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Lorraine Miller

Real name:
Lorraine Almeretta Safford

1922 - 1978


Born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in Flint, Michigan, Lorraine Miller had a brief career in films, arriving in Hollywoodland in 1941. She did about a half dozen sagebrushers in the mid 1940s with Eddie Dew and the Three Mesquiteers at Republic, with the Texas Rangers, Buster Crabbe and Bob Steele at Producers Releasing Corporation (PRC), and with Jimmy Wakely at Monogram.

(Courtesy of Les Adams)

Above - Lorraine Miller and Buster Crabbe in a crop fom a lobby card from BORDER BADMEN (PRC, 1945).



Above - Lorraine Miller and Ray 'Crash' Corrigan in a screen capture from the public domain THE WHITE GORILLA (Fraser and Merrick Pictures, 1945).

There are two versions of how Lorraine wound up in Hollywood. Version 1 looks reasonable and was covered by Life magazine and trade publications. Version 2 appears to be studio created hype.

Version 1:

There was a Lorraine Miller Day on October 24, 1941 in her home town of Flint, Michigan and Life magazine covered the event. And it was also mentioned in Variety.

From the November 10, 1941 issue of Life magazine: "Six months ago Lorraine was chosen by Flint's C. I. O. automobile workers as their Perfect Body Girl, and sent to Hollywood to win glory for herself and her sponsors. After appearing briefly in Earl Carroll's night club, Lorraine was hired for a small part in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's new motion picture Ball of Fire."
(Not an MGM film; BALL OF FIRE (Samuel Goldwyn/RKO, 1941) starred Gary Cooper and Barbara Stanwyck.)

From the October 29, 1941 issue of Variety: "... the girl has one of the country's biggest unions as her backers with the whole UAW-CIO sponsoring her career. Less than a year ago they picked her as the Auto Workers queen for their rodeo, with one of those Hollywood junkets as part of the award."

Version 2:

September - October, 1941 newspapers had a number of articles and photos on Lorraine. I found four different photos of Miss Miller wearing a nurse's uniform - and displaying lots of leg. A few quotes from those articles:

"Lorraine Miller, 19-year old former Michigan State college student, went to work at the Samuel Goldwyn studio as a nurse and ended up as an actress."

"Lorraine Miller, only three months ago a student nurse in Michigan, traveled to Hollywood to start her nursing career in the office of ... a studio physician. Spotted by a film director, she was given a screen test and assigned to a part in a movie."

"Lorraine Miller, a tall brunette Samuel Goldwyn decided was too good-looking to remain a nurse, completed her first film role and left today for her home in Flint, Mich., and 'Lorraine Miller Day' next Friday."

While she did live in Flint, Michigan, Lorraine was born January 5, 1922 in Virginia, and her parents were Thelma Rulison and Hayward Harold Safford.

In mid 1942, she was at Paramount working an uncredited role in a Bob Hope film. Next was a brief stop at MGM which had her among their group of Ziegfeld Girls (who appear in ZIEGFELD FOLLIES (MGM, 1945)). Free-lancing, she did mostly unbilled roles in A features and heroine duties in B westerns.

Miss Miller was unfortunate to be cast as eye candy in the dreadful THE WHITE GORILLA (Fraser and Merrick Pictures, 1945). Three Mesquiteers and Range Busters vet Ray Corrigan was the lead and also narrated the story and played the titled white ape. Lots of familiar faces in the cast - George J. Lewis, Charlie King, Budd Buster and oldtimer Francis Ford, the brother of noted director John Ford. Some new footage was shot ... and then they plugged in lots of jungle footage from the silent serial PERILS OF THE JUNGLE (Weiss Brothers Artclass Pictures, 1927) which starred Frank Merrill, Eugenia Gilbert and youngster Bobby Nelson.

The life of prolific script writer and director Harry Fraser is chronicled in I WENT THAT-A-WAY, The Memoirs of a Western Film Director, HARRY L. FRASER (Scarecrow Press, 1990; edited by Wheeler W. Dixon and Audrey Brown Fraser). Producer Louis Weiss needed a quickie (and cheap) film and he gave the writing and directing job for THE WHITE GORILLA to friend and associate Harry Fraser. It took three days and one night to shoot new scenes to wrap around the extensive PERILS OF THE JUNGLE cliffhanger footage. Fraser said: "And six weeks later that stinker called The White Gorilla opened its run in San Francisco, exploited by garish posters, and the stuffed suit of the white gorilla ..." ; " ... the hokum picture played in movie theaters across the country, making a bundle for several years ..."

Switching to the east coast, Lorraine was cast in the New York stage play "Happy Birthday" which starred Helen Hayes and ran from October, 1946 through March, 1948. Circa April, 1948, she signed with an outfit named U. S. Pictures and traveled to Rome, Italy for a role in RAPTURE (1950). The stars of RAPTURE were Glenn Langan and Swedish actress Elsy Albion, and Lorraine played Albion's sister. By Fall, 1948, Lorraine was back in New York in the play "Magdalena" at the Ziegfeld Theater.

Newspapers and tradezines have Lorraine marrying actor and director Edward Buzzell in December, 1949 in Palm Springs, California. Eddie Buzzell was about twenty five years older than she, and in the 1940s, he was helming movies at MGM (with the Marx Brothers, Esther Williams, more). They divorced but am unsure of the date. There was a later marriage to James McTaggart.

The California Death Index has Lorraine Almeretta Mctaggart passing on February 6, 1978 in the Los Angeles area. There was an obituary for Lorraine Miller McTaggart in the February 8, 1978 Los Angeles (California) Times newspaper noting her death on February 6, 1978. The obit also mentioned that she was a "Retired actress, appeared in several motion pictures, television and the Broadway production of 'Happy Birthday' with Helen Hayes."



(From Old Corral image collection)

From left to right are Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Frank Ellis, Lorraine Miller and Buster Crabbe in a lobby card from BORDER BADMEN (PRC, 1945). Left to right In the background are an unidentified guy, Victor Cox and Jack Hendricks (AKA Ray Henderson). Cox, Hendricks and Ellis are henchmen reporting to boss Charlie King. See crop/blowup below.


Unidentified, Victor Cox, Lorraine Miller, Crabbe and Jack Hendricks (AKA Ray Henderson).


Links
  Although some of the data is incomplete or inaccurate, the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) has information on Lorraine Miller and husband Edward Buzzell:
     Lorraine Miller: http://us.imdb.com/name/nm0588852/
     Edward Buzzell (1895-1985): http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0125636

Internet Broadway Database has Lorraine in "Magdalena" and the Helen Hayes "Happy Birthday" play: https://www.ibdb.com/Person/View/102552

Google has the Life magazine archives including the November 10, 1941 issue with the "Lorraine Miller Day" article and photos: https://books.google.com/books?id=Mk4EAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA53&lpg=PA53&dq=%22lorraine+miller+day%22&source=bl&ots=r1Yi7EALZ9&sig=XOa0CmEUmvz34JWVOCe1LuiO2gk&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiLuMLjoMfNAhXl54MKHaPsAO8Q6AEIPjAK#v=onepage&q=%22lorraine%20miller%20day%22&f=false

The Google newspaper archive has a few articles on Lorraine Miller:
Flint, Michigan girl wins movie contract and "Lorraine Miller Day" in Flint: https://www.google.com/#q=%22lorraine+miller%22+%2B%22flint%22+site:news.google.com%2Fnewspapers
Broadway actress Lorraine Miller prepping for a 1949 marriage to Edward 'Eddie' Buzzell: https://www.google.com/#q=%22lorraine%20miller%22%20+%22buzzell%22%20site:news.google.com/newspapers

Several Hollywood publicity stills of Lorraine are at: http://community.combatsim.com/topic/34278-this-day-in-wwii-13-march-1940-1945/

1944 publicity still of Lorraine from the J. Willis Sayre Photograph Collection at the University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections: http://digitalcollections.lib.washington.edu/cdm/ref/collection/sayre/id/6564

YouTube has a decent copy of THE WHITE GORILLA (Fraser and Merrick Pictures, 1945) which you can view or download: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xgNCbBwXgxE



On the trail of Lorraine Miller
The Family Search website (free), Ancestry.com (subscription), ProQuest obituaries, newspapers, and the California Death Index provide more on Lorraine Miller. Her full name was Lorraine Almeretta Safford, born 1922 in Virginia, and parents were Thelma Rulison and Hayward Harold Safford. Divorces and additional marriages confuse the tracking of Lorraine and family. Mother Thelma was married and divorced several times. Also married and divorced was Thelma's mother and Lorraine's grandmother, Erma Loraine Dickson. Erma's first husband (and Thelma's father) was Clarence Leonard Rulison. Erma later married Charles W. Miller.

I've added a few comments which are highlighted in this color:

  • February 27, 1901 Eaton County, Michigan marriage record of 22 year old Clarence L. Rulison (born about 1879 in Kansas; occupation "clerk") and 18 year old Erma Loraine Dickson (born about 1883 in Michigan). Both reside in Charlotte, Michigan. Evvah A. Dickson was a witness: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N3F2-5TP
  • Ancestry had the Michigan Divorce Index: Clarence L. Rulison and Erma L. Rulison were married February 28. 1901 in Charlotte, Michigan. Divorce papers were filed January 28, 1910 and divorce granted September 22, 1911.
  • 1920 census and census takers worksheet - 39 year old Charles W. Miller (born Michigan; occupation "Foreman-Electrical Co."), his 39 year old wife Erma L. (born Michigan), their 16 year old daughter Thelma M. (born Michigan), 63 year old mother-in-law Evvah E. Dickson (born New York), and several lodgers are renting in Akron, Summit County, Ohio: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MDT5-3SZ
  • Ancestry had the birth index (not the birth certificate) for Lorraine Almeretta Safford, born January 5, 1922 in Page, Virginia.
  • Ancestry had the Michigan divorce record of Thelma Safford and Hayward Harold Safford. They were married January 27, 1921 in Norfolk, Virginia and the divorce decree was granted in Genesee County, Michigan on May 19, 1924. Date of the divorce filing was June 15, 1923. There was one child from the marriage, Lorraine Safford, listed as about 16 months old.
    (The duration between Lorraine's January 5, 1922 birth date and the June 15, 1923 divorce filing is one year, five months and ten days which is about the 16 months listed on the divorce paperwork for daughter Lorraine Safford.)
  • Walter Fleitz and Thelma Miller marry two times, once in 1924 and again in 1928:
    • 1924 Michigan marriage record (not the marriage license) - 29 year old Walter T. Fleitz (born 1895 in Kentucky) and 22 year old Thelma Miller Safford (born 1902 in Michigan) were married July 1, 1924 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. Her parents were Charles and Irma Dixon Miller. This was Thelma's second marriage: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:NQSL-74M
    • June 13, 1928 Ohio marriage license of Walter Fleitz and Thelma Fleitz in Lucas County, Ohio. Her parents were Clarence Leonard Rulison and Erma Dixon: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2Q43-11J
  • 1930 census and census takers worksheet - 32 year old Walter Fleitz (born Kentucky; occupation "Laborer - Contractor"), his 32 year old wife Thelma (born Kentucky), 8 year old daughter Loraine (born Virginia) and 3 year old son Walter Jr. (born Michigan) are roomers living in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XMXF-V3F
  • 1940 census and census takers worksheet - 69 year old Anna M. Fleitz (born Indiana) owns her home at 2812 Duncan Street, Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky. Living with Anna are her 26 year old daughter Ida Mae (born Kentucky), 42 year old son Walter (born Kentucky; divorced; occupation "Truck Driver - City Garage"), and Walter's 13 year old son Walter (Jr.) (born Michigan): https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K7BK-F81
  • 1940 census and census takers worksheet - renting at 2641 Proctor, Flint, Genesee County, Michigan are 52 year old Charles Miller (born Michigan; occupation "electrician - automobile body shop"), his 54 year old wife Erma L. (born Michigan) and 18 year old daughter Lorraine (born about 1922 in Virginia; occupation "clerk - Retail dime store"). They were living in Flint, Michigan in 1935: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KHST-4R7
    (Some age issues - Charles and Erma Miller were 39 years old in the 1920 census. And Lorraine is listed as their daughter when she should be their granddaughter.)
  • October 17, 1945 marriage license of 47 year old Harry Edward Mumford to 40 year old Thelma Rulison Stone in Los Angeles. Thelma's parents were Leonard Rulison (born Michigan) and Erma Dickson (born Michigan). Witness to the marriage was Lorraine Miller: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K8K9-YWT
  • December 10, 1949 California marriage license of 51 year old Edward Nathan Buzzell (born New York) to 27 year old Lorraine Almeretta Miller (born Norfolk, Virginia) in Palm Springs, California. It was his second marriage and her first. Lorraine lives at 455 North Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills, California and her parents were Erma and Charles Miller (both born in Michigan). Lorraine lists her occupation as "none": https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K82Q-GFN
  • Ancestry had the December 29, 1951 passenger list for the ship Queen Elizabeth, departing New York to Southampton, England: 56 year old Edward Buzzell (born New York) and 29 year old wife Lorraine Buzzell (born Virginia) and they live at 1101 Stone Canyon Road, Bel Air, Los Angeles County, California.
  • February 17, 1960 marriage index record for James C. Fish and Thelma Rulison who were married in Clark County, Nevada: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VVJG-CTS
  • Ancestry had the Social Security Applications and Claims Index for Lorraine under her Miller, Buzzell and McTaggart names. Birth info is January 5, 1922 in Norfork, Virginia and her parents were Charles and Erma Miller.
  • California Death Index has a record for Lorraine Almeretta Mctaggart, born January 5, 1929 in Virginia and passed away February 6, 1978 in the Los Angeles area. That 1929 birth year is incorrect: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VPCS-W8T
  • February 8, 1978 Los Angeles (California) Times newspaper had an obituary for Lorraine Miller McTaggart who passed away on February 6, 1978. Excerpts: "Wife of James McTaggart; daughter of James O'Safford and Thelma Fish." ; "Retired actress, appeared in several motion pictures, television and the Broadway production of 'Happy Birthday' with Helen Hayes."
    (Whomever wrote the obituary probably did their best in identifying Lorraine's parents - but census and other records indicate her father was Hayward Harold Safford, not James O'Safford.)
  • California Death Index has a record for Lorraine's mother: Thelma Rulison Fish was born March 24, 1905 in Michigan, Mother's maiden name of Dickson, and she passed away September 2, 1983 in Del Norte, California: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VGYR-WCZ



Lorraine Miller in B westerns
Year Title Company Hero
1943 RIDERS OF THE RIO GRANDE Republic Three Mequiteers
1943 BEYOND THE LAST FRONTIER Republic Eddie Dew
1945 THREE IN THE SADDLE PRC Texas Rangers
1945 FRONTIER FUGITIVES PRC Texas Rangers
1945 BORDER BADMEN PRC Buster Crabbe
1945 LONESOME TRAIL Monogram Jimmy Wakely
1946 AMBUSH TRAIL PRC Bob Steele



(From Old Corral image collection)

Released in May, 1943, RIDERS OF THE RIO GRANDE (Republic, 1943) with Tom Tyler, Bob Steele and Jimmie Dodd - and Lorraine Miller - was the 51st - and last - of Republic's Three Mesquiteers series.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above from left to right are Jack Hendricks (AKA Ray Henderson), Buster Crabbe, Frank Ellis, Al 'Fuzzy' St. John, Ray Jones and Lorraine Miller in a still from BORDER BADMEN (PRC, 1945).



(From Old Corral image collection)

Charlie King was still around as the B western began to fade. Here he is with the drop on the moustached Bob Steele and Lorraine Miller in AMBUSH TRAIL (PRC, 1946), one of Steele's last starring westerns.



(From Old Corral image collection)

Above - the moustached Bob Steele vs. the moustached Charlie King in AMBUSH TRAIL (PRC, 1946). In the upper right, Steele is cuddlin' with heroine Lorraine Miller.



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