Today a director might be able to get away with real bumps and grinds while filming a movie about burlesque queens, but in Hollywood’s hay day (with censorship) a director had to be damned clever.
Hello everybody, Joe Morella and Frank Segers again. And just who are these two women pictured above, anyway? (Read on!)
Yesterday we discussed a favorite of Joe’s, the 1943 feature, “Lady of Burlesque.” It was an independent production released through United Artists. Hunt Stromberg ( a minor version of Sam Goldwyn when it came to indie productions) had bought the rights to Gypsy Rose Lee’s mystery novel and had gotten William Wellman to direct and Barbara Stanwyck to star.
Michael O’Shea (today best remembered as Virgina Mayo’s husband and the star of some minor films, one where he portrayed Jack London) and Pinky Lee were cast as Burlesque comics. Lee WAS a star among burlesque comics and he and Stanwyck do a not to be missed jitterbug in the picture. One forgets that Stanwyck started her career as a chorus girl.
But the real stars of the film are the bevy of character actresses who support the leads. One was Gloria Dickson, the late Thirties and Forties Warner Brothers star saluted in yesterday’s blog.
Pictured in descending order above are two more. Know them? They are Iris Adrian and Marion Martin. Each was superb in the film.
Ok, ok, it may be a stretch to ask you to recall Adrian and Martin off the top. But both actresses had lengthy careers as supporting character actresses through the 1950’s and into the early Fifties, appearing in mostly “B” pictures.
Iris Adrian (born in 1912 Iris Adrian Hostetter) appeared in some 160 movies usually as the sexy, tart-tongued chorine, waitress or (even) streetwalker. Her characters usually sported such names as Sugar, Goldie or Bubbles. (In “Lady of Burlesque,” she is cast as Gee Gee Graham.) Born in Los Angeles, Adrian had a modestly refined upbringing, attending a finishing school dubbed Miss Page’s School For Girls. She was married three times, and had the misfortune in 1994 to find herself caught in a devastating earthquake that struck Northridge, California. Iris, 82, died months later from complications ensuing from a broken hip.
Marion Martin came from a different back round, born into a mainline society family in Phildelphia in 1908. But financial disaster struck when the family fortune — her father was a high-rolling steel company executive — vanished in the 1929 stock market crash. Marion soon found herself taking real life chorus girl roles in various New York shows. Producer Flo Ziegfeld Jr. spotted her in a costume described as “a feather and some beads,” liked what he saw, and cast Marion as Gypsy Rose Lee’s replacement in the Follies of 1933. Universal came calling in 1938, and Martin moved to Hollywood, beginning a movie career that last until the early 1950’s. Like Adrian, Martin excelled in spicy stripper-chorus girl roles and most prominently played the sexy foil to the Marx Brothers in one of their pictures.
And oh yes, Wellman came up with a neat trick when the Stanwyck character, Dixie Daisy, does her bumps and grinds. (No, we won’t tell you what happens.) See the film. It’s fun.
By the way, by 1943, Stanwyck was no stranger to spicy movie roles. In the 1930’s before the Hays Office exerted its censorship grip on Hollywood subject matter, she had already logged several roles as seductresses sleeping their way to the top. In 1933’s “Baby Face,” Barbara’s teenaged character was actually pimped out by her own father. Wow!