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!
Katherine Grant was born on May 1, 1904 in Los Angeles, California. Her parents divorced and her father passed away in 1921. At the age of eighteen she won the Miss Los Angeles beauty contest and competed in the Miss America pageant. Katherine worked as a professional dancer and to make extra money she posed nude for an art study project. She made her film debut in the comedy short Saturday Morning and was offered a contract with Hal Roach. In 1923 she appeared in more than a dozen films including A Man About Town and Frozen Hearts. As her career took off the photographer who had taken her nude photos started to extort her. Katherine reported the man to the police and the scandalous photos did not hurt career. By 1925 she had become one of Hal Roach's favorite comedy vamps and he signed her to a new five year contract. Katherine worked with Oliver Hardy in Wild Papa and with Charley Chase in The Uneasy Three.
She and Charley also performed in a vaudeville act together. Unfortunately Katherine struggled with her weight and went on starvation diets to stay thin. On December 8, 1925, she was the victim of a hit-and-run accident. Doctors told her to take a break from acting but she returned to work a few days later. In the Spring of 1926 Katherine suffered a nervous breakdown on the set and was put in a sanitarium. Newspaper reports blamed the breakdown on her extreme dieting. Sadly Katherine would never make another film. Her health continued to get worse and she started suffering from dementia. Eventually she was sent to to Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino where she would live the rest of her life. Katherine died on April 2, 1937 from pulmonary tuberculosis. She was only thirty-two years old. Katherine is buried in an unmarked grave at Evergreen cemetery in Los Angeles, California.
Martha Sleeper, Fay Wray, Katherine, and Marjorie White
"Anything new and beautiful makes one think beautiful thoughts." ~ Irene
Irene Maud Lentz was born on December 8, 1901 in Baker. Montana. When she was a teenager she moved to Hollywood to become an actress. She found work as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty and appeared in the comedies Picking Peaches and A Tailor-Made Man. Irene married director F. Richard Jones in 1929. Tragically he died a year later from tuberculosis. To make extra money Irene decided to open a dress shop. In 1933 she was asked to design the clothes for Lily Damita in Goldie Gets Along. She quickly became one of Hollywood's top costumes designers. Irene had a passionate affair with actor Gary Cooper. She later said he was the only man she really loved. In 1936 she married Elliot Gibbons, a writer. Irene became the head costume designer at MGM where she created iconic costumes for Lana Turner and Judy Garland.
Irene and Betty Francisco in 1924
She was nominated for an academy Award in 1948 for her work on B.F.'s Daughter. Eventually she left MGM to open her own fashion house. Unfortunately her marriage to Elliot was troubled and they began living apart. In 1960 Irene's close friend Doris Day asked her to design the clothes for Midnight Lace. She received her second Academy Award nomination for her work on the film. By this time Irene had a serious drinking problem and was suffering from depression. On November 15, 1962 Irene checked into the Knickerbocker hotel in Hollywood. She committed suicide by jumping out of a bathroom window. Irene was sixty-one years old. In her suicide note she wrote ""I'm sorry. This is the best way." She was buried next to her first husband at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.
Please visit the new blog dedicated to actress Marion Aye. She started out as a Mack Sennett bathing beauty and appeared in more than a dozen films. Sadly Marion committed suicide in 1951. You can learn more at ... http://marionaye.blogspot.com
Sunshine Hart was born Lucia Adams on July 6, 1886, in Vevay, Indiana. She would later claim that her father was a minister on an Indian reservation and that an Indian nurse gave her the nickname "Sunshine". After high school she started acting in stock companies and spent many years working in vaudeville using the stage "Miss Sunshine". She married Charles W. Hart and in 1912 their daughter Leora was born. At the age of thirty Sunshine made her film debut in the 1916 comedy short A Scoundrel's Toll. She continued to work on the stage and appeared in several of Jack White's Mermaid comedies. By 1924 she had divorced her husband and moved to Los Angeles. Producer Mack Sennett gave Sunshine a part in his short film Scarem Much. She would go on to star in more than two dozen of Sennett's comedies including Crazy To Act, Hoboken To Hollywood, and Smith's Baby.
Sunshine with Mary Pickford and Carmelita Geraghty
Sunshine, who weighed more than 250 pounds, usually played funny mothers. She became a popular character actress and was often called a female Fatty Arbuckle. Despite her age and size she was always willing to do dangerous stunts if it got a laugh. Sunshine loved making films but she told an interviewer her main priority in life was raising her daughter. In 1927 she was cast as Mary Pickford's mother in My Best Girl. During filming she was badly injured when she fell doing an automobile stunt. Although she kept working she never fully recovered from this accident. Sunshine had a small role in the 1930 comedy Midnight Daddies. It would be her last film. She died on January 3, 1930. Sunshine was only forty-three years old. Sadly she had spent the last few weeks of her life bedridden.
Betty White is one of Hollywood's most beloved actresses. During her sixty year career she has starred in many hit television shows and movies. When Betty was a struggling actress she posed for nude photos to make extra money.
“Beginning a new year - have a resolution to make - not to be a damn fool!" ~ Kay
Kay Francis was born Katharine Edwina Gibbs on January 13, 1905 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Shortly after she was born her father abandoned the family. Her mother was an actress and Kay wanted to follow in her footsteps. At age seventeen she married businessman James Dwight Francis. They divorced two years later. In 1925 she made her Broadway debut and married athlete William Gaston. She appeared in several successful plays and was offered a contract at Paramount. Her career took off quickly and she made twenty-one films between 1929 and 1931. Kay worked with William Powell in numerous films including Jewel Robbery and One Way Passage. After divorcing her husband she married writer John Meehan. She left him when she fell in love with actor Kenneth MacKenna. Kay married Kenneth in 1931 but it didn't last. During this time she had a wild love life that included many one night stands and affairs with women.
By 1936 she was one of Hollywood most popular leading ladies. She became known for playing long suffering heroines in movies like Secrets of an Actress and Comet Over Broadway. Her success ended in 1938 when she was named "box-office poison" by the Hollywood Reporter. The following year she married her fifth husband Eric Barnekow. Sadly this marriage would also end in divorce. Kay never wanted to have children and she had several abortions. In 1942 she joined actresses Carole Landis, Mitzi Mayfair, and Martha Raye on a USO tour to entertain the troops. She also played herself in the musical Four Jills In a Jeep. After appearing in a few low budget movies she decided to quit acting. She moved to New York City and rarely made public appearances. In 1966 she as diagnosed with breast cancer. Kay died on August 26, 1968 at the age of sixty-three. She was cremated and her ashes were scattered.
Mitzi Mayfair, Martha Raye, Kay, and Carole Landis
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.
Thelma Parr was born Betty Selby on October 10, 1906 in Grant's Pass, Oregon. Her parents were Glenn Oswald Silland Leonora L. Paine. Thelma claimed to be a descendant of Thomas Paine, one of the founding fathers of the United States. When she was fourteen Thelma moved to California with her parents. Soon after the pretty brunette was discovered by producer Mack Sennett and became one of his bathing beauties. Thelma married banjo player William E. Goman in 1925. That same year she made her film debut in the comedy short Her Marriage Vow. Over the next three years she appeared in more than thirty short films. She starred opposite Ralph Graves in several movies including Hooked At The Alter and The Funny Mooners. Thelma was gifted comedic actress and was considered one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood.
One newspaper said she was "the perfect type of American beauty". Her film career came to a sudden end in 1928 after she was seriously injured in a car accident. She suffered facial injuries and her mouth was permanently scarred. Two years after the accident she attempted a comeback with a small role in the comedy My Harem. Thelma divorced her husband and retired from acting. She married her second husband, Emmanuel Titelman, in 1933. The couple lived in Florida where they raised two daughters. After her husband passed away in 1966 Thelma moved to San Clemente, California. She died on February 13, 2000 at the age of ninety-three.
Thelma (in the middle) with other bathing beauties
With Ralph Graves
* Thank you to Thelma's relative, Bonnie Martin Fazio, for providing information *
Margaret Roach was born on March 21, 1921 in Los Angeles, California. Her father was movie producer Hal Roach. When she was a teenager Margaret worked in the theater and sang at nightclubs. She changed her name to Diane Rochelle and made her film debut in the 1938 comedy Swiss Miss. Her father didn't want her to be an actress and initially refused to help her. However in 1940 he cast her in his film Road Show. When the press called Margaret "plump" she went to a sanitarium to lose weight. In 1941 she announced her engagement to Geoffrey Steele but they broke up before the wedding. The following year she married Lieutenant E.L. Hinton. After her mother's death Margaret became estranged from her father.
She continued to get small roles in films like Niagara Falls and Test Tube Babies. Margaret divorced E.L. and married actor and writer Robert Livingston in 1947. The couple had one son named Addison. Although she made more than a dozen films Margaret never became a leading lady. She retired after appearing in the 1949 crime drama The Devil's Sleep. Her marriage to Robert ended after four years. Sadly on November 25, 1964 Margaret passed away at the young age of forty-three. She was buried near her mother at Holy Cross cemetery in Los Angeles. Margaret's son Addison Randall also became an actor.
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.
Although I'm not an art collector I do own two still life oil paintings done by Hollywood legend Janet Gaynor. She appeared in more than sixty films and won the first Best Actress Academy Award in 1929. Janet retired from making movies and moved to a farm in Brazil. She started painting as a hobby after receiving some paint as a Christmas gift. Her gardens inspired her to paint colorful flowers and leafy vegetables. She said "I believe painting has to come from the heart and soul".
Janet never considered herself a professional artist until her friends convinced her to display her work. Her best friend Mary Martin was the first person to buy one of her paintings. During the 1970s Janet's paintings were displayed in galleries all over the country. Her exhibit at Findlay Galleries in Chicago completely sold out. Janet loved her new career as an artist and she spent up to six hours a day painting. She said she hoped her paintings "add a little brightness and cheer to a room just as a bouquet of fresh flowers would".
With Henry Fonda at an art exhibit
With Lillian Gish at an art exhibit
I also have this autographed card from Janet in my collection
I recently bought a very 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. They kept their relationship a secret and it continued even after they were both married. 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 wire. 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
"I like an honest-to-God business man - not a dancing sheik. It would be pleasant if he could remember that courtesy counts." ~ Eugenia
Eugenia Gilbert was born Eugenia Knapp on November 18, 1902 in East Orange, New Jersey. She attended high school in New York City and went to Mallborough College in Los Angeles. When her father became ill she quit school and got a job as a dancer. She made her acting debut in the 1920 short film Paul's Peril. Eugenia began entering beauty pageants and in 1923 she won the title of Miss Los Angeles. She became one of Mack Sennett's bathing beauties and he signed her to a long term film contract. Eugenia starred in dozens of comedies including A Rainy Night, Sinners In Silk, and A Broadway Butterfly (she was often credited as Eugenie Gilbert).
In 1927 she starred in the action serial The Crimson Flash. She was also Leo Mallory's leading lady in three Westerns. Eugenia was considered one of the most versatile starlets in Hollywood. In her spare time she liked to go to a cabin she bought in the mountains. Although she made more than sixty films she never became a major star. At the age of twenty-seven Eugenia decided to quit making movies. Her final film was the 1929 comedy Courtin' Wildcats. During the 1930s she worked as a model in fashion shows. She eventually got married and changed her last name to Enders. Eugenia spent her final years living in Santa Monica. She died from heart failure on December 8, 1978 and was cremated.
Eugenia (second from right) with Rudolph Valentino
"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 highs chool 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.
Anny Ahlers was born on December 21, 1907 in Hamburg Germany. At the age of four she began her career performing in the circus. When she was a teenager Anny studied ballet and singing. In 1928 she made her film debut in the German film Casanova. She had a beautiful voice and starred in successful operettas in Berlin and Vienna. Audiences loved her and she quickly became one of Europe's most popular stars. Anny landed leading roles in the films True Jacob and The Company's In Love. She went to London in 1932 to star in the musical The DuBarry. Although she did not speak English her singing won rave reviews. Critics called her "vivacious" and said she was destined for Hollywood stardom. She fell in love with the show's producer Stanley Scott but their romance didn't last.
During a performance in September of 1932 she had a nervous breakdown on stage. The show closed while she recovered at a seaside resort. Rumors began that she had developed an addiction to morphine and sleeping pills. She started dating Sir Merrik Burrell, a recently divorced millionaire. He gave her an emerald ring and commissioned a portrait of her from artist Philip Alexius de Laszlo. By the Spring of 1933 Anny was suffering from tuberculosis and had severe insomnia. On March 14, 1933 she died after falling from her second floor balcony. Anny broke her neck and was killed instantly. She was only twenty-five years old. Her maid told reporters that Anny was a sleepwalker and might have fallen. However the coroner ruled that her death was a suicide. She was cremated and her ashes were buried in Hamburg. Merrik was given a lock of her red hair which he kept for the rest of his life.
"I want a man - a man to love! I want a husband, a home, a kitchen, and what goes with it." ~ Faith
Faith Bacon was born Francis Yvonne Bacon on July 19, 1910 in Los Angeles, California. She was an only child and her parents divorced when she was young. Faith dreamed of becoming a doctor but she decided to pursue a show business career instead. Although she had no formal dance training she moved to Paris and started dancing in burlesque shows. In 1928 she went to Broadway and starred in Earl Carroll's Vanities. Faith became famous doing a racy "fan dance" in which she appeared nude on stage covered only by ostrich feathers. She made headlines in 1930 when she was arrested for performing an "indecent show". Faith was given a starring role in The Ziegfeld Follies and she was one of the featured attractions at the 1933 World's Fair. Florenz Ziegfeld called her the "most beautiful woman in the world". When rival dancer Sally Rand starting doing her own fan dance Faith sued her claiming she had stolen the idea. Faith told reporters that her dream was to retire and start a family. She married songwriter Sanford H. Dickinson but the couple separated.
In 1936 Faith was seriously injured when she fell during a performance. She sued the owners of the show for $100,000 although she eventually settled the case for much less. Faith got a small part in the 1938 drama Prison Train. It would be her only film role. She was arrested in 1939 for disorderly conduct after staging a nude publicity stunt on Park Avenue. All the bad press hurt her reputation and by the time she was thirty her career was over. Faith would spend the next decade dancing in strip clubs and carnivals across the country. She also danced semi-nude in some short films. In June of 1948 she suffered a nervous breakdown after suing a carnival owner for unpaid wages. A few years later she was homeless and living on the streets of Seattle. She attempted suicide in 1954 by overdosing on sleeping pills. Faith decided to move to Chicago and tried to find work. She lived in a small hotel room with a friend. On September 26, 1956 Faith committed suicide by jumping out her third story window. She was only forty-six years old. Faith was buried at Wunder's Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.
"I had the usual experiences of hunger and humiliation and I try not to remember them or discuss them although, of course, I shall never forget them." ~ Bella
Bella Darvi was born Bajla Wegier on October 23, 1928, in Sosnowiec, Poland. She was Jewish and tragically her entire family was jailed during World War 2. One of her brothers died in a concentration camp. Bella was freed when she was fourteen years old. She moved to Paris, France where she began working as a nurse. In 1950 Bella married wealthy businessman Alban Calvalcade. The couple spent their time traveling through Europe and attending fashion shows. Bella was discovered by Virginia Zanuck, the wife of Fox President Darryl Zanuck. She signed a contract with Fox and made her film debut in the 1954 drama Hell and High Water. Bella divorced her husband and moved in with the Zanuck's in Los Angeles. Soon after Bella and Darryl Zanuck started having and affair and he left his wife to be with her. Darryl ended the relationship when he found out Bella was bi-sexual.
Bella was given high profile roles in The Egyptian and The Racers but her movie career stalled because of her strong accent. She returned to France where she appeared in a few low budget European films. Bella had romances with Aly Khan and Jeanne-Pierre Aumont, the widow of Maria Montez. She married Claude Rouas, a waiter from San Francisco, in 1960. They divorced a year later. By this time Bella was bankrupt and had a serious gambling problem. She was forced to sell all her clothes and jewelry. Her former lover Darryl Zanuck gave her money to help pay off her gambling debts. In 1964 she opened a cafe in Paris. Bella continued to struggle financially and attempted suicide several times. On September 11, 1971 Bella committed suicide in her Monte Carlo apartment by gas poisoning. Unfortunately her body was not discovered for ten days. She was only forty-two years old. Bella was buried at The City Of Paris Cemetery in France.