Monday, October 14, 2013

Thelma White

Thelma White started out as one of the "White Sisters". And in the thirties, she was a member of another "Female Laurel and Hardy" team.

But in the end, she would be remembered for something else again.

Thelma White

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Thelma White

White, as seen in Reefer Madness
BornThelma Wolpa
(1910-12-04)December 4, 1910
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
DiedJanuary 11, 2005(2005-01-11) (aged 94)
Woodland Hills, Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Years active1930–1948
Thelma White (December 4, 1910 – January 11, 2005) was an American radio and film actress. White is best known for her role in the 1936 exploitation film Reefer Madness.


Early life and career

Born Thelma Wolpa in Lincoln, Nebraska, White debuted in her family's circus show at age 2, acting as a "living doll" who would stand in place until she got a cue to begin cooing and wriggling. At the age of 10 she was dancing in vaudeville as part of The White Sisters, leading to jobs with the Ziegfeld Follies and Earl Carroll revue before she moved to Hollywood in the late 1920s. Her first film was A Night in a Dormitory (1930) co-starring Ginger Rogers. That job led to a number of short films at Pathé Exchange (later RKO Pictures), where she played leading lady to some of the most familiar comic faces of the day, such as Edgar Kennedy and Leon Errol.
White's most famous role arrived in Tell Your Children (1936) better known today as Reefer Madness, a low-budget exploitation film to warn audiences of the dangers of marijuana. White appeared as Mae, the tough mistress of dope-dealer Jack (Carleton Young). Jack encourages high school students to take a toke of marijuana, after which they become involved in rape, prostitution, suicide, and various other traumas. The film was a flop and vanished into the vaults for over 30 years.
White continued to struggle through B-movies and small roles for the next few years, and in Hollywood circles was more known for her private life than any on-camera abilities. She was married three times, first to radio star Claude Stroud (one of the Stroud twins) for five years, then a brief marriage to Max Hoffman, Jr. Her final marriage, to actor and costume designer Tony Millard, lasted for several decades.
Tell Your Children was found in a vault in 1972 and rechristened Reefer Madness by pro-marijuana activists and a young movie distributor who saw the movie as having great comedic appeal. The film gained a following on college campuses for its campy nature as well as its crazed depiction of marijuana use. White, who had starred with W. C. Fields and Jack Benny in her best years, was somewhat chagrined to be known for such a film. In 1987, she told the Los Angeles Times, "I'm ashamed to say that it's the only one of my films that's become a classic."[1]

Entertaining troops

During World War II, White joined United Servicemen Overseas, a government program which featured entertainment for troops serving overseas, and performed as the leader of an all female swing band called Thelma White and Her All Girl Orchestra. She and her band went to Alaska on several occasions with Rose Hobart and Carmen Miranda. She continued to make appearances in B-movies such as The Bowery Boys film series, but near the end of the war contracted a crippling disease while appearing in the Aleutian Islands. White was bedridden for five years and told she would never walk again. Although she did partially recover and appeared in a few late 40's films, her acting career was essentially over.
White later worked as an agent, representing such actors as Robert Blake and James Coburn.


White's third husband, Tony Millard, died in 1999. She had no children, and spent most of her time with her Mexican Hairless Dogs. White died of pneumonia in the Motion Picture and Television Hospital on January 11, 2005 at age 94.[2]


1930A Night in a DormitoryThelma
1930Ride 'em CowboyAlternative title: Pathé Folly Comedies: Ride 'em Cowboy
1930Sixteen SweetiesAlternative title: Pathé Melody Comedies: Sixteen Sweeties
1931One Way OutDesperate for Permanent Wave
1931Hot SandsWife
1933Hey, Nanny NannyMrs. Bond
1934What Price Jazz
1934Susie's AffairsSusie's Blonde Roommate
1935Never Too LateHelen LloydAlternative title: It's Never Too Late to Mend
1936Reefer MadnessMaeAlternative title: Tell Your Children
1936Two in the DarkWomanUncredited
1936The Moon's Our HomeSalesgirl
1936Forgotten FacesNurse in park
1938Wanted by the PoliceLillian
1942SyncopationSinger on Piano at PartyUncredited
1942A Man's WorldDancehall girlUncredited
1942Pretty DollyBaby, Cigar Counter Clerk
1943Spy TrainMillie
1944Bowery ChampsDiane Gibson
1947Hectic Honeymoon
1948Mary LouEve Summers


 External links

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Thelma White and Marjorie White used to work together as "The White Sisters", but were not actually related: neither were they related to Alice White, as was sometimes thought.

In the movies, Thelma White was teamed with Fanny Watson as a "female Laurel and Hardy", in a series of films at the Vitaphone studio in the early thirties. Most of these were directed by Alf Goulding, who was a friend of Stan Laurel's.

There was some overlap in the Thelma Todd and Zasu Pitts series and the Thelma White and Fanny Watson series, but the Thelma Todd series appears to have been first and lasted longer, eventually replacing first Zasu Pitts with Patsy Kelly and then Thelma Todd with Pert Kelton and Lyda Roberti.
But the Vitaphone short subjects in general seem to have been popular in their day.

While REEFER MADNESS probably is what Thelma White is most remembered for, I don't know if it's ever been run on television here, while her musical films with the all-girl orchestra have.  And maybe it's time to give some of Thelma White's other work a little recognition.

Thelma White spent the last ten years of her life writing her autobiography, THELMA WHO? In it, she told of how she had become paralyzed during the war while entertaining the troops in Alaska, and how she eventually recovered and returned to show business as a manager.

She also mentioned Patsy Kelly in her autobiography. According to "The Vitaphone Project" site, after Thelma White's recovery she was Patsy Kelly's manager.

Film clip from 1929 MGM musical.



Thelma White:

Thelma White Obituary:


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