MEETING SARA SHANE/ELAINE HOLLINGSWORTH.

 

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Sara Shane & Gordon Scott in Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure (1959)

A year or so ago I had the great pleasure and honour to spend five days chatting with a lady named Elaine Hollingsworth, a former Universal actress who performed under the name of Sara Shane in the 1950s on both the silver screen and on television. We chatted, for around ten hours each day, about her time as an actress and society hostess, and it was one of the greatest weeks in my life. She is Elaine these days, having discarded Sara Shane long ago, and is a very classy lady. I admire her tremendously.

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Sara in her modelling days

Until about two years ago I had never even heard of Sara Shane or Elaine Hollingsworth. Experiencing a bout of nostalgia one day, I decided to order some Tarzan movies from the USA and treat myself to reliving my Saturday morning matinee days. Back in the fifties my favourite Tarzan was Gordon Scott, (despite my reservations regarding his hairstyle). Clearly, he had his hair styled each day at the jungle barbershop! Anyway, I settled back to watch the first of my selections, a 1959 feature titled Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure, and was immediately taken by his leading lady. Her name was Sara Shane. There were a lot of pretty girls appearing in low-budget films in those days, but she was not just pretty, she was beautiful, and I began to wonder why her career had not taken off as it should have for a woman with her looks.

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Sara about to be kissed by Gable in The King and Four Queens (1956)

To cut a long story short, I researched her and discovered she was still alive and, furthermore, was living in Australia. She was approaching 90 years of age and residing at her health centre in Queensland. I decided to write a piece on her in my blog (it is still here). I was soon approached by Peter, her friend and minder at that time, (she was bedridden) who asked if I might be interested in writing her biography! I leapt at the chance, of course, and it was eventually arranged that I would fly to Queensland (at Elaine’s expense) and spend time with her.

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With John Cassavetes in Affair in Havana (1957)

By then she had changed her personnel at the centre. Peter had moved on and she was now being cared for by others. I arrived on the Monday and met Elaine that afternoon. The moment we began talking about the Hollywood of the studio system days we got along marvellously. All Elaine’s carers are quite young women, so having someone to talk with who knew something of virtually every person she mentioned, was a situation she had probably not indulged in for decades. All my years reading and writing about Hollywood has given me an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the movie business back then so, whenever she brought up a name, I invariably knew to whom she was referring. And, boy oh boy, did she know some people!

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Sara at the height of her beauty

In her capacity as an actress she had met just about everyone who was anyone in the business, and those she did not meet at work, she met socially. Her wealthy husband insisted she host parties at their sumptuous home, and she was given carte blanche to invite whomever she pleased. As a contract player at Universal she was friends with the likes of Tony Curtis, Jack Palance, Mamie van Doren, Yvette Mimieux, to name but a few. Before marrying she had dated Orson Welles, Burt Lancaster, George Jessel and others, including Howard Hughes! Her best friends included Hedy Lamarr, Faith Domergue, Ruth Roman and Gloria Swanson. She even taught Kirk Douglas to water ski.

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Elaine in her seventies in Queensland

On the screen she worked with Sean Connery, Anthony Quayle, John Cassavetes, Raymond Burr and Rock Hudson. She even had a romantic scene in which she was required to kiss Clark Gable! The more we talked, the more anecdotes were shared by this extraordinary lady. I was privy to some wonderful insights into her life as a Hollywood starlet. At the end of the week she asked me to stay over for a couple more days, but I had other commitments and had to fly back home. It was agreed, however, that we would set up Skype and continue chatting each day for an hour or so. Skype was readied as soon as I returned to Western Australia, but Elaine became ill on the first day we attempted to connect and we had to cancel. She became ill on the second day as well.

A couple of days later I received an email, informing me that Elaine had ‘changed her mind about doing her biography’. Just like that. I was flabbergasted. She had so thoroughly enjoyed our chats, reminiscing about those long ago days, it was unthinkable to me that she would suddenly choose to forget the whole thing. There had never been the slightest indication throughout our week together that she might change her mind. Of course, at her age she may have been prone to mood swings. Certainly a possibility. Perhaps, my questions had been getting a little intrusive. Towards the end of my stay I had mentioned one day that I found it difficult to accept she only appeared to have been romantically involved with four men in her entire life. A drop-dead gorgeous movie actress who had lived in Hollywood for two decades, in London for several years, not to mention years in both Paris and Rome, must surely have enjoyed an active social and private life, particularly after her divorce had been finalised in 1957. Her response was a clipped, ‘Of course, there were others, but they were unimportant.’ Then she changed the subject. I opted not to pursue the subject. Maybe at some later time, I thought.

After I returned home, I recalled Elaine mentioning that she had never seen any of her TV guest appearances. In those days any episodes in which an actor or actress appeared might not be screened on TV for months, so the chances of watching one’s performance were negligible before videos and DVDs came along. I managed to track down the episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Perry Mason, State Trooper, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Outer Limits etc, plus copies of the movies she was in, and mailed them to her. Unfortunately, I have no idea if she watched them or not because I am no longer able to contact her.

Elaine’s eyesight has been failing for some time now, so all correspondence is recited to her now. Anyway, I have not been able to contact her since her illness. I briefly considered using the 50 hours of material I had gathered and writing a book anyway, but I was never serious about doing so without Elaine’s consent. I had found her to be a delightful person during our hours together. I would no more consider writing her biography without her express permission than fly in the air.  Maybe, one day, someone else will write it. I hope so because hers is a story worth telling.

29 Comments

  1. Cheers Alan, I’m not sure which specific lawyer is assigned, but I have it on good authority from one of Elaine’s ex-staffers that Bell Legal Group is now handling her case. May I respectfully suggest you contact them as I’m very much aware that Elaine desperately wanted you to tell her life story – she has accepted from very early on in her life that she is a public persona & she has never sought to hide behind ‘privacy’ conventions. I am personally devastated for Elaine that there is clearly no one curating her Face Book page – no acknowledgement whatsoever that despite multiple sewer-scum trying to kill her over the years, she is still alive & kicking on into her 95th year …Elaine for me has always been the ‘all growed-up’ iteration of Mattie Ross from the Charles Portis gothic-western ‘True Grit’. Simply an amazing, classy & wonderfully erudite lady – the polar opposite in fact of the low-life fraudster who stole her life & estate five years ago – keep up the good work on this site Alan …ALL of Elaine’s many supporters very much appreciate it: … ref.
    https://belllegal.com.au/

    • Thank you for your most informative post, Joe. I, too, was under the impression that Elaine really wanted her story told. We spent four days and about 40 hours chatting about the ‘old days’ that week. All her staff were youngsters and she was genuinely thrilled to talk with someone my age who knew of every person she brought into the conversation. I liked her very much. However, I got back to Perth and her ‘carer’ promptly informed me that Elaine had changed her mind and was no longer interested in me writing her biography. Frankly, I was stunned and pretty annoyed, after all the research and recording of our chats, so I informed the ‘carer’ that I might go ahead and write it anyway. I was immediately threatened with legal action, police investigation and the works. I was also denied any access at all to Elaine. Unable to even discuss the matter with Elaine, I lost my temper and told the ‘carer’ to sue and be damned, but my heart was no longer in it, for it appeared to me that Elaine was now against the whole idea. Incidentally, the ‘carer’ contacted me by email about three years later, quite out of the blue, and said she was interested in re-opening negotiations. I did not even respond. Frankly, I suspected some kind of ulterior motive. So there it stands. Thanks again for keeping me informed of progress. I truly liked Elaine and wish her well, but unless that particular woman is no longer involved, I doubt if the project can be re-activated.

  2. Just to let you & Elaine’s fans know Alan, the FAKE ‘Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine’ who fraudulently gained control over Elaine’s EPOA in 2017 has now been forcibly removed [by the Queensland Departments of Justice & Police] from any further control over or contact with Elaine – good news so far as it goes … only it’s FIVE YEARS too late. ref. https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/366902700885435243/

    • Thank you for you note, Joe. If you have any way of contacting Elaine, I would greatly appreciate her address, if possible. I have been unable to reach her since her main ‘carer’ took over all outside contact with Elaine. I do not even know if that ‘carer’ is still in control, do you

        • Yes, Joe, that is her. I have attached a copy of my first letter to Elaine (about 5 years ago), addressed to Leisa. Here it is. This was written prior to my visit
          Hi Leisa,
          I know I promised to wait for you to contact me re Elaine’s biography, but it has been 3 weeks since the 14th Sept, and I feel some kind of indication that the project is still a possibility (or not) would be appreciated. I’m sure you will agree that I have been very patient over the last couple of years, but as it stands, I have no idea if Elaine is still interested, if other issues more important have taken precedence or, indeed, if she is well, health-wise. Please, do not read this enquiry as some kind of attempt to force a decision she might not be ready to make. I would never do that. I merely ask for some indication one way or the other. Naturally, I shall respect and accept whatever decision she makes.
          As for the prospects of success for either book, I must say that I have no idea how they would fare. These days there are an awful lot of biographies about Hollywood in its Golden Age. All I can say is that if she still wants a sincere and accurate record of her life in Hollywood and afterwards, a keepsake that tells her amazing journey, then I believe I can deliver it for her. If it sells, well, that would be a bonus. I do not know how important the sales side of such a project is to Elaine. Perhaps, her life story in print and published is of more import to her. But I am only guessing. 
          Speaking as a writer, I feel she has enjoyed a fascinating life that deserves to be recorded somewhere by someone. I would be delighted if that someone turned out to be me, but I have no doubt there are better writers with powerful agents who can probably do a better job of it. Consequently, if she is considering going elsewhere, but is concerned about hurting my feelings, or if she simply no longer wishes to tackle it, please assure her that I shall be OK with whatever she decides. I am 70 years old; very little fazes me these days.
          Might I add something? Even if she opts against me writing her story, I would still love to meet her and speak with her about her life. If the original offer still stands, I am more than happy to visit and do the interviews. If, after that, she does not want the book(s) to be written, then that will be that. No hard feelings. No regrets.
          Fondest regards Alan

          • Alan, it is a gut-wrenching tragedy for Elaine that the FAKE ‘Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine’ who had fraudulently captured Elaine’s EPOA in 2017 – criminally – BLOCKED this extremely important biographical project …. she had NO LEGAL RIGHT TO DO SO because Elaine still had full legal capacity at that time & Wheeler/Ravenscroft’s ‘Power of Attorney’ status was INACTIVE … another way of stating this is that she has CRIMINALLY DEFRAUDED Elaine in BLOCKING a ‘tell-all’ biography that I KNOW very well, Elaine was desperate to have told. As indicated above, the long arm of the law has finally caught up with this criminal piece of sewer-scum & the Qld. Dept. of Justice has REVOKED her – fraudulently acquired EPOA – she has now been legally banned from any form of control over or contact with Elaine – WAY TOO LATE …but better late than never; …in Elaine’s best interests, I would urge you in the utmost, to contact Elaine’s case lawyer Margaret Miller of Bell Legal Group & let Margaret know the TRUTH re. exactly what happened to Elaine’s treasured biography project: https://belllegal.com.au/members/margaret-miller/

    • Thank you, Hal, for giving me the opportunity to watch Elaine’s appearance on ‘The Bob Cummings Show’. I had never seen it. Indeed, I doubt if she has either. Back in the fifties there was no videotaping, so any guest spots on TV shows might not appear on TV for several months. I got hold of a half dozen of her appearances on ‘Perry Mason’, ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’, ‘State Trooper’ and ‘Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’, to name a few, and sent them to her Hopefully, they brought back memories for her. Unfortunately, I was refused any contact with her by her ‘minder’ soon afterwards, so I don’t really know if she received them or not. I hope she did. Thanks again for enabling me to see her again at the peak of her beauty.

  3. Hello Alan, I can’t help but note that there does not seem to be any official acknowledgement of Elaine’s 94th birthday over on her, shall we say – ‘carefully-curated’ – FB site… [https://www.facebook.com/elaine.hollingsworth.56 ] ….I’ve heard through the ‘grapevine’ that her – sadly tragic – ‘case’ is back before the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal …do you have any ‘insider’ info re. what’s going on with Elaine & her so called ‘Carers’???

    • Unfortunately not, Jack. Her chief ‘carer’ removed me from the scene 3-4 years ago and she decides who does and does not contact Elaine. I form part of the latter group.

    • I first saw her in ‘Tarzan’s Greatest Adventure’ about six years ago (I think), and was impressed with her natural beauty. I checked up on her, wrote an article on my blog, and was contacted by her companion/manager. It was quite a thrill to meet her at her home and spend 8-10 hours a day for five days chatting with her about the old days in Hollywood. I shall always treasure that week. In fact I purchased copies of most of her TV and movie appearances (including two ‘Perry Mason’ episodes) and sent them to her. I do not know if she watched them or not. Nice to hear from you, Fred.

  4. Knew Elaine and Ron in the 1980’s in Hollywood. She wouldn’t even tip the deaf young man for carrying her groceries out at Quinns Natural Grocery store. I gave him a tip and he went back in happy to continue with his job. At the time she was worth 5 million dollars. Don’t be fooled. Elaine was all about Elaine. very selfish and used to everyone catering to her and everything being all about herself.
    Sounds like she used you for attention and then cast you aside. Best to you. Cheers.

      • Alan, luv yer work!!! … MANY of Elaine’s friends & supporters are EXTREMELY concerned about her current circumstances – are you able to ask ‘Mark’ if he knows the whereabouts of Elaine’s son:

        James Hollingsworth “Jamie”: born 11 June 1951 & known to have been a victim of the Church of Scientology.

        The only evidence I’ve been able to find re. Jamie is here – use search string:

        ‘James Hollingsworth – Clear – blog comment’

        cf. https://whyweprotest.wikia.org/wiki/Former_Church_of_Scientology_members_who_have_spoken_out

        Thanx – & MORE on ‘Sara/Elaine’ asap. pls!!! … pls. consider posting info. here: https://www.facebook.com/elaine.hollingsworth.56

        Ciao, Jack

        • I am no longer able to contact Elaine, Jack, but anyone interested in catching up with her, should be able to write to her at the following address:

          Elaine Hollingsworth
          c/o Leisa Wheeler
          PO Box 1760
          MUDGEERABA, QUEENSLAND, AUSTRALIA 4213

          I feel sure Elaine would LOVE to hear from her old friends.

          • Cheers Alan, is ‘Leisa Wheeler’ Elaine’s lawyer? – I have insider info. from a past life which may help Elaine’s legal situation.

          • Leisa Wheeler is her secretary/friend who handles all her mail. Since Elaine’s eyesight is not good these days, it is Leisa who reads her correspondence to her. At least, that was the situation around two years ago when I visited her.

          • Very interesting – wonder if it’s the same ‘Leisa Wheeler’ who blogs re. Elaine as per:

            “I was dealing with: … taking on the Power of Attorney for an elderly lady who was the subject of elder abuse, medical neglect, her previous lawyer and EPOA attempting to have her declared incompetent so that her Will (with the EPOA as a major beneficiary) could never be changed, and a complex legal battle for millions of dollars’ worth of assets with an ex-partner who appears to have engaged in potential fraud and the theft of her intellectual property.
            A clusterfuck indeed – that is not over yet.”

            cf. http://www.embracinghealthblog.com/2019/10/17/healing-is-not-a-linear-path/

    • Cheers Mark, with great respect I think you may have totally misconstrued Elaine’s mindset … Elaine was essentially an autodidact high-brow intellectual, trapped within the body of a Nordic-Goddess – it is far more likely that she was away with the ekphrasis-phaeries – gambolling with beguiling Nobokovian ‘Pale Fire’ leitmotifs in her own mind, at the time … rather than being mindlessly churlish to a grocery-store gopher….the latter is simply not the Elaine I know.

  5. What can I say except, as an avid reader of your blog, I think you are a fine writer of wit and style? I love your honest opinions and hope you can channel this research constructively. So sorry you’ve had such a bitter experience.

    • Actually, the experience was disappointing rather than a bitter one. I shall always cherish the week I spent with Elaine. We really got along well. I should never have suggested I might write my own book about her time in Hollywood, but I was tired and frustrated by the sudden cancellation of the project. Consequently, I am now cut off from any communication with her, which is very sad indeed. Thank you for your interest and kind words, Cat.

  6. What a sad end to a fascinating post, Alan! At least you gave Elaine intelligent conversation which allowed her relive those glory days and you to learn more about old Hollywood. That’s quite a gift.

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