Rita Oehmen: Brief Candle That Lit 3 Others

Chicago born Rita Oehmen (1917-1995) started out in a vaudeville act with her brother Edward called The Oehmen Twins. At age 20 she briefly performed as a solo, and rapidly got into films. She danced in the short The Jam Session (1937), and had a bit part in Go Chase Yourself (1938) with Joe Penner. She appeared opposite George O’Brien in the western Gun Law (1938), her only starring role in a feature. Then came the musical short Sea Melody (1938) with the Ted Fio Rito Band, and then Happily Buried (1939), a short in which she starred, with Benny Rubin.

In early 1941 she married bandleader Brian Farnon. The pair had three daughters, all of whom became actresses. Ironically Charmian Carr (1942-2016), despite only having three credits, is the best known of them, for she played Liesel in The Sound of Music (1965). The other two, Shannon Farnon (b.1941), and Darleen Carr (b. 1950) both have hundreds of screen credits, some of them quite notable. Darleen had regular and recurring roles on numerous TV shows, including The Streets of San Francisco, and The Smith Family with Henry Fonda, and was in movies like the original version of The Beguiled (1971) with Clint Eastwood. Shannon is primarily a voice-over actress best known for voicing Wonder Woman on Superfriends and other Hanna-Barbera productions,

Oehmen and Farnon divorced in 1957, the same year he became a regular on The Spike Jones Show. Oehmen subsequently developed an alcohol problem that plagued her the rest of her life. Not to judge! Surely those couple of years of her own promise, contrasted with the high productivity and visibility of her daughters, had to have been a constant thorn in her side.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous.

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