Monday, September 30, 2013

Gail Russell: Lost Dream

Life is the fullest when we pursue our dreams. I once heard Oprah Winfrey describe a job she had as a teenager at a local five and dime. I don't remember the exact job, but I do remember her saying that she wasn't allowed to talk.  Regarding this restriction, Oprah said, "I thought I would die!" Can you imagine Oprah not talking?

Sometimes, not choosing the right career path can be deadly, as in Gail Russell's situation.  If you've never heard of her, she was a beautiful actress that never wanted stardom, or even to act for that matter, but regardless, a movie career was thrust upon her. 

Russell began painting at age five, and her lifelong dream was to become a commercial artist.  However, that ambition was put aside when Hollywood came calling.

Born in Chicago, Russell moved to the Los Angeles area with her family when she was a teenager. Her otherworldly beauty brought her to the attention of Paramount Pictures in 1942. She chose a starlet's salary of $50 a week to help her struggling family, and also to appease her mother, who as a young woman, had wanted to be an actress. Living vicariously through your kids is never a good idea. Russell was an extreme introvert and almost clinically shy with no acting experience, yet Paramount had great plans and lots of money riding on her.

Russell appeared in several films in the early and mid-1940s, the most notable being The Uninvited (1944).

She started drinking on the set of that film to ease her paralyzing stage fright and lack of self-confidence.  She'd freeze, forget her lines, then dissolve into tears, so the alcohol was a crutch.  But it eventually destroyed her career, her looks, and her personal life. By the fifties, Gail Russell's career was on the skids.

On July 5, 1957, she was photographed after she drove her convertible into the front of Jan's coffee shop at 8424 Beverly Blvd. After failing a sobriety test, Russell was arrested and charged with driving under the influence.

Russell was unable to control her addiction and in August of 1961, was found dead.  Malnourished and full of alcohol, Gail Russell died of a heart attack at age 36. Authorities found her in her apartment surrounded by her paintings and empty vodka bottles.

Who knows how different and fulfilling Gail's life would have been if she'd only been able to pursue her dream?  Are you pursuing yours? If not as a full time job, do you have time to enjoy it as a hobby?

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Transforming Rita

Back in the 1930's, a young actress named Rita Cansino, was having a hard time breaking away from small exotic roles, in part due to her name, and in part to the jet black hair of her Spanish heritage.

As a starlet at Fox Studios, Rita Cansino married salesman and promoter Edward C. Judson.  Judson knew potential when he saw it.  Not only was Cansino beautiful, she was a dancer with a charismatic stage presence, and a spark that Judson knew would propel her to stardom.

Judson got her the lead roles in several independent films and arranged a screen test with Columbia Pictures. Columbia studio head Harry Cohn signed Cansino to a long-term contract, then cast her in small roles in Columbia features.

Cansino appeared in several roles in the mid 1930s playing an exotic foreigner.  Cohn claimed that Cansino's image was too Mediterranean.  That reduced her opportunities to being cast in "exotic" roles, which were more limited in number. 

At Cohn and Judson's urging, Cansino changed her hair color to auburn and her name to Rita Hayworth. By using her mother's maiden name (Haworth), she allowed the public to see her British-American ancestry and became a classic "American" pin-up.

And the rest is history...Rita Hayworth became a screen siren superstar of the 1940s! 

My favorite Rita Hayworth movie is Gilda. What's yours? Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Peg Entwistle: A Tragic End

If I were to mention the name Peg Entwistle, it might not ring a bell. However, if you're familiar with Hollywood trivia, you'd remember her as the actress who committed suicide by leaping from the Hollywood sign.

It's a shame that twenty-four year old Peg Entwistle, a talented and accomplished stage actress, is most remembered for her death. An unsuccessful attempt at a film career led her to a tragic end that happened eighty-one years ago today.

Here's an account from

On the night of September [16], 1932, actress Peg Entwistle made her way up the steep slope of Mount Lee in Los Angeles to the site of the famous Hollywood sign (back then it spelled out "Hollywoodland"). She took off her coat and neatly folded it, put down her purse, and climbed up the maintenance ladder on the back of the 50-foot-high letter H. She stood atop it for a moment, looking over the lights of the glamorous city below, then leapt to her death.Peg probably died instantly, and her body was found [on September 18]by a hiker. 

Born in 1908 in Port Talbot, Wales, U.K., Millicent Lilian Entwistle, nicknamed Peg, saw more than her share of tragedy. She was just a child when her mother died unexpectedly, after which she moved with her father to New York City. A few years later, he was struck down by a hit-and-run car on Park Avenue and killed.

In her late teens, Peg began to pursue an acting career on the stage and was talented enough to win roles with the Boston repertory company and on Broadway in the renowned Theater Guild productions. (Bette Davis said that Peg Entwistle was her inspiration to pursue acting.) At age 19, she married actor Robert Keith, only to discover that he had been married previously and had a six-year-old son [Brian Keith, later of Family Affair fame]. They divorced.

Peg was able to find stage work in productions featuring such stars as Dorothy Gish and Laurette Taylor, but was already battling the demons of depression. Nevertheless, she set her sights on Hollywood and moved to Los Angles in 1932 in hopes of landing roles in motion pictures. 

At first she found work again on the stage, but then it seemed her destiny had really changed when RKO signed her to appear in the film Thirteen Women (click here to watch her appearance), starring Irene Dunne. When previews of the film received poor reviews, the studio re-edited it, and much of Peg's part was left on the editing floor. RKO subsequently dropped the options on her contract.  And on the night of September [16], 1932, after a bout of heavy drinking fueled by her depression and despair, 24-year-old Peg Entwistle told her uncle (with whom she was living) that she was going to meet some friends at a local drug store. Instead, she made her way to the Hollywood sign to meet her fate.

I recently learned that Peg's grave site is in Oak Hill Cemetery in Glendale, Ohio, a small town close to Cincinnati.  Over the summer, the kids and I took a field trip there to find it.
   This plot is shared with her father. For many years it was unmarked until a Facebook campaign raised funds for it.

   With my youngest at the grave site

                         The boys at Peg's family plot, probably wondering why their mother is so morbid

Although this song wasn't written for Peg Entwistle, I'm using it as a little tribute to her, compliments of Steely Dan:   

I've seen your picture 
Your name in lights above it 
This is your big debut 
It's like a dream come true 
And when you smile for the camera 
I know they're gonna love it 

I like your pin shot 
I keep it with your letter 
Done up in blueprint blue 
It sure looks good on you 
So won't you smile for the camera 
I know I'll love you better 

It will come back to you 
It will come back to you 
Then the shutter falls 
You see it all in 3-D 
It's your favorite foreign movie

Were you familiar with Peg Entwistle's story?  Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Super Simple Peachy Barbecue Chicken

Last week we said goodbye to the end of summer barbecues...sniff.  Well, even though picnicking season is over, I love barbecued chicken any time of year--especially when it can be easily prepared in my crock pot! Here's a super simple recipe from Better Homes and Gardens that I hope you'll enjoy!

Super Simple Peachy Barbecue Chicken

2 1/2 - 3 pounds chicken drumsticks, skinned (if desired)
1 cup barbecue sauce
1/3 cup apricot or peach preserves
2 teaspoons yellow mustard
Fresh peaches, cut into wedges (optional)

Place chicken in a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker. For sauce, in a small bowl, stir together barbecue sauce, preserves, and mustard. Pour over chicken.

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 6 to 8 hours or on high-heat setting for 3 to 4 hours.

Transfer chicken to a serving dish; cover and keep warm. Transfer sauce to a medium saucepan. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes or until sauce is desired consistency. Serve chicken with sauce. If desired, garnish with fresh peaches. Makes 4-6 servings.

Do you have a favorite BBQ chicken recipe? 

Thanks for visiting and have a great week!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Off For Labor Day

Happy Labor Day to all! I'm taking the week off, but will be back to blogging next week!

I had a feast today of burgers, hot dogs, ribs, slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans and blueberry cake. I still can't move.  Hope you enjoyed the holiday, too!