Monday, August 4, 2014

Miss Billie Dove

Sorry for the lack of activity on here. This is my last week at work before I move, so, a lot going on!

That being said, let us begin! And, I cannot believe I haven't written about Billie Dove yet! But, here we go!

Billie Dove was born Lillian Bohny on May 14, 1903 in New York City, New York. I have read in a few places that people say her name at birth was really Bertha Lillian Bohny, but according to a 1910 census record, she as listed as Lillian. So, we are going with that.

She was the oldest child and only daughter born to Charles and Bertha Bohny. In the same 1910 census record, Charles's occupation is listed as "waiter." Her younger brother, Charles Jr. was born three years after her. 

In the 1920 census, Charles Sr. is not listed as living in the household with his family, BUT, Bertha Bohny's marital status was listed as "MARRIED." So, I am not sure what was going on there. At this time though, Billie was listed as working as a model in the theater. Getting really specific there! But, she had to help support her family somehow!

When she was still a teenager, Billie joined the Ziegfeld Follies Revue. Florenz Ziegfeld himself spotted her in an advertisement and thought she was beautiful and just had to her in his show. The one little snag was that Billie couldn't really sing or dance very well. Ziegfeld, and more importantly the audience didn't seem to mind. They just loved to look at her on the stage. She would go on to appear in the Midnight Frolic as well, the 'naughtier' Follies show.

In the early 1920's, Billie headed west to California and began her screen career. She made her film debut in 1921 in Get Rich-Quick Wallingford. 

Billie may not have had a stellar, super star career, but she was popular with the movie going audiences. At the highest point of her career, she was receiving almost as much fan mail as the top box office actresses like Clara Bow! Her most notable films include, The Black Pirate (1926) with Douglas Fairbanks, Kid Boots (1926) with Clara Bow, and Blondie of the Follies (1932) with Marion Davies. 

The latter film ended up being the last that she appeared in. Her experience on this film was not a happy one due to William Randolph Hearst cutting her part down to make more screen time for his mistress, Marion Davies. She also wanted a chance to focus on her personal life. 

In 1963, a film starring Charlton Heston called Diamond Head was being advertised as Billie Dove's comeback film. Unfortunately, all of her scenes ended up being cut and so her big comeback was not to happen.

Billie Dove passed away on December 31, 1997 in Woodland Hills, California.

She was entombed at Forest Lawn in Glendale. 

Billie was married three times. Her first husband was director Irvin Willat, who she met on the set of one of her pictures. The two were married from 1923 until their divorce in 1929.

Her second marriage was to oil executive, Robert Kenaston. This was her longest marriage, it lasted from 1933 until they divorced in 1970. The marriage produced a son, Robert Alan (born in 1934) and the couple also adopted a daughter, Gail, around 1938. Robert Kenaston passed away three years after the couple's divorce and sadly, Robert Jr. predeceased his mother by two years after losing a battle to lung cancer. 

Her third and final marriage was to architect John Miller. They married in 1970 and only stayed married for a few years before they were divorced. After she and Miller divorced, she went back to using the last name of Kenaston and that is what is on her grave marker. 

During the 1930's Billie was living with and engaged to Howard Hughes. Years and years later Billie told the story that Howard actually offered her then husband, Irvin Willat a large amount of money if he would divorce her so that HE could marry her. Irvin and Billie all thought it was a funny kind of joke from a friend, but he took the money! Not sure if he cashed it though...hmmmm. But, in the end, Billie and Irvin divorced and she ended up breaking up with Howard for reasons she would never reveal. She later said that the reason behind the break up was so silly and small that no one would believe her if she told them. They did remain friends though.

She reportedly had a fling of some sort with Florenz Ziegfeld during her career in the Follies. Her screen career was supposedly jump started by Mrs. Ziegfeld, Billie Burke, who wanted the beautiful young girl out of the way. I haven't read much more about this so I am thinking it is not a substantiated claim. 

Billie once told a story of being proposed to by John Gilbert while he was separated from his wife, Leatrice Joy. She never took the proposal seriously, and I guess we will never know if he was or not!

She was nicknamed, "The American Beauty" and appeared in a movie by the same name in 1927. The film also featured Alice White and Margaret Livingston. 

Unfortunately, most of her films are considered lost. A majority of them were lost in a fire, similiar to what happened to Theda Bara's films.

She was reportedly offered the role of Belle Watling in Gone with the Wind but she turned it down. It of course went to Ona Munson, a fellow Ziegfeld girl.

Two of her most famous fans included Gerald Ford and Billie Holliday, who actually took her stage name from her idol.

She had a pretty impressive collection of beautiful perfume bottles.

"I had always liked the movies. All of the girls wanted to be in the movies. I didn't want to be. I knew I was going to be. I'm not psychic, but there have been some instances in my life when I have been absolutely sure of something and this is one of them." ~~ Billie Dove

Friday, August 1, 2014

August Birthdays!

Eva Tanguay ~ August 1, 1879

Lya Mara ~ August 1, 1897

Pearl Eaton ~ August 1, 1898

Marin Sais ~ August 2, 1890

Dolores del Rio ~ August 3, 1904

Vera Kholodnaya ~ August 5, 1893

Lotte Neumann ~ August 5, 1896

Shannon Day ~ August 5, 1896

Hoot Gibson ~ August 6, 1892

Billie Burke ~ August 7, 1884

Teddy Sampson ~ August 8, 1898

Charles Farrell ~ August 9, 1900

Norma Shearer ~ August 10, 1902

Hobart Bosworth ~ August 11, 1867

Pauline Frederick ~ August 12, 1883

Charles "Buddy" Rogers ~ August 13, 1904

Evelyn Francisco ~ August 13, 1904

Ethel Barrymore ~ August, 15, 1879

Phyllis Dare ~ August 15, 1890

Billie Rhodes ~ August 15, 1894

Edna Maison ~ August 17, 1892

Margaret Leahy ~ August 17, 1902

Jack Pickford ~ August 18, 1895

Fred Stone ~ August 19, 1873

Elsie Ferguson ~ August 19, 1883

Lloyd Hamilton ~ August 19, 1891

Olga Baclanova ~ August 19, 1896

Eleanor Boardman ~ August 19, 1898

Colleen Moore ~ August 19, 1899

June Collyer ~ August 19, 1904

Marguerite Courtot ~ August 20, 1897

Eve Southern ~ August 23, 1898

Kathryn Carver ~ August 24, 1899

Faire Binney ~ August 24, 1900

Alice White ~ August 24, 1904

Ruth Roland ~ August 25, 1892

Helen Gibson ~ August 27, 1892

Gretchen Hartman ~ August 28, 1897

Babe London ~ August 28, 1901

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Miss Faith Bacon

Faith Bacon only appeared in one film. She was never a huge star, but rather an infamous one who was known for appearing nude on stage. I have been seeing her pictures more and more and felt the need to read up more about her and to share her story with all of you. She was a truly beautiful woman who just found herself getting into one case of bad luck after another.

She was in the Ziegfeld Follies though, and you know how much I love Ziegfeld girls!

Faith Bacon was born Frances Yvonne Bacon on July 19, 1910 in Los Angeles, California. She was the only child of Francis and Charmion Bacon. The couple divorced when Faith was still a child, so she was raising mainly by her mother.

In a goofy twist (because there always has to be one) I have read of many people referring to Charmion/Char Bacon as being Faith's sister, and not her mother. The problem with this is that no one can seem to find a mother's name. One theory is that Char Bacon (seriously?) was trying to get work as an actress too and tried to play off that she was in fact's Faith sister and not her mother. Who knows...

During her teens and early twenties, Faith worked as an artist's model and eventually headed to Paris where her career really started to take off. Faith had never had any dance training and never really expressed interest in dancing at all, but she was just drawn to the burlesque shows that were popular in Paris at the time. One of her first jobs was dancing in Maurice Chevalier's revue.

In the 1920's, she returned to the US and appeared in various Broadway productions, most famously in the Earl Carroll's Vanities. 

During this time it was illegal to dance on stage nude. You could be nude on stage, but you could not move. So, to skirt around these laws Faith would dance around with bubbles, flowers, and most famously, fans. One of their more creative ways of evading the law was to use the stage lights to "paint" clothes on Faith. Needless to say, these ruses didn't keep them safe for long.

In 1930, the New Amsterdam Theatre was raided and Faith, Earl Carroll, and various other cast and crew members were arrested for performing in an indecent show. Faith told the police that she never really appeared nude on stage. She told them she actually had on a gauzy material that only gave the illusion she was nude. Was this true or just a way to escape jail? I don't know, but either way, they were released and the charges were dropped. The scare did cause them to tone down the show a smidgen though.

The following year, Faith was in THE revue, The Ziegfeld Follies. Joining her that year were Follies favorites Nora Bayes, Katherine Burke, Ruth Etting, Gladys Glad, Mitzi Mayfair, Grace Moore, Helen Morgan, and Harry Richman. (Seriously, can you tell I love the Follies?) She stayed with the Follies from June 1931 until November of that year. 

After her Follies appearance, things quieted down a bit for Faith. She wasn't appearing in  big shows anymore and her career seemed to be at a standstill. That is, until 1938 when she was back in the papers again, but it wasn't because of rave reviews. Faith was suing fellow burlesque dancer, Sally Rand for $375,000 claiming that she had stolen her fan dance routine. Sally scoffed at the notion and remarked that the fan dance had been done years and years before them and that no one really had a right to it. I can't find a result of the lawsuit, but I am guessing it was thrown out.

Around the same time as the Sally Rand lawsuit, Faith appeared in her only film, Prison Train. This was not a big feature by any means and it was just another reminder that her career was going down hill.

The 1940's and 50's had her appearing in a few stage shows here and there, but nothing really stuck. She kept searching for her next big break and was coming up empty handed, until finally no one would hire her. 

Faith Bacon passed away on September 26, 1956 in Chicago, Illinois. Earlier that day she had been walking up her hotel's stair well when she suddenly opened up a window and jumped. She fell two floors and landed on the roof of the saloon next door. Her roommate, Ruth Bishop, tried to grab Faith's skirt to prevent her from jumping, but she managed to wrestle out of her grasp. Faith died later at the hospital of a fractured skull and multiple internal injuries. 

She had attempted suicide a few years earlier by overdosing on sleeping pills. Ruth Bishop claimed that had been terribly depressed and yearning for a job right up until her death. 

Her body was claimed by the American Guild of Variety Artists who paid for her funeral and burial at Wunder's Cemetery in Chicago. 

Faith was married to song writer Sandford Hunt Dickinson at the time of her death. I am not sure when they married, but they were estranged when she passed away. I have read on a few genealogy sites that Faith was married previously to a man named Fenton William Perkins but I can't find any more information than that. 

Sally Rand was not the only person to be sued by Faith. Oh no, she seemed to be sue happy (probably in part to not being able to keep a job and because she was said to be very difficult to work with). In 1936, she sued a theater company she was with for $100,000 in damages after she fell through a glass drum she was standing on during a performance of Temptation. She was badly cut all over her legs and thighs because, well, she was nude! She later settled out of court for $5,000 and then turned around and bought herself a diamond with her winnings. Of course.

Her next 'victim' was a carnival owner who she claimed put tacks on the stage she was supposed to stand. She lost this case.

During the height of her fame she was billed as, "America's Most Beautiful Dancer."

"I'm an artist and she [Sally Rand] is a business woman. My dance was one of ethereal beauty. It really was. And that woman turned it into an animated French postcard...Of course the fan dance should include nothing but the fans. When I do it, I wear only talcum powder...That woman dances the fan dance with high heels. Imagine! All she does is walk around and let people gawk. It breaks my heart to see my art treated like that." ~~ Faith Bacon to The Pittsburgh Press - October 11, 1930

"I do not dance in complete nude as the police censor said. I wouldn't unless I knew everyone in the audience was an artist who would see only the aesthetic beauties of such a dance." ~~ Faith Bacon, in court after the New Amsterdam Theatre raid - 1930

"Fan dancing? I hate it. I have always wanted to be an obstetrician. I love babies." ~~ Faith Bacon to the Sheboygan Press - September 11, 1937