Thursday, March 27, 2008

Judy Malcolm - From "King Kong" to The Three Stooges

Judy Malcolm was a supporting actress in many short comedies in the 1930s through the late 1940s. I was familiar with her through her appearances in some of The Three Stooges comedies.

Her real name was Marguerite Westergren, born in Buffalo, New York in 1910. Her cousin was a secretary to stage and screen actor Richard Dix, and suggested that Judy go to Hollywood and look into acting. She became very active as an extra and stand-in in features. According to her sister, Audrey Klinshaw, Judy was a stand-in for Fay Wray in 1933's "King Kong". In the scene where Wray and Bruce Cabot jump off a cliff into the river below, Judy did the actual jumping. Judy was also seen in some long-shots, in the hands of the giant ape Kong.

She eventually landed a contract at Columbia Pictures, where she was placed in their stable of supporting players, appearing in two-reel comedies with stars such as Vera Vague, Schilling and Lane, Hugh Herbert, Sterling Holloway, as well as The Three Stooges.

In 1990, I located her with the assistance of the Screen Extras Guild in Los Angeles. The clerk I talked to, looked up their records on Judy, and found that she took a withdrawal in 1948. They had an address for her, in Buffalo, New York.

Now, I had something to go on, and was hoping that it would not lead me to a dead end, as happens so many times when trying to locate people from many years earlier. I called phone directory assistance in Buffalo, and there was a listing for a Judy Malcolm! I called, and the voice that answered was hesitant when I inquired if she was the actress. For some reason, she thought I was a crank caller. (Her reaction was similar to Dorothy Appleby's when I first called her, too). When I mentioned some of her movie credits, she then relaxed and realized I was legitimate. I invited her to be a guest at The Three Stooges Fan Club Convention in Pennsylvania, in July. She appreciated the interest, but said she was unable to travel because she had arthritis in her spine, and she would not be able to tolerate a long plane, rail or car trip. She was given an award in absentia, and I mailed it to her.

Below is a note I received from her shortly after my initial call. It's from January 16, 1990:
"Dear Mr. Cappello - Thank you so very much for your phone calls and lovely letter - They brought back some wonderful times and memories- Most sincerely, Judy Malcolm".

And here's a scene still from a Three Stooges comedy, with Judy on the left, with Curly.

For whatever reason, I never sent her a photo to autograph, something I regret.

During our first conversation, Judy told me she created her own professional name. She always liked the name 'Judy', and her mother's maiden name was 'Malcolm', so she combined them to make her screen name.

Judy died in 1998. I wrote this brief obituary which was published in the Fall 1999 issue of The Three Stooges Journal.

I sent a copy to her sister, Audrey, who wrote this note to me:
"Dear Mr. Cappello - Today I received your note and the article you wrote about Judy. Thank you so much for your kindness - I really appreciate it.
The article was right on the money. Really enjoyed reading it. And - it was good to see her with 'the Stooges' again!
I will make copies and send to her 2 nieces and 1 nephew - they all adored her.
Thank you again, Mr. Cappello, for remembering - I will treasure it.
Best Wishes,
Audrey Klinshaw".

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