Beauty for the Asking, a below average comedy elevated by a great female cast – Lucille Ball, Frieda Inescort, Inez Courtney. The plot is a bit idiotic: (taken from a review at IMDB): Lucille is the inventor of a cream she is sure will revolutionize the beauty industry. It all happens after the man she loves (Patric Knowles) marries a member of the upper-crust (Frieda Inescort), breaking her heart. She peddles her product to a manufacturer (Donald Woods) who finds an investor in none other than Inescort. The romantic tensions re-arise between Knowles and Ball as they become re-acquainted, and Lucy, who has come to find Inescort to be a good friend, struggles to do the right thing. Five writers tried to polish up the script, and ultimately it’s not a bad piece of writing but it lacks the bite and the finesse to be a truly succesful comedy script. Happily, Lucille went on to bigger and better things later in her career. Ann, sadly, did not. She acted on the stage for the next couple of years.

Ann returned to moves in 1942 with Monogram Studios and Police Bullets, an unusual B movie about a man with photographic memory and a bunch of hoodlums trying to use his special talents. Alas, the short leashed budget and uneven acting performances ruin an otherwise promising little movie. She they played a bit part in a forgotten short comedy, Two Saplings. Equally forgotten was her next feature, She Has What It Takes, a Jinx Falkenburg vehicle. Her last movie was the touching Someone to Remember, a slow-moving drama about an old lady whose son was lost long ago, and how she bonds with young students. What to say, vintage weepie Hollywood! Ann gave up movies for a time afterwards to act on the stage again.

Ann made only one more movie, Casanova Brown, a Gary Cooper film, before retiring for good.

PRIVATE LIFE

Ann was 5 feet, 6 inches tall; weighed 122 pounds and had blond hair and blue eyes. Off the screen her hobby were clothes. She designed many of her own gowns and always appears as though she had just stepped out of a bandbox.

Ann’s first Hollywood beau was William “Bill” Hopper, son of Hedda Hopper – they started dating sometime in April 1936. They went to town often and were seen dancing in various nightclubs. He nursed her when she got intestinal flu and had to stop working on a picture she was making.

In November 1937, William put an engagement ring on Ann’s finger. Both are 22 and seemed to be more in love than ever. To make things ever sweeter, that year Ann and Wilma Francis, two recruits to the Paramount stock school from New Orleans, had their options extended for another term and were to be groomed for roles in forthcoming productions. Both girls received dramatic training under Phyllis Loughton. And then, it all went wrong. Ann and Billy broke up and she lost her contract with Paramount. Such is life in Tinsel Town.

August 1938 – Vic Orsatti and Ann Evers are cooing. Vic dated about a gazillion other girls, so it was pretty obvious this was more for fun and less for commitment. Ann was also pursued by handsome Conrad Nagel later the same year.

There was also this funny bit about Ann in the papers that year:

They Must Improve Their Bridge Game:  Frances Mercer, Ann Evers and Whitney Bourne had to confess recently to Director to Director Glenn j Tryon their inability to play an  important movie scene at a bridge table. Tryon had to summon Charles J. Fordham; professional player and coach, to teach the three starlets!

Ann also gave a beauty hint to her readers: She often wears an oiled silk kerchief to protect her hair on rainy days. Keep one in your pocket for sudden showers, it may save your head. Handy, have to admit.

In early 1939, Ann and Bill Hopper reunited, and by August they were a sure bet for matrimony. Bill was also with her when she had to wear false eyebrows when her own were singed off by a gas stove explosion. One of her hands was also burned.

Unfortunately, something happened and they never reached the altar. Too bad, they looked like a fantastic couple (at least physically). In 1942 Ann and Danny Winkler were the newest twosome. They met at the marriage of Irene Colman and Bob Andrews, but unlike Irene and Bob they didn’t make it anywhere. By mid 1943, she was feted by George Jessel (along with dozen of other girls).

Later, Ann also wrote about her experiences in Hollywood. Here is a short summary of the times Ann had in Hollywood, a pretty good illustration how it was for a young, pretty and talented actress who wanted to make it in Tinsel Town:

She la Ann Even, blonde, blue-eyed and shapely, who came here in January, 1936, seeking a career. When she left New York she had $400. She also had a six months’ contract with Paramount at $50 a week. Ann saved at least half and sometimes all of her pay during that contract, learning that in movieland you may always expect the worst. It came, for she. was dropped at the end of the contract. Then for nine long, months she didn’t get a single stroke of work. The money eased away, She couldn’t buy any clothes. Then she got two weeks work posing for Russell Gleason and a week and a half playing the lead for an independent studio, For all this she received an average of $250 a week, the biggest money she ever had made. Then came another three months of pounding the pavements from casting office to casting office without result. When she was again on the verge of despair she was given the lead in a western picture by another independent studio, getting $200 a week. The only trouble was the picture was a one time only. She then got a different kind of opportunity.

For a month now Ann has been inclined to jump at noises. Her appetite has failed at times. Bad dreams disturb her sleep. She may be climbing mountains, where rocks teeter on the edges, or she may be on a train speeding toward a precipice. She wakes up and shivers and pulls the covers over her head. She is going through the mental inquisition which comes sooner or later to every girl just on the brink of fame and fortune. It comes at the same point in their careers, the moment after ups and downs, with sometimes hunger thrown in, when they are waiting for a decision on their contract options. Working under a specific agreement with RKO for the one picture, Ann finished her best role to date, with Barbara Stanwyck in “The Mad Miss Manton,” a month ago. Whether the option is picked up, which will mean a good contract and a major step up the ladder, depends on how her performance is greeted by a preview audience at the end of this week, The studio has 30 days after th preview to make its decision. And so, for what may amount to a two-month period, Ann, like many ambitious girls before her, waits and hopes and grows more nervous over the outcome.

As you can see, it truly was nerve-wracking and not for the faint of heart. The more I read about it, the more I can understand how such lovely girls like Gail Russell ended up alcoholics before they hit their 30th birthday.

But now, on to something more upbeat! Sometimes in the early 1940s, Ann started dating Paramount producer Seton I Miller. Was it another case of Will Hopper, or did it end up at the altar? Let’s spoil it a little and say that Ann would end up marrying Miller. Something about Miller:

Seton Ingersoll Miller (Chehalis, Washington, May 3, 1902 – March 29, 1974, Los Angeles) was a Hollywood screenwriter and producer. During his career, he worked with many notable American film directors, such as Howard Hawks and Michael Curtiz.

A Yale graduate, Miller began writing stories for silent films in the late 1920s. In the 1930s, he tended toward the crime genre, collaborating with Hawks and others on one of the most groundbreaking of such pictures, Scarface (1932). At the time of the Production Code’s enforcement in 1934, Warner Bros. called in Miller to supply the dialogue and storylines they needed to adapt their pre-Code bad-guys to the new system. His scripts for G-Men (1935) and Bullets or Ballots (1936) successfully transformed big screen gangsters James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, respectively, into crime-fighters. With Norman Reilly Raine, Miller wrote the script for The Adventures of Robin Hood (film). Often he adapted popular plays or novels, as with Graham Greene’s Ministry of Fear for Fritz Lang’s 1944 film. He worked regularly in Hollywood until 1959, when he helped write the thriller The Last Mile, but then left the industry for more than a decade. In his seventies, he made a brief return, providing screenplays for a horror film, A Knife for the Ladies, and for Disney’s Pete’s Dragon.

However, there was a catch. Miller was already married, to Bonita Nichols – they wed on 1927, and had two children – a son, Keith Stanford, born on October 31, 1928, and a daughter, Bonita Anne, born on March 6, 1936. I can’t find out if they were divorced by 1944. Before you ask if is it important, I think that it was very important for Miller and Ann back then, because their only child, daughter Catherine, was born on July 14, 1945. And Ann and Miller got married on January 26, 1946. Full five months after their daughter was born. That was back in the 1940s, where people didn’t have children out-of-wedlock often. So, while I can’t be 100% sure, the timeline is as it follows – it seems that Ann and Miller were involved before he was divorced, she got pregnant, they had to wait for his divorce to come through, and that is why Catherine was born prior to their marriage.

The papers first caught something in May 1945, when a heavily pregnant Ann left off to New York, and Seton went to meet her there. No mention of her pregnancy or anything else. Now, something about the marriage. They married in Montecito and had to postpone their honeymoon until Seton completed his picture-of-the-moment at Paramount. Afterwards they went on a six-week trip to Mexico City, Nassau and the Bahamas. During a portion of their honeymoon, they were guests of Ernest K. Gann, pilot and author, on his schooner in the Caribbean.

Ann retired from movies to dedicate herself to family life. Seton died on May 29, 1974. I have no idea what happened to Ann afterwards – IMDB claims she died on June 4, 1987 in Edison, New Jersey. I can’t vouch for that 100%. Whatever happened, as alway,s I hope she had a good life.

 

Wilma Francis

Sometimes, we want our actresses not to be cute girls next door like Rosemary Lane or Teresa Wright, but full-blown, over the top divas. Someone like Bette Davis or Gloria Swanson. Well, Wilma Francis was a diva. She was flamboyant, did things her own way and dated men by the bucket-load. Unfortunately, she never achieved a level of fame to make her comparable to other well known divas, but it seems she sure had a fun life!

EARLY LIFE

Wilma Francis Sareussen was born on November 26, 1917, in New Orleans, Louisiana, to John Sareussen and Frances Eleanor Ader. Her father was a wealthy ship chandler but by no means was he a true Southerner – he was born in Norway. Her mother did come from an old Louisiana family (think Scarlett O’Hara!). Wilma’s older sister Elinor Marie was born on December 10, 1915. The family resided in New Orleans, where Wilma grew up.

After graduating from high school, Wilma attended Tulane and Loyola universities, studying journalism. Now, how the story goes from here makes little sense – she, daughter of a prominent family and educated in top schools, while a student, ended up in a typing pool in an insurance company office in New Orleans. What?!! Anyway, this was the story she later sold to the papers, so I don’t know if this is true or invented, but why did they have to invent it anyway? Cinderella syndrome?

Anyway, Wilma landed in Hollywood because a scout for a film company (Ben Piazza) spotted her when she was working in the office of the insurance company, and signed her with Paramount.

CAREER

Wilma made her debut in Florida Special, a run of the mill crime movie with Jackie Oakie as a worldly journalist trying to stop a train robbery. Yawn! been there, seen that at least a hundred times… Her next movie, And Sudden Death, was hardly any better – featuring Randolph Scott and Frances Drake, it was a cautionary tale about traffic and speeding. As it usually happens in much films, traffic cop falls for a young woman who simply drives too fast… Blah, blah.. It goes into overt dramatics too soon and becomes a sappy, low budget miss. It’s a shame, since the topic of driving too fast and too furious in traffic is very relevant today (and boy, so much!).

Wilma finally snagged a credited role in Lady Be Careful, but the movie is so utterly forgotten today there is nothing I can write about it. next. The same goes for her netx movie, Hideaway Girl. 1937 started a bit better for Wilma – her first movie of the year, Bank Alarm, was a bland and uninspiring film about G men fighting against a group of bank robbers, but at least the movie left the smallest of traces for prosperity. Unfortunately, this did not mean further career enhancements for Wilma – she spent the rest of 1937 far from the movie cameras, and only came back in 1938 with Trade Winds, a witty, sparking and elegant screwball comedy, with a top-notch cast (Joan Bennet!! Fredric March!!) and more than one twist to keep you occupation.

Wilma then left Hollywood for a short time, returning in 1940 to make Stolen Paradise, where her then husband, Leon Janney, was playing the lead. Unfortunately it was directed by the king of camp, Louis Gasnier, who ably helms it into “bad acting and bad script territory from scene one. The story is not half bad, and actually pretty deep in some aspects – a young man who wants to become a priest falls in love with his step sister and does not know how to deal with his emotions – it really sounds good, but the execution is awful. Skip! Next came the only slightly trashy Under Age – yep, as the title suggest, the girl here and pretty, nimble and under age.  It’s an early movie by future legend Edward Drmytryk, but boy, while he does show signs of brilliance, it’s still way too much. The muddled plot is a hotbed of complicated feelings, bratty teens and love triangles. Skip. Wilma’s last and best movie from this batch was Borrowed Hero, a more than decent B programmer about a lawyer who after a stint of bad luck finally hits the jackpot – and how his life unravels afterwards. Florence Rice is in it – a plus for sure!

In the 1940’s she worked for a while as an assistant to director Sam Wood’and made her last billed appearance in a motion picture in Wood’s 1945 film Guest Wife. She then did some TV work (which I will not go into any detail), and appeared in minor roles in two more movies – Hotel and Airport. And that was all from Wilma!!

PRIVATE LIFE

While in Hollywood, in her spare time, Wilma builds boat models. She revealed to the press that she learned the craft from her father, by then a retired naval officer.

Since Wilma was of a prestigious ancestry, bits and pieces were written about her family in the papers. Here is an early example:

One of Paramount’s younger players, Wilma Francis, has the most interesting antique bracelet in Hollywood. It is a family heirloom and has been handed down for many years with a legend which traces back to Cellini’s days when the piece of jewelry is supposed to have been made by this famous master. It is of dull gold with a floral tracery which has been filled la with black platinum. The design resembles a wide leather strap with a buckle and the bracelet has a safety clasp which is held with a fine golden chain.

Wilma started dating Conrad Nagel in August 1936, and their relationship blossomed nicely in the comings months. Already in November of 1936 there were rumors that they might wed. She told the press: “Conrad is the dearest person in Hollywood. We are constant companions. Of course, I am only 18 I’ll be 19 on Thanksgiving day. And Conrad is 37. Marrying him wouldn’t hurt my career.” However, there was a lull in the fairytale when Paramount refused to renew her contract Wilma used the opportunity to visit her mother. At the train to bid her farewell was none other than Conrad Nagel. The trip sparked a “finis” to their romance because at the time Wilma was doubtful whether she would return again to resume her career. However, Wilma returned to Hollywood, but not to Conrad. After a brief fling with director Wesley Ruggles, from March until May 1937, she dated noted novelist B. P. Schulberg. After she ditched Schulberg, she resumed with Conrad for several months in mid to late 1937. Again, there were rumors of their impending nuptials. They dated, on and off, for more than a year, breaking up in December 1938. In the interim, Wilma dated Latin charmer Antonio Moreno.

In early 1939, Wilma took up with Leon Janney, juvenile actor. They were married in March of the the same year, although they kept the marriage a secret from the press for at least four months.  Janney was born on April 1, 1917 in Ogden, Utah. He started acting in earnest in 1927, when he was 17 years old. He was very active until 1932, and afterwards he got into the theater, where he met Wilma. They were all lovely dovely until June 1940, when something bad happened and they separated in August – they reconciled in September and tried again. This was a flop also – they separated again in October, tried to patch things up but were kaput by December 1940 and started divorce proceedings early in 1941. Wilma charged cruelty (she charged he threw a pack of cards at her during a bridge game) and they got their final decree in May 1941. Janney remarried twice and died in 1980 in Mexico.

Wilma then changed her life a great deal, got out of acting (more or less), and moved to New York.  Then, in November 1946, Wilma hit the papers big time as a witness in a case of a major money swindle. The main perpetrator was Jimmy Collins. This is a short excerpt from the article about the swindle:

Sally Haines, blond film actress and dancer, admitted last night that she was a close friend of Jimmy Collins, sought as suspect in the Mergan-thaler Linotype Co. swindle in New York. Her attorney, Milton M. Golden, went further. He admitted that she and Collins shared a Safety deposit box in a New York hank, the box which New York police said yielded $5400 in cash. Golden also said Collins had been living in a New York hotel where Miss Haines and her actress friend, Wilma Francis, shared an apartment. However, as to reports that Collins helped finance a newly opened night club in Palm Springs, Golden was firm. “Not that I know of,” he said. The attorney explained the safe deposit box and its contents. “Yes,” he said, “the box is hers. The money is hers, too. There also probably were some other things in the box a few trinkets and some Jewelry.” ‘Might Have Married’ He explained the joint use of the deposit box by saying, “Well, you know, they were very good friends. It was possible that a marriage might have developed, from their friendship.” Miss Haines, Miss Francis and Golden told about the Collins friendship at a meeting with the, press in the home of AIDS POLICE Glenda Farrell gave information about missing swindle suspect. W) Wirept AT LARGE James Collins, also known as Julius Davis, who is sought in case, Mrs. Sylvia Garrett, 8235 Lincoln Terrace, in the Sunset Strip district. “I know him very well,” Miss Haines, former wife of Comedian Bert Wheeler, said. “I’ve known him about 14 months. However, I was not married to him. I last saw him Wednesday, We had been at Palm, Springs with a party attending the opening .of a club there. ,,The party returned and I saw him off oh’ an American-AU’iines plane. ‘ ‘ “He seemed a little nervous when he left, but I thought nothing of that. He said he would telephone me Friday night, but I didn’t hear from him. Knew Little. About Him “He is a man of a great deal of charm,” she said.. “Hp’s a medium-sized man, blue-eyed with a longish face, He looks something like Fred Astaire with hair,’ “I know surprisingly little about him considering how long I’ve known him,” she continued. “You know how it is. You don’t ask a person all about his business, where he’s from and who his friends and relatives are. He gave me a telephone number which ho said was that of his Importing firm in New York, where I could reach him. He said he was 43. Now I hear he is 53 or 37 or something else,” Miss Francis said she also knew Collins but nothing of his background, the city was that Burke and his wife .were ineligible for occupancy of tho veterans’ housing project because he had not served in the military forces during the war. The Burkes were moved from Rodger Young Village, another veterans’ home center in Griffith Park, some days ago when their eligibility was contested there. They then took up residence in the Channel Heights unit” …

After this unfortunate accident, Wilma returned to Los Angeles in December 1946, but by January 1947 she was bedded, with a nervous breakdown, probably due her involvement with Collins. By May, she got her groove back and was beaued by Dane Clark. Later in the year, she was seen with comedian Lew Parker.

In May 1949 there were rumor she’s hot going to altar-trek with Stacy Harris, star of radio’s “Your F.B.I.” Unfortunately, they were just rumors, and Wilma did not wed Stacy. In May 1950, she was pursued by actor Eddie Norris.

On September 29, 1951, Wilma married Roger Valmy. Valmy was quite a colorful character. Born in Egypt on October 1912, he moved to Paris with his mother and was a horse racing champion before the fall of Paris during WW2. He moved to the US and started a highly successful real estate agency in California. He was married once before in 1943 to Ruth Ownbey, a model and starlet. Later he dated and was very serious about heiress Barbara Hutton.

Wilma and Roger lived the high life in Beverly Hills, as she was Southern royalty and he was a wealthy and highly charming real estate tycoon. Unfortunately divorced after less than two years of marriage in mid 1953.

After he and Wilma divorced, Roger was married two more times – the first time was to Margarett Smith in the early 1960. They divorced in 1972 for the first time, remarried in 1974 and divorced not long after in 1976. In 1977 he was married to his last wife, Dana Kathleen Bond. He died in 2004 at the age of 92.

Wilma continued to date, but never remarried. Some of her post-marriage beaus were Jake Ehrlich Jr. in 1956. She returned to Louisiana to live close to her sister, Elinor, and got into the papers once again:

In May 1958, she got into newspaper again, but not for a nice things – she changed four charges, including kidnaping, against a Gretna, La., policeman as the result of a fracas at a ferry landing there on April 2. Miss Sareussen, who used the name Wilma Francis in the movies, filed the charges with Justice of the Peace L. L. Traught of Gretna against Policeman Alvin Bladsacker. Gretna is across the Mississippi River from New Orleans. Miss Sareusson makes her home in New Orleans. She charged Bladsacker with assault and battery, kidnaping. false imprisonment and unauthorized use of movable property (her car).

I could not find any more information about the case, so let’s assume it just let it flow. Wilma completely falls of the radar from then on. What we do know is that she worked as a casting director for films and television productions shot in her Louisiana during the 1980’s.

Wilma Francis died on June 23, 1991, in Metairie, Louisiana.

Constance Weiler

Unfortunately, there is a shortage of information about the lovely Constance Weilver, and this is going to be one slim post, so bear with me. While I dislike writing short posts, I fell in love with the above photo of Constance, and I just had to profile her. So let’s learn more!

EARLY LIFE

Constance Ellen Uttenweiler was born on September 17, 1918,in Toronto, Canada to Lebret Joseph Uttenweiler and Mable Wilson. Her older sister Bernice was born on May 11, 1917. Her younger brother Robert would be born in 1921. Her father was American, born in Michigan, her mother was a Canadian. The family lived in Toronto, where Constance spent her early years.

On April 30, 1927 at the age of 8 she immigrated to the US with her parents, arriving in Detroit by boat. They went to live with their paternal grandfather, Robert Wilson, in Detroit, Michigan.

In April 1929, her parents divorced, and a few days later her mother married Joseph Kirzinger. Two more children were born of this union (son Lawrence and daughter Iris). Only young Robert went to live with the Kirzinger newlyweds – the sisters remained with their dad and lived in Detroit (I wonder how the story went – why didn’t Bernice and Constance go on to live with the Kirzingers and Robert did? Smells like an unusual story!)

At some point, Constance landed in New York and found work there as a theater receptionist (have no idea which theater). Constance was signed to a term contract with MGM after talent scouts spotted her in a New York night spot in 1943.

CAREER

Connie signed with MGM, the most prestigious studio at the time, and made her debut in 1943 in The Man from Down Under, a Charles Laughton movie. In many ways, it’s a typical wartime propaganda movie – on the other hand, in many ways it’s not a typical propaganda movie. What makes it stand out, if only so slightly, is the fact that it deals directly with Australians and their bit in WW2. Tell me named of three movies about Australia from the golden age of hollywood. You see, hardly any springs to mind. Constance’s second movie was the more prominent I Dood It, a Red Skelton comedy classic.

Constance then made a string of well-regarded musicals – Broadway Rhythm and Bathing Beauty. No story, little character development, lots of singing and dancing. Constance returned to propaganda movies with This Man’s Navy, about  U.S. Naval Airships (Blimps) and featuring Tom Drake, who for a time seemed like the hot new thing then faded quickly into obscurity.

During this time, Constance was featured in several movies by the great but troubled actor, Robert Walker – The Clock (a superb, intimate drama with Walker and Judy Garland), Her Highness and the Bellboy (a so-so musical about a princess, played by Hedy Lamarr, and the unrequited crush the hotel bellhop, played by Walker, harbours towards her).

In 1946, the war was over and Constance’s career entered a new phase. Her first post war movie was Up Goes Maisie, a continuation of the adventures of brassy showgirl Maisie (played by Ann Sothern). Constance continued appearing in high quality movies that never hit top-tier. Meaning, she never acted in a movie that ended up a classic, but she did work in solid movies with a solid if sometimes phenomenal cast.

Such two movies were The Hoodlum Saint, a morality tale about a WW1 vet (played by William Powell) who will do anything to get rich (and the consequences of his actions) and Two Smart People, an unusual noir romance film, directed by Jules Dassin and headed by John Hodiak and Lucille Ball as two con artists in love.

The Arnelo Affair is actually a mediocre effort somehow undermined by the wooden acting of the female lead, Frances Gifford. The story is the same old cautionary tale for wives – don’t cheat on your husbands, and if you do… Well, you get the picture. John Hodiak is solid as the “bad guy”/affair of the title, and Eve Arden and Dean Stockwell are wasted in sub par roles. MGM could definitely do better than this! Sadly, It Happened in Brooklyn, her next movie, wasn’t quite the high quality movie to follow-up on a dismal one. It’s a nice enough musical, but the story and characters, being paper-thin, weight it down tremendously. Good musicals should have a simple but effective story, not some pastiche

Constance had a minor role (literary) in The Beginning or the End, a docudrama about the atomic bomb (and again shared the screen with Robert Walker).

Constance’s last movie made under the MGM helm was The Romance of Rosy Ridge, perhaps the most superior film of the post-war lot. Why? Well, for one thing, it deals with subjects that Hollywood often tended to avoid – the post-war animosity and hatred that still burns deep in the people. While it was made post-WW2, the plot is set after the American civil war, and illustrates nicely how people lived in Missouri in the mid 19th century. it’s surprisingly authentic for a Hollywood production of the 1940s, and despite a few song and dance numbers, never falls into the sappy/sweet routine. The leads are played by the young, fresh-faced Janet Leigh and Van Johnson – a good combo!

I guess Constance went freelancing, but appeared in only two more movies – a great one and a sadly lukewarm one. The great one was The Asphalt Jungle, a top-notch heist film, dark, gritty, intense, one of the best movies John Huston made. The lukewarm one was Three Guys Named Mike, a fluffy and brain-dead rom com with Jane Wyman as a stewardess who has to choose between three guys named Mike. It’s much better than most rom-coms today, mind you, still not enough to warrant a second look.

And that was it from Constance!

PRIVATE LIFE

This here is pretty thin. There were no articles about her love life, so I can’t say whom she dated while in Hollywood in the early 1940s… However, there was a short article about her in 1946:

Constance Weiler, on the set of “The Postman Always Rings Twice,” telling John Garfield and Leon Ames the thrill of flying one’s own plane. After six weeks, she’s just made her first solo hop. The payoff is she can fly a plane but doesn’t yet know how to drive an automobile.

Funny, she never appeared in the movie, at least it’s not among her credits. Constance’s career effectively ended in 1947, although she did bits and pieces afterwards, from 1946 onwards, there were no mentions of her in the papers.

Next thing we know, Constance married Douglas la Franco on June 7, 1957, in Los Angeles. Her career had been over for almost a decade by then, and she was consistently out of the limelight. Anyway, La Franco was born on September 25, 1929 to Ceferino la Franco and Edna Pullion. His father was from the Phillipines, his mother from Oregon (what a combo!). He grew up in California and was never married before he wed Constance.

Unfortunately, the marriage lasted a very short time, and they divorced in 1959. They did not have any children. In 1960, Douglas married his second wife, Pearl Colberg. Constance did not remarry and lived for the rest of her life in San Francisco.

Constance Weiler died on December 10, 1965 in San Francisco, California. Constance’s former husband, Douglas la Franco, died in 2006.

Carol Yorke

Carol Yorke started as a beautiful, feline model who tried Hollywood and failed. Nothing new here – tons of models went to Hollywood and never made anything worthwhile. However, Carol was not the one to take no for an answer – she completely reinvented her life and became one of the premier fashion connoisseurs and columnists of her time. Let’s learn more about her!

EARLY LIFE

Carol Yorke was born Carolyn Bjorkman on April 25, 1926, in Swissdale, a suburb of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Elmer and Ruth Bjorkman. Her paternal grandparents were Swedish immigrants – her mother was a native Californian. Her younger brothers were John, born in 1928, and Richard, born in 1934.

Carol’s parents died when in the late 1930s, and she and her two bothers were raised by their paternal aunt, Gertrude. In 1940, the Bjorkmann children lived in Swissdale with their grandparents, uncle, his wife, another uncle and Gertrude.

Carolyn was a talented child who, after graduating from high school in her hometown (Pittsburgh), attended Carnegie Institute of Technology Drama school. Due to her good looks, she soon landed into the modeling scene – she first modeled for the local manufacturer Joseph Home Co, and soon she was on the rise.

Buoyed by her successful modeling experience, she moved to New York in the mid 1940s and did work for John Robert Powers. She was a seasoned model when she tried Hollywood in 1947.

CAREER

Carol made only one movie, Letter from an Unknown Woman, directed by Max Ophuls. But, what a movie it is! Note this: Carol shaved three years of her actual age, and tried to pass of as a fresh-faced 18 years old in 1947.

Here is a brief summary: In Vienna, about 1900, a dashing man arrives at his flat, instructing his manservant that he will leave before morning: the man is Stefan Brand, formerly a concert pianist, planning to leave Vienna to avoid a duel. His servant gives him a letter from an unknown woman, which he reads. In flashbacks we see the lifelong passion of Lisa Berndle for him. Carol plays Lisa’s sister Marie in the movie, and you can consider her character a teenager.

What can I say, I love this movie. It’s like a finely crafted painting, made with impressionist sensibilities. Simple but extremely powerful. Acting is great, and this is one of the better roles for our favorite cad, Louis Jourdan (talented, but always played the same stereotype). Joan Fontaine (one of my favorites) shows us just how gentle and subtle an actress she was (a rarity in Hollywood, where they often value dramatics over something more elegant.) Overall, it’s an incredible work of art, one of the most emotional and earnest movies I have ever seen. So sublime it’s almost misty and unreal. Forget the story and just feel it all!

Not a hit when it was made, it’s considered a classic today, but sadly, did no favors to Carol nor her career. I have no idea why she didn’t make at least one more movie, but there it is, this was her first and last effort. It wa back to the East coast afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE

Carol dated Artur Ramos Jr in mid 1948. Then she was seen romancing with Murray Sulzberg (who had oodles of millions) in late 1948. Early 1949 saw her with cheese heir Ed Brown.

Carol returned to New York after her unsuccessful Hollywood sojourn, and found work modeling and doing PR for famed designer Valentina. Valentina was a progressive, avant-garde woman and Carol met many a intellectuals and prominent people while in her employ. Her new-found social connections landed her a job at Saks Fifth Avenue as a buyer for a new salon called the Evening Room, specializing in evening wear.

Hungry for more of everything – fashion, love, hapiness – Carol departed for Europe and settled for a time in Paris. With a sharp eye for fashion, Carol was one of he first fashion people who took notice of the young, up-and-coming designer Yves Saint Laurent . In 1958, Carol contacted the young designer and secured his a phleora of rich American grand dames who wanted to become his clients. It was a lucrative deal for both Carol and Yves, and they remained lifelong friends. Another designer Carol discovered before everybody else was Halston – originally an innovative milliner, it was Carol and her fashion world connections that helped him catapult into full pledged sartorial stardom.

In October 1962 she was in Monte Carlo and wrote a letter to John Fairchild the editor of the influential fashion magazine, Women’s Wear Daily. He gave her a chance to write her very own column – she result was a column titled ”Carol Says”, which dealt with fashion, society and spot news and was syndicated in several papers. Carol knew everybody, was witty and light on her feet and easy on her worlds – endlessly charming, she gathered a wide fan base and became one of the most popular female columnists of the time.

During her tenure as a columnist, Carol interviewed celebrities, both notables from the fashion world and notables outside the fashion world, including politics, movies and so on. Carol always wished to be an actress, and there was a deeply intrinsic part of her that went unfulfilled and frustrated – she vented out her firstration by attracting attention wherever she went – most notably fashion shows. Often the reporters would completely forget the models and focus solely on her. She would enter in grand style, with her poodle Sheba under her arm, always highly dramatic, she would fling her coat so that everybody could see that is was a genuine Balenciaga.

As for her love life, little is known. She never married,  but it seems she had a special friend in the millionaire garment manufacture Seymour Fox and would regularly arrive at the office with her poodle Sheba in one of his collection of stretched limousines.

On 28 November 1966, Truman Capote threw his legendary masked Black & White Ball at the New York Plaza Hotel. It was the social event of the year. Carol was among the 500 prominent guests (some of the other guests were Mia Farrow, Frank Sinatra, Andy Warhol, Lee Razdiwill, Marella Agnelli, Joan Fontaine, Katherine Graham, Babe Paley and so on).

Unfortunately, time was running out for Carol. She contracted leukemia – in early 1967, she took a limousine to the Memorial Hospital for Cancer and Allied Diseases. She had a bar installed in her private room and entertained until the end.

Carol Yorke died on July 5, 1967, in the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research in New York.

 

 

Dorinda Clifton

Dorinda Clifton started her movie careeer in a big – playing a leading role, receiving loads of publicity and critical plaudits. However, even with this powerful platform, she failed to gather any real attention. Afterwards, she valiantly tried to revive her career for more than 5 years, but after getting less and less attention, gave up movies to raise a family and later, become a writer.

EARLY LIFE

Dorinda Clifton was born on April 27, 1928, in Los Angeles, California, to Elmer Clifton and Helen Kiely. Her older sister, Patricia, was born in 1925 somewhere at sea (I wonder where!). Her younger brother, Elmer Jr, was born on April 20, 1932.

Dorinda grew up in the movie colony called Hollywood – her father was a movie director who worked with many silent movie notables. His short bio, taken from IMDB:

He acted on the stage from 1907 and worked with D.W. Griffith in various capacities between 1913 and 1922, including appearances in The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Throughout the Ages (1916). He became a director in 1917, with his best-known production probably being the big-budget whaling epic Down to the Sea in Ships (1922), which brought Clara Bow to the attention of audiences. Unfortunately, his career began to wane in the late 1920s; although he occasionally worked for such “major” studios as Columbia or RKO, he spent most of the rest of his career mired in the depths of Poverty Row, writing and/or directing low-budget westerns and thrillers for such low-rent studios as PRC and even lower-budget exploitation pictures for such quickie producers as J.D. Kendis and the Weiss Brothers.

It came as no surprise that Dorinda also wanted to continue the family tradition and to act. She was snatched by Columbia before she even graduated from high school, as this article can attest:

Columbia’s new 17 – year – old discovery, Dorinda Clifton, is starting her screen career on the exact spot where her father worked 30 years ago. The location is Columbia’s branch studio on Sunset boulevard at Lyman place, where Dorinda is playing the title role in the new movie version of Gene Stratton Porter’s “Girl of the Limberlost.” In 1915, Dorinda’s father, Elmer Clifton, was a young leading man in D. W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation,” which was made on outdoor stages at precisely the same place.

And thus her career started.

CAREER

Dorinda appeared in only one movie for Columbia, The Girl of the Limberlost. Based on the classic novel by Indiana authoress Gene Stratton-Porter, it’s raw, brutal and unpleasant, about a girl whose own mother hates her, but despite the sombre plot, the movie never goes over the line into truly hard stuff, as this is still Hollywood, no matter the story, they always make it a cut or two above depressed. Dorinda played the lead, and great things were expected from her. Unfortunately, the movie failed to gather much interest among the public despite genereally warm reviews -as a result, it’s barely remembered today, and Dorinda’s career tanked.

However, she chose to march on. She lost her Columbia contract, but signed with a poverty row studio. So, her next movie, was The Marauders. What can I say, low-budget westerns yet again! This is an above average Hopalong Cassidy movie, but it’s still a low-budget western so no bueno as far as I’m concerned.

Dorinda won a contract with MGM, hoping to obtain stardom thru a different path. MGM put her in a string of different genres, and she started her MGM years in two pretty famous musicals – On the Town and Annie Get Your Gun. She than branched into thrillers with Shadow on the Wall, an interesting movie which gave Ann Sothern  chance to play drama – and that didn’t happen often, mind you. Strong support is given by the ever suave Zachary Scott and Gigi Perreau.

Dorinda went back to musicals, and appeared in a string of them – Hit Parade of 1951Grounds for Marriage (a Kathryn Grayson/Van Johnson vechicle), Call Me Mister (this time a Betty Grable/Dan Dailey movie) and Excuse My Dust.

Then it was back t more serious movie fare with Slaughter Trail. Serious only in name – it’s another western, not quite a slow budget as Hopalong Casid but not a whole lot more. It does have a more impressive cast (Brian Donlevy, Virginia Grey), but it’s still the same old Cowboys vs Indians.

The last batch of movies Dorinda made under her MGM contract were excellent musicals – The Belle of New York (the weakest of the bunch, but still a good enough musical with Fred Astaire), Singin’ in the Rain (what more do I need to say?), Million Dollar Mermaid (one of Escther William’s best), Stars and Stripes Forever (worth seeing for Clifton Webb if nothing else) and The Band Wagon (the best Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire pairing). Dorinda’s last two movies were adventures: The Golden Blade, a mid tier Arabian adventure type, with Rock Hudson and Piper Laurie, and Moonfleet, a beguiling mix of swashbuckling movie and Gothic horror. The male lead is Stewart Granger, truly a fitting replacament for the aging Errol Flynn, and the rest of the cast is equally good – George Sanders, Joan Greenwood, Viveca Lindfors.

After her MGM contract ended, Dorinda gave up on movies to devote herself to family life.

PRIVATE LIFE

For a time in 1949, Forinda was slated to marry Anson Bond, a “quickie” producer, when his divorce from Maxine Violet Nash was made final. Bond was a business partner of her father, and it seemed to me the scenario of “marrying the boss’ daughter” more than a love match. However, fate intervened – Dorinda’s father died in 1949, and she broke up the engagement not long after.

met her first husband, William K. Nelson, when served as Youth Director for the Congregational Church in Hollywood. They married in 1951.

William “Ace” K. Nelson was born Sept. 7, 1922, in Hollywood, California. Here is a short summary of his life, taken from his obituary:

Ace was a graduate of Hollywood High School and Occidental College. He got his nickname when he was playing guard on a never-defeated Hollywood High School basketball team. At the final bell he flung the ball from beyond mid-court and scored the winning basket. The next day, the papers reported Bill “Ace” Nelson’s amazing shot. The nickname followed him to college and onward.

While still at Occidental, Ace joined the Navy’s officers training corps, and after Pearl Harbor was sent to Columbia University to be trained as a “90-day wonder” Naval officer. He commanded an LST for three years in the Pacific during World War II. His was the flagship of his 60-ship convoy.

After graduation from Occidental with a major in economics, Ace and his friend Robert Hayward decided they didn’t want to sit behind desks all their lives. They therefore hired an old and wise Swedish carpenter to teach them the trade by building a house with them. Ace continued to be a (very contented) carpenter-contractor for his working life

The couple had three sons: Alec, born on August 22, 1953, Mark, born on October 29, 1953, and David, born on May 21, 1959. The family lived in Corona Del Mar, California. Dorinda gave up her career by that time and was a devoted mother and wife.

The Nelsons divorced in 1967, and William remarried to Joni, and moved to Oregon. He died in 2008.

Dorinda married her second husband, Anthony Lee Gorsline, on July 5, 1970. Gorsline was born on May 4, 1930, in California. He was married once before, to Stephanie Lorna Herrmann, in 1953, and they divorced sometime in the 1960s.

The couple moved to Brownsville, Oregon. Unfortunately, they divorced in 1976. Dorinda continued to live in Oregon and never remarried. Gorsline also stayed in the same city.

Dorinda became a succesful writer and was very active n the aristical communit on the West Coast. She started writing her memoir, and did so partial yin the 100 years old artist’s retreat, MacDowell Colony. When asked about her reasons for becoming a writer, she said:

“The reason I write is I have all these ghosts in my past, and I want to have them tell the story. Then I don’t have to live with this story any more.”

She finally published her memoir, Woman In The Water: A Memoir Of Growing Up In Hollywoodland  (check it up on the Amazon link), in 2005. The book was warly recieved and she continued writing, mostly childen’s books. Some of her works are: Take the cake, Everybody is somebody and Ginger Bird. She retired from writing in 2007.

Dorinda Clifton died on February 18, 2009, in Brownsville, Oregon. Her former husband, Anthony Gorsline, died just few months later, on June 17, 2009.