Monday, March 12, 2018

Carole Lombard

"I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick." ~ Carole

Carole Lombard was born Jane Alice Peters on October 6, 1908, in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When she was five her wealthy parents divorced and she moved to California with her mother and two brothers. A director saw her playing baseball and cast her in the 1921 film A Perfect Crime. Soon after she dropped out of high school to pursue an acting career. Carole got small parts in movies like My Best Girl and The Campus Vamp. In 1926 she was involved in a serious car accident that scarred her face. Luckily she was able to resume her career after having plastic surgery. She signed a contract with Paramount and starred in numerous screwball comedies including Nothing Sacred, Twentieth Century, and Swing High, Swing Low. Carole became one of Hollywood's most successful actresses and was earning more than $100,000 a film. She married actor William Powell in 1931 but they divorced two years later. Carole started a romance with singer Russ Columbo and it was rumored they planned to marry. Tragically on September 2, 1934 Russ was killed in a shooting accident. Carole always called him the great love of her life. After Russ's death she dated actors Gary Cooper and George Raft.

Carole's friends nicknamed her "The Profane Angel" because she loved telling dirty jokes and often shocked people with her bad language. In 1936 she costarred with ex-husband William Powell in My Man Godfrey and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance. She married Clark Gable 1939 after a three year romance. They bought a big ranch that Carole decorated herself. She took time off to try to have a baby but tragically she suffered two miscarriages. By January 1942 America was involved in World War 2 and Carole and her mother went on a trip to sell war bonds. On January 16 Carole decided to fly home early. Her mother, an astrologist, begged her not to go on flight number three because it was an unlucky number. Carole convinced her mother to get on the plane. Shortly after takeoff it crashed in Las Vegas and everyone on board was killed. Carole was only thirty-three years old. She and her mother were buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. Her final film, To Be Or Not To Be, was released after her death. Clark was so devastated that he enlisted in the Army. President Roosevelt awarded Carole the Medal Of Freedom for being the first woman killed in the line of duty during the war.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Truth About Jean Harlow's Death

"I've found everything I've never found before. And when it ends - as it probably must - well even then I won't feel that life has cheated me too much." ~ Jean Harlow in 1937

Jean Harlow's life came to a tragic end on June 7, 1937. The blonde superstar was just twenty-six years old. In her short life Jean had starred in more than forty films, had three husbands, and created hundreds of headlines. At the time of her death she was in an on-again off-again romance with actor William Powell. After she died wild rumors started spreading about what had really happened. Some people claimed Jean's hair bleach had killed her or that she died from a botched abortion. The truth was much more simple but just as tragic. When Jean was just fifteen years old she came down with Scarlet fever. She never fully recovered and the illness slowly weakened her over the next decade. In March 1937 Jean began work on the film Saratoga with he good friend Clark Gable.

She complained that she wasn't feeling and missed several days of work to have her wisdom teeth removed. On May 29 William Powell took her home after she almost fainted on the set. Although her mother "Mama Jean" claimed to be a Christian Scientist several doctors were called to examine Jean. At first they thought she had gallbladder infection but it was soon clear that her kidneys were failing. She became very bloated and her breath smelled like urine. Jean was taken to Good Samaritan hospital on June 6 where she slipped into a coma. She died the next morning at 11:37AM.  Her official cause of death was kidney failure and a cerebral edema. William Powell paid $25,000 for a large crypt at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. The inscription on her grave reads simply "Our Baby".

William Powell at Jean's funeral                                                                                                                      

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Suzanne Kaaren (1940s Starlet)

"I was offered screen tests at Universal and Fox. A flip of the coin and I signed with Fox." ~ Suzanne

Suzanne Kaaren was born on March 21, 1912 in Brooklyn, New York. When she was a teenager she won a high-jumping contest. She wanted to compete in the Olympics but her parents wouldn't let her. Suzanne started modeling and was hired to be one of the original Rockettes. She signed a contract with 20th Century Fox in 1933. Suzanne was given small roles in The Great Ziegfeld and Strangers All. Her biggest success came when she began working with the Three Stooges. She appeared in several of their comedy shorts including What's The Matador? and Disorder In The Court. Suzanne became known for displaying her long legs and as a publicity stunt they were insured for one million dollars. In 1940 she costarred with Bela Lugosi in the horror film The Devil Bat. Unfortunately her career stalled and she found herself stuck making B-movies. She married actor Sidney Blackmer in 1943.

Suzanne was supposed to play Judy Garland's sister in meet Me In St. Louis but when Louis B. Mayer found out she had gotten married he gave the role to another actress. She and Sidney had a turbulent marriage and they separated several times. They had two sons and starred in several plays together. Suzanne continued to act on the stage and starred in the Broadway show Chicken Every Sunday. She and Sidney remained together until his death in 1973. After a fire burned down her North Carolina home Suzanne moved to a rent controlled apartment in Manhattan. When real estate developer Donald Trump wanted to tear down her building she refused to move. In 1984 she had a small role in the film The Cotton Club. Suzanne died on August 27, 2004 from pneumonia. She is buried at Chestnut Hill Cemetery in Salisbury, North Carolina.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Helen Burgess (1930s Starlet)

"I know death. I have spent many uncomfortable hours in the past few weeks thinking of death." ~ Helen

Helen Margarite Burgess was born on April 26, 1916 in Portland, Oregon. When she was a child her family moved to Seattle, Washington. In 1926 they relocated to Los Angeles, California where Helen attended Hollywood High School. Sadly her father passed away when she was eighteen. Helen wanted to become an actress so she enrolled in Clark's Los Angeles Dramatic School. She made her stage debut at age nineteen and was discovered by a talent agent. He helped Helen get an audition with producer Cecil B. DeMille. Helen was given a supporting role in the Western The Plainsman. Her performance got positive reviews and reporters predicted she would become a major star.

Cecil B. Demille said she was "the finest natural actress I have ever seen". Next Helen starred in the drama A Doctor's Diary and appeared in the low-budget film King Of Gamblers. On January 27, 1937 she eloped with Herbert Rutherford, a piano instructor. They separated soon after and the marriage was annulled. Helen claimed that he had only married her to "spite" another woman. While working on the film Night Of Mystery Helen became ill and was hospitalized with lobular pneumonia. She died on April 7, 1937 at the young age of twenty. Helen was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Sonja Henie (Ice Skating Star)

"Jewelry takes people's minds off your wrinkles." ~ Sonja

Sonja Henie was born on April 8, 1912 in Oslo, Norway. She grew up in a very wealthy family and was encouraged to play sports. Sonja loved playing tennis and she excelled at ice-skating. At the age of ten she won her first ice-skating competition. She competed in the 1924 Winter Olympics and came in eighth place. Sonja became the ice-skating world champion in 1927 and the following year she won an Olympic gold medal. She also won gold medals in the 1932 and 1936 Olympics. After retiring from competitive skating Sonja wanted to pursue an acting career. In 1936 her father financed an extravagant ice show in Hollywood. Darryl Zanuck took notice of the petite blonde and signed her to a contract. Her first film, One In A Million with Adolphe Menjou, was a huge success. Although critics complained about her acting skills and thick accent audiences loved her. She starred in a string of hits including Thin Ice, My Lucky Star, and and Sun Valley Serenade. All of her films included dazzling ice-skating routines which she choreographed herself. By 1939 she was one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. She appeared on the cover of Time magazine and her skates were immortalized at Graumann's Chinese Theatre. In addition to her acting Sonja toured the world performing in ice shows and landed many lucrative endorsement deals.

She had high profile romances with Tyrone Power, boxer Joe Louis, and Van Johnson. In 1940 Sonja married businessman Daniel Topping. During World War 2 her connections to the Nazis caused a big controversy. She had often performed in Germany and her popularity plummeted when a photo of her with Adolphe Hitler was published. Sonja decided to become a US citizen and supported the USO in their efforts. She divorced Daniel and married Winthrop Gardner, a wealthy aviator, in 1949. By this time her movie career was over. She continued to perform in ice shows and even starred in her own television special. Unfortunately she had a serious drinking problem which eventually forced her to retire. Sonja never had children and she had at least one abortion. Her marriage to Winthrop ended in 1956. That same year she married shipping magnate Niels Onstad. The couple moved back to Norway and opened a museum to showcase their art collection. In 1968 Sonja was diagnosed with leukemia. She died on October 12, 1969 at the age of fifty-seven. Sonja is buried on a hilltop overlooking the Henie-Onstad museum. After she died her brother wrote a scandalous biography in which he claimed Sonja had a violent temper and was very promiscuous.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Dorothy Dorr (Bathing Beauty)

Dorothy Dorr (sometimes spelled Dore) was born Dorothy Evelyn Wilkinson on October 4, 1897 in St. Louis, Missouri. She moved to California and started her career as a "bathing girl" at Hal Roach's studio. Dorothy worked with Harold Lloyd in the 1924 comedy Girl Shy. She became one of Mack Sennett bathing beauties and appeared in the films Picking Peaches and His New Mamma. In 1925 she starred in the short film Hollywouldn't with Johnny Sinclair. It was her final movie role. Dorothy spent the next ten years working in vaudeville. She eventually returned to her hometown in Missouri. Dorothy died on September 5, 1987 at the age of eighty-nine.


Friday, February 16, 2018

Peggy O'Neill (1940s Starlet)

Peggy O'Neill was born Barbara Jeanne O'Neill on April 8, 1924 in San Francisco, California. When she was eighteen she won a beauty contest and moved to Hollywood. She met producer Charles Rogers who helped her get a screen test. Peggy was given a starring role in the 1944 comedy Song Of The Open Road. Columnist Louella Parsons called her "Hollywood's newest Cinderella". During the Summer of 1944 Peggy went in a bond selling tour of Texas with Adele Mera and Gale Storm. She had small parts in the movies It's A Pleasure and The Hoodlum Saint.

Peggy impulsively married Lloyd Miner, an Army officer, on January 16 1945. They separated shortly after the wedding and Peggy moved in with her mother. In the Spring of 1945 Peggy was offered a long term contract with Paramount. She started a serious romance with screenwriter Albert Mannheimer. On April 12, 1945 Peggy had an argument with Albert. That evening she committed suicide by taking an overdose of sleeping pills. She was only twenty-one years old. Peggy was buried at Calvary Cemetery in Los Angeles.