Friday, September 23, 2011

Lynne Berkeley (Songs and Saddles)

The less said about crooner Gene Austin's appropriateness for western stardom the better. Suffice it to say that in his one starring vehicle, Songs and Saddles (1938), Austin made his near-namesake Gene Autry appear positively Shakespearean in comparison. Austin apparently toured with this little snooze fest of a singing cowboy oater along with several of the cast members, including someone named Joan Brooks, a Judy Canova type meant to provide hayseed comedy relief. But, alright, it is almost too easy to make fun of Austin and his coterie of of less than stellar supporting comics, so let's leave it at that. Meanwhile, no movie that has good ole Charlie King utter lines such as “I will not be party to any lawbreaking” cannot be all bad.

Gene Austin's leading lady, Lynne Berkeley, was borrowed from 20th Century-Fox, where she was laboring under a typical starlet contract. Her real name was Mary Foster and she was the daughter of Willett Foster, a California artist. Now, go figure: Why would the studio rename Mary Foster “Lynne Berkeley” when there was already a Lynn Bari on the lot? In any case, Fox had a judge validate her contract on the same day, 16 June 1936, as two other contract players, Dixie Dunbar and Martha Raye. The latter, described as “a singer and comedienne,” was to receive $200 a week for her services while Miss Berkeley, a mere starlet, would obtain a starting salary of $60 a week.

I have no idea what the Alexander Brothers of Colony Pictures paid Fox for the services of Lynne Berkeley, but all she really had to do in Songs and Saddles was look wistful while Gene Austin tickled the ivories and did his patented western croon. But not, alas, his one mega hit “My Blue Heaven.” Had he just done that … well, who knows?

Miss Berkeley, meanwhile, was a Goldwyn Girl in The Goldwyn Follies (1937) and turned up as “girl” in a host of Fox films until at least 1941.

No comments:

Post a Comment