Full name: Iris Idele Lancaster
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above are prolific baddie Jack Ingram and Iris Lancaster in a scene from RIDIN' THE TRAIL (1940), one of the singing cowboy adventures starring Fred Scott.
A decade or so ago, I ran the above photo asking for help in identifying this mystery lady. There was a suggestion she may be Iris Lancaster and the photo might be from RIDIN' THE TRAIL, a Fred Scott / Spectrum film ... and that wound up being correct.
Above are John Wayne and Iris Lancaster (as bad girl "Marie LaFleur") in a screen capture from Wayne's THE TRAIL BEYOND (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934). Blonde Verna Hillie was the heroine in this film.
Boyd Magers had the RIDIN' THE TRAIL epic, and he ran it for me to confirm or deny the identity of this range heroine. Boyd's e-mail reads: "A match. It is Iris Lancaster. Same girl, same outfit. Awful movie."
RIDIN' THE TRAIL was one of the Spectrum films that singing cowboy Fred Scott made in the late 1930s. It wound up being released by independent distributor Arthur Ziehm in 1940, which was a year or so after Spectrum folded.
Iris appeared in about a dozen films scattered over a ten year period from 1933-1944. Her only other western was John Wayne's THE TRAIL BEYOND (Lone Star/Monogram, 1934) which had Verna Hillie as the heroine. In BEYOND, Iris has some dialog and screen time as bad girl "Marie LaFleur" who's in cahoots with no goods Robert Frazer and Earl Dwire.
There's a few traces of information on her in the census records, newspapers, trade publications, etc.:
- Circa 1934, she was one of the pretty ladies selected for Earl Carroll's Vanities.
- Several photos of Iris mention St. Petersburg, Florida as her birth location.
- Iris was the galfriend of actor Colin Clive (1900-1937) who is best remembered as "Henry Frankenstein" in the 1931 Universal horror flick with Boris Karloff.
- After Clive's death, she was romantically linked to actor Dennis O'Keefe.
- In 1938, she's a singer at the Seven Seas nightclub in Los Angeles.
- Then we jump ahead a dozen years to 1950-1952 and Iris' marriage - and divorce - from millionaire lumberman Adolph (Jack) Dietel.
- The next trace is a family tree on Ancestry.com and Social Security name change which lists Iris Idele Lancaster as Paula I. Markus, and she passed away September 26, 2001 in the Riverside, California area.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Iris Lancaster: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0484138/
Family Search (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), Newspaper Archive (subscription), Social Security Death Index (SSDI) and other sources provide more on Iris Lancaster and family:
- Florida marriage record for Iris' parents - Louis F. Lancaster and Ida Tucker were married October 11, 1908 in Polk, Florida: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V5ZM-GY9
- 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - 29 year old Louis Lancaster (born Florida), his 23 year old wife Ida (born Florida) and newborn daughter Vergie (born Florida) are living in Kathleen, Polk County, Florida: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MVKK-X6R
- 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet - renting in Clearwater, Pinellas County, Florida are 38 year old Louis F. Lancaster (born Florida; occupation "Salesman - Department Store"), his 28 year old wife Ida (born Florida), 10 year old daughter Velerie V. (born Florida) and 5 year old daughter Iris I. (born Florida): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MNBH-7X2
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - renting in Pasadena, Los Angeles County, California are 38 year old Ida C. Lancaster (born Florida) and 16 year old daughter Iris I. (born Florida). Ida is divorced and occupation is "Stenographer - Real Estate": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XC8L-P5C
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet has Iris' mother still in Los Angeles ... but no Iris - 54 year old Ida Lancaster (divorced; born Florida) is a tenant at the Verde Apartments, unit #317, 1641 North Alexandria Avenue, Los Angeles. Census worksheet on her was incomplete because "tenant moved": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9HW-L5M
- Ancestry had a family tree for Iris Idele Lancaster. Ancestry also had the Social Security Applications and Claims Index. On April 8, 1988, there was a SSN change or replacement request, and Iris Idele Lancaster was listed as Paula I. Markus. She was born February 3, 1915 in Arcadia, Florida to Louis F. Lancaster and Ida C. Tucker. 86 year old Paula I. Markus passed away September 26, 2001 in the Riverside, California area.
- Family Search has the basic Social Security Death Index (SSDI) which doesn't include all the name change details above: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:JG3Z-FX7
Newspaper, tradepaper, and other mentions:
- February, 1934 newspapers had text and photos announcing the seven ladies selected by producer Earl Carroll for his latest Earl Carroll's Vanities production. Among the seven was Iris Lancaster.
- The syndicated 'On Broadway' column by Walter Winchell in January, 1936 newspapers mentioned "I heard the name of the lovely lady who is Colin Clive's bay-bee. It is Iris Lancaster ..."
- Colin Clive passed away June 25, 1937 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital, Los Angeles. His death certificate lists his wife as Jeanne de Clive. But the death certificate informant was Iris Lancaster, 9006 Sunset Boulevard.
- The syndicated 'Behind the Scenes in Hollywood' column by Harrison Carroll in May, 1938 newspapers noted that "Dennis O'Keefe, recently separated from his wife, is calling at the Seven Seas these evenings to take Iris Lancaster home. She's the pretty singer at this late spot."
- The June 1, 1938 issue of Variety noted that Iris Lancaster is a performer at the Seven Seas nightclub in Los Angeles.
- Newspaper Archive had July 26-27, 1952 issues of the San Mateo (California) Times and Long Beach (California) Independent which reported on the breakup of Iris' marriage. Excerpts: "Los Angeles, July 26 (1952) - After two years of marriage, former movie actress Iris Lancaster, 32, today sought $1000 separate maintenance from her millionare lumberman - husband, Adolph (Jack) Dietel, 44." ; "... were married in Santa Barbara, July 23, 1950, and separated two weeks ago."
1935 color photo of Iris and Colin Clive. There's color and B&W versions of this photo. Sources have them dining at either the Brown Derby nightclub or the roof of the Hollywood Tower apartment building: https://oldhollywoodincolor.com/category/on-the-set-with-colin-clive/
Sheila Darcy / Rebecca Wassem
Real name: Rebecca Benedict Heffener
1914 - 2004
(Courtesy of Minard Coons)
Above from left to right are Max 'Alibi' Terhune, John Elliott, John 'Dusty' King, Sheila Darcy and Ray 'Crash' Corrigan in a scene from TUMBLEDOWN RANCH IN ARIZONA (Monogram, 1941), one of the Range Busters' series.
For fans of serials and westerns, Sheila Darcy (1914 - 2004) is best remembered because of her work in two cliffhangers: she was "Volita", the female lead in ZORRO'S FIGHTING LEGION (Republic, 1939) and the "Dragon Lady" in TERRY AND THE PIRATES (Columbia, 1940).
According to family trees on Ancestry.com, she was born Rebecca Benedict Heffener in York, Pennsylvania. At around age 5, Sheila moved with her mother and an aunt to Los Angeles after her parents separated. Her mother re-married to Wilbur Joseph Wassem.
Her movie career was brief - she did about 45 films from the mid 1930s to the early 1940s, and many of her roles were unbilled. In her early movie work, she was known as Rebecca Wassem. Les Adams has Sheila identified in a half dozen westerns and two cliffhangers.
There are traces of Rebecca / Sheila in tradezines and a few examples are below:
- From the October 6, 1937 issue of Variety: "Rebecca Wassem drew a Paramount playing termer." (meaning a term player contract.)
- From the November 11, 1937 of Film Daily: "Sheila Darcy, who, as Rebecca Wassem, stepped from the ranks of film extras into a featured role in the Frank Lloyd production, 'Wells Fargo' ..."
There were two marriages. Her first was to Erich Von Stroheim, Jr. in Los Angeles on May 28, 1943. Newspaper reports indicate they divorced in late 1945 - early 1946 in Las Vegas. She married movie star Preston Foster (1900-1970) on April 2, 1946, and they were together through his death in 1970.
Though retired from movies, Sheila and hubby Preston Foster did some personal appearances:
The November 25, 1957 Billboard Cavalcade of Fairs carried a full page ad for Preston Foster, 'Cap'n John' of TV's popular 'Waterfront', starring in the 1958 Riverboat Follies show. Cast included Sheila D'Arcy, 'Lovely Star of Stage and Screen' and Stephanie Foster, 'The Voice with a Smile'. Bookings were handled by MCA Fair Productions.
(Preston Foster's Waterfront TV show ran for two seasons, 1954 and 1955, and was produced by Roland Reed Productions and ZIV Television.)
Sheila passed away on February 20, 2004.
Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) has information on Sheila Darcy / Rebecca Wassem: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0201057/
Family Search (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), California Death Index, Social Security Death Index (SSDI), trade papers and other sources have info on Sheila and family:
- 1910 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in York, Pennsylvania are 64 year old Henry H. W. Heffener (born Pennsylvania), his 60 year old wife Rebecca (born Pennsylvania), 25 year old son George W. Heffener (born Pennsylvania), George's 21 year old wife Margaret V. (born Pennsylvania), and their 1 year old daughter Margaret Mary (born Pennsylvania). George W. and Margaret V. Heffener were Sheila Darcy's parents: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MGC5-7NH
- According to family trees on Ancestry.com, she was born Rebecca Benedict Heffener in York, Pennsylvania. At around age 5, Sheila moved with her mother and an aunt to Los Angeles after her parents separated.
- 1920 census summary and census takers worksheet has a confusing mix of kids and step-kids. Owning their home at 360 West 68th Street, Los Angeles, California are 34 year old Wilbur J. Wasson [sic] (born Pennsylvania; occupation "Salesman - Insurance"), his 31 year old wife Margaret (born Pennsylvania), 5 year old daughter Rebecca (born Pennsylvania), 3 year old son Joseph (born Pennsylvania), newborn daughter Theresa (born California), 11 year old stepdaughter Margaret M. Heffner [sic] (born Pennsylvania), and 8 year old stepson Henry Heffner [sic] (born Pennsylvania): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHQT-T48
- 1930 census summary and census takers worksheet - the last name of Wassem is incorrectly listed as "Wassern" at Family Search. The large Wassem family owns their home at 388 Eighteenth Street, San Bernardino, California. Family members are 44 year old Wilbur J. (born Pennsylvania), his 41 year old wife Margaret (born Pennsylvania), 19 year old son Heffner H. (born Pennsylvania), 15 year old daughter Rebecca B. (born Pennsylvania), 14 year old son Joseph A. (born Pennsylvania), 10 year old daughter Theresa A. (born California), 8 year old son Donald V. (born California), and 3 year old daughter May E. (born California). Father Wilbur is a "Life Insurance Salesman" and a World War I veteran: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XC6H-BDG
- 1940 census summary and census takers worksheet - living in Los Angeles are 54 year old Wilbur J. Wassem (born Pennsylvania), his 51 year old wife Marguerite V. (born Pennsylvania), 25 year old daughter Rebecca B. Wassem (born Pennsylvania), two younger daughters, a son, and a lodger. The Wassems own their home at 2421 9th Avenue, Los Angeles. No occupation listed for father Wilbur. Rebecca's occupation is "Actress - Motion Pictures": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K9Z3-DRV
- Her May 27, 1943 Los Angeles marriage license to 26 year old Erich von Stroheim Jr. has Sheila as 28 years of age and her name as Rebecca B. Heffener. First marriage for both parties. She was born in York, Pennsylvania; parents were George Wm Heffener and Margaret V. Harman (both born Pennsylvania). Her occupation was "Eye Teacher - Bates Method", which may be correct ... or an error ... or she was trying to conceal her acting career:
- The June 2, 1943 issue of Variety listed recent marriages: "Sheila Darcy to Erich Von Stroheim, Jr. in Los Angeles, May 28 (1943). Bride is former film actress. Groom, son of the actor-director, is an assistant film director."
- Harrison Carroll's syndicated gossip column in February, 1946 newspapers noted that the marriage of Sheila and Preston Foster was awaiting Foster's divorce to be finalized. And that "Sheila is the ex-Mrs. Eric Von Stroheim, Jr. She divorced him recently in Las Vegas."
- The April 10, 1946 issue of Variety listed recent marriages: "Sheila D'Arcy to Preston Foster, Burlingame, Cal., April 2 (1946). Bride and groom are film players."
- California Death Index for Sheila's step-father, Wilbur Joseph Wassem. He was born March 21, 1886 in Pennsylvania and passed away October 28, 1942 in the Los Angeles area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPQ7-6MP
- California Death Index for Sheila's mother, Margaret Viola Wassem. She was born October 25, 1888 in Pennsylvania and passed away September 11, 1954 in the Los Angeles area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VP7T-TZM
- Social Security Death Index (SSDI) for Sheila R. Foster was born August 8, 1914 and passed away February 20, 2004 in the San Diego, California area: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V32F-ZXS
Jim Tipton's Find A Grave website has a photo of the markers for Sheila and husband Preston Foster who are interred at El Camino Memorial Park, San Diego, California:
(Courtesy of Les Adams) |Left is a pressbook ad for Buster Crabbe's JUNGLE MAN (PRC, 1941) which featured Sheila Darcy as the female lead.|
Boring and chock full of stock footage, the only redeeming value is that Crabbe is reunited with Charles Middleton who was 'Ming' in the Flash Gordon chapterplays ... but this mess was a big step down for both actors.
|(From Old Corral image collection)
Above - a lobby card from TUMBLEDOWN RANCH IN ARIZONA (Monogram, 1941) showing John Elliott, John King, Sheila Darcy and Ray Corrigan. Appears that King isn't happy with Corrigan's interest in Sheila.
Here's a mystery for you - there's a bunch of these type lobby cards in circulation. But there is no Monogram brand name or logo. They have a common layout showing Corrigan and his twin six-shooters on the left side, and the only variation is the colors that are used (black plus a couple other colors). An approximate 6 1/2 inch x 8 1/2 inch scene still is glued on the card stock. Les Adams recalled that a company in Oklahoma circa 1935-1942 made up their own posters and cards and rented/leased them to theatres cheaper than the exhibitors could get them from National Screen Service or the company exchanges.