Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Accidental Shooting of Singer/Actor Russ Columbo 1934 Forest Lawn Glendale Cemetery

Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo (January 14, 1908 – September 2, 1934), known as Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love," his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words," and the legend surrounding his early death.

Early life

Columbo was born in Camden, New Jersey, the twelfth child of Italian immigrant parents, Nicola and Giulia (Julia) Colombo. He started playing the violin at a very young age and debuted professionally at the age of 13. He left high school at age 17 to travel with various bands around the country. He sang and played violin in numerous nightclubs.



By 1928, at the age of 20, Columbo began to participate in motion pictures, including a Vitaphone short in which Columbo appeared as a member of Gus Arnheim and His Orchestra. Eventually, he did obtain some feature work in front of the camera, but he slowed down his activities in cinema to pursue other interests. At the time of his death, Columbo had just completed work on the film Wake Up and Dream; he was on his way to stardom when his life was cut short.[1] Among Columbo's other films are: Woman to Woman (with Betty Compton), Wolf Song (with Lupe Vélez), The Texan (with Gary Cooper), and Broadway Thru a Keyhole.[2][3]

Singer and composer

Columbo performed seven vocals while with Arnheim as a member of the string section, six for Okeh Records and only one for Victor ("A Peach Of Pair" on June 18, 1930, a few months before Bing Crosby joined the band, along with Al Rinker and Harry Barris as "The Rhythm Boys").

Columbo ran a nightclub for a while, The Club Pyramid, but gave it up when his manager told him he had star potential.[2] In 1931, he traveled to New York with his manager, songwriter Con Conrad. Conrad secured a late-night radio slot with NBC. This led to numerous engagements, a recording contract with RCA Victor records, and tremendous popularity with legions of mostly female fans. Not long after arriving in New York, Columbo met actress Dorothy Dell at an audition for the Ziegfeld Follies and began seeing her. Conrad did his best to break the relationship up with a series of publicity-created "ruse romances" involving Columbo and actresses such as Greta Garbo and Pola Negri; it succeeded.[4] (Dorothy Dell died in an auto accident in June 1934—just months before Columbo's own fatal accident.) The type of singing that was popularized by the likes of Columbo, Rudy Vallee, and Bing Crosby is called crooning. Columbo disliked the label, but it caught on with the general public. It gained popular credence, despite its initial use as a term of derision for the singers employing their low, soothing voices in romantic songs.

Columbo composed the songs "Prisoner of Love," "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)" with Con Conrad, Gladys Du Bois, and Paul Gregory, "Too Beautiful For Words," recorded by the Teddy Joyce Orchestra in 1935, "When You're in Love," "My Love," "Let's Pretend There's a Moon," recorded by Fats Waller and Tab Hunter, and "Hello Sister." "Prisoner of Love" is a standard that has been recorded by Frank Sinatra, Jo Stafford, Art Tatum, Perry Como, the Ink Spots, Mildred Bailey, Teddy Wilson with Lena Horne on vocals, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine, and James Brown. Perry Como had a no.1 hit on Billboard with his recording. James Brown had a Top 20 pop hit and performed the song on The Ed Sullivan Show and in the concert movie The T.A.M.I. Show (1964).


On Sunday, September 2, 1934, Columbo was shot under peculiar circumstances by his longtime friend, photographer Lansing Brown, while Columbo was visiting him at home. Brown had a collection of firearms and the two men were examining various pieces. Quoting Brown's description of the accident:[5]

I was absent-mindedly fooling around with one of the guns. It was of a dueling design and works with a cap and trigger. I was pulling back the trigger and clicking it time after time. I had a match in my hand and when I clicked, apparently the match caught in between the hammer and the firing pin. There was an explosion. Russ slid to the side of his chair.

The ball ricocheted off a nearby table and hit Columbo above the left eye. Surgeons at Good Samaritan Hospital made an unsuccessful attempt to remove the ball from Columbo's brain; he died less than six hours after the shooting.[1][6] Columbo's death was ruled an accident, and Brown exonerated from blame.[7][8] His funeral mass was attended by numerous Hollywood luminaries, including Bing Crosby and Carole Lombard, who was to have had dinner with Columbo the evening of the accident and who was romantically involved with him.[1][4][9][10]

Columbo's mother was hospitalized in serious condition from a heart attack at the time of the accident; the news was withheld from her by his brothers and sisters for the remaining ten years of her life.[1][11] Due to her previous heart condition, it was feared that the news would prove fatal to her (she died in 1944). They used all manner of subterfuges to give the impression that Columbo was still alive, including faked letters from him and records used to simulate his radio program.[12]

Columbo is interred in Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.

Actress Virginia Brissac was serving as Columbo's private secretary at the time of his death, and was later called upon by the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office to testify and identify Columbo’s remains at the subsequent inquest.[13]

In popular culture

In 1958, singer Jerry Vale recorded a tribute album, I Remember Russ. In 1995, 61 years after Columbo's death, singer Tiny Tim released an album in tribute to Columbo, titled Prisoner of Love (A Tribute to Russ Columbo), which he recorded with the group Clang.

Columbo is one of the historical figures named in the Neil Diamond composition "Done Too Soon."

Further reading

Lanza, Joseph and Dennis Penna. Russ Columbo and the Crooner Mystique. Feral House, 2002. ISBN 0-922915-80-6 
Miano, Lou, Russ Columbo: The Amazing Life and Mysterious Death of a Hollywood Singing Legend. Silver Tone Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-9677970-1-2 
Kaye, Lenny. You Call It Madness : The Sensuous Song of the Croon. Villard, 2004. ISBN 0-679-46308-9 Time Capsule 1944; a History of the Year Condensed from the Pages of Time. Time-Life Books, 1967.


1. "Bullet Fired Accidentally Kills Singer". The Evening Independent. September 3, 1934. 
2. "Russ Columbo Doesn't Croon". Milwaukee Journal. November 1, 1931. 
3. "Theatre Offerings for Next Week: At the Princess". Montreal Gazette. November 4, 1933.
4. Kilgallen, Dorothy (June 5, 1941). "Voice of Broadway". The Miami News. 
5. "Russ Columbo Dies By Accidental Shot". The Miami News. September 3, 1934. 
6. "Russ Columbo Is Accidentally Slain". The Rock Hill Herald. September 4, 1934. 
7. "Columbo's Death Held Accidental". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. September 6, 1934. 
8. "Other Columbo Gun Unloaded". The Miami News. September 5, 1934. 
9. "Timely Closeups From Hollywood: Columbo Ceremonial". The Day. September 6, 1934. 
10. "Mrs. Columbo is Not Yet Aware of Son's Death". The Ososso Argus-Press. September 4, 1934. 
11. "Death of Russ Columbo's Mother Ends Tender Hoax". The Miami News. August 31, 1944. 12. Camden People, Russ Columbo

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Voice Actor Don LaFontaine 2008 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Donald Leroy "Don" LaFontaine (August 26, 1940 – September 1, 2008) was an American voice actor who recorded more than 5,000 film trailers and thousands of television advertisements, network promotions, and video game trailers.

He became identified with the phrase "In a world...," used in so many movie trailers that it became a cliché. Widely known in the film industry, the man whose nicknames included "Thunder Throat" and "The Voice of God," became known to a wider audience through commercials for GEICO insurance and the Mega Millions lottery game.[1]

Early life

LaFontaine was born on August 26, 1940, in Duluth, Minnesota, to Alfred and Ruby LaFontaine.[2] LaFontaine said his voice cracked at age 13 in mid-sentence, giving him the bass tones that later brought him much fame and success.[3] After graduating from Duluth Central High School in 1958, he enlisted in the United States Army, and worked as a recording engineer for the Army Band and Chorus.[4]


LaFontaine continued to work as a recording engineer after discharge and began working at the National Recording Studios in New York City, where, in 1962, he had the opportunity to work with producer Floyd Peterson on radio spots for Dr. Strangelove. Peterson incorporated many of LaFontaine's ideas for the spots and, in 1963, they went into business together producing advertising exclusively for the movie industry. LaFontaine claimed that this company first came up with many of the famous movie trailer catch phrases, including his own future signature phrase, "in a world..."[5]

While working on the 1964 western Gunfighters of Casa Grande, LaFontaine had to fill in for an unavailable voice actor in order to have something to present to MGM. After MGM bought the spots, LaFontaine began a career as a voiceover artist.

He became the head of Kaleidoscope Films Ltd., a movie trailer production company, before starting his own company, Don LaFontaine Associates, in 1976. Shortly thereafter, he was hired by Paramount to do their trailers, and was eventually promoted to vice president. He decided to get back into trailer work and left Paramount, moving to Los Angeles in 1981. LaFontaine was contacted by an agent who wanted to promote him for voiceover work. Thereafter, LaFontaine worked in voiceovers. At his peak, he voiced about 60 promotions a week, and sometimes as many as 35 in a single day. Once he established himself, most studios were willing to pay a high fee for his service. His income was reportedly in the millions.[6]

LaFontaine often had jobs at a number of different studios each day. With the advent of ISDN technology, LaFontaine eventually built a recording studio in his Hollywood Hills home and began doing his work from home.

LaFontaine lent his distinctive voice to thousands of movie trailers during his career, spanning every genre from every major film studio, including The Cannon Group, for which he voiced one of their logos. For a time, LaFontaine had a near-monopoly on movie trailer voiceovers. Some notable trailers which LaFontaine highlighted in the intro on his official website include: Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Shrek, Friday the 13th, Law and Order and Batman Returns. LaFontaine stated in 2007 that his favorite work in a movie trailer was for the biographical film The Elephant Man,[7] though according to a response to the question on his website, he had several trailers which stood out in his mind, and he didn't like to choose one.[8]

Lafontaine also did announcing for a few WWE Pay Per View events, as well as the "Don't Try This at Home" bumper.

In a 2007 interview, LaFontaine explained the strategy behind his signature catch phrase, "in a world where...":

We have to very rapidly establish the world we are transporting them to. That's very easily done by saying, "In a world where..." You very rapidly set the scene.[9]

LaFontaine also did other voice work, including as the announcer for the newscasts on WCBS-TV New York, from 2000 to 2001. LaFontaine was a recurring guest narrator for clues on the game show Jeopardy![10] and appeared on NPR's Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! on May 14, 2005, where he played "Not My Job" (a game in which famous people have to accurately answer questions totally unrelated to their chosen professions). The prize (for a listener, not the contestant) is "Carl Kasell's voice on your home answering machine." LaFontaine did not win the game, and offered to record the listener's answering machine message himself. LaFontaine once claimed that he enjoyed recording messages like these because it allowed him to be creative in writing unique messages, and said that he would do so for anyone who contacted him if he had the time. By 2007, he found the requests to be too numerous for him to take on, and stopped providing the service.[8]

In 2006, GEICO began an advertising campaign in which actual customers told their own stories of GEICO experiences, accompanied by a celebrity who helped them make the story interesting. LaFontaine was featured as the celebrity in one of these ads which began airing in August 2006. In the commercial, he was introduced as "that announcer guy from the movies," with his name printed on-screen to identify him. He began his telling of the customer's story with his trademark "In a world...." LaFontaine credited the spot as life-changing for having exposed his name and face to a significant audience, noting, "There goes any anonymity I might have had..."[11]

Health and death

On Friday, August 22, 2008, LaFontaine was at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, with a pulmonary embolism and was reported to be in critical condition the following Tuesday. His family made a public appeal for prayers on the site.[12] Ten days later, LaFontaine died on September 1, 2008, six days after his 68th birthday, following complications from a pneumothorax.[13] He is buried at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. His final television voice over role was for the Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap" in which he said in his final line: "In a world... There, I said it. Happy?" The episode also ended with a short tribute to him, although the iTunes, UK, and Spanish versions of the episode omitted the dedication.[14] His final movie trailer voice-over was for Call + Response, a documentary about global slave trade, for which he donated his talent.[15]


On September 6, 2008, America's Most Wanted showed a visual with a picture of him with words below that said "In Memoriam: Don LaFontaine August 26, 1940 – September 1, 2008." John Walsh had announced, prior to the dedication sign, that LaFontaine—who had been the show's announcer since 1988—had died at the age of 68. On the evening of September 7, 2008, Adult Swim had a bumper that said: Don LaFontaine [1940-2008].

"The Apprentice Scout," an episode of Chowder, is dedicated to LaFontaine. The episode dedicated his memory and said "To Don LaFontaine 1940-2008." Fellow voice-over artist and friend John Leader retired from the voice-over business on September 1, 2008 upon learning of LaFontaine's death.

Satire, parody and other appearances

LaFontaine's voice was used in Family Guy episodes "North by North Quahog," and "Brian Sings and Swings," and The Untold Story version of "Stewie B. Goode," and has been featured in musical tracks. The satirical radio theater group Negativland once made a collage of his fantasy film promotions, complete with background screams, clashing swords and dramatic music.[16]

He was also referenced, with opening clips of his work and several subsequent verbal homages, in the film In a World..., written and directed by Lake Bell. On an episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, voiceover artist George Lowe, playing himself, is hired by aliens, because, he says, they couldn't get LaFontaine to do the job.


1. Bernstein, Adam (March 12, 2008). "Hal Douglas, famed voice-over artist, dies at 89". The Washington Post. 
2. Greder, Andy (2008-09-02). "Duluth's "King of Voiceovers" dies". Duluth News Tribune. 
3. "Don LaFontaine: The Voice". 
4. David Ouse. "Don LaFontaine, Duluth’s ‘Voice of God’". Zenith City Online. 
5. "Biography". Don LaFontaine's official site. 
6. "Ask the Answer Bitch". E!online. April 2, 2005. 
7. Arrillaga, Pauline (April 2, 2007). "About Don LaFontaine". Houston Chronicle. 
8. "Ask Don". Don LaFontaine's official site. 
9. Dillon, Raquel Maria (2008-09-02). "Don LaFontaine, voice of movie trailers, dies". Associated Press. 
10. "J! Archive – Clues narrated by Don LaFontaine". 
11. "Archives". Don LaFontaine's official site. 
12. "VO Legend Don LaFontaine in Critical Condition". Fishbowl LA. August 26, 2008. 
13. "Don LaFontaine Dies At 68". 2008-09-01. 
14. Phineas and Ferb episode "The Chronicles of Meap" (2009) 
15. "Call + Response Trailer". 
16. Negativland, Dick Vaughn's Moribund Music 

Monday, August 31, 2015

"Our Gang" Actor Billy Laughlin 1948 Rose Hills Cemetery

William Robert "Billy" Laughlin (July 5, 1932 - August 31, 1948) was an American child actor. He is best known for playing the character Froggy in the Our Gang short films in its final stretch, from 1940 to 1944.

Early life

Laughlin was born on July 5, 1932 in San Gabriel, California, to Robert Vine Laughlin (August 28, 1901 - September 30, 1972) and Charlotte C. Cruikshank (March 11, 1903 - June 4, 1992). According to Our Gang Films actor Robert Blake,[1] Billy 'Froggy' Laughlin was a dearly loved, sweet, gentle soul. His mother and father showered his brother and him with love and affection.


Laughlin rose to fame at the age of eight when he appeared in his first Our Gang film, The New Pupil. His character was known for his strange, guttural voice, which was reminiscent of a frog's croak. Laughlin's last Our Gang short film was the last film of the series in 1944 called Dancing Romeo. Contrary to popular belief, Laughlin did the voice himself without dubbing (in the 1994 film, the character's voice was dubbed by E.G. Daily).

When Our Gang stopped production in 1944, Laughlin appeared in Monogram's Johnny Doesn't Live Here Any More, then voluntarily moved away from show business and enjoyed relatively peaceful teenage years.


Laughlin died at a hospital on August 31, 1948 after a speeding truck hit him while he was delivering newspapers and riding a Cushman Motor Scooter near his home in La Puente, California. John Wilbrand, a 16-year-old friend who was operating the scooter survived with minor injuries.[2][3][4] The scooter was given to Laughlin by his parents two weeks prior to the accident.[5] Laughlin lived the shortest life of the actors who appeared in the Our Gang films, dying at the age of 16. Laughlin is interred in a grave at the Rose Hills Memorial Park Cemetery in Whittier, California, in the same row as his parents.


1. Blake, Robert (2012). Tale of a Rascal: What I Did for Love. Black Rainbow Publications. p. 178. ISBN 0615591949. 
2. (09-02-1948)."Youth Dies From Injuries". La Puente Valley Journal. 
3. (10-05-1948). Certificate of Death No. 12160, William Laughlin, District 1951, County of Los Angeles, State of California. 
4. (09-02-1948)."Crash Kills Youth of 16". Los Angeles Times. 
5. Blake, Robert (2012). Tale of a Rascal: What I Did for Love. Black Rainbow Publications. p. 178. ISBN 0615591949.

Burlesque Dancer & Actress Sally Rand 1979 Oakdale Cemetery

Sally Rand (April 3, 1904[1] – August 31, 1979) was a burlesque dancer and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck.

Early life

Hattie Helen Gould Beck was born in the village of Elkton, Hickory County, Missouri.[2] Her father, William Beck, was a West Point graduate and retired U.S. Army colonel, while her mother, Nettie (Grove) Beck, was a school teacher and part-time newspaper correspondent.[3] The family moved to Jackson County, Missouri while she was still in grade school.[4]

Helen got her start on the stage quite early, working as a chorus girl at Kansas City's Empress Theater when she was only 13. An early supporter of her talent was Goodman Ace, drama critic for the Kansas City Journal who saw her performing in a Kansas City nightclub and wrote glowing reviews. After studying ballet and drama in Kansas City, the teenage Helen decided her future lay in Hollywood. For a short time as she worked her way to the west coast, she was employed as an acrobat in the Ringling Brothers Circus.[3] She also performed in summer stock and traveling theater, including working with a then-unknown Humphrey Bogart.[5]


During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927.

After the introduction of sound films, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club, at 15 E. Huron, in Chicago.[6] Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, which was entitled Century of Progress. She would play peek-a-boo with her body by manipulating her fans in front and behind her, like a winged bird as she swooped and twirled on the stage, usually to "Clair de Lune."[7]She was arrested four times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure after a fan dance performance and while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago, where the nudity was only an illusion,[8] and again after being bodypainted by Max Factor, Sr. with his new make-up formulated for Hollywood films.[9] She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero, released in 1934.[8]

In 1936, she purchased The Music Box burlesque hall in San Francisco, which would later become the Great American Music Hall. She starred in "Sally Rand's Nude Ranch" at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and 1940.[10]

She was arrested twice in San Francisco in 1946; while performing at Club Savoy, she was arrested by six police officers in the audience as she danced, seemingly nude, in silhouette behind a large white fan; the judge granted her immunity should she be arrested for the same offense while on trial; however she was arrested during a night of the trial while performing her act, despite her immunity and the fact that she was wearing long underwear and a note that read "CENSORED. S.F.P.D." that time. In an unusual move, the judge viewed her performance at the Savoy and cleared her of all charges after deeming that "anyone who could find something lewd about the dance as she puts it on has to have a perverted idea of morals."[11]

She appeared on television in March 12, 1957, in episode 13 of the first season of To Tell the Truth with host Bud Collyer and panelists Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle, and Carl Reiner.[12] She did not "stump the panel" but was correctly identified by all four panelists (she was introduced as Helen Beck, her birth name).

She continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1970s. Rand once replaced Ann Corio in the stage show, This Was Burlesque, appeared at the Mitchell Brothers club in San Francisco in the early 1970s and toured as one of the stars of the 1972 nostalgia revue "Big Show of 1928," which played major concert venues, including New York's Madison Square Garden.


Rand died on August 31, 1979, at Foothill Presbyterian Hospital, in Glendora, California, aged 75, from congestive heart failure.[13] She was deeply in debt at her death. Rand's adopted son told an interviewer that Sammy Davis, Jr., stepped in and wrote a $10,000 check which took care of Rand's expenses.[14] She is buried in Oakdale Memorial Park in Glendora, California. 



Football play

Football coaches at the University of Delaware named a football play after Sally Rand. One explanation is that the play misdirected the defence, or in other words, like the dancer herself, the offence was showing more than they actually had.[15] The name migrated to Canada, where a "naked bootleg" became known as a "Sally Rand" and was used to great effect by the B.C. Lions.[16]

In popular culture

In Tex Avery's cartoon Hollywood Steps Out (1941), a rotoscoped Rand performs her famous bubble dance onstage to an appreciative crowd. A grinning Peter Lorre caricature in the front row comments, "I haven't seen such a beautiful bubble since I was a child." The routine continues until the bubble is suddenly popped by Harpo Marx and his slingshot, with a surprised Rand (her nudity covered by a well-placed wooden barrel) reacting with shock. Rand is referred to as "Sally Strand" here. Closer to the beginning of the cartoon, a coat check girl says "Good evening, Miss Rand," as we see a woman's hand offer her a set of feather fans to hang up.

She was the model of several characters in Robert A. Heinlein's science fiction stories, such as the Mary-Lou Martin character of "Let There Be Light." She was also a guest of Robert and Virginia Heinlein at 1976's 34th World Science Fiction Convention, held in Kansas City, Missouri, where Robert Heinlein was the Guest of Honor; at that Worldcon, she served as a judge for the convention's masquerade costume contest. She was also included in Heinlein's final book, To Sail Beyond The Sunset, as a friend of main character, Maureen Johnson Long, mother of the character Lazarus Long.

In the 1979 book The Right Stuff, the author Tom Wolfe described Sally Rand fan-dancing for the first American astronauts and other dignitaries and referred to the astronauts observing this sixtyish woman's "ancient haunches." In the 1983 film version of The Right Stuff, Rand was portrayed by actress Peggy Davis.

A fictionalized version of Rand appeared in Toni Dove's interactive cinema project Spectropia, played by Helen Pickett of the Wooster Group.

In the 1936 Merrie Melodie cartoon Page Miss Glory, a robustly proportioned matron performs a parody of Rand's fan dance.

In the "Nathan Heller" mystery series by Max Allan Collins, Detective Heller meets Sally Rand.


The Dressmaker from Paris (1925) 

The Texas Bearcat (1925) 
The Road to Yesterday (1925) 
Braveheart (1925) 
Bachelor Brides (1926) 
Sunny Side Up (1926) 
Gigolo (1926) 
Man Bait (1927) 
The Night of Love (1927) 
Getting Gertie's Garter (1927) 
The Yankee Clipper (1927) 
The King of Kings (1927) 
His Dog (1927) 
The Fighting Eagle (1927) 
Galloping Fury (1927) 
Heroes in Blue (1927) 
The Czarina's Secret (1928) (short film) 
A Woman Against the World (1928) 
Nameless Men (1928) 
A Girl in Every Port (1928) 
Golf Widows (1928) 
Black Feather (1928) 
The Sign of the Cross (1932) 
Hotel Variety (1933) 
Bolero (1934) 
Sunset Murder Case (1938)


1. Born April 3, 1904 per SSDI under the name Helen Beck; SS#349-10-3000. According to the 1920 U.S. census, her parents were William F. and Lillie Beck, and she had a younger brother, Harold; the family was then residing in Jackson County, Missouri, not Hickory County. 

2. Gold, Sylviane (27 June 2004). "The Figure Behind the Fan: Celebrating Sally Rand". The New York Times. 
3. Dictionary of Missouri Biography, Lawrence O. Christensen, University of Missouri Press, 1999. 
4. "United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch, Helen H Beck in household of William F Beck, Kansas Ward 13, Jackson, Missouri, United States; citing sheet, family 320, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374803.". 
5. "Sally Rand museum recalls fan-tabulous fan dancer". Discover Mid-America magazine. February 2007. 
6. Price, Ryan Lee (2012). Stories of Old Glendora. Charlston, SC: The History Press. p. 99. ISBN 978-1-60949-533-6. 
7. Zemeckis, Leslie (2013). [ Behind The Burly Q]. Delaware: Skyhorse. ISBN 978-1-62087-691-6. 
8. Ganz, Cheryl R. (2006). The 1933 Chicago World's Fair: A Century of Progress. University of Illinois Press. pp. 16–26, 161–64. ISBN 978-0-252-07852-1. 
9. Basten, Fred E. (2012). Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World. New York: Arcade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-61145-135-1. 
10. "Sally Rand and The Music Box", Virtual Museum of San Francisco 
11. Ryan, Bernard Jr. (1995). Knappman, Edward W., ed. American Trials of the 20th Century. New England Publishing Associates. pp. 201–203. ISBN 1-57859-052-3. 
12. "Sally Rand", Internet Movie Database 
13. "Sally Rand Dies of Heart Failure". The Tuscaloosa News. p. 2. 
14. Behind the Burly Q , a film on some of the history of Burlesque, by Leslie Zemeckis,c.2010 interview with Rand's son 
15. Sally Rand article at 
16. BC Lions article

Further Reading

Knox, Holly. Sally Rand, From Films to Fans. Maverick Publications (1988); ISBN 0-89288-172-0

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cosmetics Businessman Max Factor Sr. 1930 Hillside Cemetery

Max Factor (September 15, 1872 (77?) – August 30, 1938), born Maksymilian Faktorowicz, was a Polish-Jewish businessman. Founder of the cosmetics giant Max Factor and Company, he largely developed the modern cosmetics industry and popularized the term make-up in noun form based on the verb.

Early life

Factor, of Jewish descent, was born in Zduńska Wola, Poland, to Abraham Faktorowicz (1850/52–before 1938) and Cecylia Tandowska.[1] His mother died in 1874 and his father, a hard-working grocer, rabbi or textile mill worker (depending upon the source), could not afford a formal education for his four children.

By the age of eight years old, Factor was working as an assistant to a dentist/pharmacist.[2] At the age of nine, he was apprenticed to a Łódź’s wig maker and cosmetician. That experience enabled him to gain a position at Anton's of Berlin, a leading hairstylist and cosmetics creator. By the age of fourteen, he was working at Korpo, a Moscow wig maker and cosmetician to the Imperial Russian Grand Opera. He spent the years from eighteen to twenty-two undertaking his compulsory military service in the Russian Army, where he served in the Hospital Corps.

Upon his discharge, he opened his own shop in the town of Ryazan' near Moscow, selling hand-made rouges, creams, fragrances, and wigs. He became well-known when a traveling theatrical troupe wore Factor’s cosmetics to perform for Russian nobility. The Russian nobility appointed Factor the official cosmetics expert for the royal family and the Imperial Russian Grand Opera, an honor which led to him being closely monitored. He married Esther Rosa (whom he called Lizzie) and by early 1904 they had produced three children, Freda, Cecilia and Davis.[3] By 1904 concerned about the increasing anti-Jewish persecution developing in Russia he and his wife decided to follow his brother Nathan and uncle Fischel to America. Worried that he would not be released from his royal service, he arranged with the assistance of a friend to take a rest cure at Karlovy Vary. After meeting up with his family they traveled in the steerage class on board the S.S. Moltke III and were processed at Ellis Island on February 25, 1904; he had $40,000 in his possession.[4] Upon arrival, his name was shortened by the customs inspector to "Factor."

Life in America

Factor made a new start in St. Louis, Missouri. The Factor family never returned to Europe.

He sold his rouges and creams at the 1904 World’s Fair, operating under the newly re-spelled name Max Factor. Unfortunately, his partner in the venture stole all of his stock and the profits. With assistance from his brother and uncle, Factor recovered and opened a barber's shop. In August 1904 Max and his wife had their fourth child, Francis "Frank" Factor. However, on March 17, 1906, his wife collapsed and died from a brain hemorrhage. Anxious to provide a mother for his four children, he married Huma "Helen" Sradkowska on August 15, 1906.[5] Despite the birth of Louis on August 29, 1907, the marriage was short lived and ended in a prolonged court battle, as result of which Factor obtained custody of all of his children.

Max Factor and Jean Harlow

Creation of an empire

On January 21, 1908, Factor married Jennie Cook (March 1, 1886 – December 3, 1949), a neighbor.

Later that year Factor moved his family to Los Angeles, California, seeing an opportunity to provide made-to-order wigs and theatrical make-up to the growing film industry. Initially he established a shop on South Central Avenue, advertising the business as “Max Factor’s Antiseptic Hair Store.” Founding Max Factor and Company in 1909, he soon became the West Coast distributor of Leichner and Minor, two leading theatrical make-up manufacturers. Greasepaint in stick form, although the accepted make-up for use on the stage, could not be applied thinly enough, nor were the colors appropriate, to work satisfactorily on the screen during the early years of movie-making.

Factor began experimenting with various compounds in an effort to develop a suitable make-up for the new film medium. By 1914 he had perfected the first cosmetic specifically created for motion picture use — a thinner greasepaint in cream form, packaged in a jar, and created in 12 precisely-graduated shades. Unlike theatrical cosmetics, it would not crack or cake.

With this major achievement to his credit, Max Factor became the authority on cosmetics for film making. Soon, movie stars were eager to sample the “flexible greasepaint,” while movie producers sought Factor’s human hair wigs. He allowed the wigs to be rented to the producers of old Westerns, on the condition that his sons were given parts. The boys would watch the expensive wigs.

Factor marketed a range of cosmetics to the public during the 1920s, insisting that every girl could look like a movie star by using Max Factor cosmetics.

In the early years of the business Factor personally applied his products to actors and actresses. He developed a reputation for being able to customize makeup to present actors and actresses in the best possible light on screen. Among his most notable clients were Ben Turpin, Gloria Swanson, Mary Pickford, Pola Negri, Jean Harlow, Claudette Colbert, Bette Davis, Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland. As a result virtually all of the major movie actresses were regular customers of the Max Factor beauty salon, located near Hollywood Boulevard. Max Factor's name appeared on many movie credits, and Factor appeared in some cameos.

He became a United States citizen in 1912. In 1920 Max Factor gave into Frank Factor’s suggestion and officially began referring to his products as "make-up." Up until then, the term "cosmetics" had been used: The term ”make-up” was considered to be used only by people in the theatre or of dubious reputation, not something to be used in polite society.


In 1938 Mr. Factor was traveling in Europe on business with his son Davis when during a stopover in Paris he received a note demanding money in exchange for his life. An attempt was made by the police using a decoy to capture the extortionist but no one turned up at the agreed drop-off point to collect the money. Factor was so shaken by the threat that he returned at the behest of a local doctor to America, where upon arrival he took to his bed. Factor died at the age of 65 in Beverly Hills, California, in August, and was originally interred in the Beth Olem mausoleum at the Hollywood Cemetery in Los Angeles, California. His remains were moved many years later to Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California[6]

Honors and tributes

The Academy of Motion Picture, Arts, and Sciences presented Max Factor with an honorary Academy Award in 1929 for his contributions to the film industry. Additionally, Max Factor is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6922 Hollywood Boulevard). Max Factor is mentioned in the classic song, "Hooray For Hollywood." In a reference to his creation of Clara Bow's heart-shaped lips, the song states, "To be an actor / See Mr. Factor / He'll make your pucker look good!"


Max Factor had six children: Freda Shore (January 22, 1898 – June 18, 1988),[7] Cecilia Firestein ( October 17, 1899 – May 28, 1984), Davis Factor (February 2, 1902 – August 31, 1991), Francis “Frank” Factor (later known as Max Factor, Jr.; 1904–1996), Louis Factor (August 29, 1907 – December 4, 1975), and Sidney B. Factor (February 14, 1916 – December 15, 2005).[8]

His half-brother John (October 8, 1892 – January 22, 1984) was a Prohibition-era gangster and con artist affiliated with the Chicago Outfit.


2. Basten, page 1. 
3. Basten, page 6. 
4. Basten, page 10. 
5. Basten, page 18 
6. Basten, page 122 

Further reading

Baxten, Fred E (2008). Max Factor - The Man who Changed the Faces of the World. New York: Arcade Publishing. pp. 172 pages. ISBN 978-1-55970-875-3. 
Kent, Jacqueline C. (2003). Business Builders in Cosmetics. Minneapolis: Oliver Press. pp. 160 pages. ISBN 1-881508-82-X. 
Updike, John: “Makeup and Make-Believe“. The New Yorker, Sept 1 2008, Pages 124 to 128.

"White Christmas" Actress/Dancer Vera-Ellen1981 Glen Haven Cemetery

Vera-Ellen (February 16, 1921 – August 30, 1981) was an American actress and dancer, principally celebrated for her lithe figure and animated performances with partners Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Donald O'Connor. She is best known for her starring roles in On the Town with Kelly and the 1954 blockbuster White Christmas with Kaye (below).

Early life

Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe was born in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, to Martin F. Rohe, a piano dealer,[2] and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants.[3] Her hyphenated name originated in her mother's dream in which she had a daughter named "Vera-Ellen."[4]

She began dancing at age 10 and quickly became proficient. (One of her fellow dance students at Hessler Studio of Dancing was Doris Day.[5]) At age 13 she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour[6] and embarked upon a professional career.



In 1939, she made her Broadway debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was only 5'4."[7][8] This led to roles on Broadway in Panama Hattie, By Jupiter, and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the 1945 film Wonder Man.


She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals Words and Music (above) and On the Town, while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, Love Happy. She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in the musicals Three Little Words and The Belle of New York. She had a co-starring role with Donald O'Connor in the Ethel Merman vehicle, Call Me Madam. Vera-Ellen's second to last film role was the 1954 blockbuster hit White Christmas, co-starring with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. She starred in only one more film, the 1957 British production Let's Be Happy (below).[6]


Vera-Ellen performed on a November 22, 1958, television episode of The Perry Como Show[9] and a February 14, 1959, broadcast of the The Dinah Shore Show.[10]

Personal life

She was married twice. Her first husband was a fellow dancer, Robert Hightower, from February 1941 to November 1946.[11]

Her second husband, from 1954 to their 1966 divorce, was millionaire Victor Rothschild (above) of the Rothschild family. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen, who died at three months of age from SIDS in 1963. Following the death of her only child, she withdrew from public life. The marriage between Vera-Ellen and Rothschild ended in divorce.[12]

Vera-Ellen suffered from anorexia before much was known about the disease. She was celebrated for her lithe figure at the time. Vera-Ellen also developed severe arthritis due to a combination of years of her dancing and anorexia.[13]


She died from cancer at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, on August 30, 1981,[6] at age sixty. Her interment was at Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California.


Wonder Man (1945) 
The Kid from Brooklyn (1946) 
Three Little Girls in Blue (1946) 
Carnival in Costa Rica (1947) 
Words and Music (1948) 
Love Happy (1949) 
On the Town (1949) 
Three Little Words (1950) 
Happy Go Lovely (1951) 
The Belle of New York (1952) 
Call Me Madam (1953) 
Big Leaguer (1953) 
White Christmas (1954) 
Let's Be Happy (1957) 

Stage work

Very Warm for May (1939) 
Higher and Higher (1940) 
Panama Hattie (1940) 
By Jupiter (1942) 
A Connecticut Yankee (1943) 

Radio appearances

Stars over Hollywood 
Hasty Retreat[14]


1. "Vera-Ellen, Dancer in Movies". The New York Times ( 2 September 1980. p. 17. 
2. Handsaker, Gene (March 22, 1946). "Hollywood". Altoona Tribune. p. 14. 
3. Soren, David (2003). Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery. Luminary Press. 
4. West, Alice (April 12, 1953). "Behind Scenes at Hollywood". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 20. 
5. Kiesewetter, John (December 13, 2012). "Vera-Ellen danced into hearts". 
6. "Vera-Ellen dead at age 55". Ukiah Daily Journal. September 1, 1981. p. 17. 
8. Several other sources cite her height as 4'11". Unless wearing ballet flats in a dance sequence, she invariably wore very high heels which minimized her short stature. 
9. "Perry Como Show". The Decatur Daily Review. November 22, 1958. p. 6. 
10. "(untitled TV listing)". The Oregon Statesman. February 14, 1959. p. 11. 
11. cf. Soren, pp. 71-72: "The stable, happy marriage with Bob Hightower lasted from their wedding day on February 4, 1941 (some sources say February 1942 or March 17, 1943) to their official separation in 1946 ... Photos of ... Vera Ellen hit the newspapers on November 28, 1946, when a default divorce was granted in Los Angeles" 
12. "Victor Bennett Rothschild". Find A Grave. 
13. "Vera-Ellen Biography". IMDB. 
14. Kirby, Walter (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. 

Further reading

Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009.