This is a tribute to classic actresses, silent beauties, and forgotten starlets. We have tons of rare pictures, old Hollywood gossip, and vintage memorabilia. You will see some sexy photos and read a lot of scandalous stories because these ladies were not saints - they were legends!
Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy had one of Hollywood greatest and most tragic love stories. They met in 1934 when MGM paired the two stars in the musical Naughty Marietta. The movie was a hit and audiences instantly fell in love with the singing duo. Off screen Nelson and Jeanette began a passionate affair. They continued to make hit movies together but kept their real life romance a secret at the insistence of MGM president Louis B. Mayer.
Sadly the couple would not end up living happily ever after. By 1938 they were broken up and both married to other people. Jeanette's husband Gene Raymond was gay while Nelson's wife Ann suffered from mental problems. Eventually Nelson and Jeanette resumed their love affair. Jeanette became pregnant several times but tragically lost the babies. Although they still loved each other neither was ever willing to get a divorce. When Jeanette died in 1965 Nelson was heartbroken. He passed away just two years later.
My favorite Nelson and Jeanette duet ...
Nelson at Jeanette's funeral ...
To learn more about Jeanette and Nelson's love story please visit MacEddy.com
Virginia Vance was born Dahlia Roberta Pears on July 1, 1902 in Chicago, Illinois. She moved to Hollywood and became one of Mack Sennett's bathing beauties. In 1922 she made her acting debut in the comedy short Crash. During her career she would appear in more than ninety films. Sadly most of these silent movies are now lost. For several years Virginia made Mermaid comedies at Educational Pictures. She costarred with actor Cliff Bowes in a number of popular shorts including Meet My Dog, The Cave Inn, and Film Foolish.
Although her performances got good reviews she never became a major star. She married actor Bryant Washburn on March 16, 1929. The following year the couple welcomed a daughter named Roberta. Virginia decided it was time to retire from acting. Her last movie was the comedy Caught In A Taxi. Sadly she died of a heart attack in her home on October 13, 1942. Virginia was just forty years old. She was cremated and is buried at the Chapel of the Pines in Los Angeles, California.
"I used to sit in my dressing room at the studio and wonder just how much longer could I keep making believe." ~ Florence
Florence Annie Bridgwood was born on January 2, 1890 in Ontario, Canada. Her mother, Lotta Lawrence, was a vaudeville actress and Florence made her stage debut at the age of three. After her father died in 1898 the family moved to New York. Florence would make her first film, The Automobile Thieves, in 1906. Over the next two years she acted in more than thirty silent shorts. Producer D.W. Griffith offered her a contract at Biograph studios. She starred in a series of popular comedies and audiences fell in love with her. At the time she was known simply as "The Biograph Girl". In 1908 she married thirty-six year old actor Harry Solter. When Florence moved to Carl Laemmle's studios she became the first actress to have her name listed in the movie's credits. She was featured on the cover of fan magazines and made personal appearances across the country. Most film historians consider her to be the first real movie star. During her career she would make nearly three hundred films. Sadly many of her these silent films are now lost. By 1912 Florence was earning $500 a week and she bought a sprawling estate in New Jersey. She spent her free time gardening and adopted a cat named Buggs.
During the filming of Pawns Of Destiny in 1915 the set caught on fire and Florence was badly injured. It took her months to recover and her career suffered. She tried to keep acting but now all she could get were bit parts. In 1920 her husband died of a stroke. The following year she married an automobile salesman named Charles Byrne Woodring. The couple opened a cosmetics store where they sold theatrical make-up. When the stock market crashed in 1929 Florence lost most of her fortune. She divorced her husband and was forced to close her store. In 1933 she married her third husband Henry Bolton. She left him five months later after he beat her. Florence made another attempt at a comeback in 1936 when she signed a contract with MGM. She was given a small part in the comedy One Rainy Afternoon. It would be her last film role. Florence began suffering from anemia and severe depression. On December 28, 1938 she took her own life by swallowing ant paste. She was just forty-eight years old. In her suicide note Florence wrote "I am tired. Hope this works. Good bye". She was buried in an unmarked grave at Hollywood Forever cemetery. In 1991 Roddy McDowell paid for her to have a headstone with the inscription "The First Movie Star".
Elsie Tarron was born Elsie Maud Hamilton on September 30, 1903, in London, England. She was a beautiful teenager who loved to dance and dreamed of becoming an actress. Eventually she moved to Hollywood and started entering beauty contests. When she was nineteen Elsie was chosen to be one of Mack Sennett's bathing beauties. She posed for countless cheesecake photos along with other starlets including Thelma Hill and Cecille Evans. The girls became close friends and formed a club called "The Little Dippers". Elsie was chosen to be their President. In 1923 she began working as an extra in Mack Sennett's comedies. Over the next two years she appeared in more than a dozen short films. She even appeared on the cover of The National Police Gazette twice. Her parts gradually started getting bigger and she was given featured roles in The Lost Soul and High And Dizzy. She signed a contract with F.B.O. studios and starred in the 1927 western Cyclone On The Range. Unfortunately her success didn't last long and by 1929 she was back to playing bit parts. In her last movie, A Close Shave, she appeared briefly as a massage customer.
She decided to retire and married actor Andy Clyde on September 23, 1932. They had worked together in many films including The Lion's Whiskers and A Taxi Scandal. The couple bought a large mansion nicknamed "Clyde Manor" where they grew their own strawberries. Elsie enjoyed being a housewife and spent a lot of time playing golf with her husband. In 1935 they had a son named John Allan Clyde. Tragically John died when he was just nine years old. Elsie and Andy remained together until his death on May 18, 1967. A few months later she married 73 year old actor George "Sloppy" Gray. She had worked with him at the Sennett studios and he had been one of her husbands closest friends. Sadly George passed away just four weeks after their wedding. Elsie continued to live quietly in Los Angeles where she shared an apartment with Ruth Hiatt, another Sennett bathing beauty. She passed away from natural causes on October 24, 1990 at the age of eighty-seven.
"All you have to do is put on a cute little bathing suit and skip along a beach until Mr. Turpin or some one sees you and starts to chase you, then you fall down and that's all there is to it." ~ Mildred
Mildred June was born on December 23, 1903, in St Louis, Missouri. When she was a child her family moved to Kansas and eventually settled in California. She attended Hollywood high school and took dancing lessons. At the age of fifteen Mildred was discovered by producer Mack Sennett. She became one his bathing beauties and worked as an extra in his films. Mildred appeared in dozens of short films including Dog Shy with Charley Chase and Hook and Ladder with Hoot Gibson. She also starred in a series of two reel comedies with Billy Bevan. Although she enjoyed making comedies she dreamed of becoming a dramatic actress. Mildred married Herbert Edward Capps, a twenty-five year old dentist, in 1922. The following year she was given the lead in the drama The Greatest Menace.
She was signed by Universal studios but her career never took off. Mildred returned to Mack Sennett's studio and appeared in the 1927 comedy Crazy To Act. She divorced her husband and had a brief romance with with real estate executive Jimmy Houston. Unfortunately by 1928 she was unemployed and battling a serious alcohol problem. Mildred married her second husband, Bud Sheehan, in 1930. Sadly he passed away a few years later. In 1936 she had a bit part in the Laurel and Hardy film Our Relations. It would her last acting role. On June 19, 1940 Mildred passed away from cirrhosis of the liver caused by her alcoholism. She was only thirty-six years old. Mildred was cremated and her ashes were buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery in Hollywood, California.
"The one thing I missed was never having children. It just wasn't in the cards, I guess." ~ Jeanette
Jeanette Anna MacDonald was born on June 18, 1903, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was the youngest of three daughters. Jeanette was a talented singer with a beautiful soprano voice. She went to New York to study music and began her career on Broadway. Jeanette made her film debut in the 1929 musical The Love Parade. It was a hit and she became one of Hollywood's hottest actresses. Her success continued with starring roles in The Lottery Bride and Love Me Tonight. Jeanette's sister, Marie Blake, also became an actress. In 1934 Jeanette signed a lucrative contract with MGM. The following year she he was paired with baritone Nelson Eddy in the musical Naughty Marietta. Jeanette and Nelson became one of Hollywood's most popular duos and were nicknamed "America's Singing Sweethearts". They made seven more movies together including Maytime and Sweethearts.
In real life Nelson and Jeanette were romantically involved for many years but kept their affair a secret. She married actor Gene Raymond in 1937. Although they appeared happy in public the couple had a troubled marriage. Jeanette was unable to have children and their were rumors that Gene was gay. By 1939 her $300,000 a year salary made her one of the highest paid actresses and she was voted "Queen Of Hollywood" in a nationwide poll. After making several unsuccessful films she decided to leave MGM in 1942. Jeanette performed live concerts and appeared in several stage productions. In 1958 Jeanette re-teamed with Nelson to record an album of duets. As she got older health problems forced her to stop working. Jeanette died on January 14, 1965 from a heart attack. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. ~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2013
With Nelson Eddy
With her mother
Jeanette's personalized silk scarf (from my collection)
"No one remains forever young and no one should want to." ~ Janet
Janet Gaynor was born Laura Augusta Gainor on October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When she was a child her family moved to California. After high school she enrolled in secretarial school and worked in a shoe store. Janet decided to try acting and began getting work as an extra. Her first starring role was in the 1926 drama The Johnstown Flood. Just three years later she won the very first Academy Award for Best Actress for her cumulative work in Seventh Heaven, Sunrise, and Street Angel. She married Jesse Peck, an attorney, in 1929 but they divorced after four years together. Janet and Charles Farrell became a popular screen team and costarred in many hit films including Sunny Side Up and High Society Blues. By 1934 Janet was the top female box-office star in the country. She was nicknamed "The World's Sweetheart". Janet received another Oscar nomination in 1938 for her performance in A Star Is Born.
Despite all of her success she was tired of making movies and decided to retire. In 1939 she married MGM fashion designer Gilbert Adrian, who had worked on films like The Women and The Wizard Of Oz. They had a son, Robin, and moved to Brazil. Janet spent a lot of time traveling and started a second career as an artist. Her paintings were exhibited in galleries all over the country. She acted occasionally but never resumed her career full-time. In 1959 Adrian died of a heart attack. A few years later Janet married her close friend producer Paul Gregory. She also had a romantic relationship with actress Mary Martin that lasted for many years. In 1982 Janet was seriously injured in a car accident. She never fully recovered and died on September 14, 1984 from pneumonia. Janet was cremated and her ashes were buried next to Adrian at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood, California.
"I never liked one of my pictures in its entirety." ~ Mary
Mary Pickford was born Gladys Louise Smith on April 8, 1892, in Toronto, Canada. After her father's death Mary, her brother Jack, and sister Lottie began working on the stage to support the family. D.W. Griffith discovered her and soon she was appearing in silent films. At just five feet tall with long curls she was often cast as a child. She married Owen Moore, an actor, in 1911 but they separated shorty after. Mary starred in a string of hit movies including Stella Maris, Pollyanna, and My Best Girl. She became the highest paid actress in Hollywood and was nicknamed "America's Sweetheart". Mary fell in love with dashing actor Douglas Fairbanks and they were married in 1920. The couple lived in a lavish Beverly Hills mansion called "Pickfair". Mary joined Douglas, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith to form United Artists Studios. She was also a founding member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 1929 she starred in Coquette, her first sound film, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress. Tired of making movies she decided to retire from acting. Her sixteen year marriage to Douglas ended in 1936 and a year later she married actor Charles "Buddy" Rogers (who was rumored to be gay). Mary was unable to have children due to a botched abortion so she and Charles adopted a son and a daughter. She was offered the role of Norma Desmond in the 1950 drama Sunset Boulevard but turned it down. Mary devoted most of her time to charity work and published her autobiography, Sunshine And Shadow. As she grew older she developed a drinking problem and became a recluse. She was presented with an honorary Oscar at the 1976 Academy Awards. Mary died on May 29, 1979 from a cerebral hemorrhage. She was cremated and her ashes are buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Many classic actresses had to deal with unwanted pregnancies. Back then there weren't many options for birth control and having a baby out of wedlock was very controversial. These fourteen stars chose to have an abortion ...
Ava Gardner had two abortions during her marriage to Frank Sinatra
Lana Turner had an abortion after leaving her husband Artie Shaw
Bette Davis had two abortions during her first marriage
Marilyn Monroe had several abortions when she young
Joan Crawford had an abortion when she was married to Douglas Fairbanks Jr.
Rita Hayworth had an abortion during her romance with Howard Hughes
Jean Harlow had her first abortion in 1919 and her second in 1936
Marion Davies had a few abortions during her long affair with William Randolph Hearst
Judy Garland had an abortion when she was married to composer David Rose
Betty Grable had an abortion during her relationship with Artie Shaw
Virginia Rappe had several abortions which may have led to her untimely death
Mary Pickford had an abortion during her first marriage which left her unable to have children
Kay Francis had several abortions during her life
Elizabeth Taylor had an abortion when Frank Sinatra refused to marry her
Mabel Todd was born Mabel Dodds on August 13, 1907 in Los Angeles, California. Sadly her mother died when was very young. Mabel had a lovely singing voice and began her career in vaudeville. She and her sister Marcia often performed as a duo. Mabel started singing on the radio where she nicknamed "The Little Ray of Sunshine". She married comedian Morey Amsterdam in 1933 and the couple worked together on The Laff and Swing Club radio show. Mabel made her film debut in the 1937 musical Varsity Show. She signed a contract with Warner Brothers and was given supporting roles in Hollywood Hotel and Gold Diggers In Paris. With her blonde hair and high pitched voice Mabel was typecast as a ditzy comedienne. She was a popular personality on the Warner Brothers lot where she was often seen riding her scooter. In April 1942 Mabel appeared in one of the first televised talent shows.
The following year she starred in the film The Ghost And The Guest. Her husband Morey had written the script for her. During World War 2 she traveled across the country entertaining the troops in a USO show. Mabel and Morey split up in 1945. Their divorce was so bitter that he refused to ever speak about her again. By this time Mabel's movie career had stalled and she could only get bit parts. Her last role was playing a florist in the comedy Wife Wanted. She continued to work on the radio and appeared in several stage shows. Mabel made headlines in 1950 when she divorced her second husband Matthew A. Sontino. In court she accused him of beating her with a shoe and giving her a black eye. She retired from show business and lived a quiet life away from the spotlight. Mabel died on June 2, 1977 at the age of sixty-nine. She was cremated and her ashes are buried at the Queen Heaven's cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
I recently obtained a rare handwritten letter Nelson Eddy sent to Jeanette MacDonald in November 1934. Nelson and Jeanette made eight musicals together and became known as "America's Singing Sweethearts". Off screen the couple had a passionate romance that lasted for decades. This letter was written by Nelson a month before they started filming their first movie Naughty Marietta.
Here is the text of the letter ...
Dear Miss McDonald, Thank you for the wine. It was terribly sweet of you and I appreciate it more than I can tell you. One day I hope to get up courage enough to tell you I think you're the grandest person in the world. Very gratefully yours, Nelson Eddy
"They say I love money. I do, though it was pretty cold comfort, a pretty poor substitute, for all I'd lost." ~ Betty
Betty Compson was born Eleanor Luicime Compson on March 19, 1897, in Beaver, Utah. After her father's death she dropped out of school to help her family. She began her show business career as a violinist and toured with her mother in vaudeville. Betty was offered a contract with Al Christie in 1915. Over the next five years she appeared in more than forty short films. Her career really took off when she costarred with Lon Chaney in the 1919 drama The Miracle Man. She was called "The Prettiest Girl in Pictures"and became one of highest paid actresses in Hollywood. Betty was also one of the first women to run her own production company. In 1921 she starred in and produced the movie Prisoners Of Love. She married actor James Cruz in 1925 but they had a rocky relationship and separated several times. Unlike some other silent stars Betty was able to make the transition to talkies.
She was nominated for an Academy award in 1928 for her performance in The Barker. Betty finally ended her marriage to James in 1930 and she was left nearly bankrupt by their divorce. She was forced to sell her home and many of her possessions. Betty continued to make several movies a year and even started her own cosmetics line. She auditioned for the role of Belle in Gone With The Wind but did not get the part. Her second marriage, to producer Irving Weinberg, lasted just four years. At their divorce trial she testified that he left her home alone while he went out with other women. In 1944 she married professional boxer Silvius John Gall and decided to retire from Hollywood. Her final film was the comedy Here Comes Trouble. Betty and her husband went into business together and were happily married until his death in 1962. Betty died from a heart attack on April 18, 1974. She is buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.
"Homely men make the best dates. And handsome men make the worst date." ~ Barbara
Barbara Nichols was born Barbara Marie Nickerauer on December 10, 1928 in Queens, New York. When she was a teenager she danced at the Latin Quarter and was crowned "Miss Long Island". She began modeling and posed for dozens of cheesecake magazines. Her career really took off after she dyed her hair platinum blonde and had plastic surgery on her nose. With her voluptuous figure she became one of the most popular pin-up girls of the 1950s. She was featured on the cover of magazines like See and Man To Man. Barbara eventually moved to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. She made her film debut in the 1954 western River Of No Return. Over the next five years she appeared in more than a dozen films including The Pajama Game and Pal Joey. She was often compared to Marilyn Monroe but Barbara never became a major movie star.
Her romances with Steve Cochran, Jack Carter, and producer Bert Friedlob kept her name in the gossip columns. Although she had many boyfriends Barbara never married or had children. In 1960 she was seriously injured in a car crash. The accident caused liver damage which affected her health for the rest of her life. During her career she appeared on dozens of television shows. She got rave reviews for her performance in the Twilight Zone episode titled "Twenty-Two". Barbara continued to work steadily throughout the 1960s. She guest starred on Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hawaii Five-O. Her last role was in the 1976 movie Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood. On October 5, 1976 she died from liver failure. Barbara was only forty-seven years old. She is buried at Pinelawn Memorial Park in Farmingdale, New York.
In 2013 I bought a two piece suit that Carole Landis wore in the 1944 film Four Jills In A Jeep. It was designed by Yvonne Wood. Carole wrote the book Four Jills In A Jeep about her adventures during World War 2. She played herself in the movie.
"I don't remember if I liked dancing because I was good at it, or if I was good at it because I liked it. Maybe a little of both." ~ Vera-Ellen
Vera-Ellen was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio. She began dancing when she was a child and made her Broadway debut at the age of eighteen. In 1941 she married dancer Robert Hightower. Although she was only five feet four inches she became one of the dancing Rockettes at Radio City Musical Hall. Producer Samuel Goldwyn saw her and gave her a leading role in the 1945 musical Wonder Man. The following year she divorced her husband. Vera-Ellen's career quickly took off and she appeared in several Technicolor musicals. She costarred with Gene Kelly in On The Town and with Fred Astaire Three Little Worlds. Privately she was suffering from anorexia and was becoming increasingly thin. There were even rumors that her neck had to be covered during filming because she looked so frail.
She married millionaire Victor Rothschild in 1954. That same year she starred in White Christmas which would become her biggest success. By the late 1950s her career had slowed down and she appeared in variety shows like The Colgate Comedy Hour. Her last film was the 1957 musical Let's Be Happy. She gave birth to a daughter Victoria Ellen in 1963. Tragically the baby died from SIDS when she was just three months old. Vera-Ellen became very depressed and her marriage soon ended. As she grew older she suffered from severe arthritis and was no longer able to dance. She became reclusive and rarely left her home. In a rare 1977 interview she said " I'm retired. I stopped when I was ahead. I don't need my work anymore, and I don't need the applause.". At the age of sixty she diagnosed with cancer. She died from the disease on August 30, 1981. Vera-Ellen is buried with her infant daughter at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Los Angeles, California.