Since there is nothing in our rule book precluding the honoring of three stars at the same time in one blog, we decided to plunge ahead. Thus our “Stars” of the Week, dedicated to the memories of Mona Freeman, Martha Hyer and Ruby Dee.
While the latter had the best acting resume, Freeman and Hyer were hardly slouches. All three enjoyed solid careers in different respects although only Hyer (pictured above) could at least tentatively claim status as a leading woman.
– Mona Elizabeth Freeman, who died on May 23 at age 87, was the essential Fifties Hollywood ingenue: sweet, virtuous with a suggestion of sex buried within that wholesome package that drove her teenage fans (including Frank back then) wild. She started out as a John Robert Powers model in New York City. At age 14 was named the first “Miss Subways,” which made her face familiar to millions of New York subway riders in the mid-Forties. Howard Hughes probably never rode a subway, but he did take notice of Freeman and signed her to a contract.
Among her first assignments was a tiny part in the 1952 film noir, Angel Face, preceded by a one-line turn as Edward G. Robinson’s secretary in Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. Freeman later went to Paramount and branched out to other studios. She portrayed Tab Hunter’s teenage sweetheart in 1955′s Battle Cry. By 1960, her career had shifted almost exclusively to television. I’m not the type, she said, to play roles which won Academy Awards.
– Martha Hyer , who died May 31 at age 89, never won an Oscar but she was nominated for her role as a reserved schoolteacher in 1958′s Some Came Running (she lost out that year in the supporting actress category to Wendy Hiller, who won for Separate Tables). A Texas-born beauty Hyer portrayed William Holden’s fiancee in 1954′s Sabrina costarring Humphrey Bogart and Audrey Hepburn. Hyer was a stunner, sometimes compared to Grace Kelly, and enjoyed the good life. She was married twice, the second time to Casablanca producer Hal Wallis (it lasted two decades until his death). Her career went well into the Sixties with roles in The Carpetbaggers and 1965′s The Sons of Katie Elder with John Wayne and Dean Martin.
– Ruby Dee (nee Ruby Ann Wallace), who died June 11 at age 91, was known equally well for her stage work as for her movies. I didn’t have the kind of talent or personality that kept me dreaming about Hollywood, she once said. They don’t hire little colored girls to do this or that. Nonetheless Hollywood made good use of her talents in supporting roles usually as the sensible wife or girl friend as in The Jackie Robinson Story (opposite the baseball master himself) and in the same year’s No Way Out.
She could also play less noble roles; her part in Jules Dassin’s 1968 outing, Up Tight!, was that of a prostitute on welfare. Dee’s career was a long one, lasting 36 years covering nearly 115 titles, as was her second marriage to the late actor Ossie Davis (it lasted 57 years). Unlike many actresses, she seemed to get better as she aged. Frank remembers a New York interview he nervously conducted with Dee as a green reporter for Variety back in the early 70′s. To his enormous relief she proved both patient and unfailingly gracious.