Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Messingers

Let's just get all the acting siblings out of the way! I have noticed a trend while researching though. While looking up a single child star, I find out they had a sibling or two that also acted. Hey, can't leave the brother and sister out of the limelight! 

Here we have a case where all three children in the Messinger family acted in Hollywood during the silent era and later during the talkies either in front of or behind the camera. We are going to work backwards in this case due to the fact that the eldest Messinger sibling, Marie, had a small film career and wasn't really in the presses much. Also, I couldn't find any pictures of her which is frustrating. If you happen to find one, please let me know!

Gertie Messinger was born Gertrude Dolores Messinger on April 28 (my birthday!), 1911 in Spokane, Washington. She was the youngest child born to Henry Bert Messinger, a carpenter (he later worked building sets for the studios), and his wife, Josephine Elizabeth Hone. In one census record I found, Josephine was listed as an actress, however I am not sure if she was an actress on stage or if she just acted on screen with her children every once in awhile, which was common during that time. Unless she worked under a different name, I just can't substantiate that she worked full time as an actress. 

I have also read in a few places that the Messingers were cousins of child actresses Mary and Mildred Kornman. I'm not sure how they are related, but an interesting tidbit nevertheless. 

Gertie made her screen debut in the 1917 short, The Hunted Man, for the IMP Company.

She made the biggest splash while appearing in films with the "Fox Kiddies" which included herself and fellow child stars Virginia Lee Corbin, Carmen De Rue, Francis Carpenter, and Violet Radcliffe. The films were usually remakes of famous plays and stories, only with these tiny little kiddies playing all the adult roles. Such films included: Jack and the Beanstalk, Aladdin and the Wonderful Lamp (both 1917) and Treasure Island (1918). 

Gertie also appeared in a series of shorts with Edward Peil Jr. as the starring character 'Johnny Jones.'

During her 30+ years working in Hollywood, she had the chance to share the screen with big names like Cary Grant, Anna Q. Nilsson, Nancy Carroll, and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. She also appeared on screen with her brother, Buddy, six times and sister, Marie, three times.

As she grew out of being a cute, chubby, rosy cheeked little child, Gertie was still a feature in fan magazines posing for cheesecake photos with fellow actors and actresses and still appearing in films, although they were mostly westerns and B pictures. As she got older, her parts got smaller and smaller and sometimes she even went uncredited on screen. The last three films she appeared in were epics, Samson and Delilah (1949), Sunset Blvd (1950) and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952), but she appeared without a credit in all three. 

Gertie Messinger passed away on November 8, 1995 in Woodland Hills, California.

She was buried at Forest Lawn in Hollywood Hills, California.

Gertie was married three times. Her first husband was actor and stuntman David Sharpe, who she wed in 1932. The couple had a daughter, Kathryn in 1933, but ended up divorcing in 1935. In a rather creepy, Jerry Springer-esque move, David Sharpe later went on to marry the widow of Buddy Messinger shortly after he passed away in 1965. Yes, he married his ex wife's brother's widow. Good lord...

Gertie's second marriage was to a man named Henry Walsh Knight in 1939, but the marriage was over just a few months later. Her third and final husband was cameraman Schuyler Sanford who she married in 1939. The couple remained married until Gertie's death. Sanford was buried alongside her when he passed away in 2001.

Gertie and David Sharpe

"Gertrude Messinger has been called the 'prettiest and sweetest little ingenue in the entire industry.'" ~~ Exhibitor's Trade Review - June 3, 1922.


Buddy Messinger was born Melvin Joseph Messinger on October 26, 1907 in San Francisco, California. He was the middle child, and only son born to Henry and Josephine Messinger. 

Buddy made his film debut in 1916's Fighting Joe. Most of Buddy's film roles were as the chubby, funny kid and he often played a character named "Buddy." This might have also been where he got his stage name from, but I am not sure. From the old movie fan magazines from the era that I found, he seems to have found the most amount of publicity and fame from appearing in "Century Comedies" for the Century Company. 

Like his younger sister, Gertie, Buddy also appeared in a serial with Edward Peil Jr. "The Adventures and Emotions of Edgar Pomeroy" ran from 1920 until 1921 and featured Peil as the title character with Buddy and child actress Lucille Ricksen making frequent appearances. 

Out of all three Messinger siblings, Buddy appeared in the most films. From 1916 until 1950 he had over 140 credits to his name. Like most child stars, as he got older, the film roles began to get smaller and smaller. However, he did have small roles in some big pictures such as Libeled Lady (1936), A Star is Born (1937), and Citizen Kane (1941).

Buddy made his last film appearance in 1950's Devil's Doorway with Robert Taylor. That was not the end of his Hollywood career, however. Starting in 1948, Buddy began working as an assistant director. He reportedly worked as second assistant director on Giant and Around the World in 80 Days (both in 1956) but I don't believe he received on screen credit. He continued working in this capacity all the way until 1963 when he was directing episodes of The Andy Griffith Show and Make Room for Daddy

Buddy Messinger passed away on October 25, 1965 in Los Angeles.

He was interred at Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park. I have gone to visit him once before, but the mausoleum where his ashes are is under like hardcore chains and padlock. So, hopefully on my next visit I can get someone to open those up so I can pay my respects properly. 

Buddy was only married once, to Marjorie Montgomery from 1932 until his death in 1965. Shortly after her husband's death, Marjorie married David Sharpe, the ex husband of her deceased husband's sister. Got all that?

According to a fan magazine of the era, Buddy's many hobbies included hiking, swimming, and reading. He reportedly had quite a large home library. This pleases the librarian in me. 

"One of the best liked personalities of the screen, featured as an important member of the casts in any number of big feature productions. Buddy Messinger has a huge following throughout the land." ~~ Universal Weekly - December 15, 1923.


And now to the ever so slightly elusive and mysterious Messinger without a face!

Marie was born Marie Margaret Messinger on November 27, 1905 in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho. She was the oldest child born to Henry and Josephine Messinger. 

Like I stated before, Marie's career was brief, only lasting from 1917 until 1929 with nine credits to her name. She acted mostly in films with her siblings, appearing in four films with each of them. I think perhaps Marie's age made her a little "too old" for Hollywood's standards of what a child star should be. 

Marie passed away on April 4, 1987 in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, I do not know where she is buried. 

Marie was married three times. Her first husband was a man named Wilonie Starnes who she married in 1927...and then had the marriage annulled a few months later. Her second marriage was in 1930 to a man named Roy Marion Baker. The couple divorced in 1935. Her third and final marriage was to William Aber, who she married in 1935. The pair had a son named Lynn in 1937, but the marriage eventually ended in divorce in 1945.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

September Birthdays!

 Betty Blythe ~ September 1, 1893

Marilyn Miller ~ September 1, 1898

Richard Arlen ~ September 1, 1899

Louise Glaum ~ September 4, 1888

Arline Pretty ~ September 5, 1885

Irene Fenwick ~ September 5, 1887

Doris Kenyon ~ September 5, 1897

Clara Kimball Young ~ September 6, 1890

Beatrice Dominguez ~ September 6, 1897

Dorothy Gulliver ~ September 6, 1908

Merna Kennedy ~ September 7, 1908

May McAvoy ~ September 8, 1899

Marguerite Snow ~ September 9, 1889

Tsuru Aoki ~ September 9, 1892

Pauline Garon ~ September 9, 1901

Al St. John ~ September 10, 1893

Adele Astaire ~ September 10, 1896

Bessie Love ~ September 10, 1898

Asta Nielsen ~ September 11, 1881

Alice Lake ~ September 12, 1895

Billie Ritchie ~ September 14, 1878

Fay Wray ~ September 15, 1907

Edith Roberts ~ September 17, 1899

Esther Ralston ~ September 17, 1902

Dolores Costello ~ September 17, 1903

Greta Garbo ~ September 18, 1905

Ben Turpin ~ September 19, 1869

Leland Benham ~ September 20, 1905

John Bunny ~ September 21, 1863

Dorothy Dalton ~ September 22, 1893

Julia Faye ~ September 24, 1893

Antonio Moreno ~September 26, 1887

Gladys Brockwell ~ September 26, 1894

Alice Hollister ~ September 28, 1886

Myrtle Gonzalez ~ September 28, 1891

Ruth Stonehouse ~ September 28, 1892

Billy Bevan ~ September 28, 1887

Lil Dagover ~ September 30, 1887

Valda Valkyrien ~ September 30, 1895

Renee Adoree ~ September 30, 1898

Elsie Tarron ~ September 30, 1903