Attractive actress Beverly Garland was married to actor Richard Garland in 1953 when she was appearing in a play with John Crawford at the Hollywood Players Ring Theatre. Her best friend, Lorinne, was wed to Crawford at the time and the Garlands would often go to the Crawford home for dinner, after which John and Beverly would dash off to the theatre for a while. One evening they returned to find Richard and Lorinne locked in an embrace. Eventually, the two admitted having an affair and both Beverly and John filed for divorce at once.
The names Richard Garland and John Crawford probably do not ring any bells with cinema-goers, but the faces of these movie and TV actors should indeed be familiar. John Crawford racked up over 200 screen credits in both mediums over 40 years, while Richard was less prolific but equally recognizable, especially to TV fans. His career was cut short by alcoholism. Complications from his drinking resulted in his early death at 41 in 1969.
Beverly graced numerous television series, game shows and B-features, and was a cut above most aspiring young actresses of the fifties. In 1960, she married land developer Fillmore Crank who built two hotels that bore her name. She co-starred with close friend Bruce Boxleitner in The Scarecrow and Mrs. King (1983) and her best friend was torch singer Julie London. In interviews Beverly was not reticent when asked about some of the people she had worked with.
Beverly & Robert Culp in Trackdown (1957)
She had little time for Robert Culp whom she worked with in Trackdown (1957). ‘It was awful for me to work with him’, she said. ‘He didn’t give me anything. Very selfish. I don’t know about others, but Robert Culp just didn’t give me anything.’ On Robert Conrad: ‘Thank goodness we didn’t have any love scenes together. I am taller than Robert Conrad, but then, who isn’t? He’s a tiny man.’ She also worked with Richard Boone on Medic (1954). ‘Such a good actor…a special man. Just wonderful. He was not good-looking. He had bad skin and was very homely…but a brilliant actor.’
During her movie days she encountered a couple of real-life war heroes. Wayne Morris was a fighter ace in the Pacific in WW2 and she co-starred with him on The Desperado and Two Guns and a Badge, both in 1954. ‘He was no longer a star’, she recalled. ‘This was not Warner Bros. He was nice, but heavy. He had to have a box to get on his horse! I didn’t hang around with him so I didn’t know about his drinking…but from his being puffy, I certainly suspected it.’ Neville Brand has often been touted as the 4th most highly decorated American soldier of World War Two. This was a misconception that he cleared up prior to his death in 1992. However, he was the recipient of the Silver Star for gallantry and developed post-traumatic stress disorder in later years, as well as a drinking problem, both a legacy of his wartime experiences. ‘We did a lot of stuff together’, said Beverly, ‘including a picture in Japan. I stayed home and he went out with the girls; then at three or four in the morning he would tell me all about them. What a drinker!’
Beverly & former war hero Wayne Morris
It is not very well known today, but Beverly achieved two important historical TV ‘firsts’ during her acting career. She was television’s very first policewoman star of a series when she was chosen for Decoy in 1957. This meant she was the first actress to actually star in a dramatic TV series. After her husband of 39 years passed away in 1999, Beverly continued to run the 255-room Beverly Garland Holiday Inn in North Hollywood (with the help of three of her four children), until her own death at 82 in December 2008.
Ruta Lee in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954)
Ruta Lee is an actress (now in her eighties) who was born to Lithuanian immigrant parents in Canada in 1935. She was 13 when her folks moved the family to Los Angeles and she was enrolled at Hollywood High School where she began taking acting lessons and appearing in school plays. She would make over 150 screen appearances over the next sixty plus years, mostly on television, but also in a few memorable movies. She played one of the brides in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954) and scored minor roles in Funny Face (1957) and Witness for the Prosecution (1957), but her career on the big screen never made it past bit parts. On TV, however, she bobbed up in scores of popular series and panel shows, her face becoming familiar to decades of viewers.
Ruta (in blue at right) in ‘Seven Brides’.
In 1964, she personally called Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and asked him to pardon her Lithuanian grandmother, Ludvise Kamandulis, who had been interned in a Siberian labour camp since the end of World War Two. Her request was granted and Ludvise came to live with Ruta in California. The old lady died two years later. In 1987, Ruta also managed to get her 18 year-old cousin released from the former Soviet Union. The Thalians is a charitable organisation dedicated to mental health causes, founded in 1955 by Hollywood actors, and Ruta has been heavily involved (as Chairwoman Emeritus) for over 50 years. Her late good friend Debbie Reynolds was President Emeritus. Married since 1976 to a Texas restaurant executive, Ruta shares her time between their luxurious homes in Hollywood, Palm Springs, Fort Worth and Mexico. The couple have no children.
Carmen Alvarez in Li’l Abner (1959)
One of my favourite musical movies of all time is Li’l Abner (1959). I love the songs, the characters and the wit. I was a teenager when I first saw this film and was equally impressed by several of the gorgeous actresses cast in it. Leslie Parrish as ‘Daisy Mae’ was a knockout; Stella Stevens as ‘Apassionata Von Climax’ and Julie Newmar as ‘Stupefyin’ Jones’ looked wonderful as well. But, in my eyes, none of them held a candle to the girl cast as ‘Moonbeam McSwine’, an actress named Carmen Alvarez. Wow! I kept wondering why she never made it big in movies. What happened to her?
as ‘Moonbeam McSwine’
Well, it seems she preferred stage work to films. Her total screen credits numbered just four, but she was a mainstay of the musical stage, both as a dancer and as a singer, working in ‘Paint Your Wagon’ (1953), ‘The Pajama Game’ (1954), ‘Li’l Abner’ (1956), ‘West Side Story’ (1957), ‘Bye Bye Birdie’ (1960), and several others. She was married to minor actor Chad Dee Block, but dates about the union are sketchy at best. He passed away in 2002. The wonderful Carmen is now in her eighties and still going strong.