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Important sale of fine paintings

Here’s an ad from the October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star for an art sale:

I looked in the Toronto city directories, and I couldn’t find a reference to anyone named V. E. Rumbell, and there wasn’t anyone living on Russell Hill Road who had a name similar to that. This doesn’t mean that she didn’t exist, of course, but this did remind me of this Jenkins Galleries ad from 1930, which offered art from the estate of a possibly non-existent Comte de Richemont. Malloney’s Art Gallery was just down the street from the Jenkins Galleries, which leads me to wonder whether there was a tradition in Toronto of making up high-sounding names when offering art for sale.

Either way, Grenville Street has been home to many artists and galleries over the years. Franz Johnston, one of the Group of Seven artists, was living next door to Malloney’s Art Gallery in 1937, and the city directory listed a total of 13 artists living or with studios on that street at that time. There were still a number of artists living on the street by the time of this 1947 ad.

Malloney’s Art Gallery was the brainchild and lifework of J. Merritt Malloney. He is listed in the 1920 Toronto city directory as an artist, with a studio on Yonge Street and making his home at the Elliott Hotel. By 1930, his gallery was in existence at its Grenville Street location.

He last appears in the 1951 directory. The 1952 directory lists Malloney’s Art Gallery as being managed by John L. Malloney, with M. Jerritt Malloney as president; presumably, they were his sons.

66 Grenville Street no longer exists. Women’s College Hospital, which was at 74 Grenville in 1947, has expanded to use more of the street.

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A warning!

Here’s a movie ad from the October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that was intended to attract attention:

Monsieur Verdoux was a controversial film because it showed Charlie Chaplin (or Charles Chaplin, as he was referred to here) portraying French serial killer Henri Landru, who met women through lonely hearts advertisements and killed them.

The idea for the film originated with Orson Welles, who pitched the idea of portraying Landru to Chaplin and who received $5000 for it. Chaplin’s portrayal of a murderer provoked outrage – it was banned in some American jurisdictions, and it failed commercially in the United States. Leading critics of the time loved the movie, though, and it was a commercial success in Europe and now often appears on various all-time best lists.

Chaplin was already being criticized by some Americans for his pro-Soviet leanings, and was accused by George Orwell of being a secret Communist. He had always retained British citizenship; in 1952, the United States attorney general revoked Chaplin’s re-entry permit when he sailed to London to promote his most recent film, the autobiographical Limelight. He chose to remain out of the country until 1972, when he was given an honorary award and a 12-minute standing ovation at that year’s Academy Awards ceremony. He passed away in 1977.

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Whodunit raids hospital

The October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contains this brief article that reads like something from a spy thriller:

So what we have here is a man disguising himself as a doctor, extracting the love of his life – who happens to have only one arm – from a Swedish sanitorium, and flying her to Norway in a private plane. The movie script practically writes itself.

I did a bit of searching, and went down a variety of interesting rabbit holes. First off: I could find no evidence that Torsten Akrell (also written as Thorsten Akrell) wrote detective stories. He appears to have been a lieutenant and a special agent of the Swedish Defense Staff during the Second World War, part of a team responsible for smuggling secret agents into Poland and Hungary. He also took on missions for the Allies in wartime Berlin. Given this history, smuggling a woman out of a sanitorium would have been a relatively stress-free exercise.

Louise Forsell, not Torsten Akrell, was the writer of detective stories; she was known as Loulou. There is a Wikipedia page for her in Swedish that provides more details on what happened:

  • Apparently, Ms. Forsell had been saddled with a narcotics habit as a result of being treated for injuries suffered in a plane crash.
  • After being admitted to a Swedish sanitorium, she complained about her treatment there and was then banned from receiving visitors or making phone calls.
  • This is the point at which Lt. Akrell stepped into the picture.

The whole affair became something of a controversy in Sweden at the time, as Ms. Forsell was still married to her first husband, a merchant named Nils Kaage. Not surprisingly, this marriage didn’t make it through the year.

Despite his heroics, Ms. Forsell and Lt. Akrell never did get married. She married a singer named Anders Börje in 1951, divorced him two years later, and then passed away in 1954 at the age of 31. I couldn’t find out what the cause of her death was. She wrote five novels, one of which was co-written by her brother and one of which was published posthumously.

A more complete history of this event can be found on this page about crime in Stockholm (translate it into English and then scroll to the section titled “The Knight and the Virgin 1947”). This page states that Lt. Akrell became a United Nations soldier (presumably peacekeeping); if this is him, he passed away in 1980. A photo of the two of them is available on Wikimedia Commons.

Last but not least: a Swedish movie called The Spy was released in 2019, with an actor named Rolf Lassgård playing the part of Thorsten Akrell. I have no idea what it is about.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Lilian Harvey

The January 16 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this pair of photographs of former film star Lilian Harvey:

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The story of Lilian Harvey (1906-1968) turns out to be quite interesting and a little sad. Daughter of a German father and an English mother, Ms. Harvey began her career in Berlin, and starred in a number of silent and talking films in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Because she had Jewish and gay colleagues, she was watched closely by the Gestapo; she eventually fled Germany in 1939, leaving behind a fortune in real estate, which was confiscated. She moved to Vichy France, but fled to the U.S. in 1942 when the Germans overran France.

After the war, she returned to Paris, where she was photographed in the newer photo above. Her Wikipedia page doesn’t include a lot of information about her post-war career, which suggests that her comeback might not have been as successful as hoped. She eventually moved to the French Riviera, opened a souvenir shop, and raised edible snails. And why not? (The French term for edible snails, “escargot”, sounds more yummy.)

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No traffic deaths in year

The December 11 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star reported that the borough of East York was close to achieving the goal of no traffic deaths in the year.

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Admittedly, there were fewer people living in East York in 1947 than there are now. Still, that is an impressive achievement.

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Two bit imposter

The December 11 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star had a brief article on a man who was going into taverns and pretending to be Tom Longboat, a famous Canadian runner:

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Sadly, Tom Longboat was not alive for very long after this article appeared: he passed away from pneumonia in January, 1949.

Oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time that Longboat had been plagued by an impersonator. In 1917, a man named Edgar Laplante travelled around America giving concerts and pretending to be him, and then enlisted in the U.S. Army Transport Service under Longboat’s name. When the fake Longboat was killed in action, newspaper stories reported his death. His wife believed them, and remarried in 1918; when the real Longboat returned, she preferred to remain married to her new husband. Undaunted, Longboat remarried and had four children.