Rosalind Marquis

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Rosalind Marquis was talented, wholesomely pretty and a good singer, but suffered from bad career management at the hands of Warner Bros, failing to make a grade before her premature retirement.

EARLY LIFE:

Rosalind Saindon was born on September 11, 1915, in Chicago, Illinois, to Leopold Saindon and Cora Vadeboncoeur. She was the sixth of eight children (her siblings were Aldea, Ancel, Elmer, Leona, Catherine, Richard and James). Her father was without any high school educations and worked as a usher to support his large family. She had a happy childhood growing up in Chicago, being such a rambunctious child that she broke both of her legs twice!

Rosalind attended St. Patrick Academy in the city, and there her teachers discovered her incredible vocal abilities. She started to sing at a young age, but only after she won a beauty title at the Chicago Word fair was she noticed by showbiz people.

Rosalind moved to New York in cca 1934, primarily for the advancement of her career. There amassed an impressive resumee of singing appearances. As many other New York theater professionals, she decided to depart for Hollywood to get more fame, fortune and prominence.

CAREER:

Rosalind had a brief and unsatisfying Hollywood career, made all the more tragic when you understand that she was a extremity capable singer with tons of performances  under her belt by the time she was 20 years old.

As a seasoned singer, she was put into “singing” role sin a variety of movies. The first was Bullets or Ballots, a very good gangster movie with Edward G. RobinsonJoan Blondell and Humphrey Bogart. What more do you need to ask with a cast like that? Rosalind plays a specialty number, thus makes no big impact on the story. This pattern woudl be often repeated in her other roles.

Rosalind5After that one, she was then cast in a silly but highly entertaining 1930s comedy, Earthworm Tractors, with the ever-dynamic Joe E. Brown. After this she finally came to the movies you would expect her to be cast in from the beginning – musicals. Busby Berkeley musicals, to be exact. And, it was her own bad luck that the Busby musical she landed a role in was one of his worst efforts – Stage Struck – a total waste of talented performers with a wooden female lead, Jeanne Madden (about whom I wrote in a previous blog post).  Cain and Mabel was a tepid musical with the most unusual stars – Clark Gable and Marion Davies – both actors not known for their singing and dancing abilities. It’s a sumptuous movie financed by Marion’s lover, William Randolph Hearst, with lavish sets, costumes and dance numbers, but thin on the plot. Marion, while a great comedienne, was not cut out to be a musical star, lacking  a certain emotional charisma needed to glue the viewer in that type of escapist fare. Gold Diggers of 1937, made by the time Berkeley was past his prime, was one of his best later movies but nothing to rave about. Rosalind’s career was very much looking like it would hit a dead end by then, or that she could be constantly cast as a “background extra” . Yet, things changed rapidly.

Rosalind reached the pinnacle of her career in Marked Woman, by far the most interesting, unusual feature she had appeared in up to then. It’s tough, bitter, often a movie so dark it’s painful to watch. The actors are excellent: Bette Davis a stunning turn as The Marked Woman of the title, and we have a top notch female support cast.  The theme of prostitution, while present in Hollywood, was often in the background, a side story, barely mentioned, Rosalind1often a burden female characters had to carry, there more as a abstract barrier  but never the center of attention. Marked woman threads bravely into this slippery territory and gives us multidimensional portrayals of all it’s characters. Prostitution aside, it’s an astoundingly profound message of hope and persistence in the face of eminent danger, the power and strength all men have within themselves to fight for something they believe in – even if their life and everything they hold dear is in peril. Due to it’s timeless theme, it stands very well today, as it did 70 years ago. Yet, the winning row did not continue. Her next feature, A Day at Santa Anita was a minor short movie, forgotten today. 

Rosalind continued with more prominent roles, but in all the wrong movies – Talent Scout was a Jeanne Madden vehicle, but when you try to promote  woman who despite her vocal abilities has no star power, everything is bound to fail. Too bad about the not-so-bad cast (Donald Woods and Fred Lawrence). With the failure of this movie, Rosalind’s days in Hollywood were numbered.

The rest of her filmography can only attest to this sad fact – That Certain Woman was a weak, soapy, highly unbelievable Bette Davis/Henry Fonda movie,  with Rosalind so deep in the uncredited roster she’s almost impossible to notice.  Radio City Revels, her last feature, was a amusing little musical, not a great movie by any stretch of imagination but enough for a pleasant viewing.

Rosalind6Rosalind could have stretched her acting career by firmly staying in the uncredited roster, or at least clawing her way to secondary, minor roles (she was talented enough to actually make it with the help of some right people and a few lucky breaks). Instead, she wisely chose to give up that dream and return to her singing career full time. Thus, by 1938, only 23 years old, she was out of Tinsel Town for good. 

In the late 1930s, she appeared in a large number of variety shows and was a regular at the nightclub/hotel singing  circuit. She sang back vocals for Edith Piaf when the french sparrow toured the US. It was during he performance in Kentucky that she met her future husband, married him, and gave up her career for good.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Rosalind was a petite woman, only 4 foot 11 inches tall, but wholesomely beautiful with clear blue eyes and a dazzling smile.

Rosalind2When she came to Hollywood in 1936, Rosalind got some serious publicity. Warner Bros publicity machine was at it’s absolute peak inn the late 1930s, and promoting young starlets was their specialty – to be poetic, no matter what the package contained, the wrapping was always first class. The perfect example was another Warner Bros wannabe star, Jeanne Madden, a talented singer but a sub-par actress. Rosalind got the same treatment, along with some other actresses. According to the press, she was constantly on the cusp of stardom. If you take a look at her filmography, you can see that’s a far fetched statement, but it sure made the headlines! The starlets made several publicity trips through the mid west in 1936 – Rosalind one of them of course. She was also a frequently feature din fashion spreads and Lois Lane’s beauty columns. As a former tomboy, she was very athletic and could do some mean cartwheels!

Rosalind suffered for two years from a bad appendix, but Hollywood put such a pressure on her she was unable to go home to Chicago to have it removed (she finally did in late 1937). She was very close to her family, especially her mother Cora, and they talked on the phone daily while Rosalind was in Hollywood.

Rosalind married her first husband, William L. Waller, a prominent musician, in New York City on February 18, 1936. Her Hollywood career just starting at that time, it was obvious they were living bi-coastal, she in California and he in New York. The marriage quickly disintegrated, and by June 1936 she was in the divorce court, seeking an annulment.

Rosalind3Rosalind married Edwin Dymond Axton in the late 1930s. The two met when she was singing back vocals for Edith Piaf in Kentucky. Axton, born on August 17, 1916, Louisville, Kentucky, was from a prominent family – his father was Edwin Dymond Axton, chairman of the Axton Tobbacco Company.  He graduated from the Washington and Lee University and was working at the Crescent Panel Company in the 1940s.

Rosalind gave up her promising singing career to become a Kentucky socialite. The couple lived in Louisville and Jefferson, where the Axtons had a large country house. Edwin and Rosalind had three children, two girls and a boy: Rosalind, born in 1939, Lois, born in 1942 and Robert, born on December 28, 1946.

Rosalind and Axton divorced in the late 1950s, and Axton remarried in 1959. Rosalind herself remarried to Thomas Saxe Jr. in 1962. She moved to New Canaan, Connecticut, a wealthy WASP community. The couple lived there until the 1990s, when they moved permanently to Florida for the weather. Both of her daughters married in 1960s in New Canaan, to nice, clean cut upper middle class boys.

Thomas Saxe died in the early 2000s.

Rosalind Saxe died on June 12, 2006, in Naples, Florida.

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Alma Lloyd

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Alma Lloyd is the proof that even the daughter of a well known director can’t really succeed in Hollywood if that “something” doesn’t happen. Her famous father aside, she was a pretty girl with beautiful curly hair and a trained actress – Alma had all the cards to win, but like many other talented girls, ended in total obscurity.

EARLY LIFE:

Alma Katherine Lloyd was born on April 3, 1914, in Los Angeles, California, only child of Frank Lloyd and Alma Haller. Her father, a Scotsman by birth, was to become a prominent director in Hollywood and win two Oscars. Her mother, Alma was noted as a performer at the musical comedy stage.

Alma was nicknamed Jimmie from earliest childhood, and grew up surrounded by the people from the movie industry. Her very first role was at the age of 6 months, when she had an uncredited appearance in a picture featuring her father as a villain.

Alma took a hiatus from Hollywood then, having a normal childhood, only continuing her movie output at the age of 9, when she appeared in Oliver Twist with Jackie Coogan.

In 1930, the family was living in Los Angeles, and Alma was sure she wanted to become a proper actress. After high school graduation, she decided upon a training at the Pasadena Community Playhouse to gain some experience before entering the movie scene once again. She played a season of summer stock in Martha’s Vineyard, and acted for the New York Theater Guild in George Bernard Shaw’sThe Simpleton of the Unexpected Isle”. In 1934, she felt she was ready to conquer Hollywood, and returned home.

CAREER:

Alma had a new Hollywood start with Jimmy and Sally, a typical Fox comedy of the age with James Dunn and Claire Trevor. Nothing grand but not too shabby either. Stars Over Broadway is a darker, grim musical with an unique brand of elegance, featuring several very good singers who never made it to top tier despite their obvious talent (Jane Froman and James Melton). Alma is uncredited here, but at least she appeared in a Busby Berkeley film! Dangerous, the highly charged drama that bough an Oscar for it’s female star, Bette Davis, was a step up for Alma, and indeed her next features find her credited. Freshman Love, a simple but charming college movie, had her as a pretty co-ed, and Song of the Saddle  veered her towards the musical western genre, not the best place for an actress to be (if she wanted to have a proper career that is).

Alma Lloyd1Colleen, a Ruby Keeler/Dick Powell movie, and not one of their stronger ones, again had her in the uncredited roster – a trend with continued in the nutty comedy with a great cast, Snowed Under, and The Singing Kid, a movie best known as Al Jolson’s parody of Al Jolson (in other words, a self parody).

Alma got a promotion (sort of) again with a credited role in I Married a Doctor, the idiotically named adaptation of Sinclair Lewis’ novel, Main Street. All fans of Pat O’Brien have to watch this little gem where Pat gets to show his acting chops, supported by top tier talent like Josephine Hutchinson and the tragic Ross Alexander. The novel was a story of a city bred, forward thinking woman forced to live in a narrow minded small town – the movie misses several points, making the wife an annoying ditz who irks the townspeople.

Times Square Playboy, a half baked comedy with Gene LockhartThe Golden Arrow the pedestrian, not-different-than-a-millions-of-others romantic comedy and Bullets or Ballots, a very good gangster movie with an outstanding cast, again had Alma uncredited. The Big Noise  could have been Alma’s big shot to the stars as it was her first female leading role. Unfortunately, it ended as being a pleasant B movie and nothing more. Most of the notices went to Guy Kibbee and Warren Hull and Alma is barely even mentioned in the reviews.

Alma LloydIt was back to the uncredited gang again with The White Angel, a admirable Kay Francis  movie about Florence Nightingale. Public Enemy’s Wife, another predictable Pat O’Brien movie, followed. Anthony Adverse, an entertaining adventure romp with Fredric March and Olivia de Havilland proved to be her best known film of the mentioned. Alma’s contract was not renewed after this, and she decided to freelance.

Not much luck there. Due to her father’s influence, she had a small role in If I Were King, the expertly made biopic of the poet Francois Villon with the impossibly suave Ronald Colman in the lead and our favorite swashbuckling bad buy, Basil Rathbone, as a strong support. Alma took a hiatus after this, and only returned to the sound stage in an uncredited bit in Bullets for O’Hara, a movie that clearly shows that it’s star Joan Perry was much better off marrying Harry Cohn than resuming her movie career.

Alma retired to raise a family afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Alma’s own parents, Alma and Frank, remained married for 32 years in Hollywood, somewhat of a rarity. Sadly, when they decided to retire to a farm in 1952 she died not long after, and he returned to film-making, married his third wife, and worked until his death in 1960.

Alma Lloyd3As most young starlets, Alma was a press favorite and was even names as one of the girl who were shopping for stardom in 1938. As we can attest today, that stardom bit never came, but publicity for the girls back then was good, and actually a few of them went on to have decent careers (Marie Wilson and June Travis).

Alma dated Kelly Anthony, the son of a distinguished Anthony family, in 1936, but she chose to pursue her career instead of getting married.

Alma married Franklin Gray, a Hollywood screenwriter, in about 1938. Gray was born on January 11, 1912, in Kansas. The couple lived in Beverly Hills in 1940.

Alma and Franklin had four children:  Christopher Jameslloyd Gray, born on January 17, 1942, Antonia Katharine Gray, born on August 2, 1947, Jonathan Franklloyd Gray, born on May 26, 1951 and Miranda Jane Gray, born on October 26, 1954. They lived in Monterey, California, in the 1950s.

Franklin Gray died on July 18, 1979 in Santa Barbara, California. Alma did not remarry afterwards, and continued to live in Santa Barbara.

Alma Loyd Gray died on June 14, 1988, in Santa Barbara, California.

PS: Happy New Year everyone! All the best in 2014!

Happy New Year

Jeanne Madden

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Jeanne Madden was one of those girls who got to Hollywood thanks to their previous acting experience (and not just their looks), girls who were given plenty chances to become stars, and when that failed, were quickly sacked and pushed into oblivion. Luckily, in Jeanne’s case she knew when to quit, thus Hollywood did not need to brutally remind her time’s up.

EARLY LIFE:

Jeanne Ethel Madden was born on  on November 10, 1917 in Scranton, Pennsylvania to Harry Madden and his wife, Grace Browning. Her older brother, Ralph C., was born in 1912.

Her father owned a boarding house, called “Holland Hotel”, and ran it together with her mother. They had  a diverse cast of boarders, lodgers and guests in 1930, ranging from people from other states to people from other continents like several Welsh and Irish men. Yet, her father’s real passion was not real estate but rather music – he was an amateur musician (singer to be exact) and even founded his very own quartet, aptly named The Harry Madden Quartet. Her mother, Grace, was an accomplished pianist and served as accompanist to her daughter from the very beginning. Jeanne was a coloratura soprano, the highest possible voice, and it was clear a great future awaited the girl.

Jeanne Madden 3Jeanne attended Central High School, and there her dramatic and musical talent shone brightly- she was the school’s star, playing in every school play. It paid off. In 1932, at the tender age of 15, Jeanne was already a featured soloist at many of the town’s prestigious functions, like Mothe’rs Auxiliary of the Crusade chapter, Order of de Molay, held at the masonic temple.  In 1933, she was the star of her school’s cantata “In old Japan”.

News about the  wildly talented girl traveled fast, and she was on the train to New York in 1934, becoming the protegee of  the Metropolitan opera diva, Queena Maio. That same year she became a singer for the NBC Radio network. Jeanne graduated from high school in 1935 and enrolled into Duke University to further her education. Then, something unexpected happened.

In February 1936 she was noticed by the head of Warner Bros studio, the formidable Jack Warner, who wanted the girl signed right away. What Jack wants, Jack gets, and mid 1936 she was on her way to California. Her departure was the social event of the year in Scranton, gathering quite a large mass to the train station. Her father’s own quartet sang several songs, and she had a special police escort from the Hotel Holland to the station! One newspaperman summed it up nicely when he wrote:

“Scrantoninas who followed her progress from success to success remembered her as a child inheriting a musical nature, singing in the school concerts, a lovely young girl in white ,invariably overshadowing other talented students, singing her little heart out to school audiences. They watched her immaculate acting in “Wisteria” and “Pinaforte” and concluded that here was a young lady who would bring fame to her native city and distinguish herself and her family.”

CAREER:

By Hollywood standards, Jeanne was given a decent chance to become a star (acting opposite big names and in A class production) but her reviews were always dismal, proving that perhaps she was a great singer, but lacking as an actress. On the high side, those same dismal critics noted how likable and cute she was – while several actors/actresses managed to capitalize on their good looks or cuteness, forgo talent, and become stars, others need more to attain stardom, and sadly Jeanne was one of them. That “something more”, as per usual, never came.  

7pidal1uv8c33cuStage Struck  was supposed to be her big “star” role. A Busby Berkeley production with Dick Powell – what more could you need? A lot more, it seems. Not only was Busby in the middle of a manslaughter charge, but the story, the songs and dances are all rip offs of his earlier work (the superior  42nd STREET and FOOTLIGHT PARADE). Not that his movies have any story to start with, but the same old characters in same old situations with the same old massive scenes did not make the grade. Powell, Blondell and the old guard of actors like Warren William are good as usual, but it is Jeanne in her Ruby-Keeler-like-role that is the weak link in the chain. As I already noted, she did not have “it” – no sass, no personality, no elusive quality that makes somebody a star.

Despite her shortcomings, Scranton went mad for the young songstress, and here is an excerpt of what happened on the premiere of the movie:

Hollywood came to Scranton on Aug. 28, 1936. That Friday night, an estimated 6,000 people jammed the downtown streets to welcome hometown girl turned movie star, Jeanne Madden.

The Strand Theater hosted the premiere showing of her first movie, “Stage Struck.” Organized by Warner Bros. Studio and the Comerford Theater chain, it was the first such event of its kind in this city. Rain began hours before and continued incessantly but failed to deter the crowds. Spotlights illuminated the street, and anticipation filled the air.

The crowds were orderly – until the star’s car approached. Then their excitement gave way, and mayhem ensued. Firefighters and police officers formed lines on both sides of the throng to provide a lane through which Miss Madden and her party could walk. But the crowd pushed and shoved the officials. Mayor Stanley Davis, standing in the theater lobby, ordered police to call for additional men.

Several women and children were crushed in the tight crowd, fainted and had to be carried inside the theater, where Dr. Arthur Davis, director of public health, treated them. No one was seriously hurt, and Miss Madden was able to make it safely into the theater.

In the lobby, the star spoke a few words of appreciation to the crowd gathered there. A microphone had been set up for that purpose.

Inside the theater itself, Mr. Davis took the stage to present the hometown girl to her audience. And a girl she was. Born in 1917, Jeanne Madden had graduated from Central High School, where she appeared in many of its theatrical productions. She had a beautiful singing voice, made better through training with Queena Maria, the prima donna of the New York Metropolitan Opera Company. The aspiring actress had left for Hollywood little more than a year before she returned for this premiere.

“Stage Struck” starred Dick Powell as Broadway dance director George Randall and Joan Blondell as Peggy Revere, a wealthy performer with little talent who stars in Mr. Randall’s show only because she is backing it. On opening night, the temperamental Ms. Revere storms out, leaving chorus girl Ruth Williams, played by Miss Madden, to step into the lead role.

At the premiere, Miss Madden took the stage wearing a yellow evening dress of simple lines. She called Ms. Blondell “a peach” and described Mr. Powell as “a fine chap.” Miss Madden thanked the crowd for its “wonderful reception home” and said that she “felt just the same” as when she graduated from Central High School, “only, if anything, a little more nervous.”

“I hope you all like the picture, and I hope you all get ‘stage struck,'” she said, and bowed off the stage. She returned to acknowledge the ovation that the audience gave her, and asked, “Would you like to hear a little number that is very dear to me?” As the audience clapped and shouted, she began to sing “I’ve Done My Work,” a favorite of her father, the late Harry Madden.

The audience delivered a shower of flowers across the floodlights as she finished the song. She chose one bouquet, plucked several buds from it and, before leaving the stage, tossed them in the direction of her mother, who was seated in an upper box.

(taken from this link)

Sadly, the studio brass saw the writing on the wall, and Jeanne’s days as a star were numbered. Talent Scout was the type of film Doris Day would make in the 50s – the female lead is is a feisty but ultimately pure girl out for a career who falls in love and chooses marriage instead. When you can sum up the plot in one sentence like this, it can’t be good, and the movie was nothing spectacular. The fact that her leading man, Donald Woods, is better known as a character actor than a romantic lead today is proof enough.

Jeanne Madden 5Sea Racketeers was that silly, low budget movie Republic Studios made by the dozen in the 1930s, and once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen it all. Nothing extinguished this one, and the leads, played blandly by Jeanne and Weldon Heyburn, sure did not help.

Just when it was clear there was little to no chance of her becoming a star, Jeanne gave up movies to get married and work in the theater. She had her only Broadway credit in Knickerbocker Holiday. This 1938/1939 feature was a political allegory with music by Kurt Weill and was so successful it was made as a movie and had several reruns. Yet, even this did not push Jeanne into a more permanent career on the stage.

After leaving both Hollywood and Broadway, she starred in operas like “Hansel and Gretel,” “The Duped Kadi” and “Secret of Suzanne.” While making Hansel and Gretel in 1940 she made headlines when, after noticing a mouse during rehearsals, her screams were so high pitched people had no idea what hit them.

Jeanne largely retired from showbiz by 1950s, but continued to sing for charity purposes.

PRIVATE LIFE:

One of the first things anyone noticed about Jeanne was how fresh she was, and the papers heralded her wholesome looks. Also of note was her talent of being able to sing so high as too actually shatter glass!

Jeanne was, by all accounts, a prim, proper small town girl, the ideal of every mother in the Mid West. She took her career and education seriously, but when the perfect guy came knocking down, there was no questions about her future plans – she married him!

Jeanne married George Keith Martin on June 3, 1938, in Elm Park Church in  Scranton. They left Hollywood in Late May 1938 for the ceremony and never really came back. Martin was born in 1910 in New Jersey, and proved to be a great choice for JeanneThe press heralded her happy marriage to a painter as early as 1939. 

Jeanne Madden 4Jeanne and Keith lived in a rented home in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1940. Keith served as the director of an art institute there. The papers of the time describe him as “Lecturer: the Institute’s director, husky, 30-year-old Keith Martin, onetime Harvard crewman and portrait painter.”

The Martins marriage lasted for more than 50 years, and they had three sons between them: Harry, Keith and Robert. Keith Martin, born in 1946, became a brigadier in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, and after he left the army found work as the  news anchor at WBRE-TV in Wilkes-Barre. In 2003, he caught the eye of Governor Ed Randell, and became the state’s new homeland security director.

After her mother’s death, Jeanne returned to Scranton to run the family hotel, Holland Hotel, for several years.

Jeanne was highly active in the civic life in Hillslville, Pennsylvania, where they resided from the 1950s. She sang at charity gatherings and taught whole generations of children the art of singing.

Jeanne M. Martin died on January 15, 1989, in Moscow, Pennsylvania.

Her widower Keith Martin died on September 1997, in Luzerne, Pennsylvania.

Renee Whitney

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Renee’s career started in silents, but was truly ignited with the talkies of the Pre Code era. Hers is not a big career, with no meaty and mostly uncredited roles, but she appeared in tons of good films with some very fine actors. Just as it all began with the Pre Code era, It was extinguished not long after the code kicked in July 1934, and she left Hollywood at a young age of 24. 

EARLY LIFE:

Bertha Renee Whitney was born on February 9, 1912, in Chicago, Illinois, to Charles Whitney and Bertha Lehmann, their only child. Her mother was the daughter of German immigrants, born in Nebraska. The family made a series of movies through California during her early childhood, going from Santa Monica, to Venice, and ending up in Los Angeles in the mid 1920s. Her father worked as a manager there, and her mother was a housewife. Renee finished just the first year of high school in Los Angeles before she opted to become an thespian.

In 1930, the family lived with her maternal grandparents and two lodgers in Los Angeles, and Renee was already an established actress by then. That same year, she moved to a rented apartment on the crossing West 1st and Broadway Street in east Los Angeles. Her career had already started, but the best was yet to come.

CAREER:

As I already noted, Renee did not have an exemplary career by a long shot, but managed to appear in a large number of movies in a very short time period, faring much better than some starlets of her rank.

8ac9y2rwxpzr2ywaBelieve it or not, Renee started her career as a teenager in silents (The Chicken Love at First FlightRun, Girl, RunThe Girl from Everywhere). 

Her first sound movie was the Clara Bow classic, The Wild Party. It seems that the “women empowerment” movies became her forte. Those were the movies where women lived freely, were strong and knew what they wanted. Under 18Play-Girl, Week Ends OnlyBaby Face and Winner Take All had female characters in the central roles and tackled issues directly connected to being a woman in the early 1930s. While neither of them is a classic today, they still hold up and have a strikingly contemporary feel about them.

 

Renee than switched her modus operandi to a totally different field, musicals. Her shapely gams sure helped there, and she was cast in a variety of movies as a nameless chorine: The Kid from Spain42nd StreetGold Diggers of 1933Fashions of 1934, and Wonder Bar.

 

In the meantime, she appeared in movies with top stars, like Picture Snatcher (a James Cagney movie), Ex-Lady (and many more with Bette Davis), Journal of a Crime (Ruth Chatterton) and so on. Not to say she was spared from less prestigious productions: Merry Wives of RenoThe Merry Frinks and The Circus Clown were low budget films with second tier actors.

 

Renee1Despite being uncredited most of the time, in about 1934, Renee started to get meatier parts, and her character actually had names! The first was a Busby Berkeley extravaganza, Footlight Parade, and one of the best movies on her list. The Big Shakedown was a soapy melodrama featuring a young Bette Davis, with a predictable plot but it’s far from total ruin. Bedside was a similar movie that uses all the standard melodramatic tropes.  I’ve Got Your Number is one of those vivacious, a bit wicked comedies with Joan Blondell, the type of movies she excelled in. Jimmy the Gent is a wonderfully delightful satire/comedy with Bette Davis and James Cagney, a true classic that lost none of it’s magic. Registered Nurse, Renee’s return to the “strong woman” arena was a ambiguous film that oscillated between serious drama and a zany comedy, and gave Bebe Daniels one of her better roles in her later career.

 

l0tcu2qx7w880lcwReturn of the Terror gave her a try at horror, unfortunately just not a very good one. Side Streets is one of those mature, placid movies Hollywood never made for the money. Not only are the leads, Aline MacMahon and Paul Kelly not typical “Hollywood handsome” actors, the bottom line of the story is that stunning looks can conceal a shallow, vapid personality.
Kansas City Princess is another Joan Blondell witty comedy, and she was paired with Renee’s good friend, Glenda Farrell. Western Courage was her one venture into the low budget western zone. As with most actresses, it did nothing for her career.

 

Near the end of her career, Renee appeared in several shorts – finally, she got the converted female lead role in Counsel on De Fence, a well received 20 minute feature, the first thing Harry Langdon did for Columbia. She did not fare was well in the other two (Stage Frights and Tuned Out), as she was very low on the credits list in both.

 

After averaging more than 10 movies a year, Renee had a severely diminished output after 1934. She was in only four movies in 1935 and three in 1936. The first two made in 1936, Hell-Ship Morgan and Let’s Sing Again, were both B class. It seemed her days of fame were long gone by then, and stardom would elude her.
Her last movie was the classic musical, Show Boat, featuring the highly accomplished Irene Dunne. She retired from the movies afterwards.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Renee hit the press in 1929, and some pretty flattering things were written about her. Originally featured in a pack with 7 other starlets on their way to stardom, at just 17, she did not reach the peak of her beauty – that happened two years later, in 1931, when she was singled out by the prestigious illustrator Henry Clive as the “perfect model”. When a guy who painted hundreds of stunning models says that, one stands up and listens.

3ao7jgce5i3n3icThe press mostly dealt with Renee’s professional life, never mentioning her dating habits, so little is known about that. It was noted she and Glenda Farrell, her frequent co-star, were great friends off screen, nursing each other when they were sick and so on. In 1935, Renee hit the papers again after losing 15 pounds as a result of an appendectomy, and it was noted she was the sweetheart of a mid western steel millionaire.

Renee married a Mr. Klein in about 1936. There is a good chance that Klein was the midwestern steel millionaire mentioned in the previous newspaper clips. If that is so, I assume she moved to his home state and ended her career for good.

They divorced prior to 1940, and she went on to live with her widowed mother, Bertha Lord, in Santa Monica. She was listed as unemployed, and not looking for a job, indicating that she was probably living off her alimony payments.

Renee married for the second time to a Mr. George. Unfortunately, I have no further information about this marriage.

Renee L. George died on September 16, 1972 in Los Angeles, California.

Pat Clark

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There were quite a few “girls about town” who decided to try for an acting career. As most of them had beauty in spades, at least their appearance netted them a contract with a studio. Yet, as most of them were not hard bitten to cling to any chance given to become true working actresses – they lasted only a few short years. Pat Clark was one of these group of women, a true knockout who never amounted to much in her acting career, but made headlines via her private life.

EARLY LIFE:

Patricia Cecelia Clarke was born to George L. Clarke and Cecelia C. Clarke in 1925 in New York City. Her younger brother George E. was born in 1930. Her father was a military man. The family first lived in Orange, New York, and then In cca, 1937 moved to Los Angeles. In 1940, they were living in 756 1/2 Melrose Avenue Los Angeles, California. Pat graduated from high school in Los Angeles, and due to her catlike brand of beauty, found success as a girl about town early, prior to 1944 – she already had a mink coat in 1943, a sign of great social standing back in the 1940s and 1950s. That year she started her social life in the Hollywood circles. Soon, she was touring with the “Room service” show and this pushed her into an acting career with Warner Bros.

CAREER:

Pat has a slim filmography, but quite a few of the movies she appeared in are hidden or forgotten gems worth discovering. Needless to say, she was uncredited in all of her roles except one (let me get to that later).

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20 year old Pat got her first taste of film making in Hotel Berlin. At a time when Hollywood shamelessly belted out propaganda movie of  the “us against them” type, Hotel Berlin tried to shake off that rigid outlook on the morality of war, and showed Germans in a better light, trying to explain that not all of them are Nazis. Of course, it was easy to make this movie when the victory for the allies was definite (and not during the dark days of the war), but the movie tries and succeeds to some degree in it’s cause. The cast is very impressive, made out of highly capable actors stuck in B movies – Faye EmersonHelmut Dantine and Andrea King.

Pat’s next movie was one of the long string of WW2 women empowerment movies, Pillow to Post. Ida Lupino, a true acting dynamo, fittingly plays a woman who can do it better than a man can. This theme of a highly capable working girl at odds with her society role of a homemaker was further explored in Too Young to Know, where it was Joan Leslie who was torn between her GI husband and her career.

Pat was transported to lighter fare by getting a role in Night and Day, a sugar coated and highly dubious version of a Cole Porter’s biopic. When Cary Grant play s a guy who looked more like Quasimodo than James Bond, you know just how over the top it really is.

The Big Sleep, one of the best film noirs ever made, could have been the impulse Pat needed to enter a higher sphere in Hollywood. The role of the mysterious, seductive Mona Maris was perfect for Pat’s general looks and attitude (both were girls about town who seduce powerful men), but due to some executive meddling her shots were deleted and she was replaced by Peggy Knudsen. Neither she nor Peggy went on to have great careers, but Peggy is much better known today and had a filmography several notches above Pat. One often wonders what could have been if Pat’s role was left intact…

372349958_8b5bf5af2ePat made only one more Hollywood movie, Cass Timberlane, basically a story about a mismatched couple played by Spencer Tracy and Lana Turner. He is a straight laced judge living his upper crust life, and she a girl from the wrong side of the tracks spending her days playing baseball, a primarily masculine game. While not as deep and poignant as the book, the movie is still a study of marriage, class differences and societal pressure extorted on every man and woman.

Peggy’s last appearance was in El marqués de Salamanca.a forgotten Spanish speaking movie.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Pat was the typical girl around town when she arrived in Hollywood in 1943. News of her movie career were slim, but the news of her romantic escapades were rich and frequent. In 1944, she posed for a series of columns by Josephine Lowman on how to lead a healthy and happy life. Pat exercised, went to bed early and so on. One wonder if she really that in real life.

5cx60g1uhtf66fuPat’s first conquest was Luis “Doc” Shurr, a very influential agent who discovered Kim Novak among others. In June 1944, they were a solid altar bet, but he left her sometime after August 1944. In November 1944, as a gag she announced she would marry Ali Ipar, later the husband of the evanescent Virginia Bruce. Te newspaper  blew it over and she had to deny it for weeks afterwards. In December 1944, she started going out with producer Bill Girard. He proved to be a more stable man in her life, but it was not a smooth road – in February they had a very public tiffing accident in a club – he went home and she spent time with other men. In April she was seen with the bon vivant Bill Holmes, but was soon back with Girard, dating him all the way to mid 1945. In June 1945, she took up with Steve Stanford.

In January 1946 she was seen with a war hero, Jeff Jones. Not long after, she landed in hospital with an unknown ailment, and as soon as she left the sick ward she snatched the prominent West coast socialite, Dick Brown.

In 1947, she was beaued by Peter Shaw, who was to become Angela Lansbury’s husband. After Dick came Arnold Kunody, insurance man who also dated quite a few pretty actresses (Andrea Leeds being his most famous escort). In 1948, she visited Spain and went back to the States and the arms of socialite Billy Bapst. Yet, Spain stayed in her heart.

In 1950 she was noted a Madrid twosome with Don Luis Dominguez.

In December 1951 Pat finally wed, and wed well she did – her husband became Rene Max Toriel, one of the richest living Egyptians at the time. They met in Paris in December 1950, and Rene followed her to California in September after a long distance romance (allegedly he came to have a good time). He dabbled in the cotton business.

Toriel was born in about 1920 in Egypt. Little was written about their marriage, but it obviously failed spectacularly just months after the ceremony, as by January 1953, she had already ripped al of his clothes into pieces (the start of every marriage drama, it seems). In February they had reached the “I don’t care stage”. In March 1953 she was in New York, and so was Max, but they tiffed again and she stayed with another girl-around-town, Selene Walters, and not him. By mid 1953, Pat was still Mrs. Toriel but dating other men with an alarming frequency.

In 1953, she was seen on oilman Bob Calhoun’s arm. She then made a minor scandal as she slapped a man at a bar who annoyed her. Ditching Calhoun, she took up with Richard Melvin, a so called Florida sportsman (in other words, a wealthy socialite with a hefty inheritance and no day job), who was inconveniently married to June Horne, the ex wife of Jackie Cooper (everybody is connected in Hollywood, one way or another).  Pat was in the middle of a nasty feud between them, but did not give up and  continued to date Melvin for some time after. In August 1953, she was seen with an another wealthy Egyptian, Gaston Hakim (yep, he allegedly owns a few pyramids…Yep, the papers back then sure knew how to be annoying).

Pat_Clark_3She as briefly involved with Lee Trent before taking up with Pierre Lamure, author of the Moulin Rouge book, but by Feburary 1954, they were in a middle of a huge quarrel that had the tongues wagging. Despite their separation, his wife’s many flings did not leave Toriel immune. He also came to blows with Pat’s latest admirer, Wally Berman, in February 1954. Not long after, she got a legal separation in New York and left for Los Angeles. He followed her there, and the two seems to make up,if only briefly.

In may 1955, her furs were stolen and she offered a large reward for their safe return, seeing them in a more nostalgic light than pure garments.

In July 1955, Patricia almost died when she could not exit her apartment after an fire broke out. A broken key in one of four locks designed to keep out burglars was the culprit. Luckily, she survived and recovered quickly. In 1956, she raised some journalistic dust by dating a dashing army colonel (sorry, no name given). He was allegedly the youngest colonel in the army, but she still dated men on the side, notably rich Venezuelan Francisco Diaz.

In 1957 she dated Jimmy Donahue, wealthy heir. Pat continued to generate news in society columns for some time after (she was seen in Chicago in 1957, she was barred from the Mocambo club in 1958 along with a fellow socialite Marian Schaffer, who was sitting a tad bit too close to Pat’s escort, she flew to Los Angeles for two hours just to go for a gown fitting and so on.) That same year she finally divorced Rene Max Toriel in Putman, Florida. In August 1957, she dated Charles Conway, the Ziegfeld Follies producer. The man got around, also dating Dody Marshall in parallel.

Pat Clark Toriel remarried to James Phillips in August 1958. Phillips was a wealthy Wal Street broker, son of Herman Phillips, part owner of the Sherry Netherland hotel. He was divorced from Terry Allen just months prior. Unbethest to the general public, Phillips and Pat had been lovers for a long time by then. He lavished her with jewels. Their daughter Maria Cecelia Phillips was born on June 9, 1959.

In an article for the Observer magazine, published in 1998, Phillips said  that Pat “was kind of a neurotic person” who at one point was “hooked on all sorts of stuff like sleeping pills.”

The same article mentions that Pat died young, but it does not give the exact time and place.

Monica Bannister

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Pretty as a picture and with a solid career, Monica Bannister gave up both her job and her marriage to become an actress. While the dream is sweet, fresh and admirable, it rarely works in real life – her career never got off the ground.  This may sound a little bit harsh and pessimistic, as there is no denying she left behind a stable existential situation for something fickle that failed – she was not  a success as an actress – but there are more important things in life than the way Tinsel town measures people or the illusion of stability. In the end, one can say, without doubt her life would never had been the same if she did not take the plunge – and her audacity was and still is impressive.

EARLY LIFE:

Monica Joyce Bannister was born to Hary F. Bannister and Josephine Hagen on September 8, 1910 in Saskatchewan, Canada. Both of her parents were born in the US. Her two younger siblings were Winifred and Harold.

The family moved to the States via Washington state in 1923. In 1920, the moved to Russellville, Multnomah, Oregon. In 1930 the family was living in Portland, Oregon. Monica graduated from high school in Portland.

In the early 1930s, Monica acted as a manager in a Washington, DC store. In cca. 1932, she went to a vacation in Hollywood, and due to several lucky coincidences, got a movie contract and stayed to become an actress.

CAREER:

Monica’s career spanned more than 10 years and 20 movies, a much better average than most of the starlets on this site. Note that all of her appearances were uncredited but one.

Her debut was one of the worst comedies ever made, Hypnotized, with two blackface comedians in the lead role. Luckily, she rallied through this fiasco and had her perhaps most coveted role, in Mystery of the Wax Museum. She is eerily beautiful as a wax figure, drawing much attention from the viewer. Monica then appeared in a string of top of the line Warner Bros classics like Jimmy the GentGold Diggers of 1933Nothing SacredThe Flying Deuces   and The Great Ziegfeld. I believe these movies need no more introduction. In between however, she was in Pirate Party on Catalina Isle  and The Girl Friend, B class comedies with the lesser known gents like Ann Sothern and Charles ‘Buddy’ Rogers. Monica was also cast in two happy-go-lucky but brain dead Sonja Henie vechicles, Second Fiddle and Thin Ice

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After 1938, Monica was never cast in prestigious productions again. While she worked for a solid several more years, the quality of the movies decreased. Flowing Gold was actually a decent John Garfield movie and a small box office success, but the plot held the good and the bad in equals measures – while the general theme is interesting and unusual, it sinks into the predictable Hollywood fare quickly and falls into all the well known tropes (love triangle and similar) . Garfield plays the same character he does in all his movies – down on his luck tough guy who can survive it all. Frances Farmer is beautiful but cold and distant.

Moon Over MiamiThe Cowboy and the Blonde (where she had her only credited performance) , That Night in Rio were all upbeat musical fare more common to other studios than to 20th Century Fox, but still could parry their MGM counterparts. Despite this, they were not the studio’s bread and butter, and few had any real luck with them, thus pushing Monica further

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off the star wagon.  The rest of her filmography only accentuates this sad fact: she was in the short drama Accent on Love, which nobody noticed despite it’s rather interesting premise, obscure comedy Marry the Bo$$’$ Daughter and one of the Michael Shaye, detective series, Blue, White and PerfectQuiet Please: Murder had the indomitable George Sanders and a lot of psychology involved, but no financial backing nor marketing and ended her career for then.
Surprisingly, Monica did just one more uncredited appearance for Hollywood, three years later, in 1945, when she was long time gone from any hope of being a working actress, in The Picture of Dorian Gray, making her swan song one of the best movies on her filmography. The hauntingly beautiful Hurd Hatfield lingers in one’s mind just as Monica did years ago in Mystery of the Wax Museum. After this, Monica left Hollywood forever.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Monica was a very pretty dark haired girl with a pleasing figure, and was much photographed by the press. Monica was also quite the clotheshorse and her personal beauty advice made several newspapers. In 1936, Dan Sayre Grossbeck, artist, made a perfect beauty from a composite picture of actresses – Monica was one of them, a great honor for any starlet.

cY9i56e40i6ecagoDhHsGgLJo1_500Monica married her first husband, Eugene Willbanks, in ca. 1930. he was a young attache in Washington, DC. The dynamic of their marriage changed drastically after she went to Hollywood in 1932, sand the lived on the other sides of the continent for the next three years. Clearly, Monica favored being an actress to being an Washington DC matron, and the questions pops up, was the marriage even a good one if that was the case, or was Monica overly ambitious? No answer can be given, but her career does not show her to be a throat-cutting businesswoman, and the scales tip towards the first solution.

It was Monica who asked for a divorce in 1935, which was granted in may 1935. Monica started dating again, and in 1936 her boyfriend was Merrill Nye, the set designer who knew his way with the ladies (having dated Eleanor Powell).

Monica got together with Edie Cherkose, a song writer, born in 1913 in Michigan, in early 1937. One thing led to another, and the two married in July 1937. Their marriage, much like their courtship, was very rocky. They separated in 1938, and then reconciled a short time later, but not before she sued him for a divorce for the first time. The reconciliation lasted only a few months – they separated again and divorced for good in 1940.

Monica totally drops from the Hollywood circuit after this. A interesting bit of news was revealed in 1941, when Cherkose tried to phone his ex wife for a casual date, he found out she was married to a Texan fellow two days before. Thus, in 1941, Monica remarried to an unknown man and presumably moved to Texas. I could not find any information about this union. Whatever happened, the two either divorced or her spouse died prior to 1970.

getimageIn the early 1970s, Monica married Johan Heindrich Van Muster. He was born 25 February 1925 in Jakarta, Indonesia to Dutch parents, he emigrated to the US in 1943 and became a naturalized citizen in 1953. He worked as a machinist for ATI industries. The couple moved to Escondido in 1975.

Her husband died in San Diego in 2001.

Monica Van Muster died on June 17, 2002, in San Diego, California.

Juanita Stark

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This early Hollywood sexpot was the type that paved the way for Marilyn Monroe just a short time later, but did not achieve even a fragment of Marilyn’s popularity and ended a complete unknown.

EARLY LIFE:

Juanita Stark was born on June 10, 1921, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Henry Stark, a former noted vaudeville actor, and his wife Wanda Miller, who was Russian born. Her younger sister June was born on June 16, 1925.

The family moved to Amherst, Ohio, and then to Los Angeles after 1930. Henry Stark’s health declined rapidly while in California, and by the time Juanita graduated from high school, she was the main breadwinner of the family by being an waitress in downtown Los Angeles. In 1941, she lost her job amid the start of the war, and was living off 10$ a week unemployment check when a Warner Bros scout noticed and signed her. She was given minor roles right off the bat.

CAREER:

Juanita was a Warner Bros contractee her whole career. Her filmography spans a wide variety of movies, from A class to Z class productions, from comedies to serious dramas.

!BV,T,nwCGk~$(KGrHgoOKi0EjlLmUvDqBKSV6F2cew~~_35After staring off in prestigious movies, Dive Bomber and Affectionately Yours  Juanita was stuck in B movies, The Body DisappearsBlues in the NightThose Good Old Days. Her next features were A movies again, and she had clawed her way her to the top of the uncredited roster, but sadly stayed there instead of going upwards.

There we have a meek John Garfield spy drama, Dangerously They Live , which could have been a a much better with a more able director (for instance, Hitchcock), The Male Animal with the always-relevant message lost in the muddled decision of seeing itself as both a comedy and a serious drama (a very ambitious plan that often backfires), the so-so musical/comedy Always in My Heart. Perhaps the most famous movie Juanita appeared in was Yankee Doodle Dandy, the superb musical with the superb James Cagney. She had a slight decline in movie quality after that: You Can’t Escape Forever, a B movie with the wooden George Brent, and the better The Hard Way, a hard hitting drama about ambition, greed and life choices featuring the unsung queen of Warner Bros, Ida Lupino, and her last worthwhile film for the studio (another great talent wasted!).

She had her first and only leading role in a short western, Oklahoma Outlaws, but as with most movies of this type, she was a mere decoration and the movie flied past the radar. Her career continued in further B movies: Crime by Night and Murder on the Waterfront. While the later movie actually had some moments of good film-making  on the whole it did not make the grade. Like everyone else in Warner Bros, she appeared in Thank Your Lucky Stars for the war relief.

Juanita’s last movie is an interesting if flawed one, One More Tomorrow. As the remake of a top notch precode movie, The Animal Kingdom, it has much to show, but without the biting wit and humor of the original, cut mercilessly by the Production Code.

Juanita retired to become a housewife after 1946.

PRIVATE LIFE:

At the height of her fame, she was a blonde, five feet four and a half inches tall, and weighted 107 pounds. She suffered from stage fright, which possibly limited her career:

SAD little incident took place at the “Meet John Doe” premiere. Juanita Stark, recently signed Cinderella girl, was to make speech at the microphone and be introduced to the crowd as a future star. She bought a new dress, her first evening dress. Her hair was elaborately coiffed. All day long she practiced her speech. Came the important moment. She was grabbed by a Warner publicity man, marched to the mike. She was jut about to speak when Dorothy Lamuor arrived. “Just a minute” they told Juanita. She stepped back while Dotty told the crowd how glad she was to be there ect ect. Then Gary Cooper arrived. Then another celebrity. After 20 minutes of shifting from one foot to the other, the Cinderella girl slipped unnoticed into the theater.

Juanita was promoted heavily in the press as a luscious, sexy doll with come hither, sleepy eyes and a knockout figure. She was pictured in provocative pose while doing mundane things – sunbathing, playing tennis, talking to fellow starlets and so on. She was also a regular at fashion spreads, showing off her carriage in a whole palette of modern clothes. Great things were predicted for her in terms of a career.

r2586She was allegedly offered a role in the hilarious comedy, Arsenic and the old lace, early in her career, but broke her foot just prior to the start of the filming. While she is listed in the credits, in reality she is nowhere to be found in the movie. It took her some time to recover, and this time perhaps dampened the impulse she had as the newest Hollywood Cinderella.

In the mid 1942, Juanita joined the Hollywood caravan, made out of highly distinguished industry names that toured the US to sell war bonds (Alexis Smith, Dennis Morgan, Errol Flynn and many others). She was very active in this caravan. As the papers took great notice of what they did, she was constantly photographer talking to patients, making trips to hospitals and so on.

Juanita suffered a great tragedy during WW2. She was dating the son of comedian Joe E. Brown, Don Brown, in 1941. He was drafted to the army, and could not contract her directly any more. He asked if he might call when he got another leave and she said yes. A few days later she received a call from another officer, who explained that his pal had suddenly been shipped overseas and had given him her telephone number. He asked for a date. She wasn’t too enthusiastic about it, but finally agreed. His name was John Le Blanc, and they became engaged. Shorty after, Lt. LeBlanc was sent to Guadalcanal and was in the thick of things for three months. On the day he was given his leave to return home, he wrote Juanita the good news. An hour later he was killed – crushed by a US tank that wet out of control during routine maneuvers. As a double tragedy, Don Brown also died in 1942.

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This is the official story and it’s possible the dates and names are wrong, but the fact is that Juanita lost her beloved to war. To add to her distress, her long time sick father, Henry Stark, died of a paralytic stroke just months after her fiancee, in May 1943.

Despite all the pain, Juanita moved quickly and my June 1943, she was already engaged to wed an another soldier, Vyrnwy Enos Jones, born in 1917. They wed later that year and she left Hollywood to move to his ranch in Kern County.

Her son, Dennis Morien Jones, was born on February 13, 1944 in Kern County, California. He became a noted surfer and even had a brief Hollywood career during the surfer movies craze in 1965.

Vyrnwy Jones died on May 27, 1983. Juanita remarried in in the 1990s.

Juanita Stark  died in cca. 2002.

Her sister June died on August 7, 1997.