Margaret Brooke Sullavan (May 16, 1909 – January 1, 1960) was an American stage and film actress who preferred working on the stage, making only sixteen movies during her Hollywood career.
Margaret Sullavan was born May 16, 1909 in Norfolk, Virginia to Cornelius Sullavan, a wealthy stockbroker, and his wife, Garland Brooke. Sullavan attended boarding school at Chatham Episcopal Institute (now Chatham Hall), where she was president of the student body and delivered the salutary oration in 1927. Sullavan moved to Boston and lived with her half-sister, Weedie, where she studied dance at the Boston Denishawn studio and (against her parents’ wishes) drama at the Copley Theatre. When her parents cut her allowance to a minimum, she defiantly paid her way as a clerk in the Harvard Cooperative Bookstore (The Coop), located in Harvard Square, Cambridge. Sullavan began her acting career onstage in early 1929 in a Harvard Dramatic Society musical production entitled Close Up. In the summer of 1929 she made her debut on the professional stage appearing opposite Henry Fonda in The Devil in the Cheese. Sullavan made her debut on Broadway in A Modern Virgin (a comedy by Elmer Harris), on May 20, 1931. After appearing in several Broadway productions Sullavan replaced another actor in Dinner at Eight in March of 1933. Movie director John M. Stahl happened to be watching the play and decided Sullavan would be perfect for a picture he was planning, “Only Yesterday” (1933). Sullavan had already turned down offers from Paramount and Columbia for five-year contracts, but when Stahl offered her a three-year, two-pictures-a-year contract with MGM at $1,200 a week, she accepted it and had a clause put in her contract that allowed her to return to the stage on occasion. Sullavan would continue to only sign short-term contracts because she did not want to be “owned” by any studio. After making “Only Yesterday” Sullavan would go on to make only sixteen movies during her Hollywood acting career, four of which were opposite James Stewart including the popular classic “The Shop Around the Corner” (1940) and “Three Comrades” (1938) for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance. Sullavan’s other movies of note include the profitable and successful WWII drama “Cry Havoc” in 1943 and “Back Street” (1941) which was lauded as one of the best performances of Sullavan’s Hollywood career. Sullavan retired from the screen after making “Cry Havoc”, but returned in 1950 to make her last movie, “No Sad Songs for Me” (1950), in which she plays a woman who is dying of cancer. For the rest of her career Margaret Sullavan would only appear on the stage appearing in several shows on Broadway and in London, England.
When I really learn to act, I may take what I have learned back to Hollywood and display it on the screen”, Sullavan once said in an interview in October 1936, “but as long as the flesh-and-blood theatre will have me, it is to the flesh-and-blood theatre I’ll belong. I really am stage-struck. And if that be treason, Hollywood will have to make the most of it”
Margaret Sullavan was married four times. Her first marriage was to Henry Fonda on December 25, 1931 in Baltimore, while both were performing with the University Players in its 18-week winter season there. The marriage lasted only two months and the couple divorced.
In late 1934, Sullavan married William Wyler, the director of her next movie, “The Good Fairy” (1935). This second marriage lasted just over a year and they divorced in March 1936.
Sullavan’s third husband was agent and producer Leland Hayward. Hayward had been Sullavan’s agent since 1931 and their relationship had been deepening all through 1936. The couple had already become lovers, and Brooke, their “love child”, had been conceived that October. They both wanted the baby and married on November 15, 1936. Sullavan and Hayward would have three children together; Brooke in 1937, Bridget in 1939, and Bill in 1941. The marriage lasted eleven years and ended in 1947 when Sullavan discovered that Hayward was cheating on her with New York socialite and fashion icon Slim Keith.
Her fourth and final marriage was to English investment banker Kenneth Wagg. The couple stayed married until her death in 1960.
In her later life Margaret Sullavan experienced increasing hearing and health problems, depression, and mental frailty in the 1950s. She died of an overdose of barbiturates, which was ruled accidental, on January 1, 1960 at the age of 50. On January 1, 1960, Sullavan was found in bed, barely alive and unconscious, in a hotel room in New Haven, Connecticut. She was rushed to the hospital but died shortly after arrival. No note was found to indicate suicide, and no conclusion was reached as to whether her death was the result of a deliberate or an accidental overdose. The county coroner officially ruled Sullavan’s death an accident. After a private memorial service was held in Greenwich, Connecticut, Margaret Sullavan was interred at Saint Mary’s Whitechapel Episcopal Churchyard in Lancaster, Virginia.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Margaret Sullavan has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 1751 Vine Street. She was inducted, posthumously, into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.
Lynn Baggett (May 10, 1923 – March 22, 1960) was a little known ill-fated actress who had roles in twenty-four movies during her brief ten year Hollywood career.
Lynn Baggett was born on May 10, 1923 in Wichita Falls, Texas, USA. Baggett was discovered by a top Warner Brothers talent scout on her way to a department store in July 1942 and subsequently signed to a three-year contract. After her Warner Brothers contract was up, Baggett moved to Universal in late 1946. Baggett appeared in twenty-four movies during her brief ten year Hollywood career (1941-1951), including roles in “D.O.A.” (1950), “The Flame and the Arrow” (1950) and “The Time of Their Lives” (1946). Baggett never reached stardom and her last movie role was in “The Mob” in 1951.
Lynn Baggett is probably most well known for her marriage to “On The Waterfront” producer, Sam Spiegel, who was twenty years her senior. The couple married on April 10, 1948 but separated after only four years and finally divorced on March 31, 1955.
In July of 1954 Lynn Baggett was charged in the hit-and-run death of a nine year old boy. The car she was driving had been loaned to her by actor George Tobias (Mr. Kravits from “Bewitched”). After the accident she fled the scene but turned herself in three days later. In December that same year, Baggett was sentenced to sixty days in county jail and placed on three years probation.
Following the tragic accident and her bitter divorce from Spiegel the following spring, her life quickly spiraled downward. Baggett attempted suicide by overdosing on sleeping pills in June 1959. Later that year she was found suffering from paralysis due to drug addiction and diagnosed as a ‘chronic depressed neurotic’. Baggett was then admitted for short time as a patient in a sanitarium for observation and then released. On March 22, 1960 Lynn Baggett was found dead in her apartment from an apparent overdose of barbiturates in Hollywood, California at the age of 36.
On the set of
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” (1954)
“There’s No Business Like Show Business” is a 1954 20th Century-Fox musical-comedy-drama starring Ethel Merman, Dan Dailey, Donald O’Connor, Mitzi Gaynor, Marilyn Monroe, Richard Eastham, and Johnnie Ray. The film was directed by Walter Lang and written by Lamar Trotti (story) and Phoebe Ephron and Henry Ephron with music by Irving Berlin. “There’s No Business Like Show Business” was filmed in CinemaScope and DeLuxe Color.
Eleanore Whitney was a film and Broadway actress and dancer who had a brief career in Hollywood during the mid to late 1930s.
Eleanore Whitney was born Eleanor Wittenbergon on April 12, 1917 in Cleveland, Ohio, USA to Abraham and Anna Wittenburg. Eleanore’s mother Anna was the sister of Adolph Zukor, who was already a wealthy businessman and would later become the founder of Paramount and a powerful figure in old Hollywood. When Whitney was ten years old she met Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson backstage at the Palace Theatre in Cleveland. Robinson was so taken by Whitney’s dancing that he took to giving her lessons whenever he was in the city. Later he offered to teach her each day during a two month stay in New York and was instrumental in the start of her career. As a student of Robinson’s, Whitney landed roles in several Broadway productions. Whitney also appeared in vaudeville with Jack Benny and Rudy Vallee before going to Hollywood in 1935. During her brief career in Hollywood, Whitney appeared in several comedies and musicals for Paramount Studios such as “Rose Bowl” (1936), “Three Cheers for Love” (1936), “Timothy’s Quest” (1936), and “Campus Confessions” (1938) which co-starred Betty Grable in her first starring role. Never having reached A-status as an actress with Paramount, the then twenty-one year old Eleanore Whitney retired from Hollywood in 1939 after marrying former U.S. assistant Attorney Frederick Backer. They couple lived in Manhattan and had one daughter together, Nancy Anne Backer, born in 1941. Whitney would continue to dance for fun, sometimes giving dancing lessons, and in 1946 would play Lucille Jourdain in “The Would-be Gentleman” on Broadway. Whitney and Backer would remain married until his death in 1971. Whitney did not remarry after the death of her husband and lived the rest of her life in New York City. Eleanore Whitney died November, 1983 in New York City, New York.