Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Miss Jeanette Loff

Another beautiful actress from the silent screen who came to a tragic end. Her death at age 35 reads eerily like the death of Olive Thomas which surprised me. Jeanette is definitely someone worth remembering not only for her beautiful face, but for her many talents.

Jeanette Loff was born on October 6, 1906 in Orofino, Idaho. She was the eldest daughter born to famous Danish violinist, Wiarius Loff and his wife, Inga. Sister Irene was born a year later, and youngest sister, Myrtle was born in 1914.

I have read that Jeanette was born Jeanette Lov but from what I could find in census records, her father changed the spelling of their last name before the girls were born. And I believe he went by Maurice instead of his given Danish name. Information is a bit scattered, so bear with me.

When the girls were still young, the family moved to Canada so their father could continue his music career. Jeanette too started honing her own talent by appearing in stage productions at age eleven and singing opera at age sixteen!

When she was seventeen, her family relocated to the Oregon where Jeanette got a job playing the organ at a movie house. She used the name "Jan Lov" while working here, so I think maybe this is why people think that she was born with the Danish spelling of her name still intact.

Jeanette reportedly made her screen debut in the 1927 version of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Supposedly Cecil B. DeMille spotted her in this film and decided to offer her a contract.

Her first credited role was later that year in the film My Friend From India.

Around the time that she began working in the film industry, her parents divorced and Inga, Irene, and Myrtle all moved to California to live near Jeanette. Even though the sisters were close and Inga made all of Jeanette's clothes, they all lived in separate houses. A girl has gotta have her space!

Unfortunately, Jeanette was type casted as an ingenue right off the bat. She was a beautiful blonde, so that must have been as far as her talents go, right? Ugh, Hollywood is such a ridiculous place. Her career consisted of 21 films in a 7 year span, and none of the films were really anything stellar. When the talkies came around, she took a brief break from the screen to do some stage work before heading back to make a couple more films.

Her final film was 1934's Million Dollar Baby.

Jeanette Loff passed away on August 4, 1942 at the Hollywood Hospital in Los Angeles. She died after ingesting ammonia either accidentally or purposefully. She was only 35 years old.

Did Jeanette kill herself or was this just a terrible, terrible accident? Her family refused to believe that she had killed herself. According to them, Jeanette had been dealing with a stomach ailment for several years before her death and she most likely ingested the ammonia thinking it was the bottle of medication. Sounds just like what may have happened to Olive Thomas, doesn't it? Both ladies died of severe burns to the throat as well. Ugh, what an awful way to go.

Jeanette was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale. She shares a niche with her sister Myrtle, who died in 1957.

Jeanette was married twice. Her first husband was a salesman named Harry Rosenbloom. They met while she was still living in Oregon and they married sometime around 1927. They divorced two years later. Her second husband was liquor distributor and producer, Bert Friedlob. They married in 1935 and remained so until her death. Bert went on to marry and divorce actress Eleanor Parker.

She had have an affair with Gilbert Roland (lucky) and Paul Bern. Never understood the Paul Bern thing. The man got Jean Harlow, Barbara La Marr....I just don't get it! Maybe it was the power he had? Who knows.

She was often compared to Vilma Banky. I can kinda see the similarities, but not too much.

"It matters little whether she ever has a starring role, for she herself is an all-star blonde. She's Vilma Banky, May Allison, Agnes Ayres, Alice Terry, and Anna Q. Nilsson in a production of less than a hundred and ten pounds." ~~ Photoplay, May 1929

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Miss Molly O'Day

Now let us move on to the younger sister of Sally O'Neil, Miss Molly O'Day! (Irish heritage much?)

Molly O'Day was born Suzanne Dobson Noonan October 16, 1911 in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was the youngest child of Judge Thomas Noonan and his opera singer wife, Hannah.

Around 1912 Thomas Noonan passed away, leaving Hannah to quit her singing career to raise her ten children. The family eventually packed up and headed to California. 

Molly was reportedly picked out by Hal Roach to appear in some of his famous Our Gang comedies. In her obituary, her name is mentioned alongside the Our Gang comedies, however, I can't see where she is listed as being in one let alone several. So, maybe it is just me failing at my research, but...I show her first film as being a 1926 Hal Roach film, 45 Minutes from Hollywood. (IMDB erroneously lists her sister Sally O'Neil as being in the film and not Molly). 

The same year she made her screen debut (going by my info at least) Molly and her sister, Sally were both named WAMPAS Baby Stars. 

Molly and Sally appeared together in three films during their Hollywood careers. The first was in 1927's The Lovelorn playing sisters. The second was the 1929 musical The Show of Shows where they appeared in the "Meet My Sister" segment with other Hollywood sister duos. Their third and final film pairing was the following year in Sisters, where they once again played a pair of sisters. 

Richard Barthelmess and Molly

There were/are rumors that Molly's career went downhill and eventually ended because of her very public issues with her weight (oh, we will get to that in a minute, don't worry). However, that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, it seems that Molly instead chose to get married, have a family, and get away from the ridiculous and unbelievably negative pressures she was dealing with in Hollywood. Can't say I blame her.

Her last film was a 1935 Rin-Tin-Tin feature called Skull and Crown. Kinda sucks when your last on screen feature is with a dog as the star...

Molly O'Day passed away on October 22, 1998 in Avila Beach, California. She was cremated.

Molly was married twice. Her first husband was actor Jack Durant who she married in 1934. The couple had four children: John, Suzanne, Virginia and Jackie. Unfortunately, Jack and Molly divorced in 1951. A year later she married oilman James Kenaston, but they too divorced in 1956.

Now to the part that is just unbelievably ridiculous, the weight war that was waged against Miss Molly O'Day. I mean, first off, look at the pictures of her I have on here and judge for yourself. Does that look like an overweight actress? Even by the standards of 1920's Hollywood, it seems unbelievable to say that she was fat. I want to share with you some of the excerpts from magazine articles from the 1920's to show you what was being said about Miss Molly O'Day.

From Photoplay - August 1928 - "'Molly, you can get as fat as you please. You can eat as much as you please. You can diet as little as you please. We've done all we can. It's your life and you have to live it. As far as we are concerned you are through - that is, until you get down to the right physical size for pictures. Alice White started about the same time you did. We are going to star her in four pictures. Alice was a little heavy but she lost her extra flesh when we told her about it.'" - Producer Al Rockett

"There were four big stories waiting for her as a star for the next season. But in two of them, Molly had to dress up like a real lady. Did you ever see a pumpkin dressed in the evening clothes of a lady?"

"Molly was just the big-little sister of the rather over-populated Noonan family...Just a good little pal who was not exactly fat but most certainly pudgy."

"Molly O'Day is waging a battle as important to her as Waterloo was to Napoleon. To remain on the screen she must lost twenty pounds and lose them gracefully...If Molly wins she will be a full-fledged star at First National Pictures with four pictures each year..."

From Motion Picture Classic - 1928 - "Molly had no particularly outstanding success, but her consistent releases have kept her so much in the public eye that she is worthy box-office material."

From Photoplay 1929 - "And then there is Molly O'Day! What will be the fate of the O'Day? A part of the story was recounted in the August issue of Photoplay, but what of this recent development? Molly is overweight even for a non-professional...She [is] twenty pounds heavier than she should have been for the screen." 

"[Her doctor] believes that the operations will do no good because there is fat all over Molly's body. She is a splendid actress. Her director, her producer, her public know this. But unless she is most sylph-like her art will be completely wasted. This is the demand of the screen!"

And yep, you read that right. Molly went through an operation to "remove the extra flesh on her body." Can you imagine going through a weight loss surgery in the 1920's? And not only that horror show, but it was talked about in magazines with Molly even having her picture taken in the hospital! I felt so bad looking at her in that photo. It just seems like she was trying to be a normal girl wanting to be in the movies, but was getting reamed from all sides about how overweight she was. 

While researching the many stars I have covered on this site, I have never come across so much negativity directed to a star from that time. I kept thinking, "Oh, come on!" while was reading these articles. I hope me writing about Molly will keep her name in a more positive light and to have her be remembered as a beautiful face who graced the silent silver screen. 

Molly, Sally O'Neil, and Isabel Noonan

I also wanted to mention the other Noonan siblings because most of them went on to some kind of success in life. Isabel Noonan worked briefly as an actress but it didn't suit her, so she retired after only a few films. Gerard Noonan played football for Fordham College and Notre Dame before going pro and playing for the Rochester Jeffersons and the New York Brickley Giants. Mind you, this was under the name Jerry Noonan. He also served as a lieutenant in World War I. Another brother, George was on the Olympic Hockey Team (not sure the year) and also briefly played professional football. All I know about older sister Mary Noonan is that she worked as a nurse for the Red Cross during WWI. I don't have any information on Vincent, John, Thomas, or Edmund Noonan unfortunately. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Miss Sally O'Neil

Molly O'Day and Sally O'Neil

So, I was going to do another dual entry about another pair of sisters but I read so much gossip (aka crap) about these sisters that I wanted to do a separate one for each and call out some of these 'journalists' from the 20's who insulted these lovely ladies. 

Oldest sister first!

Sally O'Neil was born Virginia Louise Noonan on October 23, 1908 in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was the ninth child born to Judge Thomas Noonan and his wife, Hannah. She joined older siblings Thomas, Mary, Gerard, George, Vincent, John, Isabel, and Edmund. (I have read that there were 11 children in the Noonan family, but I can't find any trace of it, so either someone miscounted or a child died in infancy). Sister Suzanne (Molly O'Day) was born the following year.

The Noonans had a pretty privileged upbringing. They employed servants and the children were educated in a convent. But, after such a stuffy learning environment, Sally was looking for some excitement, so she went off to join the vaudeville circuit under the name "Chotsie Noonan." 

She made her film debut in the 1925 short, Yes, Yes, Nanette which also featured Oliver "Babe" Hardy. 

Constance Bennett, Joan Crawford, and Sally

Sally's greatest film success was later that year when she starred in Sally, Irene, and Mary with Joan Crawford and Constance Bennett. Funnily enough Sally played Mary, not Sally. While this film made Sally a famous starlet,  the fame did not last long. She was great in light, flapper fair, but for some reason she just didn't have the right kind of star power. Her only other real film appearance of note was in the 1926 Buster Keaton film, Battling Butler.

Her great success did lead to her being named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1928 along with Lina Basquette, Lupe Velez, and her sister, Molly O'Day.

Sally did make the transition into talkies, but a thick New Jersey accent and bad case of stage fright turned her film career into one filled with lackluster features. 

She made her last screen appearance in 1938's Kathleen, playing the title role. After she retired from Hollywood, she went back to acting on stage and toured with the USO until the end of World War II. I found this quite interesting considering she supposedly had stage fright in the talkies but could perform in front of a live audience. Not sure how that all worked. 

Sally O'Neil passed away on June 18, 1968 in Galesburg, Illinois from pneumonia. 

She was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Galesburg. 

Sally was married once, to Stewart Battles and I am not sure when they were married unfortunately. I do know that they remained married until her death because he was buried nexy to her when he passed away in 1984. 

Along with Chotsie Noonan, Sally was sometimes billed as "Sally O'Neill" and the weirdest one, "Sue 'Bugs' O'Neill." 

"Here's another girl who was plunged into prominence before she was ready to cope with it...Being saucy and piquant are her chief talents now, but time may change that." ~~ Motion Picture Magazine - 1927, putting almost zero faith in Sally.