Tuesday, December 7, 2010
This day in our holiday hegira finds us knocking at the wreathed door of Frances Gifford, whose birthday is December 7th as well. Doors seemed to open naturally in the wake of this onetime golden girl, especially during the holidays. Largely forgotten today, she was a young lady who had just about everything: A beautiful face and form, a good mind (she graduated from high school at 16 and had intended to study law at UCLA), and she was in the right place at the right time. That place was the Samuel Goldwyn Studio in September, 1936.
The Long Beach, California native was Mary Frances Gifford then, getting a behind-the-scenes tour with Bill Paquette, a boyfriend employed there. Reports differ about the next sequence of events. Some say a Goldwyn exec saw the youngster with the symmetrical fresh face and pitched the classic line, "How would you like to be in pictures?" Others say that Merle Oberon, making Beloved Enemy (1936) with Brian Aherne at the time, took a shine to the lovely girl, asserting that she should be given a screen test and that a meeting with Mr. Goldwyn should be arranged for the lithe teenager, whose only acting experience had been in high school plays. Somehow, I suspect that the truth is in the middle of these tales.