Lynn Bari: The Woo Woo Girl

A pause to look at the interesting career of supporting player and B movie actress Lynn Bari (Margaret Fisher, 1913-1989).

The Virginia native concocted her professional name when still a teenager at drama school. It hitches together Lynn Fontanne’s first name with J.M. Barrie’s last, tweaked to match the Italian town. At 20 Bari enrolled in the 20th Century Fox professional school, resulting in her first film work. For her first five years she was mostly cast as a chorus girl or extra, in dozens of movies, including Meet the Baron (1933), Stand Up and Cheer (1934), George White’s 1935 Scandals, Curly Top (1935), Dante’s Inferno (1935), Redheads on Parade (1935), King of Burlesque (1936), Song and Dance Man (1936), The Great Ziegfeld (1936), Pigskin Parade (1936), On the Avenue (1937), Wee Willie Winkie (1937), and Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937). Around the time of Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), her fourth Shirley Temple picture, she began to ascend to speaking parts. She appears with Jane Withers and the Ritz Brothers in Pack Up Your Troubles (1939), and has a small role in Lillian Russell (1940).

Bari’s career got a boost during the World War II era when she became a popular pin-up (much like Betty Grable, who shares the same birthday). Bari was nicknamed “The Woo Woo Girl” and “The Girl with the Million Dollar Figure”. During these years she had good roles in The Magnificent Dope (1942), Hello Frisco Hello (1943), The Bridge at San Luis Rey (1944), Shock (1946), Home Sweet Homicide (1946), and Nocturne (1946), among others. From 1943 through 1950 she was married to Sid Luft, prior to his marriage to Judy Garland.

By the ’50s Bari’s career had ebbed again. You can see her in things like the Stephen Foster bio-pic I Dream of Jeannie (1952), Francis Joins the WACs (1954) and Abbott and Costello Meet the Keystone Kops (1955). But she kept busy in television for nearly two decades, and even starred in her own series Boss Lady (1952) in which she played a woman who inherits her father’s construction business. Her final credit was in the 1968 film The Young Runaways. 

To learn more about show biz history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.