Here’s another snapshot from the Donald Gordon Collection. That’s Donald with one of his favorite people. (That’s the reason for the big grin.)
She made films from the 30s through the 50s. But her greatest hit was on radio.
More — she was a California girl, born in Anaheim in 1916. Her parents divorced when she was an infant although her businessman father later left her an $11,000 trust (a nice sum in those days), which financed her early show biz ambitions.
By the time she was 18, she had appeared in a series of uncredited roles in a number movies including Laurel and Hardy’s Babes in Toyland in 1934. At 19, she made her first credited movie,”Stars Over Broadway.
Joe thinks her best performance is in 1938’s Boy Meets Girl, a Warner Brothers comedy in which she plays a pregnant waitress adopted by a pair of lazy screenwriters (James Cagney and Pat O’Brien) .
In any case, she quickly learned to capitalize on her gift for comedy as the ditzy foil and sexy straight woman. It helped enormously that she sported a knockout figure, reportedly measuring 39D-23-38. At first, she was compared to Gracie Allen. Later she was regarded as an early version of what became Marilyn Monroe.
Dumb sexpot is the part she played many times in many of her eclectic movie career. Her character in The Fabulous Joe, the 1947 comedy that costarred Walter Abel was named ‘Gorgeous Gilmore.’ (By the way, by the time she posed with Donald Gordon in the early Forties, her career was sharply on the rise.)
As mentioned, she was a huge hit on radio creating one of her best known roles, that of ‘Irma Peterson,’ prototypical fetching but boneheaded female in “My Friend Irma.” In 1949 she starred in a Paramount version so her fans could see what the dumb blonde looked like. The studio used the film to mark the movie debuts of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. (She also played “Irma” on TV, noting that back then Irma had to be a virgin for the network.)
When she was 36, she was cast opposite a 62-year-old Groucho Marx in the goofy comedy, A Girl in Every Port. In one of her strangest roles, she turned up as Marie Antoinette in Warner Brothers’ The Story of Mankind, a 1957 curiosity with an all-star cast (among others, Ronald Colman, Hedy Lamarr, Virginia Mayo, Vincent Price, Charles Coburn and, of all things, a young Dennis Hopper as Napoleon Bonaparte.)
After she appeared in a somewhat matronly role in 1962’s Mr. Hobbs Takes A Vacation (which costarred James Stewart, Maureen O’Hara and Fabian), she spent the rest of her career working in television. She died relatively young, of cancer — three months past her 56th birthday.
Can you name her? Answer tomorrow, so stay tuned.