Sunday, January 19, 2014

Miss Ethel Shannon

When I first heard about Ethel Shannon it seemed like there wasn't much information out there about her and only one or two pictures. Well, thankfully I have found enough of both to warrant a lovely write up about this cute silent screen gal. 

It really bugs me when I want to know more about a silent film star and I look and look and can't seem to find anything about them. Same goes with pictures, especially if the actor was famous during there time. There has gotta be something left of them! Thankfully for the Internet and archives, things are looking up!

Ethel Shannon was born on May 22, 1898 in Denver, Colorado, the only child of James and Agnes Shannon. The couple divorced when Ethel was still a child, so, it become Agnes's priority to find Ethel and her a home and to secure a job. 

According to a 1910 census record Agnes found a job as a housekeeper for the Hollenbeak family. She and Ethel were also living with the family at this time.

As soon as Ethel completed school, she moved to Hollywood. She had been acting on stage for awhile and even toured briefly with the legendary stage star, Maude Adams, so it seemed that the new movie making Mecca was just the next stop in her career. Shortly after she arrived a friend told her about a great job opportunity at a nearby film studio. Ethel went to the studio to check it out and soon began working as an extra. 

She made her screen debut in the 1919 film, Easy to Make Money, which starred Bert Lytell. 

During her relatively short career, Ethel had the chance to appear on screen with such big names as William S. Hart, Boris Karloff, Barbara La Marr, and Zasu Pitts. Another big name she starred alongside was the Sultan of Swat himself, Babe Ruth! Ethel once told reporters that Babe Ruth was "a second Roscoe Arbuckle" and that their other costar, Anna Q. Nilsson would complain that Ruth was being TOO funny. How do you like that?!

Clara Bow and Ethel

One of her biggest film roles was in the 1923 version of Maytime. This version is the one that is based solely on the original stage production, whereas the 1937 version with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy basically just used the title. This film was recently found in New Zealand, was restored, and is now available on DVD. Not only is it a great chance to see Ethel in a starring role, but you also get to see Clara Bow in her earlier days! This one is definitely on my wish list!

In 1923, Ethel was one of the actresses picked to be a WAMPAS Baby Star. Also included that year was Jobyna Ralston and Evelyn Brent. 

Even though Ethel was popular with audiences and received a ton of rave reviews, she retired from Hollywood in 1927. Her last role was in the film Through Thick and Thin. 

Ethel Shannon passed away on July 10, 1951 in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I do not know what she passed away from.

She was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale.

Ethel was married twice. Her first husband was a broker named Robert Cary and they were married in 1924. The couple eventually divorced, but I am not sure what year. Her second husband was screenwriter Joseph Jackson. The two were married in 1927 and had a son, Joseph, a year later. Her marriage and son's birth were cited as the reason behind Ethel's retirement from film. Sadly, Joseph Jackson drowned in 1932. Ethel never remarried, although there were some near husbands down the line.

Like her IT girl costar, Clara Bow, Ethel was also a red head.

"The first really big thing that happened to me was when, at the age of eighteen I decided to quit the stage and go into pictures. It was then that I first started to keep a diary. Yes, I really did keep one and though my friends teased me frightfully about it I haven't missed an entry since the day I began it. I think that's a record." ~~ Ethel Shannon, Pictures and the Picturegoer, 1924

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Miss June Marlowe

June Marlowe is memorable to me for one big reason, she got OWNED by Lilyan Tashman when Lilyan caught June with her husband Edmund Lowe. This is what I had heard and read at least...

Read on and find out the real story! 

June Marlowe was born Gisela Valaria Goetten on November 6, 1903 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. She was the eldest child of John, a meat market and later flower market owner, and Hedwig (Hattie) Goetten. She had three younger brothers, Louis John, Armor, and Gerald. She also had a younger sister named Alona. 

I unfortunately know very little about her earlier life. I do know that she graduated from Minneapolis High School and was fond of telling everyone that she was going to be a star!

Technically her first film role was in 1923's Fighting Blood, but she was uncredited. Her first credited role was a year later in When a Man's a Man with John Bowers and Marguerite De La Motte. 

June may be the most well known these days for her role as Miss Crabtree in six Our Gang comedies. How she got the role is a pretty interesting story. She was shopping in a department store one day when the director of the series, Robert McGowan came up to her thinking he had made a wonderful discovery in this beautiful young lady and he offered her the role of the teacher in his popular series. Little did he know that she had in fact been acting in the film industry for years. The one little change that was made was that the natural brunette wore a blonde wig at the suggestion of Hal Roach, head of the studio. 

In 1925, June was named a WAMPAS Baby Star. Among the other starlets nominated that year were Olive Borden and Dorothy Revier. 

Now, June wasn't a huge star, but she did get to appear on screen with big names like Myrna Loy, John Barrymore, Laurel and Hardy, Harry Langdon, Mary Astor, and Rin Tin Tin (hey, he was a big star!)

Her final film appearance was in 1935's Roaring Roads, playing herself. She wanted to retire from the film industry and concentrate on her new husband and becoming a housewife. 

June Marlowe passed away on March 10, 1984 in Burbank, California. She had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

June was originally buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery with her brother Louis, but in 2002 they were both moved to the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles where the rest of their family was buried. I think it is really sweet that all the family is at rest together in one place. 

June was only married once, to a businessman named Rodney Spring in 1933. The two remained married until he passed away in 1983. They did not have any children. 

It seems like the Goetten family were very close and they all had an itch to head to Hollywood because all of them were involved someway in the film industry. Louis John worked as an Assistant Director, Armor worked as a Set Decorator, and Alona worked briefly as an actress. Apparently Gerald Goetten was involved somehow in the industry as well, but I can't find out how or what he did. 

Besides acting on screen, June also worked as a radio announcer and did dramatic readings for various programs. 

Some of her close friends included Dorothy Gulliver and her Our Gang costar, Jackie Cooper.

So, what is the real story behind the Tashman/Marlowe beat down? Who was on the receiving end of Lilyan Tashman's fists and claws? Well, according to a 1933 article in Picture Play magazine it was June's younger sister Alona that had the wrath of Lilyan put upon her. Alona told the police that Lilyan had scratched, beat, and kicked her in Edmund Lowe's dressing room, but she doesn't seem to include why she was in there to begin with. Hmmmm...The case was eventually settled out of court with Lilyan having to pay Alona a 'nominal' amount, according to Lilyan's lawyer. 

"The sweet, sympathetic characterization given the part by Miss Marlowe is natural, wholesome and free from any affectation. It is a part admirably fitted to her talent, and she plays it with an ease and refinement that are a revelation." ~~ Universal Weekly, 1926 [talking about her work in the film The Old Soak]

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Miss Martha Sleeper

Here we have another WAMPAS Baby Star, Martha Sleeper! In my opinion, she is one of the most beautiful ladies that ever graced the silent screen, but she always gets pushed to the back burner because she wasn't as famous as say Clara Bow or Olive Thomas. But, I am remembering her and hopefully after reading this, you will remember her too!

Martha Sleeper was born on June 24, 1910 (I've also read 1907) in Lake Bluff, Illinois. She was the second daughter born to William, office manager for the Keith-Albee-Orpheum Vaudeville circuit, and Minnie Sleeper. Her sister Annette was four years older. The family would eventually move to New York, where Martha spent her childhood, and later to California for William's health. 

When she was around seven years old, she began appearing on stage. She fell in love with acting and theater and wanted to make it a career. Her parents, like many others at that time, were against this. They did allow her to study ballet for a few years and she actually appeared at Carnegie Hall as a ballerina.

As luck would have it, her uncle was a friend of Cecil B. DeMille and he arranged for Martha and DeMille to meet. DeMille liked what he saw but told her that she needed some 'comedy training.' She had two options for said training. She could either go to Mack Sennett and Keystone or the Hal Roach Studios. "I wasn't about to have pies thrown at me, so I went with Hal Roach," Martha told the Palm Beach Daily News in 1964. 

Martha made her film debut in the 1923 film, The Mailman. She would appear in various other Hal Roach productions including Our Gang, Charley Chase, and Laurel and Hardy shorts. Roach really wanted her to be molded into an slapstick comedienne, but it just never turned out that way. After she appeared in these early shorts, she would go on to playing the part of the other woman in most of her later films.

In 1926, when she was only 16 years old, Martha wrote and published a book called Hollywood Be Thy Name. It was about a young girl who grows up in Hollywood and goes through the star system. Hmmmmm...wonder where she got her inspiration? 

In 1927, Martha was named a WAMPAS Baby Star. Among the other actresses selected that year were Barbara Kent and Sally Rand. According to a Photoplay article from 1927, Martha was not an original choice for the 1927 Baby Stars. "Martha Sleeper, the young comedienne, has been substituted for Jean Navelle, the French entry. Miss Navelle was too ill to accept the honor. At least, that's the reason given for the change." I tried to find out what the story was behind the switch but I can't find a thing anywhere about Jean Navelle! I did see a picture of her, and she looked like she was absolutely gorgeous, but I can't find any information about her. This both intrigue and annoys me...

During her years in Hollywood she had the chance to act alongside big names like Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Katharine Hepburn, and all three of the Barrymores!

She made her final screen appearance in the 1945 film, The Bells of St. Mary's with Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Martha later told a reporter that she had known Bing for years and that the film was a lot of fun to make.

After she retired from acting on the screen, she went back to performing on the stage. She also began designing jewelry and clothes and eventually opened her own shop in Puerto Rico after she visited the island and fell in love with it. She stated that she adored it so much that she would never return to the states...but she eventually did.

Martha Sleeper passed away on March 25, 1983 in Beaufort, South Carolina. 

She was buried in the Brotherly Association Cemetery in Charleston, South Carolina.

Martha was married three times, but the details are kind of muddled. Her first husband was an actor named Hardie Albright, who she married in 1934 and divorced in 1940. Her second husband is a mystery. No one seems to know who he was or when they were married. I have read that a man named Harry Dresser Deutschbein could have been the second spouse, but I haven't seen it confirmed. 

Her third husband was Colonel Howard Stelling. They were still married at the time of Martha's death.  

In 1933, she reportedly had a fling with Don Alvarado, the one time fiance of Marilyn Miller. The two were spotted out at the Beverly-Wilshire dancing and getting the gossip mongers talking. She also dated actor Randolph Scott. 

Along with Bing Crosby, her other Hollywood friends included designers Irene and Adrian who she met during her early days in the movie business. 

"I had to go out and find my own work. I got permission to take jobs in the theater in downtown Los Angeles. That's unheard of, a contract player wanting to have time for stage work. Don't ask me why, but once they land a contract they want to cut loose from the stage forever." ~~ Martha Sleeper to the New York Times

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Miss Jobyna Ralston

Man oh man...another lady that I thought I had already covered but seems I have forgotten. And how could any of us forget the bright eyed Jobyna?

Jobyna Ralston was born Jobyna Lancaster Raulston on November 21, 1899 in South Pittsburg, Tennessee. She was the eldest child and only daughter born to Joe and Sarah Raulston. Her brother, Edward Angus joined the family a few years later. 

Sarah Raulston worked as a photographer and was a lover of the arts. She actually named her daughter after stage actress Jobyna Howland, and she wanted her daughter to grow up and become an actress as well. Little Jobyna made her stage debut at age nine, playing Cinderella.

When she was old enough, Jobyna went to New York and attended acting school. She also began appearing in various Broadway productions. It was while acting on stage that she was discovered by the famous French silent comedian, Max Linder. He convinced Jobyna to go to Hollywood and he would put her in some of his films. 

She made her film debut in the 1919 short, Starting Out in Life, but she was mistakenly credited as 'Juliana Ralston.' The first film she appeared in under her real name (although now spelled 'Ralston') was The Sultan of Djazz. During this time, she was still acting on the stage as well.

In 1921, Jobyna reportedly appeared in the film Humor Risk, a film that was produced by the Marx Brothers but was never released and is now considered lost. One story suggests that the film was accidentally thrown out while another suggested that Groucho Marx burned the negatives because he was unhappy with how the film turned out. Since the film is lost, we can't for sure say that it was Jobyna in the film but she is the one most credited with appearing in it. Other actresses who have been rumored to be in the film are Esther Ralson, Helen Kane, and Mildred Davis. There is one picture floating around that reportedly shows the cast of the film and the girl in the picture appears to be Jobyna. Curiouser and curiouser...

The following year, she quit acting on the stage and made film acting her career. The higher income she was making was helping her pay her ailing mother's medical bills.

Jobyna was named a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1923. Her fellow starlets that year included Evelyn Brent, Laura La Plante, and Eleanor Boardman.

Jobyna and Harold Lloyd
Her star kept rising and rising and she was next picked as Harold Lloyd's leading lady in the film Why Worry? Jobyna would appear in five more of Harold's films: Hot Water (1924), Girl Shy (1924), The Freshman (1925), For Heaven's Sake (1926), and The Kid Brother (1927).

Although her partnership with Harold Lloyd is most likely what she is known for nowadays, another claim to fame would be her appearance in the 1927 film Wings with Clara Bow. Also appearing in the film was Richard Arlen, the man who would become her second husband. 

Even though her career was on the up and up, Jobyna decided to retire from acting in 1931. It seems that she would rather focus on her home and family rather than making it big as a movie star. There was also the issue of a noticeable lisp she had that made her unsuitable for talkies. Her last on screen appearance was in the film, Sheer Luck.

Jobyna Ralston passed away on January 22, 1967 in Woodland Hills, California from pneumonia. 

She was buried at the San Fernando Mission Cemetery in Mission Hills, California.

Jobyna was married twice. Her first husband was a farmer named John Campbell, a childhood sweetheart of hers. She was only 16 years old when she married John and both families were against the marriage because they felt both of them were too young. She finally realized that they were right when she began getting restless being a farmer's wife in Tennessee, so, one day she told him, "Another month of this, Johnny, and I go to work. If I do, remember, it's all over with us." (Photoplay, 1928)

Jobyna and Richard Arlen

Her second marriage was to her costar in Wings, Richard Arlen. They met on the set in 1927 and married later that year. In 1933, they had a son named Richard Jr. The union seemed to be a happy one and the two became darlings of the movie magazines which told tales of tennis games played with another Hollywood couple, Bing and Dixie Lee Crosby. Unfortunately, the marriage began to fall apart and Jobyna filed for divorce in 1945 citing Arlen with desertion and cruelty. Interestingly enough, her headstone reads 'Jobyna Ralston Arlen.'

In 1926, she had to take time off to recover from an attack of "Klieg eyes." The film she was working on consisted of a lot of night and day shots, and the Klieg lights helped make the days brighter inside the studio. As a result, actors were frequently blinded on set by the lights and had to spend some time off with dark glasses on to rest their eyes. 

In 1930, Jobyna was appearing in a play called "Bad Babies" in Los Angeles. The play, which dealt with the love lives and criminal activities of high school students, had been cited as being indecent and after a few weeks, the cast (including Jobyna), producer, playwright, and stage manager were all arrested. They were all eventually released on a $500 bond and later had to pay a fine.

One of Jobyna's hobbies was painting and she used to paint her friend's portraits. She also enjoyed horseback riding and golfing. 

"We both can't have big careers and Dick is the best man artistically, that's all. It's a survival of the fittest. I can't make more money than he does. I can't be a bigger star. We'd be unhappy that way. But I'm happy now. I have so much. I have such an important job, the job of keeping Dick sane and level-headed." ~~ Jobyna Ralston, Photoplay 1929