Drama, personality planning

Here’s an ad from the May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that caught my attention:

I looked up Dress Rehearsal Limited in the Toronto city directories. It appears to have been a new business, as it does not appear in the 1946 city directory. It is listed in the 1947 directory at 41 Cumberland; Inez Pierson, who was teaching the Personality Planning course, is listed as its manager. Unfortunately, it did not remain in existence for long, as it does not appear in the 1948 directory.

Out of curiosity, I tried tracing the people mentioned in the ad:

  • I couldn’t find Anton Diffring anywhere; either his name was a theatrical pseudonym or a misspelling, or he lived out of town and commuted into the city to teach drama.
  • Inez Pierson was new in town, as she does not appear in the 1946 directory. After Dress Rehearsal Limited folded, she appeared in the 1948 and 1949 directories with no listed occupation. She does not appear in the 1950 directory.

I wonder whether Dress Rehearsal’s Repertory Company ever existed. Did they put on any shows during the fall of 1946?


Grave world problem

The May 9 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained two articles that claimed that things weren’t as good as they used to be.

The first one complained about the decline of family life in Britain:

And the second article complained about an obsession with dancing in a Soviet republic:

There were 50 posters in Kazan announcing dances, and not one announcing lectures, literary or musical evenings! Mind you, this was when Stalin was still alive, so perhaps people were reluctant to organize lectures or literary events.


Too much diplomat

Here’s a brief article from the April 15 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star about a British diplomat who lost his potential posting because of matrimonial difficulties.

Victor Cavendish-Bentinck (1897-1990) eventually became Lord Victor Cavendish-Bentinck, and then became the Duke of Portland when his older brother passed away. Apparently, he normally referred to himself as Bill Bentinck, which is a much shorter handle to go through life with.

Mr. Bentinck was ambassador to Poland from 1945 to 1947; before that, he was the Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee during the Second World War. While chairman, he received reports of the annihilation of the Jews but refused to believe them.

As for his alleged matrimonial hijinks: the article above and his Wikipedia page have different viewpoints. The article seems to be a bit anti-Bentinck, whereas the Wikipedia page doesn’t mention his alleged adultery and reports that he found out that his wife and children had left him when his Hungarian maid phoned him and told him. I have no idea which version of the facts is correct.


Spoonful of calories

Here’s another publicity photo from the April 15 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Janis Paige belongs on the list of actors whom you do not blame for taking a stage name, as she was born Donna Mae Tjaden. She started her career singing at the Hollywood Canteen during the Second World War, during which the pilots of the Northrup B-61 Black Widow nicknamed her “The Black Widow Girl”. After the war, she embarked on a long career in movies, theatre, and television; her last TV role was in 2001. She’s still alive – she turns 99 in September.

Ted North Jr. (1916-1975) wasn’t really a newcomer at the time of this photo, as he had been in films since 1940. He had just finished working on The Unsuspected (1947), in which he was billed as “Michael North”; it was his last film. He later worked as an agent for Red Skelton, among others.


Screen beauty

Here’s a publicity photo from the April 15 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

Audrey Young (1922-2012) sang with Tommy Dorsey’s orchestra and then appeared in a number of films in the 1940s, mostly in small parts. She married director/screenwriter/producer Billy Wilder in 1949; they remained married until he passed away in 2002.

The Ritz Brothers were a trio of precision dancers, singers, and comedians who started in vaudeville in the 1920s and starred in a number of films in the 1930s. Jimmy Ritz (1904-1985) was the middle brother of the trio.


Search for a comedienne

I’ve been spending the last little while in the 1920s and 1930s, but the next few days will be in 1947! The photo page from the April 15 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star included some pictures of celebrities, including this photo of actress Martha Stewart:

Martha Stewart (1922-2021) was no relation to the Martha Stewart who built a retail empire. This Martha Stewart appeared in eight movies between 1945 and 1952, and last appeared in a film in 1964. Her best-known role was In A Lonely Place (1950), in which she played opposite Humphrey Bogart.

She was married three times; her third marriage, to David Shelley, lasted from 1955 until he died in 1982. She was a widow for nearly forty years, passing away in February of this year.


Paid off showgirl

Here’s a small article from the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star:

I couldn’t find anything on the Internet related to Beatrice “Bebe” Webb.

Adolph B. Spreckels Jr. (1911-1961) didn’t do anything in his lifetime to merit a Wikipedia page. I did find a page that informed me that he married six times and died two days short of his 50th birthday. He isn’t worth writing about – especially since, based on this evidence, he appears to have been a horrible person – but tracing his family yielded some interesting information.

The Spreckels sugar fortune was created by Claus Spreckels (1828-1908), who built up a sugar empire in Hawaii and California. His first-born son, John D. Spreckels (1853-1926), made his own fortune in transportation and real estate and has been credited with making San Diego what it is today.

John D’s brother, Adolph Spreckels (1857-1924), took over his father’s sugar company and gave birth to the Adolph Jr. of the article above before eventually succumbing to the syphilis that he had contracted as a young man. Along the way, he found time to shoot the co-founder of the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper when it accused his company of defrauding its shareholders. Apparently, Adolph is the origin of the term “sugar daddy”.

Film Actress Kay Williams (1916-1983), as she is referred to in this article, appeared in The Actress (1953), but had no other credited roles. After divorcing Adolph Jr., she rebounded successfully: she married Clark Gable. They remained married until he died of a heart attack in 1960; four months after his death, she gave birth to his only son.

Kay Williams and Adolph Jr.’s son, Bunker Spreckels (1949-1977), spent the first years of his young adulthood surfing in relative poverty in Hawaii. On his 21st birthday, he inherited $50 million, and proceeded to live a life of sex, drugs, surfing, and random material pleasures in various parts of the world. He died of a drug overdose. This article provides more details on his life.


Meet me at Muirheads

Here’s an ad from the February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for a chain of downtown cafeterias:

I looked Muirheads up in the Toronto city directories. In 1946, there were Muirhead’s Cafeterias listed at 38-40 Adelaide West, 200 Bay, and 225 Yonge. Moving forward in time:

  • By 1951, the 225 Yonge location had moved to 67 Richmond West. 225 Yonge became the Silver Rail Tavern.
  • By 1956, the 200 Bay location was gone – Muirhead’s was still at 38 Adelaide West and 67 Richmond West. Here’s a photograph of the 200 Bay location.
  • By 1961, the 67 Richmond West location was the only one remaining. It last appeared in the 1963 directory.

I also traced Muirhead’s cafeterias and restaurants back. There is a reference to a Muirhead’s restaurant, run by one R. J. Muirhead, at 99 Yonge in 1918. It wasn’t in the 1915 directory. Checking at five-year intervals:

  • 1920: still at 99 Yonge
  • 1925: now at 14 Queen East and 83 Yonge
  • 1930: 200 Bay, 83 Yonge, 14-16 Queen East, 38-42 Adelaide West – by now, Mr. Muirhead was not running the establishment, and he was not listed in the directory. The 1928 directory lists Mr. Muirhead as president of one of the restaurants with “(California)” next to his name, so I guess he sold out and moved west.
  • 1935: 38-40 Adelaide West, 198-200 Bay, 225 Yonge
  • 1940: same as 1935.

There are a number of photos and postcards of Muirhead’s on the Internet. The Vintage Toronto Facebook group has a photograph of the Muirhead’s Cafeteria at 83 Yonge; the post claims that the photo is from 1910, but the directory listings above date it to between 1920 and 1935.


Must use rear door

The February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this brief article about a property dispute in Leaside:

I looked up the 1948 Toronto city directory, as I figured that the building would be built by then, and it was: the Leaside Press was listed at 219 Randolph Road, with Arthur E. Donahue as its proprietor. I was curious as to whether the building wound up being built with its entrance at the side or the back, but Google Street View revealed that the building is long since gone – there are now condominiums on the corner of Randolph and McRae. The west side of Randolph Road does appear to be completely residential, though.

The Leaside Press changed its name to the Leaside Advertiser in 1950. The latest directory that I can access online, the 1969 directory, still listed the Leaside Advertiser at 219 Randolph, with Mr. Donahue still in charge. This 2013 page from the Toronto Public Library states that the Leaside Advertiser remained in existence until about 1999.


Dreams come true

In Toronto, there was a housing shortage after the Second World War; a young couple looking for a place to live faced stiff competition, especially if they had a child. The February 7 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star had a photo and an article about a young family that had won out over 1600 other applicants to land a place to live in the Balmy Beach district of Toronto.

I looked Bill Bessey up in the Toronto city directories. The 1946 directory listed him as living at 127 Lawrence Avenue West with his father, Norman. The 1947 directory lists him at his new home, 2158A Queen East. The apartment was above Queen Radio and Refrigeration Limited, whose proprietor was David G. Harcourt, the landlord pictured in this photo.

Bessey and his family remained at 2158A Queen East for about five years: he is listed in the 1951 directory, but not the 1952 directory. Presumably, his announcer duties moved him somewhere outside of Toronto.

Bessey remained a CBC staff announcer into the 1960s. At one time, he hosted a Saturday morning country music television show, Cousin Bill. This was despite his only ever having been on a ranch once in his life, when filming the intro for his show. References to Bessey and Cousin Bill can be found here, here, and here, among others.

The building that contains 2158A Queen East still stands. By 1956, Queen Radio and Refrigeration had moved from 2158 Queen East to 1576 and 1580 Kingston Road in Scarborough, between Warden and Birchmount in the Birchcliff neighbourhood. The company was still at 1580 Kingston Road in 1961 as Queen Refrigeration and Air Conditioning, with D. G. Harcourt still as its proprietor; I didn’t trace it or him after that.