Saturday, September 10, 2011
Mildred Law: Columbia Starlet in Lawless Empire
Columbia starlet Mildred Law plays handsome Tex Harding's sister in Lawless Empire (1945), a fine if somewhat poverty-stricken entry in the studio's long-lasting Durango Kid series starring Charles Starrett. In the opening sequence, Tex, a preacher, and Mildred attempt to save the Murphy family from evil raiders and are about to succumb to Ethan Laidlaw and his henchmen when rescued in the nick of time by the masked Durango. Then, in a rare contemplative moment, the brother and sister act perform Reverend W.B. Stevens' "Farther Along," but for the remainder of the hour or so, the screen is taken over by the usual fightin' and shootin' and Dub Taylor shtick. And that is just fine.
A pretty but unexceptional brunette starlet, Mildred Law earned a quite thorough writeup in a newswire story. Usually these studio plants were quite empty (and empty headed) but in Miss Law's case there was actually some substance and I have decided to offer the story in its entirety:
"Hollywood, May 15  — (INS)—
Out of the first ten dollars she ever earned, Mildred Law, new Columbia starlet, spent $1.39 for a cotton print dress and the remainder of it for a pair of dancing shoes. She prized the shoes highly
and does yet, for that matter, for she still keeps them as mementos. Miss Law earned the ten dollar bill when she was 12. It was at a home talent show for the Knights of Columbus back in her hometown of Boston. She was billed 'Little Miss Twinkletoes. Her indulgent mother, realizing that most girls of 12 would have reversed the procedure by paying the larger share of the award for a dress, sensed the trend of her daughter's tendencies toward a dancing career and willingly purchased additional shoes for the girl.
Signed by Columbia.
From then on Miss Law danced, and later sang her way through school, several road shows and then into Monte Prosser's Cobacabana Club in New York where she was signed by a Columbia talent scout. Her first work in the legitimate theatre was in 1940 in 'Too Many Girls,' with Hal LeRoy, Dick Kollman, Desi Arnaz and Eddie Bracken. She danced with LeRoy and was an understudy for the leading feminine player [Leila Ernst]. When the lead became ill, Miss Law stepped into the spot. That was her first singing role. Later she replaced the ingenue, Leila Ernst, in 'Pal Joey,' playing opposite Gene Kelly. After that run she appeared in vaudeville and night clubs and was featured as a dancer with troupes headed by the bands of Rudy Vallee, Eddy Duchin and Glen Gray. She was also vocalist with the bands of Vaughn Monroe and Don Bestor. In 1943 she appeared in 'Artists and Models but left that show to go to the Cobacabana. She was there twenty weeks and then came to Hollywood under a Columbia contract. Miss Law was born Mildred McMurray, the daughter of Thomas McMurray, a Boston police captain, and Elizabeth McMurray. Because she is 'John Law's daughter' she changed her name to Mildred Law and has been known by that name throughout her career.
She was the only girl in the family of four children. One of her brothers, Norman, is now in the navy; Robert is in an eastern school and Warren, the eldest son, was killed in action while piloting a combat plane over France in March. On the personal side, Miss Law is five feet four and three quarter inches in height and weighs 118. She has blue eyes and brown hair. She is fond of swimming, riding and tennis and has an ambition to become a concert pianist but says she cannot find the time to study. She loves dogs, but has been unable to own one because she has resided in hotels most of her life. She likes broiled steaks but abhors liver. She can cook, but says she's most adept at opening cans. And if she had to chose an activity other than her present career Miss Law says she would want to b e a housewife."
Mildred Law left the screen after Lawless Empire, probably to marry, but did appear on television in the 1950s before disappearing from the Hollywood radar screens altogether.