Archive for the Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps Category

Mary Mulhern: Jack Pickford’s Last and Least-Known Wife

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Broadway, Hollywood (History), Women with tags , , , , , , on January 24, 2017 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Mary Mulhern (1908-1965). Originally from Newark, NJ, Mulhern was the daughter of Irish immigrants, her father a traveling salesman. When she was only 17 years old, she was cast as a chorus girl in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1925. The following year she was also cast in the Ziegfeld revue No Foolin‘. In 1928 she took a trip to London and Paris. And in 1929 she appeared in three Vitaphone shorts: Somewhere in Jersey, Just Like a Man, and Harry Rosenthal and His Bath and Tennis Club Orchestra. At this point she seemed well on the way to a decent career.

But then there was a lapse in judgment. In 1930, she became the third Ziegfeld wife of rake, roué, and reprobate Jack Pickford, stepping into shoes previously filled by the better known Olive Thomas and Marilyn Miller. The day after the wedding, they were accosted by creditors for unpaid bills. Pickford was alternately violent and neglectful of her, and then he was hospitalized following a car accident. They were in the process of getting divorced when he passed away in 1932.

In the meantime she had starred in a 1931 Hollywood production of Kaufman and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime with Althea Henley, produced by Sid Grauman. But after this, her professional career seems to have evaporated, not surprising in the depths of the Great Depression.

By 1934, she was back in New York. From this point, the only references to her are mentions by columnists, always in the context of her being a former Ziegfeld beauty and Pickford wife.

Walter Winchell gives this intriguing item in 1934: “What the gazettes omitted in the Max BaerEdward McCarthy snarl is that Edward McCarthy is Mary Mulhern’s Monkey-Doodle.” Translated, this sounds like there was a public altercation between the boxer Max Baer and this McCarthy, probably in some night club, and that McCarthy was Mulhern’s romantic interest at the time. That this appears as an item at all in Winchell’s column has all the earmarks of Mulhern contacting Winchell to complain that she wasn’t mentioned in any of the previous coverage of the event. Over the next 20 years, Winchell would apparently be one of Mulhern’s only friends, throwing her whatever crumbs he could in his column.

A Winchell column item from 1945 informs us that she is “to wed a fourth time, to a youthful British nobleman.” This one, unfortunately, seems to have been a fantasy on every level. Pickford was Mulhern’s only known husband. This may have been a simple error of flipping the facts: Mulhern was Pickford’s third wife, but Pickford was not Mulhern’s third husband. And the marriage to the nameless nobleman seems never to have taken place.

The 1950s found Mulhern in desperate straits.  In 1952, Jack Lait’s column mentions that she was “a hostess in an ice cream shop at 59th Street and Park Ave.” In 1953, Winchell reported that she was working at a restaurant and needed a job. In 1955 she wrote to Winchell seeking his corroboration that she had been in show business so she get “a loan from an actor’s group.” Later that year she was checked into a mental hospital, where she remained until she passed away a decade later.

Margaret Irving: From “The Follies” to “Aunt Gus”

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Women with tags , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2017 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Margaret Irving (1898-1988). Those Baby Boomers who remember Irving as an old lady on television will be astonished to know that she started out as a Broadway Beauty (see above). Her debut was the long-running Fred Stone musical Jack O’Lantern (1917-1918) in which she played The Lady of Dreams”. There followed the Ziegfeld Follies of 1919 and 1920 and the Music Box Revue of 1921 and 1922.  She played the role of Mrs. Whitehouse in both the stage and screen versions of the Marx Brothers’ Animal Crackers, for which she is probably best known (her face if not not her name) today. That’s her on the left:

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Through the 30s and 40s she divided her time between Hollywood and Broadway. Notable films include San Francisco (1936), Wife vs. Secretary (1936), and the Abbott and Costello comedy In Society (1944).

During the 1950s, she was best known as “Aunt Gus” on the now-forgotten Jackie Cooper sit-com The People’s Choice (1955-1958), created and produced by Irving Brecher, who wrote the screenplays for the Marx Brothers’ At the Circus (1939) and Go West (1940), and created the radio and tv shows The Life of Riley.

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Her last credit was a guest shot on 77 Sunset Strip in 1960.

For more on show biz historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold

Tomorrow Morning on TCM: Dames

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Hollywood (History), Movies with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 14, 2017 by travsd

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Tomorrow morning (January 15, 2017) at 6:00am Eastern, Turner Classic Movies will show the 1934 Warner Brothers musical Dames, co-directed by Busby Berkeley and Ray Enright. 

Dames is a terrific high water mark for the Warner Bros. musical machine. Hugh Herbert is an eccentric millionaire who cuts off most of his relatives because they aren’t up to his moral standard—especially a cousin who writes and produces Broadway shows (Dick Powell). Zazu Pitts is another cousin who’ll inherit $10 million if all goes well, her husband played by the inevitable Guy Kibbee. Their daughter is Ruby Keeler, who romances Powell and stars in his new show. Joan Blondell is a chorine who frames Kibbee to get backing for the show. Also look for the hilarious Johnny Arthur as Herbert’s fey secretary.

Awesome numbers staged by Berkeley—breath-taking at times. Songs include “I Only Have Eyes for You” and the catchy title number. The stable of songwriters on this one includes: Harry Warren, Al Dubin, Sammy Fain, Irving Kahal, Allie Wrubel, and Mort Dixon. 

For more on classic show bizconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold

Merry Christmas!

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Christmas, VISUAL ART with tags , , , on December 24, 2016 by travsd

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I snapped this on the wall of the Lambs Club last month during Fields Fest. It’s by the pin-up artist Alberto Vargas, a favorite of both the Mad Marchioness and myself.

Stars of Vaudeville #1015: Klondike Kate

Posted in AMERICANA, Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Bowery, Barbary Coast, Old New York, Saloons, Singers, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , on December 23, 2016 by travsd

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Klondike Kate (Kathleen Eloise Rockwell, 1873-1957) was a real person! She was the toast of Dawson, Yukon during the Gold Rush, performing in saloons, the Savoy Theatrical Company, and the Palace Grande Theatre, where her famous “Flame Dance” earned her as much as $750 a night in the boom town economy (the equivalent of over $21,000 in today’s money). She got involved romantically with Alexander Pantages, and helped bankroll his Seattle-based vaudeville circuit. Pantages proceeded to throw her over and marry another woman. Kate continued to perform in west coast vaudeville for a time in the early years of the 20th century, eventually retiring to Oregon.

Born in Junction City, Kansas, Kate grew up in North Dakota; Spokane, Washington; and Valparaiso, Chile. She moved to New York City at age 18, which is where she got her first experience as a chorus girl and dancer in Coney Island, and vaudeville houses throughout the city.

Ann Savage played a fictionalized version of her in the 1943 movie Klondike Kate. Mae West paid her homage in the title of Klondike Annie (1936), although her character’s story is quite different in that picture.

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

Patsy Ruth Miller: From Baby Star to Scribe

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, BOOKS & AUTHORS, Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Women with tags , , , , , on November 17, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Patsy Ruth Miller (1904-1995).  The word “fluke” is the wrong one to use in describing Miller’s career (after all, it was far better than that of most people who actually aspire to be in movies) but it is a tempting one nevertheless. “Accident” may be more apt. Miller was from St. Louis. She happened to meet Alla Nazimova at a party while on vacation with her family in Los Angeles. This led to a screen test, which led to getting cast. Her career progressed rapidly. She had a small role in Camille (1921) and was selected as a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1922.

 

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As Esmerelda

In 1923, she landed the movie role for which she is best known today, that of Esmerelda opposite Lon Chaney in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. And she worked steadily and prominently for nearly another decadeIn 1924 she was in the ill-fated Lloyd Hamilton feature A Self Made Failure 1924 (which is of more interest to us now than it was to audiences at the time). Other films included the 1926 Lubitch comedy So This is Paris, which boasted the first choreographed dance number in a silent film (it happened to be the Charleston), as well as So Long Letty with Charlotte Greenwood (1929), several comedies with Edward Everett Horton (The Hottentot, The Aviator and The Sap, all 1929) and the all-star 1929 musical showcase The Show of Shows. Her film career was over by 1932.

In 1936 she appeared in a Broadway show called White Man (it ran a week).

After this, she reinvented herself as a writer, and was a success at it.  She won 3 O. Henry awards for her fiction, and she also wrote radio scripts, the moderately successful 1947 Broadway show Music in My Heart, and the 1988 memoir My Hollywood: When Both of Us Were Young, which got this terrific review by Richard Brody in the New Yorker just six months ago. 

Miller came out of retirement as an actress only twice. She has a cameo in the 1951 film Quebec. And she appeared in a 1978 low budget (black and white!) drama called Mother. 

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For more on silent films please see my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

Stars of Vaudeville #1013: Nita Naldi

Posted in Art Models/ Bathing Beauties/ Beauty Queens/ Burlesque Dancers/ Chorines/ Pin-Ups/ Sexpots/ Vamps, Broadway, Hollywood (History), Movies, Silent Film, Vaudeville etc., Women with tags , , , , , , , on November 13, 2016 by travsd

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Today is the birthday of Nita Naldi (Mary Dooley, 1894-1961).

Naldi was the child of working class Irish parents in New York City. When her (then single) mother died in 1915, she was forced to care for her two younger siblings. Fortunately her extraordinary beauty made it easier than it might have been. She worked as an artists’ model and then broke into a vaudeville in a two-act with her brother Frank. This led to chorus parts in Follow the Girl (1918), The Passing Show of 1918 and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1918 and 1919. This in turn lead to acting roles in plays, the biggest of which was aptly named Opportunity (1920).

From here she went into films, essentially starting out at the top, opposite John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920). She was to become of Hollywood’s top silent era vamps, starring in such notable films as Blood and Sand (1922), The Ten Commandments (1923), Cobra (1924), and Alfred Hitchcock’s second film The Mountain Eagle (1926). She was a frequent co-star of Rudolph Valentino and his wife Natacha Rambova.

It was during this heyday that she she sat for this famous illustration by Alberto Vargas:

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Starting in the late 20s she spent several years in Europe and married her longtime lover the millionaire J. Searle Barclay. By 1931 this had fizzled out. The pair separated, she came home, filed for bankruptcy and starred in two short-lived Broadway shows Firebird (1932) and Queer People (1934). At this stage, it was widely held that she was no longer a beauty; she had gained weight since her film stardom. But she continued to perform. She appeared in an off-Broadway revue with Mae Murray in 1942, had a role in the 1952 Broadway show In Any Language, and coached Carol Channing for The Vamp (1955).

For more on vaudeville historyconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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