Archive for November, 2017

Jim Nabors 1930 – 2017

Thursday, November 30th, 2017

“It’s pretty obvious that we had no rights as a couple, yet when you’ve been together 38 years, I think something’s got to happen there, you’ve got to solidify something. And, at my age, it’s probably the best thing to do.” — Jim Nabors, on his same-sex marriage to life partner Stan Cadwallader in 2013

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Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first guest star

Saturday, November 25th, 2017

The Hollywood Christmas Parade, which takes place on Sunday evening in Hollywood, is its 89th year (except for three years during World War II) with Grand Marshall Mehmet C. Oz, M.D. and other celebrities, marching bands and of course, Santa Claus.

The ‘Santa Claus Lane,’ formerly Hollywood Boulevard during the Christmas season of 1928 at Highland Avenue.

The first parade, held on December 5, 1928, was known as “Santa Claus Lane” and featured Santa and Jeanette Loff (a last-minute replacement for Lili Damita), a Hollywood starlet. That evening, crowds thronged Christmas-tree lined Hollywood Boulevard (rechristened Santa Claus Lane) from Vine Street to La Brea Avenue. With Jeanette Loff, Santa Claus drove his reindeer-drawn sleigh east on the brilliantly illuminated course to La Brea, and returned over the same route.

The “parade” continued every evening during the Christmas season with a different prominent film player (Lili Damita showed up the following evening) each night.

Jeanette Loff poses on Santa’s sleigh for the first “Santa Claus Lane” parade in 1928

However, Jeanette Loff, the first starlet of what is known today as the Hollywood Christmas Parade, is probably little known today. At the time of the first Santa Clause Lane, Loff had appeared in twelve films since 1926, working her way up to costarring parts in Hold ‘Em Yale (1928) with Rod La Rocque, Annapolis (1928) with Johnny Mack Brown and Love Over Night (1928), again with La Roque.

Jeanette Loff was born on October 9, 1905 (most records claim 1906), in Orofino, Idaho to Marius and Inga (Loseth) Loff. Studio publicity claimed that her father was a famous Danish violinist, but he was in fact a barber and later a farmer.

Photo from Lewiston High School, Idaho in 1922. Arrow points to Loff.

Attempts by Pathe to make Loff a star.

After living for a time in Wadena, Canada, the Luff’s relocated to Lewiston, Idaho. After her high school graduation, the family moved to Portland, Oregon, where Jeanette enrolled at the Ellison & White Conservatory of Music where she learned to play the pipe-organ. When a local theater needed a pipe-organ player, Jeanette got the position. She worked her way up to playing at bigger and better Portland theaters.

Loff’s nude photograph by Edwin Bower Hesser.

Loff’s discovery in Hollywood is open to several versions. Whatever her introduction to films, in 1926, with her extremely wholesome looks, she earned a bit part in Universal’s The Collegian series followed by another extra part in Young April (1926) a film for Cecil B. DeMille’s company at Pathé, where she was put under contract.

DeMille cast her in two Westerns, followed by leading roles in the two films with Rod La Rocque. Over the next few years, she costarred in several good, but not outstanding films. At some point during her early career, she also posed for nude photographs.

Scene from The King of Jazz (1930).

Shortly after appearing as the first actress to ride in Hollywood’s premier Santa Claus Lane, Loff was brought to Universal to audition for The King of Jazz (1930), a possible million-dollar film they were producing. Executives were doubting their original choice for an important leading female role when producer Paul Bern arranged for her to audition. In the audition, she sang the number, “The Bridal Veil,” in a clear lyric soprano that impressed producers to give her the part.

In 1929, Loff’s parents had divorced, and her mother Inga and two sisters, Myrtle and Irene, moved to Los Angeles (her father, Marius, remained in Oregon until his death). That same year, Jeanette was also divorced from her first husband, traveling jewelry salesman Harry Roseboom whom she had secretly married in 1927. She reportedly had affairs with Gilbert Roland, Paul Bern–who tried unsuccessfully to cast her in a film–and lyricist Walter O’Keefe.

After making three more films over the next year, she grew tired of Hollywood and moved to New York, struggling to find stage roles, appearing only in the short-lived Broadway musical, Free for All, which closed after twelve days.

St. Louis Woman (1934), Jeanette Loff’s failed attempt at comeback.

In 1933, she returned to Hollywood when she heard that Universal was planning to re-release The King of Jazz. Thinking it would revive her career, she accepted the leading role in St. Louis Woman (1934) with Johnny Mack Brown (she also worked with Brown in Annapolis) for a poverty row studio. The film did poorly, but she made two shorts and three more films that same year, none of them money-makers. Her last film was Million Dollar Baby (1934) for Monogram Pictures.

From then on, she retired from films. In 1935, she married liquor salesman, Bertram “Bert” Friedlob. The following year, Friedlob produced Bert Wheeler’s Hollywood Stars in Person revue and included Loff in the cast.

Her marriage to Friedlob was rocky; he was a womanizer who had affairs with Lana Turner and many others.

702 North Crescent Drive, Beverly Hills where Jeanette Loff ingested ammonia. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. DO NOT disturb the residents)

On August 1, 1942, Loff ingested ammonia at her Beverly Hills home at 702 North Crescent Drive; she was treated for mouth and throat burns at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital where she died three days later. Loff was only 35.

Jeanette Loff’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

 

The coroner was unable to determine if her death was accidental or a suicide. Reportedly at the time, she was suffering from a stomach ailment and accidently took the wrong bottle of medication.

However, wouldn’t she have noticed the ammonia smell? In any event, her death certificate called her death a “probable suicide.” Surprising, some in her family maintained that she had been murdered, but never publicly offered proof.

Jeanette Loff’s niche at Forest Lawn’s Great Mausoleum. Her sister Myrtle is interred with her. (Find-a-Grave)

 

Jeanette Loff, the Hollywood Christmas Parade’s first hostess, was cremated and interred at Glendale’s Forest Lawn in the Great Mausoleum (Protection Columbarium).

Bert Friedlob later produced several films including The Star (1952) with Bette Davis and Tyrone Power’s Untamed (1955). Friedlob died in 1956.

 

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Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Thursday, November 23rd, 2017

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David Cassidy 1950 – 2017

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017

“It is difficult to be famous and that successful where you can’t even walk down the street without people chasing you, and having people build monuments to you and worshiping you – all that stuff – but I never took that to a place where I believed it. I saw it as being temporary and a phase.” –David Cassidy

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Sir Guy Standing’s mythical death

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

One definition of a myth is a popular belief or story that is associated with a person, institution, or occurrence. Hollywood, the land of make believe, is full of myths – and this is one: Actor Sir Guy Standing died from a rattlesnake bite while hiking in the Hollywood Hills.

Sir Guy Standing was born on September 1, 1873 in London, the eldest son of actor Herbert Standing and his wife Emilie, and one of several actor brothers (Wyndham, Herbert Jr., Percy and Jack Standing) to appear on stage. His acting debut was in Wild Oats at London’s Criterion Theatre, using the name Guy Stanton.

His first New York acting job was at age 19 as Captain Fairfield in Lena Despard at the Manhattan Opera House. In 1897, he joined Charles Frohman’s company at the Empire Theatre, where he appeared in several plays.

Guy Standing as a young stage actor.

Among the plays he appeared in before World War I were, The Sorceress, Mrs. Leffingewil’s Boots, The Duel, Hedda Gabler, with Nazimova in 1907, and a tour of The Right of Way in 1909. After seventeen years in the States, he returned to England for four years to appear in a steady run of plays.

Standing returned to the United States in 1913, and appeared in Daddy Longlegs at Chicago’s Powers Theatre. Afterward, he signed a contract with Famous Players to star in the film, The Silver King. While preparing for the film, World War I broke out. He asked Adolph Zukor for permission to break his contract, thinking he would come back soon.

Returning to England, he offered his services, which eventually included membership on the British War Mission to the United States. He also served as a commander in His Majesty’s Navy in the Dover Patrol. For his performance of these duties he was created a Knight Commander of the British Empire in June 1918 by King George V.

The Story of Temple Drake, from left, Sir Guy Standing, William Gargan carrying Miriam Hopkins.

In November 1925, after an absence of eleven years, Standing returned to the American stage in The Carolinian, at New York’s Sam H. Harris Theatre; two years later he appeared with Ethel Barrymore in The Constant Wife.

His stage work continued until 1932 when he met Albert Kaufman of Paramount while on tour in Los Angeles. This led to a contract for his film debut at the age of 60 in The Story of Temple Drake (1933), with Miriam Hopkins. Other films followed: Death Takes a Holiday (1934), The Witching Hour (1934), The Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1935), Lloyds of London (1936), and his last film, Bulldog Drummond Escapes (1937). He was planning to revise his role as Col. Nielson in the next Bulldog Drummond film, Bulldog Drummond Comes Back (1937), at the time of his death.

Standing took an active part in Hollywood social life as president of the Malibu Lake Club, and boasted that his baseball team, The Paramount Cubs, was the only one in the world with a British president.

Standing was married three times, first in 1895 to Isabel Urquehar, a stage actress, who preceded him in death. The second, Blanche Burton, also died before him. His third wife was Dorothy Hammond (died 1950), an actress and the mother of his three children, Guy, Jr., Katherine (Kay Hammond)–both actors–and Michael, the first live BBC cricket commentator and live radio commentator, among other accomplishments.

The building was originally Hillcrest Motor Company, a car dealership. The second floor, which now houses a Marshall’s, was where the automobiles were parked. The first floor, the site of Standing’s death, is now a souvenir store. (click on image to enlarge)

On Wednesday, February 24, 1937, Standing was at the Hillcrest Motor Company at 7001 Hollywood Blvd. (across from the Roosevelt Hotel) to make a payment on his car. He was chatting with a salesman and was asked how he felt.

“Excellent,” he responded. “In fact, I never felt better.”

A moment later, his legs gave out and he was on the floor clutching at his chest and writhing in pain. He never spoke another word.

Doctors arrived from Hollywood Receiving Hospital and administered adrenaline and other restoratives, but he failed to respond. Standing died a few minutes later. His body was taken to the hospital where his brother Wyndham filled out the death certificate. Afterward, he was removed to the Le Roy Bagley Mortuary (5440 Hollywood Blvd. – demolished) pending funeral arrangements and word from his wife who was in London.

Close friends at Paramount claimed his death was related indirectly to a black widow spider bite he received two years earlier on location for The Lives of a Bengal Lancer. Standing apparently responded to treatment but took the poisoning lightly, according to friends.

Shortly before his death he complained of having leg pains and he walked with a limp. For whatever reason, he neglected medical help, feeling he would recover. The New York Times consulted an expert at the Bronx Zoo who said it was difficult to believe that the cause of Standing’s death was indirectly connected to the insect bite he received two years earlier. He said that he had never heard of a person dying of either a black widows bite or even a snake bite so long after the infliction of the wound. Perhaps this is where the myth of Standing’s death from a snake bite originated. Later reports, and Standings death certificate, noted that the actor died from a heart ailment.

Sir Guy Standing’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

Standing’s funeral was held the following Sunday at St. Stephens Episcopal Church’s (6129 Carlos Street) chapel where more than 250 friends heard Dr. Philip Easley read the ritual. Pallbearers included Philip MacDonald, Henry Herzbrun, Nat Deverich, Christopher Dunphy, Albert Kaufman and Bayard Veiller. At the same hour, employees at Paramount Studios bowed their heads for a five minute period of silence and prayer.

Sir Guy Standing’s grave marker at Grandview Cemetery.

Newspapers reported that Standing’s body would be returned to London for burial, however, that never happened. Instead, Sir Guy Standing was buried at Glendale’s Grand View Cemetery (His son, Guy Standing Jr. is also buried there, reportedly in an unmarked grave). His father, Herbert Standing, died in Los Angeles in 1923, and his cremains are in a vault at the Chapel of the Pines.

Sir Guy Standing did not die from a rattlesnake bite as many biographies state (Imdb lists his death was from a rattlesnake bite). Nor did he die from the bite of a black widow spider as some friends noted after his death. Is that how the myth began – progressing from a spider to a snake bite over the past eighty years? We may never know.

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Richard Dix’s Childhood Home

Saturday, November 4th, 2017

dix-portrait

..1208 Raymond Avenue, St. Paul, Minnesota.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence–DO NOT DISTURB THE OCCUPANTS.

Richard Dix as a boy

The St. Paul house still stands. Dix inspected it in the summer of 1929 when he spent a week in St. Paul. The apple tree in the yard was bearing fruit, but it was a taller tree than when Dix last plucked a green apple from it.

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