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!
In 2015 I purchased a dress Martha Raye wore in Four Jills In A Jeep. I bought it from actress Debbie Reynolds. It was designed by Yvonne Wood. Martha played herself in the Four Jills In A Jeep. Her costars were Carole Landis, Kay Francis, and Mitzi Mayfair.
"Marriage is a career itself. It requires full-time. When I do fall in love the career must go." ~ Lili Lili Damita was born Liliane Marie Madeleine Carré on July 10, 1904, in Blaye, France. As a child she studied ballet and attended school in several different countries. By the age of sixteen she was working as a professional model and dancer. In 1921 she won a beauty contest and was offered her first acting role. She appeared in more than a dozen silent films made in Europe. Lili married Hungarian director Michael Curtiz in 1925. They divorced just a year later. Producer Samuel Goldwyn saw Lili and offered her a part in the 1928 romantic adventure The Rescue. American audiences fell in love with the exotic beauty nicknamed "Tiger Lil". She appeared in a string of box office successes including The Cock-Eyed World and This Is The Night. Despite her thick accent she was easily able to make the transition to talkies. In 1935 Lili married actor Errol Flynn and decided to retire from the screen.
Her final role was in the 1938 French film Escadrille of Chance. Errol quickly became a superstar and Lili was now primarily known as his wife. The couple had a son, Sean, in 1940 but their marriage was tumultuous. Errol had many affairs and Lili divorced him in 1942. They would spend years fighting over custody and child support. Lili continued to stay out of the spotlight and focused on raising her son. In 1962 she married dairy farmer Allen R. Loomis and began living part-time in Iowa. Tragedy struck in 1970 when her son Sean went missing during a trip to Cambodia. Lili spent fourteen years and millions of dollars searching for him but he was never found. Sean Flynn was declared legally dead in 1984. By this time Lili was divorced from Allen and suffering from Alzheimer's disease. She died on March 21, 1994 in Palm Beach, Florida at the age of eighty-nine. Lili is buried at Oakland Cemetery in Fort Dodge, Iowa. The epitaph on her tombstone reads "She touched so many lives, brightened so many days."
"I don't get along so well with women but most men seem to find me reasonably entertaining." ~ Barbara
Barbara La Marr was born Reatha Dale Watson on July 28, 1896, in Yakima, Washington. She was adopted when she was a month old and her new family took her to California. At the age of fourteen Barbara was arrested for working as a burlesque dancer. The judge said she was "a girl who was too beautiful" (this would later become her nickname). In 1913 she married rancher Jack Lytell. Tragically he died of pneumonia just a few weeks after their wedding. She married Lawrence Converse in 1914 but it was annulled when she found out he already had a wife. Barbara moved to New York City and began writing screenplays for Fox. She married Phil Ainsworth, a dancer, in 1916. Barbara left him after he was jailed for writing bad checks. Her fourth marriage, to actor Ben Deeley, also ended in divorce. In 1920 she made her film debut in the drama Harriet And The Piper. She appeared in many hit movies including The Nut with Douglas Fairbanks and The Prisoner Of Zenda with Ramon Novarro. By 1922 Barbara was one of Hollywood's top stars and she was earning more than $6,000 a week.
Unfortunately her hard-partying lifestyle created more headlines than her films did. She had an ill-fated romance with John Gilbert and became addicted to morphine after injuring her ankle. There were also rumors that she had an eating disorder. In 1923 she married actor Jack Dougherty. Soon after the couple announced they had adopted a son. Barbara was now using cocaine and drinking heavily. She proudly told reporters that she only slept two hours a night. Her drug use hurt her career and she lost her contract with MGM. She signed with First National and made three movies in 1925. Barbara's health began to decline and she developed tuberculosis and nephritis. On January 30, 1926 she died at the young age of twenty-nine. Her final film, The Girl From Montmartre, was released the next day. Barbara was buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery. Thousands of fans attended her funeral. Years after her death it was revealed that she had secretly given birth to her "adopted" son in 1923. Barbara's close friend Zasu Pitts raised him.
Ruby Blaine was born on August 27, 1903, in Hutchinson, Kansas. When she was a child her family moved to Colorado. She loved riding horses and competed in a rodeo when she was sixteen. After winning a beauty contest she moved to New York City to become an actress. Ruby made her film debut in the 1925 drama The Midnight Girl. Although her part was small she got positive reviews. Mutual Film Company announced she would star in the The Bobbed Hair Bandit but the film was never made. Producer D.W. Griffith cast Ruby in The Sorrow Of Satan and helped her get a contract at Paramount. For a brief time she was engaged to her agent Frank Orsatti.
Ruby appeared in the movies The Great Gatsby and Bitter Apples but she never became a major star. Many magazine writers said Ruby resembled actress Norma Shearer. She hoped that dying her hair blonde would help her career. In 1928 she began working at Hal Roach's studio. She appeared in three comedy shorts including Two Tars with Laurel and Hardy. Ruby made her last film at the age of twenty-five. She married stockbroker Irving Weinberg but they divorced in 1933. Irving would later marry actress Betty Compson. Ruby continued to live in Manhattan where she worked as a commercial model. She spent her later years out of the spotlight and eventually moved to White Plains, New York. She passed away in May of 1976 at the age of seventy-two.
"I didn't really care about money; all I wanted was to be famous and get fans' letters." ~ Nancy
Nancy Carroll was born Ann Veronica Lahiff on November 19, 1903 in New York City. She was the youngest of seven children. When she was a teenager she and her sister began performing in local talent competitions. Nancy was a gifted dancer and appeared in several Broadway musicals. In 1925 she married writer Jack Kirkland and had a daughter named Patricia. Nancy made her film debut in the 1927 comedy Ladies Must Dress and was offered a contract with Paramount. She starred in a string of successful talkies including The Shopworn Angel and Close Harmony. In 1930 she was nominated for Academy Award for her role in Devil's Holiday. That same year her marriage Jack to ended. After a brief affair with Joseph P. Kennedy she married Francis Bolton Mallory, a Life magazine editor. Their marriage lasted only three years. Although Nancy was one of Hollywood's most popular actresses she had developed a reputation for being difficult. Paramount released her from her contract in 1933.
Nancy continued to make movies but she was no longer an A-list star. She played supporting roles in That Certain Age and There Goes My Heart. Unhappy with the way her career was going she decided to quit making movies in 1938. She returned to the stage and starred in the Broadway show For Heaven's Sake Mother. During the 1950s Nancy made guest appearances on numerous television shows. She also costarred with her daughter, Patricia Kirkland, in the series The Egg And I. Nancy married international businessman C.H. "Jappe" Groen in 1953. The couple split their time between Mexico and Indonesia. At the age of fifty-nine Nancy was cast in the play Never Too Late. It was a success and she toured with the show for two years. On the evening August 6, 1965 she didn't show up for her performance. Tragically she was found dead in her New York apartment. Nancy had died of an aneurism at the age of sixty-one. She was buried with her parents at Calvary Cemetery in Queens, New York.
"I shall always be grateful for the years I spent in comedy. I attained success and I made money but it wasn't the sort of work I liked." ~ Mary
Mary Thurman was born Mary Christiansen on April 27, 1895, in Richfield, Utah. She was one of seven children raised in the Mormon faith. Sadly her father passed away when she was nine. Mary attended the University of Utah and got a job as a teacher. In 1915 she took a trip to Hollywood. A talent scout saw her and she became one of the famous Mack Sennett bathing beauties. She also began appearing in Sennett's comedy shorts. Mary started out as an extra and quickly worked her way up to leading lady. Between 1916 and 1918 she made more than twenty films. Mary married her childhood sweetheart Victor E. Thurman but the couple divorced in 1919. Mary costarred with Rosco "Fatty" Arbuckle in Leap Year and with William Desmond in The Prince And Betty.
Although she had become a popular comedienne she dreamed of being a serious actress. She signed with producer Allan Dwan who cast her in the 1920 drama In The Heart Of A Fool. Her performance got rave reviews. Allan would direct Mary in several more films including The Sin of Martha Queed and A Broken Doll. Off screen Mary and Allan fell in love and were engaged for a short time. In the fall 1925 she began work on the movie Down Upon The Suwanee River. While filming in Florida she came down with a serious case of pneumonia. She struggled with the illness for months and passed away on December 22, 1925. Mary was only thirty years old. Her mother and her best friend, actress Juanita Hansen, were by her side when she died. Mary was buried in Richfield City Cemetery in her hometown of Richfield, Utah.
Marvel Rea was born Marvel Luciel Rea on November 9, 1901, in Ainsworth, Nebraska. When she was a child her family lived in Seattle and eventually moved in California. She grew into a beautiful teenager with a petite figure and champagne blonde hair. Marvel was very athletic and loved to swim and surf. In 1918 she married a banker named Henry Page Wells. Unfortunately he was a drug addict and she divorced him less than a year later. Movie producer Mack Sennett hired Marvel to model as one of his bathing beauties. She became known as "the girl with the most beautiful figure on the Motion Picture stage". Before long she was given small roles in movies like Her Screen Idol and The Summer Girls.
Although she would appear in more than thirty films Marvel never became a major star. She decided to stop acting in 1921. Her final role was in the short film For Land's Sake. Marvel married her second husband Edwin J. Wilkinson in 1936 but her happiness was short-lived. On September 2, 1936 she was kidnapped and assaulted by three men. She was choked, cut, and left semi-conscious in the street. The men were caught and Marvel had to testify at the headline-making trial. Sadly she never fully recovered from the attack. She committed suicide on June 17, 1937 by ingesting ant poison. Marvel was only thirty-five years old. She is buried at Pacific Crest Cemetery in Redondo Beach, California. ~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2014
"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 Scarlett 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.
Jean on May 29, 1937
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 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. The official cause of her 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 graves reads simply "Our Baby".
Jean's crypt in the Great Mausoleum
William Powell and his mother at Jean's funeral
Jean's funeral at Forest Lawn
Jean, Lionel Barrymore, and Clark Gable on the set of Saratoga
"Show business has been very good to me and I'm not complaining, but some day I just wish someone would offer me a different kind of role." ~ Marie
Marie Wilson was born Katherine Elisabeth White on August 19, 1916, in Anaheim, California. Her parents divorced and her father died when she was five years old. After graduating from highschool she worked as a sales girl in a department store. She made her film debut as an extra in the 1934 film Babes In Toyland . Marie started dating director Nick Grinde who helped her get a contract at Warner Brothers. She appeared in the hit films Satan Met A Lady, Fools For Scandal, and The Cowboy Quarterback. With her baby doll voice and voluptuous figure Marie found herself typecast as a dumb blonde. In 1942 she married actor Allan Nixon. They had a turbulent marriage and Allan was arrested several times for drunk and disorderly conduct. Marie costarred with James Cagney in Boy Meets Girl and with Groucho Marx in A Girl In Every Port.
She also spent seven years working with Ken Murray in his Black Out stage show. The highlight of the show was Marie's mock striptease number. Her greatest success came in 1949 when she starred in the radio program My Friend Irma. The show became so popular that it was adapted into a movie and a television show. Marie divorced Allan and married producer Robert Fallon in 1951. The couple adopted a son named Gregson. When Marilyn Monroe became a star some critics said she stole her image from Marie. During the 1950s she toured the country with her nightclub act and released an album. She also appeared on numerous television shows. Sadly Marie was diagnosed with cancer in 1967. She passed away on November 23, 1972 at the age of fifty-six. Marie is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood, California. She has been awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame for her work in movies, television, and radio.
In 2013 I purchased a jacket Betty Grable wore in the film When My Baby Smiles At Me. I bought it from actress Debbie Reynolds. The jacket was designed by Rene Hubert. When My Baby Smiles At Me was released on December 10, 1948. It was Fox's highest grossing film of the year. Betty plays the wife of Dan Dailey, an alcoholic vaudeville star.
Betty wore the jacket on the cover of Movie Story in 1949
Betty wearing the jacked on the cover of Films and Filming from 1971
"I've had a beautiful life, I've tumbled into the most beautiful life in the world. I'd never change it." ~ Mary
Mary Nolan was born Mary Imogene Robertson on December 18, 1905 in Louisville, Kentucky. When she was a child her mother died from cancer and Mary's father placed her in a foster home. Eventually she moved to New York City and began working as a nude model. Producer Florenz Ziegfeld discovered her and gave her a featured role in the Ziegfeld Follies. Using the stage named Bubbles Wilson she quickly became the Follies most popular dancer. Mary had a tumultuous romance with actor Frank Tinney who was married. In 1924 Frank beat Mary so badly that she had him arrested. The case caused a huge scandal and Mary was fired from the Ziegfeld Follies. She moved to Germany and began making movies under the name Imogene Robertson. Mary returned to the United states in 1927 and signed a contract with Universal. She costarred with Lon Chaney in West Of Zanzibar and with John Gilbert in Desert Nights. Her performances got great reviews and she became one of Hollywood's most sought after starlets. In 1929 she was given the lead role in the drama Shanghai Lady. She was now earning $3000 a week.
Mary started having an affair with married studio executive Eddie Mannix. When she became pregnant he forced her to have an abortion. Eddie was very abusive and one of his beatings put her in the hospital for several months. While Mary was recovering she became addicted to morphine. In 1930 she was fired from the movie What Men Want after getting into a fight with the director. The bad publicity destroyed her career and she could only get parts in low budget films. She married stock broker Wallace T. McCreary in 1931. They divorced one year later. Her final acting role was in the 1933 mystery File 113. She moved to New York City and began singing in nightclubs. Mary was arrested several times and she was jailed in 1937 for failing to pay her bills. After overdosing on sedatives she spent a year in a psychiatric hospital. In early 1948 she was hospitalized for malnutrition. Mary was found dead in her Hollywood apartment on October 31, 1948. Next to her body was a child's poem and a handwritten note that said "If this were only true". She had died from a secanol overdose at the young age of forty-two. The police said her death was either suicide or an accident. She is buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery in Hollywood, California.
"Franchot Tone is the most exciting, handsome, lovable, exasperating, beguiling, and challenging man in my world." ~ Jean
Jean Wallace was born Jean Walasek on October 12, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois. She started modeling when she was a teenager and worked as an Earl Carroll showgirl. Jean made her film debut in the 1941 musical Ziegfeld Girl. She had reportedly lied about her age to get the part. When she was just eighteen years old Jean married actor Franchot Tone who was twice her age. She was offered a five year contract with Fox where she given small roles in movies like When My Baby Smiles At Me and It Shouldn't Happen To A Dog. Jean and Franchot had two sons together - Pascal and Thomas. The couple had a difficult marriage and separated several times. After they divorced in 1948 Jean had romances with Howard Hughes and gangster Johnny Stompanato.
With Franchot Tone
She continued to make movies but her personal life created more headlines than her career. In 1949 Jean was arrested for drunk driving and she attempted suicide by stabbing herself with a butcher knife. Her second marriage, to Army Sergeant Jim Lloyd Randall, lasted only five months. She seemed to finally find happiness when she married actor Cornel Wilde in 1951. Jean and Cornel worked together in several films including The Devil's Hairpin and Sword Of Lancelot. Their son, Cornel Wallace, was born in 1967. Jean retired from making movies to be a full-time mother. Sadly her thirty year marriage to Cornel came to an end in 1981. She spent the next decade living in Beverly Hills with her beloved pets. Jean died on February 14, 1990 after suffering a gastrointestinal hemorrhage. She is buried at Hollywood Forever cemetery in Hollywood, California.
~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2015
With Cornel Wilde
With Cornel Wilde
Jean with Carole Landis and her husband Horace Schmidlapp
Alice Jorgens was born on March 28, 1896. She made her film debut in the 1916 comedy Safety First With Ambrose, The following year she costarred with Harry Gribbon in Caught With The Goods. She never made another film. Alice passed away on December 21, 1990 at the age of ninety-four. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, 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
A handwritten letter from Jeanette (from my collection)
Jeanette's personalized silk scarf (from my collection)
"I like the limelight. I'm the girl who yearned to be an actress and got her wish." ~ Sally Sally Eilers was born Dorothea Sally Eilers on December 11, 1908 in New York City. Her family moved to Los Angeles when she was a child and she began to attend acting classes. One day Sally was having lunch with her friend Carole Lombard when producer Mack Sennett saw her and asked her to become one of his bathing beauties. Soon Sally was landing small parts in movies like The Good-Bye Kiss and Broadway Babies with Alice White. In 1928 she was chosen as one of the Wampas Baby stars. She became a popular leading lady starring in the pre-code films Bad Girl and Sailor's Luck. Sally was called "the most beautiful girl in movies". She married western actor Hoot Gibson, her costar in Clearing The Range, in 1930.
They divorced three years later and she married producer Harry Brown. The couple had one son together. After divorcing Harry in 1943 she married World War 2 Lieutenant Howard Barney. By the end of the 1940s her third marriage was over and her career was in trouble. She was no longer being offered good roles so she decided to quit acting. Her final film was the 1950 western Stage To Tuscon. Sally's fourth marriage, to director Hollingsworth Morse, lasted nine years. As she grew older she suffered from health problems and stayed out of the spotlight. Sally died on January 5, 1978 from a heart attack at the age of sixty-nine. She is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
"I wasn't scared a bit when I went to the casting director and told him that I felt I could play in his musical picture." ~ Betty
Betty Burgess was born Elizabeth Burgess on February 15, 1917, in Los Angeles, California. Her father worked for the Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra. She began taking voice lessons and sang on the radio when she was just seven years old. Betty also studied tap dancing and learned how to play the guitar. She dreamed of being on the stage so she enrolled in a dramatic school. The eighteen year old blonde was discovered by a talent agent and started appearing in local plays. In 1935 she beat out forty other actresses to land the lead role in the musical Coronado. The movie, costarring Alice White and Jack Haley, garnered her positive reviews.
Jack Haley, Alice White, and Betty in Coronado
Two years later she had a supporting role in the crime drama Tough To Handle. In 1937 she went on a vaudeville tour with dancer Sonny Lamont. Betty and Sonny were engaged for a short time. She also had a serious romance with actor Matty Kemp and there were rumors they had secretly wed. Unfortunately Betty's acting career never took off and she would only make two more films. She spent several years working on the stage before retiring from show business. In 1960 she married professional wrestler George Zaharris but they divorced a few years later. She spent her final years living in Riverside, California, Betty died on November 15, 2002 at the age of eighty-five.