Today is the birthday of Irene Ware (Irene Catherine Ahlberg, 1910-1993). And what are the “both worlds” of which we speak in our headline? Why, classic horror and chorus girl musicals, of course. What other worlds are there?
In this dichotomy, Ware’s career is not unlike Mae Clarke’s, although in different proportions. The stenographer daughter of a New York saloon keeper, she became a beauty queen at age 18, winning Miss Greater New York, Miss United States and Miss Universe in rapid order. She was featured in the 1928 edition of Earl Carroll’s Sketchbook, working her way up to the Vanities by 1930, where she remained through the 1932 edition. Then she moved to Hollywood, where she was immediately tried in starring parts. She is mostly remember for starring opposite Bela Lugosi in the horror classics Chandu the Magician (1932) and The Raven (1935, also with Boris Karloff), and in murder mysteries like Rendezvous at Midnight (1935), The Dark Hour (1936) and Murder at Glen Athol (1936). Gold Diggers of 1937 brought her back to her roots.
The Raven was the crest of her career — while much admired today, it didn’t do well at the time. She lost leading lady status, and became relegated to support roles and B pictures. She retired in 1940 to start a family.
For more on show biz history, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.