Thinking of the brief career of Maggie McNamara (yesterday’s blog) brought to mind the beauty of an earlier era whose fate was similar, and in a way even more tragic.
Hello Everybody. Joe Morella and Frank Segers here again.
Gloria Dickson had made a sensational film debut in 1937’s They Won’t Forget (which also catapulted Lana Turner in a tight sweater to prominence; Lana became “the sweater girl” and went on to one of Hollywood’s fabled careers.).
Gloria was established early as one of Warner Brothers leading ingenues. She married Perc (pronounced Perse) Westmore, Warners’ Make-up Artist, and a member of the famous Westmore Cosmetics Family. She began to drink heavily. Perc too was a heavy drinker.
Gloria and John Garfield had a torrid affair. Gloria and Perc divorced. Her physical appearance had changed, and soon she was doing character roles.
She married twice more; her last husband, an ex-middleweight boxer, was the former bodyguard to Jean Harlow. Dickson died in terrible circumstance in 1945, just months shy of her 29th birthday, in a house fire.
The details are not nice — Gloria died of asphyxiation trying to climb out of an upstairs bathroom window while a fire blazed, presumable started by a smoldering cigarette left on a sofa in the living room.
If you haven’t seen it — do not walk, but run — to get a copy of Lady of Burlesque. It’s a true classic of the 1940’s.
Barbara Stanwyck plays a stripper who solves a murder. The script is based on “The G String Murders” by real life burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee. It features some of the best character actresses of the period.
And at the end of her career Gloria Dickson was one of those character actresses. Here’s a photo of Gloria in that film.