This is from the Donald Gordon Collection.
A great snapshot of one of the greatest stars of the last century.
This is from the Donald Gordon Collection.
A great snapshot of one of the greatest stars of the last century.
How can we forgive ourselves for mistakenly saying it was Eleanor Parker starring opposite Nelson Eddy in Rosalie?
Perhaps by devoting one entire blog to the real star of that picture, Eleanor Powell. And by running this never before seen photograph (above) of Powell with our pal, Donald Gordon.
We’ve already declared what we believe is the truth — that no one could hold a candle in the dance department to Eleanor Powell. Although she is almost forgotten today, she the woman pictured with Donald above is considered the best terpsichorean ever to grace the silver screen.
She had started on Broadway at 17. A few years later Eleanor hit films with a bang in 1935 in George Whites Scandals and dazzled audiences with her dancing. She could do it all. She could sing, dance, act and she was pretty.
But her tapping was what gained her the most praise. MGM signed her and starred her opposite their top leading men such as James Stewart and Robert Taylor.
Joe’s favorite of her films is Broadway Melody of 1940, where she co-stars with Fred Astaire. Through the years Astaire danced with the top stars of the genre: Ginger Rodgers, Vera Ellen, Cyd Charisse, Leslie Caron, even Rita Hayworth and Gene Kelly.
But none overshadowed him except Eleanor Powell. Perhaps that’s why they made only one film together.
Her career seemed to die in the early Forties, probably because she didn’t find it gave her the satisfaction it once did. She’d married actor Glenn Ford and had become a mother. Their son Peter became an actor and rock singer.
Powell made a few films in the middle and late forties, then after divorcing Ford in 1959, made a highly successful comeback as a nightclub performer. Although Joe never met Eleanor Powell he did interview Ann Miller several times over the years. Miller told him she considered Powell the best tap dancer ever.
We agree. Final word: In remembering Powell we also toast Frank’s six-year-old granddaughter whose first name is…Eleanor.
Here’s a big star from the 1940s caught in a snapshot with one of her biggest fans, our late pal, Donald Gordon.
Hint: Don’t sail to Key Largo, it’s a Dead End.
(Answer on Friday; stay tuned.)
Here’s another star from the Golden Era of Hollywood. The shot is taken from The Donald Gordon Collection, named for our late pal who found himself under studio contract in the Forties, and photographed many of his pals.
Our mystery subject may NOT a Big star in Films, but is nonetheless one of the biggest names in Show business in the 20th century. So take that!
Do you recognize her?
Hint: she loved fur coats.
This is an Never Before released photo of the great star. More tomorrow.
Pictured above is great friend of the late Donald Gordon. In fact for many years Donald was our mystery star’s stand in.
A word of explanation: our pal Donald was — when he took this picture of today’s mystery personality — a young actor who found himself under contract at Columbia Pictures during World War II.
The studios in this wartime period were a bit less fussy about male hires, so Donald made the grade although he never made it big. He appears to have spent much of his time making (and photographing) friends on and off the studio lot, made easier by the fact that Donald was an outgoing, amiable type, easy to like.
Because he had a fleeting resemblance to today’s mystery star, Donald worked as mentioned as the actor’s stand-in. Our star was at the time often referred to as the poor man’s Johnny Weissmuller.
– He was one of the first athletes to enter the film business.
– He was born on Feb. 17, 1907 in Oakland, Cal., and parlayed his athleticism as an Olympic swim champion into wannabe Weissmuller status in 1933’s Tarzan the Fearless.
– He first came to Hollywood in the early Thirties. You probably don’t remember him in Tarzan The Fearless because the studio quickly shuttled him out of the Tarzan series and into various action hero roles including Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and, in the early Forties, Billy the Kid.
– He also appeared in various serials of the 30′ s and 40′s, again as Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers and Billy the Kid (with Al “Fuzzy” St. John as his comic sidekick). He worked right up to television in the 1950′s when he starred with his son, Cuffy, in the series Captain Gallant of the French Foreign Legion.
– Our mystery star was a private man, so it was a genuine token of his friendship with Donald Gordon to allow these candid shots to be taken of him in an informal setting. He died April 23, 1983 in Scottsdale, Az.
Just who is our mystery star? Answer coming in Monday’s blog.
Here’s Donald Gordon — that handsome lad to the left and creator of our Donald Gordon Collection of marvelous informal photos of Forties Hollywood personalities — with another of his star pals.
(By the way: Can anyone identify the make and model of that marvelous vintage auto parked curbside on the right?)
Back to today’s business; who is that man pictured to Donald’s left?
Some big hints:
– His best film: The Informer.
– He died at 69 in 1970, and was one those virile-looking actors most often was seen onscreen in various authoritarian roles, cops, military types, priests, etc.
– He was never a huge star, but he certainly was a solid, performer in movies and on tv, most often getting top or near-the-top billing.
– He broke into the movies in 1930 in the musical comedy, Heads Up, starring Charles “Buddy” Rogers (now there is a name from the past). Two years later, he appeared with Paul Mini in director Mervyn LeRoy’s hard-edged drama, I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang. In the early Forties, he costarred with Lloyd Nolan and William Bendix in the war drama Guadalcanal Diary.
– Among the many television series he graced were Gunslinger and Outlaws plus 77 Sunset Strip” (remember, Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!) in the Sixties.
– He started his show biz career on the stage as a musical personality. Throughout his movie and tv stints, he remained a composer, song writer and guitarist. He toured with his wife and daughter in a musical act.
– He was a Coast Guard officer in World War II, and played a captain on a mid-Fifties syndicated tv series. Foster held the honorary rank of Commodore in the U.S. Coast Guard. In reel life, he portrayed Capt. John Herrick in the Waterfront series.
– He was married for the second time in 1946 to the late Sheila Darcy, a starlet at Paramount in 1937. After she married the actor, she quit the business. The couple stayed together until Foster’s death.
– In 1963, he joined the cast of “Going My Way,” a tv spinoff of director Leo McCarey’s original feature for Paramount in 1944, costarring Bing Crosby and Barry Fitzgerald. Gene Kelly played the Crosby part.
– After his retirement, he returned to his stage roots in a small playhouse in California. Foster became executive director of a Southern California live theater operation, and he wrote, directed and acted in plays.
Who is our Donald’s mystery guest? (Answer tomorrow.)
That’s our pal, the late Patricia Williamson (right), helping our star of the day sell war bonds. The photo is part of a wonderful vintage collection the late Williamson of Tucson, Arizona generously shared with us before her death.
The above snapshot, showing her with Marlene Dietrich, was taken at Los Angeles’ Union Station as Marlene was leaving on a tour to sell War Bonds issued to help finance the World War II effort. The bond selling was an important form of patriotic activity, and Hollywood stars took it seriously.
Pat wasn’t the only one wishing her a “bon voyage.” Naturally, Dietrich had a military escort.
In 1943 Pat, then Patricia Nanette Hawkins, fresh out of high school, had been signed up by the Standard Oil Company of California to be a “Chevronette.” These young women were part of the company’s second world war effort.
Pat, (who was born on St Patrick’s day when her mother had to leave a production of No, No, Nanette), and a few other compatriots were set up in a booth in downtown L.A., and every afternoon at 4:30 a movie star would arrive to help sell war bonds and stamps.
Pat and the other “Chevronettes” were photographed with stars and other dignitaries, and the pictures were circulated nationwide.
Dietrich, of course, was very active during the War, not only selling Bonds but entertaining the troops. As an immigrant, she took great pride in her pro-U.S. war activities.
Her unforgettable vocalizing of the most effective anti-war hymn of all time – it was also her nickname, “Lili Marlene” — as well as her bravery as a German-born entertainer openly and frequently serenading American troops assures her a substantial niche in history. (As do her more than 50 movies – 33 Hollywood titles — spanning 55 years.)
And as busy Dietrich was making war bond tours, she found time to make a few of those films.
This is a never before released photo — from our exclusive Donald Gordon collection — of one of Hollywood’s most famous leading men of the 1930s and 40s. (The late Donald, a studio actor in the Forties, loved to catch up with star pals in parking lots.)
Question: can you name the star pictured here?
Some very juicy hints:
– He was one of the leading actors of the 1930s and 1940s, who never stopped working in films, on radio, television and on the Broadway stage, then made a comeback in the 1980s and won a Oscar.
– In addition to having a career than spanned 60 years, he is also known for having one of the longest marriages of any Hollywood star. He and his wife were married in 1932, and remained hitched for the ensuing 54 years until her death. And they raised six children.
– As you might surmize, he was a family man. (Should we add that he was a Roman Catholic?) But he was also a soothingly competent actor and one of 20th Century Fox boss Darryl F. Zanuck’s favorites — because he was sooo reliable.
– He was in scores of hit films. His best known are probably 1939′s The Story of Alexander Graham Bell and 1943′s Heaven Can Wait (his personal favorite). Joe especially likes him in 1939′s Midnight, the Billy Wilder-Charles Brackett romp with Claudette Colbert and 1941′s That Night in Rio. In that one he plays two roles, the love interest opposite both Carmen Miranda AND Alice Faye.
– Most people today remember him because of his films as a feisty senior. His movie career was revived by 1983′s Trading Places then 1985′s Cocoon (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor), and its 1988 sequel, Cocoon, The Return.
– He died in 1993, felled by prostate cancer, in Scottsdale, Arizona. He was 85.
Who IS our mystery man?
You may kick yourself when we identify him tomorrow. His name is familiar but then it isn’t. Bonne chance.
These two, pictured in happier times, were stars in their day. But their son’s success eclipsed theirs.
Dad’s Best Movie: 1935′s A Night at the Opera.
His best bit: As the tenor opposite diva Jeanette MacDonald in 1936′s Rosemarie.
Mom and Dad both started at MGM and wound up at Universal.
Best film together: 1940′s The Boys From Syracuse
And Mom’s name is spelled with an “e”
Who are these two? And who is their famous son?
Here’a a picture of “the king of the cowboys,” Roy Rogers, an exclusive shot from our very own private vault.
It’s part of our exclusive Donald Gordon Collection of snapshots taken in Forties Hollywood by our late pal, who at the time was serving a kind of junior-actor-in-residence at Columbia Pictures.
Donald usually took his famous-pal photos in urban settings, on the studio lot, outside restaurants or at informal gatherings at private homes. This time he went rural, to the location of 1945′s Utah, the Republic Pictures western (one of dozens Roy made at the medium-rent studio run by one Herbert J. Yates).
Donald captured the very handsome, 34-year-old Roy Rogers goofing off with a crew member between setups. In our last blog about the cowboy king, published on June 24, we used another of Donald’s informal snapshots of Rogers, which drew this response from regular reader, Patricia Nolan-Hall:
I once shared a hospital room with a woman 60 years my senior. As we chatted we laughed over something we found in common – we’d both had a crush on Roy Rogers!
We suspect the two of you were by no means alone, Patricia.
Continuing this positive mood, we include an e-mail received from B.A. Sanchez commenting on our Sept. 22, 2015 blog, ELEANOR PARKER — Overlooked Star?
Hi! Just discovered this fine article on what I believe may have been Hollywood’s most beautiful and greatest actress. You’ll notice that I didn’t say “super star” or “mega-star,” those self-induced superlatives invented by a film industry lacking for the most part of true dramatic players generating an art form. Well, anyway, thanks for the opportunity of letting me put in my two cents.
And thank you, B.A.
In response to Our Monday Quiz covering Red Skelton, published on June 20, we received the following from Mark Kratzner, whose email address suggests he is connected to The Red Skelton Museum of American Comedy, which thrives in the comedian’s hometown of Vincennes, Indiana.
At issue was one of our Quiz questions:
8) Question: Like Danny Kaye, Skelton was at one point married to his agent/manager. What was his affectionate term for his wife? a) ‘Little Red’; b) ‘Mamma’; c) ‘Doll’; or d) ‘Nut buster.’
The question is misleading. 1st wife, Edna was the manager. 2nd wife, Georgia had the affectionate term.
Sorry if we mislead, Mark. Skelton actually referred to his first wife, who acted as his agent/manager, as “Mamma.” That was the answer we were looking for. To be sure, he also referred to his second wife as ‘Little Red.’ So you are correct.
In any case, best wishes to all those at the Red Skelton Museum.
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