Friday, November 4, 2011
Teala Loring, poverty row starlet
Teala Loring (1922-2007) was the first of three beautiful sisters to enter show business. The daughters of a vaudeville performer, Marcia, Debralee and Lezlie Gae Griffin became Teala Loring, Debra Paget and Lisa Gaye, respectively, the latter two arguably having more success than Teala, who toiled mostly in low-budget programmers. At first billing herself Judith Gibson only to be constantly confused with another starlet, Julie Gibson, she became Teala Loring for Delinquent Daughters (1944), the moniker, “a good Irish name,” conjured up by producer Irwin Allen. She is actually quite good in Daughters, playing the glamorous and totally unrepentant juvenile delinquent, whose demise becomes the climax of the little thriller. Loring went on to work with everybody on poverty row, from the Bowery Boys to Charlie Chan to Rex Allen. She left the screen after The Arizona Cowboy , with Allen, to become a mother to a brood of six. Luckily, writers Boyd Magers and the late Michael Fitzgerald were able to track down the-then septuagenarian Teala Loring for their fine book “Westerns Women” (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 1999).
Dark Alibi (Monogram, 1946)
In Dark Alibi, Teala's poor father, Thomas Harley (Edw. Earle) is sent directly to death row after allegedly killing a guard during a bank robbery. Daddy, you see, had been in prison many years before, a fact that catches poor Teala unaware, and his fingerprints are found on the crime scene. The desperate girl seeks help from Charlie Chan (Sidney Toler) and his bumbling sidekicks, Tommy (Benson Fong) and Birmingham (Mantan Moreland), and the Hawaiian detective immediately hones in on the suspicious array of flotsam and jetsam that constitutes the occupants of the Harleys' boarding house. Which, not coincidentally, comes with its very own Mrs. Danvers type (Edna Holland who had replaced that old favorite, Minerva Urecal). Did someone actually manage to plant poor innocent Mr. Harley's fingerprints on the crime scene? Is the pope German? While not exactly prime Chan, this is not too bad at all and the main culprit is not easily spotted. Teala Loring is suitably panicky, and there is a very funny comedy routine involving Moreland and his inmate brother (Ben Carter) that alone is worth the price of admission.