Who IS this woman?

Hello, everybody.  Joe Morella and Frank Segers, your classic movie guys, thinking about one specific day in the mid-1940’s, perhaps our favorite movie decade.

Ever wonder who the big stars — those that got “ink” in the newspapers — of the past were? The other day we happened to run across a copy of The New York Times from August 7, 1945. We decided to take a look and find out.

The Times copy that day had been saved because it told of the first atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima. But being classic movie mavens, we were far more interested in what was happening in the cinemas of the day.

We turned to the section of the paper then quaintly called “amusements,” and perused the columns. Frankly, we were surprised at what we found:

— It announced that 34-year-old Ginger Rogers was going to be cast in a play on Broadway, in a part originally set for Dorothy McGuire.

  Ralph Bellamy’s second wife of 14 years (Catherine Willard) had just divorced him. Two weeks later the actor married his third, actress-songstress Ethel Smith. The union lasted little more than two years.  Smith’s contribution to Western musicology was “Tico Tico,” a popular ditty inspired by her years as an organist in Rio de Janeiro.

Charles Boyer, then 46, had just been signed for a new film.

Rogers, McGuire, Bellamy, Boyer.

Were these the Jennifer Annistons and George Clooneys of the time? We don’t think so.

Anniston and Clooney are tube series veterans whose movies have yet to eclipse their personal celebrity as tv stars and their general, all-around tabloid sparkle. Rogers, McGuire, Bellamy and Boyer, on the other hand, were movie actors, who had logged by then solid cinematic resumes.

Who else did the Times feel worthy of mention that August morning?

The only other names we found mentioned in the “amusement pages” were Vera Hruba Ralston and Ann Rutherford (signed for a film), Brenda Marshall, Franklin Pangborn, Phil Regan and Gale Storm (signed for a musical!) Cecil Kellaway and Forrest Tucker.

These were hardly A-list figures in the Hollywood of the time.

Ralston — yes, that’s she pictured above was a Czech-born figure skater who’d made her way to Hollywood and after a film or two became the girl friend of Herbert J. Yates, the chief honcho of Republic Pictures.  Plans to turn her into another Sonja Henie  didn’t work out and  she converted to straight dramatic roles.   Vera had a long, though not successful, career and is one of the few stars who worked for only one studio.  Who else would hire her?  Rumor was that John Wayne eventually had a clause put into any contract with Republic that he wouldn’t have to work with her.

Brenda Marshall was a Warners contract player who is remembered today – if at all – for her 30-year marriage to William Holden.  Their marriage, Holden’s one and only, was tempestuous.

Gale Storm was seven years away from firmly establishing her tv stardom in “My Little Margie” and 11 years away from “The Gale Storm Show” tube series. And Forrest Tucker was, well, Forrest Tucker.

Perhaps it was a slow summer news day for Hollywood and the Times reporters on that Aug. 7, 1945. Or, perhaps they just rehashed all the previous day’s press releases.

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