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.

 

 

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Gwen Kenyon

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Blue collar, hard working girl who made it in Hollywood on her sheer willpower, Gwen Kenyon never made a classic nor carried a movie, but outdid many other starlets who gave up too soon or never believed they could succeed. While she did retire at a young age to raise a family, she still has over 50 movies under her belt and a few leads to warrant her at least a small degree of cinematic greatness.

EARLY LIFE:

Margaret Gwendolyn Kenyon was born on January 22, 1916, in Los Angeles, California, to William S. Kenyon and Margaret Spencer. Her mother was a former actress who retired prior to marrying her father. Her older sister Thelma was born on October 24, 1901. her parents were both from Michigan and came to California sometime in the early 1910s.

Gwen grew up in Los Angeles, with Hollywood just around the corner. Unfortunately, her parents divorced when she was but a girl, and she became the sole caretaker of her family by the time she was 12 years old, supporting herself and her mother. She did all sorts of odd jobs: selling candy, helping actors and actresses with their fan mail, working asa doctor’s receptionist, as a nurse, and finally as a theater usher. All this while still attending high school! To add to her list of chores, soon she was doing all the paperwork and keeping the books in theater. Her mother was bed ridden and Margaret also had to keep the household. She credits this with teaching her how to manage her time and be very efficient.

On the side, she did some ballet dancing and dreamed of becoming an actress. After graduation, she danced in a theater, and was noticed by a talent scout who persuaded her to enter the motion picture world.

CAREER:

Gwen was an extremely proactive woman at the time most women were expected to be gentile, passive and pliant. Taught by her grim childhood experiences, she took every chance that landed her way with both hands and fought tooth and nail for her roles. Fittingly, she was physically stronger and more robust than the average delicate actress, and was often photographed doing exercises for the papers, more than any other starlet of the times.

GwenKenyon3The story goes that she nagged the gate man at MGM to let her trough and finally she sneaked in when he was answering his phone. This spunky move got her a chance to become a chorus girl. Without any experience, she answered casting calls to sing, dance and even sky dive. She was really one of a kind!

Gwen appeared in more than 50 movies during her 10 year career. Thrill of a Lifetime is the typical musical where the back story is absurdity itself but the musical numbers are well made and make the movie. And, typical for this type of movie, the lead often ends up the least interesting part of the exudation. Who would even look at Lief Ericson (handsome but never a good actor) when you have luminaries like Eleanore Whitney, Yacht Boys and Ben Blue on the screen?

Bulldog Drummond’s Revenge, a input into the Bulldog Drummond series, is again centered over the bad guys attempt to thwart Bulldog’s marital plans (the explosives they are carrying are secondary to this, the most malicious of all deeds). Poor Phyllis Clavering, always waiting for Bulldog and always the bad guys appearing just before she is about to catch her prize. Joking aside, it’s a solid entry, with John Barrymore, generally a superb actor, giving a good performance as one of the good guys. Bulldog is finely played by the handsome John HowardDaughter of Shanghai is a movie very important or minorities and women in Hollywood – it features an Asian leading lady! Anna May Wong, the alluring siren seen in more than 60 Hollywood movies, gets a rare opportunity to play the lead. One can forgive the movie even if it’s not a master piece (due to the story and the characters), but it ends up a surprisingly well made film. Good plotting and very good acting roster make it an unique experience for not only B movies but female lead movies.

True Confession is a interesting blend of black and screwball comedy, with Carole Lombard playing the first prototype of a scatterbrained wife. Wells Fargo  is an unusual western about the early riders of the  US Post Office. Featuring the off screen life couple, Frances Dee and Joel McCrea, it’s quite realistic for the time and worth your money.

The Buccaneer is a typical Cecil DeMille film – historically inaccurate, with lavish production values, large cast and technically well made. Frederic March, while not the best choice of actor to portray what is basically a swashbuckler character, still does a decent job. The Big Broadcast of 1938 is one of the Broadcast series of movies, a flimsy excuse to showcase the studio talents like Bob Hope, Martha Raye, Dorothy Lamour and so on. Scandal Street is a forgotten movie.

GwenKenyon2Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife is a superb Ernest Lubitsch movie. While the verdict about the movie is well divided, I for one loved it and it figured much better than some of his other movies, like Design for Living. Cocoanut Grove is a nice little musical with Fred MacMurray showing he can do comedy easilyYou and Me is a scramble of opposing movie genres – crime, musical, melodrama, propaganda… And so on. Made by the great Fritz Lang and Kurt Weill, the bottom line was that crime does not pay, but the results are mixed. Worth watching, if nothing to see how an experimental mainstream movie looks like.

Tropic Holiday is a light and funny musical with Fred MacMurray. Sing, You Sinners, with a highly misleading title, is actually a above average Bing Crosby musical. Thanks for the Memory is a typical Bob Hope comedy of the era, quick on the wit and banter and hardly a master piece. The enchanting Shirley Ross is a welcome addition to any movie, including this one.  Say It in French is a breezy, elegant comedy farce, sadly forgotten today.

Artists and Models Abroad gave Gwen slightly more prominence (she plays Miss America and one can actually take note of her!) but it’s still a lightweight, simple Jack Benny comedy. Similarly, St. Louis Blues is another lightweight but amusing musical.

Disbarred is a thriller made after a book by the man himself, Edgar J. Hoover. The studio made a few of those, and this one is worse off than the rest, being an uninspired, dull movie. While the premise was an original one at the time (crooked lawyers and how they damage the society), it’s laden with cliches and the script writing is sub par.

Cafe Society is a typical social disparity movie, pitting the high class Madeleine Carroll (always a welcome sight for sore eyes) against the working class Fred MacMurray. King of Chinatown is one of the Anna May Wong movies of the time, usually with the same cast and similar characters (mostly Caucasians portraying Asian characters). I’m from Missouri is one of the many Bob Burns comedies, Bob playing his usual Midwestern hick. Unmarried, a tearjerker with moment of prize fighting mixed in (yes!) is more notable as one of Helen Twevetrees’s last movies than any artistical achievement.

GwenKenyon1Dancing Co-Ed is one of those movies anyone watched not for the sumplistic story, but for the impressive roster of supporting players (brace yourself – Ann Rutherford, Lee Bowman, Artie Shaw, Richard Carlson, and the list goes on!). Lana Turner, while no big actress, is her usual charming self and makes it worth a passing glance. All Women Have Secrets is a mediocre drama about the woes of college kids. Free, Blonde and 21 is a female heavy movie, following the lives of girls who live in an all girl hotel. Each actress is typecast to her usual fare (Lynn Bari as a B class Claudette Colbert, Mary Beth Hughes as the bad girl and so on…) so no big surprises here.

Turnabout is truly the proof how even not so sterling movies can become embedded into one’s brain. With an unusual story line and a few talented actors (Adolphe Menjou, Carole Landis) it raises above it’s own mediocre quality. This is a phenomena rarely seen in Hollywood, so it’s worth watching for that alone.

Under Age, about teenage delinquency shows that even early in his career, director Edward Dmytryk was a rule breaking man – even under the heavy eyes of the censors, he pulled so much delicate questions under the radar (including prostitution). Not a well know movie today, but an interesting one worth watching. You’ll Never Get Rich is a classic Rita Hayworth/Fred Astaire movie, and one of the most remembered movies on Gwen’s resumee.

Niagara Falls was one of the many Hal Roach vehicles for his special favorite, Marjorie Woodworth – and all went kaput without fail. While not a waste of film reel, the mundane, simplistic movie only reveals how Marjorie was never more than adequte as an actress, and never gives us enough of the true comedic talent, Zasu Pitts.

Confessions of Boston Blackie,  one entry into the long running series, was described like this by a review: “Interesting plot has to do with the missing body of the dead man and how it was accomplished with a phony statue. The story follows the usual Boston Blackie formula and this one is not quite on the same level with the first Blackie film. Still, for detective fans, it manages to move briskly within its short running time.”

Man from Headquarters is a movie in the genre typical for the early 1940s, a crime movie that’s not a comedy but that some elements of it. A typical high budget time waster, easy on the eyes but nothing to rave about. Lawless Plainsmen is a low buget western that finally gave Gwen a leading female role.

So’s Your Aunt Emma!  is an interesting movie if nothing else – a moronic plot plot was saved from total ruin by Zasu Pitts’ sweet character. Despite it’s paper thin budget, it’s a very enjoyable little comedy mixed with a bit of film noir.

What to say about The Corpse Vanishes? Read the summary and judge for yourself: A scientist, aided by an old hag & her two sons – a malicious dwarf and a brutish moron, kills virgin brides, steals their bodies, & extracts gland fluid to keep his ancient wife alive and young.

GwenKenyon7Shorts gave Gwen a chance to show more of her talents thanin full lenght movies. She made How Spry I AmCollege BellesPiano MoonerSocks AppealTwo SaplingsA Maid Made MadBlonde and Groom, Quack ServiceHe Was Only Feudin’. While shorts are all forgotten today, at least she had some exposure to the general public back then!

Cosmo Jones, Crime Smasher is a low budget crime movie, not better or worse than al the others like it. Sarong Girl, one of the few movies by stripper Ann Corio, is a notch better than one would expect for such a programmer quickie –  a silly but endearing plot, great comic turn by Irene Ryan, an appearance of comic Mantan Moreland and nicely done musical numbers. The direction and editing is brisk and well done.

Gals, Incorporated is basically a long string of band performances with a thin story squeezed in between numbers (like many musical of the era).  Wintertime is a Sonja Henie movie (which you know I adore :-P), so no comment about that.

Riding High is Dick Powell’s last movie for the studio, and one of his dullest. Thus begins the last period of Gwen’s career, and by far the most succesful. Tornado is a finely scripted, surprisingly well made disaster movie with a touch of Cecil B. DeMille in it.

Phantom Lady is a special kind of movie. Not known outside a narrow circle of film noir aficionados, it’s still a compelling, interesting piece of work. Reasons? Several! First and foremost, it was made by Robert Siodmak, a director well versed in German expressionism.

As one reviewer wrote: “Siodmak’s use of sex, light, shadows, and music is truly remarkable as he tackles this genre. The shadows, lighting effects, and camera angles are all effective. But the highlight of the film takes place in a nightclub with a very sexual drum riff by Elisha Cook, egged on by an excited Raines. It’s this scene that brings “Phantom Lady” into new territory.” Performances by Ella Raines and Franchot Tone elevate the acting quality above the usual B fare. While it’s not a film noir classic, it has plenty to offer.

GwenKenyon8Charlie Chan in the Secret Service  is one of the technically most advanced from the Charlie Chan movie series, nt to be missed by any fan of the detective.

The Great Mike is a forgettable family movie about a boy and his racing horse. Three Is a Family, a wartime woman’s picture, was only midly amusing and gathered no laurels for anybody involved.Here Come the Waves is notable for pairing Bing Crosby and Betty Hutton, and a decent pairing it is, but the movie is not a top achievement for neither. Still, Gwen has a prominent role in this one, certainly a uppity compared to her previous minimal assigments.

Yet, just when she started getting billed parts, Gwen made her swan song in 1945, named The Cisco Kid in Old New Mexico . It’s a below average entry into the Cisco Kid series, with Gwen playing the female lead. Perhaps she could have embedded herself into the world of low budget westerns, but she rather chose to retire and devote her life to family matters.     

PRIVATE LIFE:

In 1937, when she was only 21 years old, Gwen dated David Niven. Niven, while not particularly handsome, was suave, with a butter like voice and knew his way around women. Sadly, he was also a firs class philanderer who played the field. Of course, the romance ran its course a short time later.

GwenKenyon5Gwen’s second serious Hollywood beau was Glenda Farrell’s cousin, Dick Farrell, but that too did not last long. Next was Buddy Westmore of the famous Westmore make up clan. In late 1938, papers were abuzz with the stories that Gwen will marry Robert Heasley of Beverly Hills, but the two never did get to the altar (but they were engaged for a few months).

Gwen then became a notch on the belt of Artie Shaw, who dated them all (and married many of them!). A more serious and mature relationship was John Howard, handsome young actor. The were pretty close in early 1941, but as most Hollywood romances, it fizzled out before reaching the matrimonial stage.

Bill Orr, agent extraordinaire, was for a time also serious about Gwen and even told pals the two were altar bound. The romance was serious and blossomed for a time, but by1942 they had broken up.

Gwen married Morton Scott in July 1943 in the Shatto Chapel of Los Angeles First Congregational Church in a 150 people ceremony. Her sister Thelma was the maid of honour. The couple honeymooned in Santa Barbara and went to live in Studio City.

Morton Scott was born on January 17, 1912 in Los Angeles. He graduated from Stanford University. He worked for the Republic Studio and composed musical scores mostly for B class westerns.

Gwen gave up movies not long after the marriage, in 1945. Their only child, Gayle Scott Kenyon, was born on February 1, 1946.

Gwen’s husband died on April 15, 1992, in Santa Barbara, California.

Gwen Scott died on October 18, 1999, in Montecito, California.

 

Ellen Hall

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

EARLY LIFE:

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

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

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

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

CAREER:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PRIVATE LIFE:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Patti McCarty

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Patti McCarty was for a short period of time Hollywood’s favorite Cinderella, the girl who rose from very humble beginning to become a potential star. And she remained just that – a potential star that never amounted to much. Despite this, her story is a valuable example of a woman that lived independently her whole life and always took care of herself, never asking nor waiting for a man (or indeed anybody else) to do it for her.

EARLY LIFE:

Patricia “Patti” McCarty was born on February 11, 1921, in Healdsburg, California. I could not find the names of her parents or what they did for a living. Healdsburg is such a diminutive city hat  only a few can locate it on the map, making Patti a small town gal.

In 1930 she was living as an inmate in Healdsburg, (inmates are people who live in either a hospital or a jail, but I have no idea what a 8 year old girl like Patti was doing in such places).

Patti went to high school in Covina, California, and studied typing and shorthand. She enrolled into Los Angeles City Colledge, but had to quit in her sophomore year due to lack of funds and went to work as a typist.

In late 1939, Patti and her boyfriend, both with a crush on the Hollywood lifestyle, went to Ciros despite the high price of drinks (75 cents a drink, quite a sum in those times) in hopes of meeting some prominent actors/actresses. The gamble paid off, and one night they met Dorothy Lamour, a huge star back then. Dorothy liked Patti right away and offered her a job as her personal secretary. It started as a part time job for a few weeks, but grew into a full time job as Patti proved to be more than capable of coping with the demands of the position.

And it was not an easy job by any means. In later years, Patti used to say how more than 100 letters came in monthly with all kinds of nutty demands – numerous men trying to marry Dorothy, asking for a lock of her hair and so on. Patti answered every and each fan mail, always typing something different and always being considerate but firm in her refusal to grant the trivial wishes.

Patti’s good looks plus her efficiency as a secretary quickly put her in the spotlight. She mingled with the Hollywood elite and as Dorothy’s personal friend, went out with her often. Dorothy actively tried to push for her to become an actress. Nothing concreete happened until she met Glenn Ford, a handsome young Columbia star. They started dating, and puff, the press gave her much more coverage than usual. This, of course, led to a movie contract in 1941.

CAREER:

In a great twist of fate, Patti’s first foray into movies was The Star Makerexactly what she got from Paramount. It’s another one of those biopic movies that shows nothing about the true character of the person it portrays – but it’s fun, nice and breezy and features Bing Crosby. Also, she was credited, not something that many girls who broke into movies based solely on their looks can say.

Patti1Under Age an early Edward Dmytryk movie, was clearly made more to shock and less to achieve artistic value, and t’s a pity a movie dealing with issues of juvenile delinquency and its aftermath (something Hollywood does not touch too much upon and prefers to avoid), melts into a sub-par movie. She Knew All the Answers and Adventure in Washington are totally forgotten movies today, in which she was uncredited. She again had no credit in Blondie in Society but at least the movie is one of the best entries of the Blondie series and worth watching today

Prairie Stranger was the third part of a western serial about Dr. Steven Monroe, and gave Patti a chance to act in a leading lady role. As per usual, low budget westerns need pretty and bland leading ladies – this one is no different. You’ll Never Get Rich is perhaps Patti’s best known film, and appearing opposite Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire (together!) is not something a large number of people can pride upon.  While not the best movie for either star, it’s a well made, solid musical with a few all time classics.

The rest of 1942 went by in a flurry of uncredited roles. The Officer and the LadyBeyond the Blue HorizonWake IslandHere We Go Again and Let’s Face It were almost like stepping stones she had to do to get to a higher level, an obligatory education to graduate. Neither movie is well remembered today, but on a positive note, she acted with her former employer, Dorothy Lamour, at last once.

Many girl never make it out of the extras bulk, but Patti had both the luck and at least talent enough to get to the next level. Starting in 1943 and all the way up to 1946, she was active as a leading lady or at least a strong support.

Patti2Two westerns of dubious quality again had her as a lead – Death Rides the Plains and Fighting Valley. While I am pretty critical to serial B westerns (I’m definitely not a fan, but that’s just me), it’s impossible to deny that they have a solid group of fans today and these roles may be the reason at least somebody knows of Patti in the 21st century. Pretty soon, Patti profiled herself as a western heroine, and made several movies, parts of highly “prestigious” serialsDevil Riders (Billy the Kid), Fuzzy Settles DownGunsmoke MesaGangsters of the FrontierRustlers’ HideoutTerrors on HorsebackOverland Riders and Outlaws of the Plains. If nothing else, Patti was quite busy and undoubtedly achieved some recognition, a much better alternative to being an extra in A class productions.

In between her bread and butter western roles, she appeared in various other B class movies usual for the period – mostly horrors. Isle of Forgotten Sins is an older the top Edgar J. Ulmer mosh, but still quite watchable, if only for the great female cast (Gale Sondergaard and Veda Ann Borg).  Bluebeard is a proper horror thriller, not a master piece by a long shot but not the worst movie you could find either.

Patti cut her career in 1946, right after the war – I am quite unsure why, as she was still appearing as a lead in B westerns and could have pushed for at least a few more years in that line of work. I guess she had her reasons.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Patti was quite popular in the early 1940s, first due to her position as secretary to a mega star, and then as an actress. When she went on her very first public relations tour, she came with with 5 marriage proposals and one adoption offer! Her Cinderella story was endlessly repeated in the papers and a great future was predicted for her in 1941. She failed to reach that potential, but she did enjoy a period of “fame” as we can call it.

In 1940, she dated Preston Foster, who used to date Dorothy (what a weird love triangle: boss, ex-boyfriend, secretary).

Patti’s only premier beau during this time was Glenn Ford. They dated, on off, from 1940 until early 1943. In the meantime, there was no shortage of willing escorts: the all American boy, Tom Harmon, took her out several time sin the summer of 1941, and so did the publisher Walter Hutshut. During her peak years in Hollywood, Patti stayed surprisingly grounded and never forgot her rough childhood and where she came from – she and Blake Carter  pooled funds in August 1941 and hired a drama coach for a Los Angeles charity school where pupils were trying to stage a play.

Patti5Patti lasted as an actress until 1946, but then saw the writing on the wall and decided to change careers. She moved to Honolulu, Hawaii and started a new life far away from the spotlight. Going back to her roots, Patti found work as a receptionist and juggled between 27 doctors.

In 1957, Patti came back for a brief visit to the States, and her presence in Los Angeles was even noted in the papers! This was the last time we find any information about her. In the 1960s and 1970s,  her days of fame long gone, she lived a quiet life on the beautiful island.

Despite her short burst of popularity and good looks that made her highly sought after, Patti never married (or I could not find any proof otherwise – but I know for sure she died unmarried).

Patricia McCarty died on July 7, 1985 in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Paula Stone

 

Paula1 A true female pioneer in low budget western movies, Paula Stone never managed to outgrow that male dominated genre to become a proper dramatic actress. Lacking in substantial roles, her career ended after just a years in Hollywood. Luckily, she expanded her expertise on other mediums: radio, television and the theater, and pretty soon she became a businesswoman worth admiring!

EARLY LIFE:

Paula Beach Stone was born on January 20, 1912,  in New York City to Fred A. Stone and his wife, Allene Crater. Paula came from a very interesting family, as both of her parents were people in unusual occupation of that time.

Her mother, Allene Crater “Allie” was born Dec. 28, 1876 at Denver, CO, the fourth child of George E. and Alverah Hatten Crater. She had two brothers, Clarence L. and George Edwin, Jr. (a prominent international lawyer) and a sister Edith. Edith was married to the novelist Rex Beach. Edith and Allene were very close.

Her father, Fred Stone, was well.. Maybe it’s best to quote Wikipedia on the issue:

Fred Andrew Stone (August 19, 1873 – March 6, 1959) was an American actor. Stone began his career as a performer in circuses and minstrel shows, went on to act on vaudeville, and became a star on Broadway and in feature films, which earned him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Allene and Fred’s first daughter, Dorothy, was born on June 3, 1905 in New York. Paula was born while her father was touring the Midwest (he was in Duluth, Minnesota that very day). A telegram was send to him, congratulating him for the perfect baby girl who was born in 2 pm, weighting seven and a half pounds. The doctor was very happy with the progress of the baby, and called her one of the healthiest he had ever seen. Paula was born in the West Street home  of Rex Beach, since Edith helped Allene during her pregnancy. Fred was immensely proud of his new daughter. As the tour continued, everybody wanted a piece of information about Paula, and she was often mentioned in the newspaper columns, making her a mini celebrity almost from the moment she was born.

Paula’s younger sister, Carol Montgomery Stone, was born on February 1, 1915, in New York. In 1920, the family lived in Dobs Ferry, Westchester, New York, with Allena’s parents and two servants from Ireland, Anna Lynch and Catherine Freany.

Paula’s career started early. From Wikipedia:

Stone made her debut in May 1925 at the Illinois Theater in Chicago, Illinois, in Stepping Stones. She was 13 years old. Her sister Dorothy made her stage debut at 16. Dorothy performed with Fred Stone at the Globe Theater inManhattan, in Criss-Cross in December 1926. Stone was then 14 and training to be a stage actress within two years. Her first ambition was to be a singer like her mother. Another sister, Carol, was 12. She also aspired to go into theater work.

Stone appeared with Fred and Dorothy in Ripples, a show which debuted in New Haven, Connecticut, in January 1930. The first New York show of the same production came at the New Amsterdam Theater in February. Stone and her father teamed in Smiling Faces, produced by the Shubert Theater owners in 1931. Mack Gordon and Harry Revel wrote the music and lyrics. The musical had its first night in Springfield, Massachusetts.

She did find time to graduate from high school in the meantime, but opted to become a professional actress right away instead of attending college.

Paula and her parents settled in Hollywood in 1935, where all three sisters and their father tried for an acting career.

CAREER:

Paula had a very powerful spring board into Hollywood, appearing as the female lead in the very first Hop-a-long Cassidy movie. While the franchise only got major popularity later, after several movies, making William Boyd a western legend in the league of John Wayne, Paula will be remembered chiefly for this achievement among old movie buffs. Needless to say her role is a decorative one, asking nothing more than to look pretty.

PaulaStone5Hitting the western stride, she was cast in Treachery Rides the Range, a musical-western with Dick Foran. Moslty, nobody gets anything positive out of Dick Foran movies except for Dick Foran. In a nutshell: When Paula was in westerns of dubious quality, she was given leads. When she was in B class movies, she was a third tier support. Two Against the World, a Humphrey Bogart low budgeteer, proves this. While a step up from her usual western fare, she’s almost invisible in a small role. The movie itself is decent and the cast is very good, but it got her no new fans. The Case of the Velvet Claws, a Perry Mason movie with our favorite precode cad, Warren William, continued the trend of putting Paula in heavy support.

Trailin’ West, another western, had her as a female lead. If you squeeze your eyes and pretend it’s not set in the 19th century, it could have been a 1930s crime movie – we have all the ingredients – a secret agent (believe it or not, even back then!), a corrupt bad guy and an actor giving some minot comic relief. Too bad it’s a ridiculous movie all around, with secret agents behaving like headless chickens.

Paula was given a slightly bigger than usual part in the poverty row production, Red Lights Ahead. While not a complete waste of reel, it’s far from a good piece of work. Even it’s dirt poor production values could have been overlooked if the story and characters made sense – which they don’t. Paula plays one of the lazy, good-for-nothin’ grandchildren ff the main character who desperately tries to get rich. Sound familiar? Oh yeah…

Fred-Paula-Stone-35Paula’s next tow movies were programmers where the acting parts are less important than the main plot point: Swing It Professor is a musical over saturated with swing music, with a new song appearing every five minutes and a mildly boring story, (but showcasing Paula’s fabulous tapping abilities!) and Atlantic Flight is all about then famous pilot Dick Merrill and his flying skills. The Girl Said No is a weird movie but not  a bad one. it even semi successfully mixes a few genres and features a plot you don’t see everyday in movies. Paula is prominently featured in it, so it’s a plus. The story concerns a bookie who tries to reap revenge on a chorus girl by any means necessary, and all this mixed with a generous dose of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.

Skyline Revue was a short comedy movie, made form a vaudeville skit, and who better to act in it than the daughter of one fo the best vaudeville comedians, Fred Stone. Convicts at Large is a movie that illustrated exactly what’s wrong with most low budget quickies – there DULL. They often have decent stories and even more often good actors, but were made like a pedestrian project, something done by the dozens daily. While I do understand that after years and years of making quickies one develop an “automatism mechanism”, the end results lose much of it’s quality and charm. This one made Paula’s career no favors.  

PaulaStone2Idiot’s Delight was actually a A grade, prominent production, Paula’s first. When the cast is headed by Clark Gable, Norma Shearer and Edward Arnold, no more information is needed! Yet, while the movie is a standout in Paula’s career, I still put it in the “could have been great” category. The allegorical story does have that special magical touch and the cast is superb, but it never manages to quite catch the true grit of Sherwood’s play, the criticism of the man and the female, and the true meaning of the impending war). It ended a movie with an almost carefree flair. This often happens when plays are translated to screen, as movies are a medium that seeks more lightweight than the theater. Coincidentally, the movie was made in 1939, considered the best year in Hollywood ever, and got drowned in the mass of superior works.

Laugh It Off is a low calorie but endlessly charming musical, and a fitting end for Paula’s movie career. Her contract expired and she ventured into other areas, namely television, theater and radio, and was very successful in many of her endeavors. According to Wikipedia,

Stone toured in You Can’t Take It With YouIdiots Delight, and other plays. In November 1940 she was cast with Marcy Wescott for the Dennis King musical show. It debuted at the Forrest Theater in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Stone took singing lessons. She was hired by WNEW in West Palm Beach, Florida, to broadcast the news and gossip of Broadway to servicemen. She wrote the scripts for this program and later secured her own show on the Mutual Radio Network. In 1950 she hosted Hollywood USA. The show related entertainment news and she interviewed celebrities. In 1952 her broadcast was known as The Paula Stone Program. She was affiliated with the Mutual Broadcasting System in 1954.

Kudos to Paula and the sheer expansiveness of her professional life! Her last credited performance was a TV appearance in Play for Today in 1971.

PRIVATE LIFE:

Paula’s best friend in Hollywood was actress Patricia Ellis. They were about the same age and both were talented actresses that never got to top tier. In August 1937, Paula announced she was to be married to George Walker Mason, a Hollywood nightclub operator.  Unfortunately, they broke off their engagement in October 1937, citing their busy schedules – she was working hard to become a star and he running his cafe.

PaulaStone4Paula met orchestra leader Duke Daly in mid to late 1938. Duke lived the drifter’s life, going from hotel to hotel with his orchestra and constantly touring, mostly on the east coast, and officially living in Miami, Florida. Yet, the pretty Paula enchanted him so much he suddenly decided to buy a house in Beverly Hills and make it his permanent home. They were an active Hollywood couple, rubbing elbowed with the likes of Constance Moore and her husband Johnny Maschio and agent Henry Wilson and his escort, Joy Hodges.

After a couple of months of courtship, Paula married  Duke on July 16, 1939 in Los Angeles, California ia. To sum it up:

Announcing that they would wed Sunday afternoon, Paula Stone, actress daughter of Fred Stone, and Duke Daly, orchestra leader, applied for a marriage licence. They disclosed they will have to combine their honeymoon with a business trip. Te wedding will take place next Sunday afternoon in the chapel of the Wiltshire Methodist church and will be performer by Reverend Willie Martin. The honeymoon destination depend on Daly’s gig – either Washington or Oregon.
After the marriage ceremony there will be a reception at the bride’s home in Beverly Hills. Bridesmaids will be the bride’s friends, her sister Carol, Patricia Ellis, Ann Shirley and Natalie Draper. John Payne will be the best man.

Duke was born as Linwood Alton Dingley in 1910 in Portland, Maine, son of George Dingley and Louella “Lulu” Dingley. He was married once before, to Dorothy J. Edwards, in 1932. He lived with his first wife in Portland, Marine, before moving to California for his career. He and Dorothy divorced sometime in 1936/1937. Daly had a minor Hollywood career, appearing in the movie Swing Hotel as a band leader.

PaulaStone1They moved next door to John Payne’s house in Los Angeles, and Paula noted she was not ready to give up her career. Unfortunately, there was no honeymoon as Duke left his bride just days after the ceremony to go on tour – they would only be reunited during the Christmas holidays and take their honeymoon then. Th marriage continued in this vein for another year, with Duke constantly touring and Paula working in Los Angeles. Their opposing schedules left no room for a quality marital life. Since Duke was never home, at one point in 1940 Paula even left their marital home to live with her parents in their Beverly Hills home, along with her two sisters and brother-in-law. In December 1940, not surprisingly, they separated. Friends and family intervened, and they reunited in January 1941.  From then on, the marriage went on smoothly.

WW2 was raging by now, and young men either joined the army voluntarily or were drafted one by one. Paula’s husband, Duke,  joined the Canadian RAF in late February 1942.

Paula was active in Hollywood, doing radio shows and broadcasting Broadway and Hollywood chatter, partially to have something to do while her husband was away at war. She also occasionally went out casually with an old friend currently on a furlough, namely Jackie Cooper. A mean columnist criticized her for taking Jackie out when her husband was throwing bombs over Berlin. Instead of trying to understand that she in all probability tired to keep her mind of her husband’s status and in the process help a friend in need and give him some good time.

And there were reasons to be worried over Duke’s fate. He went missing in action in September 1942, and caused much heartache for his family, but was saved and continued to serve in Europe. Sadly,he was lucky once, and never again. He died in Europe, from unknown causes, on May 13, 1943, at the age of 33.

PaulaStone3Paula was clearly in mourning and deeply distressed for a time, but as time went by, managed to resume her life. In late 1944, she met Michael Sloane, a publicity agent, and the two hit it off right away. They married in 1946. By this time, Paula was finished with movies and worked in other mediums extensively. Michael was a wonderfully supportive husband who loved to see his wife flourish and gave her much support.

Their daughter Paula Stone Sloane was born on May 15, 1948. The Sloane family maintained a happy and stable home life for the decades to come. There were no news of marital tiffs, and Paula was as devoted a mother as she was a successful businesswoman.

Paula Beach Sloane died on December 23, 1997 in Sherman Oaks, California.