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.
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.
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 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. Lumberjack, Range 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.
It 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.
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.