Ethel Hallor and Her Highly Disapproving Stage Mother

Today is the birthday of Ethel Hallor (1902-1982). Born in Washington DC, she was the younger sister of better known actors Edith Hallor (1896-1971) and Ray Hallor (1900-1944), although on one memorable occasion, the publicity was all hers. 

The children’s mother, one Annie Hallor was clearly a driven stage mother. Ethel won a beauty contest sponsored by the Washington Times when only a child. Around 1914, Annie split with her husband and brought their four children to New York, ostensibly for Edith’s career (she was the oldest), but Ethel and Ray were not far behind. A fourth sibling, a boy, was sickly and did not go on the stage.

Ethel was only 13 when cast in her first Broadway show, a legit play called Coming and Going (1915), followed by Keeping Up Appearances (1916-1917). Both of these shows were written and directed by and starred Butler Davenport, a veteran of Augustin Daly’s company whom some have called the first Off Broadway theatre artist. The plays were presented at his Bramhall Playhouse, an entire venue on East 27th Street devoted to his work.

Then her sister Edith got cast in the Ziegfeld revue Dance and Grow Thin (1917), followed by the Ziegfeld Follies of 1917. This led to Ethel getting booked for Ziegfeld’s Midnight Frolic and then a couple of movies including Woman (1918) in which she played a very naughty Eve in the Garden of Eden (see above) and then the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 and 1920. She also posed as an artists’ model.

Apparently Mrs. Hallor had her hands full with both girls. The wild, partying life of Broadway revues was not what she’d had in mind when it came to the much longed-for “life on the stage”. The Midnight Frolic was a far cry from the dramas of Butler Davenport. By 1921, the rebellious Ethel had moved out of the house and was living on her own at the tender age of 18. It was at this point that Annie Hallor took the extraordinary step of having Ethel arrested and hauled into court. The event caused a furor and briefly captured national headlines as it played out, both women having their say in the press. Ethel argued that since she was self-supporting, she had every right to be her own mistress. The mother felt the girl had been led astray and was going down the Primrose Path, and that she only wanted to “save her from herself” and get her out of the clutches of “bad associates.”  She was seeking a court order to force her to come home.

The mother seems to have let it drop, but one also notes that Ethel was in no more Broadway shows after this, and had only a bit part in her last movie The Cub Reporter (1922). Ray’s film career lasted until 1932; Edith retired in 1922 to get married but then returned 15 years later as a bit player.

As for Ethel, she married Harry Varsa Varous, the maitre d’ at the Brown Derby, who later opened a night club in Palm Springs. Ethel’s brother Ray lost his life in a car crash while returning from there in 1944.

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