Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Joan Dowling

Joan Dowling was born on January 6, 1928 in London, England. Her mother was unmarried and Joan never knew her father. She was primarily raised by her grandmother. Joan dreamed of becoming an actress but she was too poor to afford acting lessons. Despite her lack of training she began auditioning and made her stage debut when she was just fourteen years old. She got rave reviews for her performance in the play No Room At The Inn. A talent scout saw her and offered her a long-term movie contract. Joan's first film role was in 1947 comedy Hue and Cry. On the set she met actor Hugh Fowler. They fell in love and were married on September 15, 1951. Joan continued to get small roles in films like Landfall and Pool Of London.

 She also worked on the radio and appeared in several more plays. In 1952 she starred in a London stage production of Robinson Crusoe. Joan was heartbroken when she discovered her husband was having an affair. On March 31, 1954 the twenty-six year old actress committed suicide. She was found unconscious in the gas filled kitchen in her West London home. Her official cause of death was suicide by asphyxiation. Joan was cremated and buried in London, England. Some of her relatives believe that her death may have been accidental. They think that she was only attempting suicide to scare her husband. Hugh Fowler eventually remarried and passed away in 2012.

~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2014

Joan and Hugh Fowler


Joan with Joan Collins

A handwritten letter (from my personal collection)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Kay Francis

“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.

~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2014

 Mitzi Mayfair, Martha Raye, Kay, and Carole Landis

An autographed photo (from my personal collection)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Bette Davis' Earrings

I own a pair of earrings that once belonged to legendary actress Bette Davis. 

She wore the earrings during her 1987 interview with Barbara Walters.

She also wore them on an episode of Larry King Live.

Here is a clip of Bette wearing the earrings ...

Martha Raye

Ask any girl what she'd rather be than beautiful, and she'll say more beautiful. ~ Martha

Martha Raye was born Margaret Teresa Yvonne Reed on August 27, 1916, in Butte, Montana. Her parents were vaudeville entertainers and she started performing with them when she was a child. By the early 1930s she was working as an orchestra singer and appearing in short films. Paramount offered her a contract in 1936 and cast her in the musical Rhythm On The Range. She quickly became a popular comedic actress and was nicknamed "The Big Mouth". In 1937 she married make-up artist Bud Westmore. They divorced the following year and she married singer David Rose. After he left her for Judy Garland Martha married Neal Lange. She costarred with Bob Hope in Give Me A Sailor and with Abbot and Costello in Keep 'Em Flying. During World War 2 she traveled all over the world with Carole Landis, Martha Raye, and Kay Francis. Martha loved entertaining the soldiers and she would continue to do it for the rest of her life. She divorced Neal in 1944 and married actor Nick Condo. They had a daughter named Melodye and stayed together for nine years. In 1953 Martha
married Edward T. Begley.

By this time she was mainly working on television. She hosted "Four Star Revue" and starred in "The Martha Raye Show" for two seasons. Her marriage to Edward didn't last and she married Robert O'Shea in 1956. Sadly this marriage would also end just four years later. Depressed over her failed marriages she attempted suicide by taking an overdose of pills. During the Korean and Vietnam wars Martha entertained the troops and performed in countless USO shows. She was even awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for service to her country. Martha continued to make guest appearances on TV and starred in commercials for Polident. In 1991 she shocked her fans by marrying her seventh husband Mark Harris, a man who was openly bi-sexual and thirty-three years young than her. In her final years Martha suffered from Alzheimer's disease and lost both of her legs to poor circulation. She died from pneumonia on October 19, 1994. Martha is buried at Fort Bragg in Cumberland County, North Carolina. She left her entire estate to her husband Mark and  gave nothing to her estranged daughter.

~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2014

 Mitzi Mayfair, Kay Francis, and Martha

An autographed photo (from my collection)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Carole Landis' Suit From Four Jills In A Jeep

In 2013 I bought a suit that Carole Landis wore in the film Four Jills In A Jeep. It was designed by Yvonne Wood.

Four Jills In A Jeep was released on March 17, 1944. The movie was based on a book Carole wrote.

Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Carole

Phil Silvers, Kay Francis, and Carole

Here is a clip of Carole wearing the suit ...


Mitzi Mayfair

"The Broadway business is sort of wacky It wouldn't mix with a nice happy marriage." ~ Mitzi

Mitzi Mayfair was born Juanita Emylyn Pique on June 6, 1914, in Fulton, Kentucky. Her grandfather was a minister and she attended church every Sunday. Mitzi started dancing when she was a child. Although she never took a lesson a local theatrical producer cast her in a kiddie review. Vaudevillian Gus Edwards saw Mitzi in the show and asked her to go on tour. At the age of fifteen she danced in the short film Manhattan Serenade. Mitzi made a few more Vitaphone shorts but she preferred to be on the stage. By 1936 she was one of the highest paid vaudeville performers in the country. Her specialty was kicking her leg up to touch the back of her head. Mitzi also appeared in several Broadway shows including The Ziegfeld Follies and Take A Chance with Ethel Merman. On March 12, 1938 she married Albert Hoffmann, vice-president of the 
Hoffman beverage company.

Mitzi, Carole Landis, and Martha Raye

The couple had a tumultuous marriage and they separated a few years later. During World War 2 she joined Carole Landis, Kay Francis, and Martha Raye on a four month USO tour to entertain the troops. When their experiences were made into the movie Four Jills In A Jeep Mitzi played herself. Although she wasn't a trained actress her performance received good reviews. Dancer Irene Castle wanted Mitzi to play her in a film but the studio gave the part to Ginger Rogers instead. In 1943 Mitzi filed for bankruptcy claiming that she only had $200 in assets. The following year she married Charles Henderson, a music executive from 20th Century Fox. Soon after she retired from Hollywood to become a full-time housewife. She spent her time cooking and playing chess. Eventually she and Charles moved to Tucson, Arizona. Mitzi passed away in May 1976 at the age of sixty-one. She is buried at East Lawn Palms Cemetery in Tucson.

~ Original biography by Elizabeth Ann 2014

 Carole Landis, Mitzi, Kay Francis, and Martha Raye

With Dick Haymes