Monday, May 9, 2011

Stars I Must Know More About: #1: Nancy Carroll

While I know quite a bit about the stars (being a veteran Hollywood Star Gazer and Astrologer), there are few in the galaxy who have managed to escape me, but intrigue me. Nancy Carroll is an actress who first caught my eye via still photographs.

Remember those volumes of theme books you could buy through the mail? A bulk of my hard-earned allowance was spent on a series that included (among others), "Classics of the Silent Screen," by Joe Franklin, "The films of Bette Davis," "The Films of James Cagney," "The Films of Jean Harlow," and "All Talking! All Singing! All Dancing" by John Springer. It was there that I first beheld Miss Nancy Carroll and thought, boy, she was just so darn cute!

Being ever curious about someone who was so adorable yet unknown to me, I decided to do a bit of research and see if I could find out anything about this charming lady. Again, it was largely through photos that I came to know about Nancy, but waited patiently for the day when I would have the opportunity to see one of her films. I did read that she was very popular at the beginning of the sound era and, while having a string of hits from the late twenties through the mid-thirties, became labeled as "temperamental" and left Hollywood at the end of the 1930s. But, I find it hard to believe that such a cutie could be difficult. Nope, not buying it.

Who Wouldn't Want to Know More About Her?
Nancy Carroll was a star in that first wave of fascinating and largely forgotten stars when movies started to talk, sing and dance. She came to Hollywood at the end of the silent era, but her Broadway experience in musicals (and her appearance) made her a perfect fit for the musicals of the time. She was a top fan-mail recipient in those early days. Under contract to Paramount Studios, it seems that she was poised to step in for the faltering Clara Bow. Nancy and Clara both appeared  in "Paramount on Parade" in 1930 (Clara singing "True to the Navy" and Nancy dancing out of a giant shoe).
Poster for "Paramount on Parade"
I have managed to see Nancy in "Hot Saturday," with Cary Grant (a very attractive pairing), "The Kiss Before the Mirror," and her greatest dramatic role, "Laughter." She was a very good actress (specialty in tears) and apparently longed for more dramatic parts, but her baby doll face and "cooing little voice" (as John Springer put it) gave her a light presence in heavy drama, a field dominated by such heavy weights as Ruth Chatterton, Bette Davis and Barbara Stanwyck. She seemed made for musicals and comedies, much to her chagrin. With her red hair and blue eyes, she was also made for Technicolor.
Films that I am most longing to see are: 1928's "Shopworn Angel" (if just to hear her sing "A Precious Little Thing Called Love" to Gary Cooper, 1929's "Sweetie," and "Close Harmony," and "Follow Thru," a 1930 golf musical co-starring Charles "Buddy" Rogers (also her co-star in "Abie's Irish Rose," (partially lost) and "Close Harmony").
Nancy Carroll and Gary Cooper
both looking beautiful in "The Shopworn Angel"
Thanks to a fine person at YouTube, here's an excerpt from "Follow Thru." Nancy and Buddy sing "We'd Make a Peach of a Pair" (and they do, too, don't they?). The secondary lovers are Zelma O'Neal and the Tin Man himself, Jack Haley (and they're pretty cute, too).

I'm a sucker for those pre-code 2-strip Technicolor musicals where the singers and dancers weren't always of the best quality (but were of the highest spirits) and the blue skies always seemed more green than blue! And yes, that's the strains of "Button Up Your Overcoat" that you hear after Nancy and Buddy sing their song. This film was based upon a Broadway musical of the same name in which that song was introduced (and was also one of Eleanor Powell's first big breaks - see how the intrigue just keeps growing?).

I have more work to do on Nancy Carroll, but now I might have to a little more research on Buddy Rogers. He sure looks handsome in that clip. I always dismissed him as just Mary Pickford's boy-toy husband after divorcing Douglas Fairbanks, but now a certain something has grabbed my attention.... And, Zelma O'Neal looks interesting, too.......

Sigh..... see why I never get anything done?


Pre-Code Vixen said...

Yes, I adore Nancy Carroll too, she's one the reasons that Paramount needs to release more of their pre-codes. You're not alone when it comes to being a sucker for 2 strip technicolor, I'm part of that club too.

FlickChick said...

Thanks, Nicole. I just broke down and ordered a DVD of "Follow Thru." I hope it's a decent quality, as you just never know with these things.

Rachel said...

Hot Saturday sounds intriguing. And yes, she is so cute.

FlickChick said...

Hot Saturday was fun - and is shown sometimes on TCM. She and Cary Grant are very good together.

Page said...

I love Nancy Carroll and those cheekbones. She was an adorable little pixie!
I love your postcards etc. Beautifully done.

I've been working on a post on her with my memorabilia but I've been trying to read more about her life first.
I'm glad you remembered her too. Like Sue Carol and Esther Ralston she's often forgotten. : )

Page said...

forgot to mention that I adore Buddy Rogers and I fell in love with him after seeing Wings for the first time.

When we visited the Smithsonian a few years ago I remember seeing a rather impressive exhibit of jewels that he had bought for his wife Mary Pickford. The man had great taste.

FlickChick said...

Thank you, Page. Esther Ralston is also a star I must know more about, so I hope to address her soon. By the way, I have been enjoying your blog and meaning to follow and add to my blog list. Both are now done!

Page said...

Thanks FC,
I did a post on Esther awhile back which includes my memorabilia you can read here when you get time.

Enjoying your blog as well.

Diane said...

I didn't know anything about Nancy and I was so interested to know all the information you wrote on your post. You always inform. You are the best!

FlickChick said...

Glad you could say "hello" to Nancy Carroll!