Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sethma Williams

Sethma Williams is a little-known bit player in some Hollywood movies of the 1930s. What brought her to my attention was the publication of a photo in the latest issue of The Journal of the Three Stooges Fan Club. She is pictured with another actress, Judy Malcolm, in a pose with The Three Stooges for one of their short comedies, "Dizzy Pilots" (1943) - however, neither actress is in the completed movie.

(Below, Sethma on the right, between Moe and Larry):
I decided to try to locate Ms. Williams, and a search through archival records at Ancestry.com, led me to finding her living in California. I turned over the contact information to Frank Reighter, another star member of the 'Stooges Supporting Players Locating Team'. The notes and information below have been compiled by Frank after he had a few conversations with Sethma, as well as doing further research at Ancestry. I'm publishing the notes here as Frank sent them to me, so readers of this blog can see how information is compiled and pieced together. The photos have been provided by Gary Lassin, president of the Fan Club.
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Born Nov 1, 1911 or 1915 in either Jasper, KS. or in 1917,somewhere in Missouri (1911 or 1915 from Ship Passenger Logs); (1917 from 1930 Federal Census).
Mother is Grace F. Williams, born about 1882 in Illinois. No Father named, but listed in Census as being born in South Dakota. Grace may have been an unmarried mother. She was a Real Estate Saleswoman.

Maternal grandmother is Mary E. Ellars, born in Indiana about 1853 Her father was born in New York; her mother in Indiana.

Grace F. Williams also had a daughter listed in 1930 Census: Mildred E. Hawkins, born in California about 1926. May not have been her natural daughter. Mildred's parents are listed as being born in (father) Virginia; (mother) in Michigan.

Residence in 1930 Census: 527 1/2 Walnut Avenue, Long Beach City, Los Angeles, CA.
At some point, Sethma married Philip Frederick Morgenstern (Later known professionally as Freddy Morgan). He was a member of Spike Jones City Slickers. He died Dec. 21, 1970 in Alameda, CA. of a heart attack suffered in the midst of his stage act.

They traveled, possibly in connection with Freddy's performing. He was also a partner in an act called "Morgan and Stone" (Leo Livingston, a school chum).They landed from Plymouth, England aboard the Champlain, in New York, NY Mar 29, 1933. From Le Havre, FR. aboard the Normandie, in New York, NY Sept. 28, 1936, and from Le Havre, FR. aboard the Normandie, landing in New York, NY Sept. 26, 1938.

Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Pictures, was her "God Uncle".
"Uncle Harry" may have had the photos done for "Dizzy Pilots", even though there was never a scene planned for the ladies.

Sethma's film career is listed on IMDB as follows:
  1. My Favorite Spy (1951) (uncredited) .... Dancer
  2. Dizzy Pilots (1943) (uncredited) .... Girl in hangar
  3. Footlight Serenade (1942) (uncredited) .... Chorus Girl
  4. Son of Fury: The Story of Benjamin Blake (1942) (uncredited) .... Native
    ... aka The Story of Benjamin Blake
  5. Too Many Girls (1940) (uncredited) .... Marie
In May, 1940 the Marx Brothers performed on stage at the Paramount Theatre in Los Angeles, CA. a stage review of their yet-to-be-filmed feature movie "Go West". Among the cast were Sethma and Rudolph. Rudolph Caspers was William T. Caspers' brother. Sept. 5, 1955, the LA Times reported a Labor Day weekend in Santa Barbara, CA., with entertainment provided by Rudy and Lorna Caspers, and Sethma and Bill Caspers (Banjos +). The LA Times reported on April 21, 1957 that Santa Barbara was planning a 175th Anniversary Celebration. Among the entertainment will be "the Sethma-Bill Caspers entertainment troupe, which included Rudolph and Lorna Caspers, giving musical and dance impressions of their South Pacific jaunt".
Divorce filing listed in LA Times Aug 13, 1941 by Sethma Morggenstern (sic) against Phillip. Philip Frederick Morgenstern was her first husband (professionally known as Freddy Morgan).
She later married William T. Caspers, born Aug. 19, 1922. Public Records show a Divorce between Sethma Williams and William T. Caspers in Jume 1972, and a marriage between William T. Caspers and Joyce E. Carr, aka Joyce E. Anderson (born about 1928) in Santa Barbara, CA. Oct. 10, 1981.
Social Security Death Index lists William T. Caspers Died April 24, 1999.
Social Security Death Index lists Rudolph W. Caspers Died Aug 29, 1958 in Santa Barbara, CA.

Here are two more photos:
Sethma Williams Caspers is alive and well, now living in Carpinteria and Santa Barbara, California.

She is expected to make her first public appearance at the Hollywood Collectors Show in Burbank, California on July 11 and 12.

UPDATE: December 26, 2014

Sethma Williams died on or about November 25, 2014, age 99. 


3 comments:

nonsportsnut said...

Hi Bill,
I learned from Sethma's son Bill, that she had a biography written about her in 2002 by Elaine Griscom, called "I Danced For Mussolini". It's available on Amazon.com. It arrived Saturday. I'm about half-way through. It's very interesting; verifies most of the information I originally posted. When I get through the entire book, I'll fine-tune my article. Fascinating lady. Thanks, Bill, for the address & Phone number.
Frank Reighter

J. K. Moore said...

Great post Bill. And Frank, FWIW: Though Mildred Hawkins is described as the daughter of Grace Williams (family 478) in the 1930 census, I believe she is the daughter of Grace's neighbors Benjamin Franklin Hawkins and his wife, Antoinette, nee Van Dugteren (family 482). This couple had a daughter Mildred Elizabeth, born 09 Jan 1926. Why Mildred was not living with her parents is not known, but her father was 74 years old in 1930 and this may have been a factor. Benjamin F. Hawkins was born in Virginia in 1856, and Antoinette was born in Michigan in 1887. She was Hawkins's third wife. Hawkins retired to Long Beach CA from Iowa, where he had been president of Farmers Mutual Insurance of Sioux and Lyon Counties. See "The Baylis Family of Virginia" by Willetta Baylis Blum and William Blum Sr. (1958: privately printed).

Alexandra said...

Sethma is my great aunt on my father's side :) I first learned about her through a newspaper spread documenting her dancing in the Moulin Rouge as well as her travels to Egypt to dance for the Sultan. I have never met her but I am so proud to be related to her. I am a European history major but all history fascinates me, so for her to be such a vivid character in my own ancestry is a true honor. I love the pictures of her with the Stooges!