Archive for January, 2013

Patty Andrews Obituary

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013

OBITUARY

Patty Andrews dies at 94; Andrews Sisters’ last surviving member

.

 

 

The lead singer of the group that entertained U.S. service personnel overseas during World War II dies at her home in Northridge. She announced the war’s end in 1945 to troops at a concert in Italy.

 

By Rebecca Trounson
Los Angeles Times
January 30, 2013

 

They were the swinging, sassy voice of the homefront for U.S. service personnel overseas during World War II, singing catchy hit tunes such as “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” and “Rum and Coca Cola” that delighted Americans and catapulted the Andrews Sisters to the very top of the pop charts.

.

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Patty Andrews

__________________________________

Marsha Hunt on Anthony Dexter

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

INTERVIEWS

Marsha Hunt talks about her friendship with Anthony Dexter

 .

Marsha Hunt

.

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Yesterday, January 19, was Anthony Dexter’s 100th birthday. In celebration here is a repeat of an article I posted more than three years ago about Marsha Hunts friendship with the actor.

 

.

I was first introduced to Marsha Hunt by Margaret O’Brien while working on the book I wrote on her career (Margaret O’Brien: A Career Chronicle and Biography). A few years later I renewed that friendship through my late friend Jimmy Bangley. On occasion we would visit with her and talk about Hollywood and watch old films at her Sherman Oaks home.

 .

Marsha Hunt, who was equally at home with light romantic comedy or heavy dramatic roles, first appeared in films in 1935 in Paramount’s The Virginia Judge. Her later work at MGM included Pride and Prejudice (1940), Lost Angel (1943) and Smash-up, the Story of a Woman (1947). Her film career came to an abrupt halt due to the communist witch hunt of the late 1940s and 1950s.

 .

Though blacklisted, Marsha appeared on stage and occasional television roles over the next few decades. She has been seen in Matlock, Murder She Wrote and as an alien in one of my favorite shows, Star Trek: The Next Generation. She recently appeared in the short film, The Grand Inquisitor (2008) playing the widow of a possible serial killer.

 .

Since 1980 she has been the honorary mayor of Sherman Oaks and in 1993 she wrote, The Way We Wore: Styles of the 1930s and ‘40s, a book filled with fashion, film history and inside Hollywood stories.

 .

Marsha Hunt and Allan Ellenberger

Marsha Hunt and me the night we talked about Tony Dexter

 .

When I began researching my book on Rudolph Valentino (The Valentino Mystique), I learned that Marsha appeared in a Sacramento production of the musical, The King and I, playing the role of Anna with Anthony Dexter as her King. Dexter, of course, played the silent film idol in the 1951 bio-pic, Valentino, so one evening several years ago, I asked Marsha what she thought of Valentino and about working with Tony Dexter. What follows is her response:

 *****

 .

“Of course I remember Valentino. By the age of eight I had already seen The Sheik and his films with Vilma Banky. Valentino smoldered, didn’t he? That was fine with me. I got his message loud and clear, even at a young age.

 .

“I remember when Valentino died. There were two deaths that summer – my grandfather and Rudolph Valentino. I remember everyone being concerned and upset because one person had died and that was really quite awesome to me. That was probably the first indication of the scope of fan-hood — of hero worship — a matinee-idol-kind-of-madness that could sweep a country.

 .

“As for Tony Dexter, I first met him when he was the King and I was Anna. Do you know the story of my doing The King and I? I had never found the courage to do a musical. I had sung in half a dozen movies but nobody knew it was me. They assumed that I’d been dubbed by a singer. They sort of thought ‘if she could sing she’d be a singer so this must be somebody else’s voice.’

 .

“It was 1958 and I was in New York in a Broadway show at the time (The Tunnel of Love with Johnny Carson). Musicals and straight plays have different matinee days so actors can go see each others shows. So on one of those matinees, I was finally able to see The Music Man (with Robert Preston) and there sitting behind me was Russell Lewis and Howard Young, the producing team of the Music Circus Theatre in the Round in Sacramento. They had asked me over the years if I would do a musical and I always said ‘no thank you.’ I had done my only tour play with them when they produced T.S. Elliot’s The Cocktail Party, which I did with Vincent Price and a wonderful cast – Estelle Winwood and some great people.

 .

“So there was Lewis and Young sitting behind me at The Music Man and we went backstage to see Bob Preston together. And then they walked me to my theatre because there wasn’t time to go back uptown until my evening show, and the entire way they were giving me hell and saying ‘Marsha, you are the most cowardly person we know. You are afraid to do a musical and you have just seen and heard what an actor, who is not a singer, can do on stage.’

 .

“And of course they were right. Bob Preston was absolute magic. And I was so spellbound by Preston and what he had done that I said ‘yeah maybe so,’ and they said, ‘well you’ve seen it – you heard what an actor can do with a singing role. Now will you promise to do something for us this summer?’ And in my weakened condition I said yes. And they held me to it.

 .

“So when I got back home they said ‘Okay, what’s your show — what are you going to do for us?’ And I didn’t know, but it seemed to me if I didn’t make history as a singer, that it better be a good acting role, and the best acting role I knew in a musical was Anna, so I suggested The King and I, and they made me do it. And that’s how I became involved in the play and first met Tony Dexter.

 .

“One of the first things that struck me about Tony Dexter was – and I don’t mean that it was obtrusive – but he didn’t have an ego. And I was amazed during rehearsals, this Anthony Dexter, who had played Valentino; larger than life, you know, macho man dramatic hero of all womanhood, didn’t seem to have an ego.

 .

.

 .

“He was conscientious and professional and terribly nice, but I saw none of the ‘me first’ quality that the King was made of. He was playing the King and ruler of all that he surveyed, and I found myself wondering in rehearsal how Tony Dexter was going to succeed as the King. But he was an actor and it all came true in his performance as rehearsals progressed. He grew muscles of ego as well as insistence on having his way. I was so proud of him for not imitating (Yul) Brynner — there was nothing of Yul in his King; he found  his own King. He was awfully good.

 .

“I knew that he had played Valentino so I can’t honestly say whether I would have noticed the resemblance or not. I was busy trying to ‘de-Valentino-ing’ him in my mind and seeing him as the King of Siam. He wore Asian makeup to a degree – he was bronzed in that wonderful Pacific-colored skin that isn’t brown and isn’t yellow. Its Filipino — it’s a wonderful bronze shade. And he was superbly built. He did just fine in what minimal costuming he had.

 .

“We rehearsed for a week and then performed the show for a week, and that’s it. And if they took pictures they never sent them to us. He sang surprisingly well. I remember, of course, the moments of friction and attraction that happened between the King and Anna and the “Shall We Dance” routine was wonderful as a number. It was such an experience together because there were all types of magic going on between us.

 .

“For my costume, I was given Gertrude Lawrence’s hoops which were made of steel and were five foot in diameter in graduating size, and linked from one hoop to another so they all stayed equidistant from one another. Then I started twirling, and those hoops got their own momentum, they went like holy blazes. And there is Tony – poor Tony, barelegged – and through the layers of my thin petticoats, the steel hoops cut grooves into his shinbones – its not very upholstered at your shin bones, and he was bleeding by the end of our dance so they had to cover the widest link with padding so he got bumped but not cut.

 .

“We had almost no time together except in rehearsal and I didn’t get to know him then, but he was clearly a nice man as well as intelligent, and as I said, no ego. What surprised me was hearing from Tony out of the blue well after the show had closed. He would call me maybe once a year in the 1960s and 70s. And he just wanted to chat. It was so sweet. He knew I was married, so he was making no pitch. But I was so complemented that he remembered an experience we briefly had of intense work together, and wanted to renew our acquaintance.

 .

“And then after Robert (Marsha’s husband, screenwriter, Robert Presnell, Jr.) died I began to hear from him maybe three to six times a year. He was living alone and he must have been very lonely. He called just to chat. I remember my beloved friend John Anderson, a wonderful character actor, who lived just a few blocks away. The Andersons and Presnells used to do things together. We’d go to screenings at the Academy, or out to dinner — we were very fond of them.

 .

“Then Robert died and the Andersons looked after me. And we did things as a threesome and then Pat (Anderson) died of emphysema and that left John and me. We were such good friends and one time I asked him ‘Did you every know someone named Tony Dexter?’ And he said, ‘What made you think of that name?’ I told him that Tony had called earlier that day and wondered if he knew him. He said, ‘That’s amazing because I also hear from him occasionally (they made a movie together).’ So I don’t know how many people Tony called, but every now and then he called John Anderson as well as me. Now maybe we’re the only two people he did call but John was so touched that Tony just wanted to visit.

 .

“Anyway, Tony had a thing about the film I made with Greer Garson, Pride and Prejudice — he adored the film and he adored me in it. Every time it ran he had to call me and say so. And there’s nothing I could say about it. He would just carry on about my Mary. He treasured that performance.

 .

The Way We Wore

 .

“I sent him my book (The Way We Wore) because he was so devoted, and there wasn’t anything else I could do for him. I had a sense that he was lonely, and I just thought he might enjoy it. Well, he went to pieces over it and he said he was now the big man on his block — that all his neighbors and friends was dropping by to ripple through some more pages and catch up. They loved the book and he was so grateful.

 .

“Then, he did a really touching thing. He looked up my birthday and sent me a twenty dollar bill. To send me money on my birthday — I found it so touching. I wanted to send it back because I had a feeling things were probably pretty tight for him and twenty dollars made a difference, however I felt it might hurt his feelings so I kept it and told him I had a splendid dinner.

 .

“I never saw him in person again after we did The King and I — we only spoke on the phone through out all those years. I think he developed a mild crush on me because in his letters and cards he began to sign his name rather romantically. And he left sweet messages at Christmas time, sending me cards and things. It was so dear. Never until I was widowed though, because he was quite conscientious about that.

 .

“But I liked him and I thought it was a pity that a man that nice and that gifted – at least from the one thing I saw him do — wasn’t having a better time toward the end. I would ask him how he was feeling and he’d make light of it, but it was clear he was not in the best of health or spirits, and so we’d talk for a long time — as long as he wanted to because I thought it mattered to him. And that’s all I can tell you about Tony Dexter.”

 .

Anthony Dexter died on March 27, 2001 in Greeley, Colorado.

 _______________________________

 …

Anthony Dexter’s 100th Birthday

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

100th BIRTHDAY

.

.

AMERICAN ACTOR

.

.

Click here to watch Anthony Dexter in a scene from Valentino (1951)

_____________________________

Danny Kaye’s 100th Birthday

Friday, January 18th, 2013

100th BIRTHDAY

.

 

AMERICAN ACTOR

.

 .

BREAKING NEWS: January 18 was noted as the 100th birthday of comedian Danny Kaye. This morning (January 20) on TCM they are honoring Kaye by showing his films all day. Their special guest is Deana Kaye, Danny’s daughter. She just announced that her father’s actual year of birth was 1911 yet he always claimed it was 1913. Even his death certificate has 1913 so they decided to honor him with his wish to celebrate it on that year. She said that she has no idea what those two years meant to him since by Hollywood standards if you’re going to fudge on your birth year, it’s usually by at least 10 years.

.

Click here to see a clip of Danny Kaye in The Court Jester (1955)

________________________________________

Conrad Bain Obituary

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

OBITUARY

Conrad Bain dies at 89; played father on ‘Diff’rent Strokes’

 

 

 

Conrad Bain was also an uptight neighbor on ‘Maude.’ When he was cast in the role, he had two decades of New York theater behind him.

 

By Valerie J. Nelson
Los Angeles Times
January 17, 2013

 

While portraying the white millionaire father on the hit TV sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes,” Conrad Bain was often asked whether he enjoyed working alongside such scene-stealing young co-stars as Gary Coleman, who precociously played one of his two adopted black sons.

.

Click here to continue reading the Los Angeles Times obituary for Conrad Bain

_________________________________

Peggy Shannon at Hollywood Forever

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

HOLLYWOOD FOREVER CEMETERY

.

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

On Broadway, she was a Ziegfeld Follies girl and successful ingénue, enough so to have Hollywood take notice.  Once considered the successor to Clara Bow, the titian-haired Peggy Shannon, a pretty actress whose appearances in major roles gave her the potential for stardom, ended her life in heartbreaking loneliness.

.

Peggy Shannon was born Winona Sammon on January 10, 1910 in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. As a child, her interest in music led her to study the piano and violin. She hoped to be a teacher until Madge Evans came to Pine Bluff on a tour promoting her line of hats. “I was only about 10 and knew then I wanted to be in show business,” Peggy recalled.

.

In 1924, her mother Nancy took her and her sister Carole to visit their aunt in New York, who happened to live in the same building as Goldie Glough, the secretary of Florenz Ziegfeld, who was preparing a new Follies show. Goldie told Will Page, a press agent for Ziegfeld, about Peggy’s beauty and he had her pose for publicity pictures with Ziegfeld.

.

“It was just a stunt, but I didn’t know it then,” Peggy later recalled. “They took me to Ziegfeld’s New Amsterdam offices and photographed me, curls, silk gingham dress and all, with Mr. Wayburn and Mr. Ziegfeld. The next day newspapers carried the story form Ziegfeld’s office that he had signed an Arkansas newcomer. They said I could be in the chorus for a while, more to justify their story than became they wanted me.”

.

She appeared in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1924, along with Will Rogers, Lupino Lane and Mary Nolan (also buried at Hollywood Forever). After one season, Earl Carroll hired her for his Vanities of 1925. She kept busy during this time, modeling during the day, then after appearing in the Vanities she joined the floor shows at Texas Guinan’s.

.

In 1926 Peggy married actor Alan Davis. The following year Earl Carroll put her in the ingénue lead in What Anne Brought Home opposite William Hanly and Mayo Methot. For the next three years she appeared in comedic roles for William Brady, a noted producer who planned to make her a star.

.

That would all change when B.P. Schulberg, the head of production at Paramount saw her in Napi on Broadway and signed her to a contract. It was during this time that Paramount was recruiting many Broadway actors for film, including Sylvia Sidney, Claudette Colbert and Miriam Hopkins.

.

.

Within four days of her arrival in Hollywood, Clara Bow had her second nervous breakdown. Peggy was summoned into Schulberg’s office and was told she would replace Bow in her next picture, The Secret Call (1931) opposite Richard Arlen. “The interview was very brief,” Peggy said of her meeting with Schulberg. “He sent me away telling me I had many things to do as production started the next morning.”

.

She read the script and was impressed by it and somewhat staggered by the realization that the role was the most important in the film, and the longest. That meant learning hundreds of speeches. But she discovered that films were different from the stage. “I didn’t have to learn the entire role at one time,” she said. “I could study it every night and keep ahead of production.”

.

Peggy admitted that the assignment frightened her. “Frankly, I was scared,” she said. “I expected to be taken out of the cast any minute. I couldn’t believe that such a wonderful break had come to me. I kept thinking, ‘That’s some other girl with the same name. It really can’t be me. And if it is me, I’d better keep my enthusiasm under control.’”

.

Paramount’s advertisement for The Secret Call called Peggy “The new Clara Bow,” “The successor of the ‘It’ girl,” “Greatest find of the year” and “Clara Bow’s redheaded rival.” The film did well at the box-office however the reviews were lukewarm. The New York Times reported that Peggy would “be remembered as the young lady who succeeded Clara Bow, when that actress became indisposed. Miss Shannon is attractive, but The Secret Call does not present many situations calling for much more than a gentle stroll through its various scenes.”

.

Peggy made four more films for Paramount and a few independent films, including False Faces (1932) in which she had some good scenes with Lowell Sherman. Leaving Paramount, she signed a contract with Fox in February 1932 and appeared as a nightclub singer in The Painted Woman (1932), opposite Spencer Tracy. She was billed as Tracy’s first romantic lead. The New York Sun reported that Peggy was “improving” but Fox executives disagreed and dropped her option.

.

.

She worked as an independent in such films as Girl Missing (1933), directed by Robert Florey and Turn Back the Clock (1933) with Lee Tracy. Peggy’s career was beginning to lag and second rate films followed such as Fury of the Jungle (1933), The Back Page (1934) and The Fighting Lady (1935).

.

In late 1934, Peggy decided to return to Broadway in Page Miss Glory with newcomer, James Stewart. “James Stewart and Peggy Shannon are amusing as one of the bums and his fiancée,” wrote the New York Evening Post.

.

Then it was back to Hollywood and Universal where Lowell Sherman directed her in the lavish production of Night Life of the Gods (1935). Next it was off to Warner Brothers in the Perry Mason who-done-it, The Case of the Lucky Legs (1935). Still not happy, Peggy returned once again to the stage to do The Light Behind the Shadow. Unfortunately Peggy was replaced early in production, reportedly due to a tooth infection but rumors were that it was due to her drinking, a habit she was quickly developing.

.

After another failure on Broadway, Peggy reported to Republic for a film with Marian Marsh. Then it was Girls on Probation (1938) for Warner Brothers. The film co-starred Ronald Reagan and was notable as Susan Hayward’s first film.

.

In mid-1938, Peggy and a female companion were involved in a car accident with another driver receiving lacerations on her nose and cuts on her legs. It was rumored that alcohol was involved. Friends in the business tried to help giving her small roles but in some cases her drinking would get in the way. One of her last films was Café Hostess (1940) for Columbia.

.

In 1940, Peggy decided to end her fourteen year marriage to Alan Davis. She declared that he struck her on one occasion at the home of actress Wynne Gibson, who testified for her friend that he struck her “over something very inconsequential.” She added that because of her husband’s disinclination to work she had to support him as well as herself during their marriage. “He was just lazy—he played all the time,” she told the judge.

.

Several months later, in October 1940, Peggy married cameraman, Albert “Al” Roberts in Mexico. They set up housekeeping at 4318 Irvine Street in North Hollywood, along with their German Sheppard, Spec. By now, Peggy was forgotten by the studios and seldom received offers, causing her to drink even more.

.

.

In early May 1941, Roberts and his friend Elmer Fryer left for a few days on a fishing trip. When they returned on Sunday, May 11, Roberts found Peggy slumped dead across the kitchen table with her head on her arms; she was barefoot and clad in a sun suit. A cigarette, burned to the tip of her fingers, was in her right hand. Three glasses and a soft-drink bottle found in the sink were turned over to the Coroner to check for traces of poison. Peggy Shannon was 31. She was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery a few days later without much fanfare.

.

.

Roberts was devastated by Peggy’s death. He was afraid that someone might think he had something to do with her death. In a conversation with Detective William Burris, Roberts said, “Bill, you’ve got something on your mind. You don’t suspect me of Peggy’s death do you?” Burris assured him that was not the case and he was merely awaiting the report of the autopsy.

.

“Well, Bill,” Roberts told him, “if you have anything on your mind, get it off, because you won’t see me again.” Burris asked what he meant and Roberts told him that he was going to commit suicide. “I told him not to be like that,” Burris said, “that he had had one too many.”

.

Three weeks after Peggy’s death, in the early morning hours of Memorial Day, May 30, 1941, Roberts took Spec to visit Peggy’s grave at Hollywood Cemetery. Afterward he returned to his home on Irvine Street and wrote three notes: one to ‘those concerned’ and two to his sister Phoebe, who lived in Glendale.

.

At about dawn he called his sister and said he was going to kill himself. “Al, don’t do it,” she screamed into the phone. Suddenly she heard a shot and then, the barking of the dog. When police reached the house, Roberts was dead. A rifle was found near the body. In one hand he still grasped the telephone receiver. His body rested on the same chair where he had found Peggy’s body; like her, his head had fallen forward on the table. Two empty liquor bottles and two soft drink bottles were on the table. Nearby Spec lay whimpering.

.

This home, at 4318 Irvine Street in Valley Village (formerly North Hollywood), is where

actress Peggy Shannon died and her husband, Albert Roberts committed suicide.

(PLEASE NOTE: This is private property. Please DO NOT disturb the residents)

.

In his note Roberts wrote:

.

“It happens that I am very much in love with my wife, Peggy Shannon. In this spot she passed away. So in reverence to her you will find me in the same spot. No one will ever understand, as it should be. Why don’t you all try a little bit harder—it wouldn’t hurt, I can truthfully say for both of us. Adios amigos. Al Roberts.”

.

In a note to his sister, he expressed bitterness against those who he said, had feigned fondness for his wife during her lifetime. Although he doesn’t name them, it sounds like he could be referring to family members:

.

“To Phoebe. If you have to ship the stuff to China do it. They can never prove what I have done with it. Spec and I went out to the cemetery around 1 a.m. They talk so much about her flowers for Memorial Day. Well, they have never been near the grave. Mrs. Ross and I put on fresh flowers as much as we could, but them dirty leeches, they wouldn’t take her a pansy but they would take her clothes and say they love her more than life. But you stress that, honey. You know how Peg supported them. Any denials just ask them to prove how they lived all these years. Al.”

.

In a second note to his sister, Roberts expressed concern for his dog, Spec.

.

“You take Spec,” he wrote, “and ship him to Johnny. If you don’t I will never forgive you. I promised him that. All five have said they could not be bothered with him. I know Johnny and he will be great pals. Peggy has said so time and again. So, please, take him, ‘our child’ and send him on. He certainly is entitled to that. With love Al. P.S. Hey, bury me in my gray suit. Al.”

.

The following day, the coroner released the results from Peggy’s autopsy. Her death was apparently caused by a combination of low vitality, run-down condition and a heart attack. “A chemical analysis has not yet been completed by the Coroner,” a police representative said, “but examination so far shows no traces of poison or any bruises or marks.”

.

Ironically, Albert Roberts’s body was not laid next to Peggy’s, but was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale. Whether it was the decision of his family or Peggy’s to not have them be together, is not known.

.

A few weeks after Peggy’s death, her mother hired  private detectives and attorneys to investigate deeper into her daughter’s death. Nothing apparently came of their search.

.

.

Peggy Shannon’s grave at Hollywood Forever is near the southern border of Section 5 in plot 31, grave 4. Her pink tombstone is inscribed “That Red-Headed Girl, Peggy Shannon.” Her mother and sister are buried nearby.

_______________________________________

 …

Lloyd Bridges 100th Birthday

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

100th BIRTHDAY

.

.

AMERICAN ACTOR

.

  • BORN: January 15, 1913, San Leandro, California
  • DIED: March 10, 1998, Los Angeles, California
  • CAUSE OF DEATH: Natural causes
  • BURIAL: Cremated, ashes given to family

 .

Click here to watch clips of Lloyd Bridges in Airplane

________________________________

.

Loretta Young’s 100th Birthday

Sunday, January 6th, 2013

100th BIRTHDAY

 

 

 

 

AMERICAN ACTRESS

  • BORN: January 6, 1913, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • DIED: August 12. 2000, Los Angeles, California
  • CAUSE OF DEATH: Ovarian cancer

Click here to watch a scene from “The Farmer’s Daughter
with Loretta Young

______________________________________