Friday, August 10, 2012

Louise Latimer, 1930s actress, died 1973...and 2012!

There are some people who enjoy impersonating others, usually forgettable movie actresses of the 1930s, such as a few years ago, the person who pretended to be Dorothy Dare, an actress who had a brief career, appearing in about fifteen movies in the late 1930s.

And then there are some people who enjoy writing "current" obituaries for other minor movie actresses of the 1930s, whether they're still living or have been dead for many years.

Earlier this year, someone wrote an obituary for Rosella Towne, a minor actress who appeared in a few dozen movies from the late 1930s into the early 1940s. After searching for verification, I found she was still living in the retirement community where she was supposed to have died.  It was further verified when fellow researcher Frank Reighter called her son, who was not home at the time, but spoke with her grandson who verified his grandmother was still living.

More recently, another long-forgotten 1930s actress, Louise Latimer, was in the obituaries on Barbara's Obits, a section on Voy Forums. The date and place of her death was given as May 14, 2012 in Newport, Rhode Island.  The cemetery where Latimer was supposed to have been buried was given as Saint Columba Catholic Cemetery in Middletown, Rhode Island.  Her age was given as 96, along with her birth date and place of  March 6, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York.

Some of us looked for official verification of Latimer's death, and couldn't find a published obituary, not in the Newport, RI, newspaper, or any other newspaper.  The only notice of her death was on the Barbara's Obits forum.

I called the Saint Columba Cemetery and asked if there was a Louise Latimer, or a Louise with any other name, buried there shortly after May 14, and the office clerk searched through the records and did not find anything.  When I told him she was 96, he looked over a list of everyone buried there since January, and the oldest person was 89.

I decided to search for Latimer in U.S. Censuses, as well as to verify her birth date.  I did find an entry for her birth in the NYC Birth Index - Brooklyn - as March 6, 1913. Her full name was Lulu Latimer (left column, second name).

This is when Frank Reighter became involved.  Frank and I, among a very few others, have been researching supporting players in comedies of The Three Stooges. Frank's interest in Latimer was piqued when he noted one of Latimer's credits was in a 1934 Vitaphone short comedy featuring one of the Stooges, Shemp Howard, long before he officially joined with his brother Moe Howard, and Larry Fine, at Columbia Pictures in 1946.

Frank searched and found Louise, as Lulu Latimer,  in the 1915 New York State Census, living in Brooklyn with her parents Herbert and Lula (that's how her mother spelled her own name).

I searched in the Los Angeles Times historical archives for anything about Louise Latimer during her movie years yielded a marriage to a writer named Erwin Gelsey.  It was supposed to have been in Denver, Colorado on June 13, 1936.  A later article mentioned they were divorced.
Below is a press photo of Erwin Gelsey and Louise Latimer, which accompanied a few of the newspaper articles announcing their marriage.

Frank called the Newport, Rhode Island town hall office that files vital records, and inquired about the death of Louise Latimer.  The clerk looked up all the deaths that occurred on May 14, 2012, and there was nobody named Louise, and nobody age 96.

At that point, Frank and I were determined to find out for certain whether or not Louise Latimer had died in May - anywhere.  She was a forgettable actress of the 1930s, but since someone reported her death without citing legitimate sources, we wanted to prove or disprove it for sure.

Frank searched again through newspaper historical archives, looking for anything about Louise's parents, and he found an obituary for her mother Lula Latimer, who died in 1963 in Easton, Connecticut.  Here is the obit from the Bridgeport (CT) Post, February 12, 1963. (I apologize for the poor quality, but this is the best image available.)
Among her survivors was a daughter, Mrs. Louise Blaisdell.

I searched the massive resources on Ancestry for anything on a Louise Blaisdell, and there was one document - a Report of the Death of an American Citizen, provided by the U.S. Department of State via the National Archives.  Her full name is given as Louise Latimer Blaisdell; birth date of  March 6, 1913 in New York; date of death June 16, 1973 in Palma Mallorca, Spain.  Below is the report.

Below is the upper portion enlarged for easier reading:

Frank called the daughter of Louise's sister Marjorie McGuire, and verified Louise Latimer Blaisdell was indeed the movie actress of the 1930s.

A call to the Saint Lawrence Cemetery today, August 10, 2012, verified Louise Blaisdell is buried there, alongside her mother, and some other family members.  They're in Section J, St. Elizabeth Avenue, Lot 64.  Louise's burial date was July 21, 1973, more than a month after her death in Spain.

I want to thank Frank for his steadfast research to help solve this "mystery".

And in closing this "case", below are a couple of photos of Louise Latimer, to put a face to the name.  The first is a studio publicity portrait. The second is a still from the 1936 feature film, "Don't Turn 'Em Loose", in which she co-starred with Bruce Cabot.


jlp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jlp said...

Thanks Bill and Frank for your incredible research. Your help was greatly appreciated in clearing up this hoax.

WANTED: Bon Jovi Memorabilia said...

Well done Bill and Frank! Two super sleuths on the job - again!

As a non-fiction writer relating to Hollywood history, my work is made very difficult by these hoax-type stories, so whenever the truth is found out, it rights the wrongs, not only for historians like me, but especially for the person at the centre of the lies.

Good work, guys!

Bill Cassara said...

Hats off to Bill and Frank who champion not only the truth, but they CARE about the unsung actors. They don't take kindly to identity thieves or fiction writers who claim to have the final word.

Peter said...

Great job Bill! Another mystery, solved by the best researcher(s) in the business.


theChronicler said...

Incredible research. I'm glad to see others take pride and diligence in finding in honoring such a versitile, yet forgotten actress. Shame you didn't include gravesite PHOTOS, but maybe next time around.

Anonymous said...

Love the history... good work boys!

jlp said...

Bill and Frank are the best! They helped solve/expose the great Dorothy Dare mystery of 2008.

Anonymous said...

Nice job, guys.