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This Day in WWII 4 January 1940 - 1945

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CrosleyAd-Jan1943.jpgCrosley Ad - January 1943

1940: The 16th Australian Brigade marches through the streets of Sydney.

1941: On the Greek-Albanian front, the Greeks launch an attack towards Valona from Berat to Klisura against the Italians.

Gloria%20Jean1.jpg *Gloria Jean

1942: The Red Army captures Kaluga to the southwest of Moscow.

1942: Japanese aircraft attack Rabaul in the Bismarck Archipelago.

1942: Chiang Kai-shek is appointed as Supreme allied commander in China.

Gloria%20Jean2.jpg Gloria Jean

1943: The Japanese Navy orders the evacuation of Guadalcanal by the end of the month.

Ray-O-VacBatteriesAd-Jan1944.jpg Ray-O-Vac Batteries Ad - January 1944

1944: The Germans announce the mobilization of school children for war work.

1945: The USA issue's its casualty figures to the 21st December 1944 as 135,323 killed, 362,824 wounded, 75,844 missing and 64,148 captured.

Gloria%20Jean3.jpg Gloria Jean

*Gloria Jean Schoonover was born on April 14, 1926 in Buffalo, New York. Her family moved to Scranton, Pennsylvania shortly after that; this is where Gloria spent the early part of her childhood. Her father owned a music store, while her mother, who had been a bareback rider in a circus, took care of Gloria and her three siblings.

Gloria's singing ability was discovered at a young age, and by age five she was singing in the Scranton area. At age twelve, Gloria was taken to an audition by Universal director Joe Pasternak, who was looking for a new child singer to replace studio icon Deanna Durbin, who was being steered into adult and ingénue roles. Although hundreds of Shirley-Temple-perfect girls competed, the natural-looking Gloria was chosen, and she and her mother were soon on their way to Hollywood.

In 1939, Gloria made her first film: "The Under-Pup", which made her an instant hit with moviegoers. Happy with their young coloratura soprano, Universal cast her in "If I Had My Way", which co-starred Bing Crosby. Following that was what many consider Gloria's best movie: "A Little Bit of Heaven". Following this was a co-starring role with W.C. Fields in "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break", which is the most seen of her movies today.

At this point in 1941, Gloria was at the pinnacle of her career, and one would imagine that her star would soar. Unfortunately, it didn't work that way. Gloria had outgrown her Little Miss Fixit roles (as had Durbin a few years earlier), but Durbin was in command of the older-girl roles for the better pictures. At a loss for what to do with Jean, Universal moved her to the "Hepcat" movies, which appealed to the teenagers of that day. "What's Cooking", "Get Hep to Love", "When Johnny Comes Marching Home", and "It Comes Up Love," were all shot in 1942. "Mr. Big," and "Moonlight in Vermont" followed in 1943. All of the above were stock B films which appealed to teenagers of the time. Gloria (as did many Universal stars) had a few seconds on-screen in the war-effort picture, "Follow the Boys", in 1944. After that came a rather good picture "Follow My Rhythm" with Mel Torme, who became a close friend. Then, in "Ghost Catchers", she was teamed with popular comedians Ole Olsen and Chic Johnson. The rather forgettable "Reckless Age" was next, its main distinction being that it was the first movie in which Gloria played a more mature role.

Gloria was to star in one of four episodes of the Julien Duvivier's "Flesh and Fantasy," alongside such stars as Edward G. Robinson, Charles Boyer, and Barbara Stanwyck. But the movie was deemed to be too long, and Gloria's segment was cut out. Some awful footage was added, and the end result was "Destiny". Gloria's performance was given rave reviews, but the movie itself met with modest success. Following this, Gloria did three more films at Universal: "I'll Remember April", "River Gang", and "Easy to Look at".


Gloria%20Jean4.jpg Gloria Jean

At this point, upon the (bad) advice of her agent, Gloria decided not to renew her contract at Universal, opting instead to go on tour. The tour did not work out as well as expected, and Gloria returned to the Hollywood in 1947, but she found virtually nobody interested in her services. Groucho Marx gave her a minor role in his picture "Copacabana". This appearance ultimately landed her four more roles in: "I Surrender, Dear", "Manhattan Angel", "An Old Fashioned Girl" and "There's a Girl in My Heart".

As the 1950's began, television was taking off in popularity. Gloria made several singing shorts that were aired during television's early days. Other than that and a few guest appearances on TV series, Gloria's acting career was virtually finished. She appeared in the forgettable "Air Strike" in 1955 and she worked in a couple of movies that were never released.

Jerry Lewis found her working as a restaurant hostess and gave her a part in his movie "The Ladies' Man", which was meant to re-launch her career. Unfortunately, her scenes were cut from the final release. Gloria married shortly after that movie, a short-lived marriage which happily produced a son. At that point, Gloria virtually retired from the screen. She went to work for Redken (a cosmetics firm) until her retirement in 1993.

Gloria was reintroduced to a limelight of sorts by the magic of Ebay, where her movies (many of which are in the public domain) were being sold. Through the help of her sister Bonnie (who handled the computer end of things: Gloria didn't do "Windows"), Gloria got onto Ebay herself, selling copies of the movies she appeared in, as well as signed photographs (old publicity shots) of herself. Spurred by the popularity of these, Gloria published her autobiography "Gloria Jean: A Little Bit of Heaven" in 2005.

After her retirement from Redken, Gloria Jean lived in California with her sister, Bonnie. After Bonnie died in 2007, she moved to Hawaii, where lived with her son Angelo and his family. (Angelo died in 2017.) Very late in life she suffered health problems, including two serious falls that slowed her mobility, and an impaired heart condition. She died of heart failure and pneumonia on August 31, 2018, in a hospital near her home in Mountain View, Hawaii. She is survived by her daughter-in-law and four grandchildren.


WesternElectricAd-Jan1945.jpg Western Electric Ad - January 1945

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