Sunday, March 15, 2015

Images 1951 through 1967

Growing Up Moorehead

 United Presbyterian Choir from Hamilton, Ohio.  Photo dated 1906 from the George C. Cummins collection:
Front Row:Louise Jacobs, Dr. J.H. Morehead, Edwin Henes, Mrs. J.H. Moorehead
Top Row:Dr. J.A.B. Stewart, Robert Henes, Clara Aten, Mrs. Thomas Beckett, Helen Beckett, Thomas Beckett, Addie Bruning.                                                 
Organist immediately to the left of the picture is Dr. F. C. Mayer                                                                              
This picture was taken the year Peggy was born. Now we all know exactly what John Henderson Moorehead looked like and you can see Agnes in his face very clearly.  This is the man she idolized.       
First grade Harrison School, 1906. Teacher - Margaret Caldwell. Class of 1918 HHS. First grade class. (First row) Carl Sauter, Meinie Geckler, John Kuhn, Wilbur Schneideer, unidentified, Sol Greenberg, Neil Millikin, Luther Soehner, Theodore Hackley, unidentified. (Middle row) unidentified, Freida Keiser, Agnes Moorehead, Sylvia Berkowitz, unidentified, Lucille Hendricks, 2 unidentified, Shirley Bruck, unidentified, 2 unidentified. (Last row) _____ Brown, Minor Heinie, 2 unidentified, Maxwell Richardson, Albert Muntz, Lester Keohler, _____ Dawson, 2 unidentified.                                                                                                                                            
Agnes is the lovely young girl in the middle row with an A penciled on her.  She would have been 5 or 6 years old, depending on when they allowed her to start school.  Such a beautiful pensive child.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Traumatic Time Line

The Events
 July 30, 1927 Warren, Trumbull County, Ohio, 12:30pm, Trumbull Steel Company, an accident occurs with a crane and Terence Edward McCauley is killed by a blow to the base of his skull. He is 62 years, 2 months and 4 days old. His residence is listed as 305 Buckeye and his informant, his wife, Margaret McCauley is listed as residing at 1136 Walnut in Canton, Ohio.  It is stated on the death certificate that Mr. McCauley had been a resident of Warren, Ohio for 12 years.

November 11, 1927 Rich Hill, Muskingum County, Ohio, 12:00Pm, Hannah Mariah Humphrey Moorehead dies of old age at home.  The informant of her death to the county is listed as John H. Moorehead of St. Louis, Mo.  She is 86 years, 28 days old.

January 7, 1928 Falls Township, Muskingum County, Ohio, 1:30pm, Hugh Forsythe Moorehead dies at home of acute indigestion and congestion of the lungs.   The informant of his death to the county is his son Robert Hugh Moorehead. He is 86 years, 6 months, 17 days old. He is a paternal great uncle to Agnes Moorehead.

1928, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, time and cause unknown, Mary Jane McCauley dies.  She is the eldest sister of Terence McCauley. She is a maternal great aunt to Agnes Moorehead.  Her daughter, Lucy Cole Logan, commits suicide on June 27, 1911 by drinking carbolic acid.

April 29, 1929 Rich Hill, Muskingum County, Ohio, 8:00pm, Robert Henderson Moorehead dies at home from a combination of old age and complications from a thigh fracture.  The informant of his death to the county is listed as Mrs. Harold Bay, Aunt Cam. He is 90 years and six months old.

July 14, 1929 Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio, 7:50 am, Miami County Hospital, Margaret Ann Moorehead dies by her own hand after taking bi chloride of mercury.  She is 23 years, 2 months, 21 days old.  The informant to the county of her death is her father John H. Moorehead.

October 29, 1929, Black Tuesday, the Great Depression begins with the crash of the stock market.  Work becomes hard to find on Broadway and Agnes must turn her attention to radio to support herself.

May 22, 1938 Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio, 11:00 am, Kohr Memorial Presbyterian Church, John Henderson Moorehead dies while in his pulpit during the service of a massive heart attack.  He has been treated for high blood pressure since 1936.  His wife Mollie watches him die in front of an entire congregation.  He is 65 years old.

September 26, 1938 New York, New York.  Today Agnes and Jack Lee return from their "Honeymoon." They have been married for 8 years, 3 months, 23 days.

October 20, 1938, Massillon, Stark County, Ohio, 4:50pm, Bridget Caroline Doyle dies of lobar pneumonia.  Margaret Doyle McCauley is her sister. She is the maternal great aunt of Agnes Moorehead.  She is 69 years old. The informant of her death to the county is her daughter Mrs. Harold Hose.

January 27, 1939, New Kensington, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, Mary Doyle dies of lobar pneumonia and a fractured hip.  Margaret Doyle McCauley is her sister.  She is the maternal great aunt of Agnes Moorehead. She is 78 years, 6 months, 23 days old. The informant of her death to the county is her daughter Mrs. Mary Mazie Kerr.

March 14, 1939, New Concord, Muskingum County, Ohio, 6:00am, Camilla Urso Moorehead dies of a heart attack at her home.  She has been treated for cardiac arrhythmia since 1936.  She is the sister of John H. Moorehead.  She is the great aunt of Agnes Moorehead.  She is 62 years old. The informant of her death to the county is her niece, Mrs. John Park, who would go on later to sue both Agnes and her mother claiming property left to Agnes by an uncle.

February 28, 1949, San Francisco, California, Mrs. Susan Ping Lee O'Neill dies at St. Luke's Hospital of unknown causes. John (Jack) Griffith Lee is her son.  She is the mother in law of Agnes Moorehead. She is 88 years old.  Her funeral cost $1018.50, a tidy sum for the time, it would cost $9,940.00 measured in today's money.

April 14, 1949, Cambridge, Guernsey County, Ohio, Marcus (Mark) Humphrey Moorehead dies of a massive heart attack. John Henderson Moorehead's brother. He is the paternal great uncle of Agnes Moorehead. He is 78 years, 4 months old.  The informant of his death to the county was Mrs. John Park, his niece.  This is the uncle who gave Agnes the land that Mrs. Park would later attempt to sue over.

June 15, 1949, Los Angeles, California.  Agnes Moorehead officially files separation papers severing ties to Jack Lee.

October 1949, Los Angeles, California.   Agnes plays hostess to the parents of Robert Gist at her home as they visit with their son, Robert Gist.

 What Does Any Of This Mean?
Well, we all deal with certain amounts of trauma over a lifetime.  Sometimes it feels as if we are being sucked down by a whirlpool of events and often we find ourselves weeping, withdrawing or attempting to compensate with our pain via any distraction available.  Consider the pattern of upheaval and compare it to drastic life changes that ensued for Agnes:

August 14, 1926, New York, New York, Agnes auditions for AADA and is ultimately accepted into the class of 1927.  Typically classes begin at AADA begin in September for what amounts to a semester that ends in the middle of December and again in January for a semester that ends in June.  So that means that as Agnes was preparing to go to AADA in 1927 her maternal grandfather dies in an awful industrial accident in Ohio.  He dies on
July 30, 1927. Less than two months later Agnes is in New York beginning her studies at AADA.   Approximate 60 days after the death of her maternal grandfather her beloved maternal grandmother Hannah dies on November 11, 1927.  Agnes has, at that point, approximately one month before the semester ends.  It is unknown whether or not she was able to attend the funeral.  I don't know about you but I was quite young when 3 of my 4 grandparents died and it was very traumatic.  My biggest worry was elementary school and I cried myself to sleep.  I cannot imagine bearing up under the demands of higher education in my chosen profession and attempting to cope with the loss of two beloved family members within two months of one another.

1928 would fare no better for Agnes and family passings.  In 1928, the specific month and day are not documented, Mary Jane McCauley passes away.  She is the sister of Agnes' maternal grandmother and herself the mother of the first documented case of suicide in the family, Agnes' cousin Lucy.  At the beginning of 1928 on January 7th approximately 4 days before the beginning of the spring semester Agnes' uncle Hugh Forsythe Moorehead dies in Ohio less than 60 days after the passing of her grandmother, Hannah.

Moving right along to 1929 we find that on April 29th Agnes' beloved paternal grandfather Robert Moorehead passes away at his home in Ohio.  This happens 30 days after the end of the spring semester for Agnes at AADA.  Then on July 14, 1929 Agnes' only sister Peggy dies after taking bi chloride of mercury in a suicide.

 Agnes was enormously busy with school in her second year at AADA.  In January of 1929 Agnes performed in a production of "Captain Applejack." On February 1, 1929 Agnes performed in a production of "Chinese Love."  On February 15, 1929 Agnes performed in a production of  "Gloria Mundi." On March 1, 1929 Agnes performed in a production of "Mrs. Cheney" which was the sixth production of the AADA season.  On March 18, 1929 Agnes was graduated from AADA. Two deaths, six plays and a graduation occur with in a span of less than 6 months.  In addition, we know that at some point around the time of her sister passing away Agnes agrees to marry Jack Lee once he graduates from AADA in 1930.  Add to this already explosive mixture the demise of Agnes' dreams of working substantially on Broadway.  Theatre has suffered greatly because of the Great Depression.  Suffice it to say that this is a horrendous year.

Once Agnes got in to radio her schedule was so hectic and so demanding.  She routinely did in excess of seven performances daily.  By 1938 she was one of the most prominent female voices on radio.  She was at every theatre performance that mattered and was always in an excellent seat with Jack at her side.  Often it was said nobody had any idea who she managed to be in the same place so that she could be seen every time.  By her own account during her testimony in the hearing for her divorce from Jack Lee had been heavily drinking since 1935.  1938 brought to Agnes the biggest loss of her life.  On May 22, 1938 her beloved father passed away at the age of 65 while in his pulpit preaching at Kohr Presbyterian Church.  It must have been shattering for Agnes.  His death was very sudden, although he had been treated for high blood pressure since 1936.  Within 4 months Agnes and Jack would take the honeymoon that had been "put off" for 8 years.  Less than a month after their return Agnes' maternal great Aunt Bridget Caroline Doyle dies at the age of 69 during a visit with her daughter and sister, Margaret McCauley, in Massillon Ohio.  Agnes threw herself into her work rarely taking any time for herself or Jack other than public appearances and interviews. 

1939 would prove to be no better.  On January 27, 1939 Agnes' maternal great aunt Mary Doyle dies of pneumonia at the age of 78.  A little less than 3 months later Agnes' beloved Aunt Cam dies of a heart attack at the age of 62.  We all know of Aunt Cam because Agnes' regularly talks about her and her quirks in her one woman show.  In less than a year Agnes has lost two of the people she loved most in the world and two maternal great aunts.  Yet by the end of 1939 Agnes would uproot and move to Hollywood to begin her motion picture career under the direction of Orson Welles in "Citizen Kane."

For 10 years from 1939 to 1949 Agnes managed to maintain some stability in her world with the exception of her marriage to Jack Lee.  They separate in 1945 but reconcile and hang on for another 4 years.  February 28,1949 Jack's mother Susan Ping Lee O'Neill passes away.  The tab for her funeral is $1018.50.  In today's money that funeral would cost $9940.00 and Jack was billed for it.  Less than two months later on April 14, 1949 Agnes' paternal great uncle Mark Moorehead dies of a massive heart attack.  He is 78 years old.  By June 15, 1949 Agnes' has put Jack out of the house and filed for a separation.  In October of 1949 Agnes' plays hostess to Robert Gist's parents during their visit to Hollywood.

Every event seems to be at the bottom of or caused by emotional upheaval in Agnes' life.
She handles stress by acting out and making life altering decisions.  It was a pattern that would stay with her all her life.  If she was stressed she would shut down and often just make statements that usually had very little basis in reality.  It is little wonder though because she had so many truly traumatic events in her life.  Starting with the tragic death of her maternal grandfather and ending with her divorces Agnes went through a seriously of complex, painful, stressful events.  It makes you appreciate the level of commitment and skill she maintained in her professional life.  At times when most people would throw up their hands and resign themselves to mourning she continued on with grace.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Out Of A Blue Sky Brooklyn Daily Eagle Sunday, October 20, 1935

Radiography of Agnes Moorehead, Chameleon of Ether Waves----a Quick Change Artist, She Has Made a Name for Herself in Studios

Boy Jo Ranson

Good morning, lades and gentlemen and all you kiddies tuning in to the itty-bitty hour.
We turn the wheel of fortune and away it goes....when it lands, nobody knows...not even Major Bows...who's this coming up to the nice, new and shining microphone, or u, that is the type-writer...why ladies and gentlemen, it's none other than radio's counterpart of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde...we mean Agnes Moorehead, the chameleon of the ether waves...this talented you lady has drawn the toughest dramatic acting assignment on Radio Row this about your quick change artists...the latter half of each week she spends thinking herself into a nice, pleasant frame of mind so that on Sunday nights she can make herself a lovable clown on Phil Baker's laugh cast, that's a new word sir for a comedy program...she takes the part of Mrs. Sarah Heartburn, the kindly well=meaning but mentally short-circuited lady stooge...the moment the moment the show (beg your pardon---laugh cast) is over she dashes home, takes her Mr. Hyde suit out of the close, and starts studying her script for the Helen Hayes program on Tuesdays...after four days of making herself likable, her job is to transform herself over night in to an equally well-hated personality so that she can portray Mrs. Van Alastair Crowder opposite La Hayes portrayal of Penelope Edwards.  This paradoxical position is no novelty to Agnes (pardon the familiarity) ...things are always happening to her contrary to the expected pattern.

The lady we're discussing, Agnes Moorehead, at heart is a sophisticate....she goes in for modern painting, rides horseback regularly, sees all the "right plays and all that sort of thing...yet on the air she manages to draw exclusively home spun parts...her trim figure, dark hair and olive complexion would type her as an Oriental glamour girl if she were working for Hollywood magnates, but aerial casting directors believe that middle aged and elderly women are her forte...she is, among other things, a holder of a master's degree in English from the University of Wisconsin, but despite her devotion to the correct use of words, she is frequently called upon to butcher fine language by playing roles calling for  back country dialects...certainly she takes herself a trifle seriously...but what thespian does not?...she wants to do some of the traditionally great feminine roles...yet she has reached her greatest fame on the air as the best impersonator of Zazu Pitts...Agnes Moorehead can take Jack Benny's gag-line, "Everything happen to me, " and apply it the daughter of a minister she was scheduled to become a school teacher...instead her first job as an entertainer was as a dancer....her first public performance constituted in singing hymns, at the age of three, at a social conducted by her father's church...what do you suppose the elders said when years later they saw her name in casts of Broadway shows with racy titles such as "Scarlett Pages" and "Soldiers and Women?'

The strangest paradox of all is that Agnes Moorehead thought she was going to crash New York's radio portals as a songstress...she had been vocalizing o St. Louis stations for three seasons when she came to Manhattan in 1929...the audition system being what it is they heard her...the next day she got a call to play a bit in a mystery thriller and she has been emoting ever since...the she decided to study at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts to become a polished actress....thing to become a Lawrence, a Bankhead or a Fontanne she turned up by way of mild contrast as a member of the Seth Parker company (oh my gosh) and went on a nationwide tour...Aggie- if you dare to call her that to her face you are risking feeling the results of her temper-is getting a little fed up with this business of portraying what she isn't...she says shed' like to be an honest woman on the air lanes-intellectually honest, if there is such a thing any more-just once...what she she going to do about it?...nothing probably she gates paid nicely the way things are going now doesn't she? All right then!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fashions For Festivities, Milwaukee Journal, December 20,1936 by Isabella Taves

I was lucky enough to capture Agnes Moorehead ( she is Phil Baker's madcap stooge on his program Sunday nights over CBS) for lunch and we got to talking at length about this very thing.

"I am naturally pretty much of a conservative when it comes to clothes." Agnes told me. "I am the tall and stately type and heaven help me if I try to look cute. But at Christmas I like a red dress. I have to be very careful about the shade of red, because my hair is such a funny color."

Her "funny color" hair is actually a beautiful rich auburn, almost mahogany, with shades of bronze in it.  I can see why Agnes has to watch her step with red.  I made noises to that affect.  Agnes smiled.
"I have had yearning eyes on a red fox cape for months," she said, "but my husband tries to keep me from it by warning me that I can't wear that particular shade of red. I can though.  I can wear anything that is in the orange tones and lavender and warm shades of brown.  I especially adore chartreuse and it's nice with my hair, but my husband definitely doesn't like it so I pass that up."

I made a particular mental note that the radio stars aren't much different from other folks; husbands have a lot to say about what they will wear.  I have been just a shade out of the fashion picture for years because my husband won't take me out if I am wearing anything in my hair, even a diamond tiara, if I had a diamond tiara.  I was prepared to go into this a great length over the onion soup but Agnes was rambling on.

"I don't dress up for broadcasts," she said "unless there's a special benefit after the program or some special high jinx that the cast is putting on. Then I like to be very formal. I have a lavender raffia lace with purple velvet straps over the shoulders which I especially adore- it is dignified yet dramatic.  And I love rich furs-ermine and silver fox."

Agnes does not change her hair for evening except sometimes to do it in a coronet braid.  She can make this braid of her own hair because it is very long and very heavy.  She has one interesting pet idea- she makes her own foundation cream for evening.

It is a special formula with bay rum in it, and witch hazel, a little glycerin and a drop or two of iodine and Mercurochrome.  The result, when applied, is a warm glow, a little like suntan make up.  But don't try to make it yourself it has taken her years of experimenting to work out the formula, and she only recommends it for girls who the same type of skin and coloring as hers.

Tangled Up With Paul

I know that when folks back in the day fluffed out their backgrounds to eliminate situations that were traumatic for them or situations that were not for public consumption they definitely didn't take into consideration that we would live in an age of information sharing.  If they had they might have been less likely to invent past experiences that would be easily disproved.  If you sit down, at any time, and look into the background of just about any of Hollywood's elite from its Golden Age you will find that many of them simply invented a past that worked for them.  Producer Paul Gregory was no exception to that.  

We all know who Paul Gregory is.  The man behind "Don Juan In Hell" and "The First Drama Quartet" he brought to the stage 4 talented performers and changed the face of theatre forever.  Charles Laughton, Cedric Hardwicke, Charles Boyer and the inestimable Agnes Moorehead wound their way across America and England performing "Don Juan" to rave reviews and standing ovations.  Paul Gregory, the plain spoken producer  of "Don Juan" revolutionized the way theatre was performed.  He and Charles Laughton together changed the way theatre would be viewed forever.

 While Paul may indeed be a plain spoken man now he hasn't always been. Paul Gregory is an invention of one James Burton Lenhart of Des Moines, Iowa.  Below is an excerpt from and interview with Paul done in 2012 and published in "The Desert News":

Gregory, a successful theater producer, was sent an adapted screenplay of Davis Grubb's novel about a conning, Bible-pumping sexual predator. The character reminded Gregory of his father, who deserted his family in Des Moines, Iowa, and ran off with his wife's $240,0000 Indian allotment, forcing Gregory to live with his aunt and uncle in England through his teens.

Gregory gained a cultural education in England that proved propitious upon his return to America. He recognized Ruth St. Denis while working in a Hollywood drug store, which led to him promoting a show by the modern dance progenitor. More promoting opportunities arose, and Gregory was soon hired by MCA to book “class acts.”

There is no evidence to indicate that  Paul Gregory, aka James Burton Lenhart, ever went to England to reside with an aunt and uncle there through his teens.  He was residing in Des Moines, Iowa in 1940 with his mother and sisters.  He attended Lincoln High School and is clearly pictured in 1937 in two pictures of the high school drama group.  He went by Burton Lenhart and his father went by James.  Furthermore, in the 1934 edition of the yearbook he is listed as being in the band and one will find him clearly listed as beneficiary of a senior will in Lincoln High School yearbook of 1938.  He was willed musical talent by one Laura Fontanini.  Clearly his claim of having lived throughout his teen years with an aunt and uncle is untrue.  He lived an average life in Des Moines.  His parents were divorced before 1940 but his father never ran off with $240,000.00 that had come from his mother's Indian Allotment.  His father remained in Des Moines and remarried.  His second wife was Alma Phelps. James Lenhart was a clerk in a grocery store in 1940, he was listed as a manager in a grocery store in 1930, and had an estimated annual income of $1200.00 and his second wife Alma worked in a hosiery mill adding $700.00 per year to their household income.  James Lenhart died in Iowa in 1982. Paul's mother Esther May Taylor Lenhart was living in Des Moines in 1940 and working as a seamstress.  Her annual income was $900.00 and her eldest daughter Lenore was a clerical worker for the phone company adding her $100.00 per year to their income.  Obviously Paul's father was much better off but he wasn't rich by any stretch of the imagination.  James maintained ownership of 607 Creston Ave, the family home in 1930, and Esther May Taylor Lenhart moved to 7th Street out of the family home. Paul had 3 siblings, Lenore, Virginia and Edwin.  Of these the only one I have been able to trace is Edwin Lenhart who died in 2007 in Alaska.

Paul's life may have been traumatic.  I cannot say for sure why his parents divorced or if his father ever gave any financial assistance to his former wife and children.  It's likely, at least from Paul's apparent disdain for his father, that no money was ever given to the family and that the children were supported by their mother.  It is also likely that this created stress for Paul and his siblings.  Edwin joined the military around 1943.  I can't find either of Paul's sisters beyond 1940 nor can I locate their mother.  Edwin spent time in California in 1955 because there is a marriage record there date June 5, 1955 in Los Angeles where he married Mollie McCart.  By 1981 Edwin was living in Alaska.  I can say that Paul's mother was not native American.  She was born in Iowa to John R. Taylor of Ohio and Margaret C. Lash of Illinois.

The American theatre owes a great deal to Paul Gregory.  He most assuredly is one of kind.  The enduring nature of his creations speaks volumes about his talent and foresight.  His truly humble beginnings speak volumes about his drive and desire.  We salute you sir for all you've given us.