Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Funeral At Forest Lawn

Carole's fans were shocked and saddened when she died on July, 5, 1948. Tragically she had taken her own life at the young age of 29. Her married lover Rex Harrison discovered her body in her Pacific Palisades home. On Saturday, July 10, Carole was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California. The service was held at 12:30 PM at Forest Lawn's Church of the Recessional. The small church was filled with flowers including a cross made of white gardenias, Carole's favorite flower, and a large bouquet of roses from her former boss Darryl Zanuck. Dorothy Ross, Carole's sister, greeted mourners as they entered the church while her ten year old niece, Diane Carole, knelt by the coffin and cried. Clara Ridste, Carole's mother, was inconsolable. She sobbed throughout the funeral and was heard saying "Oh my baby, I'll pray for you, everyday". When she saw Carole in the coffin she was so overcome by grief that she fainted. Carole's estranged husband Horace Schmidlapp, her brother Lawrence Ridste, and her father Alfred Ridste were also there. Alfred had a strained relationship with Carole and had not seen her in six years. Her close friends Cesar Romero and Pat O'Brien were pallbearers and they both cried during the funeral.

Cesar Romero and Eddie Sutherland                                                       Bishop Pyman

Dick Haymes was supposed to be a pallbearer but he was delayed in Chicago. Dozens of Carole's friends attended the funeral including Van Johnson, her stand-in Florence Wasson,  actor Willard Parker, and director Eddie Sutherland. Rex Harrison and his wife Lilli Palmer arrived at the cemetery with two bodyguards. Lilli wore a dark blue dress because she felt it was inappropriate to wear black to the funeral of her husband's mistress. The couple refused to look at Carole in her coffin and left the service early. Carole had been raised a Catholic but she was denied a Catholic burial because she had committed suicide. The service was conducted by Bishop Fred L. Pyman of the Evangelical Orthodox Church in Santa Monica. In his eulogy Bishop Pyman said "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women in it players. People in show business have a peculiar philosophy, whether they be Catholic's, Protestants, or Jews, but Shakespeare was correct in writing these lines. Some of us make out entrances best. Some make out exits best. Some overplay, flub their lines. But this beloved star made her entrances perfectly. She did not overplay. Fellow troupers, you don't have to call a second time for people like our beloved friend.

Carole's mother and her niece Diane                         Cesar Romero, Eddie Sutherland, and Clara Ridste

Whenever there was a call, she always came; witness her U.S.O. experiences entertaining troops in Europe and Africa and the Pacific. From the doors of Hell, deliver her soul. May she rest in peace." During the service Fred L. Scott sang "The Lord's Prayer" and "In The Garden". Carole's mahogany coffin was lined with peach silk cushions. She was buried wearing her favorite blue beaded dress. Carole had worn the dress while entertaining the troops during World War 2. She was also wearing her signature gold cross necklace and a religious medal. Carole had requested gardenias in her will but instead two blue orchids were pinned to her dress. A rosary and a bouquet of roses were placed in her hands. The roses had been sent by one of Carole's childhood friends. Her make-up was done by her longtime make-up artist Ben Nye. Thousands of fans came to the cemetery to watch the funeral. Many of them tried to get autographs from the celebrities who were there. Cesar Romero held onto Carole's mother to shield her from the emotional crowd. When the service was over the fans descended on Carole's grave and took all the flowers. Bishop Pyman said it was the most revolting thing he had ever seen.

The crowd outside the church                                                                              Rex Harrison and Lilli Palmer

The epitaph on Carole's tombstone was written by her sister Dorothy. It says "TO OUR BELOVED CAROLE WHOSE LOVE, GRACIOUSNESS AND KINDNESS TOUCHED US ALL - WHO WILL ALWAYS BE WITH US IN THE BEAUTIES IN THIS EARTH UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN". There are numerous Forest Lawn memorial parks in California. Carole is buried at the Forest Lawn in Glendale. It is located at 1712 S. Glendale Avenue. The cemetery is open every day from 8 AM until 5 PM (6 PM during the summer). Forest Lawn discourages celebrity grave hunters but you can still visit Carole's grave. Many of her relatives and fans bring flowers to her grave on a regular basis. You can get a map of the cemetery from the visitors center near the front gate. Carole's grave is in the Everlasting Love section. She is buried in plot 814. Her grave is next to the curb at the top of the hill. It is across the street the Cathedral Slope section. Broadway actor Robert J. Montgomery is buried in the grave next to her. You can also visit the Church of the Recessional which is up the road from her grave. Many other celebrities are also buried at Forest Lawn including Olive Borden, George Burns, Spencer Tracy, and Clara Bow.

                                                                                               Carole's grave

Photo courtesy of Mark Martinez                                                                                                                          

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Four Jills In A Jeep (The Book & Movie)

Carole entertained thousands of soldiers during World War 2. In September 1942 she began a five month U.S.O. tour with Kay Francis, Martha Raye, and Mitzi Mayfair. Their group was part of the "Feminine Theatrical Task Force". They went to England, Bermuda, Africa, and Ireland. The group traveled more than 50,000 miles by plane, truck, and jeep. They made 150 personal appearances and performed in 125 shows. Kay introduced the show, Martha told jokes, Mitzi danced, and Carole sang. Her specialty was the song "Strip Polka". The four women became close friends during the tour. Kay was bisexual and developed a crush on Carole. When the girls were in Africa they went through four air raids. They also survived an earthquake and numerous illnesses. Carole had her appendix removed and nearly died from an infection. She lost fifteen pounds while on the tour.


Carole wrote several magazine articles about her experiences during the war. In 1943 she was asked to write a book for Random House. The title of the book was Four Jills In A Jeep. She told stories about traveling with the other women and performing for the soldiers. Most of the book is about her romance with her husband Tommy Wallace. Carole had the help of a ghostwriter named Edwin Seaver but she wrote the majority of the book herself. She dedicated it "To the Officers and Enlisted Men Who Made Our Tour So Inspiring". In December 1943 Four Jills In a Jeep was serialized in The Saturday Evening Post. When the book was published in the spring of 1944 it sold well and got rave reviews. Before the book had even come out Fox decided to turn Four Jills In A Jeep into a movie. Filming began on October 18, 1943. The movie was directed by William A. Seiter.

Carole, Kay, Martha, and Mitzi agreed to play themselves. They were all excited to see their adventures on the big screen. Carole's onscreen romance with John Harvey was based on her real-life relationship with Tommy. The all-star cast included Phil Silvers, Dick Haymes (his film debut), Betty Grable, Jimmy Dorsey, Carmen Miranda, and Alice Faye. Yvonne Wood designed the costumes for the film. Carole was furious when the censors refused to let the actresses wear sweaters. In one scene she wore her own wedding dress. There are numerous songs including "How Blue The Night" and "You'll Never Know". Most of the songs are sung by Dick Haymes. The highlight of the film is Carole singing her only solo number "Crazy Me". All of the musical numbers were staged by Carole's close friend Don Loper.

Unfortunately Carole and the other actresses had no creative control over the making of Four Jills In A Jeep. The movie ended up being mostly fiction. The plot made their journey seem easy and it completely ignored all of the struggles they went through. Many of the scenes and characters in the movie did not even come from the book. Carole was very unhappy that it turned out to be just a fluffy musical. Four Jills In A Jeep was released on March 17, 1944. The movie was not a hit and a lot of critics panned it. Carole told a friend "I'm afraid the picture hasn't had as good a press as I hoped". Although she had proved she was a talented writer Carole would never write another book.

With John Harvey                                                                                        
Kay Francis, Mitzi Mayfair, Carole, and Martha Raye

Monday, May 1, 2017

Rare Photos From Carole's 1944 USO Tour

In Summer of 1944 Carole went on a two month USO tour with Jack Benny, harmonica player Larry Adler, singer Martha Tilton, and June Bruner. The group entertained thousands of troops in New Guinea, Fiji, and Australia. The photos on this page are from Larry Adler's personal collection ...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Carole and Cesar Romeo

Cesar Romero was Carole's best friend and favorite leading man. She met him in 1941 when they costarred in the musical Dance Hall. It was the first of four movies they made together. Carole described Cesar as a gentleman with perfect manners. He escorted her to many Hollywood events and they often went out dancing together. Although gossip columnists claimed they were dating, Cesar was gay so there was no romance. It's rumored he once offered to marry Carole but she refused. Cesar was asked to be one of the pallbearers at her funeral. He died in 1994 at the age of eighty-six.
In an interview Carole said "Cesar Romero, beside being the greatest dance partner I've ever dance with, is the most, how shall I say it, soothing person. When you're with him you can completely relax, be at ease. You don't have to worry about making conversation, you can be absolutely natural. He is so sympathetic. He is one of those fellows everybody likes; he never puts on airs, is sensible, understanding, kindly, truly chivalrous. Just an all around good guy."

  Cesar wrote this about Carole after she died ...

"My dear Carole, I have been asked by some of your fans to write something about you in the way of a tribute so that it may be published in the club journal. I confess this is a job I have never had to do before and I don't know just how to start, so don't be too angry if I don't do you justice. You left the stage of life way too soon my dear and your friends and fans miss you very much. Personally I am very happy and proud to have been one of your friends and to have had the honor of working with you in four pictures. There was never a dull day on the set with you. Your lovely face, the warmth of your personality, your vitality and delightful sense of humor were something I always looked forward to and which made the average working day truly a pleasure. I remember the fun we had when we made "Dance Hall" together and what a wonderful sport you were on the nights that we had to work until five o'clock in the morning. You never complained about a thing, but took it in your stride as part of your job and loved every minute of it. I'm afraid that couldn't be said about all our fair ladies of the screen. You were a good actress Carole and you owe it only to yourself. You worked hard, studied and learned a great deal in a very short time. What is more important, you were a good daughter, sister and aunt. You loved your family and never shirked your duty toward them. You helped them in every way possible and brought them much happiness. Of that you can be extremely proud. I think that I can say in all honesty that you did more than your share in life. Your record during the war will always stand as a monument to your memory. The boys that you entertained overseas will never forget and neither will their families. You brought them cheer and a touch of home when they really needed it most. That was a tough job, as I know only too well, but as usual you sailed through it with flying colors - a trooper if there ever was one. You were a fine girl Carole, and you made every moment of your life count. I only wish that life had treated you as kindly as you treated it. As I said before, I'm proud to have been your friend. Sleep well my dear."

Carole LOVED Her Pets

Carole was a true animal lover! She shared her life with dozens of dogs, cats, and birds. In 1941 her boyfriend Gene Markey gave her a Great Dane he had originally bought for his ex-wife Hedy Lamarr. Carole quickly fell in love with the one hundred pound dog she named Donner. She called Donner her "baby" and always treated him like a person. Carole became superstitious about having her pets photographed after several animals died or were stolen shortly after their picture was taken. When she first got Donner she would not let him be photographed but soon he was joining her on photo shoots. In 1942 Donner appeared on the cover of Our Dogs magazine and the New York Sunday Mirror.

Carole's other pets included two poodles named Missy and Gina, a Siamese Cat named Miss C, and three Malamute Huskies named Lucky, Jinx, and Skeezix. The soldiers at Fort Ord gave her two puppies named Army and Navy. Carole was almost evicted from her Sunset Boulevard home because she had too many pets. She spent thousands of dollars on lawyers so she would not have to give away any of her beloved animals. Carole once told a friend she had planned to kill herself by driving her car off a hill but was saved when she saw a cat in the road and decided to rescue it. When Carole was a child she had a Cocker Spaniel who followed her everywhere.

In 1941 two of her Cocker Spaniels, Sensible and Foolish, appeared in the film Wild Geese Calling with Henry Fonda. Carole was devastated when Donner died from a sudden illness in 1943 and she vowed never to have another dog. A few months later she bought a Cocker Spaniel named Splash and another Great Dane named Dippy. She also adopted two kittens in 1947. When Carole died her sister Dorothy took all of her pets. Dorothy said "Carole never could stand to see an animal neglected, mistreated, or in discomfort. Even her devoted dogs - Dippy, the Great Dane, and Gina, the French poodle. They loved her and they miss her. Dippy still moons around forlornly, searching for Carole."

With her Great Dane Donner

 With her poodle Gina