Saturday State Post: Classic Movie Actors from the Carolinas

This week’s Saturday State Post highlights actors and actresses from both North and South Carolina. I am combining both in one post, not because I think they aren’t worthy of being covered individually, but I just simply could not find enough familiar names from South Carolina to fill a separate post.

A few of the actors and actresses from North and South Carolina are:

Actress Esther Dale

Esther Dale

Born: November 10, 1885 in Beaufort, SC

Died: July 23, 1961 (age 75)

Married Once

Known for the Movies: Curly Top, Fury, The Awful Truth, The Mortal Storm, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Holiday Affair, The Egg and I, Monkey Business

My Favorite Esther Dale Movie: The Awful Truth


Interesting Facts About Esther Dale:

  • Before she became an actress, she studied music in Berlin, Germany and had a career as a lieder singer. The Encyclopedia Britannica can explain what that means better than I can. :-)
  • She appeared in three of the nine Ma and Pa Kettle films that were made following the success of the The Egg and I (1947), the movie in which the characters first appeared.

Actor Barton MacLaine

Barton MacLaine

Born: December 25, 1902 in Columbia, SC

Died: January 1, 1969  (age 66)

Married twice. He was married to his second wife Charlotte Wynters for 30 years.

Known for the Movies: High Sierra, Come Live With Me, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Maltese Falcon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Glenn Miller Story

My Favorite Barton MacLaine Movie: The Glenn Miller Story

Interesting Facts About Barton MacLaine:

  • He was a talented athlete who excelled at several sports, especially football, while attending Wesleyan University in Connecticut. So it was fitting that one of his earliest roles was in a movie called The Quarterback (1926) although it was a small uncredited role.
  • He was an accomplished musician and played several instruments including the violin, piano, and guitar.
  • He owned a 2,000 acre ranch in Madera County, California that he bought in 1940 and called the Double Rainbow Ranch. According to a letter from his granddaughter published on the Unofficial Barton MacLane page, his wife kept the ranch until her death in 1991.

Actress Virginia Dale

Virginia Dale

Born: July 1, 1917 in Charlotte, NC

Died: October 3, 1994 (age 77)

Married: I didn’t find any indication that she had been married

Known for the Movies: Idiot’s Delight, All Women Have Secrets, The Singing Hill, Holiday Inn, Dragnet

My Favorite Virginia Dale Movie: Holiday Inn


Interesting Facts About Virginia Dale:

  • Her given name was Frances Paxton, but she won the Miss California pageant in 1937 competing as Phyllis Randall. She went on to finish as the third runner up in the Miss America pageant.
  • Discovered by Darryl F. Zanuck on the New York stage, she was a trained dancer who appeared in the movie King of Burlesque (1936) along with her sisters. Known collectively as the dancing Paxton Sisters, they also appeared in a short called Oh, Evaline (1935).

Actress Kathryn Grayson

Kathryn Grayson

Born: February 9, 1922 in Winston-Salem, NC

Died: February 27, 2010  (age 88)

Married twice

Known for the Movies: Thousands Cheer, Anchors Aweigh, Till the Clouds Roll By, It Happened in Brooklyn, Show Boat, Kiss Me Kate

My Favorite Kathryn Grayson Movie: Anchors Aweigh


Interesting Facts About Kathryn Grayson:

  • Having trained with the Chicago Civic Opera at an young age, her first career aspiration was to be an opera singer, but after being seen and heard by executives from MGM she was persuaded to star in movies instead.
  • Her favorite co-star was Howard Keel. They starred together in the movies Show Boat (1951), Lovely to Look At (1952) and Kiss Me Kate (1953). They later reunited to perform together in a nightclub and Las Vegas act. I found this photo that was supposedly taken of them at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas.
  • She toured in a one woman show called “An Evening With Kathryn Grayson” for almost ten years from 1988 to 1997.

Actress Ava Gardner

Ava Gardner

Born: December 24, 1922 in Smithfield, North Carolina

Died:  January 25, 1990 (age 67)

Married three times including to actor Mickey Rooney, band leader Artie Shaw, and singer/actor Frank Sinatra

Known for the Movies: The Killers, Show Boat, Mogambo, The Barefoot Contessa, The Sun Also Rises, On the Beach, The Night of the Iguana

My Favorite Ava Gardner Movie: The Killers

Interesting Facts About Ava Gardner:

  • After her marriage to Frank Sinatra ended, she moved to Spain and lived there for about 10 years. She then moved to London where she lived until her death in 1990.
  • She was a longtime friend of author Ernest Hemingway and starred in three movies based on his stories; The Killers (1946), The Snows of Kilimanjaro (1952) and The Sun Also Rises (1957).
  • The Ava Gardner Museum located in Smithfield, North Carolina opened in 1981 and contains the most extensive memorabilia collection dedicated to her. The museum is one of the locations on my wish list of classic movie related places to visit.

Andy Griffith

Andy Griffith

Born: June 1, 1926 in Mount Airy, NC

Died:  July 2, 2012 (age 86)

Married three times. He was married to his third wife Cindi for almost 30 years.

Known for the Movies: A Face in the Crowd, Onionhead, No Time for Sergeants, The Second Time Around

My Favorite Andy Griffith Movie: A Face in the Crowd


Interesting Facts About Andy Griffith:

  • He was a talented musician who earned a degree in music from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and like Kathryn Grayson had early aspirations to be an opera singer.
  • In his early career as a monologist, the recording of his routine “What It Was, Was Football” became one of the most popular recorded monologues of all time selling more than 900,000 copies in 1953.
  • He recorded a speaking role in country singer Brad Paisley’s song, “Waitin’ on a Woman”, and he also appeared in the music video. I think it’s a very sweet cameo appearance that’s worth watching if you like Andy Griffith . . . even if you don’t like country music. :-)

I also thought this would be a great time to mention that Jessica from the blog Comet Over Hollywood has been doing a series of posts called “Classics in the Carolinas” in which she is spotlighting classic movie related topics in South Carolina (her home state) and North Carolina. She covers a variety of fun and interesting topics, including a trip she took to the Ava Gardner Museum which I mentioned above. It really is a great series, so be sure to check it out!

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  1. Interesting stuff. Loved the picture of Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel.

  2. Thank you for the info in this post. I knew Ava and Andy would be here, of course, but learned something new about the others.

  3. Karen says:

    Loved your post, Ginny — I think this is the first one that contained a performer who was unfamiliar to me — Virginia Dale. And with Esther Dale, it was nice to put a name to the face! I liked her in The Women (although it was a small part).